Marcus Aurelius Meditations Essay

Marcus Aurelius Meditations Essay-76
But we can’t make complete conclusions by scanning the alone.A study of the emperor’s philosophical tradition reveals a much more nuanced picture: the ethics and personal beliefs sourced from his Stoic predecessors combined to present several substantial obstacles to an aggressive campaign for the abolition of slavery.Why would Aurelius not fight against slavery in the Roman Empire, given his strong commitment to his philosophy and the significant power he wielded?

But we can’t make complete conclusions by scanning the alone.A study of the emperor’s philosophical tradition reveals a much more nuanced picture: the ethics and personal beliefs sourced from his Stoic predecessors combined to present several substantial obstacles to an aggressive campaign for the abolition of slavery.Why would Aurelius not fight against slavery in the Roman Empire, given his strong commitment to his philosophy and the significant power he wielded?

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There is surprisingly little discussion of this slavery so important to the empire in Later Stoic texts (of which Aurelius’ forms a part).

The Stoics remain curiously quiet on the social and political institution of slavery in their time, but do make significant comments about how one should best treat a slave.

This is perhaps because they were more concerned with a very different kind of slavery: that of a free man to desire, emotion, or irrationality.

“Slavery” for the Stoics referred, rather, to an unacknowledged dependence on an external factor for internal tranquility and peace.

The Roman institution of slavery, for example, seems to be in direct contradiction with his own ideals.

Although Aurelius likely interacted with or benefited from the work of slaves daily while writing the Meditations on campaign, he makes little mention of this practice in his work.He won a victory over the Marcomanni (167–168), which was commemorated by the Antonine column (Piazza Colonna, Rome), erected by his son and successor, Commodus.Devoted to his duty and humanitarian in his conception of it, Marcus Aurelius was concerned with improving living conditions for the poor, particularly minors. A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic.Something of a departure from the usual content today — what follows is my attempt to answer the question, “Why didn’t Marcus Aurelius the Stoic fight to end slavery? In 1.14 he speaks of the treasures of a “balanced constitution” and a “monarchy which values above all things the freedom of the subject.” It is difficult to reconcile egalitarian precepts like these, though, with Marcus’ behavior as leader of the Roman Empire for 19 years. Marcus Aurelius extols the ideas of independence and self-determination, echoing many of his Later Stoic intellectual ancestors and contemporaries.In Seneca’s famous 47th letter to Lucilius, he skirts around the larger question of the norm of slavery and instead attempts to prescribe how they should be treated: “But this is the kernel of my advice: Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.” All of the Later Stoic writing on this specific topic stresses the equality of all men in a spiritual or cosmic sense.While such a tenet is only implied in Seneca’s letter, Marcus Aurelius states it more plainly in his Meditations.Marcus married Antoninus' daughter, another Faustina. From youth he was a diligent student and a zealous Stoic.With his adoptive brother, Lucius Verus, as colleague, Marcus succeeded Antoninus in 161.no longer allow it to be discontented with its present lot or flinch from what will fall to it in the future.” This other form of captivity, named “moral slavery” by later scholars, was of far superior importance to Stoic thinkers.The Stoics knew that this servitude to such invisible masters pervaded the minds of plebeians and patricians alike, and they saw righting this malady as a more primary goal.

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