The Elizabethan thinker Francis Bacon stated that: 'Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast, or a God.' XVI

Marathon, Attica (famously 26 miles from Athens) 54

Herodes . . . alienated many by his high-handed methods, patronising attitude and intolerance of criticism. 54

...anger, spleen and invective were rarely as effective as irony, as Socrates, the great master of this technique, demonstrated. 'For the race of mankind is by nature stiffnecked against the high-handed that response readily to coaxing.' 60

...the greatest humoirists are deep down usually angry men, who know that human nature ignores tirades, but is responsive to laughter. 60

As we see from Odysseus in Homer's poem, from Cincinnatus an othe example is the ancient world, aristocrats in classical times did not consider agricultural labour beneath them; there was none of that horrible anti-manual work snobbery that so disfigured the culture of the Spanish conquistadores. 62

It is deeply sad that Marcus Aurelius should have subscribed to such a bleak and ultimately nihilistic view of the universe and mankind's place in it. Stoicism was an arid doctrine that tried, in D. H. Lawrence's phrase, to 'do the dirt on life'. It is a worldview in which nothing unexpected can happen, and noble things like desire, fantasy, adventure, initiative, creativity, hope, cultural life and, ultimately, civilization itself all disappear. That it should have any modern adherents is almost incredible. Even the most perceptive of the ancients could see through to the fallacy at its core. As Sextus Empiricus pointed out, hunger will never convince the hungry that it is not an ordeal, and those who suffer will always rail against the injustice of the world. Cicero, another stomach fellow-traveller, made a very mild criticism: 'What the Stoics say may be true, it is certainly important, but the way they say it is all wrong.' It is a supreme irony that a 'unitary' theory of the world should have produced, in its most famous initiate, a 'divided self.' Marcus Aurelius never apostatised from this creed that made such an impression on him as a young man, but Stoicism did not help him in his role as emperor. As ruler of an empire, he had to accept mundane standards of what was good and bad, for Stoic forbearance would not stop barbarians crossing the frontier or the Roman crowd rioting if the grain ships did not arrive from Africa. In dealing with his subjects who were not Stoic or sage material, he accepted conventional definitions of right and wrong. He did his duty, but the duty collided with the philosophy he held so dear, since that very duty was deduced from moral standards he did not accept as valid. The ultimate paradox of Stoicism is that it enjoins the would-be sage to do his duty as part of the higher morality, but that very duty is based on standards that the ethics of Stoicism itself reject. That sounds like the very definition of unhappiness. The young man so captivated by this strange doctrine would never again be the carefree horse-riding and grape-treading youth of yesteryear. 67-68

The classic recipe for social control - Juvenal's 'bread and circuses' - expressed a literal truth. Rome, with its one million population, had too many drones in the hive, hence the chronic food shortages, overcrowding, tenement housing, frequent fires, endemic violence and disease. The Roman proletariat was as much a part of a dependency culture as those who live on welfare in Western societies today. To keep these restless spirits tranquil, success of Roman emperors had opted for the distribution of free grain, whereby the state guaranteed a supply of wheat to its registered free male citizens (no women, slaves or foreigners received the dole); this was a crucial fact about Rome, since in pre-modern societies at least 60 per cent of household income was spent on food. 79-80

The baths (like modern hospitals) may have acted as a focus and breeding ground for disease, as Roman doctors tended to recommend a baths as a panacea - for people suffering from malaria, cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea and worm infestation. Indeed, Hadrian allowef the sick to use the baths in the mornings before the healthy. 81

The life expectancy of birth for members of the senatorial class was thirty years and about twenty-five for others, though some authorities with downsize this to an average life expectancy of twenty-two for men and twenty for women. . . . One-third of the population died at the age of twenty-eight months, and 40-50 per cent by the age of eight. Of 100 soldiers who enlisted at the age of twenty, it is estimated that seventy-eight would survive to the age of thirty-five, sixty-nine of those to the age of forty, and just sixty to the age of forty-five; even in peacetime roughly one-third would die in a typical twenty- to twenty-five-year career. Of course of one realistically factors in actual fighting and exposure to disease and high risk areas of the empire and its frontiers, the truer figure would be that about fifty-five per cent would perish over twenty-five years. Death rates in the Roman empire were so high largely because of disease, poor nutrition and the lower level of real wages (not to mention other perils such as lead poisoning). Conditions in Rome were particularly bad, with overcrowding in high-rise tenement blocks enabling infectious diseases to take hold. The dreadful sanitary and drainage situation in Rome has already been mentioned, with the Tiber having to deal with thirty-five million cubic feet of human waste a year. The under-bureaucratised Roman state meanwhile either could not or would not take the tough measures needed to quarantine the population and eradicate pestilence.

The toll on women and children was particularly severe. Uterine haemorrhage, inflammation and puerperal sepsis killed maybe twenty-five in every thousand women at childbirth. Children tended to die of gastric disorders, diarrhoea and dysentery. Infant mortality rate of around 30 per cent seem standard for the ancient world, as do deaths in infancy and puberty of upwards of 40 per cent. 87-88

Avoiding reproduction out of financial meanness, or the desire to avoid the pain and suffering of child mortality, produced a distinctive mindset in the second century AD. Many Romans came to take a highly individualistic and even nihilistic attitude to life, and ceased to care about family, lineage or male heirs. 88

Chapter 5

Commodus 108

rebatbative 108

Footnote 78 589 - McLynn really dislikes Stoicism!

lese-majesty 104

termagant, gnomic 112

prestidigitator 114

relict 117

donnybrook 123

muleteers 123

the ancient principle that the numbers at a banquet should not be less than the Graces (three) or more than the Muses (nine) 123-24

sybarite, fainéant 124

congiarium 126

bagatelle 128

ambuscade 131

Trajan . . . told the envoys flatly, 'Friendky relations are determined by deeds not words.' 133

Lucian, an invaluable source for the age of Marcus Aurelius