Marcus Aurelius

The Speeches of Marcus

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Marcus Aurelius was a Roman Emperor from 161 to 180, known as one of the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.
The Speeches of Marcus Aurelius consist of three brief orations. Two of them concern a rebellion led by Avidius Cassius in 175 AD. The third speech purports to be “The Last Words of Marcus,” spoken on his deathbed. One of the Cassius speeches was written down by Marcus and sent as a letter to the Senate, which speaks in favor of its veracity. The other two speeches are related second-hand, perhaps by first-hand observers or perhaps by writers long after the fact. The deathbed speech certainly reads as if it were embellished with the perfect eloquence possessed by dying characters in tragedian dramas. None of the speeches contain any overtly Stoic content, but they do illustrate Marcus’s good qualities as a leader, such as the two addresses regarding the revolt of Cassius, in which Marcus strongly emphasizes forgiveness and leniency over vindictiveness and harsh punishment.
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