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Herodian's Roman History


Marcus Aurelius. Equestrian statue on the Capitol, Rome. Photo Marco Prins.
Herodian (late second, first half third century): Greek historian, author of a History of the Roman Empire since the Death of Marcus Aurelius (table of contents) in which he describes the reign of Commodus (180-192), the Year of the Five Emperors (193), the age of the Severan dynasty (211-235), and the Year of the Six Emperors (238).

The translation was made by Edward C. Echols (Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire, 1961 Berkeley and Los Angeles) and was put online for the first time by Roger Pearse (Tertullian.Org). The version offered on these pages is hyperlinked and contains notes by Jona Lendering.
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Marcus Aurelius. Bust at the British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Marco Prins.
Marcus Aurelius (British Museum)

1.2: Marcus Aurelius, the perfect emperor

The emperor Marcus Aurelius had a number of daughters but only two sons. [169] One of them (his name was Verissimus) died very young; the surviving son, Commodus, his father reared with great care, summoning to Rome from all over the empire men renowned for learning in their own countries.

 He paid these scholars large fees to live in Rome and supervise his son's education. When his daughters came of age, he married them to the most distinguished of the senators, selecting his sons-in-law not from the aristocrats, with their excessive pride in their ancestry, nor from the wealthy, with their protective shield of riches; he preferred men who were modest in manner and moderate in their way of life, for he considered these virtues to be the only fit and enduring possessions of the soul.

 He was concerned with all aspects of excellence, and in his love of ancient literature he was second to no man, Roman or Greek; this is evident from all his sayings and writings which have come down to us.[1]

 To his subjects he revealed himself as a mild and moderate emperor; he gave audience to those who asked for it and forbade his bodyguard to drive off those who happened to meet him. Alone of the emperors, he gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines but by his blameless character and temperate way of life. His reign thus produced a very large number of intelligent men, for subjects like to imitate the example set by their ruler.

 Many capable men have already recorded the courageous and moderate enterprises, marked by both political and military excellence, which he undertook against the barbarian nations to the North and in the East; but the events which, after the death of Marcus, I saw and heard in my lifetime - things of which I had personal experience in my imperial or civil service - these I have recorded.

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Note 1:
A reference to Marcus' Meditations.
Online 2007
Revision: 27 June 2007
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