Disgraceful if, in this life where your body does not fail, your soul should fail you first.
Take care not to be Caesarified, or dyed in purple: it happens. So keep yourself simple, good, pure, serious, unpretentious, a friend of justice, god-fearing, kind, full of affection, strong for your proper work. Strive hard to remain the same man that philosophy wished to make you. Revere the gods, look after men. Life is short. The one harvest of existence on earth is a godly habit of mind and social action.
Always as a pupil of Antoninus: his energy for all that was done according to reason, his constant equability, his piety, his serene expression, his gentleness, his lack of conceit, his drive to take a firm grasp of affairs. How he would never put anything at all aside without first looking closely into it and understanding it clearly; how he would tolerate those who unfairly blamed him without returning the blame; how he was never rushed in anything. He would not listen to malicious gossip; he was an accurate judge of men's character and actions; slow to criticize, immune to rumour and suspicion, devoid of pretence. How he was content with little by way of house, bed, dress, food, servants; his love of work, and his stamina.
He was a man to stay at the same task until evening, not even needing to relieve himself except at his usual hour, such was his frugal diet. Constant and fair in his friendships; tolerant of frank opposition to his own views, and delighted to be shown a better way; god-fearing, but not superstitious.
So may your own last hour find you with a conscience as clear as his.
No need to fear death. Death simply is an end of the bodily senses.
Better your body fails before your ability to live a life according to virtue.
Sound advice Marcus gives to himself. He could have easily be pretentious as Emperor of Rome. Instead, he warned himself against the ails of letting power get to your head. Advice he gives himself is sound and applies to us today. He studied philosophy and philosophy wants him to focus on virtue (virtue is the sole good) and to help others at all times in social action. He simply counsels himself on the things he ought to pay attention to.
An amazing tribute from Marcus to Antoninus! This is one of my favorite passages. If only I could be like Antoninus and be consistent at it. In particular, for me, the things that stand out that I wish I could have more of:
- a drive to take a firm grasp of affairs
- understanding and completing the task thoroughly
- content with little
- love of work
- frugal diet
- delighted to be shown a better way
(see also Citadel p. 29, 35, 263, 268, 280, 286, 300)