I decided to change gears and take a look at the former Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 AD – 180 AD) who is known for the classic work ‘Meditations’. During his reign he earned a reputation as a stoic philosopher and this book is a collection of 12 of his works taken throughout his life that highlight some of his most inner thoughts with regards to his fellow man, life and the gods. This translation was completed by the late classical scholar George Long (1800-1879). I cannot comment on the accuracy compared to the original work but the book did receive high ratings by other readers. Putting that aside, I did find the book to be a very thought provoking read and a nice break from my usual regimen of historical non-fiction.
The book is short, slightly over one hundred pages, but contained within it, are very deep thoughts by an emperor seeking to improve himself and those around him. As I read through the book, I found many of his observations about humans to be thought-provoking. Some might argue that the material is dated and in today’s world, there is much about life that is far different. That is a valid point but surprisingly, I felt that much of what he says can be applied to life even today. By no means is it the ultimate guide on how to live life. Instead, it is a collection of the personal thoughts of a man who once controlled one of the largest empires in history.
The language might throw some readers off a little. It is English but not standard current day English that one would expect. In fact, there are words that are either no longer used or found in older version of the English language. In spite of that, I was able to read the book with no problem and the points that he makes will not be lost on the reader. His thoughts never ramble and he presents them with clarity making it easy for the reader to follow along. At the time it was written, I do not know if Aurelius could have imagined that his words would have survived to the year 2019.
His words are wise and almost prophetic, and they showcase his intellect and ability for introspection, an action which all of us take at different times in our lives. The result here is a new found wisdom that can be used as we mature in life and come to understand our place in the world. And while there are no words here that are groundbreaking, I do believe that anyone who decides to read this book can take something from it.