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Book review of Meditations



Meditations is written around 170BCE by Marcus Aurelius.
Marcus Aurelius was born 121 BCE and would eventually become emperor. The Rise of Aurelius would be when he lost his biological father and was adopted by the former emperor, now his adoptive father Aurelius Antonius. As he proclaimed himself, he was a male, mature in years, a statesman, a Roman, a ruler (p.11).
He is now known for being a stoic philosopher, some would say a coincidence because he never published any of his works and was first found after his death 180 BCE. People would make an argument that these works never were intended for publishing, because of the way Meditations is written with an inward tone, but never the less, readable to the next person. Meditations is written as journal entries, these journal entries would be categorized into books, which I interpret as chapters and covers hard/abstract/broad philosophical questions.
The stoic way of keeping up with their values is by repetition and may be the reason why Meditations came to be, as Meditations could be Marcus Aurelius’ pond to which he could fish whenever he needed to remind himself of his values.


It is hard to clearly define a summary because of the incoherent style of writing, where each paragraph can be read on its own. Especially the first chapter was captivating/inspiring because of the way he portrays all the inspiring characters in his life and how they formed Marcus to be the person he is. Here he lists philosophers, family members, friends, and gods. In the rest of the chapters he dives deep into his moral/ethical/personal position and at times repeats these positions through different analogies/small stories.

My Critique

I found the book to be a hard read, but that may be the result of my limited vocabulary as well as me not being used to reading. Because of this, I had to look up words frequently which interrupted my flow in reading. Meditations went deep in explaining analogies and would sometimes lead to confusion about what was meant and forgetting the context in which he tried to prove a point. But I think it is important to remember again that the intention behind Meditations is to be a reminder to himself and was not supposed to satisfy other than himself.
On the other hand, when the points are understood, it would lead to satisfying conclusions and a good understanding of his values and ideas. I liked that he tried to be as concise and precise as possible, and didn't feel like he overcomplicated otherwise difficult topics, e.g. death. I think that this book gives a good example of how the stoic interface is applied by a real human being and felt like there was a lot of wisdom in his outlook on life. I liked that the book was short in the sense that I was not overwhelmed and motivated throughout the whole book. I specifically liked this version of Meditations because it provided a good amount of introductory knowledge on Marcus and the era he was living in. Even when the books ended the authors would give context to each paragraph and their interpretation of the matter about the subject.

My Recomendation

I would gladly recommend Meditations if you are interested in stoicism, and philosophy in general because stoicism has a big impact on Western belives. The book is a quick read and you can dive deep into the book from any given point, beacause of the structure.

My Rating

I would rate this book a 4/5, because of the deep explanation of analogies/ideas. The reason for not rating the book a 5 is because I think Marcus could provide further information and more comprehensive reason for why he liked Epictetus and his works.

Paragraphs which made an impression:

Imagine that you are now dead or had not lived before this moment. Now view the rest of your life as a bonus, and live at nature directs.
-Book 7, quote 56

Do not be ashemed of help. It is your task to achieve your assigned duty, like a soldier in a scaling-party. What, then, if you are a lame and cannot climb the parapet by yourself, but this is made possible by another's help?
-Book 7 quote 7

For one whose only good is what comes in its own proper season, who is equally content with a greater or lesser opportunity to express true reason in his actions, to whom it makes no difference whether he looks on this earth for a longer or shorter time - for him even death has no terror.
-Book 10 quote 35

Say to yourself first thing in the morning: today I shall mees people who are meddling, ungrateful, aggressive, treacherous. malicious, unsocial. All this has afflicted them through their ignorance of true good and evil. But I have seen that the nature of good is what is right, and the nature of evil what is wrong: and I have reflected that the nature of the offender himself is akin to my own - not a kinship of blood or seed, but a sharing in the same mind, the same fragment of divinity. Therefore I cannot be harmed by any of them, as none will infect me with their wrong. Nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him. We were born for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of upper and lower teeth. So to work in opposition to one another is against nature: and anger or rejection is opposition.
-Book 2 quote 1