Book III

1. We ought not to think only upon the fact that our life each day is waning away, what is left of it being ever less, but this also should be a subject for thought, that even if life be prolonged, yet is it uncertain whether the mind will remain equally fitted in the future for the understanding of facts and for that contemplation which strains after the knowledge of things divine and human. For if a man has entered upon his dotage, there will still be his the power of breathing,[1] and digestion, and thought, and desire, and all such-like faculties; but the full use of himself,[2] the accurate appreciation of the items[3] of duty, the nice discrimination of what presents itself to the senses, and a clear judgment on the question whether it is time for him to end his own life,[4] and all such decisions, as above all require well-trained powers of reasoning - these are already flickering out in him. It needs, then, that we should press onwards, not only because we come each moment nearer to death, but also because our insight into facts and our close touch of them is gradually ceasing even before we die.

2. Such things as this also we ought to note with care, that the accessories too of natural operations have a charm and attractiveness of their own. For instance, when bread is in the baking, some of the parts split open, and these very fissures, though in a sense thwarting the bread-maker's design, have an appropriateness of their own and in a peculiar way stimulate the desire for food. Again when figs are at their ripest, they gape open; and in olives that are ready to fall their very approach to over-ripeness gives a peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the full ears of corn bending downwards, and the lion's beetling brows, and the foam dripping from the jaws of the wild-boar,[5] and many other things, though, if looked at apart from their setting, they are far from being comely, yet, as resultants from the operations of Nature, lend them an added charm and excite our admiration.

And so, if a man has sensibility and a deeper insight into the workings of the Universe, scarcely anything, though it exist only as a secondary con sequence to something else, but will seem to him to form in its own peculiar way a pleasing adjunct to the whole. And he will look on the actual gaping jaws[6] of wild beasts[7] with no less pleasure than the representations of them by limners and modellers; and he will be able to see in the aged of either sex a mature prime and comely ripeness, and gaze with chaste eyes upon the alluring loveliness of the young. And many such things there are which do not appeal to everyone, but will come home to him alone who is genuinely intimate with Nature and her works.

3. Hippocrates, after healing many a sick man, fell sick himself and died. Many a death have Chaldaeans foretold, and then their own fate has overtaken them also.[8] Alexander, Pompeius and Gaius Caesar times without number utterly destroyed whole cities, and cut to pieces many myriads of horse and foot on the field of battle, yet the day came when they too departed this life. Heraclitus, after endless speculations on the destruction of the world by fire, came to be filled internally with water, and died beplastered with cowdung. And lice caused the death of Democritus,[9] and other vermin of Socrates.

What of this? Thou hast gone aboard, thou hast set sail, thou hast touched land; go ashore; if indeed for another life, there is nothing even there void of Gods; but if to a state of non-sensation,[10] thou shalt cease being at the mercy of pleasure and pain and lackeying the bodily vessel[11] which is so much baser than that which ministers to it. For the one is intelligence and a divine genius, the other dust and putrescence.

4. Fritter not away what is left of thy life in thoughts about others, unless thou canst bring these thoughts into relation with some common interest. For verily thou dost hereby cut thyself off from other work, that is, by thinking what so and so is doing and why, what he is saying, having what in mind, contriving what, and all the many like things such as whirl thee aside from keeping close watch over thine own ruling Reason.

We ought therefore to eschew the aimless[12] and the unprofitable in the chain of our thoughts, still more all that is over-curious and ill-natured,, and a man should accustom himself to think only of those things about which, if one were to ask on a sudden, What is now in thy thoughts? thou couldest quite frankly answer at once, This or that; so that thine answer should immediately make manifest that all that is in thee is simple and kindly and worthy of a living being that is social and has no thought for pleasures or for the entire range of sensual images, or for any rivalry, envy, suspicion, or anything else, whereat thou wouldest blush to admit that thou hadst it in thy mind.[13]

For in truth such a man, one who no longer puts off being reckoned now, if never before, among the best, is in some sort a priest and minister of the (rods, putting to use also that which, enthroned within him,[14] keeps the man unstained by pleasures, invulnerable to all pain, beyond the reach of any wrong, proof against all evil, a champion in the highest of championships - that of never being over thrown by any passion - dyed in grain with justice, welcoming with all his soul everything that befalls and is allotted him, and seldom, nor yet without a great and a general necessity, concerning himself with the words or deeds or thoughts of another. For it is only the things which relate to himself that he brings within the scope of his activities, and he never ceases to ponder over what is being spun for him as his share in the fabric of the Universe, and he sees to it that the former are worthy, and is assured that the latter is good. For the fate which is allotted to each man is swept along with him in the Universe as well as sweeps him along with it.[15]

And he bears in mind that all that is rational is akin, and that it is in man's nature to care for all men, and that we should not embrace the opinion of all, but of those alone who live in conscious agreement with Nature. But what sort of men they, whose life is not after this pattern, are at home and abroad, by night and in the day, in what vices they wallow and with whom - of this he is ever mindful. Consequently he takes no account of praise from such men, who in fact cannot even win their own approval.

5. Do that thou doest neither unwillingly nor selfishly nor without examination nor against the grain. Dress not thy thought in too fine a garb. Be not a man of superfluous words or superfluous deeds. Moreover let the god that is in thee[16] be lord of a living creature, that is manly, and of full age, and concerned with statecraft, and a Roman, and a ruler, who hath taken his post as one who awaits the signal of recall from life in all readiness, needing no oath nor any man as his voucher. Be thine the cheery face and independence of help[17] from without and independence of such ease as others can give. It needs then to stand, and not be set, upright.[18]

6. If indeed thou findest in the life of man a better thing than justice, than truth, than temper ance, than manliness, and, in a word, than thy mind's satisfaction with itself in things wherein it shews thee acting according to the true dictates of reason, and with destiny in what is allotted thee apart from thy choice - if, I say, thou seest anything better than this, turn to it with all thy soul and take thy fill of the best, as thou findest it.

But if there appears nothing better than the very deity[19] enthroned in thee, which has brought into subjection to itself all individual desires, which scrutinizes the thoughts, and, in the words of Socrates, has withdrawn itself from all the entice ments of the senses, and brought itself into subjection to the Gods, and cherishes a fellow-feeling for men - if thou findest everything else pettier and of less account than this, give place to nought else, to which if thou art but once plucked aside, and incline thereto, never more shalt thou be able without distraction to give paramount honour to that good which is thine own peculiar heritage. For it is not right that any extraneous thing at all, such as the praise of the many, or office, or wealth, or indulgence in pleasure, should avail against that good which is identical with reason and a civic spirit. All these things, even if they seem for a little to fit smoothly into our lives, on a sudden overpower us and sweep us away.

But do thou, I say, simply arid freely choose the better and hold fast to it. But that is the better which is to my interest. If it is to thy interest as a rational creature, hold that fast; but if as a mere animal, declare it boldly and maintain thy judgment without arrogance. Only see to it that thou hast made thy enquiry without error.

7. Prize not anything as being to thine interest that shall ever force thee to break thy troth, to surrender thine honour, to hate, suspect, or curse anyone, to play the hypocrite, to lust after anything that needs walls and curtains.[20] For he that has chosen before all else his own intelligence and good genius, and to be a devotee of its supreme worth, does not strike a tragic attitude or whine, nor will he ask for either a wilderness or a concourse of men; above all he will live neither chasing anything nor shunning it. And he recks not at all whether he is to have his soul imprisoned in his body for a longer or a shorter span of time,[21] for even if he must take his departure at once, he will go as willingly as if he were to discharge any other function that can be discharged with decency and orderliness, making sure through life of this one thing, that his thoughts should not in any case assume a character out of keeping with a rational and civic creature.

8. In the mind of the man that has been chastened and thoroughly cleansed thou wilt find no foul abscess or gangrene or hidden sore. Nor is his life cut short, when the day of destiny overtakes him, as we might say of a tragedian's part, who leaves the stage before finishing his speech and playing out the piece.[22] Furthermore there is nothing there slavish or affected, no dependence on others or severance from them,[23] no sense of accountability or skulking to avoid it.

9. Hold sacred thy capacity for forming opinions. With that it rests wholly that thy ruling Reason should never admit any opinion out of harmony with Nature, and with the constitution of a rational creature. This ensures due deliberation and fellowship with mankind and fealty to the Gods.

10. Jettison everything else, then, and lay hold of these things only, few as they are; and remember withal that it is only this present,[24] a moment of time, that a man lives: all the rest either has been lived or may never be. Little indeed, then, is a man's life, and little the nook of earth[25] whereon he lives, and little even the longest after-fame, and that too handed on through a succession of manikins, each one of them very soon to be dead, with no knowledge even of themselves, let alone of a man who has died long since.

11. To the stand-bys mentioned add one more, that a definition or delineation should be made of every object that presents itself, so that we may see what sort of thing it is in its essence[26] stripped of its adjuncts, a separate whole taken as such, and tell over with ourselves both its particular designation and the names of the elements that compose it and into which it will be disintegrated. For nothing is so conducive to greatness of mind as the ability to examine systematically and honestly everything that meets us in life, and to regard these things always in such a way as to form a conception of the kind of Universe they belong to, and of the use which the thing in question subserves in it; what value it has for the whole Universe and what for man, citizen as he is of the highest state, of which all other states are but as households; what it actually is, and compounded of what elements, and likely to last how long - namely this that now gives me the impression in question; and what virtue it calls for from me, such as gentleness, manly courage, truth, fidelity, guilelessness, frugality, and the rest.

In each case therefore must thou say: This has come from God; and this is due to the conjunction of fate and the contexture of the world's web and some such coincidence and chance;[27] while that comes from a clans man and a kinsman and a fellow, albeit one who is ignorant of what is really in accordance with his nature. But I am not ignorant, therefore I treat him kindly and justly, in accordance with the natural law of neighbourliness; at the same time, of things that are neither good nor bad, my aim is to hit their true worth.

12. If in obedience to right reason thou doest the thing that thy hand findeth to do earnestly, manfully, graciously, and in no sense as a by-work,[28] and keepest that divine genius[29] of thine in its virgin state, just as if even now thou wert called upon, to restore it to the Giver - if thou grapple this to thee, looking for nothing, shrinking from nothing, but content with a present sphere of activity such as Nature allows, and with old-world truth in every word and utterance of thy tongue, thou shalt be happy in thy life. And there is no one that is able to prevent this.

13. Just as physicians always keep their lancets and instruments ready to their hands for emergency operations, so also do thou keep thine axioms ready for the diagnosis of things human and divine, and for the performing of every act, even the pettiest, with the fullest consciousness of the mutual ties between these two.[30] For thou shalt never carry out well any human duty unless thou correlate it to the divine, nor the reverse.

14. Go astray no more; for thou art not likely to read thy little Memoranda[31] or the Acts of the Romans and the Greeks of Old Time,[32] and the extracts[33] from their writings which thou wast Laying up against thine old age. Haste then to the consummation and, casting away all empty hopes, if thou carest aught for thy welfare, come to thine own rescue, while it is allowed thee.

15. They know not how full of meaning are - to thieve,[34] to sow, to buy, to be at peace, to see what needs doing, and this is not a matter for the eye but for another sort of sight.

16. Body, Soul, Intelligence: for the body sensations, for the soul desires, for the intelligence axioms. To receive impressions by way of the senses is not denied even to cattle; to be as puppets[35] pulled by the strings of desire is common to wild beasts and to pathics and to a Phalaris and a Nero. Yet to have the intelligence a guide to what they deem their duty is an attribute of those also who do not believe in Gods and those who fail their country in its need and those who do their deeds behind closed doors.[36] If then all else is the common property of the classes mentioned, there is left as the characteristic of the good man to delight in and to welcome what befalls and what is spun for him by destiny; and not to sully the divine genius that is enthroned in his bosom,[37] nor yet to perplex it with a multitude of impressions, but to maintain it to the end in a gracious serenity, in orderly obedience to God, uttering no word that is not true and doing no deed that is not just. But if all men disbelieve in his living a simple and modest and cheerful life, he is not wroth with any of them, nor swerves from the path which leads to his life's goal, whither he must go pure, peaceful, ready for release, needing no force to bring him into accord with his lot.

<Book II - Book IV>

[1] vi. 16. Arist. Probl. i. 21 όπερ εν τω θώρακι ανπνοή, τουτο εν τω σώματι δια πνοη δια των αρτηριων (arterial breathing).

[2] cp. Sen. Ep. 60 vivit is qui se utitur.

[3] vi. 26.

[4] x. 8, § 3. The right of suicide was part of the Stoic creed (Zeno and Cleanthes both took their own lives). Marcus allows it when circumstances make it impossible for a man to live his true life (v. 29; viii. 47; x. 8. cp. Epict. i. 24, 20; i. 25, § 18). Hadrian (Digest 28. 3. § 6, 7) enumerates as causes of suicide taedium vitae, valetudinis adversae impatientia, iactatio (in the case of certain philosophers). Marcus himself, if Dio (71. 30, § 2) is to be trusted, threatened, in a letter to the Senate, to commit suicide, and according to Capitolinus (xxviii. 3) actually hastened his own death by abstaining from food.

[5] A very fine early medallion shows Marcus in full chase after a wild boar (Grueber, Plate xviii.). cp. Dio 71. 36, § 2, συς αγρίους εν θήρα κατέβαλλεν απο 'ίππου; Fronto, ad Caes. iii. 20 iv. 5; Capit. iv. 9.

[6] iv. 36.

[7] Such are the things Marcus noticed in the amphitheatre, and not the bloodshed which his soul abhorred (Dio 71. 29, § 3).

[8] iv. 48.

[9] Told of Pherecydes (Diog. Laert. Pher. v, viii. ), of Speusippus (Speus. ix. ), and even of Plato (Plato xxix.), but not elsewhere of Democritus. Lucian (?), Macrob. 15, says Democritus died of starvation aged 104.

[10] cp. Justin, Apol. i. §§ 18, 57.

[11] So ras animi Cic. Tusc. i. 22, § 52. cp. St. Paul, 1 Thess. iv. 4 (σκευος); Dio Chrys. Or. xii. 404 R. ανθρώπινον σωμα 'ως αγγειον φιρονήσεως και λόγου.

[12] ii. 5.

[13] cp. Fronto, ad Am. i. 12: nullum est factum meum dictumre quod clam ceteris esse relim: quia cuius rei mihimet ipse conscins sim, ceteros quoque omnes inxta mecum scire relim.

[14] ii. 13. 17; iii. 6. 16.

[15] Or, more abstractly, is conditioned no less than conditions.

[16] ii. 13. 17; iii. 6.

[17] But see vii. 7.

[18] i. 15, § 3; vii. 12.

[19] iii. 4, § 3, 12, 16, or good 'genius,' but cp. in. 5, θεός.

[20] iii. 16; Epict. iii. 22, § 16. cp. Plutarch, Sympos. vii. 5.

[21] Sen. N.Q. vi. 32, ad fin.

[22] xii. 36; Sen. Ep. 77.

[23] viii. 34.

[24] ii. 14.

[25] iv. 3, § 3; viii. 21.

[26] xii. 10. 18.

[27] Notice the fondness of Marcus for compounds of συν- and his use here of alliteration, cp. xii. 14.

[28] cp. Dio 71. 6, § 2 (of Marcus), ουδεν εν παρέργω ούτε έλεγεν ούτε έγραψεν ούτε εποίει.

[29] iii. 6, § 2.

[30] i.e. the human and the divine.

[31] It is not clear whether Marcus refers to the present book. He uses a similar word for the discourses of Epictetus (i. 7).

[32. ii. 2. Some have seen here a reference to a history written by Marcus himself.

[33] See Fronto, ad Caes. ii. 10, excerpta ex libris sexaginta n quinque tomis.

[34] xi. 3.

[35] ii. 2.

[36] Must undoubtedly refer to the Christians, who were accused precisely of these three things - atheism, want of patriotism, and secret orgies, cp. also, i. 6; vii. 68; viii. 48, 51; and see note pp. 381 ff.

[37] iii. 6, § 2; St. Paul, 1 Cor. iii. 16.