The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius - PDF ebook -Translated by Meric Casaubon,

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius  

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius 




Marcus Aurelius was born on April 26, a.d. 121. His real name was M, Annius Verus, and he was sprung of a noble family that claimed descent from Numa, second King of Rome. Thus the most religious of emperors came of the blood of the most pious of early kings. His father, Annius Verus, had held high office in Rome, and his grandfather, of the same name, had been thrice Consul. Both his parents died young, but Marcus held them in loving remembrance.
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Courage to encounter the fiercest boars. At the same time, he was kept from the extravagancies of his day. The great excitement in Rome was the strife of the Factions, as they were called, in the circus. The racing drivers used to adopt one of four colours red, blue, white, or green and their partisans showed an eagerness in supporting them which nothing could surpass. Riot and corruption went in the train of the racing chariots, and from all these things Marcus held severely aloof. In 140 Marcus was raised to the consulship, and in 145 his betrothal was consummated by marriage. T

wo years later Faustina brought him a daughter, and soon after the tribunate and other imperial honours were conferred upon him. Antoninus Pius died in 161, and Marcus assumed the imperial state. He at once associated with himself L. Ceionius Commodus, whom Antoninus had adopted as a younger son at the same time with Marcus, giving him the name of Lucius Aurelius Verus.

 Henceforth the two are colleagues in the empire, the junior being trained as it were to succeed. No sooner was Marcus settled upon the throne than wars broke out on all sides. In the east, Vologeses III. of Parthia began a long-meditated revolt by destroying a whole Roman Legion and invading Syria (162). Verus was sent off in hot haste to quell this rising; and he fulfilled his trust by plunging into drunkenness and debauchery, while the war was left to his officers. 

Soon after Marcus had to face a more serious danger at home in the coalition of several powerful tribes on the northern frontier. Chief among those were the Marcomanni or Marchmen, the Quadi (mentioned in this book), the Sarmatians, the Catti, the Jazyges. In Rome itself, there was pestilence and starvation, the one brought from the east by Verus s legions, the other caused by floods that had destroyed vast quantities of grain. 

After all, had been done possible to allay famine and to supply pressing needs Marcus being forced even to sell the imperial jewels to find money both emperors set forth a struggle which was to continue more or less during the rest of Marcus s Introduction xi reign. During these wars, in 169, Verus died. We have no means of following the campaigns in detail; but thus much is certain, that in the end the Romans succeeded in crushing the barbarian tribes, and effecting a settlement that made the empire more secure. Marcus was himself commander-in-chief, and victory was due no less to his own ability than to his wisdom in the choice of lieutenants, shown conspicuously in the case of Pertinax. 

There were several important battles fought in these campaigns, and one of them has become celebrated for the legend of the Thundering Legion. In a battle against the Quadi in 174, the day seemed to be going in favor of the foe, when on a sudden arose a great storm of thunder and rain: the lightning struck the barbarians with terror, and they turned to rout. In later days this storm was said to have been sent in answer to the prayers of a legion that contained many Christians, and the name Thundering Legion should be given to it on this account. 

The title of Thundering Legion is known at an earlier date, so this part of the story at least cannot be true; but the aid of the storm is acknowledged by one of the scenes carved on Antonine s Column at Rome, which commemorates these wars. The settlement made after these troubles might have been more satisfactory but for an unexpected rising in the east. Avidius Cassius, an able captain who had won renown in the Parthian wars, was at this time chief governor of the eastern provinces. By whatever means induced, he had conceived the project of proclaiming himself emperor as soon as Marcus, who was then in feeble health, should die; and a report having been conveyed to him that Marcus was dead, Cassius did as he had planned. Marcus, on hearing the news, immediately patched up a peace and returned home to meet this new peril. 

The emperor s great grief was that he must need to engage in the horrors of civil strife. He praised the qualities of Cassius and expressed a heartfelt wish that Cassius might not be driven to do himself a hurt before he should have the opportunity to grant a free pardon. But before he could come to the east news had come to Cassius that the emperor still lived; his follower were away from him, and he was assassinated. Marcus now went to the east, and while there the murderers brought the head of Cassius to him; but the emperor indignantly refused their gift, nor would he admit the men to his presence. On this journey, his wife, Faustina, died. At his return, the emperor celebrated a triumph (176). Immediately afterwards he repaired to Germany and took up once more the burden of war. His operations were followed by complete success; but the troubles of late years had been too much for his constitution, at no time robust, and on March 17, 1 80, he died in Pannonia.

 The good emperor was not spared domestic troubles. Faustina had borne him several children, of whom he was passionately fond. Their innocent faces may still be seen in many a sculpture gallery, recalling with odd effect the dreamy countenance of their father. But they died one by one, and when Marcus came to his own end only one of his sons still lived the weak and worthless 

Commodus. On his father s death Commodus, who succeeded him, undid the work of many campaigns by a hasty and unwise peace; and his reign of twelve years proved him to be a ferocious and bloodthirsty tyrant. The scandal has made free with the name of Faustina herself, who is accused not only of unfaithfulness but of intriguing with Cassius and egging him on to his fatal rebellion. It must be admitted that these charges rest on no sure evidence; and the emperor, at all events, loved her dearly, nor ever felt the slightest qualm of suspicion.

Meric Casaubon, son of Isaac Casaubon, was a French-English classical scholar. He was the first to translate Meditations by Marcus Aurelius into English.


Author: Marcus Aurelius
Translator: Meric Casaubon
Date: 1900

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