Soon, you will have forgotten everything.
Soon, everybody will have forgotten you.
~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“Marcus Aurelius was wrong. Eighteen centuries—almost two millennia—have passed, and the Meditations are still alive. Nor have their pages been reserved to a few aristocrats of the intellect, like Shaftesbury, Frederick II, or Goethe: on the contrary, for centuries they have brought reasons to live to innumerable unknown people, who have been able to read them in the multiple translations of the Meditations which have been made in every corner of the earth; and they still do so today.
The Meditations are an inexhaustible source of wisdom; an ‘eternal Gospel,’ in Renan’s words. …
My intention, which is to offer the modern reader an introduction to the readings of the Meditations, will thus perhaps not be without usefulness. I will try to discover what Marcus wanted to accomplish by writing them, to specify the literary genre to which they belong, and, especially, to define their relationships with the philosophical system which inspired them. Finally, without trying to produce a biography of the emperor, I will try to determine how much of him is visible in his work.”
~ Pierre Hadot from The Inner Citadel
Marcus Aurelius. Over 1,800 years ago the Emperor-Philosopher wrote notes to himself, reminding himself of the Stoic virtues he aspired to embody. Those notes were never intended for a public audience. Today we know them as his Meditations.
Pierre Hadot was one of the most influential historians of ancient philosophy. In this book, he gives us an incredible look at Marcus Aurelius and the core disciplines of Stoicism he was reminding himself of as he strived to live like a Philosopher during his day-to-day duties as the Emperor. If you want to learn more about Marcus Aurelius, this is the book to read. (Get a copy.)
You can feel Hadot’s incredible intellectual rigor and equally incredible passion for engaged philosophy. It’s inspiring. We’ll be covering a couple other books of his soon.
I picked this up on the recommendation of Ryan Holiday. It was one of the recommendations he made in The Daily Stoic. We’ll be working our way through the others.
This is not an easy read. To put it in perspective, I often have fun seeing if I can read a (~200-page) book by lunch then hammer out the PDF + MP3 in the afternoon. This book took me days to read. (Hah.)
I’m excited to share some of my favorite Big Ideas so let’s jump straight in!
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