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Extrait

Book 1

Debts and Lessons

1. My grandfather Verus

Character and self-control.

2. My father (from my own memories and

his reputation)

Integrity and manliness.

3. My mother

Her reverence for the divine, her generosity, her inability not only to do wrong but even to conceive of doing it. And the simple way she lived-not in the least like the rich.

4. My great-grandfather

To avoid the public schools, to hire good private teachers, and to accept the resulting costs as money well-spent.

5. My first teacher

Not to support this side or that in chariot-racing, this fighter or that in the games. To put up with discomfort and not make demands. To do my own work, mind my own business, and have no time for slanderers.

6. Diognetus

Not to waste time on nonsense. Not to be taken in by conjurors and hoodoo artists with their talk about incantations and exorcism and all the rest of it. Not to be obsessed with quail-fighting or other crazes like that. To hear unwelcome truths. To practice philosophy, and to study with Baccheius, and then with Tandasis and Marcianus. To write dialogues as a student. To choose the Greek lifestyle-the camp-bed and the cloak.

7. Rusticus

The recognition that I needed to train and discipline my character.

Not to be sidetracked by my interest in rhetoric. Not to write treatises on abstract questions, or deliver moralizing little sermons, or compose imaginary descriptions of The Simple Life or The Man Who Lives Only for Others. To steer clear of oratory, poetry and belles lettres.

Not to dress up just to stroll around the house, or things like that. To write straightforward letters (like the one he sent my mother from Sinuessa). And to behave in a conciliatory way when people who have angered or annoyed us want to make up.

To read attentively-not to be satisfied with "just getting the gist of it." And not to fall for every smooth talker.

And for introducing me to Epictetus's lectures-and loaning me his own copy.

8. Apollonius

Independence and unvarying reliability, and to pay attention to nothing, no matter how fleetingly, except the logos. And to be the same in all circumstances-intense pain, the loss of a child, chronic illness. And to see clearly, from his example, that a man can show both strength and flexibility.

His patience in teaching. And to have seen someone who clearly viewed his expertise and ability as a teacher as the humblest of virtues.

And to have learned how to accept favors from friends without losing your self-respect or appearing ungrateful.

9. Sextus

Kindness.

An example of fatherly authority in the home. What it means to live as nature requires.

Gravity without airs.

To show intuitive sympathy for friends, tolerance to amateurs and sloppy thinkers. His ability to get along with everyone: sharing his company was the highest of compliments, and the opportunity an honor for those around him.

To investigate and analyze, with understanding and logic, the principles we ought to live by.

Not to display anger or other emotions. To be free of passion and yet full of love.

To praise without bombast; to display expertise without pretension.

10. The literary critic Alexander

Not to be constantly correcting people, and in particular not to jump on them whenever they make an error of usage or a grammatical mistake or mispronounce something, but just answer their question or add another example, or debate the issue itself (not their phrasing), or make some other contribution to the discussion-and casually insert the correct expression.

11. Fronto

To recognize the malice, cunning and hypocrisy that power produces, and the peculiar ruthlessness often shown by people from "good families."

12. Alexander the Platonist

Not to be constantly telling people (or writing them) that I'm too busy, unless I really am. Similarly, not to be always ducking my responsibilities to the people around me because of "pressing business."

13. Catulus

Not to shrug off a friend's resentment-even unjustified resentment-but try to put things right.

To show your teachers ungrudging respect (the Domitius and Athenodotus story), and your children unfeigned love.

14. [My brother] Severus

To love my family, truth and justice. It was through him that I encountered Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion and Brutus, and conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else.

And from him as well, to be steady and consistent in valuing philosophy.

And to help others and be eager to share, not to be a pessimist, and never to doubt your friends' affection for you. And that when people incurred his disapproval, they always knew it. And that his friends never had to speculate about his attitude to anything: it was always clear.

15. Maximus

Self-control and resistance to distractions.

Optimism in adversity-especially illness.

A personality in balance: dignity and grace together.

Doing your job without whining.

Other people's certainty that what he said was what he thought, and what he did was done without malice.

Never taken aback or apprehensive. Neither rash nor hesitant-or bewildered, or at a loss. Not obsequious-but not aggressive or paranoid either.

Generosity, charity, honesty.

The sense he gave of staying on the path rather than being kept on it.

That no one could ever have felt patronized by him-or in a position to patronize him.

A sense of humor.

16. My adopted father

Compassion. Unwavering adherence to decisions, once he'd reached them. Indifference to superficial honors. Hard work. Persistence.

Listening to anyone who could contribute to the public good.

His dogged determination to treat people as they deserved.

A sense of when to push and when to back off.

Putting a stop to the pursuit of boys.

His altruism. Not expecting his friends to keep him entertained at dinner or to travel with him (unless they wanted to). And anyone who had to stay behind to take care of something always found him the same when he returned.

His searching questions at meetings. A kind of single-mindedness, almost, never content with first impressions, or breaking off the discussion prematurely.

His constancy to friends-never getting fed up with them, or playing favorites.

Self-reliance, always. And cheerfulness.

And his advance planning (well in advance) and his discreet attention to even minor things.

His restrictions on acclamations-and all attempts to flatter him.

His constant devotion to the empire's needs. His stewardship of the treasury. His willingness to take responsibility-and blame-for both.

His attitude to the gods: no superstitiousness. And his attitude to men: no demagoguery, no currying favor, no pandering. Always sober, always steady, and never vulgar or a prey to fads.

The way he handled the material comforts that fortune had supplied him in such abundance-without arrogance and without apology. If they were there, he took advantage of them. If not, he didn't miss them.

No one ever called him glib, or shameless, or pedantic. They saw him for what he was: a man tested by life, accomplished, unswayed by flattery, qualified to govern both himself and them.

His respect for people who practiced philosophy-at least, those who were sincere about it. But without denigrating the others-or listening to them.

His ability to feel at ease with people-and put them at their ease, without being pushy.

His willingness to take adequate care of himself. Not a hypochondriac or obsessed with his appearance, but not ignoring things either. With the result that he hardly ever needed medical attention, or drugs or any sort of salve or ointment.

This, in particular: his willingness to yield the floor to experts-in oratory, law, psychology, whatever-and to support them energetically, so that each of them could fulfil his potential.

That he respected tradition without needing to constantly congratulate himself for Safeguarding Our Traditional Values.

Not prone to go off on tangents, or pulled in all directions, but sticking with the same old places and the same old things.

The way he could have one of his migraines and then go right back to what he was doing-fresh and at the top of his game.

That he had so few secrets-only state secrets, in fact, and not all that many of those.

The way he kept public actions within reasonable bounds-games, building projects, distributions of money and so on-because he looked to what needed doing and not the credit to be gained from doing it.

No bathing at strange hours, no self-indulgent building projects, no concern for food, or the cut and color of his clothes, or having attractive slaves. (The robe from his farm at Lorium, most of the things at Lanuvium, the way he accepted the customs agent's apology at Tusculum, etc.)

He never exhibited rudeness, lost control of himself, or turned violent. No one ever saw him sweat. Everything was to be approached logically and with due consideration, in a calm and orderly fashion but decisively, and with no loose ends.

You could have said of him (as they say of Socrates) that he knew how to enjoy and abstain from things that most people find it hard to abstain from and all too easy to enjoy. Strength, perseverance, self-control in both areas: the mark of a soul in readiness-indomitable.

(Maximus's illness.)

17. The Gods

That I had good grandparents, a good mother and father, a good sister, good teachers, good servants, relatives, friends-almost without exception. And that I never lost control of myself with any of them, although I had it in me to do that, and I might have, easily. But thanks to the gods, I was never put in that position, and so escaped the test.

That I wasn't raised by my grandfather's girlfriend for longer than I was. That I didn't lose my virginity too early, and didn't enter adulthood until it was time-put it off, even.

That I had someone-as a ruler and as a father-who could keep me from being arrogant and make me realize that even at court you can live without a troop of bodyguards, and gorgeous clothes, lamps, sculpture-the whole charade. That you can behave almost like an ordinary person without seeming slovenly or careless as a ruler or when carrying out official obligations.

That I had the kind of brother I did. One whose character challenged me to improve my own. One whose love and affection enriched my life.

That my children weren't born stupid or physically deformed.

That I wasn't more talented in rhetoric or poetry, or other areas. If I'd felt that I was making better progress I might never have given them up.

That I conferred on the people who brought me up the honors they seemed to want early on, instead of putting them off (since they were still young) with the hope that I'd do it later.

That I knew Apollonius, and Rusticus, and Maximus.

That I saw was shown clearly and often what it would be like to live as nature requires. The gods did all they could-through their gifts, their help, their inspiration-to ensure that I could live as nature demands. And if I've failed, it's no one's fault but mine. Because I didn't pay attention to what they told me-to what they taught me, practically, step by step.

That my body has held out, especially considering the life I've led.

That I never laid a finger on Benedicta or on Theodotus. And that even later, when I was overcome by passion, I recovered from it.

That even though I was often upset with Rusticus I never did anything I would have regretted later.

That even though she died young, at least my mother spent her last years with me.

That whenever I felt like helping someone who was short of money, or otherwise in need, I never had to be told that I had no resources to do it with. And that I was never put in that position myself-of having to take something from someone else.

That I have the wife I do: obedient, loving, humble.

That children had competent teachers.

Remedies granted through dreams-when I was coughing blood, for instance, and having fits of dizziness. And the one at Caieta.

That when I became interested in philosophy I didn't fall into the hands of charlatans, and didn't get bogged down in writing treatises, or become absorbed by logic-chopping, or preoccupied with physics.

All things for which "we need the help of fortune and the gods."


From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

Martin Hammond's translation of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, like his Iliad and Odyssey, is the work of an unusually gifted translator, and one who understands the value added by careful attention to supplementary material. He writes natural English, direct and often eloquent; the text is well supported by effective notes and a characteristically thorough and well-planned index; Diskin Clay supplies a useful introduction. This is a fine volume (Malcolm Heath Greece & Rome Journal)

Marcus is well served by this new translation. Hammond has a pithy turn of phrase to match the emperor's own . . . His notes abound in helpful explanation and illuminating cross-reference. Diskin Clay contributes a sparkling and sympathetic introduction. The combination of introduction, translation and notes is as good as they get (John Taylor Journal of Classics Teaching)


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Couverture | Copyright | Table des matières | Extrait | Index | Quatrième de couverture
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174 internautes sur 178 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The best book of practical philosophy ever written 1 décembre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The style is direct and unpretentious. The message is simple but extraordinarily powerful: life is short, the past and the future are inaccessible, pain and pleasure have no meaning, but inside each one of us there is a ruling faculty that is touched only by itself. Only that which makes us better capable of confronting our condition with resolution and courage can be said to be good, and only that which makes us worse and more unsatisfied can be said to be bad. The only thing that is of any importance is our own private quest for perfection, which no external power can ever destroy. Marcus Aurelius delivers many insightful and inspirational observations about human nature and the human condition, and he makes an excellent rational argument for seeking the good and for acting modestly and continently. I cannot think or a more satifying and moving work, and it is all the more poignant because it was written by a man who wielded almost absolute power and lived surrounded by the luxury, yet managed to keep things in perspective and to occupy himself only with what truly matters. One sentence captures perfectly the spirit of his writings: "Where a man can live, there he can also live well." An extraordinary testimony of wisdom and fortitude.
49 internautes sur 51 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
a diamond 5 octobre 2003
Par David C. Pecot - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
The Meditations are terse statements, aphorisms, notes, even reminders. Some are like fragmented dialogues, which I find fascinated. Some are very hard to get a hold of. Others remarkably clear. Summarizing them is hard, and surely misleading, but they seem frequently to stand against illusions and mistaken judgments, especially in the face of frustration, desire, fear, and anger. The positive dimension of this is harder to describe (maybe because I have yet to know it firsthand): calmness, purpose, self-control, and a true reckoning of what will matter in the end, as understood in terms of the harmony and essential order of all things. He can be difficult in places, but at other times it is as though he sees into your soul.
I think Marcus Aurelius will strike readers very differently based on where they are coming from. Some readers will resonate with his insistence on self-awareness, equanimity, and responsibility for one's own mental state and reactions. Other readers will be attracted by his ethical standards, commitment to the common good, and sense of divine harmony in all events. Others will simply enjoy his sobering reflection and insightful commentary on human nature. Historians will be fascinated with a look into the mind of a Roman emperor, seemingly untouched by the affairs of state (they are hardly mentioned in the text). Philosophers will enjoy learning about Stoic thought in praxis and how he's picked up the thought of other Greek thinkers (Epictetus, Chrysippus, Heraclitus, etc). Perhaps one of the most amazing things is how he might appeal equally to readers from very different backgrounds, a testament to the complexity of his thinking.
This particular edition comes with a very good introduction that answers questions of history, religion, philosophy, and thematic ideas. I highly recommend it to those interested in Marcus Aurelius and his philosophical thought. In addition, Gregory Hays is a masterful translator who, I think, has taken care to convey the meaning of the original Greek in appropriate English counterparts.
The first chapter is a beautiful one that describes Marcus Aurelius' gratitude to the many people that have positively influenced him, in each case telling what it is that he gained from them. Might we do the same someday ourselves? Though it is highly selective for me to do so (leaving out big chunks of what the book is like, especially the more obviously Stoic in form and content--such as the fleeting transience of life), below are just a few of my favorite quotes.
"The best revenge is not to be like that."
"You can hold your breath until you turn blue, but they'll still go on doing it."
"It was for the best. So nature had no choice but to do it."
"Forget the future. When and if it comes, you'll have the same resources to draw on--the same Logos."
"Remember that our efforts are subject to circumstances; you weren't aiming to do the impossible. --aiming to do what then? --To try. And you succeeded. What you set out to do is accomplished."
"Think of yourself as dead. You've lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly."
"...people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own--not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him..."
68 internautes sur 74 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
It's a new translation 13 juillet 2007
Par James - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I was excited to order the penguin classic as I now live in Japan and had left my prior copy in NY. However, I am not quite so happy with this new translation as I find it diluted for the masses and less meaningful. Though Marcus Aurelius offers great wisdom the new translation offers the stoic cliches stated so colloquially that we've heard them all before. Meditations are statements to be slowly chewed, savored and deeply thought about; while I feel the current translation offers Aurelius in a more ambiguous, predigested and less flavorful form. However, I'm a bit particular! A prior reviewer found this helpful in that it was easier to read.
70 internautes sur 77 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Ian Myles Slater on: The Modern Library and the Emperor 10 novembre 2004
Par Ian M. Slater - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
It was interesting to see that one reviewer went looking for a copy of the Modern Library edition of "Meditations" as a gift, and had to settle for a different translation.

There was a time when many publishers had in print their own editions -- usually "gift editions," in a range of prices -- of the little book, "To Himself," by the second-century Roman patrician Marcus Annius Catilius Severus (121-180 C.E.), known after his marriage as Marcus Annius Verus -- almost always titled something like "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius," and most commonly some version (little choice disguised as many choices) of George Long's 1862 translation of the Greek original, originally published as "The Thoughts of the Emperor M. Aurelius Antoninus."

For Marcus, besides receiving an excellent education in Greek, which he seems to have used as naturally as Latin, went on, through a process of adoption and co-optation, to rule the Roman Empire, beginning in 161 with the death of Antoninus Pius, his uncle, who had adopted him as heir, using a third version of his name. For moderns, he is usually just Marcus Aurelius; I found it a bit of shock to see him as just another "Antoninus" in ancient texts.

Under any name, he has been popular, at least with publishers; even now, there seem to be something like sixty versions in English of this book available on Amazon, even though many *are* out of print (and most seem to be of the same few older translations). As usual, a number of these editions and translations are grouped by Amazon for review purposes, and I will mention some. If you find this, or someone else's, review of one translation under a different heading, PLEASE remember that, as Marcus Aurelius saw, some things really are beyond our control.

It should require more thought to understand Marcus than it does to follow the English version. The Modern Library's current offering, a new translation by George Hays, is based on modern text editions, and seems to be both an excellent first introduction to the book, and graceful reading for those with no interest in looking further. It has brief but helpful notes, and a glossary of names, which helps keep the notes short and to the point. Some will follow his references to more advanced treatments, including textual as well as philosophical problems.

As for Marcus Aurelius, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest, and certainly the most morally and intellectually impressive, of all Roman Emperors. Gibbon tended to see the Empire's real decline as subsequent to his death, a view not without its reflection in the recent motion picture "Gladiator." The transitions by appointment from Trajan to Hadrian to Antoninus Pius to Marcus produced one of the most successful set of reigns in history (if mainly from a strictly Roman and Imperial point of view). It is perhaps the best historically-documented counterpart of the Chinese tradition of the Sage Emperors who chose as heirs the Most Virtuous (or Most Effective) subjects, instead of favored sons.

The policy had precedents in Roman history, although none so successful for so long. Family loyalty was admired, and inheritance gave access to key property, including the slaves in the bureaucracy, and the loyalty of followers (veteran soldiers, freedmen and other clients); yet the whole dynastic principle was suspect as un-Roman. It was in part accidental, Antoninus, for example, himself almost a last-minute substitute, having no son to be his heir. Marcus Aurelius designated his son Commodus as successor, with less fortunate consequences, after the death of his first choice; although Commodus' evil reputation may reflect his political and military failures, and the interests of his successors, as much as his personality.

So one might expect from the great Emperor Marcus Aurelius some manifesto on statesmanship, or imperial strategy, or at least good government. In fact, his twelve books (booklets, really) of little notes "to himself" contain reflections on fate, on moral lessons from classical literature, on religion, on human nature. They are probably the last thing one would expect of a Supreme Autocrat and Generalissimo.

Nor are they an exposition of a philosophic system; no surprise that some reviewers, apparently expecting one, have found them unsatisfying.

The first three books have titles (some are subscripts in the manuscript tradition, but, like Hays, I think they are misplaced). "On the River Gran, Among the Quadi," refers to a campaign on the borders of the empire. If it is the heading of Book Two, the lack of any explicit reference therein to the hard-fought German campaign is worth pondering. Was this what the Emperor considered truly important? What he wanted us to think he thought was important? (But there is internal evidence that he had no intention of making any of it public.) What he preferred to think about when he could get away from the war for a few moments? It should be remembered that he was a successful campaigner.

Hays' clear translation into modern English joins a number of post-Long translations. Older versions include the important version with commentary of A.S.L. Farquharson (Oxford, 1944, out of print; his translation with new introduction, etc., World's Classics, 1990, and Oxford World's Classics, 1998), and two competitors for the student and general reader markets, respectively, by G.M.A. Grube (originally Library of Liberal Arts, Bobbs-Merrill, 1963) and Maxwell Staniforth (Penguin Classics, 1964), which have been in and out of print (but mostly in) for four decades. Of these, I much prefer Hays -- although the additional material in the World's Classics edition(s) is worth a look. (Staniforth, by the way, says that "a couple of generations ago" major publishers had "elegant miniature" editions of classics, usually including the "Meditations" -- those I remember from the 1960s themselves were full-sized, and distinguished only by gilt edges and/or slipcovers and/or presentation pages.)

It also joins the highly-praised contemporary version, "The Emperor's Handbook: A New Translation of The Meditations," translated by David Hicks and C. Scott Hicks (2002; not seen).

It competes as well with a fairly recent (1993) Dover Thrift Edition of the George Long translation, revised (and not for the first time) to modernize his mid-Victorian English and untangle his somewhat convoluted fidelity to (a long-obsolete edition of) the Greek. That Long was not very readable was probably not of much concern to those who used to buy and give (and possibly receive) editions designed to suggest educated tastes; certainly not to the sellers. Long's concern for accuracy should be emulated, but turning relatively clear Greek into opaque English doesn't seem the best way to achieve the goal. (In all fairness, what was plain enough language in mid-Victorian England / Civil War America may now seem obscure for other reasons.)

The novelist Mary Renault thought that Marcus' example refuted Lord Acton's view that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," but the most remarkable lesson of the "Meditations" is that Marcus Aurelius did not believe that he HAD absolute power. He had been chosen and groomed for a role he had been taught to accept as a duty, and regarded it as both an obligation and an imposition. For Marcus was a Stoic -- not in the commonplace sense of someone who repressed his feelings or endured pain without expression, but in the original sense of a follower of philosophy that offered a quasi-religious approach to life. Hays usefully points out (with helpful bibliography) that Marcus was, in the manner of his time, eclectic, but grants that, if asked, he would have identified himself with Stocism.

The movement was founded by Zeno of Citium (or Kition), born on Cyprus (about 336 B.C.E.) in a family said to be part Phoenician, who taught in the Stoa Poikile, or "Painted Walkway," in Athens, from some point after 313 to his death about 261 B.C.E. It was one of the key movements of Hellenistic times, and found a ready reception among upper class Romans as well. Teaching calm in the face of stress, and endorsing acceptance of public obligations, including religion, it is traditionally paired with, and contrasted to, Epicureanism, which taught avoidance of excessive pain and pleasure, withdrawal into private life, and the pointlessness of traditional religion. (Not hedonism, as popularly imagined; nor did it deny the existence of gods, only that they had any interest in anything so trivial and base as human concerns.)

For those who find the "Meditations" intriguing but unsatisfying, works by other Stoics may be more fulfilling; there are some excellent recent volumes translating and interpreting Marcus' older contemporary, Epictetus, a slave who set an example to the rulers of the western world -- but that would be another review.
46 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Read reviews carefully 5 novembre 2006
Par D. Edmunds - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Amazon has not done a good job sorting out the various editions and translations of Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. As a result, comments with many stars actually may be referring to an entirely different translation. Likewise, hardbound references don't match up with the paperback versions. I'd recommend that you find a copy somewhere and look at the text yourself before you order.
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