Book 6

THE substance of the universe is obedient and compliant; and the
reason which governs it has in itself no cause for doing evil, for
it has no malice, nor does it do evil to anything, nor is anything
harmed by it. But all things are made and perfected according to
this reason.
Let it make no difference to thee whether thou art cold or warm,
if thou art doing thy duty; and whether thou art drowsy or satisfied
with sleep; and whether ill-spoken of or praised; and whether dying or
doing something else. For it is one of the acts of life, this act by
which we die: it is sufficient then in this act also to do well what
we have in hand.
Look within. Let neither the peculiar quality of anything nor its
value escape thee.
All existing things soon change, and they will either be reduced
to vapour, if indeed all substance is one, or they will be dispersed.
The reason which governs knows what its own disposition is, and what
it does, and on what material it works.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 5}
The best way of avenging thyself is not to become like the wrong
Take pleasure in one thing and rest in it, in passing from one
social act to another social act, thinking of God.
The ruling principle is that which rouses and turns itself, and
while it makes itself such as it is and such as it wills to be, it
also makes everything which happens appear to itself to be such as
it wills.
In conformity to the nature of the universe every single thing is
accomplished, for certainly it is not in conformity to any other
nature that each thing is accomplished, either a nature which
externally comprehends this, or a nature which is comprehended
within this nature, or a nature external and independent of this.
The universe is either a confusion, and a mutual involution of
things, and a dispersion; or it is unity and order and providence.
If then it is the former, why do I desire to tarry in a fortuitous
combination of things and such a disorder? And why do I care about
anything else than how I shall at last become earth? And why am I
disturbed, for the dispersion of my elements will happen whatever I
do. But if the other supposition is true, I venerate, and I am firm,
and I trust in him who governs.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 10}
When thou hast been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in
a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune
longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery over
the harmony by continually recurring to it.
If thou hadst a step-mother and a mother at the same time, thou
wouldst be dutiful to thy step-mother, but still thou wouldst
constantly return to thy mother. Let the court and philosophy now be
to thee step-mother and mother: return to philosophy frequently and
repose in her, through whom what thou meetest with in the court
appears to thee tolerable, and thou appearest tolerable in the court.
When we have meat before us and such eatables we receive the
impression, that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead
body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this Falernian is only a
little grape juice, and this purple robe some sheep’s wool dyed with
the blood of a shell-fish: such then are these impressions, and they
reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what
kind of things they are. Just in the same way ought we to act all
through life, and where there are things which appear most worthy of
our approbation, we ought to lay them bare and look at their
worthlessness and strip them of all the words by which they are
exalted. For outward show is a wonderful perverter of the reason,
and when thou art most sure that thou art employed about things
worth thy pains, it is then that it cheats thee most. Consider then
what Crates says of Xenocrates himself.
Most of the things which the multitude admire are referred to
objects of the most general kind, those which are held together by
cohesion or natural organization, such as stones, wood, fig-trees,
vines, olives. But those which are admired by men who are a little
more reasonable are referred to the things which are held together
by a living principle, as flocks, herds. Those which are admired by
men who are still more instructed are the things which are held
together by a rational soul, not however a universal soul, but
rational so far as it is a soul skilled in some art, or expert in some
other way, or simply rational so far as it possesses a number of
slaves. But he who values rational soul, a soul universal and fitted
for political life, regards nothing else except this; and above all
things he keeps his soul in a condition and in an activity conformable
to reason and social life, and he co-operates to this end with those
who are of the same kind as himself.
Some things are hurrying into existence, and others are hurrying out
of it; and of that which is coming into existence part is already
extinguished. Motions and changes are continually renewing the
world, just as the uninterrupted course of time is always renewing the
infinite duration of ages. In this flowing stream then, on which there
is no abiding, what is there of the things which hurry by on which a
man would set a high price? It would be just as if a man should fall
in love with one of the sparrows which fly by, but it has already
passed out of sight. Something of this kind is the very life of
every man, like the exhalation of the blood and the respiration of the
air. For such as it is to have once drawn in the air and to have given
it back, which we do every moment, just the same is it with the
whole respiratory power, which thou didst receive at thy birth
yesterday and the day before, to give it back to the element from
which thou didst first draw it.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 15}
Neither is transpiration, as in plants, a thing to be valued, nor
respiration, as in domesticated animals and wild beasts, nor the
receiving of impressions by the appearances of things, nor being moved
by desires as puppets by strings, nor assembling in herds, nor being
nourished by food; for this is just like the act of separating and
parting with the useless part of our food. What then is worth being
valued? To be received with clapping of hands? No. Neither must we
value the clapping of tongues, for the praise which comes from the
many is a clapping of tongues. Suppose then that thou hast given up
this worthless thing called fame, what remains that is worth
valuing? This in my opinion, to move thyself and to restrain thyself
in conformity to thy proper constitution, to which end both all
employments and arts lead. For every art aims at this, that the
thing which has been made should be adapted to the work for which it
has been made; and both the vine-planter who looks after the vine, and
the horse-breaker, and he who trains the dog, seek this end. But the
education and the teaching of youth aim at something. In this then
is the value of the education and the teaching. And if this is well,
thou wilt not seek anything else. Wilt thou not cease to value many
other things too? Then thou wilt be neither free, nor sufficient for
thy own happiness, nor without passion. For of necessity thou must
be envious, jealous, and suspicious of those who can take away those
things, and plot against those who have that which is valued by
thee. Of necessity a man must be altogether in a state of perturbation
who wants any of these things; and besides, he must often find fault
with the gods. But to reverence and honour thy own mind will make thee
content with thyself, and in harmony with society, and in agreement
with the gods, that is, praising all that they give and have ordered.
Above, below, all around are the movements of the elements. But
the motion of virtue is in none of these: it is something more divine,
and advancing by a way hardly observed it goes happily on its road.
How strangely men act. They will not praise those who are living
at the same time and living with themselves; but to be themselves
praised by posterity, by those whom they have never seen or ever
will see, this they set much value on. But this is very much the
same as if thou shouldst be grieved because those who have lived
before thee did not praise thee.
If a thing is difficult to be accomplished by thyself, do not
think that it is impossible for man: but if anything is possible for
man and conformable to his nature, think that this can be attained
by thyself too.
In the gymnastic exercises suppose that a man has torn thee with his
nails, and by dashing against thy head has inflicted a wound. Well, we
neither show any signs of vexation, nor are we offended, nor do we
suspect him afterwards as a treacherous fellow; and yet we are on
our guard against him, not however as an enemy, nor yet with
suspicion, but we quietly get out of his way. Something like this
let thy behaviour be in all the other parts of life; let us overlook
many things in those who are like antagonists in the gymnasium. For it
is in our power, as I said, to get out of the way, and to have no
suspicion nor hatred.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 20}
If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not think or
act right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no
man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and
I do my duty: other things trouble me not; for they are either
things without life, or things without reason, or things that have
rambled and know not the way.
As to the animals which have no reason and generally all things
and objects, do thou, since thou hast reason and they have none,
make use of them with a generous and liberal spirit. But towards human
beings, as they have reason, behave in a social spirit. And on all
occasions call on the gods, and do not perplex thyself about the
length of time in which thou shalt do this; for even three hours so
spent are sufficient.
Alexander the Macedonian and his groom by death were brought to
the same state; for either they were received among the same seminal
principles of the universe, or they were alike dispersed among the
Consider how many things in the same indivisible time take place
in each of us, things which concern the body and things which
concern the soul: and so thou wilt not wonder if many more things,
or rather all things which come into existence in that which is the
one and all, which we call Cosmos, exist in it at the same time.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 25}
If any man should propose to thee the question, how the name
Antoninus is written, wouldst thou with a straining of the voice utter
each letter? What then if they grow angry, wilt thou be angry too?
Wilt thou not go on with composure and number every letter? just so
then in this life also remember that every duty is made up of
certain parts. These it is thy duty to observe and without being
disturbed or showing anger towards those who are angry with thee to go
on thy way and finish that which is set before thee.
How cruel it is not to allow men to strive after the things which
appear to them to be suitable to their nature and profitable! And
yet in a manner thou dost not allow them to do this, when thou art
vexed because they do wrong. For they are certainly moved towards
things because they suppose them to be suitable to their nature and
profitable to them.- But it is not so.- Teach them then, and show
them without being angry.
Death is a cessation of the impressions through the senses, and of
the pulling of the strings which move the appetites, and of the
discursive movements of the thoughts, and of the service to the flesh.
It is a shame for the soul to be first to give way in this life,
when thy body does not give way.
Take care that thou art not made into a Caesar, that thou art not
dyed with this dye; for such things happen. Keep thyself then
simple, good, pure, serious, free from affectation, a friend of
justice, a worshipper of the gods, kind, affectionate, strenuous in
all proper acts. Strive to continue to be such as philosophy wished to
make thee. Reverence the gods, and help men. Short is life. There is
only one fruit of this terrene life, a pious disposition and social
acts. Do everything as a disciple of Antoninus. Remember his constancy
in every act which was conformable to reason, and his evenness in
all things, and his piety, and the serenity of his countenance, and
his sweetness, and his disregard of empty fame, and his efforts to
understand things; and how he would never let anything pass without
having first most carefully examined it and clearly understood it; and
how he bore with those who blamed him unjustly without blaming them in
return; how he did nothing in a hurry; and how he listened not to
calumnies, and how exact an examiner of manners and actions he was;
and not given to reproach people, nor timid, nor suspicious, nor a
sophist; and with how little he was satisfied, such as lodging, bed,
dress, food, servants; and how laborious and patient; and how he was
able on account of his sparing diet to hold out to the evening, not
even requiring to relieve himself by any evacuations except at the
usual hour; and his firmness and uniformity in his friendships; and
how he tolerated freedom of speech in those who opposed his
opinions; and the pleasure that he had when any man showed him
anything better; and how religious he was without superstition.
Imitate all this that thou mayest have as good a conscience, when
thy last hour comes, as he had.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 30}
Return to thy sober senses and call thyself back; and when thou hast
roused thyself from sleep and hast perceived that they were only
dreams which troubled thee, now in thy waking hours look at these (the
things about thee) as thou didst look at those (the dreams).
I consist of a little body and a soul. Now to this little body all
things are indifferent, for it is not able to perceive differences.
But to the understanding those things only are indifferent, which
are not the works of its own activity. But whatever things are the
works of its own activity, all these are in its power. And of these
however only those which are done with reference to the present; for
as to the future and the past activities of the mind, even these are
for the present indifferent.
Neither the labour which the hand does nor that of the foot is
contrary to nature, so long as the foot does the foot’s work and the
hand the hand’s. So then neither to a man as a man is his labour
contrary to nature, so long as it does the things of a man. But if the
labour is not contrary to his nature, neither is it an evil to him.
How many pleasures have been enjoyed by robbers, patricides,
Dost thou not see how the handicraftsmen accommodate themselves up
to a certain point to those who are not skilled in their
craft- nevertheless they cling to the reason (the principles) of
their art and do not endure to depart from it? Is it not strange if
the architect and the physician shall have more respect to the
reason (the principles) of their own arts than man to his own
reason, which is common to him and the gods?
{BK_6 ^paragraph 35}
Asia, Europe are corners of the universe: all the sea a drop in
the universe; Athos a little clod of the universe: all the present
time is a point in eternity. All things are little, changeable,
perishable. All things come from thence, from that universal ruling
power either directly proceeding or by way of sequence. And
accordingly the lion’s gaping jaws, and that which is poisonous, and
every harmful thing, as a thorn, as mud, are after-products of the
grand and beautiful. Do not then imagine that they are of another kind
from that which thou dost venerate, but form a just opinion of the
source of all.
He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which
has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for
time without end; for all things are of one kin and of one form.
Frequently consider the connexion of all things in the universe
and their relation to one another. For in a manner all things are
implicated with one another, and all in this way are friendly to one
another; for one thing comes in order after another, and this is by
virtue of the active movement and mutual conspiration and the unity of
the substance.
Adapt thyself to the things with which thy lot has been cast: and
the men among whom thou hast received thy portion, love them, but do
it truly, sincerely.
Every instrument, tool, vessel, if it does that for which it has
been made, is well, and yet he who made it is not there. But in the
things which are held together by nature there is within and there
abides in them the power which made them; wherefore the more is it fit
to reverence this power, and to think, that, if thou dost live and act
according to its will, everything in thee is in conformity to
intelligence. And thus also in the universe the things which belong to
it are in conformity to intelligence.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 40}
Whatever of the things which are not within thy power thou shalt
suppose to be good for thee or evil, it must of necessity be that,
if such a bad thing befall thee or the loss of such a good thing, thou
wilt blame the gods, and hate men too, those who are the cause of
the misfortune or the loss, or those who are suspected of being likely
to be the cause; and indeed we do much injustice, because we make a
difference between these things. But if we judge only those things
which are in our power to be good or bad, there remains no reason
either for finding fault with God or standing in a hostile attitude to
We are all working together to one end, some with knowledge and
design, and others without knowing what they do; as men also when they
are asleep, of whom it is Heraclitus, I think, who says that they
are labourers and co-operators in the things which take place in the
universe. But men co-operate after different fashions: and even
those co-operate abundantly, who find fault with what happens and
those who try to oppose it and to hinder it; for the universe had need
even of such men as these. It remains then for thee to understand
among what kind of workmen thou placest thyself; for he who rules
all things will certainly make a right use of thee, and he will
receive thee among some part of the co-operators and of those whose
labours conduce to one end. But be not thou such a part as the mean
and ridiculous verse in the play, which Chrysippus speaks of.
Does the sun undertake to do the work of the rain, or Aesculapius
the work of the Fruit-bearer (the earth)? And how is it with respect
to each of the stars, are they not different and yet they work
together to the same end?
If the gods have determined about me and about the things which must
happen to me, they have determined well, for it is not easy even to
imagine a deity without forethought; and as to doing me harm, why
should they have any desire towards that? For what advantage would
result to them from this or to the whole, which is the special
object of their providence? But if they have not determined about me
individually, they have certainly determined about the whole at least,
and the things which happen by way of sequence in this general
arrangement I ought to accept with pleasure and to be content with
them. But if they determine about nothing- which it is wicked to
believe, or if we do believe it, let us neither sacrifice nor pray nor
swear by them nor do anything else which we do as if the gods were
present and lived with us- but if however the gods determine about
none of the things which concern us, I am able to determine about
myself, and I can inquire about that which is useful; and that is
useful to every man which is conformable to his own constitution and
nature. But my nature is rational and social; and my city and country,
so far as I am Antoninus, is Rome, but so far as I am a man, it is
the world. The things then which are useful to these cities are alone
useful to me. Whatever happens to every man, this is for the interest
of the universal: this might be sufficient. But further thou wilt
observe this also as a general truth, if thou dost observe, that
whatever is profitable to any man is profitable also to other men. But
let the word profitable be taken here in the common sense as said of
things of the middle kind, neither good nor bad.
As it happens to thee in the amphitheatre and such places, that
the continual sight of the same things and the uniformity make the
spectacle wearisome, so it is in the whole of life; for all things
above, below, are the same and from the same. How long then?
{BK_6 ^paragraph 45}
Think continually that all kinds of men and of all kinds of pursuits
and of all nations are dead, so that thy thoughts come down even to
Philistion and Phoebus and Origanion. Now turn thy thoughts to the
other kinds of men. To that place then we must remove, where there are
so many great orators, and so many noble philosophers, Heraclitus,
Pythagoras, Socrates; so many heroes of former days, and so many
generals after them, and tyrants; besides these, Eudoxus,
Hipparchus, Archimedes, and other men of acute natural talents,
great minds, lovers of labour, versatile, confident, mockers even of
the perishable and ephemeral life of man, as Menippus and such as
are like him. As to all these consider that they have long been in the
dust. What harm then is this to them; and what to those whose names
are altogether unknown? One thing here is worth a great deal, to
pass thy life in truth and justice, with a benevolent disposition even
to liars and unjust men.
When thou wishest to delight thyself, think of the virtues of
those who live with thee; for instance, the activity of one, and the
modesty of another, and the liberality of a third, and some other good
quality of a fourth. For nothing delights so much as the examples of
the virtues, when they are exhibited in the morals of those who live
with us and present themselves in abundance, as far as is possible.
Wherefore we must keep them before us.
Thou art not dissatisfied, I suppose, because thou weighest only
so many litrae and not three hundred. Be not dissatisfied then that
thou must live only so many years and not more; for as thou art
satisfied with the amount of substance which has been assigned to
thee, so be content with the time.
Let us try to persuade them (men). But act even against their
will, when the principles of justice lead that way. If however any man
by using force stands in thy way, betake thyself to contentment and
tranquility, and at the same time employ the hindrance towards the
exercise of some other virtue; and remember that thy attempt was
with a reservation, that thou didst not desire to do
impossibilities. What then didst thou desire?- Some such effort as
this.- But thou attainest thy object, if the things to which thou
wast moved are accomplished.
He who loves fame considers another man’s activity to be his own
good; and he who loves pleasure, his own sensations; but he who has
understanding, considers his own acts to be his own good.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 50}
It is in our power to have no opinion about a thing, and not to be
disturbed in our soul; for things themselves have no natural power
to form our judgements.
Accustom thyself to attend carefully to what is said by another, and
as much as it is possible, be in the speaker’s mind.
That which is not good for the swarm, neither is it good for the
If sailors abused the helmsman or the sick the doctor, would they
listen to anybody else; or how could the helmsman secure the safety of
those in the ship or the doctor the health of those whom he attends?
How many together with whom I came into the world are already gone
out of it.
{BK_6 ^paragraph 55}
To the jaundiced honey tastes bitter, and to those bitten by mad
dogs water causes fear; and to little children the ball is a fine
thing. Why then am I angry? Dost thou think that a false opinion has
less power than the bile in the jaundiced or the poison in him who
is bitten by a mad dog?
No man will hinder thee from living according to the reason of thy
own nature: nothing will happen to thee contrary to the reason of
the universal nature.
What kind of people are those whom men wish to please, and for
what objects, and by what kind of acts? How soon will time cover all
things, and how many it has covered already.