|LATE ROMAN STOICS: |
As Exemplified by
The Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius
(Excerpt) translated by George Long
What then is that which is able to conduct a man? One thing and only one, philosophy. But this consists in keeping the daemon within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures,
doing nothing without a purpose, nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy. not feeling the need of another man's
doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens, and all that is allotted, as coming from
thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came; and, finally, waiting for death with a cheerful mind, as
being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is compounded. But if there is
no harm to the elements themselves in each continually changing into another, why should a man have any
apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elementsT For it is according to nature, and nothing
is evil which is according to nature.
Does another do me wrong? Let him look to it. He has his own disposition, his own activity. I now have what the universal nature wills me to have; and I do what my nature now wills me to do.
Let the part of thy soul which leads and governs be undisturbed by the movements in the flesh, whether of pleasure or of pain; and let it not unite with them, but let it circumscribe itself and limit those affects to their
parts. But when these affects rise up to the mind by virtue of that sympathy that naturally exists in a body which is all one, then thou must not strive to resist the sensation, for it is natural: but let not the ruling part of itself add to the sensation the opinion that it is either good or bad.
Live with the gods. And he does live with the gods who constantly shows to them that his own soul is satisfied with that which is assigned to him, and that it does all that the daemon wishes, which Zeus hath given to every man for his guardian and guide, a portion of himself. And this is every man's understanding and reason.
* * *
As thou intendest to live when thou art gone out ...so it is in thy power to live here. But if men do not permit thee, then get away out of life, yet so as if thou wert suffering no harm. The house is smoky, and I quit it. Why dost thou think that this is any trouble? But so long as nothing of the kind drives me out, I remain, am free. and no man shall hinder me from doing what I choose; and I choose to do what is according to the nature of the rational and social animal.
* * *
Soon, very soon, thou wilt be ashes, or a skeleton, and either a name or not even a name; but name is sound and echo. And the things which are much valued in life are empty and rotten and trifling, and [like] little dogs biting one another, and little children quarrelling, laughing, and then straightway weeping. But fidelity and modesty and justice and truth are fled
Up to Olympus from the wide-spread earth.
(HESIOD, WORKS, etc., v. 197.)
What then is there which still detains thee here? if the objects of sense are easily changed and never stand still,
and the organs of perception are dull and easily receive false impressions; and the poor soul itself is an exhalation from blood. But to have good repute amidst such a world as this is an empty thing. Why then dost thou
not wait in tranquillity for thy end, whether it is extinction or removal to another state? And until that time comes, what is suffrcient? Why, what else than to venerate the gods and bless them, and to do good to men, and to practise tolerance and self-restraint....
From George Long trans., The Thoughts of the Emporer Marcus Aurelius
RESOURCE: World Civilizations
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