Guide to Reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

Illustration insert by

At Daily Stoic: So many people struggle with and get frustrated by Marcus Aurelius’ Meditationsand they have ever since it was first discovered after the emperor’s death nearly twenty centuries ago. Just as we can imagine the first reader of Meditations, trying to make sense of the private thoughts of this great man, today people have questions about where to start and what to take from it.

What translation should I get? Should it be read cover to cover or is it better to approach it in bite-sized pieces? Do you read it once or multiple times? Did Marcus mean to come off so dark and dour? Why was Marcus writing? How was he writing? Is it even important to know about Marcus’ circumstances, where he was writing, and who he was writing for? Do you need to know the core principles of Stoicism to fully appreciate Meditations?

We’ve been working hard here at Daily Stoic for the last decade to try to make Marcus Aurelius accessible and practical for people (we even publish what we think is the best edition you can get of him). We’ve spent hundreds and thousands of hours not just with his writings but also with the best experts and translators and students of Stoicism to help make sense of what he meant and what he can do for us. It’s the work of a lifetime exploring the depths of Meditations—and as Marcus would say of any great work of art, you get something new out of it each time you go to it. This is why we put together what we’re calling How to Read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations (A Daily Stoic Guide): Here.

A Marcus quote: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” “If it is not right, do not do it, if it is not true, do not say it.” “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting.”

Meditations is a series of personal writings by Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from AD 161 to 180, recording his private notes to himself and ideas on Stoic philosophy. Marcus Aurelius wrote the 12 books of the Meditations in Koine Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. (Wikipedia)