The Ancient Stoic Classics

Stoicism may have once been the prevalent philosophy of ancient Rome, but conflict and time have weeded out all but three main texts, each written by a different Stoic author in a different period of time.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius PS Staff pick: Why it's essential: Reading Meditations is like peering into the soul of a man simultaneously a great Roman emperor and sensitive philosopher. It's perhaps the most popular and practical guide to Stoicism ever written. This translation by Gregory Hays remains the most accessible and poignant of modern day. Other translations: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (a.d. 121–180) succeeded his adoptive father as emperor of Rome in a.d. 161—and Meditations remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. With a profound understanding of human behavior, Marcus provides insights, wisdom, and practical guidance on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity to interacting with others. Consequently, the Meditations have become required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style. In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in a generation—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy: never before have they been so directly and powerfully presented.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
PS Staff pick:

Why it's essential:
Reading Meditations is like peering into the soul of a man simultaneously a great Roman emperor and sensitive philosopher. It's perhaps the most popular and practical guide to Stoicism ever written.

This translation by Gregory Hays remains the most accessible and poignant of modern day.

Other translations:

Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (a.d. 121–180) succeeded his adoptive father as emperor of Rome in a.d. 161—and Meditations remains one of the greatest works of spiritual and ethical reflection ever written. With a profound understanding of human behavior, Marcus provides insights, wisdom, and practical guidance on everything from living in the world to coping with adversity to interacting with others. Consequently, the Meditations have become required reading for statesmen and philosophers alike, while generations of ordinary readers have responded to the straightforward intimacy of his style.

In Gregory Hays’s new translation—the first in a generation—Marcus’s thoughts speak with a new immediacy: never before have they been so directly and powerfully presented.

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca Why it's essential: In this series of colloquial letters on Stoic ideals and ethics, Seneca proves he was much more than the exiled tutor to the feared emperor Nero, but one of the greatest, and most witty, thinkers in antiquity. For several years of his turbulent life, Seneca was the guiding hand of the Roman Empire. His inspired reasoning derived mainly from the Stoic principles, which had originally been developed some centuries earlier in Athens. This selection of Seneca's letters shows him upholding the austere ethical ideals of Stoicism—the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to overmastering emotions and life’s setbacks—while valuing friendship and the courage of ordinary men, and criticizing the harsh treatmentof slaves and the cruelties in the gladiatorial arena. The humanity and wit revealed in Seneca’s interpretation of Stoicism is a moving and inspiring declaration of the dignity of the individual mind. (via Publisher)

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

Why it's essential:
In this series of colloquial letters on Stoic ideals and ethics, Seneca proves he was much more than the exiled tutor to the feared emperor Nero, but one of the greatest, and most witty, thinkers in antiquity.

For several years of his turbulent life, Seneca was the guiding hand of the Roman Empire. His inspired reasoning derived mainly from the Stoic principles, which had originally been developed some centuries earlier in Athens. This selection of Seneca's letters shows him upholding the austere ethical ideals of Stoicism—the wisdom of the self-possessed person immune to overmastering emotions and life’s setbacks—while valuing friendship and the courage of ordinary men, and criticizing the harsh treatmentof slaves and the cruelties in the gladiatorial arena.

The humanity and wit revealed in Seneca’s interpretation of Stoicism is a moving and inspiring declaration of the dignity of the individual mind. (via Publisher)

Discourses, Fragments, Enchiridion by Epictetus Why it's essential: Stoicism's greatest humble teacher, former slave Epictetus stood in contrast to Aurelius and Seneca. His teachings live on today, inspiring and instructing us on taking responsibility for our emotions. Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes and dialogue. Forceful, direct, and challenging, their central message is that the basis of happiness is up to us, and that we all have the capacity, through sustained reflection and hard work, of achieving this goal. They still speak eloquently to modern readers seeking meaning in their own lives. This is the only complete modern translation of the Discourses, together with the Handbook or manual of key themes, and surviving fragments. Robin Hard's accurate and accessible translation is accompanied by Christopher Gill's full introduction and comprehensive notes. (via Publisher)

Discourses, Fragments, Enchiridion by Epictetus

Why it's essential:
Stoicism's greatest humble teacher, former slave Epictetus stood in contrast to Aurelius and Seneca. His teachings live on today, inspiring and instructing us on taking responsibility for our emotions.

Epictetus was a teacher, and a freed slave, whose discourses have a vivid informality, animated by anecdotes and dialogue. Forceful, direct, and challenging, their central message is that the basis of happiness is up to us, and that we all have the capacity, through sustained reflection and hard work, of achieving this goal. They still speak eloquently to modern readers seeking meaning in their own lives.

This is the only complete modern translation of the Discourses, together with the Handbook or manual of key themes, and surviving fragments. Robin Hard's accurate and accessible translation is accompanied by Christopher Gill's full introduction and comprehensive notes. (via Publisher)

 

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