BOOK 1: DEBTS AND LESSONS
1 My grandfather Verus: Verus (1).
2 My father: Verus (2).
3 My mother: Lucilla.
4 My great-grandfather: Severus (1).
5 To avoid the public schools: Roman aristocrats normally preferred to have their sons educated by private tutors (often specially trained household slaves) who were considered safer and more reliable than the professional schoolmasters who taught all comers for a fee.
6 My first teacher: Not named and most likely a slave.
7 Not to support this side or that: Literally, “not to be a Green or a Blue; not to support the parmularius [a gladiator with a small shield] or the scutarius [who carried a larger shield].”
8 the camp-bed and the cloak: Symbols of an ascetic lifestyle. Marcus’s sleeping arrangements are recorded by the Historia Augusta: “He used to sleep on the ground, and his mother had a hard time convincing him to sleep on a cot spread with skins.”
9 his own copy: It is unclear whether this refers to Arrian’s Discourses of Epictetus or to a set of unpublished notes, perhaps taken by Rusticus himself.
10 Domitius and Athenodotus: The anecdote Marcus refers to is unknown.
11 My brother: Probably a copyist’s error based on confusion between the names Verus and Severus.
12 Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato: For the significance of these three figures as Stoic exemplars see the Introduction.
13 My adopted father: Antoninus Pius. The sketch here seems to be a development and expansion of the briefer assessment in 6.30.
14 Putting a stop to the pursuit of boys: This may be meant as a critique of Antoninus’s predecessor, Hadrian (2), whose love affair with the youth Antinoüs was notorious. Alternatively it might refer to legal restrictions on pederasty (which was common in upper-class Greek and Roman society), or to Antoninus’s own self-restraint. The robe … the customs agent’s apology: These examples of Antoninus’s modesty are too compressed and allusive to be intelligible to anyone but Marcus himself.
15 as they say of Socrates: Marcus may be recalling a similar comment by Xenophon, Memorabilia 1.3.14; Socrates’ ability to drink heavily without any apparent effect is celebrated in Plato’s Symposium (179c, 220a).
16 Maximus’s illness: For Maximus see the Index of Persons; nothing is known of his illness.
17 someone: Antoninus.
18 the kind of brother: Verus (3).
19 the honors they seemed to want: Marcus may be thinking of Herodes Atticus and Fronto, both of whom held consulships in 143, soon after Marcus became the heir apparent. Perhaps also of Rusticus, who held a second consulship in 162.
20 I never laid a finger: Household slaves were often exposed to sexual abuse at the hands of their owners.
21 That I have the wife I do: Faustina.
22 at Caieta: A seaport on the west coast of Italy. The Greek text adds an unintelligible phrase, which some scholars interpret as a reference to “an oracle.”
23 “we need the help …”: Apparently a quotation, but not from any surviving work.
BOOK 2: ON THE RIVER GRAN, AMONG THE QUADI
1 On the River Gran, Among the Quadi: The notation is transmitted at the end of Book 1, but is more likely to belong here. The Gran (or Hron) is a tributary of the Danube flowing through modern-day Slovakia. The Quadi were a Suebian tribe in the Morava River valley, subdued during the Marcomannic Wars of the early 170s.
2 Throw away … right now: These words are deleted or transposed elsewhere by some editors.
3 the ones committed out of desire are worse: Strictly speaking, this assessment is in conflict with Stoic doctrine, which holds that there are no degrees of wrongness; all wrong actions are equally wrong and it makes no sense to speak of one as being “worse” than another.
4 “delving into …”: A line from the lyric poet Pindar (frg. 282), quoted also by Plato, Theaetetus 173e.
BOOK 3: IN CARNUNTUM
1 In Carnuntum: Transmitted at the end of Book 2, but probably meant to head Book 3. Carnuntum was a fortress on the Danube which housed the Legio XIV Gemina and served as the seat of the governor of Upper Pannonia. Marcus is known to have been in the area in 172 and 173.
2 Chaldaeans: The Chaldaeans (Babylonians) had a special reputation as astrologers.
3 Democritus: Apparently an error for another pre-Socratic philosopher, Pherecydes, who was said to have been eaten by worms. (Democritus’s name was often coupled with that of Heraclitus, which may explain Marcus’s slip here.)
4 Socrates: The “vermin” who killed Socrates are the Athenians who prosecuted and condemned him.
5 as Socrates used to say: It is not clear whether Marcus is alluding to a specific passage (perhaps Plato, Phaedo 83a–b) or merely to a general impression of Socratic doctrine.
6 your Brief Comments: Evidently collections of anecdotes and/or quotations put together by Marcus himself for his own use, like parts of the extant Meditations.
7 They don’t realize …: The significance of this entry (particularly the last phrase) is unclear.
8 people who do <…>: It seems clear that something is missing from the text, perhaps deliberately omitted by a prudish copyist.
1 to ward off all <…>: The missing word must be something like “anxiety.”
2 “The world is nothing but change …”: Democritus frg. B 115.
3 … not to be distracted: The text as transmitted includes the words “good,” “black character,” and “suspicion,” but no coherent sense can be made of them.
4 You’re out of step …: The text of this sentence is disturbed and the translation correspondingly uncertain.
5 The poet: Aristophanes frg. 112.
6 “If you seek tranquillity …”: Democritus frg. B 3.
7 A philosopher without clothes …: If the text is sound it is not easy to interpret convincingly. The rendering here (which differs from most previous versions) represents my best guess at the sense, but is far from certain.
8 Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Dentatus: Heroes of the Roman Republic (see the Index of Persons). Only Camillus was well known; the others may have been purposely chosen for their obscurity. “unknown, unasked-for”: Homer, Odyssey 1.242.
9 “A little wisp of soul …”: Epictetus frg. 26 (presumably from one of the lost books of the Discourses).
10 “When earth dies …”: Heraclitus frg. B 76.
11 “Those who have forgotten …”: idem. frg. B 71.
12 “They are at odds …”: idem. frg. B 72.
13 “they find alien …”: idem. frg. B 73.
14 “Our words and actions …”: idem. frg. B 74.
15 Helike, Pompeii, Herculaneum: Helike was a Greek city destroyed by an earthquake and tidal wave in 373 B.C. Pompeii and its neighbor city Herculaneum were destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
16 It’s unfortunate: It has been plausibly suggested that this entry is a quotation from a lost section of Epictetus’s Discourses.
17 Caedicianus, Fabius, Julian, Lepidus: With the possible exception of Caedicianus and Lepidus (see the Index of Persons), none of these figures can be identified.
1 “the doctor”: Literally, “Asclepius.” Patients sleeping in his temple sometimes had dream visions of the god and received suggestions for treatment from him. But the name might simply indicate a human physician.
2 a pervert: The Greek word (used also in 6.34) is a contemptuous term referring to the passive partner in homosexual intercourse; it has no exact English equivalent (“pervert,” although overly broad, at least has the right tone). Marcus is probably using it as a generalized term of abuse.
3 “so many goods …”: Proverbial: the rich man owns “so many goods he has no place to shit.” The saying is at least as old as the fourth-century B.C. comic poet Menander, who quotes it in the surviving fragments of his play The Apparition.
4 If the smoke makes me cough: The metaphor is drawn from Epictetus, Discourses 1.25.18.
5 “wrong and unworthy …”: Homer, Odyssey 4.690.
6 “gone from the earth …”: Hesiod, Works and Days 197.
7 Not to be overwhelmed: The remainder of this book is unintelligible in places, perhaps because the end of the original papyrus roll suffered accidental damage. I have divided the text into three separate sections, but without great confidence that this is correct. Like the old man: The reference is obscure. A scene from a lost tragedy?
1 Crates on Xenocrates: The meaning of this reference is unknown.
2 Take Antoninus as your model: The sketch that follows seems to be a preliminary version of the longer portrait at 1.16.
3 perverts: See 5.10 note.
4 “those who sleep …”: Heraclitus frg. B 75.
5 the bad line in the play: Chrysippus frg. 1181 (= Plutarch, On Stoic Self-Contradictions 13f.). Chrysippus compared the existence of evil to a deliberately bathetic line in a comedy—bad in itself, but an essential part of a good play.
1 not: The transmitted text reads “or,” but this can hardly be correct (compare 3.5).
2 Like gold or emerald or purple: Compare Epictetus, Discourses 1.2.17–18: “You see yourself as one thread in a garment … But I want to be the purple thread, the small, glistening one that enhances the others.”
3 † … † or in the end is put out: I have omitted a short phrase from which it is impossible to hanging any meaning.
4 “… all are relative …”: A paraphrase of Democritus frg. B 9, in which qualities like sweetness or bitterness are said to be “relative” or “conventional” rather than inherent (what tastes sweet to one person may be bitter to another). Marcus apparently sees the observation as compatible with the Stoic doctrine that “it’s all in how you perceive it” (12.8), though he naturally rejects the subsequent reference to atoms. The final phrase is corrupt beyond repair.
5 [On death]: The headings of this and the next two entries are probably not Marcus’s own, but additions by a later reader.
6 “If his mind is filled …”: Plato, Republic 6.486a.
7 “Kingship …”: Antisthenes frg. 20b (also quoted by Epictetus, Discourses 4.6.20).
8 “And why should we feel anger …”: Euripides, frg. 287 (from the lost Bellerophon quoted also at 11.6).
9 “May you bring joy …”: Source unknown; perhaps from a lost epic.
10 “To harvest life …”: Euripides, frg. 757 (from the lost Hypsipyle).
11 “If I and my two children …”: Euripides, frg. 208 (from the lost Antiope; quoted also at 11.6).
12 “For what is just and good …”: Ibid., frg. 918 (from an unknown play).
13 No chorus of lamentation: This might be a quotation, like the preceding entries, but if so, we do not know its source.
14 “Then the only proper response …”: Plato, Apology 28b.
15 “It’s like this …”: Ibid., 28d.
16 “But, my good friend …”: Plato, Gorgias 512d.
17 [Plato has it right]: The passage that follows does not correspond to anything in Plato’s preserved writings, and it seems likely that the phrase was inserted by a later reader who mistook it for a quotation.
18 “Earth’s offspring …”: Euripides, frg. 839 (from the lost Chrysippus).
19 “… with food and drink …”: Euripides, Suppliants 1110–1111.
20 “To labor cheerfully …”: From an unknown tragedy.
21 “Against our will …”: Epictetus, Discourses 1.28.4 (also 2.22.37), paraphrasing Plato, Sophist 228c.
22 what Epicurus said: Epicurus frg. 447.
23 by spending the night out in the cold: This anecdote is told by Alcibiades in Plato’s Symposium (220).
24 the man from Salamis: During the brief reign of the “Thirty Tyrants” at Athens, Socrates was ordered to collaborate with the regime by arresting a certain Leon, but refused; the story is told in Plato’s Apology (32c).
25 “swaggered about the streets”: A line from Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds (362), which pokes fun at Socrates.
1 Verus … Lucilla: Marcus’s parents.
2 Hadrian: Most likely this refers to the rhetorician (Hadrian 1) rather than the emperor (Hadrian 2).
3 We have various abilities…: The text here appears to be corrupt and the translation is necessarily uncertain.
4 Look at it clearly: The text, meaning and articulation of entries 38 and 39 are very uncertain. Earlier editors printed the opening of 38 as the end of 37, and took the phrases “Look at it clearly—if you can” and “To the best of my judgment” as a single unit, though the resulting sentence yields no coherent sense. I follow J. Dalfen in separating them.
5 “To the best of my judgment …”: I have placed the entry in quotation marks on the basis of the opening phrase, which includes a parenthetical “he [or “someone”] says.” This assumes that the phrase is correctly transmitted (it is certainly not easy to construe), and that it should be taken with what follows rather than what precedes, which is far from certain (see previous note). However, the entry as a whole (an implicit criticism of the Epicureans’ view of pleasure as the supreme good) does not strike me as being typical of Marcus’s style, and I suspect he may indeed be quoting some earlier writer.
6 “a sphere …”: Empedocles frg. B27, quoted in fuller form at 12.3.
7 Its beams get their name…: This (false) derivation is a typical example of ancient etymology, a science in which the early Stoics were much interested.
1 the “next best voyage”: A proverbial phrase meaning having to row when one cannot sail.
2 “Odysseus in the Underworld”: The reference is to Book 11 of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus descends to Hades and encounters the shades of his companions who died at Troy.
3 Demetrius of Phalerum: It has been suggested that “of Phalerum” is a later reader’s (mistaken) addition, and that Marcus had in mind the Hellenistic monarch Demetrius Poliorcetes (“the city-sacker”). But there seems no reason to doubt the transmitted text.
4 “During my illness …”: Epicurus frg. 191.
1 Sarmatians: One of the barbarian tribes Marcus spent his last decade fighting.
2 “The earth knows longing …”: Euripides frg. 898.
3 “fencing a sheepfold …”: A paraphrase of Plato, Theaetetus 174d, in which we are told that the philosopher will look down on a king as if the latter were a humble shepherd.
4 When you look …: Most of the names mentioned here are mere ciphers (see the Index of Persons for the best guess as to their identities), but Marcus’s point does not depend on knowledge of the individuals.
5 as a cylinder rolls down: The comparison is taken from Chrysippus frg. 1000.
6 “… leaves that the wind …”: Homer, Iliad 6.147 ff., a very famous passage.
1 [like the Christians]: This ungrammatical phrase is almost certainly a marginal comment by a later reader; there is no reason to think Marcus had the Christians in mind here. (See Introduction.)
2 “o Mount Cithaeron!”: Sophocles, Oedipus the King 1391 (Oedipus’s anguished cry after blinding himself, invoking the mountain he was abandoned on as a baby.)
3 “If I and my two children …”: See on 7.41.
4 “And why should we feel anger …?”: See on 7.38.
5 “To harvest life …”: See on 7.40.
6 from Apollo: Often depicted as the leader of the nine Muses.
7 The town mouse: Aesop, Fables 297. The significance of the allusion is unclear.
8 “the monsters under the bed”: Plato, Crito 46c and Phaedo 77e; Marcus is probably drawing on Epictetus, Discourses 2.1.14.
9 Perdiccas’s invitation: In fact the ruler who invited Socrates to his court was Perdiccas’s successor Archelaus (reigned 413–399).
10 This advice: Epicurus frg. 210.
11 Socrates dressed in a towel: The anecdote is not preserved.
12 “For you/Are but a slave …”: From a lost tragedy. Marcus twists what must have been the sense of the original (“it is not for you to speak”) by taking logos in its broader, philosophical sense.
13 “But my heart rejoiced”: Homer, Odyssey 9.413.
14 “And jeer at virtue …”: Hesiod, Works and Days 186, but “virtue” is Marcus’s substitution. Hesiod has “and jeer at them,” in a completely different context.
15 Stupidity is expecting figs: A paraphrase of Epictetus, Discourses 3.24.86.
16 As you kiss your son: Ibid., 3.24.88.
17 “No thefts of free will …”: Ibid., 3.22.105 (the attribution in the text is probably an addition by a later reader who recognized the quotation).
18 “We need to master …”: Ibid., frg. 27.
19 “This is not a debate …”: Ibid., frg. 28.
20 Socrates: What do you want?: Source uncertain: perhaps from a lost section of Epictetus.
1 “a sphere rejoicing …”: Empedocles frg. B 27 (also quoted at 8.41).
2 a What it’s made of: Part of 12 in the manuscripts; placed in 11 by Meric Casaubon. Perhaps an incomplete entry, perhaps an addition by a later hand.
3 Let your intention be <…>: The division between Chapters 17 and 18 is unclear, and it seems likely that some text has been lost.
4 Fabius Catullinus et al.: Most of the references are obscure; see the Index of Persons for what can be guessed of them.
5 people whose only morality …: The Epicureans.