Ken's Reviews > Marcus Aurelius: A Life

Marcus Aurelius by Frank McLynn
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's review
Aug 09, 2011

Marcus Aurelius has been said to be the greatest of the Roman emperors and the author concurs with this, although he says there is not much competition on this score. Aurelius's accomplishments were mostly in the military sphere in holding back the German tribes and scoring some successes against the Parthians (A group I have known little about and I found out why-They were mostly a collection of tribes and left little record of themselves. ) Other emperors have scored well in this area, but what put Marcus over the top as the best emperor were his writings. Much of the book discussed his philosophy and we find out that his writings influenced such writers as Augustine, Boethius and Kempis. Nonetheless, Aurelius and his principate seemed to be leading to the decline and fall of the empire. Some of that is due to his conservatism infused by his Stoic philosophy led him to be unable to tackle any of the problems creatively. Instead he mostly seemed concerned that the social order stayed the same. In his reign the Equestrians did have some upward mobility, yet this is mostly due to the great plague of the age. One of the three most famous of all time-The Antonine plague. The author stated that this plague was so catastrophic that in some ways the empire never recovered. It cut heavily into the manpower and damaged the two economic areas Rome had some power-agriculture and mining. Already a lot of the specie was being sent to China to pay for silks, spices and other luxury goods. Now, with so many slaves dying in the plague and the problems starting in Spain the Romans had less ability to pay for these luxury goods. Nonetheless the money kept flowing East and also into the ever increasing army needed to deal with the barbarian threats. While the empire was increasing in size the slaves flowed in, but at this point the slaves from outside the empire would stop. Rome would pay for its reliance on slavery. Furthermore, the increase in the army would lead to its increasing influence in politics and its ability to put in the emperor they chose-And it normally was a pretty pathetic one. Marcus A did not know how to deal with the economic and social problems affecting the empire and what little he and other emperors like Diocletian did not have salutary results.

Marcus A persecuted the Christian more than any of the "Good Emperors" and the bigotry towards them was due to the feeling that they were atheists. The idea of a worldwide

religion did not make sense to them.

New Vocabulary----valetudinarians---scrimshankers---betimes---petito principii--fetial---mission creep----dirigisme--autarky----moral panic---quotidian---effective demand---dithyrambic----EXPRESSIONS---"Success has 100 fathers and failure is an orphans"---Let the heavens fall, provided justice is done." If yowill realize from



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