Your Occasional Stoic: The Emperor and the Martyrs of the Republic

From Serverus: to love my family, truth and justice.  It was through him that I encountered Thrasea, Helvidius, Cato, Dion and Brutus, and conceived of a society of equal laws, governed by equality of status and of speech, and of rulers who respect the liberty of their subjects above all else. 

And from him as well, to be steady and consistent in valuing philosophy.

And to help others and be eager to share, not to be a pessimist, and never to doubt your friends’ affection for you.  And that when people incurred his disapproval, they always knew it.  And that his friends never had to speculate about his attitude to anything: it was always clear.

–          Meditations 1:14

Marcus Aurelius

Serverus is probably Gnaeus Claudius Servus Aribianus, whose son married one of Marcus’ daughter.

Thasea is Publius Clodius Thrasea, a stoic and senator who was forced by Nero and his allies to kill himself.

Cato, is almost surely Marcus Porcious Cato, or Cato the Younger, staunch republican who committed suicide rather than surrender to Ceasar.

Dio is probably either Dio of Syracuse, a student of Plato who tried to reform the government of Syracuse and was killed, or Dio Cocceianus, better known as Chrystomos, the stoic philosopher.

Brutus is… well you know who Brutus is.

Marcus Brutus

The irony of this meditation is obvious.  An emperor, born to privileged, extolling the virtues of men (also born to privilege) martyred in the fight against tyranny needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  It a healthy reminder that while Marcus’ personal ambitions towards self control and reflection can be inspirational at times, politically he was a true monarchist and the type of man who thought it enough to grant his “respect” his subjects liberty.

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