Marcus Aurelius: A Life

Marcus Aurelius: A Life

by Frank McLynn
     
 

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Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) is one of the great figures of antiquity whose life and words still speak to us today, nearly two thousand yean after his death. His Meditations remains one of the most widely read books from the classical world, and his life represents the fulfillment of Plato's famous dictum that mankind will prosper only when philosophers are rulers.

Overview

Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) is one of the great figures of antiquity whose life and words still speak to us today, nearly two thousand yean after his death. His Meditations remains one of the most widely read books from the classical world, and his life represents the fulfillment of Plato's famous dictum that mankind will prosper only when philosophers are rulers.

Frank McLnn's Marcus Aurelius, based on all available original sources, is the definitive and most vivid biography to date of this monumental historical figure.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Pat Buchanan once said that George W. Bush was no Marcus Aurelius, while Bill Clinton claimed that he read and reread Aurelius' Meditations as president. McLynn, author of biographies of figures from Napoleon to Jung, argues that the emperor and Stoic philosopher satisfies a thirst for guidance that modern philosophers have largely abandoned. But McLynn fails to make his case in a book that veers between biography and a defense of an emperor more famous for his words than for his actions. Drawing on Aurelius' Meditations, letters with his tutor and other ancient sources of disputed authenticity, McLynn ploddingly narrates Aurelius' rise to emperor in 161 C.E.—a role to which he was, McLynn acknowledges, temperamentally unsuited—and the challenges he faced, mostly unsuccessfully, during his 19-year reign. Attempting to protect the Roman Empire from the German barbarians, for example, he gave land to these foreign tribes. This strategy backfired, creating new economic and social divisions. Marcus Aurelius emerges from McLynn's biography as a disappointing political figure who could do nothing to unite the Roman Empire in its waning days and who remains most memorable for his aphorisms, such as “By a tranquil mind I mean a well-ordered one.” 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The life of this Roman emperor and stoic philosopher, author of the Meditations, remains relevant (President Clinton claimed to have read him while in office). In this interesting account of Marcus's life and writings, McLynn (Richard and John: Kings at War) clearly mines his own published expertise on other persons and eras for comparisons—more than are really useful, but they provide helpful road maps to readers unfamiliar with the arcane world of the Antonine emperors. With his frequent digressions, and his evident enjoyment in arguing, McLynn's book is too long, but he does provide a substantial introduction to a man who "still speaks to us today." While recommended for lovers of history, philosophy, and things Greco-Roman, this Marcus Aurelius may defeat general readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306819162
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/10/2010
Edition description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Pages:
720
Sales rank:
610,255
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.90(d)

Meet the Author


Frank McLynn is the author of many critically acclaimed biographies, including Richard & John and Napoleon. He has been a visiting professor at Strathclyde University. He lives in England.

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