I would also like to thank Peter Momtchiloff for his support and all the staff of Oxford University Press involved in the preparation of the book for their characteristically careful and helpful work. I am very grateful to Petra Bielecki for her help towards compiling the Index Locorum. Collaboration with Robin on these and related volumes has always been both congenial and instructive. I have also gained from helpful comments by other scholars on several papers on Marcus. Three of these papers are cited in the Bibliography as Gill a and b and b. During a career in university teaching spanning more than forty years mostly at Aberystwyth and Exeter , I have been fortunate in being able to teach regularly Hellenistic and Roman philosophy, including the Meditations.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
This volume is dedicated to them with great warmth. Liddell, R. Scott, and H. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon 9th edn. Oxford, LSJ , or P. Glare ed. Authors and texts cited by abbreviation are given in full form in the Index Locorum. All secondary works cited by author and date are included in the Bibliography. In the Commentary, these references are given in bold. All translations of the Meditations given in the Introduction and Commentary are mine.
All dates are AD unless otherwise indicated. In citing evidence for Hellenistic philosophy, especially Stoicism, and less frequently the Presocratic philosophers, I generally refer only to the numbers in LS or DK. Referring to LS passages has the advantage that it enables readers to study the passage alongside other evidence for the relevant theory, and to do so in conjunction with the LS commentary.
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However, in the case of more important or controversial evidence, I cite also the primary source. Kranz, 3 vols. Zurich, —2 Epicur. Epicurus, Kuriai Doxai Epict. Vita Marci. Long and D. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, 2 vols. Cambridge, ; references are normally to sections and passages. Comm Not.
Ira Seneca, De Ira Sen. Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi Stob. Wachsmuth and O.
Hense eds. SVF H. Leipzig, —5, reprinted Munich Apart from Book 1, there is no clear organization or system but rather a series of loosely connected, short observations. What can philosophically minded scholars and students the main target audience of this volume hope to learn from a work of this kind? At the heart of the Meditations, I think, is an idea central to Stoic ethics, though not perhaps unique to Stoicism.
The key thought is that, over and above the biological or physical and purely external or formal dimensions of our existence, we should aim to shape our lives as the expression of an ongoing journey towards an ideal state of character, understanding, and mode of interpersonal relationship, which should constitute our target even though we will never achieve it fully.
In the light of this larger project, Marcus addresses challenges of which he is especially conscious but which are also universal human concerns. Marcus also addresses in his own distinctive way broader topics in the interface between ethics and logic or the study of nature that were crucial for Stoicism. He looks for reassurance, despite some uncertainties, that the capacities of human psychology and the nature of the universe support the kind of ethical vision that Stoicism offers. The introduction is a rather full one, in comparison with other volumes in this series.
I begin by outlining the main formal features and what seems to be the overall function of the Meditations. I do so partly by considering some recent scholarly approaches to this question and partly by outlining four main strands in the framework of thinking expressed in the work, which are examined later in this introduc- tion. I see these questions as forming the other two main strands in the work. On the interpretation offered here, the Meditations do not only offer a unique and powerful version of ancient practical ethics.
They also provide an eloquent, if unusual, statement of the main principles of Stoic ethics and of their interconnections with Stoic theory more broadly. In some cases, there are clusters of quoted passages; in others, neighbouring passages have similar or related themes. All refs. On the organization of ideas in Med. It is widely assumed that Marcus simply noted down his thoughts whenever he had time from his pressing tasks as emperor, perhaps at the beginning or end of the day, and that the Meditations represent the surviving notes.
In , Hadrian adopted as his successor Antoninus Pius, and required Antoninus to adopt Marcus, then aged seventeen, along with the younger boy Lucius Verus. Marcus then began what turned out to be a long period of preparation for the imperial role. This included an extensive educational programme, in both rhetoric and philosophy, about which we know a good deal both from Book 1 of the Meditations and the surviving letters to Fronto, his teacher of Latin rhetoric.
Two of the books of the Meditations have headings stating that those books or perhaps just the adjacent chapters were written in Germany. These discussions also record 1 suggestions by previous scholars that the Meditations constitute materials for a planned ethical handbook and 2 earlier attempts to rearrange the passages in a more systematic order. Marcus campaigned against the Quadi from and was based at Carnuntum during —3. It is sometimes thought that Book 1 was written as a whole at one time, and perhaps composed after the rest of the work, though placed at some point at the start of the manuscript.
Some features of the Meditations seem to point to a rather limited knowledge of Stoicism or engagement with it. By contrast, he refers often to non-Stoic thinkers including Heraclitus and Plato. He also twice stresses 1. However, other indications points to a deep and lasting engagement with philosophy, especially Stoicism. Some evidence suggests that Marcus was drawn to the philosophical life from an early age seventeen or even twelve.
Marcus also comments on his limited involvement in logic and physics, by contrast with ethics; and these comments need to be taken in the light of the well-marked theme in earlier Stoic writings by Seneca and Epictetus, that these branches of knowledge should be studied primarily in order to promote ethical development and not for their own sake. Hard and Gill —8.
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On the primacy of ethics for Seneca and Epictetus, see Long —6, —17, Cooper —20; see also Introd. The presentation of ethical thought is largely in line with Stoicism as presented in other sources, though it is handled in a distinctive way. The treatment of ideas on the interface of ethics and logic or physics is rather less standard, and is sometimes quite non-standard.
If the Meditations is, primarily at least, a work of Stoic philosophy, what kind of work is it? This is not a recognized ancient category; and it is important not to overstate the contrast with more theoretical types of writings on Stoic ethics. A further recurrent feature is the formulation of methods, usually with several stages or aspects, designed to enable people to take forward their own ethical development or education and embed this in their lives.
Even so, both Stoic and non-Stoic versions of practical ethics tend to be written from a determinate philosophical standpoint. However, there are some important distinctive features. These are indicated in this short passage 18 See Gill b: 40—4, Sellars chs. On Med. On a wide range of such writings, see Foucault You should have to hand concise and fundamental principles, which will be enough, as soon as you encounter them, to cleanse you from all distress and send you back without resentment at the activities to which you return.
The Meditations is—uniquely among such works—self-addressed. Although Marcus internalizes some of the styles of Stoic interpersonal discourse, the fact that the notebook is self-directed gives it a special character and tone. In this respect, Marcus is using the notebook to remind himself of ideas that he is already familiar with. Put differently, he uses the act of writing to encapsulate in concentrated form, or to restate with variations, what he sees as core themes of Stoic theory.
On the expressive modes of Epictetus, see Long 52—66, and on those of Seneca, see Inwood xx—xxi. The Stoic theoretical background presupposed by Marcus is brought out fully in Comm. On ancient doxography, see Mansfeld 17— These features make the Meditations an arresting and personal version of Stoic practical ethics. This is what one would expect; Epictetus was one of the leading Stoic teachers of his day, and Seneca, though not a teacher in the same way, was a committed and expert adherent of Stoicism, who also wrote more technical works including the Natural Questions.
Even if much that he writes is, unmistakeably, Stoic in character, the question may still naturally arise how far the Meditations constitute orthodox Stoic doctrines. As noted earlier, Marcus himself seems to offer rather mixed signals on this point; and modern scholars have offered quite divergent views.
These discus- sions assume that Stoic theory provides the main explanatory framework for the Meditations, and that apparently non-standard aspects should be located against that background, rather than being taken as the basis for character- izing the work. Taking this view does not prevent one from recognizing that Marcus—like other Stoic writers—expresses his version of Stoicism in a distinctive, and in some sense strongly personal, way. Rist , Asmis , Alesse Barnes 1—2, Cooper —8.
On our sources for Hellenistic philosophy as a whole, see Mansfeld One is the recognition that eclecticism in the sense of the deliberate combination of a number of philosophical theories is a rather exceptional feature of Hellenistic and Roman thought. This approach seems to me to represent the best available one for making sense of the combination found in the Meditations of a pervasively Stoic standpoint with some non-standard idioms and lines of thought.
Is There a Core Project? I do so, shortly, by reference to four strands which make up a framework within which we can place the main recurrent themes in the work. First, however, I consider some recent 27 See e. Giavatto , van Ackeren , Gourinat a and b; also Gill a, b, , and a.
Hadot on Med. Also, his treatment of Roman ideas and the whole history of sexuality of which the book forms one section, are conceived by him as an integral part of his work as a social critic and theorist, and not simply as interpretative exegesis of past ideas and practices. One is the idea that it is appropriate and desirable for people—at least, for educated and well-off adult men—to devote thought and energy to promoting their own happiness and well-being in addition to more immediate practical concerns. I use both versions of the translation here. See Foucault 41, 56—8, also ch. Also, although the others involved may be members of the same family or social community, the conventions or rules of those social groups do not, by themselves, provide a normative framework for the conduct of our relationships with others.
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