This project was originally going to be a quick and dirty easy task, like all the other books I host that are written by others. It was prompted by seeing something about the “plague emperor”. I would simply open the book at Gutenberg, copy it, format it, and post it. Unfortunately, the version at Gutenberg would be completely unreadable to most modern readers.
The original version was written in Greek. It was translated to English in the early seventeenth century by Méric Casaubon, so the verbiage is very antiquated and impossible to understand by most modern readers, so I have edited it, changing “thou” to “you” along with other similar antiquated words.
Reading the original translation required numerous trips to a dictionary, because there are a lot of words that haven’t been written or spoken in centuries. Some of the words weren’t even in any dictionary, and looking for them in Google led me only to this book, so I had to figure it out; I found that many times, what was once spelled with an “E” is now spelled with a “T”. It was hard to figure out that “eareh” was actually “earth”, and “woryer” was actually “worthy”; it was like deciphering some sort of code. I’ve also given it a more modern structure while leaving a feeling of quaintness.
I suspect that the copy that I got from Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/55317/55317-h/55317h.htm) was OCRed and its output wasn’t edited at all, as some places seemed to have OCR errors.
The quick and dirty has so far taken months, and is nowhere near finished as I write this. Little is exactly as it was; I have made it mine.
I had hoped to make this not only readable, but a good read. Unfortunately, that’s incredibly difficult. There were no paragraphs, with many places having walls of text spanning pages. There are redundancies that would change the character of the book if fixed. There are sentences that are way too long. I have split most of the run-on sentences, but as I write this it appears that many would have to be left as is. Marcus Aurelius himself said he was deficient in writing and oratory. However, I have done the best I could, and it is no longer unreadable, and possibly enjoyable. I found it interesting.
Marcus Aurelius was Emperor of Rome from 161 AD to his death in 180. During his reign a horrible plague struck Europe, a plague that bears his name. As I write this, a plague named Covid-19 has ravaged the planet, killing more people in America than died in all of the wars we’ve been in since Korea, with the death toll now rising every day, and shut down most of the world’s economy, throwing millions of people out of work.
His father died when he was three, and his mother and grandfather raised him.
Marcus Aurelius was known as a “philosopher king”. He was a Pagan, like most people of the time, but still thought well of the Christian God, although not the Christians themselves. Before he was emperor, when he was a captain in charge of an infantry, his whole command was dying of thirst and a Christian prayed that God ease their suffering, and it rained heavily. Under his rule, the national persecution of Christians was stopped, although regional persecution was still permitted.
His philosophy was stoicism, which comes in handy during a pandemic. This book is almost certainly where the character of Mister Spock, and his fellow Vulcans, come from in the Star Trek shows. This is Vulcan philosophy, even though Vulcans are fiction.
These writings were notes to himself, not for publication, but as it was written by a philosopher during a plague, although I disagree with much of it, it contains wisdom and you may find it worthwhile.
In several places he notes that nothing ever changes even though everything changes. In his time that was obvious and true, people lived then just as they had lived a millennium earlier. Change that was noticeable in a single human lifetime didn’t occur until the Renaissance.