Book V

1. AT daybreak,[1] when loth to rise,[2] have this thought ready in thy mind: I am rising for a man’s work. Am I then still peevish that I am going to do that for which I was born and for the sake of which I came into the world? Or was I made for this, that I should nuzzle under the bed-clothes and keep myself warm? But this is pleasanter. Hast thou been made then for pleasure, in a word, I ask thee, to be acted upon or to act? Consider each little plant, each tiny bird, the ant, the spider, the bee, how they go about their own work and do each his part for the building up of an orderly Universe. Dost thou then refuse to do the work of a man? Dost thou not hasten to do what Nature bids thee. But some rest, too, is necessary. I do not deny it. Howbeit Nature has set limits to this, and no less so to eating and drinking. Yet thou exceedest these limits and exceedest sufficiency. But in acts it is no longer so; there thou comest short of the possibility.

For thou lovest not thyself, else surely hadst thou loved thy nature also and to do her will. But others who love their own art wear themselves to a shadow with their labours over it, forgetting to wash or take food.[3] But thou holdest thine own nature in less honour than the chaser of metal his art of chasing, than the dancer his dancing, than the miser his money bags, than the popularity-hunter his little applause. And these, when they are exceptionally in earnest, are ready to forgo food and sleep, so that they forward the things in which they are interested. But dost thou deem the acts of a social being of less worth and less deserving of attention?

2. How easy a thing it is to put away and blot out every impression[4] that is disturbing or alien, and to be at once in perfect peace.

3. Do not think that any word or deed that is in accord with Nature to be unworthy of you, and do not be pulled aside by the criticism of others or what they say,[5] but if a thing is good to do or say, do not judge yourself to be unworthy of it. For those others have their own ruling Reason and follow their own bent. Do not turn your eyes aside, but keep to the straight path, following both your own and the universal Nature; for the path of these two is one.[6]

4. I fare forth through all that Nature wills until the day when I shall sink down and rest from my labours, breathing forth my last breath into the air whence I daily draw it in, and falling upon that earth, whence also my father gathered the seed, and my mother the blood, and my nurse the milk; whence daily for so many years I am fed and watered; which bears me as I tread it under foot and make full use of it in a thousand ways.

5. Sharpness of wit men cannot praise thee for.[7] Granted! Yet there are many other qualities of which thou canst not say: I had not that by nature.[8] Well then, display those which are wholly in thy power, sterling sincerity, dignity, endurance of toil,[9] abstinence from pleasure.[10] Grumble not at thy lot, be content with little,[11] be kindly, independent, frugal, serious, high-minded.[12] Seest thou not how many virtues it is in thy power to display now, in respect of which thou canst plead no natural in capacity or incompatibility, and yet thou art content still with a lower standard? Or art thou forced to be discontented, to be grasping, to flatter, to inveigh against the body, to play the toady and the braggart, and to be so unstable in thy soul, because forsooth thou hast no natural gifts? By the Gods, No! but long ere now couldest thou have shaken thyself free from all this and have lain under the imputation only, if it must be so, of being somewhat slow and dull of apprehension. And this too thou must amend with training and not ignore thy dulness or be in love with it.

6. One man, when he has done another a kindness is ready also to reckon on a return.[13] A second is not ready to do this, but yet in his heart of hearts ranks the other as a debtor, and he is conscious of what he has done.[14] But a third is in a manner not conscious of it, but is like the vine that has borne a cluster of grapes, and when it has once borne its due fruit looks for no reward beyond,[15] as it is with a steed when it has run its course, a hound when it has singled out the trail, a bee when she hath made her comb. And so a man when he hath done one thing well, does not cry it abroad, but betakes himself to a second,[16] as a vine to bear afresh her clusters in due season.

A man then must be of those who act thus as it were unconsciously? Aye. But surely he must be conscious of what he is doing, for it is, we are told, the peculiar attribute of the man of true social instincts to he aware that he puts stick instincts into practice[17] and by heaven to wish that his fellow should be aware of it too. True; but thou misconceivest the present argument, and wilt consequently be of the number of those whom I mentioned before; for in fact they are led astray by reasoning which has a plausible look. But if thou thinkest it worth while to understand what has been said, fear not that thou wilt be led thereby to neglect any social act.

7. A prayer of the Athenians: Rain, Rain, dear Zeus, upon the corn-land of the Athenians[18] and their meads. Either pray not at all, or in this simple and frank fashion.

8. We have all heard, Aesculapius has prescribed for so and so riding exercise, or cold baths,[19] or walking bare foot. Precisely so it may be said that the Universal Nature has prescribed for so and so sickness or maim or loss or what not of the same kind. For, in the former case, prescribed has some such meaning as this : He ordained this for so and so as conducive to his health ; while in the latter what befalls each man has been ordained in some way as conducive to his destiny. For we say that things fall to us, as the masons too say that the huge squared stones in walls and pyramids fall into their places, adjusting themselves harmoniously to one another in a sort of structural unity. For, in fine, there is one harmony of all things, and just as from all bodies the Universe is made up into such a body as it is, so from all causes is Destiny made up into such a Cause. This is recognized by the most unthinking, for they say: Fate brought this on him. So then this was brought on this man, and this prescribed for this man. Let us then accept our fate, as we accept the prescriptions of Aesculapius. And in fact in these, too, there are many "bitter pills," but we welcome them in hope of health.

Take much the same view of the accomplishment and consummation of what Nature approves as of thy health, and so welcome whatever happens, should it even be somewhat distasteful, because it contributes to the health of the Universe and the well-faring and well-doing of Zeus himself. For he had not brought this on a man, unless it had brought welfare to the Whole. For take any nature thou wilt, it never brings upon that which is under its control anything that does not conduce to its interests.

For two reasons then it behoves thee to acquiesce in what befalls: one, that it was for thee it took place, and was prescribed for thee, and had reference in some sort to thee, being a thread of destiny spun from the first[20] for thee from the most ancient causes; the other, that even what befalls each individual is the cause of the well-faring, of the consummation[21] and by heaven of the very permanence of that which controls the Universe. For the perfection of the Whole is impaired, if thou cuttest oft ever so little of the coherence and continuance of the Causes no less than of the parts. And thou dost cut them off, as far as lies with thee, and bring them to an end, when thou murmurest.

9. Do not feel qualms[22] or despondency or discomfiture if thou dost not invariably succeed in acting from right principles ; but when thou art foiled,[23] come back again to them, and rejoice if on the whole thy conduct is worthy of a man, and love the course to which thou returnest. Come not back to Philosophy as to a schoolmaster, but as the sore-eyed to their sponges and their white of egg, as this patient to his plaster and that to his fomentations. Thus wilt thou rest satisfied with Reason, yet make no parade of obeying her. And forget not that Philosophy wishes but what thy nature wishes, whereas thy wish was for something else that accords not with Nature. Yes, for it would have been the acme of delight. Ah, is not that the very reason why pleasure trips us up? Nay, see if these be not more delightful still: high-mindedness, independence, simplicity, tenderness of heart, sanctity of life. Why what is more delightful than wisdom herself, when thou thinkest how sure and smooth in all its workings is the faculty of understanding and knowledge?

10. Things are in a sense so wrapped up in mystery that not a few philosophers, and they no ordinary ones, have concluded that they are wholly beyond our comprehension: nay, even the Stoics themselves find them hard to comprehend. Indeed every assent we give to the impressions of our senses is liable to error, for where is the man who never errs? Pass on then to the objective things themselves, how transitory they are, how worthless, the property, quite possibly, of a boy-minion, a harlot, or a brigand.[24] After that turn to the characters of thine associates, even the most refined of whom it is difficult to put up with, let alone the fact that a man has enough to do to endure himself.[25]

What then there can be amid such murk and nastiness, and in so ceaseless an ebbing of substance and of time, of movement and things moved, that deserves to be greatly valued or to excite our ambition in the least, I cannot even conceive. On the contrary, a man should take heart of grace to await his natural dissolution, and without any chafing at delay comfort[26] himself with these twin thoughts alone: the one, that nothing will befall me that is not in accord with the Nature of the Universe; the other, that it is in my power to do nothing contrary to the God and the ‘genius’[27] within me. For no one can force me to disobey that.

11. To what use then am I putting my soul? Never fail to ask thyself this question and to cross-examine thyself thus: What relation have I to this part of me which they call the ruling Reason? And whose Soul have I got now? The Soul of a child? Of a youth? Of a woman? Of a tyrant? Of a domestic animal? Of a wild beast?

12. What are counted as good things in the estimation of the many thou canst gather even from this. For if a man fix his mind upon certain things as really and unquestionably good, such as wisdom, temperance, justice, manliness, with this preconception in his mind he could no longer bear to listen to the poet’s, By reason of his wealth of goods; for it would not apply. But, if a man first fix his mind upon the things which appear good to the multitude, he will listen and readily accept as aptly added the quotation from the Comic Poet. In this way even the multitude have a perception of the difference. For otherwise this jest would not[28] offend and be repudiated, while we accept it as appropriately and wittily said of wealth and of the advantages which wait upon luxury and popularity. Go on, then, and ask whether we should prize and count as good those things, with which first fixed in our mind we might germanely quote of their possessor, that for his very wealth of goods he has no place to ease himself in.[29]

13. I am made up of the Causal[30] and the Material, and neither of these disappears into nothing, just as neither did it come into existence out of nothing. So shall my every part by change be told off[31] to form some part of the Universe, and that again be changed into another part of it, and so on to infinity. It was by such process of change that I too came into being and my parents, and so backwards into a second infinity. And the statement is quite legitimate, even if the Universe be arranged according to completed cycles.[32]

14. Reason and the art of reasoning are in themselves and in their own proper acts self-sufficing faculties. Starting from a principle peculiar to them, they journey on to the end set before them. Wherefore such actions are termed right acts, as signifying that they follow the right way.

15. Call none of those things a man’s that do not fall to him as man. They cannot be claimed of a man; the man’s nature does not guarantee them ; they are no consummations of that nature. Consequently neither is the end for which man lives placed in these things, nor yet that which is perfective of the end, namely The Good. Moreover, if any of these things did fall to a man, it would not fall to him to contemn them and set his face against them, nor would a man be commendable who shewed himself independent of these things, nor yet would he be a good man who came short of his own standard in any of them, if so be these things were good. But as it is, the more a man can cut himself free, or even be set free, from these and other such things with equanimity, by so much the more is he good.

16. The character of thy mind will be such as is the character of thy frequent thoughts,[33] for the soul takes its dye from the thoughts. Dye her then with a continuous succession of such thoughts as these: Where life is possible, there it is possible also to live well. But the life is life in a Court.[34] Well, in a Court too it is possible to live well. And again: A thing is drawn towards that for the sake of which it has been made, and its end lies in that towards which it is drawn and, where its end lies, there lie also its interest and its good. The Good, then, for a rational creature is fellowship with others.[35] For it has been made clear long ago[36] that we were constituted for fellowship. Or was it not obvious that the lower were for the sake of the higher[37] and the higher for the sake of one another? And living things are higher than lifeless, and those that have reason than those that have life only.

17. To crave impossibilities is lunacy; but it is impossible for the wicked to act otherwise.[38]

18. Nothing befalls anyone that he is not fitted by nature to bear.[39] Others experience the same things as thou, but either from ignorance that anything has befallen them, or to manifest their greatness of mind, they stand firm and get no hurt. A strange thing indeed that ignorance and vanity should prove stronger than wisdom![40]

19. Things of themselves cannot take the least hold of the Soul, nor have any access to her, nor deflect or move her; but the Soul alone deflects and moves herself,[41] and whatever judgments she deems it right to form, in conformity with them she fashions for herself the things that submit themselves to her from without.[42]

20. In one respect a man is of very close concern to us, in so far as we must do him good and forbear; but in so far as any stand in the way of those acts which concern us closely, then man becomes for me as much one of things indifferent as the sun, as the wind, as a wild-beast. Though a man may in some sort fetter my activity, yet on my own initiative and mental attitude no fetters can be put because of the power they possess of conditional action[43] and of adaptation to circumstances. For everything that stands in the way of its activity is adapted and transmuted by the mind into a furtherance of it,[44] and that which is a check on this action is converted into a help to it, and that which is a hindrance in our path goes but to make it easier.

21. Prize the most excellent thing in the Universe; and this is that which utilizes all things and controls all things. Prize in like manner the most excellent thing in thyself;[45] and this is that which is akin to the other. For this, which utilizes all else is in thee too, and by it thy life is governed.

22. That which is not hurtful to the community cannot hurt the individual.[46] Test every case of apparent hurt by this rule : if the community be not hurt by this, neither am I hurt ; but if the community be hurt, there is no need to be angry with him that hath done the hurt,[47] but to enquire, What hath he seen amiss ?[48]

23. Think often on the swiftness with which the things that exist and that are coming into existence are swept past us and carried out of sight. For all substance[49] is as a river in ceaseless flow,[50] its activities ever changing and its causes subject to countless variations, and scarcely anything stable; and ever beside us is this infinity of the past and yawning abyss of the future, wherein all things are disappearing.[51] Is he not senseless who in such an environment puffs himself up, or is distracted, or frets as over a trouble lasting and far-reaching?

24. Keep in memory the universal Substance, of which thou art a tiny part; and universal Time, of which a brief, nay an almost momentary span has been allotted thee; and Destiny, in which how fractional thy share?[52]

25. Another does me some wrong? He shall see to it.[53] His disposition is his own, his activities are his own. What the universal Nature wills me to have now, that I now have, and what my nature wills me now to do, that I do.

26. Let the ruling and master Reason of thy soul be proof against any motions in the flesh smooth or rough. Let it not mingle itself with them, but isolate and restrict those tendencies to their true spheres. But when in virtue of that other sympathetic connection these tendencies grow up into the mind as is to be expected in a single organism, then must thou not go about to resist the sensation, natural as it is, but see that thy ruling Reason adds no opinion of its own as to whether such is good or bad.

27. Walk with the Gods! And he does walk with the Gods, who lets them see his soul invariably satisfied with its lot and carrying out the will of that ‘genius’ a particle[54] of himself, which Zeus has given to every man as his captain and guide[55] and this is none other than each man’s intelligence and reason.

28. If a man’s armpits are unpleasant, art thou angry with him? If he has foul breath? What would be the use? The man has such a mouth, he has such armpits. Some such effluvium was bound to come from such a source. But the man has sense, quotha! With a little attention he could see wherein he offends. I congratulate thee! Well, thou too hast sense. By a rational attitude, then, in thyself evoke a rational attitude in him,[56] enlighten him, admonish him. If he listen, thou shalt cure him[57], and have no need of anger.

Neither tragedian nor harlot.

29. Thou canst live on earth as thou dost purpose to live when departed. But if men will not have it so, then is it time for thee even to go out of life,[58] yet not as one who is treated ill. Tis smoky and I go away.[59] Why think it a great matter? But while no such cause drives me forth, I remain a free man, and none shall prevent me from doing what I will, and I will what is in accordance with the nature of a rational and social creature.

30. The intelligence of the Universe is social. It hath at any rate made the lower things for the sake of the higher, and it adapted the higher[60] to one another. Thou seest how it hath sub ordinated, coordinated, and given each its due lot and brought the move excellent things into mutual accord.

31. How hast thou borne thyself heretofore towards Gods, parents, brothers, wife, children, teachers, tutors, friends, relations, household? Canst thou say truly of them all to this day,

Doing to no man wrong, nor speaking aught that is evil?[61]

And call to mind all that thou hast passed through, all thou hast found strength to bear ; that the story of thy life is now full-told and thy service is ending ; and how many beautiful sights thou hast seen, how many pleasures and pains thou hast disregarded, forgone what ambitions, and repaid with kindness how much unkindness.[62]

32. Why do unskilled and ignorant souls confound[63] him who has skill and has knowledge? What soul, then, has skill and knowledge? Even that which knoweth beginning and end, and the reason that informs all Substance, and governs the Whole from ordered cycle to cycle[64] through all eternity.

33. But a little while and thou shalt be burnt ashes or a few dry bones, and possibly a name, possibly not a name even.[65] And a name is but sound and a far off echo. And all that we prize so highly in our lives is empty and rotten and paltry, and we but as puppies snapping at each other, as quarrel some children now laughing and anon in tears. But faith and modesty and justice and truth

Up from the wide-wayed Earth have winged their flight to Olympus.[66]

What then keeps thee here? if indeed sensible objects are ever changing and unstable, and our faculties are so feeble and so easily misled ; and the poor soul itself is an exhalation from blood[67]; and to be well-thought of in such a world mere vanity. What then remains? To wait with a good grace for the end, whether it be extinction or translation.[68] But till our time for that be come, what sufficeth? What but to reverence the Gods and to praise them, to do good unto men and to bear with them and forbear[69] but, for all else that comes within the compass of this poor flesh and breath, to remember that it is not thine nor under thy control?

34. Thou hast it in thy power that the current of thy life be ever fair, if also tis thine to make fair way, if also in ordered way to think and act. The Soul of God and the souls of men and of every rational creature have these two characteristics in common: to suffer no let or hindrance from another, and to find their good in a condition and practice of justice, and to confine their propension to this.

35. If this be no vice of mine nor the outcome of any vice of mine, and if the common interest does not suffer, why concern myself about it? And how can the common interest suffer?[70]

36. Do not be uncontrollably carried away by sense-impressions, but rally to the fight as you can and as is due. If there is failure[71] in indifferent things, do not think there is any great harm done; for that is an evil habit. But as the greybeard (in the play) taking his leave reclaimed his foster-child’s top, not forgetting that it was but a top, so do you here also.[72] Since indeed you are found lecturing on the platforms, O Man, hast you forgotten what this really means? Yes, but people will have it. Must you too be a fool in consequence?

Time was that wherever forsaken[73] I was a man well-portioned; but that man well-portioned is he that has given himself a good portion; and good portions are good phases of the soul, good impulses, good actions.

<Book IV - Book VI>

[1] ii. 1.

[2] Marcus in younger days was an early riser, getting up en at 3 o'clock (Fronto, ad Caes. iv. 5) or 5 o'clock (ibid. iv. 6). He admits sleepiness of habit (ibid. i. 4; v. 59), but says it is so cold in his bedroom that he can scarcely put his hands outside his bedclothes. Fronto constantly urges him to take more sleep (ibid. ii. 5; v. 1, 2; de Fer. Als. 2, Nab. p. 227): sleep as much as a free man should! At the last he suffered dreadfully from insomnia, see Galen xiv. 3 (Kühn) ; Dio 71. 24, § 4.

[3] cp. of Marcus himself (Herodian i. 3, § 1) and Julian, Conviv. 407. See Plutarch’s story of Nikias the painter (de Sene Polit. 4; Non posse, sitav. vivere sec. Epicur. 11).

[4] vii. 29; viii. 47.

[5] x. 11. cp. 1 St. Peter, ii. 20.

[6] iv. 29.

[7] vii. 67; cp. Fronto, ad Ant. i. 2.

[8] cp. Hor. Ep. i. 1. 28-32.

[9] cp. i. 5.

[10] cp. Aristides, ad Reg. 114 (Jebb) of Marcus; and Fronto, de Fer. Als. Nab. p. 225, volpem facilius quis tibi quam voluptatem conciliaverit.

[11] cp. i. 5; Julian, Conviv. 427.

[12] Or humble, but cp. v. 9.

[13] St. Luke vi. 34; xiv. 12.

[14] Sen. de Benef. ii. 6. But see the speech of Marcus to his soldiers (as reported by Dio, 71. 26, 2) on the revolt of Cassius.

[15] vii. 73; ix. 42, § 4. cp. Fronto, de Nep. 2 ad fin.

[16] xi. 4; xii. 29.

[17] e.g. a man who acts on the precept, "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth," must act so designedly.

[18] cp. Pausan. i. 24, § 3.

[19] See the amazing story of an icy bathe prescribed so to Aristides (Sacr. Serm. ii. 529, Jebb ff.).

[20] Or, from above.

[21] cp. Sen. Ep. 74.

[22] Lit. be nauseated (cp. viii. 24).

[23] v. 36.

[24] vi. 34. cp. Sen. Ep. 81.

[25] iv. 50; ix. 3. For a qualifying picture to this very pessimistic view see vi. 48.

[26] A favourite word. cp. iv. 31; v. 9 = "to take rest in."

[27] ii. 13; iii. 5 etc.

[28] sc. as in the case of things really good.

[29] From Menander Frag. 530 (Kock). A less coarse interpretation of the phrase, would permit us to cp. Diog. Laert. Diog. 6 and Arist. 4, passages in which we are told that the philosopher being taken to a magnificent house where spitting was forbidden spat in his host’s face, explaining that he could find no other place.

[30] The Efficient, or Formal, or Formative principle, here the Soul, but the Soul itself consists of a causal element and a material

[31] viii. 25.

[32] v. 32 ; xi. 1. See Index III.

[33] vii. 3 ; Sen. Ep. 95.

[34] viii. 9. cp. Sen. Ep. 28.

[35] ii. 1; iii. 4, § 1.

[36] ii. 1.

[37] vii. 55; xi. 18, 1; Sen. Ep. 65 adfin.

[38] iv. 6; vii. 71; xi. 18 ad fin.; Sen. de Ira ii. 31.

[39] viii. 46; x. 3; St. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 13.

[40] cp. Sen. Ep. 36 ad fin.

[41] vi. 8.

[42] xi. 16.

[43] iv. 1; vi. 50.

[44] iv. 1; x. 31 ad fin.,

[45] vi. 16 ad fin,

[46] v. 35; vi. 54.

[47] v. 35.

[48] xi. 13.

[49] Or, Being.

[50] iv. 43; vii. 19.

[51] xii. 32.

[52] Epict. i. 12, 26.

[53] St. Matt. xii. 4, 24.

[54] ii. 1, 4; xii. 26, 30.

[55] Epict. i. 14, § 12

[56] x. 4; Epict. ii. 8, § 11.

[57] cp. St. Matt, xviii. 15.

[58] See on iii. 1. cp. viii. 47.

[59] Epict. i. 25, § 18; iv. 10, § 27.

[60] v. 16.

[61] Hom. Od. iv. 690.

[62] x. 36. There is no Pharisaism here, as some have most unwarrantably asserted.

[63] cp. St. Paul, 1 Cor. i. 27 (Auth. Vers.).

[64] v. 13; x. 7.

[65] viii. 25; xii. 27.

[66] Hesiod, Op. 197. cp. Eur. Med. 439 and Lucian, Nigr. 16, who, speaking of Rome, says much the same. See also Dio 71, 24, § 2.

[67] vi. 15. cp. Tzetz. Chil. vii. 803; viii. 223.

[68] Marcus never seems to have made up his mind which it was to be. See iv. 21; viii. 25; xi. 3.

[69] These two constituted for Epictetus the whole "Law and the Prophets "; see Aulus Gellius xvii. 19.

[70] v. 22; vi. 54.

[71] v. 36.

[72] It is not known what Marcus alludes to. The following words are unintelligible.

[73] Or overtaken