Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Although the Greek philosopher Zeno is generally given the credit for creating the school of philosophy called Stoicism, its greatest fame arises from the popularity and widespread influence of the utterances of two later figures: Epictetus, a slave, and Marcus Aurelius, emperor of Rome. Of the two, Marcus, born four years before the death of Epictetus in 125, has probably achieved the greater fame; and this fame results almost entirely from his Meditations, one of the most famous philosophical books ever conceived.
For the average reader, however, there is a disturbing characteristic in the work, which is obscure and often seemingly unrelated; there are passages that suggest that the book has traveled through time in a disorganized, even careless, form. One widely accepted suggestion to account for this difficulty is the possibility that Marcus intended his writings to be read by no one else, that he recorded his thoughts only for himself. It is certain that the Meditations was written during the period between Marcus’s accession to the imperial rank in 161 and his death in 180; it is equally certain that the various books were composed during rigorous military campaigns and trying political crises. Although these facts explain in part the irregularity of the book, other scholars feel that there is clear evidence of the emperor’s design to publish at least parts of the work.
If this is so, and if Marcus did not merely...
(The entire section is 1255 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Meditations Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!