About the Book
The Meditations, translated by George Long
One measure, perhaps, of a book's worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, translated and introduced by Gregory Hays, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation--as a self-help book--is not only valid, but may be close to the author's intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a "haphazard set of notes," is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is "expected to provide a 'design for living.'" And it does, both aphoristically ("Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.") and rhetorically ("What is it in ourselves that we should prize?"). Whether these, and other entries ("Enough of this wretched, whining monkey life.") sound life-changing or like entries in a teenager's diary is up to the individual reader, as it should be. Hays's introduction, which sketches the life of Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) as well as the basic tenets of stoicism, is accessible and jaunty.
About the Author
Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, 121-180.
Roman emperor from 161 to his death in 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Lucius' death in 169. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. His tenure was marked by wars in Asia against a revitalized Parthian Empire, and with Germanic tribes along the Limes Germanicus into Gaul and across the Danube.
Marcus Aurelius' work Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty.