Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Stoic Hospitality Toward Strangers - The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. XI.24
Meditation XI.24 - Stoic Hospitality Toward Strangers - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
The Lacedaemonians1 at their public spectacles used to set seats in the shade for strangers, but themselves sat down anywhere.2
(1) Lacedaemon or Sparta was the capital of a south eastern region of the Peloponnese, called Laconia.
(2) This is the sort of hospitality that people from modern cultural traditions would likely extend to a friend or relative. What is unusual in this meditation is that this gesture was considered routine in Sparta, and extended even to complete strangers. Marcus cites this tradition as an example of the attitude every human being ought to have toward every member of the human community. The Stoic understands that our primary duty in life is, without exception, always other-directed and never self-serving. Marcus would not elevate these simple gestures to the level of virtue, but it was through these simple self-sacrificing courtesies that a habit of mind designed to cultivate other-directed actions would be formed.
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.