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Marius the Epicurean

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  455 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
It was as a critic and a humanist that Pater (1839-1894), professor at Oxford, became a powerful influence on his own and succeeding generations, claiming disciples as diverse as Virginia Woolf and Ezra Pound. This has been described as "the most highly finished of all his works and the expression of his deepest thought". It is the story of Marius, the grave and thoughtful ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 320 pages
Published January 7th 1986 by Penguin Books (first published 1885)
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Bill  Kerwin

Somerset Maugham once dismissed this book as “boring.” But other great books are “boring” too. I have read—and enjoyed—Moby Dick and Ulysses, but there are passages in each that—at least for me--never fail to bring out the yawns. (The worst come when Melville channels Shakespeare, when Joyce visits a Dublin whorehouse.)

Marius the Epicurean is the account of the coming of age of a young patrician in the age of Marcus Aurelius. Like its near contemporary, Huysmans' Against Nature, it contains a ri
Oct 10, 2013 James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, favorites
Walter Pater achieved something magnificent and rare with this novel. The book itself is hard to classify. It’s a novel of ideas (or rather a history of ideas disguised as a novel), but also a Bildungsroman. And yet, it also feels quite distinct from either of these genres. Perhaps that is because of the way it is narrated, with its remote third-person voice that eschews realism, that opts instead for a biographical tone more suitable to Pater’s style of intensive intellectual perambulation, ref ...more
Roxana Russo
Jul 19, 2016 Roxana Russo rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My favorite novel of all time. I will admit that it requires some classical erudition for full appreciation (philosophy and knowledge on the court of Marcus Aurelius), however great aesthetic pleasure can be had without it.
What I enjoyed most about the novel was Marius' explorations through different philosophical systems via men. This novel is intensely homosocial; all of his profound intellectual experiences come from relationships with other males, beautiful in their dignity and knowledge. T
Dec 01, 2008 John rated it really liked it
I may say I read an old Everyman copy, not the recent Penguin. I have owned this for many years but finally read it. It is not so much a historical novel as a philosophical meditation in the form of a historical novel -- about as far from what my mother called the "lusty, busty, gusty"
style as it is posssible to be. In effect, it is a working out in story form of Lorenzo Valla's argument that Epicureanism
is closer to Christianity than Stoicism is.
Since Pater was a noted writer on the Renaissance
Jun 27, 2007 Nothing rated it it was amazing
Simultaneously the most boring, prolix, pointless and yet wondrous Bildungsroman ever written. Not of our time.
Chet Herbert
eloquence murdered by commas
Aug 21, 2013 Steven rated it liked it
Shelves: home-inventory
I'm torn about this book. One could read this as a treatment of Rome's decline and the rise of Christianity: a fictive history, I suppose, through the eyes of Marius. You could also read it as a history of ideas. Embodied in the character of Marcus Aurelius is the stoic philosophy of detachment and high reason. Embodied in the character of Marius' childhood friend, Flavius, and later, Cornelius, is the Epicurean virtue of reason abstracted from experience based in the real world. Marius wrestles ...more
Aug 14, 2014 Eric marked it as to-read
Submitted this as a third entry to the Gaddis Annotations (I've one here, another here) though it doesn't appear to have made an appearance there. Basically, Gaddis got the immortal line--the one about the procession, which makes a tangle of the opening paragraph--from Pater's novel. If you will:

"But for the monotonous intonation of the liturgy by the priests, clad in their strange, stiff, antique vestments, and bearing ears of green corn upon their heads, secured by flowing bands of white, the
Colin Heber-Percy
I'd been looking forward to reading this. And I'm afraid I was disappointed. There are some wonderful aspects to Marius the Epicurean - especially his extraordinary evocation of Rome and the empire under Marcus Aurelius. But the fabled prose! It's clotted and turgid and stifling. You're dying of thirst and the only thing to drink is Cointreau. Sticky and thick and sends you to sleep.
Monty Milne
Jan 07, 2017 Monty Milne rated it liked it
This is an overwritten, overwrought book by a Victorian bachelor Oxford don trying to wrestle up his weak Christian convictions and wrestle down his obvious homoerotic desires, all infused with a bittersweet nostalgia for the pagan past and the philosophers and poets of classical antiquity. There are times in my life when I would have lapped this up and thought it wonderful; but no longer. I read it in the depths of winter (and often brought to mind the face of Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius ...more
Helen Murray
Oct 04, 2016 Helen Murray rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My classmates in Decadence and the Modern tend to disagree with me, but I absolutely loved this book. Projected onto the loose narrative of a Roman's man coming of age and entrance into intellectual maturity, it has profoundly affected my aesthetic sensibilities and perceptions of subjectivity. The very textual elements my peers found to criticise here are what I love about the novel: it is true that there is only a very loose episodic narrative. Time is not clearly delineated; there is little d ...more
Sep 18, 2016 Richard rated it it was amazing
Shelves: powys-100
A unique and brilliant book, extraordinarily difficult and painstaking to read. A lot of deep Greek philosophy and side bars into other areas. Seems to be autobiographical in parts, but really there’s nothing else like this writer. Recommended for the truly cultured.
Sep 26, 2014 E.J. rated it really liked it
After becoming fascinated by the writers of the Decadent Movement of the 1890s, I finally decided to read the novel so often lauded as the inspiration for the movement itself. Pater's prose is indeed lovely, but it has a dated heaviness common to its Victorian time. More than that, however, this is a novel of a Classical academic, full of references beyond the reach of anyone who is unfamiliar with Ancient Greek and Roman Classicism. Even so, Pater's descriptions of the waning years of Ancient R ...more
Aug 06, 2012 Clayton rated it it was amazing
Another of the "Dorian Gray" books, Marius the Epicurean shows itself a very strong influence on Wilde. Wilde's rambunctious prose is anticipated in Pater's book, and there are very few passages that don't sheer, unquestionable style. The story of a young man experimenting with the various philosophies and religions of Ancient Rome on his search for happiness, Marius the Epicurean is alternately sad and fascinating, and Pater guides the reader through Marius's journey of discovery while explorin ...more
May 29, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
This is a quiet book. I suspect Pater was trying to bring to life a world of the past that represented a possible better future.

The profound feeling for nature and for tradition. The genuinely "liberal" education which made a young patrician man grow up independent and thoughtful. The deep love and friendship between men who were kindred philosophical spirits, the classical reverence for friendship. The Epicurean philosophy -- which, the way Pater describes it, has an eerily modern information-
Jul 19, 2013 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best works of fiction I've read and some of the finest prose. Every moment - every epiphanic description - exists for its own sake and not just to further the plot.
The work's weakness, though, is its philosophical untidiness. There seemed to be a multitude of special perceptive moments but in the end I couldn't summarize the author's main point. And Pater also makes naive mistakes when interpreting Aurelius' "Meditations" - for example, he confuses the idea of non-resistance with a l
James Violand
Jul 02, 2014 James Violand rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone.
Shelves: own
A Roman searches for a faith that satisfies and visits various places to taste each. Often, he is confused for a Christian during persecution and at his death, those caring for him assume he is one by his gentleness. A good read and an interesting journey for a philosopher.
Virgowriter (Brad Windhauser)
Jul 20, 2016 Virgowriter (Brad Windhauser) rated it did not like it
Hated this book. Nothing happens. Perhaps some interesting meditations on religions but not philosophizing does not make a novel. By today's standards the prose is annoyingly overwritten.
Mar 21, 2011 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: escuela
Amazingly boring. I think a piece of my soul died while reading this book. If you haven't heard of it until now, you now know why.
Martina rated it liked it
Apr 18, 2016
Charles A.
Charles A. rated it really liked it
Jan 11, 2017
Lynne Hanley
Lynne Hanley rated it liked it
Sep 19, 2011
Leanne Burnham
Leanne Burnham rated it it was ok
Aug 18, 2013
Fred rated it really liked it
Feb 27, 2013
Leta rated it it was ok
Jun 02, 2012
Shimaa Mw
Shimaa Mw rated it it was ok
Oct 24, 2014
Shazina rated it really liked it
Jan 31, 2016
Florentina rated it really liked it
Nov 02, 2015
David Rimanelli
David Rimanelli rated it really liked it
Oct 28, 2012
Lawrence Switzky
Lawrence Switzky rated it liked it
Oct 09, 2011
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“The younger, certainly, had to the full that charm
of a constitutional freshness of aspect which may
defy for a long time extravagant or erring habits of
life; a physiognomy healthy-looking, cleanly, and
firm, which seemed unassociable with any form of
self-tormenting, and made one think of the nozzle of
some young hound or roe, such as human beings
invariably like to stroke—with all the goodliness, that
is, of the finer sort of animalism, though still wholly
animal. It was the charm of the blond head, the
unshrinking gaze, the warm tints:—neither more
nor less than one may see every English summer, in
youth, manly enough, and with the stuff in it which
makes brave soldiers, in spite of the natural kinship
it seems to have with playthings and gay flowers.”
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