Marcus Aurelius Meditations Essay

Verus allowed him to dominate, and from 169 Marcus was sole emperor.His reign was spent defending the empire against Parthians, Germans, and Britons.

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Wealthy private citizens often owned several slaves who acted as nurses, tutors, or housekeepers.

Others would be sent to work in factories or on farms.

Such servitude led man after man astray from his duties, suffering from a “disgraceful” irrationality and lack of wisdom.

Following Seneca, Marcus Aurelius uses the same metaphor to describe how one’s mind may be dominated and enslaved by thoughts of an unhappy status quo or an uncertain future: “No longer allow [your ruling center] to act as a slave …

Seneca asks his contemporaries to turn inward when contemplating slaves, and realize how they too are bound to their own, more abstract masters: ‘He is a slave.’ His soul, however, may be that of a freeman. Show me a man who is not a slave; one is a slave to lust, another to greed, another to ambition, and all men are slaves to fear. No servitude is more disgraceful than that which is self-imposed.

A slavery “self-imposed” was more terrifying to the Stoics than any external social circumstance.Why would Aurelius not fight against slavery in the Roman Empire, given his strong commitment to his philosophy and the significant power he wielded?It may appear at first glance that Aurelius simply refused to consider any sort of action.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 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.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.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.


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