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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.48 n.2 Pretoria  2008


Enkele filologiese opmerkings oor die oorlewering, aard en inslag van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus se Meditasies


Some philological remarks on the provenance, nature and genre of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus' Meditations



Francois Bredenkamp

Universiteit van Johannesburg




Na aanleiding van die onlangse verskyning (2007) van die skrywer se (literêre) vertaling van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus se Meditasies in Afrikaans, lewer hierdie artikel 'n oorsig van 'n aantal filologiese aspekte van die werk, veral ten behoewe van lesers van die vertaling. Aandag word gegee aan die vasstelbare herkoms van die teks, die oorlewering daarvan, die literêre aard en genre van die werk, asook die "innerlike werking" daarvan in 'n poging om die leser by te staan in sy eie verstaan en interpretasie van die Meditasies. In ooreenstemming met die interpretasie van Pierre Hadot, word die Meditasies hier geïdentifiseer en getipeer as Stoïsynse geestelike oefeninge wat ontwerp is om die innerlike diskoers van die beoefenaars daarvan op 'n gestruktureerde wyse te transformeer. Marcus se meditasies word hierin eerder gekarakteriseer as "vrye meditasies" as herhalende en onbuigsame "vraag-en-antwoord"-sessies (Robert Newman). Voorop in Marcus se gedagtes staan altyddeur sy eie waargenome naderende dood. Die voorrang wat Marcus aan sy eie pyn en lyding verleen, betuig 'n nuwe, tweede eeus-geskape kulturele uitdrukkingsvorm vir die subjektiwiteit van die menslike persona, asook Marcus se volledige bekering tot die Stoïsisme (Judith Perkins).

Trefwoorde: Marcus Aurelius, Meditasies, Antieke Filosofie, Stoïsisme, Laat Stoa, Teksoorlewering van die Meditasies, Genre van Meditasies, askese, dood, ontwikkeling, persona


Following the recent appearance (2007) of the author's (literary) translation into Afrikaans of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 'Meditations (Meditasies van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus 2007]), this article reviews some philological dimensions of the work, especially for readers approaching that translation from various disciplinary angles and who may be unversed in Greek. The provenance and transmission of the text is traced, from its speculated possible origins as Marcus' personal diaries, first entered on wax-tablets during the Roman campaigns in Germania and kept in private circulation after the emperor's death, through the scant references to it, first by Themistios (200 years later), and then by bishop Arethas and the Suidas-lexicon in the 10'h century AD. While the work was apparently read widely in the Byzantine Empire, the editio princeps was only published in the Renaissance by Andreas Gesner in Switzerland in 1559. The textual tradition of the work runs back onto two variant manuscripts, the Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1950 (in the Apostolic Library of the Vatican) and the Toxites-manuscript, now lost through fire, on which the Gesner-edition was based. The work presented its first interpreters with many problems because of the stylistic dissonances displayed by the introductory first book with the remaining eleven books of the work, the very few geographic references encountered in it and the apparent incoherence of the thoughts presented in the work. Few commentators understood what Marcus actually was saying, although it was superficially clear that the work contained a number of2personal notes which were clearly meditative in nature. Various good editions of the work appeared in the twentieth century (Haynes, Trannoy and especially Farquharson), but it was only with the publication of Pierre Hadot's interpretation (La Citadelle interieure) in the eighties that a single, coherent principle of translation was suggested which explained the background and workings of Marcus' meditations. He identified and typified the Meditations as Stoic spiritual exercises derived from Epictetus, designed to transform the practitioner's inner discourse in a structured way. The Meditations in fact suggests three essential or disciplinary rules, embodied in three disciplinary activities, viz. that of rational decision-taking, of human desire and of impulse; the rules pertain to the three domains of individual capacity for decision-taking, Universal Nature and human nature. The exercises were calculated to influence the demeanour of the practitioner, always striving to renew him in the face of great personal challenges, especially that of death. The Meditations clearly formed an askesis - a self-discipline by the virtuous and good person. It posed universally valid values and norms to regulate practical conduct. Through the daily, and routinely, repeated dogmata (values, norms) one's inner intentions to do the good are affirmed and entrenched. By turning inwards, the practitioner regularly renews himself spiritually and is able to face life's challenges.
Robert Newman has pointed out (ANRW) that the meditatio was characteristic of the Stoa, and that it became the most important ethical tool to heal the individual human spirit in the early Empire. The meditation was highly structured and practised on a routine basis by the use of standard phrases and images in a standard method. Thus Marcus' meditations summon the practitioner to exercise by way of the imperatives introducing so many of his aphoristic sententiae. The call is ever to impress the right norms on one's hegemonikon, the inner guiding rational spirit, to integrate with it in the ablility to guide one's conduct. Meditation was considered essential for the preservation of ethical integrity and for ignoring the non-essential, the externalia. Marcus' meditations have been characterised as 'free meditations' rather than repetititive and rigid 'question-and-answer'-sessions. Newman, in fact, distinguishes four basic types of meditations: short aphorisms containing sententiae; sententiae introduced by imperatives exhorting to a better life; freely composed meditations consisting of summaries of longer meditations, and, fourthly, long meditations including an exhortation containing a number of examples of such a meditation.
Omnipresent in the Meditations is the matter of Marcus' own perceived looming death. In fact, his preoccupation with his own pain and suffering not only betrays a new (second century) form of cultural expression of the subjectivity of the human persona, but also Marcus' complete conversion to Stoicism (Judith Perkins).

Keywords: Marcus Aurelius, Mediations, Ancient Philosophy, Stoicism, Late Stoa, Textual transmission, Meditations, Genre of the Meditations, ascetics, death, development of persona


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Marcus Aurelius-tekste

Dalfen, J. 1987. Marci Aureli Antonini ad Se Ipsum Libri xii, Teubner , 2. Auflage Leipzig.         [ Links ]

Farquharson, A.S.L. 1944a & b. The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus, 2 volumes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]

Haines, CR. 1924. The Communings with Himself of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Emperor of Rome (a revised text and a translation), Loeb Classical Library, London & New York: Heinemann & Macmillan.         [ Links ]

Staniforth, M. 1964. Marcus Aurelius: Meditations. Harmondsworth: Penguin.         [ Links ]

Theiler, W. 1950. Kaiser Marc Aurel: Wege zu sich Selbst. Zürich: Artemis Verlag.         [ Links ]

Trannoy, A.I. 1964. Marc-Aurèle: Pensées, Paris: Société d'Édition "Les Belles Lettres".         [ Links ]

Ander Antieke Werke

Oldfather W.A. 1961 (ed.). Epictetus: the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual and Fragments. Loeb Classical Library, William Heinemann / Londen & Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2 Volumes.         [ Links ]

Moderne Werke

Asmis, Elizabeth. 1989. "The Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius", Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt (ANRW), Teil II Band 36(3); 2228-2252.         [ Links ]

Birley, Anthony. 1987. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. London:B.T. Batsford Ltd.         [ Links ]

Bredenkamp, Francois. 2007. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 n.Chr.) - 'n Sto'isyn vir ons eie tyd. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe (Tijdschrift voor de Geesteswetenschappen/ Zeitschrift für die Geisteswissenschaften/Journal of Humanities) 47(3):460-484 (Sept. 2007).         [ Links ]

Bredenkamp, Francois. 2007b. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus: Meditasies, uit die Grieks vertaal en van 'n nawoord voorsien. Pretoria: Protea Boekhuis.         [ Links ]

Carrithers M., Collins S. & Lukes S. 1985. The category of the person: Anthropology, philosophy, history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.         [ Links ]

Cloete, T.T. (red.). 1992. Literêre terme en teorieë. Pretoria: HAUM.         [ Links ]

Foucault, Michel. 1992. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self. London: Penguin (translated by Robert Hurley).         [ Links ]

Grant, Michael. 1993. The climax of Rome: the final achievements of the Ancient World, AD 161-337. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion.         [ Links ]

Grant, Michael. 1997. The Roman Emperors.' A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome 31 BC - Ad 476. London: Phoenix/Orion House.         [ Links ]

Hadot, P. 1989. The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. Canbridge, Massachusetts/ London: Harvard University Press (vertaal deur Michael Chase).         [ Links ]

Hadot, P. 2002. What is Ancient Philosophy? Cambridge, Massachusetts / London: Belknap of Harvard University Press        [ Links ]

Long, A.A. 1974. Hellenistic Philosophy. London: Duckworth.         [ Links ]

Mueller-Vollmer, K. 1985. The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.         [ Links ]

Newman, Robert J. 1989. "Cotidie meditare. Theory and Practice of the meditatio in Imperial Stoicism", Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt (ANRW), Teil II Band 36(3):1474 - 1517.         [ Links ]

Perkins, Judith. 1992. "The 'Self' as Sufferer", Harvard Theological Review, 85(3): 245-272.         [ Links ]

Rutherford, R.B. 1998. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: A Study. Oxford:Oxford University Press.         [ Links ]



1 Bydrae saamgestel na aanleiding van die skrywer se publikasie Meditasies van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Uit die Grieks vertaal en van 'n Nawoord voorsien, Protea Boekhuis (Pretoria 2007). Afrikaanse aanhalings in die onderhawige teks uit Marcus se Meditasies is gemaak uit bg. vertaling. Benewens die vertaling is materiaal in hierdie artikel nie voorheen in die skrywer se publikasie vervat nie.
2 Vgl. Staniforth, M. 1964. Marcus Aurelius: Meditations. Penguin (Harmondsworth) (=Staniforth 1964) p. 7: "A couple of generations ago The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius was very fashionable reading. That was the time when every good publisher's catalogue included an elegant series of miniature classics: and there were very few of these in which the Meditations failed to make an appearance." Die werk is vandag steeds opgeneem in die Great Books of the Western World-reeks (uitgegee deur die Encyclopaedia Britannica), die Harvard Classics, die Penguin Classics (waarskynlik een van die mees uitgebreide reekse van klassieke tekste uit die wêreldliteratuur), die Loeb Classical Library, die Éditions Budé en reekse in tale soos Duits, Italiaans en ook Nederlands.
3 Rutherford R.B. 1998. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: A Study. Oxford University Press (Oxford) (=Rutherford 1998) p. 2: "It sometimes seems that scholars would gladly exchange all or most of the Meditations for a work of the early Stoa, for instance by Chrysippus. Yet originality is not the only quality we look for in a writer, or even a philosopher. Marcus Aurelius' communings with himself have been a spiritual classic for generations, both in the original Greek and through many translations; and if we believe that the task of the literary critic is to illuminate the qualities of a text in such a way as to enhance other readers' appreciation and understanding of it, then the formal aspects and the more purely literary merits of the Meditations demand our attention."
4 In die titel tot hierdie bydrae word hierdie aantekeninge as van "filologiese" aard beskryf. Daarmee word die begrip natuurlik nie op die wyse soos deur die moderne taalwetenskap of linguiste verstaan, gebesig nie, dog veeleer met die betekenis wat dit oorspronklik in die wetenskap van die filologie van die antieke oudheid, soos gedefinieer deur Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, geniet het. Vgl. Gadamer H-G 2004. Truth and Method, Second revised edition, Continuum (New York & London), p. 315: "A person trying to understand a text, whether literary critic or historian, does not, at any rate, apply what it says to himself. He is simply trying to understand what the author is saying, and if he is simply trying to understand, he is not interested in the objective truth of what is said as such, not even if the text itself claims to teach truth. On this the philologist and the historian are in agreement."
5 Die filologiese hermeneutiek is spreekwoordelik "so oud soos die berge" binne die literatuurteorie, veral aangesien dit so ver terugloop soos Philip August Boeck se teboekstelling van die klassieke filologie in 1811. Vgl. Mueller-Vollmer K. 1985. The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present, Basil Blackwell (Oxford). (=Mueller-Vollmer 1986) pp. 132-147, en Dilthey se bespreking daarvan wat eers in 1926 na sy dood gepubliseer is. Die vernaamste twintigste eeuse filosoof van die hermeneutiek, Hans-Georg Gadamer, het besondere nadruk op die mens se konfrontasie met die tradisie gelé (ook soos beliggaam in Karl-Otto Apel, geb. 1922) en bou dan 'n hele wetenskapsteorie rondom die hermeneutiek en die ideologiekritiek (Mueller-Vollmer 1986: 320-341, veral 331-332).
6 Birley Anthony 1987. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography, B.T. Batsford Ltd. (London) (=Birley 1987) pp. 213-5.
7 Birley 1987: 216-223, bespreek die militêre kleur en oorsprong van die Meditasies in detail.
8 Hadot P. 1989. The Inner Citadel: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts / London, England) (vertaal deur Michael Chase) (=Hadot 1998) p. 22.
9 Farquharson A.S.L. 1944a & b. The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Antoninus, 2 volumes, Oxford University Press (Oxford) (=Farquharson 1944a & b) pp. xvi-xxii.
10 Farquharson 1944a: xv-xix verskaf 'n gedetailleerde dog toeganklike bespreking van die antieke oorlewering van die Meditasies.
11 Vgl. ook die bondige, dog treffende opmerkings van Grant Michael 1997. The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome 31 BC - AD 476. Phoenix/Orion House (Londen) (=Grant 1967) pp. 134-5.
12 Vgl. die lys vervat in Hadot 1998: 48.
13 Vgl. Hadot P. 2002. What is Ancient Philosophy? Belknap of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, Massachusetts / London, England) (= Hadot 2002) pp. 3-5, 153, 219-220.
14 Marcus se leefreëls het, soos Hadot opmerk, binne 'n samehangende filosofiese stelsel gefunksioneer. Vgl. Bredenkamp Francois 2007. "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 n.Chr.) - 'n Stoi'syn vir ons eie tyd", Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe (Tijdschrift voor de Geesteswetenschappen/ Zeitschrift für die Geisteswissenschaften/Journal of Humanities), 47 (3): 460-484 (Sept. 2007) (=Bredenkamp 2007).
15 Oldfather W.A. 1961 (ed.). Epictetus: the Discourses as reported by Arrian, the Manual and Fragments. Loeb Classical Library, William Heinemann / Harvard University Press (Londen & Cambridge, Massachusetts). 2 Volumes. Gesegdes: 1.1.25: "Filosowe moet hierdie dinge deurentydbestudeer, hulle moet dit dag vir dag opteken en hul hierin oefen."(eie vertaling).
16 Newman Robert J. 1989. "Cotidie meditare. Theory and Practice of the meditatio in Imperial Stoicism", Aufstieg und Niedergang der Römischen Welt (ANRW), Teil II Band 36.3 pp. 1474 - 1517. (=Newman 1989) p. 1474 haal P Rabbow, Seelenleitung (München 1954) p. 24 in dié verband aan: "Meditieren ist ein nachdenken, in dem andere und tiefere Schichten der Seele angerufen werden als beim gewöhnlichen Denken. Meditieren heißt ... der Seele eingeht; daß er, als farbegebender, in die tiefste Tiefe der Seele dringt und sie durchdringt; daß er nicht mehr 'Gegen 'stand ist, 'über ' den man nachdenkt, sondern selbst als ein unmittelbar Wirklicher, in uns eingebend ein Stück Seele wird; daß er nicht gedacht und gewußt, sondern gehabt wird."
17 "'n Aforisme is 'n kernagtige gesegde waarin 'n idee of waarneming op 'n opvallende wyse verwoord word. Die aforisme verskil van die spreuk en die spreekwoord in die opsig dat die idee wat in die aforisme tot uitdrukking kom op 'n meer persoonlike en minder algemeen volkse vlak lê. Die aforisme is dus meer literêr van aard as die spreekwoord", Anna-Maria Bisschoff in T.T. Cloete (red.), Literêre terme en teorieë, HAUM (Pretoria 1992) p. 3. Die sententia was 'n kort frase met 'n parataktiese karakter wat die betoogtrant benadruk het deur woorde of frases te kontrasteer, of paradokse aan die orde te stel. Die sententia het 'n baie doeltreffende emosionele werking op die gebruiker of leser; dit was 'n hulpmiddel by die memorisering van meditatiewe formules deurdat dit die oproep daarvan vergemaklik het (Newman 1989: 1488-1489).
18 Foucault Michel 1992. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 3: The Care of the Self, Penguin (London) (translated by Robert Hurley) (=Foucault 1992) pp. 72-74.
19 Grant, Michael. 1993. The climax of Rome: the final achievements of the Ancient World, AD 161-337. Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Orion (Londen) (=Grant 1993) pp. 134-135.
20 Perkins Judith 1992. "The 'Self' as Sufferer", Harvard Theological Review, 85: 3, pp. 245-272. (=Perkins 1992). Sien pp. 245-6, waarin sy ook die werke van Aristides Aelius en die vroeë Apostoliese Vader, Ignatius van Antiochië, as manifestasies van 'n breër kulturele beweging tipeer.
21 Kyk bv. Michael Carrithers e.a., The Category of the Person (Cambridge University Press 1985) pp. 9091 en Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (Harvard University Press 1989) pp. 125-6 en 136-7, soos aangehaal deur Perkins 1992: 246.



Francois Bredenkamp is in die Klassieke aan die Randse Afrikaanse Universiteit opgelei en het in die vroeg-Christelike en Bisantynse Grieks gespesiali-seer. Hy het vir 'n aantal jare Grieks, Latyn en Antieke Geskiedenis aan verskeie Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite gedoseer. Hy het ook in die voormalige Instituut vir Navorsingsontwikkeling (INO) aan die RGN gewerk en is sedert 1997 betrokke by navorsingsontwikkeling. Tot onlangs was hy 'n navorsingsprofessor in die Direktoraat: Navorsing, Innovasie en Vennootskappe aan die Tshwane University of Technology. In 2004-2005 was hy 'n Seeger Visiting Research Fellow in die Program for Hellenic Studies aan Princeton University. Hy is die outeur van The Byzantine Empire of Thessaloniki (1224-1242) (Thesssaloniki, 1997), mede-outeur van Die Staat: Teorie & Praktyk (Pretoria, 1997) en Meditasies van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Pretoria, 2007); hy is ook die outeur van 'n dertigtal wetenskaplike vakartikels.

Francois Bredenkamp was trained in Classics at the Rand Afrikaans University in Johannesburg and specialised in early-Christian and Byzantine Greek; he has taught Greek, Latin and Ancient History at several South African universities. He also worked in the Institute for Research Development (IRD) at the HSRC and has been involved in research development since 1997, more recently serving as research professor in the Directorate: Research, Innovation & Partnerships at the Tshwane University of Technology. During 2004-2005 he was Seeger Visiting Research Fellow in the Program for Hellenic Studies at Princeton University. He is the author of The Byzantine Empire of Thessaloniki (1224-1242) (Thesssaloniki, 1997), co-author of Die Staat: Teorie & Praktyk (Pretoria, 1997) and Meditasies van Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (Pretoria, 2007); he is also the author of some thirty articles published in scientific journals.

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