Friday, February 10, 2006

LitWeb.net - Marcus Aurelius

LitWeb.net - Marcus Aurelius. This is a short biography by Petri Liukkonen of Marcus Aurelius who was the 2nd-century Roman emperor, Stoic philosopher and author of the twelve-volume Meditations.

Considered one of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Marcus Aurelius also has been noted as one of the best ancient philosophers as well. Most people today remember Marcus Aurelius as the elderly man played by Richard Harris in the movie Gladiator. However, he had a long and successful rule.

Modern and ancient criticism of the Marcus Aurelius focuses on the fact he persecuted Christians (which was the norm for Roman rulers at the time) and that he had the bad sense to allow his son Commodus to follow him on the throne.

From the site:

Marcus Aurelius was born in Rome as a descendent of Roman ancestors. When only a small child, he attracted the attention of the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) - a paedophile. He was appointed by the Emperor to the priesthood in 129, and Hadrian also supervised his education. Marcus Aurelius was taught by the most able teachers of the time. The Emperor Antonius, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son. He was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147 he shared tribunician power with Antonius. During this time he began composition of his Meditations.

In 161 Marcus Aurelius ascended the throne and shared his imperial power with his adopted brother Lucius Aurelius Verus. Useless and lazy, Verus was regarded as a kind of junior emperor, but he died in 169. After Verus's death he ruled alone, until he admitted his own son, Commodus, to full participation in the government in 177.

As an emperor Marcus Aurelius was conservative and just by Roman standards. He was beset by internal disturbances - famines and plagues - and by the external threat posed by the Germans in the north and the Parthians in the east. Toward the end of his reign he was faced with a revolt by Avidius Cassius, whom he praised and attempted to accommodate. Faustina, Marcus Aurelius's wife, may have been involved in this conspiracy. As, year after year, he witnessed the gradual crumbling of the Roman frontiers, he turned more and more to study of Stoic philosophy.

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