Ἐννοεῖν συνεχῶς πόσοι μὲν ἰατροὶ ἀποτεθνήκασι, πολλάκις τὰς ὀφρῦς ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀρρώστων συσπάσαντες· πόσοι δὲ μαθηματικοί, ἄλλων θανάτους ὥς τι μέγα προειπόντες· πόσοι δὲ φιλόσοφοι, περὶ θανάτου ἢ ἀθανασίας μυρία διατεινάμενοι· πόσοι δὲ ἀριστεῖς, πολλοὺς ἀποκτείναντες· πόσοι δὲ τύραννοι, ἐξουσίᾳ ψυχῶν μετὰ δεινοῦ φρυάγματος ὡς ἀθάνατοι κεχρημένοι· πόσαι δὲ πόλεις ὅλαι, ἵν’ οὕτως εἴπω, τεθνήκασιν, Ἑλίκη καὶ Πομπήϊοι καὶ Ἡρκλάνον καὶ ἄλλαι ἀναρίθμητοι. ἔπιθι δὲ καὶ ὅσους οἶδας, ἄλλον ἐπ’ ἄλλῳ· ὁ μὲν τοῦτον κηδεύσας εἶτα ἐξετάθη, ὁ δὲ ἐκεῖνον, πάντα δὲ ἐν βραχεῖ. τὸ γὰρ ὅλον, κατιδεῖν ἀεὶ τὰ ἀνθρώπινα ὡς ἐφήμερα καὶ εὐτελῆ καὶ ἐχθὲς μὲν μυξάριον, αὔριον δὲ τάριχος ἢ τέφρα. τὸ ἀκαριαῖον οὖν τοῦτο τοῦ χρόνου κατὰ φύσιν διελθεῖν καὶ ἵλεων καταλῦσαι, ὡς ἂν εἰ ἐλαία πέπειρος γενομένη ἔπιπτεν, εὐφημοῦσα τὴν ἐνεγκοῦσαν καὶ χάριν εἰδυῖα τῷ φύσαντι δένδρῳ.
(Marcus Aurelius, Ta eis heauton 4.48)

Reflect constantly how many doctors have died, after often knitting their brows over those who were ill; and how many astrologers, after predicting the deaths of other people, as if death were some great thing; and how many philosophers, after countless debates about death or immortality; and how many heroes, after killing many other people, and how many tyrants, after exercising the power of life and death with terrible arrogance, as though they were immortal themselves; and how many entire cities died, if one can put it in this way, Helike and Pompeii and Herculaneum, and others without number. Run over the ones you know, one after the other: one person attended another’s funeral and then was laid out himself, another followed him, and all in so short a time. Taking it all together, keep always in view that human life is transitory and cheap: yesterday a drop of semen, tomorrow a buried corpse or ashes. So make your way through this brief moment of time in line with nature and let go of your life gladly, as an olive might fall when ripe, blessing the earth that bore it and grateful to the tree that gave it growth. (tr. Christopher Gill)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: