Of my mother I have learned to be religious, and bountiful. To forbear, not only to do, but to intend any evil, to content myself with a spare diet, and to flee all such excess as is incidental to great wealth.
Of my great-grandfather, both to frequent public schools and auditoriums, and to get me good and able teachers at home, and that I ought not to think much, if upon such occasions, I were at excessive charges.
Of him that brought me up, not to be fondly addicted to either of the two great factions of the coursers in the circus, called Prasini, and Veneti. Nor in the amphitheater partially to favor any of the gladiators, or fencers, as either the Parmularii, or the Secutores.
Moreover, to endure labor, nor to need many things. When I have anything to do, to do it myself rather than by others. Not to meddle with many businesses, and not easily to admit of any slander.
Of Diognetus1, not to busy myself about vain things, and not to easily believe those things which are commonly spoken by such as take upon themselves to work wonders, and by sorcerers, or prestidigitators, and impostors. Concerning the power of charms, and their driving out of demons, or evil spirits and the like.
Not to keep quails for the game; nor to be crazy for such things. Not to be offended with other men's freedom of speech, and to apply myself to philosophy.
Him also I must thank, that ever I heard first Bacchius, then Tandasis and Marcianus, and that I wrote dialogues in my youth; and that I took liking to the philosophers' little couch and skins, and such other things which by the Grecian discipline are proper to those who profess philosophy.
To Rusticus2 I am beholden that I first entered into the conceit that my life wanted some redress and cure. And then, that I did not fall into the ambition of ordinary sophists3, either to write tracts concerning the common theorems, or to exhort men to virtue and the study of philosophy by public orations. Also that I never by way of ostentation affected to show myself an active able man, for any kind of bodily exercises.
That I gave over the study of rhetoric and poetry, and of elegant, neat language. That I did not use to walk about the house in my long robe, nor to do any such things. Moreover I learned of him to write letters without any affectation, or curiosity; such as that was by him was written to my mother from Sinuessa.
To be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well pleased again with them that had offended me, as soon as any of them would be content to seek to me again. To read with diligence, not to rest satisfied with a light and superficial knowledge, nor quickly to assent to things commonly spoken of, whom I must also thank that I ever lighted upon Epictetus his Hypomnemata, or moral commentaries and common-factions, which also he gave me of his own.
From Apollonius4, true liberty, invariable steadfastness, and not to regard anything at all, though never so little but right and reason. Always, whether in the sharpest pains or after the loss of a child or in long diseases, to be still the same man who also was a present and visible example to me, that it was possible for the same man to be both vehement and remiss.
A man not subject to be vexed and offended with the incapacity of his scholars and auditors in his lectures and expositions. A true pattern of a man who of all his good gifts and faculties, least esteemed in himself that his excellent skill and ability to teach and persuade others the common theorems and maxims of the Stoic philosophy.
Of him also I learned how to receive favors and kindnesses (as commonly they are accounted) from friends, so that I might not become obnoxious to them, for them, nor more yielding upon occasion, than in right I should, yet so that I should not pass them either, as an insensible and unthankful man.
From Sextus5, mildness and the pattern of a family governed with paternal affection, and a purpose to live according to nature. To be grave without affectation. To observe carefully the several dispositions of my friends and not to be offended with idiots, nor unseasonably to set upon those that are carried with vulgar opinions.
With theorems, and tenets of philosophers, his conversation being an example how a man might accommodate himself to all men and companies, so that though his company were sweeter and more pleasing than any flatterer's plagiarism and fawning, yet at the same time it was most respected and reverenced who also had a proper happiness and faculty.
Rationally and methodically to find out, and set in order all necessary determinations and instructions for a man's life. A man without ever the least appearance of anger, or any other passion. Able at the same time most exactly to observe the Stoic Apathia, or dispassionateness, and yet to be most tender hearted. Ever of good credit, and yet almost without any noise, or rumor. Very learned, and yet making little show.
From Alexander the Grammarian, to be un-reprovable myself, and not reproachfully to reprehend any man for a barbarism, or a solecism, or any false pronunciation. Rather, dexterously by way of answer, or testimony, or confirmation of the same matter (taking no notice of the word) to utter it as it should have been spoken, or by some other such close and indirect admonition, handsomely and civilly telling him of it.
From Fronto6, to how much envy and fraud and hypocrisy the state of a tyrannous king is subject to, and how they who are commonly called "nobly born", are in some sort incapable or void of natural affection.
Of Alexander the Platonic, seldom and only when in great need say, or to write to any man in a letter, "I am not at leisure." Nor in this manner still to put off those duties, which we owe to our friends and acquaintances (to every one in his kind) under pretense of urgent affairs.
From Catulus, not to contemn any friend's expostulation, even though unjust, but to strive to reduce him to his former disposition, freely and heartily to speak well of all my masters upon any occasion, as it is reported of Domitius, and Athenodotus; and to love my children with true affection.
From my brother Severus, to be kind and loving to all them of my house and family. By him I also came to the knowledge of Thrasea and Helvidius, and Cato, and Dio, and Brutus. It was also he that put me in the first conceit and desire of an equal commonwealth, administered by justice and equality.
Of a kingdom that should regard no more than the good and welfare of the subjects. Of him also, to observe a constant tenor (not interrupted, with any other cares and distractions), in the study and esteem of philosophy.
To be bountiful and liberal in the largest measure, always to hope the best, and to be confident that my friends love me. In whom I moreover observed open dealing towards those whom he reproved at any time, and that his friends might without all doubt or much observation know what he would, or wouldn't do, so open and plain he was.
From Claudius Maximus7, in all things endeavor to have power over myself, and in nothing to be carried about. To be cheerful and courageous in all sudden chances and accidents, as in sicknesses. To love mildness, and moderation, and gravity. To do my business, whatever it is, thoroughly, and without complaining.
Whatever he said, all men believed him that as he spake, so he thought, and whatever he did, that he did it with a good intent. His manner was to never wonder at anything; never to be in a hurry, and yet never be slow. Nor to be perplexed, or dejected, or at any time unseemly, or excessively laugh; nor to be angry, or suspicious.
Ever ready to do good, and to forgive, and to speak truth. And all this, as one that seemed rather of himself to have been straight and right, than ever to have been rectified or redressed. Neither was there any man that ever thought himself undervalued by him, or that could find in his heart to think himself a better man than he. He would also be very pleasant and gracious.
In my father, I observed his meekness, and his constancy without wavering in those things which after a due examination and deliberation he had determined. How free from all vanity he carried himself in matter of honor and dignity, (as they are esteemed) his laboriousness and assiduity, his readiness to hear any man that had anything to say tending to any common good.
How generally and impartially he would give every man his due. His skill and knowledge, when rigor or extremity, or when remissness or moderation was in season. How he abstained from all unchaste love of youths. His moderate condescending to other men's occasions as an ordinary man, neither absolutely requiring of his friends that they should wait upon him at his ordinary meals, nor that they should of necessity accompany him in his journeys.
That whenever any business upon some necessary occasions was to be put off and omitted before it could be ended, he was ever found when he went about it, again the same man that he was before. His accurate examination of things in consultations, and patient hearing of others.
He would not easily give over the search of the matter, as one easy to be satisfied with sudden notions and apprehensions. His care to preserve his friends; how neither at any time he would carry himself towards them with disdainful neglect, and grow weary of them, nor yet at any time be madly fond of them.
His mind was contented in all things, his cheerful countenance, his care to foresee things far off, and to take order for the least, without any noise or clamor. Moreover how all acclaim and flattery were repressed by him.
How carefully he observed all things necessary to the government, and kept an account of the common expenses, and how patiently he would abide that he was reprehended by some for this his strict and rigid kind of dealing. How he was neither a superstitious worshiper of the gods, nor an ambitious pleaser of men, or studious of popular applause; but sober in all things, and everywhere observant of that which was fitting. He was no affecter of novelties. In those things which conduced to his ease and convenience (plenty where his fortune afforded him), without pride and bragging, yet with all freedom and liberty, so that as he freely enjoyed them without any anxiety or affectation when they were present.
When absent, he found no want of them. Moreover, that he was never commended by any man, as either a learned acute man, or an fawning officious man, or a fine orator; but as a ripe mature man, a perfect sound man. One that could not endure to be flattered. One able to govern both himself and others.
Moreover, how much he honored all true philosophers, without upbraiding those that were not so. His sociability, his gracious and delightful conversation, but never to satiety.
His care of his body within bounds and measure, not as one that desired to live long, or over-studious of neatness, and elegance, and yet not as one that did not regard it, so that through his own care and providence he seldom needed any inward physic, or outward applications.
Especially how ingeniously he would yield to any that had obtained any peculiar faculty, as either eloquence, or the knowledge of the laws, or of ancient customs, or the like. How he concurred with them, in his best care and endeavor that every one of them might in his kind, for in that which he excelled was regarded and esteemed, and although he did all things carefully after the ancient customs of his forefathers, yet even of this was he was not desirous that men should take notice, that he imitated ancient customs.
Again, how he was not easily moved and tossed up and down, but loved to be constant, both in the same places and businesses. How after his great fits of headache he would return fresh and vigorous to his wonted affairs.
Again, that he neither had many secrets, nor often, and such only as concerned public matters. His discretion and moderation, in exhibiting of the public sights and shows for the pleasure and pastime of the people, in public buildings, presents, and the like.
In all these things, having a respect to men only as men, and to the equity of the things themselves, and not to the glory that might follow. Never wont to use the baths at unseasonable hours. No builder; never curious, or solicitous, either about his food, or about the workmanship, or color of his clothes, or about anything that belonged to external beauty.
In all his conversation, far from all inhumanity, all boldness, and incivility, all greediness and impetuosity. Never doing anything with such earnestness, and intention, that a man could say of him that he sweated about it. On the contrary, all things distinctly, as at leisure, without trouble. Orderly, soundly, and agreeably.
A man might have applied that to him, which is recorded of Socrates, that he knew how to want, and to enjoy those things. In the want whereof, most men show themselves weak. In the fruition, intemperate, but to hold out firm and constant, and to keep within the compass of true moderation and sobriety in either estate. This is proper to a man who has a perfect and invincible soul, such as he showed himself in the sickness of Maximus.
From the gods I received that I had good grandfathers, and parents, a good sister, good masters, good domestics, loving kinsmen, almost all that I have; and that I never through hurry and rashness transgressed against any of them. Notwithstanding that my disposition was such that such a thing (if occasion had been) might very well have been committed by me, but that It was the mercy of the gods to prevent such a concurring of matters and occasions as might make me to incur this blame.
That I was not long brought up by the concubine of my father; that I preserved the flower of my youth. That I took not upon me to be a man before my time, but rather put it off longer than I needed. That I lived under the government of my lord and father, who would take away from me all prideful vanity. To reduce me to that conceit and opinion that it was not impossible for a prince to live in the court without a troop of guards and followers, extraordinary apparel, such and such torches and statues, and other like particulars of state and magnificence.
A man may reduce and contract himself almost to the state of a private man, and yet for all that not to become the more base and remiss in those public matters and affairs, wherein power and authority is requisite.
That I have had such a brother, who by his own example might stir me up to think of myself. By his respect and love, delighted and pleased me.
That I have got ingenuous children, and that they had no birth defects, nor with any other natural deformity. That I was not greatly proficient in the study of rhetoric and poetry, and of other faculties which perchance I might have dwelt upon, if I had found myself to go on in them with success.
That I did by times prefer those by whom I was brought up to such places and dignities that they seemed to me to desire the most, and that I didn't put them off with hope and expectation, that (since they were still young) I would do the same afterwards.
That I ever knew Apollonius and Rusticus, and Maximus. That I have often and effectually had occasion to consider and meditate with myself concerning that life which is according to nature what the nature and manner of it is; so that as for the gods and such suggestions, helps, and inspirations as might be expected from them, nothing hindered, but that I might have begun long before to live according to nature. Or that even now that I was not yet a partaker and in present possession of that life that I myself (in that I did not observe those inward motions, and suggestions. Yea, and almost plain and apparent instructions and admonitions of the gods), was the only cause of it.
That my body in such a life has been able to hold out so long. That I never had to do with Benedicta and Theodotus, yea and afterwards when I fell into some fits of love, I was soon cured.
That having been often displeased with Rusticus, I never did him anything for which afterwards I had occasion to repent. That it being so that my mother was to die young, yet she lived with me all her latter years.
That as often as I had a purpose to help and succor any that either were poor, or fallen into some present necessity, I never was answered by my officers that there was not ready money enough to do it. That I myself never had occasion to require the same assistance and help from any other.
That I have such a wife, so obedient, so loving, so ingenuous. That I had choice of fit and able men to whom I might commit the bringing up of my children. That by dreams I have received help, as for other things, so in particular how I might stay my casting of blood and cure my dizziness, as that also that happened to your in Cajeta, as to Chryses when he prayed by the seashore.
And when I first applied myself to philosophy, that I did not fall into the hands of some sophists, or spent my time either in reading the manifold volumes of ordinary philosophers, nor in practicing myself in the solution of arguments and fallacies, nor dwelt upon the studies of the meteors, and other natural curiosities. All these things without the assistance of the gods, and fortune, could not have been.
Sometimes in the morning say to yourself, This day I will have to deal with an idle curious man, with an unthankful man, a complainer, a crafty, false, an envious man, or an unsociable uncharitable man. All these ill qualities have happened to them through ignorance of that which is truly good and truly bad.
But I that understand the nature of that which is good, that it only is to be desired, and of that which is bad, that it only is truly odious and shameful. Who knows moreover, that this transgressor, whoever he be, is my kinsman, not by the same blood and seed, but by participation of the same reason, and of the same divine particle.
How can I either be hurt by any of those, since it is not in their power to make me incur anything that is truly reproachful? Or angry, and ill affected towards him who by nature is so near to me? For we are all born to be fellow-workers, as the feet, the hands, and the eyelids; as the rows of the upper and under teeth. For such therefore to be in opposition, is against nature; and what is it to chafe at, and to be averse from, but to be in opposition?
Whatever I am is either flesh, or life, or that which we commonly call the mistress and overruling part of man: reason. Away with your books, don't suffer your mind any more to be distracted and carried to and fro; for it will not be; but as even now ready to die, think little of your flesh. Blood, bones, and a skin; a pretty piece of knit and twisted work, consisting of nerves, veins and arteries; think no more of it, than that.
And as for your life, consider what it is; a wind; not one constant wind either, but every moment of an hour let out, and sucked in again.
The third is your ruling part, and here consider that you are an old man. Don't let that excellent part be brought in subjection and to become slavish. Don't put up with it to be drawn up and down with unreasonable and unsociable lusts and motions, as it were with wires and nerves.
Don't suffer from it any more, either to mope at anything now present, or to fear and fly from anything to come, which destiny has appointed to you.
Whatever proceeds from the gods immediately that any man will grant totally depends from their divine providence. As for those things that are commonly said to happen by fortune, even those must be conceived to have dependence from nature, or from that first and general connection, and concatenation of all those things which are administered and brought to pass more apparently by divine providence.
All things flow from there. Whatever it is that is, is both necessary, and conducing to the whole (part of which you are), and whatever it is that is requisite and necessary for the preservation of the general, must of necessity for every particular nature be good and beneficial.
And as for the whole, it is preserved, as by the perpetual mutation and conversion of the simple elements one into another, so also by the mutation, and alteration of things mixed and compounded. Let these things suffice you; let them be always to you, as your general rules and precepts. As for your thirst after books, away with it with all speed, that you not die murmuring and complaining, but truly meek and well satisfied, and from your heart thankful to the gods.