Tuesday, May 22, 2012
On Lifespan - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. VI.49
Meditation VI.49 - On Lifespan - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil (follow photographic link for larger image).
You are not dissatisfied, I suppose, because you weigh only so many litrae and not three hundred.(1) Be not dissatisfied then that you must live only so many years and not more; for as you are satisfied with the amount of substance which has been assigned to you, so be content with the time.(2)
(1) The litra (pl. litrae) was a Greek unit of weight, equivalent to around 0.33 kg (0.72 pounds). The equivalent Roman unit was the libra. Marcus wrote his Meditations in Greek and not in his native Latin, so the Greek form of the unit is what has been translated here. The "idealized" weight cited here, 300 litrae, would be equivalent to 216 pounds (98 kg). This weight - one for a large statured or muscular male (Marcus is writing while on a military campaign) - would probably confer an advantage to a soldier in the field.
(2) The Stoic approach with respect to all things assigned to us by nature is that we must be satisfied with whatever we are. It is senseless to wish we were bigger, or smaller, or better looking. Whatever nature has assigned to us is what we are meant to have. This same argument applies to the number of years we will live. Not to be content with whatever nature has assigned to us goes against the will of nature.
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 The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book.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.