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Marcus Aurelius: A Biography (Roman Imperial Biographies) Paperback – 5 May 1993

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (5 May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415171253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415171250
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 1.9 x 27.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In the wake of "Gladiator," it is perhaps a useful coincidence to have such a decent biography of the greatest of Roman emperors published. I should begin by pointing out that books of such scholarly value (I am reminded of "The Inner Citadel" by Pierre Hadot, a magnificent explanation of Aurelius' Meditations) are best reviewed by peers, and I cannot claim such qualifications. For what it's worth, I have long been fascinated by the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and I found this biography to be immensely rewarding. Prospective buyers should be aware that this is a very deeply researched biography... It can be, at times, very heady reading.
The book is rich with anecdotes of Marcus' family life. How interesting it seems, after viewing "Gladiator" (much as I enjoyed it, it is a film as contemptuous of history as "U-571") to hear that Marcus' son, Commodus, at the age of eleven, ordered a bathkeeper to be thrown into a furnace for letting the bathwater go lukewarm. A sheepskin was burned instead, to mask the deception, and yet the contrast between impetuous Commodus and the stern, reflective Marcus at age eleven, shows how the apple does not always fall close to the tree. [Incidentally, Commodus was strangled in his bath on New Years Eve and did not meet his end in the arena at the hands of Maximus.]
Birley's work is at times awfully heavy reading for the layperson, but in the end proves a thoroughly enjoyable rendering. A triumph.
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Format: Paperback
Marcus Aurelius by A. R. Birley is absolutely a superb portrait of the philosopher - emperor, a must have both for scholars and roman imperial history lovers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.0 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Life of One of History's Greatest Men 2 Oct. 2001
By Sean O'Brien - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anthony Birley's biography of Marcus Aurelius manages to give the reader a good view of the life of an Emperor by pulling together the very few resources available. Marcus' early years and education are given in good detail including some letters between Marcus and his teachers. It is true that the chapters dealing with Marcus' personal life and family are not as 'exciting' as some might wish but they show a side to an Emperor rarely seen.
The Parthian War, which was commanded by Co-Emperor Lucius Verus, is given a good overview. However, the Marcommanic Wars are covered in excellent detail. Anthony Birley reviews all the sources that are available and gives reasons for his conclusions. Coins, The Colume of marcus Aurelius and Cassius Dio are the prime sources for the Marcommanic Wars. The Commanding Generals are named and fans of 'Gladiator' will be disappointed.
This is real history and a look into one of Rome's most popular Emperors. If you are a fan of 'Gladiator' then read this book and see how much more exciting reality is.
The role Commodus played and the reasons Marcus made him Co-Emperor after Lucius Verus are explained very well. This book by far is one of the best Imperial Biographies I have read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A slipshod edition 30 Aug. 2014
By R.Zomerdijk - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is worth reading, but for quite an expensive kindle version one would expect that the notes are accessible. They are not.
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, scholarly but not a "great read" 31 Mar. 2001
By Kindle Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed Birley's biography of Marcus Aureliusm, because I was interested in the man.
Even so, it is written as an academic treatment limiting the story to the primary sources, with constant quotes from them. This is certainly an accurate manner to depict biographical information, but not as compelling as say Robin Fox's treatment of Alexander the Great which is equally well-research and annotated but is also a great "read."
13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How much do we really need to know? 4 April 2005
By T. J. Stewart - Published on
Format: Paperback
I'm not a scholar of history, but have always been interested in the man that wrote the Meditations. I thought an in-depth analysis would be the trick for getting to know this Stoic Emperor better. In Birley's book, however, I experienced information overload.

We learn a great deal about the Emperor's tutors and family. But the reader, at least this reader, is given so much detail, that it is difficult to organize the data in a meaningful way. I could not distinguish the significant from the merely interesting.

If you already know quite a bit about Marcus Aurelius and want to learn more, by all means buy this book.

If, on the other hand, you want an inroduction to his life, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.
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