Marcus Aurelius owned slaves


First book.


My grandfather Verus[1] gave me the example of mildness and serenity.


My father[2] It was praised that he had a genuinely masculine and at the same time modest character, in which I imitated him.


My mother was an example to me through her piety and charity; I endeavored to be equal to her and to neither do nor even think evil and, like her, to live simply and moderately, far from the usual luxuries of the great.


I owe it to my great-grandfather that I shouldn't go to public schools at home, and I realized that there wasn't enough to be done here.


I learned from my tutor, in the circus games neither for the greens nor for the blues, in the gladiator fights neither for the round shields nor for the long shields[3] To take sides, but to endure efforts, to be satisfied with a little, to get to work myself, not to interfere in the affairs of others and inaccessible to showing off[4] to be.


Diognetus[5] instilled in me hatred of all trivial fears and disbelief towards jugglers, conjurers, fortune tellers and the like, kept me from caring for quails[6] and similar superstitions and taught me to tolerate the free speech and to devote myself completely to philosophy. He let me hear first the Bacchius, then the Tandasis and Marcianus, instructed me to write dialogues as a boy, and made sure that I wanted no bed other than a wooden bed and an animal skin and whatever other way of life of the Greek philosophers[7] belongs.


Rusticus made it understandable to me that I always had to work on the formation and improvement of my character, that I had to avoid the wrong paths of the Sophists, that I should not set up empty theories, make speeches for applause, nor face the man of great efficacy and charity the crowd should play. Through him, every verbal and poetic verbiage, every fine talk, as well as every vanity in clothing or other luxury remained alien to me. He also advised me to always write my letters as simply as he wrote one to my mother from Sinuessa; to show myself easily forgiving, to be ready to forgive every moment,[8] as soon as those who have offended me show me their courtesy through their words or their behavior; to take some care in my reading; Not to be satisfied with superficial knowledge, never to give my approval to the grand speakers too quickly. At last I owe him the explanations of Epictet,[9] which he passed on to me from his book collection.


From Apollonius[10] I learned the free way of thinking, with caution, but without fickleness, to take nothing into account other than common sense and to maintain constant peace of mind under the most severe pains, when losing a child and in protracted illnesses. He was a living example of how one could be serious and yet affable at the same time. He never showed himself sullen or impatient in teaching and was not in the least arrogant about his teaching skills. From him I finally learned how to accept benefits from friends without humiliating or being unrecognizable for them.


Sextus was the model of benevolence to me, the example of a real family father; from him I learned what it means to live according to nature.[11] There was nothing constrained about his dignity, he knew how to guess the wishes of his friends courteously and patiently endured the ignorant and those who judge without thought. He suited himself to all people, and so one found his company more pleasant than any flattery, and at the same time one felt a deep respect for him. He knew how to clearly and properly develop and link the rules required for wisdom. One never noticed the slightest sign of anger or any other passion in him, but for all his lack of passion he was the loveliest person. He maintained his good reputation, but without causing a stir, he was a scholar with no bother.


From Alexander,[12] the grammarian, I saw that he treated everyone with sparing; he never made an offensive remark because of a strange or linguistic expression, or if anyone else spoke incorrectly; instead he simply gave the correct expression, but not in such a way that it seemed an intentional correction, but as if it were an answer or confirmation or to investigate, not the word, but the thing in question, or he made some other such thing Way out that the lessons brought with it.


By Fronto[13] I was instructed that envy, intrigue, and the art of dissimulation are connected with arbitrary rule, and how little love for people is in the heart of those who we call patricians.


From Alexander, the Platonist, I learned never to say or write without adversity: I have no time and never use such a means to reject the duties imposed on us by friendship under the pretext of urgent business.


Catulus taught me not to be indifferent to a friend's complaints, even if they were unfounded, but to gain his full confidence, always boast of his teachers, as Domitius and Athenodotus did, and show the purest love to his children.


Severus was an example to me in the love of our relatives as well as in the love of truth and justice. Through him I became Thraseas, Helvidius, Cato, Dion and Brutus[14] pointed out, through him I got a concept of what belongs to a free state, where perfect legal equality prevails for all without distinction and nothing is valued higher than the freedom of the citizens. From him I learned to always maintain the same never-denying respect for philosophy, to be charitable and generous, to hope for the best from my friends and to trust in their love; if they give rise to dissatisfaction, not to hide it, so that they do not have to guess what one wants or not, but rather to show it openly to them.


Dominate yourself! said Maximus, be firm in illness and all annoyances, always maintain the same mood paired with mildness and dignity, and do the business that is incumbent on you without reluctance. Everyone was convinced that he spoke as he meant and that there was a good cause in his actions. He showed no amazement or astonishment about anything, also nowhere hastiness or indolence, was never embarrassed, bleak or only seemingly happy, he was never angry or in a bad mood. Beneficent, magnanimous, and truthful, he was more like a man who was right by nature and in need of no improvement. Nobody could believe he despised himself, but neither could anyone think himself better. Seriously and jokingly, he was full of grace and spirit.


To my father[15] I noticed gentleness combined with a stern intransigence in the judgments he made after careful consideration. He despised the vain glory conferred by claims of honor, loved work and perseverance, readily listened to charitable suggestions from others, always treated everyone according to merit, had the right feeling where rigor or indulgence is appropriate, renounced unnatural love and lived only that Public welfare. He did not demand that his friends always dine with him, nor could he do without them when traveling;[16] those who, for urgent reasons, could not follow him found him unchanged on his return. In the deliberations he neglected nothing to investigate thoroughly; on this he used every conceivable patience and was not satisfied with the probability. He knew how to preserve his friends; he never grew tired of them, but neither was his love for them exaggerated. He was satisfied everywhere, the same cheerfulness always lay on his face; he cared for the future and, without making a fuss, heeded even the most insignificant matter. He rejected the cheering of the people, generally any flattery of any kind. He was ceaselessly alert to the needs of the state and sparing in spending public money, and was not indignant that he was sometimes reprimanded for this. He had no superstitious fear of the gods, and with regard to human beings he did not seek popularity through desire for pleasure or any other arts of seduction; on the contrary, he was cautious and firm in all things, never violating propriety and showing no desire for innovation. The goods that make life pleasant and that nature offers us so abundantly, he needed with freedom and without arrogance, in that he used what he had and also did not desire what he did not have. Nobody could say that he was a sophist, a simple-minded person, a pedant, but everyone recognized in him a mature and perfect man, above flattery, capable of looking after his own affairs as well as those of others. He also honored the true philosophers and was nonetheless indulgent to those who only appeared to be so. He was very pleasant to deal with, he liked to joke, but without exaggeration. He did not look after his body like someone who loves life or who wants to make himself beautiful; but he neglected nothing, so that thanks to this care he seldom needed to resort to the art of medicine with its internal and external remedies. He was great at giving priority to men who excelled in any ability, eloquence, history, law, ethics, or whatever, even to assist them in attaining the fame due to everyone. By always following the examples of his ancestors in his behavior, he did not boast of being faithful to the ancient traditions. He was not a fickle, restless mind; he got used to the places and the objects. He often suffered from headaches, but no sooner were they over than he went back to his usual work with the cheerfulness of a youth. He had very few secrets, and these were solely in the interests of the state. He showed wisdom and moderation in the organization of public spectacles, in the erection of buildings and gifts of the people, and always acted like a man who only sees what his duty tells him to do and not what his honor is from it will have. He never bathed at the wrong time, had no exaggerated desire to build, paid no attention to delicacies, neither to the fabric and color of his clothes, nor to the beauty of his slaves. In Lorium[17] he was wearing a very simple suit made for Lanuvium. He apologized to the guests about the overcoat he wore in Tusculum, and so on. There was nothing hard in him, nothing disrespectful, no vehemence and nothing, as they say, except for the blood, but everything was well and, as it were, considered at leisure, unshakably ordered, firm and in harmony with itself. What is reported about Socrates, that he could do without and enjoy, where many would have been too weak to do without and too immoderate in enjoyment, could be applied perfectly to him. But to endure courageously there, to remain sober here, is the mark of a man of a strong and invincible soul, and so he showed himself during Maximus' illness.[18]


I thank the gods that I have righteous grandparents, righteous parents, righteous sister,[19] I had righteous teachers, righteous housemates, relatives, friends, almost all righteous people around me, so that I did not rush against any of them, to which I would even have been slightly inclined, even according to my disposition. But the grace of the gods did not allow an opportunity to fall into such error. In addition, I owe it to the gods that I did not receive my upbringing from my grandfather's mistress for too long, that I preserved my youthful innocence, that I did not waste manhood before my time, but remained chaste until a ripe old age; that I was under a prince and father who suppressed every germ of pride in me and convinced me that even at court one can live without bodyguards, without splendid clothes, without torches and pillars of honor and other expenses and limit oneself almost like a simple private citizen, without therefore showing less dignity and strength in his duties as head of state. I owe the gods also that I was given a brother who, by his conduct, encouraged me to watch over myself, and who delighted my heart with his respect and love; that I have children[20] were born whose minds were not dull and whose bodies were not crippled. I also thank the gods that I have not made too great progress in speech and poetry[21] have done, as well as in other such sciences, which otherwise could easily have completely captivated me; that I hastened to raise those who provided for my upbringing to positions of honor which seemed to me to be the aim of their desires, and that I did not fob them off with the hope that I would think of them later; that I have Apollonius, Rusticus and Maximus[22] got to know; that I occupied myself vividly and often in thought about the manner of a natural life; that through the gifts, help and inspiration of the gods I have not lacked anything to live according to nature, and if I am still far from the goal it is my fault that I badly obeyed divine admonitions, I would almost like to say revelations have. Yes, all of this was only possible with the assistance of the gods and a favorable skill.

Written[23] at the quadrupeds[24] around Granua.

  1. ↑ The emperor first remembers his grandfather because he was brought up in his house. Annius Verus, a Roman senator, had been consul three times.
  2. ↑ He had lost his father early on, who was also named Annius Verus and had been praetor; he could only faintly remember him; therefore he speaks of what he has heard about him.
  3. ↑ Even the emperors did not refrain from taking part and betting in the circus and fencing games. Marc Aurel says that his tutor did not urge him to do such follies, but rather to do far more important things.
  4. ↑ Under various emperors the delatorial mischief had taken on dubious dimensions. There were people who turned showing off into a formal trade. Marc Aurel looked down on this goings-on with contempt.
  5. ↑ He also had lessons in painting from Diognetus, his tutor. After Marc Aurel spoke of his parents in 1-4, he remembers all of his educators and teachers in 5 pages.
  6. ↑ The quails were cared for and trained to be used for a game, quail fight.
  7. ↑ i.e. the stoic. They called for the body to be hardened in order not to be provoked to sensual delinquency through effeminacy.
  8. ↑ Recalls the Christian teaching: "Be obedient to your adversary, etc.". Cf. Matth. 5, 25, Luc. 17, 34. That Marc Aurel really acted in this way shows his behavior towards Cassius, who had revolted against him.
  9. ↑ A famous Stoic, born around AD 50. As a slave in Rome, he endured the mistreatment of his master with genuinely stoic calm. When the latter once gave him a violent blow on the thigh, Epictet said: "You will smash my leg." Immediately the latter doubled the blow and smashed his leg. Epictet went on calmly: "Didn't I predict it?" He was later released and, as a philosopher, lived entirely in accordance with his serious moral worldview. Epictet had written nothing; his sayings were collected by his pupil Arrianus.
  10. ↑ A famous Stoic from Chalcis whom Antonins Pius, himself a wisdom friend, appointed to be Marc Aurel's teacher. When Apollonius arrived in Rome, the emperor told him to come to the palace and that his pupil should be handed over to him immediately. The stoic replied: It is up to the student to dispose of himself as a teacher, and not to the teacher to make an effort to be a student. The Emperor laughed at this answer: "I can see that it is more trouble for Apollonius to get from his apartment to court than to travel from Athens to Rome," and immediately sent Marcus Aurelius to him.
  11. ↑ What is to be understood by this main principle of stoicism can best be seen from Marcus Aurel's self-reflection.
  12. ↑ A scholar from Phrygia. It can be seen from this passage that the grammarians gave instruction not only in language but also in the art of speaking.
  13. ↑ A famous Roman orator; he was later promoted to high state offices by his imperial pupil.
  14. ↑ Thraseas Patus was forced to pierce himself by the emperor Nero, and his son-in-law Helvidius was banished. Cato, Dion and Brutus are known from Plutarch's biographies. All were distinguished by their stoic sense.
  15. ↑ Marc Aurel speaks here of Antonin the Pious, his adoptive father-in-law.
  16. ↑ It often happened that people from his entourage preferred to stay at home, which the emperor allowed without being in the least angry about it.
  17. ↑ Lorium was a country house where Antonin was brought up, often stayed and where he died. Lanuvium and Tusculum were small places near Rome. He did not love foreign, precious garments, but wore clothes that were woven in his own home.
  18. ↑ See section 15.
  19. ↑ Her name was Annia Cornificia. Marc Aurel left the entire paternal and maternal inheritance to her.
  20. ↑ Besides a few daughters, he had three sons: Verus, Commodus and Antonin, the first and last of whom died prematurely. Commodus, who followed him in government, later became very dissimilar to his father through bad company.
  21. ↑ The Stoics did not hold these arts in accordance with seriousness and the strict love of truth.
  22. ↑ See No. 7, 8, 15.
  23. ↑ So it was written in the camp. Perhaps Marcus Aurelius believed that he would not return home from the Marcomannic War and therefore wanted to write down this legacy for his son.
  24. ↑ The Quaden, a Germanic tribe in today's Moravia, lived east of the Marcomanni.