Read all my posts on Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus.
Let's start off our study of The Meditations. Watch this excellent 1-hour lecture on Stoicism and Marcus Aurelius by Prof. Michael Sugrue, who taught these lectures at Princeton.
Socratic philosophy broke up into 3 main philosophies: Stoicism, Epicureanism, and Skepticism. Sugrue then talks about how amazing and unique a leader Marcus Aurelius was.
Sugrue says in Part 2:
He had absolute power of life and death over everyone in the known world....His word is law....Imagine a man for whom all the restraints of law, and custom, and political order are taken away. He can have whatever he wants. If a man under those circumstances behaves well, you know something about the soul underneath, because no external constraint is making him do what he is doing.In 5 parts:
Marcus Aurelius is the ONE example of an absolute ruler who behaves himself in such a way as not to disgrace himself....It's an amazing temptation....Nineteen years controlling the entire world. He can have all the money in the world. That's not an exaggeration....
He can have sex with anyone he wants, whenever he wants, under any circumstances.
If he wants to get drunk, he can have wine brought in by the boatload, infinitely, forever....Imagine anything that the bronze, desiring, emotional, irrational parts of your souls want. And now imagine that you can have it! Imagine that you are forced to bear with this human condition for 19 long years. Now ask yourself, "How many of you would fail to disgrace yourselves?"...
Over the centuries, Marcus Aurelius serves as a standing reproach to our self-indulgence,...If you can deal with temptation at that level, I cannot imagine what is outside the human potential!...
Marcus Aurelius intends to live a life in which he will not have to feel guilty about anything. And he succeeded in doing that, under the most trying possible circumstances.
Part 1 (If you lack time, watch Part 2 first.)
Michael Sugrue, Ph.D is a Professor of History and the Chairman of the History Department at Ave Maria University. Professor Sugrue holds a B.A. from The University of Chicago and an M.A. and M.Phil. and Ph.D from Columbia University.
Before coming to Ave Maria, Professor Sugrue taught history, philosophy, religion, literature and politics at Princeton. In his ten years at Princeton, Dr. Sugrue was a member of the Council for the Humanities and the department of politics.
Earlier he taught at Johns Hopkins and Columbia. Professor Sugrue has taped more that one hundred fifty lectures for the Teaching Company, which produces the “Superstar Teachers” series of tapes. Professor Sugrue teaches world history, American history, the history of Western philosophy, and the history of literature.
[Gregory Hays wrote another excellent translation of The Meditations, which I own on my Palm. Interview with Hays. I still prefer my Hicks translation.
Hear Chris Krause read aloud all 12 books of the Hays version on YouTube.
Hear D.E. Wittkower read aloud full Elizabeth Carter version of Epictetus's Enchiridion (52 min).]