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. Long’s was the standard for several decades; Staniforth says it is “admirably correct, as literal as a school crib, and to me at least utterly unreadable.”

Original Greek text, ca. AD 160-180 : “Ἡ βιωτικὴ τῇ παλαιστικῇ ὁμοιοτέρα ἤπερ τῇ ὀρχηστικῇ κατὰ τὸ πρὸς τὰ ἐμπίπτοντα καὶ οὐ προεγνωσμενα ἕτοιμος καὶ ἀπτὼς ἑστάναι.”

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.”

UPDATED on 02 April 2024 with the correct original Greek. I had quoted 7.60 by mistake.