Happy Birthday From Marcus Aurelius

Birthday Greetings From Marcus to Fronto

Birthday Greetings From Marcus to Fronto

In 1815, the Italian scholar Angelo Mai discovered a cache of letters between Marcus Cornelius Fronto and several of his friends, including Marcus Aurelius.

One of these letters is basically a birthday greeting from Marcus to Fronto, believed to have been written around 140–143 AD, when Marcus would have been a young Caesar, somewhere between nineteen and twenty-two years old.

The tone of Marcus’ letters is generally strikingly affectionate and, indeed, he says in The Meditations “From Fronto I learned… that generally those among us who are called Patricians are rather deficient in natural affection.” (1.11), which suggests that Fronto taught him how to display greater affection toward his friends and family.

Hail, my best of masters.

I knew that on everyone’s birthday his friends undertake vows for him whose birthday it is. I, however, since I love you as myself, wish to offer up on this day, which is your birthday, hearty prayers for myself.

I call, therefore, with my vows to hear me each one of all the Gods, who anywhere in the world provide present and prompt help for men; who anywhere give their aid and shew their power in dreams or mysteries, or healing, or oracles; and I place myself according to the nature of each vow in that spot where the god who is invested with that power may the more readily hear.

Therefore I now first climb the citadel of the God of Pergamum and beseech Aesculapius [the god of healing] to bless my master’s health and mightily protect it.

Thence I pass on to Athens and, clasping Minerva [Athena, goddess of wisdom] by her knees, I entreat and pray that, if ever I know aught of letters, this knowledge may find its way into my breast from the lips of none other than Fronto.

Now I return to Rome and implore with vows the gods that guard the roads and patrol the seas that in every journey of mine you may be with me, and I be not worn out with so constant, so consuming a desire for you.

Lastly, I ask all the tutelary deities of all the nations, and the very grove, whose rustling fills the Capitoline Hill, to grant us this, that I may keep with you this day, on which you were born for me, with you in good health and spirits.

Farewell, my sweetest and dearest of masters. I beseech you, take care of yourself, that when I come I may see you. My Lady greets you.

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