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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. 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. Based on all available

Overview

Marcus Aurelius (121–180 AD) is one of the great figures of antiquity whose life and words still speak to us today. 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. Based on all available original sources, Marcus Aurelius is the definitive 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.
From the Publisher
The New Criterion, April 2010
“McLynn’s biography of Marcus Aurelius matters…It is valuable as a striking instance of the persistence of Aurelian panegyric…The book’s most attractive quality [is] an intellectual ranginess that drives him to connect his subject with anything and everything, from any period of time and any culture…It’s fun to be in the hands of an author with a well-stocked mind and a generous, teacherly impulse to connect apparently disparate events and people. Marcus Aurelius offers that civilized pleasure.”

Magill Book Reviews
“[This] engrossing biography of Marcus Aurelius is intimidating in its learning, encompassing not only the Emperor’s life but also the history and culture of the empire in the second and third centuries…McLynn is no admirer of Marcus’s stoic philosophy but he explains its tenets well in a lengthy appendix and analyzes its role in Marcus’s actions.”

Choice, August 2010
“An enjoyable and informative book…Recommended.”
 

History,Oct/Nov 2010 “McLynn, using all available original sources as well as secondary scholarship, reveals a man who was a military and political mastermind as well as a philosopher.”

Publishers Weekly, 7/13/09
“[McLynn] argues that the emperor and Stoic philosopher satisfies a thirst for guidance that modern philosophers have largely abandoned.”

Booklist, 9/1/09
“[An] extensive examination…McLynn’s commitment to placing the reign in context…allows readers to learn why historians ancient and modern consider Marcus Aurelius’ reign (161–80) the apex of the Roman Empire.”

Tucson Citizen “Shelf Life” blog, 8/15/09
“McLynn sheds new light on a great man whose writings still resonate, even after more than 1,800 years.”

PopMatters.com, 9/8
“[McLynn] is a thoughtful and provocative writer. His work is marked by its deft use of language and a strong authorial voice that seeks to engage readers and dissuade passivity. His style is pointed [and] personal…McLynn uses Marcus’ life as a vehicle to illuminate the full breadth of Roman culture during this time…Marcus Aurelius: A Life provides readers a clear, immediate portal to the past, one that fully communicates the tone and tenor of the second century in a compelling, comprehensive narrative.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 9/9
“A riveting exploration of an extraordinary life...[An] historical page-turner…Aurelius comes back to life in the pages of McLynn’s latest treasure…A wonderful journey into the historical record guided by a talented narrative voice.”
 
Bookviews.com, September issue
“[McLynn’s] skill is evident and the subject is worth visiting and knowing.”

Infodad.com, 9/3
“Frank McLynn’s exhaustively researched biography of the emperor…places the emperor’s work firmly in the context of the wars and political events of his time—and makes that very remote era come alive…The philosophical underpinnings of Marcus’ thought are woven expertly by McLynn into the narrative of the Parthian and Germanic wars that dominated his reign…It is to McLynn’s considerable credit that he pulls so many strands of Marcus’ life and thinking so effectively together.”

January, online magazine, 9/16
“McLynn brings substantial credits and busloads of credibility with him to the writing desk…One gets the feeling that everything one reads in the book is correct…One never gets the feeling that Marcus Aurelius: A Life is not perfectly researched and accurately put down -- or, at least, as much as history will allow…If you want to discover all that is known about Marcus Aurelius and you only want to look in one place, this, then, is certainly it.”

“Talk of the Town” WTVF CBS, Nashville, 9/1
“The perfect biography for the lover of history and true greatness.”

Library Journal, 9/15
“[An] interesting account…Provide[s] a substantial introduction to a man who ‘still speaks to us today.’…Recommended for lovers of history, philosophy, and things Greco-Roman.”

Providence Journal, 10/4
“[A] huge, plum pudding of a book...This is not merely a biography of a ‘soldier, statesman and writer’ who fought great wars on two fronts, suppressed a perfidious rebellion and kept a brilliant, private log of his thoughts, the famous Meditations, which has deeply influenced Western thought for nearly two millennia. It is also a lengthy critique of Stoic philosophy; a disapproving socio-economic history of Second Century Rome; a highly judgmental review of what came before and after that period, plus takeouts on Roman health care, pandemics, religion, luxury, morals and literature.”

Sacremento Book Review, October issue
“A well-researched work duly apprised of the cultural, economic, and social tiers in play during the birth and youth of the future emperor, allowing a complete picture of the workings of Roman hierarchy…[McLynn] manages to bare the life of Marcus Aurelius in dedicated fashion, exposing some of the nagging discrepancies between the real man and the one often portrayed.” 

Curled Up With a Good Book
“Extremely detailed and well-researched…The information it delivers is extremely interesting…Fascinating stuff…Definitely worth the trip.”

Reference and Research Book News, November 2009
“The volume combines intellectual and political biography and draws a portrait of a man of consummate military, political, and intellectual talent whose relevance remains as vital as ever.”

Library Journal’s e-newsletter BookSmack!, 12/3/09
“As massive a doorstop as Tom Wolfe’s A Man in Full, this is as readable and thorough an examination of the life, reign, and times of Marcus Aurelius as an interested nonacademic is likely to find.”

Northeast Mississippi Sunday Journal, 1/3/2010
“Exhaustively researched…McLynn introduces many of the era’s most interesting personas…Surely the best book on Ancient Rome and her ‘noblest’ emperor since Suetonius and Plutarch wrote their lives of earlier emperors…An eloquent, indispensable study.”

The New Republic, 4/8/10
“A sprawling new biography…McLynn rightly emphasizes that we should be wary of seeing Marcus Aurelius as a modern humanitarian.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786745807
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
08/20/2009
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
720
Sales rank:
531,320
File size:
5 MB

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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