Sunday, June 17, 2012

Marcus Aurelius, "From my father. . ."

Marcus Annius Verus, Marcus
Aurelius' biological father.
1. I am indebted to my grandfather Verus for his good disposition and sweet temper.

2. From my father's reputation and my memory of him, I learned modesty and manliness.

4. Thanks to my great-grandfather, I didn't have to waste my time in the public schools but had good tutors at home instead and learned that one cannot spend too much money on such things.

16. From my (adoptive) father I learned:
  • courtesy and unswerving loyalty to decisions taken after hard thought
  • indifference to pomp and praise
  • industry and steadiness
  • a keen interest in any proposal for the public good
  • reward given strictly to merit
  • the knowledge of when to press on and when to ease up
  • chaste habits and the love of companionship
My father allowed his friends the freedom to eat and travel with him as they pleased, and he took no offense when their own affairs detained them. In business meetings, he never accepted a first impression or a plausible answer without subjecting it to detailed and searching inquiry. Smiling and calm, he kept his own counsel and did not make capricious or extravagant demands on his friends. In all things great and small, he exercised foresight and prepared down to the last detail for every eventuality, yet without making a big production of it. 

My father taught me:
  • to refuse public applause and to eschew all forms of flattery
  • to be vigilant in managing the affairs of the empire, to be frugal in spending from the public purse, and to put up with the inevitable grumbling that will follow from those who want something for nothing.
  • to avoid being superstitious toward the gods and obsequious toward men, knowing that it is better to be sober and self-reliant and to distrust the novelty of invention and the vulgarity of popular esteem.
My father enjoyed, without pretention or self-indulgence, the luxuries that his fortune lavished upon him; but when these were not available, he never seemed to miss them. No one ever mistook him for a pundit, a toady, or a pedant, nor failed to recognize in him the qualities of a mature and accomplished man insensible to flattery and able to govern himself as well as others. He respected sound learning and those who seek the truth, and he remained on good terms with the rest, but from a distance.

From my father, I learned:
  • a cheerful and friendly disposition, within reason
  • prudent care for the body–which he neither abused in luxurious living, nor pampered with excessive exercise and diet, nor neglected unduly, and thereby kept himself almost free from doctors, medicines, and salves
  • a true regard for those who have mastered a particular or subject–the art of public speaking, for example, or a knowledge of law or history or any other subject–and a genuine desire to see that each of these receives the honor due him.
A true Roman, my father didn't worry about keeping up appearances. He felt no anxiety or stress. He took pleasure in treating familiar subjects repeatedly and in staying in the same old places. Even after the most violent headaches, he would return quickly and energetically to his work. He hated secrets and kept them only when affairs of state demanded it. Moderation and good taste marked his celebration of the holidays, his public works, his distribution of relief to the poor, and his other official acts. Whatever he did he did out of a sense of duty to meet a real need, not to gain popularity.

My father never bathed at odd hours or got carried away with his building projects. Never did he pretend to be a connoisseur of food and wine, a fashion expert, or an authority on good looks. His clothing, generally of Lanuvian wool, was made in Lorium, where he had a country house. Indeed, the way my father treated the tax collector of Tusculum, who hounded him by mistake, is a good example of his manner. No black looks, no harsh words, no aggressive behavior that can lead others to say, "He's got a mean streak." None of this. Instead, a measured and rational assessment of everything, without haste or hesitation, rendering judgments so calm, fitting, forceful, logical, and harmonious that one could say of him what was once said of Socrates: that he could either enjoy or abstain from those things whose enjoyment weakens and whose abstinence strengthens most men

These things I learned from my father: strength, steadfastness, and moderation on all occasions, a spirit perfectly balanced and indomitable, like the one he showed during the illness which took him away. 

Meditations. Book I. Translation by C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks. 

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