Thursday, December 30, 2010

People You Should Know: Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius ascended to the crown of Emperor of the Roman Empire in 161 A.D as a co-emperor. When his co-emperor died in 168 be became sole emperor of Rome. Now us Americans hate terms like "king" or "emperor" we instantly think of bloodthirsty tyrants. But many considered Aurelius "the last good emperor of Rome".

Aurelius is historically known as a man of the people. The people, specifically the poor of Rome greatly benefitted from his reign. He built more schools, hospitals, orphanages than any other emperor (from my understanding). He also saw to bring fairness in slavery.

Looking to force slaveholders to treat their slaves better by creating laws and other regulations to ensure the human treatment of slaves. It is assumed that Aurelius was an emperor to be proud of during that time. While under his watch Rome fell into a recession due to the Roman love of war. These long wars cost a ton of money (just as they do today) and Aurelius needed to bring forth funds to pay his soldiers. Instead of doing what our gov would do (tax the hell out of us) it was said Aurelius sold his personal belongings! When Rome achieved victory he used money gained from victory to buy back what he sold. Some people preferred to keep the emperors things and he was fine with that. This is incredible considering he could have just ordered his belongings returned to him by force.

Aurelius was known as an emperor for the people but the thing Aurelius is known for most is his fantastic writing. Specifically his master work "The Meditations" where the Emperor shared his philosophy on life.

The Meditations is considered classic text and a building block in creating "stoic philosophy". Aurelius philosophy championed such virtues as: wisdom, justice, fortitude and moderation. He believe that "morality leads to tranquility" and being tranquil and moral should be mans ultimate goal in life (I will share some quotes from this text later).

Like almost all Romans of the time it is said Aurelius greatly disliked Christianity. But unlike other emperors Aurelius never hunted for Christians in order to persecute them. Sad to say people found practicing Christianity were punished by death and more Christians were executed during his reign than any other but on the other side of the story it was also said Aurelius never initiated the martyrdom of Christian practitioners.

Marcus Aurelius died 180 A.D of a mysterious disease some believe he caught the plague. Although completely Roman is his love for expanding Roman imperialism, killing Christians, and subjugation of peoples after his conquest of them. Aurelius was considered kind, morally upright, and a lover of justice.

Marcus Aurelius Emperor of The Roman Empire from 161-180 is a person you need to know. But why? What makes Aurelius relevant to today? I would say the idea of having an intellectual leader is one foreign to our contemporary society, nay our modern world. In a world where men are driven by agenda and not justice, where leaders treat their followers like expendable trash an emperor, a term, a title we are taught to hate still created a following by not only expanding his empire, not only by expanding his own purse, but also by expanding his mind and the hearts of the citizens.

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