An emperor-philosopher’s point of view on death

O man! as a citizen you have lived and conversed in this great city, our world. Whether just for so many years, or no, what is it to you? You have lived (you can be sure) as long as the laws and orders of the city required; which may be the common comfort of all. Why then should it be grievous for you, if (not a tyrant, nor an unjust judge, but) the same nature that brought you in, does now send you out of the world? As if the praetor should fairly dismiss him from the stage, whom he had taken in to act a while. Oh, but the play is not yet at an end, there are but three acts yet acted of it? Well said: but in matter of life, three acts can be the whole play. Now to set a certain time to every man’s acting, belongs to him only, who as first he was of your composition, so is now the cause of thy dissolution. As for yourself; you have to do with neither. Go your ways then well pleased and contented: for so is He that dismisses you.

Ἄνθρωπε, ἐπολιτεύσω ἐν τῇ μεγάλῃ ταύτῃ πόλει: τί σοι διαφέρει, εἰ πέντε ἔτεσιν ἢ τρισί;τὸ γὰρ κατὰ τοὺς νόμους ἴσον ἑκάστῳ. τί οὖν δεινόν, εἰ τῆς πόλεως ἀποπέμπει σε οὐτύραννος οὐδὲ δικαστὴς ἄδικος, ἀλλ̓ ἡ φύσις ἡ εἰσαγαγοῦσα, οἷον εἰ κωμῳδὸν ἀπολύοιτῆς σκηνῆς ὁ παραλαβὼν στρατηγός;—ἀλλ̓ οὐκ εἶπον τὰ πέντε μέρη, ἀλλὰ τὰ τρία.—καλῶς εἶπας: ἐν μέντοι τῷ βίῳ τὰ τρία ὅλον τὸ δρᾶμά ἐστι. τὸ γὰρ τέλειον ἐκεῖνος ὁρίζει ὁτότε μὲν τῆς συγκρίσεως. νῦν δὲ τῆς διαλύσεως αἴτιος: σὺ δὲ ἀναίτιος ἀμφοτέρων. ἄπιθιοὖν ἵλεως: καὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀπολύων ἵλεως.

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (XII, 36)


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