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Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus) (121-180)


Marcus Aurelius was born in Rome. He came from an aristocratic family long established in Spain. His father was Annius Verus. When only a small child, he attracted the attention of the Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138) - a pedophile and his fellow-countryman. He was appointed by the Emperor to a priesthood in 129, and Hadrian also supervised his education, which was entrusted to the best professors of literature, rhetoric and philosophy of the time. From his early twenties he deserted his other studies for philosophy. The Emperor Antoninus, who succeeded Hadrian, adopted Marcus Aurelius as his son in 138. He treated Aurelius as a confidant and helper throughout his reign. Aurelius was admitted to the Senate, and then twice the consulship. In 147 he shared tribunician power with Antoninus. During this time he began composition of his Meditations, which he wrote in Greek in army camps- Thus Book I is headed 'This among the Quadi on the Gran', and Book II 'Written at Carnuntum'.
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, in 175, 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. An epidemic of plague followed Cassius's army from the East. Year after year Aurelius tried to push barbarians back but witnessed the gradual crumbling of the Roman frontiers. In these times of disasters, he turned more and more to study of Stoic philosophy.
The Latin writings of Marcus Aurelius, letters to a teacher, Fronto, are not interesting, but the "Writings to Himself", called Meditations, are remarkable. They are personal reflections and aphorisms, written for his own edification during a long career of public service, after marching or battle in the remote Danube. Meditations are valuable primarily as a personal document, what it is to be a Stoic. His opinions in central philosophical questions are very much similar to Epictetus' (c. 55-135 AD) teachings. Epictetus's two basic principles were: Endure and Abstain. He stressed that inner freedom is to be attained through submission to providence, and rigorous detachment from everything not in our power.

Még ha háromezer vagy harmincezer évig élnél is, mégis gondold meg, hogy senki nem veszíthet el más életet, csak amit él, és nem élhet mást, csak amit elveszít. Egyre megy hát a leghosszabb és a legrövidebb élet. Mert a jelen mindenki számára egyre megy, az elmúlt idő pedig örökre a múlté. Sem a múltat, sem a jövőt el nem veszíthetjük. Hiszen hogyan is vehetné el valaki tőlünk azt, ami nem is a mienk?