Quotes of Marcus Aurelius
According to Plato, "philosophers must become kings or kings must become philosophers before the world will have peace." The fourteenth Roman Emperor (from 161 to 180, Marcus Aurelius (121-80) was probably the closest thing to a philosopher king the world has ever known. Born to a prominent Spanish family in Rome, he became an orphan at a young age and devoted himself to a life of study. By the age of twelve he was mastering geometry, music, mathematics, painting, and literature. By the time he became Emperor at the age of thirty-nine, he had earned a reputation as a great statesman and philosophical visionary. He became known as a champion of the poor, of children and especially orphans, and brought about many reforms with the idea of improving the condition of slaves. By all accounts he resisted what he was as the corrupting trappings of power, remaining a sincere and simple human being capable of great kindness but a powerful and resolute leader.
In Athens he financed all four great philosophical schools: The Academy, The Lyceum, The Garden, and the Stoa. The Meditations, written to himself during military campaigns, is a twelve-volume compendium of his ruminations on life. His overarching theme throughout the Meditations is that there is but one thing that can keep the "daemon within a man free" through the tumultuous trials and tribulations of life: philosophy.
A man should be upright, not be kept upright.
A man's worth is no greater than his ambitions.
A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires.
Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.
Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.
And thou wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last.
Anger cannot be dishonest.
Anything in any way beautiful derives its beauty from itself and asks nothing beyond itself. Praise is no part of it, for nothing is made worse or better by praise.
Aptitude found in the understanding and is often inherited. Genius coming from reason and imagination, rarely.
As the same fire assumes different shapes, When it consumes objects differing in shape, So does the one Self take the shape Of every creature in whom he is present.
Be content to seem what you really are.
Be content with what you are, and wish not change; nor dread your last day, nor long for it.
Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.
Because your own strength is unequal to the task, do not assume that it is beyond the powers of man; but if anything is within the powers and province of man, believe that it is within your own compass also.
Begin - to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.
Confine yourself to the present.
Death is a release from the impressions of the senses, and from desires that make us their puppets, and from the vagaries of the mind, and from the hard service of the flesh.
Death, like birth, is a secret of Nature.
Despise not death, but welcome it, for nature wills it like all else.
Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.
Do every act of your life as if it were your last.
Each day provides its own gifts.
Each thing is of like form from everlasting and comes round again in its cycle.
Everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.
Everything that happens, happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.
Execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last.
Forward, as occasion offers. Never look round to see whether any shall note it... Be satisfied with success in even the smallest matter, and think that even such a result is no trifle.
He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.
Here is the rule to remember in the future, When anything tempts you to be bitter: not, "This is a misfortune" but "To bear this worthily is good fortune."
How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.
How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.
I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinions of himself than on the opinions of others.
If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.
Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people's actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.
Let men see, let them know, a real man, who lives as he was meant to live.
Let not your mind run on what you lack as much as on what you have already.
Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil.
Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too.
Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.
Loss is nothing else but change, and change is Nature's delight.
Men exist for the sake of one another.
Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.
Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.
Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear.
Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.
Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.
Observe constantly that all things take place by change, and accustom thyself to consider that the nature of the Universe loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them.
Our life is what our thoughts make it.
Perhaps there are none more lazy, or more truly ignorant, than your everlasting readers.
Poverty is the mother of crime.
Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.
Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.
That which is not good for the bee-hive cannot be good for the bees.
The act of dying is one of the acts of life.
The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing.
The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.
The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
When thou art above measure angry, bethink thee how momentary is man's life.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
Where a man can live, he can also live well.
You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
You must become an old man in good time if you wish to be an old man long.
Your life is what your thoughts make it.
The only wealth which you will keep forever is the wealth you have given away.
The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.
The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.
The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.
The universal order and the personal order are nothing but different expressions and manifestations of a common underlying principle.
The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.
The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it.
There is nothing happens to any person but what was in his power to go through with.
Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.
To live happily is an inward power of the soul.
To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.
To the wise, life is a problem; to the fool, a solution.
To understand the true quality of people, you must look into their minds, and examine their pursuits and aversions.
Tomorrow is nothing, today is too late; the good lived yesterday.
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.
We are too much accustomed to attribute to a single cause that which is the product of several, and the majority of our controversies come from that.
We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.
What springs from earth dissolves to earth again, and heaven-born things fly to their native seat.
Whatever the universal nature assigns to any man at any time is for the good of that man at that time.
Meditations ( literally "thoughts/writings addressed to himself") is the title of a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius setting forth his ideas on Stoic philosophy.
If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now. (VIII. 47, trans. George Long)
A cucumber is bitter. Throw it away. There are briers in the road. Turn aside from them. This is enough. Do not add, "And why were such things made in the world?" (VIII. 50, trans. George Long)
Soon you'll be ashes or bones. A mere name at most--and even that is just a sound, an echo. The things we want in life are empty, stale, trivial. (V. 33, trans. Gregory Hays)
Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors. (III. 7, trans. Gregory Hays)
Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren't packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human--however imperfectly--and fully embrace the pursuit you've embarked on. (V. 9, trans. Gregory Hays)
Let opinion be taken away, and no man will think himself wronged. If no man shall think himself wronged, then is there no more any such thing as wrong. (IV. 7, trans. Méric Casaubon)
(...) As for others whose lives are not so ordered, he reminds himself constantly of the characters they exhibit daily and nightly at home and abroad , and of the sort of society they frequent; and the approval of such men, who do not even stand well in their own eyes has no value for him. (III. 4, trans. Maxwell Staniforth)
Take away your opinion, and there is taken away the complaint, [...] Take away the complaint, [...] and the hurt is gone (IV. 7, trans. George Long)
Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you. (V. 8, trans. Gregory Hays)
Do not act as if thou wert going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over thee. While thou livest, while it is in thy power, be good. (IV. 17, trans. George Long)
Words that everyone once used are now obsolete, and so are the men whose names were once on everyone's lips: Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus, and to a lesser degree Scipio and Cato, and yes, even Augustus, Hadrian, and Antoninus are less spoken of now than they were in their own days. For all things fade away, become the stuff of legend, and are soon buried in oblivion. Mind you, this is true only for those who blazed once like bright stars in the firmament, but for the rest, as soon as a few clods of earth cover their corpses, they are 'out of sight, out of mind.' In the end, what would you gain from everlasting remembrance? Absolutely nothing. So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes, welcoming it as necessary, as familiar, as flowing from the same source and fountain as yourself. (IV. 33, trans. Scot and David Hicks)
Do not then consider life a thing of any value. For look at the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations? (IV. 50, trans. George Long)
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The 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. (II. 1, trans. Gregory Hays)
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