Miskatonic University Press

Meditations 7.61


Here is section 61 of chapter 7 of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius in the original Greek and a number of translations. This passage is one of my favourites and I wanted to compare how different translators handled it. Hays and the Hickses are two much-praised recent translations. Casaubon’s was the first into English, and Long’s was the standard one for several decades. (Staniforth says Long’s 1862 translation is “admirably correct, as literal as a school crib, and to me at least utterly unreadable.”)

Original Greek text, ca. AD 160-180 : “Δεῖ καὶ τὸ σῶμα πεπηγέναι καὶ μὴ διερρῖφθαι μήτε ἐν κινήσει μήτε ἐν σχέσει. οἷον γάρ τι ἐπὶ τοῦ προσώπου παρέχεται ἡ διάνοια συνετὸν αὐτὸ καὶ εὔσχημον συντηροῦσα, τοιοῦτο καὶ ἐπὶ ὅλου τοῦ σώματος ἀπαιτητέον. πάντα δὲ ταῦτα σὺν τῷ ἀνεπιτηδεύτῳ φυλακτέα.” (I think this is the correct quote. Please correct me if it’s not.)

Meric Casaubon, 1634: “The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler’s, than a dancer’s practice. For in this they both agree, to teach a man whatsoever falls upon him, that he may be ready for it, and that nothing may cast him down.”

Thomas Gataker, 1752: “The art of life resembles more that of the wrestler, than the dancer; since the wrestler must every be ready on his guard, and stand firm against the sudden unforeseen events of his adversary.”

George Long, 1862: “The art of life is more like the wrestler’s art than the dancer’s, in respect of this, that it should stand ready and firm to meet onsets which are sudden and unexpected.”

Gerald H. Rendall, 1898: “Life is more like wrestling than dancing; it must be ready to keep its feet against all onsets however unexpected.”

Maxwell Staniforth, 1964 (Penguin): “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in as much as it, too, demands a firm and watchful stance against any unexpected onset.”

C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks, 2002 (Scribner, The Emperor’s Handbook): “Living is more like wrestling than dancing: you have to stay on your feet, ready and unruffled, while blows are being rained down on you, sometimes from unexpected quarters.”

Gregory Hays, 2003 (Modern Library): “Not a dancer but a wrestler: waiting, poised and dug in, for sudden assaults.”

Martin Hammond, 2006 (Penguin): “The art of living is more like wrestling than dancing, in that it stands ready for what comes and is not thrown by the unforeseen.”