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Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor Hardcover – 5 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd (5 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224072927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224072922
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 907,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

`If you like your history feisty... McLynn is the man for you... it certainly makes for a terrific read.'

About the Author

Frank McLynn is the author of many critically acclaimed books, including Napoleon, 1066, Villa and Zapata, Wagons West, Stanley, 1759 and Lionheart and Lackland.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Aidan J. McQuade on 18 Nov. 2009
Format: Hardcover
I was looking forward to this book having enjoyed Frank McLynn's previous joint biography of Villa and Zapata. However while the focus of the Villa and Zapata study was on explaining the significance of the two men in the context of their times and places, in this instance Frank McLynn attempts to argue for the significance of Marcus to all ages.

This leads to two problems with the book. On one hand a tendency to compare Marcus with later leaders which seems a bit anachronistic. Second, despite estabilishing Marcus' responsibility for a ferocious persecution of Christians during his reign, which included many deliberately sadistic executions in contravention of Roman law, and despite Marcus' genocidal tendencies in his wars against the German tribes, the author is determined to convince the reader of Marcus's inate humaneness and philosophical significance.

Thought is important as the origin of action. But no matter how novel or insightful Marcus's philosophy may be, something that is a central concern of this book, it does not absolve transgressions. And judged by his actions Marcus was a ruthless and bloody man who, in addition to his personal crimes, bequeathed the Roman empire its worst emperor, his son Commodus. Consequently McLynn's argument of the importance of Marcus as one of the great people of all time seems overstretched and internally contradictory. As I read the book the figure I was most reminded of was not Churchill, Grant or Smuts, who McLynn discusses, but rather Karadzic - a learned but pretentious man who showed his true face as a bloody warlord and debased his learning in war crimes and the persecution of minorities.

Overall the book feels like it could have done with a more robust editing, both to challenge the sort of fundamental problems suggested above, but also to discipline McLynn's language and tendencies to show off his own erudition: for his next book Frank McLynn should be reminded that less is more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gino Giardini on 15 Oct. 2010
Format: Hardcover
McLynn is quite close to Fronto, one of Aurelius' teachers and figuring quite large in this biography: somewhat pretentious, opinionated, no philosophical understanding, and a kind of shallow and slightly cynical eclecticism. Otherwise, nice book.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Arch Stanton TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover
Frank McLynn is an author that you either love or hate. He is very opinionated, self-satisfied, and confident in his opinions and he likes nothing better than to dismiss other author's works as being wrong. He also likes to use large words and complicated sentences. Normally that last wouldn't bother me, but I'm a fast reader and when you have to spend ages on every page since each sentence is so convoluted it becomes problematic. Not everyone will have problems with this. It encourages you to take your time so if you enjoy really savoring a book then you might prefer it this way. McLynn isn't an expert in this field. I think he likes it that way since he's written most of his books in fields he isn't an expert in. Personally, I think he feels he has something to prove but whatever it is he does research the periods he writes about well. Along the same line he also has a tendency to include comparisons to somewhat obscure historical figures that many of his readers will not recognize. It seems to fall under his desire to prove how smart he is. I'm sure that there could be another explanation for all of his writing quirks but that is the way that I interpret them.

Now onto the book. First off this is a really big book. I know that you can see that by just looking at the page numbers on this site but you don't always appreciate that till you see it. I think that each one of his books gets bigger and bigger, which is a shame since I prefer some of his shorter writings like 1066: The Year of The Three Battles. Now I'm not intimidated by a book's size but this one can be a chore.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By G. Spratley on 25 July 2009
Format: Hardcover
A long and excellent read, though the arguably pretentious use of some obscure words necessitates the presence of a dictionary while you are reading. However, the book painted an excellent picture of the life of Marcus Aurelius and his comtemporaries, and just as interestingly, a revealing picture of the economic and social life of Rome and its downtrodden citizens. Staying the course of this book will bring substantial rewards to readers who are fascinated by ancient history.
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