The substance of the universe is obedient and compliant; and the
reason which governs it has in itself no cause for doing evil, for
it has no malice, nor does it do evil to anything, nor is anything
harmed by it. But all things are made and perfected according to this
Let it make no difference to thee whether thou art cold or warm, if
thou art doing thy duty; and whether thou art drowsy or satisfied
with sleep; and whether ill-spoken of or praised; and whether dying
or doing something else. For it is one of the acts of life, this act
by which we die: it is sufficient then in this act also to do well
what we have in hand.
Look within. Let neither the peculiar quality of anything nor its
value escape thee.
All existing things soon change, and they will either be reduced to
vapour, if indeed all substance is one, or they will be dispersed.
The reason which governs knows what its own disposition is, and what
it does, and on what material it works.
The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong doer.
Take pleasure in one thing and rest in it, in passing from one social
act to another social act, thinking of God.
The ruling principle is that which rouses and turns itself, and while
it makes itself such as it is and such as it wills to be, it also
makes everything which happens appear to itself to be such as it wills.
In conformity to the nature of the universe every single thing is
accomplished, for certainly it is not in conformity to any other nature
that each thing is accomplished, either a nature which externally
comprehends this, or a nature which is comprehended within this nature,
or a nature external and independent of this.
The universe is either a confusion, and a mutual involution of things,
and a dispersion; or it is unity and order and providence. If then
it is the former, why do I desire to tarry in a fortuitous combination
of things and such a disorder? And why do I care about anything else
than how I shall at last become earth? And why am I disturbed, for
the dispersion of my elements will happen whatever I do. But if the
other supposition is true, I venerate, and I am firm, and I trust
in him who governs.
When thou hast been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in
a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune
longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery
over the harmony by continually recurring to it.
If thou hadst a step-mother and a mother at the same time, thou wouldst
be dutiful to thy step-mother, but still thou wouldst constantly return
to thy mother. Let the court and philosophy now be to thee step-mother
and mother: return to philosophy frequently and repose in her, through
whom what thou meetest with in the court appears to thee tolerable,
and thou appearest tolerable in the court.
When we have meat before us and such eatables we receive the impression,
that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of
a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian is only a little
grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep's wool dyed with the
blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they reach
the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind
of things they are. Just in the same way ought we to act all through
life, and where there are things which appear most worthy of our approbation,
we ought to lay them bare and look at their worthlessness and strip
them of all the words by which they are exalted. For outward show
is a wonderful perverter of the reason, and when thou art most sure
that thou art employed about things worth thy pains, it is then that
it cheats thee most. Consider then what Crates says of Xenocrates
Most of the things which the multitude admire are referred to objects
of the most general kind, those which are held together by cohesion
or natural organization, such as stones, wood, fig-trees, vines, olives.
But those which are admired by men who are a little more reasonable
are referred to the things which are held together by a living principle,
as flocks, herds. Those which are admired by men who are still more
instructed are the things which are held together by a rational soul,
not however a universal soul, but rational so far as it is a soul
skilled in some art, or expert in some other way, or simply rational
so far as it possesses a number of slaves. But he who values rational
soul, a soul universal and fitted for political life, regards nothing
else except this; and above all things he keeps his soul in a condition
and in an activity conformable to reason and social life, and he co-operates
to this end with those who are of the same kind as himself.
Some things are hurrying into existence, and others are hurrying out
of it; and of that which is coming into existence part is already
extinguished. Motions and changes are continually renewing the world,
just as the uninterrupted course of time is always renewing the infinite
duration of ages. In this flowing stream then, on which there is no
abiding, what is there of the things which hurry by on which a man
would set a high price? It would be just as if a man should fall in
love with one of the sparrows which fly by, but it has already passed
out of sight. Something of this kind is the very life of every man,
like the exhalation of the blood and the respiration of the air. For
such as it is to have once drawn in the air and to have given it back,
which we do every moment, just the same is it with the whole respiratory
power, which thou didst receive at thy birth yesterday and the day
before, to give it back to the element from which thou didst first
Neither is transpiration, as in plants, a thing to be valued, nor
respiration, as in domesticated animals and wild beasts, nor the receiving
of impressions by the appearances of things, nor being moved by desires
as puppets by strings, nor assembling in herds, nor being nourished
by food; for this is just like the act of separating and parting with
the useless part of our food. What then is worth being valued? To
be received with clapping of hands? No. Neither must we value the
clapping of tongues, for the praise which comes from the many is a
clapping of tongues. Suppose then that thou hast given up this worthless
thing called fame, what remains that is worth valuing? This in my
opinion, to move thyself and to restrain thyself in conformity to
thy proper constitution, to which end both all employments and arts
lead. For every art aims at this, that the thing which has been made
should be adapted to the work for which it has been made; and both
the vine-planter who looks after the vine, and the horse-breaker,
and he who trains the dog, seek this end. But the education and the
teaching of youth aim at something. In this then is the value of the
education and the teaching. And if this is well, thou wilt not seek
anything else. Wilt thou not cease to value many other things too?
Then thou wilt be neither free, nor sufficient for thy own happiness,
nor without passion. For of necessity thou must be envious, jealous,
and suspicious of those who can take away those things, and plot against
those who have that which is valued by thee. Of necessity a man must
be altogether in a state of perturbation who wants any of these things;
and besides, he must often find fault with the gods. But to reverence
and honour thy own mind will make thee content with thyself, and in
harmony with society, and in agreement with the gods, that is, praising
all that they give and have ordered.
Above, below, all around are the movements of the elements. But the
motion of virtue is in none of these: it is something more divine,
and advancing by a way hardly observed it goes happily on its road.
How strangely men act. They will not praise those who are living at
the same time and living with themselves; but to be themselves praised
by posterity, by those whom they have never seen or ever will see,
this they set much value on. But this is very much the same as if
thou shouldst be grieved because those who have lived before thee
did not praise thee.
If a thing is difficult to be accomplished by thyself, do not think
that it is impossible for man: but if anything is possible for man
and conformable to his nature, think that this can be attained by
In the gymnastic exercises suppose that a man has torn thee with his
nails, and by dashing against thy head has inflicted a wound. Well,
we neither show any signs of vexation, nor are we offended, nor do
we suspect him afterwards as a treacherous fellow; and yet we are
on our guard against him, not however as an enemy, nor yet with suspicion,
but we quietly get out of his way. Something like this let thy behaviour
be in all the other parts of life; let us overlook many things in
those who are like antagonists in the gymnasium. For it is in our
power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no suspicion
If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think
or act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which
no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error
I do my duty: other things trouble me not; for they are either things
without life, or things without reason, or things that have rambled
and know not the way.
As to the animals which have no reason and generally all things and
objects, do thou, since thou hast reason and they have none, make
use of them with a generous and liberal spirit. But towards human
beings, as they have reason, behave in a social spirit. And on all
occasions call on the gods, and do not perplex thyself about the length
of time in which thou shalt do this; for even three hours so spent
Alexander the Macedonian and his groom by death were brought to the
same state; for either they were received among the same seminal principles
of the universe, or they were alike dispersed among the atoms.
Consider how many things in the same indivisible time take place in
each of us, things which concern the body and things which concern
the soul: and so thou wilt not wonder if many more things, or rather
all things which come into existence in that which is the one and
all, which we call Cosmos, exist in it at the same time.
If any man should propose to thee the question, how the name Antoninus
is written, wouldst thou with a straining of the voice utter each
letter? What then if they grow angry, wilt thou be angry too? Wilt
thou not go on with composure and number every letter? just so then
in this life also remember that every duty is made up of certain parts.
These it is thy duty to observe and without being disturbed or showing
anger towards those who are angry with thee to go on thy way and finish
that which is set before thee.
How cruel it is not to allow men to strive after the things which
appear to them to be suitable to their nature and profitable! And
yet in a manner thou dost not allow them to do this, when thou art
vexed because they do wrong. For they are certainly moved towards
things because they suppose them to be suitable to their nature and
profitable to them.- But it is not so.- Teach them then, and show
them without being angry.
Death is a cessation of the impressions through the senses, and of
the pulling of the strings which move the appetites, and of the discursive
movements of the thoughts, and of the service to the flesh.
It is a shame for the soul to be first to give way in this life, when
thy body does not give way.
Take care that thou art not made into a Caesar, that thou art not
dyed with this dye; for such things happen. Keep thyself then simple,
good, pure, serious, free from affectation, a friend of justice, a
worshipper of the gods, kind, affectionate, strenuous in all proper
acts. Strive to continue to be such as philosophy wished to make thee.
Reverence the gods, and help men. Short is life. There is only one
fruit of this terrene life, a pious disposition and social acts. Do
everything as a disciple of Antoninus. Remember his constancy in every
act which was conformable to reason, and his evenness in all things,
and his piety, and the serenity of his countenance, and his sweetness,
and his disregard of empty fame, and his efforts to understand things;
and how he would never let anything pass without having first most
carefully examined it and clearly understood it; and how he bore with
those who blamed him unjustly without blaming them in return; how
he did nothing in a hurry; and how he listened not to calumnies, and
how exact an examiner of manners and actions he was; and not given
to reproach people, nor timid, nor suspicious, nor a sophist; and
with how little he was satisfied, such as lodging, bed, dress, food,
servants; and how laborious and patient; and how he was able on account
of his sparing diet to hold out to the evening, not even requiring
to relieve himself by any evacuations except at the usual hour; and
his firmness and uniformity in his friendships; and how he tolerated
freedom of speech in those who opposed his opinions; and the pleasure
that he had when any man showed him anything better; and how religious
he was without superstition. Imitate all this that thou mayest have
as good a conscience, when thy last hour comes, as he had.
Return to thy sober senses and call thyself back; and when thou hast
roused thyself from sleep and hast perceived that they were only dreams
which troubled thee, now in thy waking hours look at these (the things
about thee) as thou didst look at those (the dreams).
I consist of a little body and a soul. Now to this little body all
things are indifferent, for it is not able to perceive differences.
But to the understanding those things only are indifferent, which
are not the works of its own activity. But whatever things are the
works of its own activity, all these are in its power. And of these
however only those which are done with reference to the present; for
as to the future and the past activities of the mind, even these are
for the present indifferent.
Neither the labour which the hand does nor that of the foot is contrary
to nature, so long as the foot does the foot's work and the hand the
hand's. So then neither to a man as a man is his labour contrary to
nature, so long as it does the things of a man. But if the labour
is not contrary to his nature, neither is it an evil to him.
How many pleasures have been enjoyed by robbers, patricides, tyrants.
Dost thou not see how the handicraftsmen accommodate themselves up
to a certain point to those who are not skilled in their craft- nevertheless
they cling to the reason (the principles) of their art and do not
endure to depart from it? Is it not strange if the architect and the
physician shall have more respect to the reason (the principles) of
their own arts than man to his own reason, which is common to him
and the gods?
Asia, Europe are corners of the universe: all the sea a drop in the
universe; Athos a little clod of the universe: all the present time
is a point in eternity. All things are little, changeable, perishable.
All things come from thence, from that universal ruling power either
directly proceeding or by way of sequence. And accordingly the lion's
gaping jaws, and that which is poisonous, and every harmful thing,
as a thorn, as mud, are after-products of the grand and beautiful.
Do not then imagine that they are of another kind from that which
thou dost venerate, but form a just opinion of the source of all.
He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which
has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for
time without end; for all things are of one kin and of one form.
Frequently consider the connexion of all things in the universe and
their relation to one another. For in a manner all things are implicated
with one another, and all in this way are friendly to one another;
for one thing comes in order after another, and this is by virtue
of the active movement and mutual conspiration and the unity of the
Adapt thyself to the things with which thy lot has been cast: and
the men among whom thou hast received thy portion, love them, but
do it truly, sincerely.
Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has been
made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the things
which are held together by nature there is within and there abides
in them the power which made them; wherefore the more is it fit to
reverence this power, and to think, that, if thou dost live and act
according to its will, everything in thee is in conformity to intelligence.
And thus also in the universe the things which belong to it are in
conformity to intelligence.
Whatever of the things which are not within thy power thou shalt suppose
to be good for thee or evil, it must of necessity be that, if such
a bad thing befall thee or the loss of such a good thing, thou wilt
blame the gods, and hate men too, those who are the cause of the misfortune
or the loss, or those who are suspected of being likely to be the
cause; and indeed we do much injustice, because we make a difference
between these things. But if we judge only those things which are
in our power to be good or bad, there remains no reason either for
finding fault with God or standing in a hostile attitude to man.
We are all working together to one end, some with knowledge and design,
and others without knowing what they do; as men also when they are
asleep, of whom it is Heraclitus, I think, who says that they are
labourers and co-operators in the things which take place in the universe.
But men co-operate after different fashions: and even those co-operate
abundantly, who find fault with what happens and those who try to
oppose it and to hinder it; for the universe had need even of such
men as these. It remains then for thee to understand among what kind
of workmen thou placest thyself; for he who rules all things will
certainly make a right use of thee, and he will receive thee among
some part of the co-operators and of those whose labours conduce to
one end. But be not thou such a part as the mean and ridiculous verse
in the play, which Chrysippus speaks of.
Does the sun undertake to do the work of the rain, or Aesculapius
the work of the Fruit-bearer (the earth)? And how is it with respect
to each of the stars, are they not different and yet they work together
to the same end?
If the gods have determined about me and about the things which must
happen to me, they have determined well, for it is not easy even to
imagine a deity without forethought; and as to doing me harm, why
should they have any desire towards that? For what advantage would
result to them from this or to the whole, which is the special object
of their providence? But if they have not determined about me individually,
they have certainly determined about the whole at least, and the things
which happen by way of sequence in this general arrangement I ought
to accept with pleasure and to be content with them. But if they determine
about nothing- which it is wicked to believe, or if we do believe
it, let us neither sacrifice nor pray nor swear by them nor do anything
else which we do as if the gods were present and lived with us- but
if however the gods determine about none of the things which concern
us, I am able to determine about myself, and I can inquire about that
which is useful; and that is useful to every man which is conformable
to his own constitution and nature. But my nature is rational and
social; and my city and country, so far as I am Antoninus, is Rome,
but so far as I am a man, it is the world. The things then which are
useful to these cities are alone useful to me. Whatever happens to
every man, this is for the interest of the universal: this might be
sufficient. But further thou wilt observe this also as a general truth,
if thou dost observe, that whatever is profitable to any man is profitable
also to other men. But let the word profitable be taken here in the
common sense as said of things of the middle kind, neither good nor
As it happens to thee in the amphitheatre and such places, that the
continual sight of the same things and the uniformity make the spectacle
wearisome, so it is in the whole of life; for all things above, below,
are the same and from the same. How long then?
Think continually that all kinds of men and of all kinds of pursuits
and of all nations are dead, so that thy thoughts come down even to
Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn thy thoughts to the
other kinds of men. To that place then we must remove, where there
are so many great orators, and so many noble philosophers, Heraclitus,
Pythagoras, Socrates; so many heroes of former days, and so many generals
after them, and tyrants; besides these, Eudoxus, Hipparchus, Archimedes,
and other men of acute natural talents, great minds, lovers of labour,
versatile, confident, mockers even of the perishable and ephemeral
life of man, as Menippus and such as are like him. As to all these
consider that they have long been in the dust. What harm then is this
to them; and what to those whose names are altogether unknown? One
thing here is worth a great deal, to pass thy life in truth and justice,
with a benevolent disposition even to liars and unjust men.
When thou wishest to delight thyself, think of the virtues of those
who live with thee; for instance, the activity of one, and the modesty
of another, and the liberality of a third, and some other good quality
of a fourth. For nothing delights so much as the examples of the virtues,
when they are exhibited in the morals of those who live with us and
present themselves in abundance, as far as is possible. Wherefore
we must keep them before us.
Thou art not dissatisfied, I suppose, because thou weighest only so
many litrae and not three hundred. Be not dissatisfied then that thou
must live only so many years and not more; for as thou art satisfied
with the amount of substance which has been assigned to thee, so be
content with the time.
Let us try to persuade them (men). But act even against their will,
when the principles of justice lead that way. If however any man by
using force stands in thy way, betake thyself to contentment and tranquility,
and at the same time employ the hindrance towards the exercise of
some other virtue; and remember that thy attempt was with a reservation,
that thou didst not desire to do impossibilities. What then didst
thou desire?- Some such effort as this.- But thou attainest thy object,
if the things to which thou wast moved are accomplished.
He who loves fame considers another man's activity to be his own good;
and he who loves pleasure, his own sensations; but he who has understanding,
considers his own acts to be his own good.
It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be
disturbed in our soul; for things themselves have no natural power
to form our judgements.
Accustom thyself to attend carefully to what is said by another, and
as much as it is possible, be in the speaker's mind.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the bee.
If sailors abused the helmsman or the sick the doctor, would they
listen to anybody else; or how could the helmsman secure the safety
of those in the ship or the doctor the health of those whom he attends?
How many together with whom I came into the world are already gone
out of it.
To the jaundiced honey tastes bitter, and to those bitten by mad dogs
water causes fear; and to little children the ball is a fine thing.
Why then am I angry? Dost thou think that a false opinion has less
power than the bile in the jaundiced or the poison in him who is bitten
by a mad dog?
No man will hinder thee from living according to the reason of thy
own nature: nothing will happen to thee contrary to the reason of
the universal nature.
What kind of people are those whom men wish to please, and for what
objects, and by what kind of acts? How soon will time cover all things,
and how many it has covered already.