I'm looking for a short and modern translation of this quote from Aurelius' Meditations Book 5. (No original Latin as Aurelius wrote in Greek.)

For context, the full quote is "In a sense, people are our proper occupation. Our job is to do them good and put up with them. But when they obstruct our proper tasks, they become irrelevant to us -- like sun, wind, animals. Our actions may be impeded by them, but there can be no impeding our intentions or our dispositions. Because we can accommodate and adapt. The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way." The idea: there is no single fixed path to achieve anything; believing so only causes pain. In rationally confronting whatever stands in your way, you will find the solution that lets you continue.

For a pithy translation of 'the obstacle is the way,' I have seen 'ex impedimento via' suggested. Are there any other possibilities to consider?

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    To represent what Marcus Aurelius wrote into Latin, it would be good to quote the original Greek; i.e,, rather than trying to represent what he wrote in Latin from an English version of his Greek, it would be good to try to go directly from Greek into Latin.
    – varro
    Nov 3, 2018 at 0:28
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    Thank you varro, you are right of course. I am hardly equipped to quote the original Greek! I'm not a scholar or classicist by any means; rather, I'm an overworked corporate schlep who had a personal epiphany on the way to work one morning and is now plotting a wrist tattoo to keep her resolve. I found this link to a very old Greek-Latin side by side after some digging, if it is helpful? It is the last few sentences of book 5, verse 20. hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433022674935?urlappend=%3Bseq=105
    – LCA
    Nov 3, 2018 at 3:01

1 Answer 1


The Greek text is as follows:

πρὸ ὁδοῦ [γίνεται] τὸ τῆς ὁδοῦ ταύτης ἐνστατικόν.

And it might be translated into English as:

What obstructs the way becomes for the way.

So in Latin it might be translated as:

Quod obstat viae fit pro via.

You could probably eliminate the pro and write it as:

Quod obstat viae fit via.

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    Thanks Expedito, with this I can see the translation clearly into the English. It's only a couple letters longer than the original suggestion - not much extra needle pain, thank goodness!What do you make of the original suggestion, "Ex impedimento via" which I understand to be something like "by means of the impediment, (comes) the path"? It has an air of familiarity - the phrase deus ex machina is known to a lot of people. But I wondered if it was comprehensible & reasonably coherent with Aurelius' intentions.
    – LCA
    Nov 3, 2018 at 3:44
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    Isn't obstare intransitive? That is, shouldn't the object be dative instead of accusative?
    – cnread
    Nov 3, 2018 at 5:33
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    @LCA. Please note the correction I made, and, yes, I think ex impedimento via basically captures the idea. Nov 3, 2018 at 9:12
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    "fit" has the meaning of "is made" - not simply "becomes"- and thus expresses more accurately the Stoic understanding of Man's participation in Man's own life...
    – Svetlana
    Apr 22, 2019 at 18:28
  • Quod erat demonstrandum. Some high quality exchanges on this stack.
    – G. Cito
    Sep 17, 2023 at 1:08

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