Book Review: Meditations

Translated and Annotated by Robin Waterfield

Translated and Annotated by Robin Waterfield

This is a brand new edition of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations from Basic Books, due for publication on 6th April 2021 in the US. (ISBN 1541673859) It’s been translated, edited, and annotated by the British classicist Robin Waterfield.

Waterfield will be familiar to many readers as the translator of numerous Greek classics. His edition of this particular text begins with a fairly detailed and helpful introduction, about 46 pages long, which tells us about Marcus’ life, the writing of The Meditations, and the Stoic philosophy upon which it’s based.

The translation itself is a welcome addition to the array of modern translations available such as those by Martin Hammond, Gregory Hays and Robin Hard. It’s a very readable modern translation, and faithful to the original Greek.

What really make this edition stand out, though, are the annotations. Each chapter begins with an introduction, commenting on the style and content. There are multiple footnotes for most of the passages of the text, explaining the meaning of obscure references, commenting on the Greek, making links with other related passages, and generally shedding light on Marcus’ meaning throughout the text. Waterfield also includes a helpful appendix with a list of the people mentioned in The Meditations, and brief biographical details about them, where available.

I’m frequently asked the question: “which is the best translation of The Meditations to get?” I think this edition will suit most people’s needs. It’s very readable but the introduction will also help many readers to better understand the context in which the text was written. The annotations will be extremely beneficial as a way of clarifying some of the more obscure passages. It’s also an indispensable resource for scholars, especially where connections are made with related parts of the same text. Some of Waterfield’s remarks about Marcus’ words are quite insightful. Overall, therefore, I think it’s a good investment.

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