From Publishers Weekly
Pat Buchanan once said that George W. Bush was no Marcus Aurelius, while Bill Clinton claimed that he read and reread Aurelius' Meditations
as president. McLynn, author of biographies of figures from Napoleon to Jung, argues that the emperor and Stoic philosopher satisfies a thirst for guidance that modern philosophers have largely abandoned. But McLynn fails to make his case in a book that veers between biography and a defense of an emperor more famous for his words than for his actions. Drawing on Aurelius' Meditations
, letters with his tutor and other ancient sources of disputed authenticity, McLynn ploddingly narrates Aurelius' rise to emperor in 161 C.E.—a role to which he was, McLynn acknowledges, temperamentally unsuited—and the challenges he faced, mostly unsuccessfully, during his 19-year reign. Attempting to protect the Roman Empire from the German barbarians, for example, he gave land to these foreign tribes. This strategy backfired, creating new economic and social divisions. Marcus Aurelius emerges from McLynn's biography as a disappointing political figure who could do nothing to unite the Roman Empire in its waning days and who remains most memorable for his aphorisms, such as By a tranquil mind I mean a well-ordered one. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Sept.)
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"A compendious and thought-provoking study" -- Boris Johnson * The Mail on Sunday * "Impressively well-researched and unfailingly engaging" -- John Dillon * The Irish Times * "McLynn has written a huge, erudite survey of the social, cultural, economic and political world of the second century AD rather than a mere biography of Marcus Aurelius...there is much to enjoy here and even more to be learned" * Literary Review * "By exposing the real Marcus Aurelius, this biography illuminates an important era of transition...it was under Marcus that the delicate balance was disturbed and this, too, is his legacy." -- Martin Empson * TLS * "A flickering torch in the darkness, and with his fine biography, Frank McLynn tends the flame." -- Stephen McGinty * Scotsman *