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An account of the life and works of marcus aurelius

See Article History Alternative Titles: Marcus thus was related to several of the most prominent families of the new Roman establishment, which had consolidated its social and political power under the Flavian emperors 69—96and, indeed, the ethos of that establishment is relevant to his own actions and attitudes. The governing class of the first age of the Roman Empire, the Julio-Claudianhad been little different from that of the late Republic: The new establishment, however, was largely of municipal and provincial origin—as were its emperors—cultivating sobriety and good works and turning more and more to piety and religiosity.

Marcus Aurelius, bas-relief depicting his triumphal entry into Rome in a quadriga; in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome. How he came to the throne, however, remains a mystery.

  • However, Marcus died on March 17, —never to see the final victory over the Germans;
  • Marcus Aurelius had an extraordinary education;
  • You are the very thing I was looking for.

In the emperor Hadrian reigned — inexplicably announced as his eventual successor a certain Lucius Ceionius Commodus henceforth L. Aelius Caesarand in that same year young Marcus was engaged to Ceionia Fabia, the daughter of Commodus.

Early inhowever, Commodus died, and later, after the death of Hadrian, the engagement was annulled. Marcus thus was marked out as a future joint emperor at the age of just under 17, though, as it turned out, he was not to succeed until his 40th year. Although the main society literary figure of the age, Fronto was a dreary pedant whose blood an account of the life and works of marcus aurelius rhetoricbut he must have been less lifeless than he now appears, for there is genuine feeling and real communication in the letters between him and both of the young men.

It was to the credit of Marcus, who was intelligent as well as hardworking and serious-minded, that he grew impatient with the unending regime of advanced exercises in Greek and Latin declamation and eagerly embraced the Diatribai Discourses of a religious former slave, Epictetusan important moral philosopher of the Stoic school.

Henceforth, it was in philosophy that Marcus was to find his chief intellectual interest as well as his spiritual nourishment.

Meanwhile, there was work enough to do at the side of the untiring Antoninus, with learning the business of government and assuming public roles. Marcus was consul in, and His adoptive brother, nearly 10 years his junior, was brought into official prominence in due time.

On March 7,at a time when the brothers were jointly consuls for the third and the second time, respectivelytheir father died. Roman emperor The transition was smooth as far as Marcus was concerned; already possessing the essential constitutional powers, he stepped automatically into the role of full emperor and his name henceforth was Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus.

At his own insistence, however, his adoptive brother was made coemperor with him and bore henceforth the name Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus.

Marcus Aurelius and the Key to Happiness

There is no evidence that Lucius Verus had much of a following, so a ruthless rival could have easily disposed of him, though to leave him in being as anything less than emperor might have created a focus for disaffection. For the first time in historythe Roman Empire had two joint emperors of formally equal constitutional status and powers, but, although the achievement of Lucius Verus has suffered by comparison with the paragon Marcus, it seems probable that the serious work of government was done throughout by Marcus and was the more arduous in that it was done during most of his reign in the midst of fighting frontier wars and combating the effects of plague and demoralization.

Marcus Aurelius and the Key to Happiness

For constructive statesmanship or the initiation of original trends in civil policy, Marcus had little time or energy to spare. The field most congenial to him seems an account of the life and works of marcus aurelius have been the law.

Numerous measures were promulgated and judicial decisions made, clearing away harshnesses and anomalies in the civil lawimproving in detail the lot of the less-favoured—slaves, widows, minors—and giving recognition to claims of blood relationship in the field of succession see inheritance. The pattern of ameliorating legislation was inherited rather than novel, and the measures were refinements rather than radical changes in the structure of law or society; Marcus was not a great legislator, but he was a devoted practitioner of the role of ombudsman.

Moreover, there was nothing specifically Stoic about this legal activity, and in one respect the age of Antoninus Pius and Marcus signalizes a retrogression in the relationship of law to society, for under them there either began or was made more explicit a distinction of classes in the criminal law —honestiores and humiliores—with two separate scales of punishments for crime, harsher and more degrading for the humiliores at every point.

Although Marcus disliked the Christians, there was no systematic persecution of them during his reign. Their legal status remained as it had been under Trajan reigned 98— and Hadrian: Christians were ipso facto punishable but not to be sought out. This incongruous position did little harm in times of general security and prosperity, but when either of these were threatened, the local population might denounce Christians, a governor might be forced to act, and the law, as the central authority saw it, must then run its course.

Marcus Aurelius Biography

The martyrdoms at Lyon in were of this nature, and, though it appears that Christian blood flowed more profusely in the reign of Marcus the philosopher than it had before, he was not an initiator of persecution. In Syria was invaded by the Parthians, a major power to the east. The war that followed — was nominally under the command of Verus, though its successful conclusion, with the overrunning of Armenia and Mesopotamiawas the work of subordinate generals, notably Gaius Avidius Cassius.

The returning armies brought back with them a plaguewhich raged throughout the empire for many years and—together with the German invasion—fostered a weakening of morale in minds accustomed to the stability and apparent immutability of Rome and its empire. In or Marcus and Verus together set out on a punitive expedition across the Danubeand behind their backs a horde of German tribes invaded Italy in massive strength and besieged Aquileiaon the crossroads at the head of the Adriatic.

The military precariousness of the empire and the inflexibility of its financial structure in the face of emergencies now stood revealed; desperate measures were adopted to fill the depleted legions, and imperial property was auctioned to provide funds. Marcus and Verus fought the Germans off with success, but in Verus died suddenly, and doubtless naturally, of a stroke. Three years of fighting were still needed, with Marcus in the thick of it, to restore the Danubian frontier, and three more an account of the life and works of marcus aurelius of campaigning in Bohemia were enough to bring the tribes beyond the Danube to peace, at least for a time.

The Meditations A more intimate contact with the thoughts pursued by Marcus during the troubling involvements of his reign, though not what would have been historically most valuable, his day-to-day political thoughts, can be acquired by reading the Meditations.

To what extent he intended them for eyes other than his own is uncertain; they are fragmentary notes, discursive and epigrammatic by turn, of his reflections in the midst of campaigning and administration.

  • Normally, I enjoy a good romp through intellectual history, comparing Aurelius' Meditations to Augustine's Confessions, even if I disagree;
  • In a group of tribes crossed the Danube River, destroyed a Roman army, and successfully conquered a city in Italy;
  • The returning armies brought back with them a plague , which raged throughout the empire for many years and—together with the German invasion—fostered a weakening of morale in minds accustomed to the stability and apparent immutability of Rome and its empire;
  • When he was a child, the emperor Hadrian 76— noticed him and made a word play on his name, Verus meaning "true" , by calling him Verissimus meaning "truest" for his strong sense of morals;
  • Stoicism was a complex philosophy that advised people to find happiness by living in harmony with the universe and by doing their part to better the world—without worries about fate or about things they were unable to control.

In a way, it seems, he wrote them to nerve himself for his daunting responsibilities. Strikingly, though they comprise the innermost thoughts of a Roman, the Meditations were written in Greek—to such an extent had the union of cultures become a reality. In many ages these thoughts have been admired; the modern age, however, is more likely to be struck by the pathology of them, their mixture of priggishness and hysteria.

Marcus was forever proposing to himself unattainable goals of conduct, forever contemplating the triviality, brutishness, and transience of the physical world and of humanity in general and himself in particular; otherworldly, yet believing in no other world, he was therefore tied to duty and service with no hope, even of everlasting fame, to sustain him.

Sickly all through his life and probably plagued with a chronic ulcer, he took daily doses of a drug; the suggestion has been made that the apocalyptic imagery of passages in the Meditations betrays the addict. The Meditations, the thoughts of a philosopher-king, have been considered by many generations one of the great books of all times. They are basically the moral tenets of Stoicismlearned from Epictetus: But he did not deviate so far as to accept the comfort of any kind of survival after death.

At the same time that Marcus was securing his trans-Danubian frontiers, Egypt, Spain, and Britain were troubled by rebellions or invasions.

Marcus Aurelius

Bythe general Avidius Cassius, who earlier had served under Verus, had virtually become a prefect of all of the eastern provinces, including control of the important province of Egypt. Marcus made peace in the north with those tribes not already subjugated and prepared to march against Avidius, but the rebel general was assassinated by his own soldiers. Marcus used the opportunity to make a tour of pacification and inspection in the East, visiting AntiochAlexandriaand Athens —where, like Hadrian, he was initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries though that esoteric religious cult does not seem to have impinged at all upon his philosophical views.

During the journey the empress Faustina, who had been with her husband in the Danubian wars as well, died. Great public honours were bestowed upon her in life and in death, and in his Meditations Marcus spoke of her with love and admiration. The ancient sources accuse her of infidelity and disloyalty an account of the life and works of marcus aurelius, in fact, with Avidius Cassiusbut the charges are implausible.

In Marcus proclaimed his year-old son, Commodusjoint emperor. Together they resumed the Danubian wars. His determination seemed to be winning success when, inhe died at his military headquarters, having just had time to commend Commodus to the chief advisers of the regime. Commodus as Hercules, marble bust; in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Commodus reigned as sole emperor — turned out badly, though two things must be borne in mind: This is historically untenable. Marcus had no choice in the matter: Marcus was a statesman, perhaps, but one of no great calibre; nor was he really a sage.

In general, he is a historically overrated figure, presiding in a bewildered way over an empire beneath the gilt of which there already lay many a decaying patch. But his personal nobility and dedication survive the most remorseless scrutiny; he counted the cost obsessively, but he did not shrink from paying it.