I recently joined author Ryan Holiday on his Daily Stoic podcast, for a conversation about our mutual fascination with the life and…
I recently joined author Ryan Holiday on his Daily Stoic podcast, for a conversation about our mutual fascination with the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. You can listen to our conversation on the website or download the podcast episode from Apple, Spotify, and elsewhere.
Please check it out and let me know what you think of our chat! You can comment below or tag DonJRobertson on Twitter with any thoughts or questions you might have about Marcus Aurelius.
I’ve just finished writing my third book about him, Verissimus, which was chosen by Amazon Editor’s as Best History Book! Check out all the reviews online if you’re not sure whether graphic novels are your thing or not — so far people new to the medium have found it helped them understand Marcus’ life from a richer perspective!
Did you know that Marcus lead a dance troupe in his youth? He also wrestled and boxed. Hence his scattered references to dancing and fighting in the Meditations.
The Romans were more conscious than we are of insulting people by omitting to mention them. We call it damnatio memoriae when they struck someone’s name out of history. Who’s missing from the list of people Marcus admires in book one of the Meditations? (Clue: he names two emperors he knew personally, but not a third, he also names most of his tutors, except the most famous one!)
From internal textual evidence we can guesstimate that the Meditations was probably written between late 169CE and early 175 CE, which broadly coincides with the First Marcomannic War and the initial years of the Antonine Plague. It also seems to be shortly after Marcus’ main Stoicism tutor, Junius Rusticus, died — perhaps Marcus started writing as a consequence of losing his beloved mentor!
When I visited Carnuntum, in Austria, as part of my research for Verissimus, where Marcus stationed himself during the early years of the war, I asked the director of archeology if they’d unearthed anything that might be of value to historians interested in Marcus Aurelius. We know Marcus wrote part of the Meditations there, because he actually says “At Carnuntum” in the rubric of one of the early chapters.
He told me that the funerary stele of a member of the praetorian guard had been found there, dated 171 CE. If one of the emperor’s personal cohort of bodyguards died there, it’s pretty certain that Marcus must have been at Carnuntum during that specific year! It’s really cool when archeological evidence lines up with textual evidence in this way!