Marcus Aurelius: “Meditations”

Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor  from 161 to 180 AD.  Around 175 AD he shared his reflections on life in a title called “Meditations”. Aurelius was a stoic, a highly misunderstood philosophy.  I have not read this small work yet but after reading Lari’s glowing comments on the book, I decided to obtain a copy. However, “Meditations” was written in Latin and since I don’t read Latin,  my reading will be vulnerable to all the vagaries associated with translations.  I am not sure if “Meditations” has gone through all the filtering that the Bible has (also see here), but I did read one review that accused the translator of putting communist ideas into Aurelius’ mouth.  So I am sure each translation has its spin.

As a gift to readers who may also be interested in reading Aurelius,  the following chart gives you links to versions I have found so far.  The authors are listed chronological order.  This is an incomplete chart so if you have any thoughts or additions, let us know.  Perhaps I will write more on “Meditations” in the future.

Date & Translator Title (comments) & Details
  175 A.D. Marcus Aurelius  “Meditations”  Early Latin of his Greek (Schulziana version)
Free Version
1634 Meric Casaubon ” Meditations”, “The Golden Book of Marcus Aurelius”
Free, Amazon
1701 Jeremy Collier  Ø
1747 James Thomson  Ø
1792 R. Graves  Ø
1844 H. MCormiac  Ø
1862 George Long “The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius”
Free , ISBN-13: 978-0760752296: Amazon
1898 G. H. Rendall  Ø
1906 J. Jackson  Ø
1916 C.R. Haines  “Marcus Aurelius” (Loeb Classics) “archaic language”
ISBN-10: 0674990641 Amazon
1944: ASL Farquharson  “Meditations”, flowing prose
ISBN-13: 978-0192827906: Amazon
1964 Maxwell Staniforth  “Meditations”, well spoken of
ISBN-13: 978-0880291040: Amazon
1997 Robin Hard  “Marcus Aurelius, Meditations”,
ISBN-1: 85326-486-6: Amazon
2002 Gregory Hays  “Meditations”:  clear and readable, lots of notes
ISBN-13: 978-0486298238 :Amazon
2002  Scot & David Hicks  “The Emperor’s Handbook: A New Translation of the Meditations”
ISBN-13: 978-0743233835: Amazon
2008 Jacob Needleman “The Essential Marcus Aurelius”
ISBN-13: 978-1585426171: Amazon


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

13 responses to “Marcus Aurelius: “Meditations”

  1. I’m curious—what got you reading Marcus Aurelius, or stoics in general?

    I’ve read Epictetus but not M.A. as far as I can remember. I found Epictetus interestingly similar to Sutric Buddhism, which I suspect is non-coincidental (cf. Thomas McEvily’s The Shape of Ancient Thought). I didn’t find him particularly to my taste—but then I don’t find Sutra to my taste, either!

  2. @ David
    I’ve not read them yet — I saw a blogging acquaintance post on him and got my curiosity up. You certainly didn’t make Epictetus sound inviting — I think I will give Aurelius a shot. Besides, his work is a short one. But to tell you the truth, right now I am working on a little post about the Hagakure.

  3. Marcus Aurelius was the first of the stoics I read. I also enjoyed Epictetus (though not as much as Aurelius). Thanks for sharing this post! I have a few different translations. My friend got an old hardbound printing of the George Long translation for me at an estate sale, because she knew of my history with the work. 🙂

    Maybe I like it so much because I came across it during a time in my life when I really needed to read the words in it.

  4. @ Lari
    Yeah, it is funny how ideas can match a time in our lives and not resonate in others times. Thanx for stopping in.

  5. I read an introduction to Stoic philosophy by Braxton called “A Guide to the Good Life” and enjoyed it. My impression parallels Chapman’s. The similarities are striking.

  6. @ Dan
    Thanx for telling us about William Braxton Irvine: A Guide to the Good Life.

    But do tell us: If your impression is similar to Chapman’s but you enjoyed it and Chapman didn’t, are you telling us that you are probably more sympathetic to a Sutric Worldview — as opposed to the Tantric Worldview that Chapman discusses in his “Buddhism for Vampires” interview? Chapmans interview aptly shows up that Buddhism contains a variety of flavors — just curious what mix you find tasty?

  7. Over a period of about eight years I read a good deal of the Pali Canon as well as the Mahayana classics: Flower Ornament Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Perfection of Wisdom texts Jataka tales, etc. The context for this reading was in a group of lay practitioners. We called ourselves “The Sutra Salon” and disbanded about a year ago.

    Since 2008 I have led what amounts to a Buddhist book club/meditation sangha that I call “The Society of Friends of the Buddha” because it borrows its format from the Society of Friends of Jesus (aka Quakers). We meet twice a month.

    These DIY forms of Buddhism are what I find most tasty.

  8. @Dan Gurney
    Thanx — sounds like a smorgasbord. All you can eat.

  9. Well, yes, a smorgasbord of sorts, but I haven’t sampled much off the Vajrayana board as of yet.

  10. Synesius Richards

    Not wishing to pick fault in your admirable desire to make Marcus Aurelius better known – which I share fully, but just for tidiness sake, Marcus wrote his little book which he simply inscribed “To Myself” (never intending it for publication) in GREEK, not Latin. He was of course a Roman Emperor, but Greek was very much used by upper class Romans of the time, rather like Latin used to be used by European scholars. It was also useful in practical terms as the common language of the whole of the Eastern part of the Empire.

  11. Thank, Synesius, I updated the post. Do you know of any Greek versions?

  12. Synesius Richards

    There are at least two sites on the Internet with the Greek text

    This looks corrupted! But it is on Scribd. Go there and look for Marcus Aurelius.

    The other (that I know of) is at

    Good hunting!

    Incidentally, the Schulz Latin translation was made as late as 1802!


  13. Synesius Richards

    By the way, there is nice PDF version of the Casaubon translation at'%2520Meditations%2520-%2520tr.%2520Casaubon.pdf&ei=iH_5TtS5JYag8gO-vOSlAQ&usg=AFQjCNFX-PQwzPr4PBAu0iHLQnm5qopT-g&sig2=lsx6rCybrkN5qMNdhZ4jcQ

    if you can make that out! The Meric Casaubon translation is IMO the best of the English translations. It was done back in the 17th. century, and there is a very attractive facsimile edition as a (free) Google book in their ebook library. It is a little awkward to read in that version at first as the 17th. century printers use the old ‘long s’ that looks rather like a ‘f’, but without the crossbar. Once you get used to it though, this adds to the feel of an ‘ancient document’ somehow. Casaubon had the grace too to put in brackets phrases added to make the sense clear, but which are not actually in the Greek. For example, the very first section reads “Of my Grandfather Verus (I have learned) to be gentle and meek.” This makes it clear that Marcus is not claiming to have mastered all these virtues, but that the various people he lists in the first chapter stand to him as EXAMPLES of them to emulate. The PDF above has unfortunately left out these brackets throughout, which I think is a pity.

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