by Marcus Aurelius
Published in 180 AD
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
Essentially, Meditations are a bunch of garbled thoughts that got passed down through time allegedly written by Marcus Aurelius, the last of the 5 good emperors of the Roman Empire.
I found that the writing of this dreary tome was poorly translated, and didn’t flow smoothly. This is somewhat inevitable for an ancient text, however, depending on the author or translation, clarity varies. For example, Thucydides appears to be fairly empirical and clear. Moral language draws heavily on metaphors, which in turn draw heavily on cultural understanding. Metaphor heavy and moralistic language doesn’t translate well at all across time and cultures.
I especially appreciate that Marcus Aurelius, in the very first chapter, immediately defends reason and evidence, and chastises superstition.
It seems like the people who write the most about morality are often the most immoral, and I have my doubts about Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius’ son turns out to be the horrible dictator that starts the decline of the Roman Empire makes me doubt he was a good parent. Marcus Aurelius also lost many major battles, and had a chaotic reign. Hindsight is 20/20.
I also have serious doubts that this was written by Marcus Aurelius. It appeared for the first time in 1517 out of the blue, a full 1200 years after the death of Marcus Aurelius. The oldest extant copy is in the Vatican Library.
Marcus Aurelius gives a lot of lip service to the need for clear thinking, reason, rationality, and emotional self control, however, paradoxically, promotes many superstitious views. I tend to forgive him because (whoever he actually was) he lived in an era of obscurantism and iconoclasm.
Reading this book was particularly difficult for me because I kept getting bored and quit paying attention. Over the last year, I have tried to read and failed to finish the book at least 4 or 5 times - which is very rare. I kept being biased to like the book because of what I'd heard about it, and attributing my lack of interest to the mood I was in the day I began listening to the audiobook. No, it actually kinda sucks.
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