I confess, I’m a latecomer to the classics of Ancient Greece and Rome. I loved the Greek (and Norse) myths as a kid, but I’d not really read any original work until maybe 10 or 15 years ago.
By pure chance, I started with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. There was no better place to start; relevant, accessible and blessedly short. I’m still pitifully under-read, but I’ve since enjoyed Aristotle, Homer, Seneca and Epictetus.
Suitably “born-again”, I now think everyone should read some ancient classics. But, why bother? The Art of Manliness blog has a persuasive essay, here.
To that, I would just add my own three reasons.
Continue reading “3 good reasons to curl up with a classic”
Fix your thoughts closely on what is being said, and let your mind enter fully into what is being done, and into what is doing it.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (7.30)
Do away with all fancies. Cease to be passion’s puppet. Limit time to the present. Lear to recognise every experience for what it is, whether it be your own or another’s.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (7.29)
Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to keep myself good; just as a gold piece, or an emerald, or a purple robe insists perpetually, ‘Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to remain an emerald and keep my colour true.’
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (7.15)
An empty pageant; a stage play; flocks of sheep, herds of cattle; a tussle of spearmen; a bone flung among a pack of curs; a crumb tossed into a pond of fish; ants, loaded and labouring; mice, scared and scampering; puppets, jerking on their strings – that is life. In the midst of it all you must take your stand, good-temperedly and without disdain, yet always aware that a man’s worth is no greater than the worth of his ambition.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (7.3)
When force of circumstance upsets your equanimity, lose no time in recovering your self-control, and do not remain out of tune longer than you can help. Habitual recurrence to the harmony will increase your mastery of it.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (6.11)
If you missed Stoic Week, but have an interest in stoicism, this is a good introduction. Massimo Pigliucci, K.D. Irani Professor of Philosophy at City University of New York, is a contributor to Modern Stoicism, the organisation behind Stoic Week.
Just under an hour long and well worth a watch:
Adapt yourself to the environment in which your lot has been cast, and show true love to the fellow mortals with whom destiny has surrounded you.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (6.39)
Think of the totality of all Being, and what a mite of it is yours; think of all Time, and the brief fleeting instant of it that is allotted to yourself; think of Destiny, and how puny a part of it you are.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (5.24)
I also quite like the Gregory Hays’ translation of this:
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it.
Each of us needs what nature gives us, when nature gives it.
Marcus Aurelius (AD 120 – 180), Meditations (10.20)
Note: I usually quote the Maxwell Staniforth translation from the Penguin Great Ideas edition. However, for this I preferred the more recent (and much lauded) Gregory Hays translation from 2003.