MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 9
PHILOSOPHY OF MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS 45
THE THOUGHTS 99
INDEX OF TERMS 305
GENERAL INDEX 311
MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS.
M. Antoninus was born at Rome, A.D. 121, on the 26th of April. His father, Annius Verus, died while he was praetor. His mother was Domitia Calvilla, also named Lucilla. The Emperor T. Antoninus Pius married Annia Galeria Faustina, the sister of Annius Verus, and was consequently the uncle of M. Antoninus. When Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius and declared him his successor in the empire, Antoninus Pius adopted both L. Ceionius Commodus, the son of Aelius Caesar, and M. Antoninus, whose original name was M. Annius Verus. Antoninus then took the name of M. Aelius Aurelius Verus, to which was added the title of Caesar in A.D. 139: the name Aelius belonged to Hadrian's family, and Aurelius was the name of Antoninus Pius. When M. Antoninus became Augustus, he dropped the name of Verus and took the name of Antoninus. Accordingly he is generally named M. Aurelius Antoninus, or simply M. Antoninus.
The youth was most carefully brought up. He thanks the gods (i. 17) that he had good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good. He had the happy fortune to witness the example of his uncle and adoptive father Antoninus Pius, and he has recorded in his word (i. 16; vi. 30) the virtues of the excellent man and prudent ruler. Like many young Romans he tried his hand at poetry and studied rhetoric. Herodes Atticus and M. Cornelius Fronto were his teachers in eloquence. There are extant letters between Fronto and Marcus,[A] which show the great affection of the pupil for the master, and the master's great hopes of his industrious pupil. M. Antoninus mentions Fronto (i. 11) among those to whom he was indebted for his education.
[A] M. Cornelii Frontonis Reliquiae, Berlin, 1816. There are a few letters between Fronto and Antoninus Pius.
When he was eleven years old, he assumed the dress of philosophers, something plain and coarse, became a hard student, and lived a most laborious, abstemious life, even so far as to injure his health. Finally, he abandoned poetry and rhetoric for philosophy, and he attached himself to the sect of the Stoics. But he did not neglect the study of law, which was a useful preparation for the high place which he was designed to fill. His teacher was L. Volusianus Maecianus, a distinguished jurist. We must suppose that he learned the Roman discipline of arms, which was a necessary part of the education of a man who afterwards led his troops to battle against a warlike race.
Antoninus has recorded in his first book the names of his teachers, and the obligations which he owed to each of them. The way in which he speaks of what he learned from them might seem to savor of vanity or self-praise, if we look carelessly at the way in which he has expressed himself; but if any one draws this conclusion, he will be mistaken. Antoninus means to commemorate the merits of his several teachers, what they taught, and what a pupil might learn from them. Besides, this book, like the eleven other books, was for his own use; and if we may trust the note at the end of the first book, it was written during one of M. Antoninus' campaigns against the Quadi, at a time when the commemoration of the virtues of his illustrious teachers might remind him of their lessons and the practical uses which he might derive from them.
Among his teachers of philosophy was Sextus of Chaeroneia, a grandson of Plutarch. What he learned from this excellent man is told by himself (i. 9). His favorite teacher was Q. Junius Rusticus (i. 7), a philosopher, and also a man of practical good sense in public affairs. Rusticus was the adviser of Antoninus after he became emperor. Young men who are destined for high places are not often fortunate in those who are about them, their companions and teachers; and I do not know any example of a young prince having had an education which can be compared with that of M. Antoninus. Such a body of teachers distinguished by their acquirements and their character will hardly be collected again; and as to the pupil, we have not had one like him since.
Hadrian died in July A.D. 138, and was succeeded by Antoninus Pius. M. Antoninus married Faustina, his cousin, the daughter of Pius, probably about A.D. 146, for he had a daughter born in 147. He received from his adoptive father the title of Caesar, and was associated with him in the administration of the state. The father and the adopted son lived together in perfect friendship and confidence. Antoninus was a dutiful son, and the emperor Pius loved and esteemed him.
Antoninus Pius died in March, A.D. 161. The Senate, it is said, urged M. Antoninus to take the sole administration of the empire, but he associated with himself the other adopted son of Pius, L. Ceionius Commodus, who is generally called L. Verus. Thus Rome for the first time had two emperors. Verus was an indolent man of pleasure, and unworthy of his station. Antoninus however bore with him, and it is said Verus had sense enough to pay to his colleague the respect due to his character. A virtuous emperor and a loose partner lived together in peace, and their alliance was strengthened by Antoninus giving to Verus for wife his daughter Lucilla.
The reign of Antoninus was first troubled by a Parthian war, in which Verus was sent to command; but he did nothing, and the success that was obtained by the Romans in Armenia and on the Euphrates and Tigris was due to his generals. This Parthian war ended in A.D. 165. Aurelius and Verus had a triumph (A.D. 166) for the victories in the East. A pestilence followed, which carried off great numbers in Rome and Italy, and spread to the west of Europe.
The north of Italy was also threatened by the rude people beyond the Alps, from the borders of Gallia to the eastern side of the Hadriatic. These barbarians attempted to break into Italy, as the Germanic nations had attempted near three hundred years before; and the rest of the life of Antoninus, with some intervals, was employed in driving back the invaders. In 169 Verus suddenly died, and Antoninus administered the state alone.
During the German wars Antoninus resided for three years on the Danube at Carnuntum. The Marcomanni were driven out of Pannonia and almost destroyed in their retreat across the Danube; and in A.D. 174 the emperor gained a great victory over the Quadi.
In A.D. 175, Avidius Cassius, a brave and skilful Roman commander who was at the head of the troops in Asia, revolted, and declared himself Augustus. But Cassius was assassinated by some of his officers, and so the rebellion came to an end. Antoninus showed his humanity by his treatment of the family and the partisans of Cassius; and his letter to the Senate, in which he recommends mercy, is extant. (Vulcatius, Avidius Cassius, c. 12.)
Antoninus set out for the East on hearing of Cassius' revolt. Though he appears to have returned to Rome in A.D. 174, he went back to prosecute the war against the Germans, and it is probable that he marched direct to the East from the German war. His wife Faustina, who accompanied him into Asia, died suddenly at the foot of the Taurus, to the great grief of her husband. Capitolinus, who has written the life of Antoninus, and also Dion Cassius, accuses the empress of scandalous infidelity to her husband, and of abominable lewdness. But Capitolinus says that Antoninus either knew it not or pretended not to know it. Nothing is so common as such malicious reports in all ages, and the history of imperial Rome is full of them. Antoninus loved his wife, and he says that she was "obedient, affectionate, and simple." The same scandal had been spread about Faustina's mother, the wife of Antoninus Pius, and yet he too was perfectly satisfied with his wife. Antoninus Pius says after her death, in a letter to Fronto, that he would rather have lived in exile with his wife than in his palace at Rome without her. There are not many men who would give their wives a better character than these two emperors. Capitolinus wrote in the time of Diocletian. He may have intended to tell the truth, but he is a poor, feeble biographer. Dion Cassius, the most malignant of historians, always reports, and perhaps he believed, any scandal against anybody.
Antoninus continued his journey to Syria and Egypt, and on his return to Italy through Athens he was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. It was the practice of the emperor to conform to the established rites of the age, and to perform religious ceremonies with due solemnity. We cannot conclude from this that he was a superstitious man, though we might perhaps do so if his book did not show that he was not. But that is only one among many instances that a ruler's public acts do not always prove his real opinions. A prudent governor will not roughly oppose even the superstitions of his people; and though he may wish they were wiser, he will know that he cannot make them so by offending their prejudices.
Antoninus and his son Commodus entered Rome in triumph, perhaps for some German victories, on the 23d. of December, A.D. 176. In the following year Commodus was associated with his father in the empire, and took the name of Augustus. This year A.D. 177 is memorable in ecclesiastical history. Attalus and others were put to death at Lyon for their adherence to the Christian religion. The evidence of this persecution is a letter preserved by Eusebius (E.H. V. I; printed in Routh's Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. i, with notes). The letter is from the Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum in Gallia (Vienna and Lyon) to their Christian brethren in Asia and Phrygia; and it is preserved perhaps nearly entire. It contains a very particular description of the tortures inflicted on the Christians in Gallia, and it states that while the persecution was going on, Attalus, a Christian and a Roman citizen, was loudly demanded by the populace and brought into the amphitheatre; but the governor ordered him to be reserved, with the rest who were in prison, until he had received instructions from the emperor. Many had been tortured before the governor thought of applying to Antoninus. The imperial rescript, says the letter, was that the Christians should be punished, but if they would deny their faith, they must be released. On this the work began again. The Christians who were Roman citizens were beheaded; the rest were exposed to the wild beasts in the amphitheatre. Some modern writers on ecclesiastical history, when they use this letter, say nothing of the wonderful stories of the martyrs' sufferings. Sanctus, as the letter says, was burnt with plates of hot iron till his body was one sore and had lost all human form; but on being put to the rack he recovered his former appearance under the torture, which was thus a cure instead of a punishment. He was afterwards torn by beasts, and placed on an iron chair and roasted. He died at last.
The letter is one piece of evidence. The writer, whoever he was that wrote in the name of the Gallic Christians, is our evidence both for the ordinary and the extraordinary circumstances of the story, and we cannot accept his evidence for one part and reject the other. We often receive small evidence as a proof of a thing we believe to be within the limits of probability or possibility, and we reject exactly the same evidence, when the thing to which it refers appears very improbable or impossible. But this is a false method of inquiry, though it is followed by some modern writers, who select what they like from a story and reject the rest of the evidence; or if they do not reject it, they dishonestly suppress it. A man can only act consistently by accepting all this letter or rejecting it all, and we cannot blame him for either. But he who rejects it may still admit that such a letter may be founded on real facts; and he would make this admission as the most probable way of accounting for the existence of the letter; but if, as he would suppose, the writer has stated some things falsely, he cannot tell what part of his story is worthy of credit.
The war on the northern frontier appears to have been uninterrupted during the visit of Antoninus to the East, and on his return the emperor again left Rome to oppose the barbarians. The Germanic people were defeated in a great battle A.D. 179. During this campaign the emperor was seized with some contagious malady, of which he died in the camp at Sirmium (Mitrovitz), on the Save, in Lower Pannonia, but at Vindebona (Vienna), according to other authorities, on the 17th of March, A.D. 180, in the fifty-ninth year of his age. His son Commodus was with him. The body, or the ashes probably, of the emperor were carried to Rome, and he received the honor of deification. Those who could afford it had his statue or bust; and when Capitolinus wrote, many people still had statues of Antoninus among the Dei Penates or household deities. He was in a manner made a saint. Commodus erected to the memory of his father the Antonine column which is now in the Piazza Colonna at Rome. The bassi rilievi which are placed in a spiral line round the shaft commemorate the victories of Antoninus over the Marcomanni and the Quadi, and the miraculous shower of rain which refreshed the Roman soldiers and discomfited their enemies. The statue of Antoninus was placed on the capital of the column, but it was removed at some time unknown, and a bronze statue of St. Paul was put in the place by Pope Sixtus the fifth.
The historical evidence for the times of Antoninus is very defective, and some of that which remains is not credible. The most curious is the story about the miracle which happened in A.D. 174, during the war with the Quadi. The Roman army was in danger of perishing by thirst, but a sudden storm drenched them with rain, while it discharged fire and hail on their enemies, and the Romans gained a great victory. All the authorities which speak of the battle speak also of the miracle. The Gentile writers assign it to their gods, and the Christians to the intercession of the Christian legion in the emperor's army. To confirm the Christian statement it is added that the emperor gave the title of Thundering to this legion; but Dacier and others, who maintain the Christian report of the miracle, admit that this title of Thundering or Lightning was not given to this legion because the Quadi were struck with lightning, but because there was a figure of lightning on their shields, and that this title of the legion existed in the time of Augustus.
Scaliger also had observed that the legion was called Thundering ([Greek: keraunobolos], or [Greek: keraunophoros]) before the reign of Antoninus. We learn this from Dion Cassius (Lib. 55, c. 23, and the note of Reimarus), who enumerates all the legions of Augustus' time. The name Thundering of Lightning also occurs on an inscription of the reign of Trajan, which was found at Trieste. Eusebius (v. 5), when he relates the miracle, quotes Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis, as authority for this name being given to the legion Melitene by the emperor in consequence of the success which he obtained through their prayers; from which we may estimate the value of Apolinarius' testimony. Eusebius does not say in what book of Apolinarius the statement occurs. Dion says that the Thundering legion was stationed in Cappadocia in the time of Augustus. Valesius also observes that in the Notitia of the Imperium Romanum there is mentioned under the commander of Armenia the Praefectura of the twelfth legion named "Thundering Melitene;" and this position in Armenia will agree with what Dion says of its position in Cappadocia. Accordingly Valesius concludes that Melitene was not the name of the legion, but of the town in which it was stationed. Melitene was also the name of the district in which this town was situated. The legions did not, he says, take their name from the place where they were on duty, but from the country in which they were raised, and therefore what Eusebius says about the Melitene does not seem probable to him. Yet Valesius, on the authority of Apolinarius and Tertullian, believed that the miracle was worked through the prayers of the Christian soldiers in the emperor's army. Rufinus does not give the name of Melitene to this legion, says Valesius, and probably he purposely omitted it, because he knew that Melitene was the name of a town in Armenia Minor, where the legion was stationed in his time.
The emperor, it is said, made a report of his victory to the Senate, which we may believe, for such was the practice; but we do not know what he said in his letter, for it is not extant. Dacier assumes that the emperor's letter was purposely destroyed by the Senate or the enemies of Christianity, that so honorable a testimony to the Christians and their religion might not be perpetuated. The critic has however not seen that he contradicts himself when he tells us the purport of the letter, for he says that it was destroyed, and even Eusebius could not find it. But there does exist a letter in Greek addressed by Antoninus to the Roman people and the sacred Senate after this memorable victory. It is sometimes printed after Justin's first Apology, but it is totally unconnected with the apologies. This letter is one of the most stupid forgeries of the many which exist, and it cannot be possibly founded even on the genuine report of Antoninus to the Senate. If it were genuine, it would free the emperor from the charge of persecuting men because they were Christians, for he says in this false letter that if a man accuse another only of being a Christian, and the accused confess, and there is nothing else against him, he must be set free; with this monstrous addition, made by a man inconceivably ignorant, that the informer must be burnt alive.[A]
[A] Eusebius (v. 5) quotes Tertullian's Apology to the Roman Senate in confirmation of the story. Tertullian, he says, writes that letters of the emperor were extant, in which he declares that his army was saved by the prayers of the Christians; and that he "threatened to punish with death those who ventured to accuse us." It is possible that the forged letter which is now extant may be one of those which Tertullian had seen, for he uses the plural number, "letters." A great deal has been written about this miracle of the Thundering Legion, and more than is worth reading. There is a dissertation on this supposed miracle in Moyle's Works, London, 1726.
During the time of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Antoninus there appeared the first Apology of Justinus, and under M. Antoninus the Oration of Tatian against the Greeks, which was a fierce attack on the established religions; the address of Athenagoras to M. Antoninus on behalf of the Christians, and the Apology of Melito, bishop of Sardes, also addressed to the emperor, and that of Apolinarius. The first Apology of Justinus is addressed to T. Antoninus Pius and his two adopted sons, M. Antoninus and L. Verus; but we do not know whether they read it.[A] The second Apology of Justinus is entitled "to the Roman Senate;" but this superscription is from some copyist. In the first chapter Justinus addresses the Romans. In the second chapter he speaks of an affair that had recently happened in the time of M. Antoninus and L,. Verus, as it seems; and he also directly addresses the emperor, saying of a certain woman, "she addressed a petition to thee, the emperor, and thou didst grant the petition." In other passages the writer addresses the two emperors, from which we must conclude that the Apology was directed to them. Eusebius (E.H. iv. 18) states that the second Apology was addressed to the successor of Antoninus Pius, and he names him Antoninus Verus, meaning M. Antoninus. In one passage of this second Apology (c. 8), Justinus, or the writer, whoever he may be, says that even men who followed the Stoic doctrines, when they ordered their lives according to ethical reason, were hated and murdered, such as Heraclitus, Musonius in his own times, and others; for all those who in any way labored to live according to reason and avoided wickedness were always hated; and this was the effect of the work of daemons.
[A] Orosius, vii. 14, says that Justinus the philosopher presented to Antonius Pius his work in defence of the Christian religion, and made him merciful to the Christians.
Justinus himself is said to have been put to death at Rome, because he refused to sacrifice to the gods. It cannot have been in the reign of Hadrian, as one authority states; nor in the time of Antoninus Pius, if the second Apology was written in the time of M. Antoninus; and there is evidence that this event took place under M. Antoninus and L. Verus, when Rusticus was praefect of the city.[A]
[A] See the Martyrium Sanctorum Justini, &c., in the works of Justinus, ed. Otto, vol. ii. 559. "Junius Rusticus Praefectus Urbi erat sub imperatoribus M. Aurelio et L. Vero, id quod liquet ex Themistii Orat. xxxiv Dindorf. p. 451, et ex quodam illorum rescripto, Dig. 49. 1. I, Sec. 2" (Otto). The rescript contains the words "Junium Rusticum amicum nostrum Praefectum Urbi." The Martyrium of Justinus and others is written in Greek. It begins, "In the time of the wicked defenders of idolatry impious edicts were published against the pious Christians both in cities and country places, for the purpose of compelling them to make offerings to vain idols. Accordingly the holy men (Justinus, Chariton, a woman Charito, Paeon, Liberianus, and others) were brought before Rusticus, the praefect of Rome."
The Martyrium gives the examination of the accused by Rusticus. All of them professed to be Christians. Justinus was asked if he expected to ascend into heaven and to receive a reward for his sufferings, if he was condemned to death. He answered that he did not expect: he was certain of it. Finally, the test of obedience was proposed to the prisoners; they were required to sacrifice to the gods. All refused, and Rusticus pronounced the sentence, which was that those who refused to sacrifice to the gods and obey the emperor's order should be whipped and beheaded according to the law. The martyrs were then led to the usual place of execution and beheaded. Some of the faithful secretly carried off the bodies and deposited them in a fit place.
The persecution in which Polycarp suffered at Smyrna belongs to the time of M. Antoninus. The evidence for it is the letter of the church of Smyrna to the churches of Philomelium and the other Christian churches, and it is preserved by Eusebius (E.H. iv. 15). But the critics do not agree about the time of Polycarp's death, differing in the two extremes to the amount of twelve years. The circumstances of Polycarp's martyrdom were accompanied by miracles, one of which Eusebius (iv. 15) has omitted, but it appears in the oldest Latin version of the letter, which Usher published, and it is supposed that this version was made not long after the time of Eusebius. The notice at the end of the letter states that it was transcribed by Caius from the copy of Irenaeus, the disciple of Polycarp, then transcribed by Socrates at Corinth; "after which I Pionius again wrote it out from the copy above mentioned, having searched it out by the revelation of Polycarp, who directed me to it," &c. The story of Polycarp's martyrdom is embellished with miraculous circumstances which some modern writers on ecclesiastical history take the liberty of omitting.[A]
[A] Conyers Middleton, An Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers, &c. p. 126. Middleton says that Eusebius omitted to mention the dove, which flew out of Polycarp's body, and Dodwell and Archbishop Wake have done the same. Wake says, "I am so little a friend to such miracles that I thought it better with Eusebius to omit that circumstance than to mention it from Bp. Usher's Manuscript," which manuscript however, says Middleton, he afterwards declares to be so well attested that we need not any further assurance of the truth of it.
In order to form a proper notion of the condition of the Christians under M. Antoninus we must go back to Trajan's time. When the younger Pliny was governor of Bithynia, the Christians were numerous in those parts, and the worshipers of the old religion were falling off. The temples were deserted, the festivals neglected, and there were no purchasers of victims for sacrifice. Those who were interested in the maintenance of the old religion thus found that their profits were in danger. Christians of both sexes and all ages were brought before the governor who did not know what to do with them. He could come to no other conclusion than this, that those who confessed to be Christians and persevered in their religion ought to be punished; if for nothing else, for their invincible obstinancy. He found no crimes proved against the Christians, and he could only characterize their religion as a depraved and extravagant superstition, which might be stopped if the people were allowed the opportunity of recanting. Pliny wrote this in a letter to Trajan (Plinius, Ep. x. 97). He asked for the emperor's directions, because he did not know what to do. He remarks that he had never been engaged in judicial inquiries about the Christians, and that accordingly he did not know what to inquire about, or how far to inquire and punish. This proves that it was not a new thing to examine into a man's profession of Christianity and to punish him for it.[A]
[A] Orosius (vii. 12) speaks of Trajan's persecution of the Christians, and of Pliny's application to him having led the emperor to mitigate his severity. The punishment by the Mosaic law for those who attempted to seduce the Jews to follow new gods was death. If a man was secretly enticed to such new worship, he must kill the seducer, even if the seducer were brother, son, daughter, wife, or friend. (Deut. xiii.)
Trajan's rescript is extant. He approved of the governor's judgment in the matter, but he said that no search must be made after the Christians; if a man was charged with the new religion and convicted, he must not be punished if he affirmed that he was not a Christian, and confirmed his denial by showing his reverence to the heathen gods. He added that no notice must be taken of anonymous informations, for such things were of bad example. Trajan was a mild and sensible man; and both motives of mercy and policy probably also induced him to take as little notice of the Christians as he could, to let them live in quiet if it were possible. Trajan's rescript is the first legislative act of the head of the Roman state with reference to Christianity, which is known to us. It does not appear that the Christians were further disturbed under his reign. The martyrdom of Ignatius by the order of Trajan himself is not universally admitted to be an historical fact.[A]
[A] The Martyrium Ignatii, first published in Latin by Archbishop Usher, is the chief evidence for the circumstances of Ignatius' death.
In the time of Hadrian it was no longer possible for the Roman government to overlook the great increase of the Christians and the hostility of the common sort to them. If the governors in the provinces were willing to let them alone, they could not resist the fanaticism of the heathen community, who looked on the Christians as atheists. The Jews too, who were settled all over the Roman Empire, were as hostile to the Christians as the Gentiles were.[A] With the time of Hadrian begin the Christian Apologies, which show plainly what the popular feeling towards the Christians then was. A rescript of Hadrian to Minucius Fundanus, the Proconsul of Asia, which stands at the end of Justin's first Apology,[B] instructs the governor that innocent people must not be troubled, and false accusers must not be allowed to extort money from them; the charges against the Christians must be made in due form, and no attention must be paid to popular clamors; when Christians were regularly prosecuted and convicted of illegal acts, they must be punished according to their deserts; and false accusers also must be punished. Antoninus Pius is said to have published rescripts to the same effect. The terms of Hadrian's rescript seem very favorable to the Christians; but if we understand it in this sense, that they were only to be punished like other people for illegal acts, it would have had no meaning, for that could have been done without asking the emperor's advice. The real purpose of the rescript is that Christians must be punished if they persisted in their belief, and would not prove their renunciation of it by acknowledging the heathen religion. This was Trajan's rule, and we have no reason for supposing that Hadrian granted more to the Christians than Trajan did. There is also printed at the end of Justin's first Apology a rescript of Antoninus Pius to the Commune of ([Greek: to koinon tes Asias]), and it is also in Eusebius (E.H. iv. 13). The date of the rescript is the third consulship of Antoninus Pius.[C] The rescript declares that the Christians—for they are meant, though the name Christians does not occur in the rescript—were not to be disturbed unless they were attempting something against the Roman rule; and no man was to be punished simply for being a Christian. But this rescript is spurious. Any man moderately acquainted with Roman history will see by the style and tenor that it is a clumsy forgery.
[A] We have the evidence of Justinus (ad Diognetum, c. 5) to this effect: "The Christians are attacked by the Jews as if they were men of a different race, and are persecuted by the Greeks; and those who hate them cannot give the reason of their enmity."
[B] And in Eusebius (E.H. iv. 8, 9). Orosius (vii. 13) says that Hadrian sent this rescript to Minucius Fundanus, proconsul of Asia after being instructed in books written on the Christian religion by Quadratus, a disciple of the Apostles, and Aristides, an Athenian, an honest and wise man, and Serenus Granius. In the Greek text of Hadrian's rescript there is mentioned Serenius Granianus, the predecessor of Minucius Fundanus in the government of Asia.
This rescript of Hadrian has clearly been added to the Apology by some editor. The Apology ends with the words: [Greek: ho philon to Oeo, touto genestho]
[C] Eusebius (E.H. iv. 12), after giving the beginning of Justinus' first Apology, which contains the address to T. Antoninus and his two adopted sons, adds: "The same emperor being addressed by other brethren in Asia, honored the Commune of Asia with the following rescript." This rescript, which is in the next chapter of Eusebius (E.H. iv. 13) is in the sole name of Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Armenius, though Eusebius had just before said that he was going to give us a rescript of Antoninus Pius. There are some material variations between the two copies of the rescript besides the difference in the title, which difference makes it impossible to say whether the forger intended to assign this rescript to Pius or to M. Antoninus.
The author of the Alexandrine Chronicum says that Marcus, being moved by the entreaties of Melito and other heads of the church, wrote an Epistle to the Commune of Asia in which he forbade the Christians to be troubled on account of their religion. Valesius supposes this to be the letter or rescript which is contained in Eusebius (iv. 13), and to be the answer to the Apology of Melito, of which I shall soon give the substance. But Marcus certainly did not write this letter which is in Eusebius, and we know not what answer he made to Melito.
In the time of M. Antoninus the opposition between the old and the new belief was still stronger, and the adherents of the heathen religion urged those in authority to a more regular resistance to the invasions of the Christian faith. Melito in his Apology to M. Antoninus represents the Christians of Asia as persecuted under new imperial orders. Shameless informers, he says, men who were greedy after the property of others, used these orders as a means of robbing those who were doing no harm. He doubts if a just emperor could have ordered anything so unjust; and if the last order was really not from the emperor, the Christians entreat him not to give them up to their enemies.[A] We conclude from this that there were at least imperial rescripts or constitutions of M. Antoninus which were made the foundation of these persecutions. The fact of being a Christian was now a crime and punished, unless the accused denied their religion. Then come the persecutions at Smyrna, which some modern critics place in A.D. 167, ten years before the persecution of Lyon. The governors of the provinces under M. Antoninus might have found enough even in Trajan's rescript to warrant them in punishing Christians, and the fanaticism of the people would drive them to persecution, even if they were unwilling. But besides the fact of the Christians rejecting all the heathen ceremonies, we must not forget that they plainly maintain that all the heathen religions were false. The Christians thus declared war against the heathen rites, and it is hardly necessary to observe that this was a declaration of hostility against the Roman government, which tolerated all the various forms of superstition that existed in the empire, and could not consistently tolerate another religion, which declared that all the rest were false and all the splendid ceremonies of the empire only a worship of devils.
[A] Eusebius, iv. 26; and Routh's Reliquiae Sacrae, vol. I, and the notes. The interpretation of this Fragment is not easy. Mosheim misunderstood one passage so far as to affirm that Marcus promised rewards to those who denounced the Christians; an interpretation which is entirely false. Melito calls the Christian religion "our philosophy," which began among barbarians (the Jews), and flourished among the Roman subjects in the time of Augustus, to the great advantage of the empire, for from that time the power of the Romans grew great and glorious. He says that the emperor has and will have as the successor to Augustus' power the good wishes of men, if he will protect that philosophy which grew up with the empire and began with Augustus, which philosophy the predecessors of Antoninus honored in addition to the other religions. He further says that the Christian religion had suffered no harm since the time of Augustus, but on the contrary had enjoyed all honor and respect that any man could desire. Nero and Domitian, he says, were alone persuaded by some malicious men to calumniate the Christian religion, and this was the origin of the false charges against the Christians. But this was corrected by the emperors who immediately preceded Antoninus, who often by their rescripts reproved those who attempted to trouble the Christians. Hadrian, Antoninus' grandfather, wrote to many, and among them to Fundanus, the governor of Asia. Antoninus Pius, when Marcus was associated with him in the empire, wrote to the cities that they must not trouble the Christians; among others, to the people of Larissa, Thessalonica, the Athenians, and all the Greeks. Melito concluded thus: "We are persuaded that thou who hast about these things the same mind that they had, nay rather one much more humane and philosophical, wilt do all that we ask thee."—This Apology was written after A.D. 169, the year in which Verus died, for it speaks of Marcus only and his son Commodus. According to Melito's testimony, Christians had only been punished for their religion in the time of Nero and Domitian, and the persecutions began again in the time of M. Antoninus, and were founded on his orders, which were abused, as he seems to mean. He distinctly affirms "that the race of the godly is now persecuted and harassed by fresh imperial orders in Asia, a thing which had never happened before." But we know that all this is not true, and that Christians had been punished in Trajan's time.
If we had a true ecclesiastical history, we should know how the Roman emperors attempted to check the new religion; how they enforced their principle of finally punishing Christians, simply as Christians, which Justin in his Apology affirms that they did, and I have no doubt that he tells the truth; how far popular clamor and riots went in this matter, and how far many fanatical and ignorant Christians—for there were many such—contributed to excite the fanaticism on the other side and to embitter the quarrel between the Roman government and the new religion. Our extant ecclesiastical histories are manifestly falsified, and what truth they contain is grossly exaggerated; but the fact is certain that in the time of M. Antoninus the heathen populations were in open hostility to the Christians, and that under Antoninus' rule men were put to death because they were Christians. Eusebius, in the preface to his fifth book, remarks that in the seventeenth year of Antoninus' reign, in some parts of the world, the persecution of the Christians became more violent, and that it proceeded from the populace in the cities; and he adds, in his usual style of exaggeration, that we may infer from what took place in a single nation that myriads of martyrs were made in the habitable earth. The nation which he alludes to is Gallia; and he then proceeds to give the letter of the churches of Vienna and Lugdunum. It is probable that he has assiged the true cause of the persecutions, the fanaticism of the populace, and that both governors and emperor had a great deal of trouble with these disturbances. How far Marcus was cognizant of these cruel proceedings we do not know, for the historical records of his reign are very defective. He did not make the rule against the Christians, for Trajan did that; and if we admit that he would have been willing to let the Christians alone, we cannot affirm that it was in his power, for it would be a great mistake to suppose that Antoninus had the unlimited authority which some modern sovereigns have had. His power was limited by certain constitutional forms, by the Senate, and by the precedents of his predecessors. We cannot admit that such a man was an active persecutor, for there is no evidence that he was,[A] though it is certain that he had no good opinion of the Christians, as appears from his own words.[B] But he knew nothing of them except their hostility to the Roman religion, and he probably thought that they were dangerous to the state, notwithstanding the professions, false or true, of some of the Apologists. So much I have said, because it would be unfair not to state all that can be urged against a man whom his contemporaries and subsequent ages venerated as a model of virtue and benevolence. If I admitted the genuineness of some documents, he would be altogether clear from the charge of even allowing any persecutions; but as I seek the truth and am sure that they are false, I leave him to bear whatever blame is his due.[C] I add that it is quite certain that Antoninus did not derive any of his ethical principles from a religion of which he knew nothing.[D]
[A] Except that of Orosius (vii. 15), who says that during the Parthian war there were grievous persecutions of the Christians in Asia and Gallia under the orders of Marcus (praecepto ejus), and "many were crowned with the martyrdom of saints."
[B] See xi. 3. The emperor probably speaks of such fanatics as Clemens (quoted by Gataker on this passage) mentions. The rational Christians admitted no fellowship with them. "Some of these heretics," says Clemens, "show their impiety and cowardice by loving their lives, saying that the knowledge of the really existing God is true testimony (martyrdom), but that a man is a self-murderer who bears witness by his death. We also blame those who rush to death; for there are some, not of us, but only bearing the same name, who give themselves up. We say of them that they die without being martyrs, even if they are publicly punished; and they give themselves up to a death which avails nothing, as the Indian Gymnosophists give themselves up foolishly to fire." Cave, in his primitive Christianity (ii. c. 7), says of the Christians: "They did flock to the place of torment faster than droves of beasts that are driven to the shambles. They even longed to be in the arms of suffering. Ignatius, though then in his journey to Rome in order to his execution, yet by the way as he went could not but vent his passionate desire of it 'Oh that I might come to those wild beasts that are prepared for me; I heartily wish that I may presently meet with them; I would invite and encourage them speedily to devour me, and not be afraid to set upon me as they have been to others; nay, should they refuse it, I would even force them to it;'" and more to the same purpose from Eusebius. Cave, an honest and good man, says all this in praise of the Christians; but I think that he mistook the matter. We admire a man who holds to his principles even to death; but these fanatical Christians are the Gymnosophists whom Clemens treats with disdain.
[C] Dr. F.C. Baur, in his work entitled "Das Christenthum und die Christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte," &c., has examined this question with great good sense and fairness, and I believe he has stated the truth as near as our authorities enable us to reach it.
[D] In the Digest, 48, 19, 30, there is the following excerpt from Modestinus: "Si quis aliquid fecerit, quo leves hominum animi superstitione numinis terrerentur, divus Marcus hujusmodi homines in insulam relegari rescripsit."
There is no doubt that the Emperor's Reflections—or his Meditations, as they are generally named—is a genuine work. In the first book he speaks of himself, his family, and his teachers; and in other books he mentions himself. Suidas (v.[Greek: Markos]) notices a work of Antoninus in twelve books, which he names the "conduct of his own life;" and he cites the book under several words in his Dictionary, giving the emperor's name, but not the title of the work. There are also passages cited by Suidas from Antoninus without mention of the emperor's name. The true title of the work is unknown. Xylander, who published the first edition of this book (Zuerich, 1558, 8vo, with a Latin version), used a manuscript which contained the twelve books, but it is not known where the manuscript is now. The only other complete manuscript which is known to exist is in the Vatican library, but it has no title and no inscriptions of the several books: the eleventh only has the inscription, [Greek: Markou autokratoros] marked with an asterisk. The other Vatican manuscripts and the three Florentine contain only excerpts from the emperor's book. All the titles of the excerpts nearly agree with that which Xylander prefixed to his edition, [Greek: Markou Antoninou Autokratoros ton eis heauton biblia ib.] This title has been used by all subsequent editors. We cannot tell whether Antoninus divided his work into books or somebody else did it. If the inscriptions at the end of the first and second books are genuine, he may have made the division himself.
It is plain that the emperor wrote down his thoughts or reflections as the occasions arose; and since they were intended for his own use, it is no improbable conjecture that he left a complete copy behind him written with his own hand; for it is not likely that so diligent a man would use the labor of a transcriber for such a purpose, and expose his most secret thoughts to any other eye. He may have also intended the book for his son Commodus, who however had no taste for his father's philosophy. Some careful hand preserved the precious volume; and a work by Antoninus is mentioned by other late writers besides Suidas.
Many critics have labored on the text of Antoninus. The most complete edition is that by Thomas Gataker, 1652, 4to. The second edition of Gataker was superintended by George Stanhope, 1697, 4to. There is also an edition of 1704. Gataker made and suggested many good corrections, and he also made a new Latin version, which is not a very good specimen of Latin, but it generally expresses the sense of the original, and often better than some of the more recent translations. He added in the margin opposite to each paragraph references to the other parallel passages; and he wrote a commentary, one of the most complete that has been written on any ancient author. This commentary contains the editor's exposition of the more difficult passages, and quotations from all the Greek and Roman writers for the illustration of the text. It is a wonderful monument of learning and labor, and certainly no Englishman has yet done anything like it. At the end of his preface the editor says that he wrote it at Rotherhithe near London, in a severe winter, when he was in the seventy-eighth year of his age, 1651—a time when Milton, Selden, and other great men of the Commonwealth time were living; and the great French scholar Saumaise (Salmasius), with whom Gataker corresponded and received help from him for his edition of Antoninus. The Greek test has also been edited by J. M. Schultz, Leipzig, 1802, 8vo; and by the learned Greek Adamantinus Corais, Paris, 1816, 8vo. The text of Schultz was republished by Tauchnitz, 1821.
There are English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish translations of M. Antoninus, and there may be others. I have not seen all the English translations. There is one by Jeremy Collier, 1702, 8vo, a most coarse and vulgar copy of the original. The latest French translation by Alexis Pierron in the collection of Charpentier is better than Dacier's, which has been honored with an Italian version (Udine, 1772). There is an Italian version (1675), which I have not seen. It is by a cardinal. "A man illustrious in the church, the Cardinal Francis Barberini the elder, nephew of Pope Urban VIII., occupied the last years of his life in translating into his native language the thoughts of the Roman emperor, in order to diffuse among the faithful the fertilizing and vivifying seeds. He dedicated this translation to his soul, to make it, as he says in his energetic style, redder than his purple at the sight of the virtues of this Gentile" (Pierron, Preface).
I have made this translation at intervals after having used the book for many years. It is made from the Greek, but I have not always followed one text; and I have occasionally compared other versions with my own. I made this translation for my own use, because I found that it was worth the labor; but it may be useful to others also; and therefore I determined to print it. As the original is sometimes very difficult to understand and still more difficult to translate, it is not possible that I have always avoided error. But I believe that I have not often missed the meaning, and those who will take the trouble to compare the translation with the original should not hastily conclude that I am wrong, if they do not agree with me. Some passages do give the meaning, though at first sight they may not appear to do so; and when I differ from the translators, I think that in some places they are wrong, and in other places I am sure that they are. I have placed in some passages a +, which indicates corruption in the text or great uncertainty in the meaning. I could have made the language more easy and flowing, but I have preferred a ruder style as being better suited to express the character of the original; and sometimes the obscurity which may appear in the version is a fair copy of the obscurity of the Greek. If I should ever revise this version, I would gladly make use of any corrections which may be suggested. I have added an index of some of the Greek terms with the corresponding English. If I have not given the best words for the Greek, I have done the best that I could; and in the text I have always given the same translation of the same word.
The last reflection of the Stoic philosophy that I have observed is in Simplicius' Commentary on the Enchiridion of Epictetus. Simplicius was not a Christian, and such a man was not likely to be converted at a time when Christianity was grossly corrupted. But he was a really religious man, and he concludes his commentary with a prayer to the Deity which no Christian could improve. From the time of Zeno to Simplicius, a period of about nine hundred years, the Stoic philosophy formed the characters of some of the best and greatest men. Finally it became extinct, and we hear no more of it till the revival of letters in Italy. Angelo Poliziano met with two very inaccurate and incomplete manuscripts of Epictetus' Enchiridion, which he translated into Latin and dedicated to his great patron Lorenzo de' Medici, in whose collection he had found the book. Poliziano's version was printed in the first Bale edition of the Enchiridion, A.D. 1531 (apud And. Cratandrum). Poliziano recommends the Enchiridion to Lorenzo as a work well suited to his temper, and useful in the difficulties by which he was surrounded.
Epictetus and Antoninus have had readers ever since they were first printed. The little book of Antoninus has been the companion of some great men. Machiavelli's Art of War and Marcus Antoninus were the two books which were used when he was a young man by Captain John Smith, and he could not have found two writers better fitted to form the character of a soldier and a man. Smith is almost unknown and forgotten in England, his native country, but not in America, where he saved the young colony of Virginia. He was great in his heroic mind and his deeds in arms, but greater still in the nobleness of his character. For a man's greatness lies not in wealth and station, as the vulgar believe, nor yet in his intellectual capacity, which is often associated with the meanest moral character, the most abject servility to those in high places, and arrogance to the poor and lowly; but a man's true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examination, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right, without troubling himself, as the emperor says he should not, about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not do that which he thinks and says and does.
MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONIUS
It has been said that the Stoic philosophy first showed its real value when it passed from Greece to Rome. The doctrines of Zeno and his successors were well suited to the gravity and practical good sense of the Romans; and even in the Republican period we have an example of a man, M. Cato Uticensis, who lived the life of a Stoic and died consistently with the opinions which he professed. He was a man, says Cicero, who embraced the Stoic philosophy from conviction; not for the purpose of vain discussion, as most did, but in order to make his life conformable to the Stoic precepts. In the wretched times from the death of Augustus to the murder of Domitian, there was nothing but the Stoic philosophy which could console and support the followers of the old religion under imperial tyranny and amidst universal corruption. There were even then noble minds that could dare and endure, sustained by a good conscience and an elevated idea of the purposes of man's existence. Such were Paetus Thrasae, Helvidius Priscus, Cornutus, C. Musonius Rufus,[A] and the poets Persius and Juvenal, whose energetic language and manly thoughts may be as instructive to us now as they might have been to their contemporaries. Persius died under Nero's bloody reign; but Juvenal had the good fortune to survive the tyrant Domitian and to see the better times of Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian.[B] His best precepts are derived from the Stoic school, and they are enforced in his finest verses by the unrivalled vigor of the Latin language.
[A] I have omitted Seneca, Nero's preceptor. He was in a sense a Stoic, and he has said many good things in a very fine way. There is a judgment of Gellius (xii. 2.) on Seneca, or rather a statement of what some people thought of his philosophy, and it is not favorable. His writings and his life must be taken together, and I have nothing more to say of him here. The reader will find a notice of Seneca and his philosophy in "Seekers after God," by the Rev. P. W. Farrar. Macmillan and Co.
[B] Ribbeck has labored to prove that those Satires, which contain philosophical precepts, are not the work of the real, but of a false Juvenal, a Declamator. Still the verses exist, and were written by somebody who was acquainted with the Stoic doctrines.
The best two expounders of the later Stoical philosophy were a Greek slave and a Roman emperor. Epictetus, a Phrygian Greek, was brought to Rome, we know not how, but he was there the slave and afterwards the freedman of an unworthy master, Epaphroditus by name, himself a freedman and a favorite of Nero. Epictetus may have been a hearer of C. Musonius Rufus, while he was still a slave, but he could hardly have been a teacher before he was made free. He was one of the philosophers whom Domitian's order banished from Rome. He retired to Nicopolis in Epirus, and he may have died there. Like other great teachers he wrote nothing, and we are indebted to his grateful pupil Arrian for what we have of Epictetus' discourses. Arrian wrote eight books of the discourses of Epictetus, of which only four remain and some fragments. We have also from Arrian's hand the small Enchiridion or Manual of the chief precepts of Epictetus. This is a valuable commentary on the Enchiridion by Simplicius, who lived in the time of the emperor Justinian.[A]
[A] There is a complete edition of Arrian's Epictetus with the commentary of Simplicius by J. Schweighaeuser, 6 vols. 8vo. 1799, 1800. There is also an English translation of Epictetus by Mrs. Carter.
Antoninus in his first book (i. 7), in which he gratefully commemorates his obligations to his teachers, says that he was made acquainted by Junius Rusticus with the discourses of Epictetus, whom he mentions also in other passages (iv. 41; xi. 34, 36). Indeed, the doctrines of Epictetus and Antoninus are the same, and Epictetus is the best authority for the explanation of the philosophical language of Antoninus and the exposition of his opinions. But the method of the two philosophers is entirely different. Epictetus addressed himself to his hearers in a continuous discourse and in a familiar and simple manner. Antoninus wrote down his reflections for his own use only, in short, unconnected paragraphs, which are often obscure.
The Stoics made three divisions of philosophy,—Physic ([Greek: phusikon]), Ethic ([Greek: ethikon]), and Logic ([Greek: logikon]) (viii. 13). This division, we are told by Diogenes, was made by Zeno of Citium, the founder of the Stoic sect, and by Chrysippus; but these philosophers placed the three divisions in the following order,—Logic, Physic, Ethic. It appears, however, that this division was made before Zeno's time, and acknowledged by Plato, as Cicero remarks (Acad. Post. i. 5). Logic is not synonymous with our term Logic in the narrower sense of that word.
Cleanthes, a Stoic, subdivided the three divisions and made six,—Dialectic and Rhetoric, comprised in Logic; Ethic and Politic; Physic and Theology. This division was merely for practical use, for all Philosophy is one. Even among the earliest Stoics Logic, or Dialectic, does not occupy the same place as in Plato: it is considered only as an instrument which is to be used for the other divisions of Philosophy. An exposition of the earlier Stoic doctrines and of their modifications would require a volume. My object is to explain only the opinions of Antoninus, so far as they can be collected from his book.
According to the subdivision of Cleanthes, Physic and Theology go together, or the study of the nature of Things, and the study of the nature of the Deity, so far as man can understand the Deity, and of his government of the universe. This division or subdivision is not formally adopted by Antoninus, for, as already observed, there is no method in his book; but it is virtually contained in it.
Cleanthes also connects Ethic and Politic, or the study of the principles of morals and the study of the constitution of civil society; and undoubtedly he did well in subdividing Ethic into two parts. Ethic in the narrower sense and Politic; for though the two are intimately connected, they are also very distinct, and many questions can only be properly discussed by carefully observing the distinction. Antoninus does not treat of Politic. His subject is Ethic, and Ethic in its practical application to his own conduct in life as a man and as a governor. His Ethic is founded on his doctrines about man's nature, the Universal Nature, and the relation of every man to everything else. It is therefore intimately and inseparably connected with Physic, or the Nature of Things, and with Theology, or the Nature of the Deity. He advises us to examine well all the impressions on our minds ([Greek: phantasiai]) and to form a right judgment of them, to make just conclusions, and to inquire into the meanings of words, and so far to apply Dialectic; but he has no attempt at any exposition of Dialectic, and his philosophy is in substance purely moral and practical. He says (viii. 13), "Constantly and, if it be possible, on the occasion of every impression on the soul,[A] apply to it the principles of Physic, of Ethic, and of Dialectic:" which is only another way of telling us to examine the impression in every possible way. In another passage (iii. 11) he says, "To the aids which have been mentioned, let this one still be added: make for thyself a definition or description of the object ([Greek: to phantaston]) which is presented to thee, so as to see distinctly what kind of a thing it is in its substance, in its nudity, in its complete entirety, and tell thyself its proper name, and the names of the things of which it has been compounded, and into which it will be resolved." Such an examination implies a use of Dialectic, which Antoninus accordingly employed as a means toward establishing his Physical, Theological, and Ethical principles.
[A] The original is [Greek: epi pases phantasias]. We have no word which expresses [Greek: phantasia], for it is not only the sensuous appearance which comes from an external object, which object is called [Greek: to phantaston], but it is also the thought or feeling or opinion which is produced even when there is no corresponding external object before us. Accordingly everything which moves the soul is [Greek: phantaston], and produces a [Greek: phantasia].
In this extract Antoninus says [Greek: physiologein, pathologein, dialektikeuesthai]. I have translated [Greek: pathologein] by using the word Moral (Ethic), and that is the meaning here.
There are several expositions of the Physical, Theological, and Ethical principles, which are contained in the work of Antoninus; and more expositions than I have read. Ritter (Geschichte der Philosophie, iv. 241), after explaining the doctrines of Epictetus, treats very briefly and insufficiently those of Antoninus. But he refers to a short essay, in which the work is done better.[A] There is also an essay on the Philosophical Principles of M. Aurelius Antoninus by J.M. Schultz, placed at the end of his German translation of Antoninus (Schleswig, 1799). With the assistance of these two useful essays and his own diligent study, a man may form a sufficient notion of the principles of Antoninus; but he will find it more difficult to expound them to others. Besides the want of arrangement in the original and of connection among the numerous paragraphs, the corruption of the text, the obscurity of the language and the style, and sometimes perhaps the confusion in the writer's own ideas—besides all this, there is occasionally an apparent contradiction in the emperor's thoughts, as if his principles were sometimes unsettled, as if doubt sometimes clouded his mind. A man who leads a life of tranquillity and reflection, who is not disturbed at home and meddles not with the affairs of the world, may keep his mind at ease and his thoughts in one even course. But such a man has not been tried. All his Ethical philosophy and his passive virtue might turn out to be idle words, if he were once exposed to the rude realities of human existence. Fine thoughts and moral dissertations from men who have not worked and suffered may be read, but they will be forgotten. No religion, no Ethical philosophy is worth anything, if the teacher has not lived the "life of an apostle," and been ready to die "the death of a martyr." "Not in passivity (the passive effects) but in activity lie the evil and the good of the rational social animal, just as his virtue and his vice lie not in passivity, but in activity" (ix. 16). The emperor Antoninus was a practical moralist. From his youth he followed a laborious discipline, and though his high station placed him above all want or the fear of it, he lived as frugally and temperately as the poorest philospher. Epictetus wanted little, and it seems that he always had the little that he wanted and he was content with it, as he had been with his servile station! But Antoninus after his accession to the empire sat on an uneasy seat. He had the administration of an empire which extended from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, from the cold mountains of Scotland to the hot sands of Africa; and we may imagine, though we cannot know it by experience, what must be the trials, the troubles, the anxiety, and the sorrows of him who has the world's business on his hands, with the wish to do the best that he can, and the certain knowledge that he can do very little of the good which he wishes.
[A] De Marco Aurelio Antonino ... ex ipsius Commentariis. Scriptio Philologica. Instituit Nicolaus Bachius, Lipsiae, 1826.
In the midst of war, pestilence, conspiracy, general corruption, and with the weight of so unwieldy an empire upon him, we may easily comprehend that Antoninus often had need of all his fortitude to support him. The best and the bravest men have moments of doubt and of weakness; but if they are the best and the bravest, they rise again from their depression by recurring to first principles, as Antoninus does. The emperor says that life is smoke, a vapor, and St. James in his Epistle is of the same mind; that the world is full of envious, jealous, malignant people, and a man might be well content to get out of it. He has doubts perhaps sometimes even about that to which he holds most firmly. There are only a few passages of this kind, but they are evidence of the struggles which even the noblest of the sons of men had to maintain against the hard realities of his daily life. A poor remark it is which I have seen somewhere, and made in a disparaging way, that the emperor's reflections show that he had need of consolation and comfort in life, and even to prepare him to meet his death. True that he did need comfort and support, and we see how he found it. He constantly recurs to his fundamental principle that the universe is wisely ordered, that every man is a part of it and must conform to that order which he cannot change, that whatever the Deity has done is good, that all mankind are a man's brethren, that he must love and cherish them and try to make them better, even those who would do him harm. This is his conclusion (ii. 17): "What then is that which is able to conduct a man? One thing and only one, Philosophy. But this consists in keeping the divinity within a man free from violence and unharmed, superior to pains and pleasures, doing nothing without a purpose nor yet falsely and with hypocrisy, not feeling the need of another man's doing or not doing anything; and besides, accepting all that happens and all that is allotted, as coming from thence, wherever it is, from whence he himself came; and finally waiting for death with a cheerful mind as being nothing else than a dissolution of the elements of which every living being is compounded. But if there is no harm, to the elements themselves in each continually changing into another, why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements [himself]? for it is according to nature; and nothing is evil that is according to nature."
The Physic of Antoninus is the knowledge of the Nature of the Universe, of its government, and of the relation of man's nature to both. He names the universe ([Greek: he ton hylon ousia], vi. 1),[A] "the universal substance," and he adds that "reason" ([Greek: logos]) governs the universe. He also (vi. 9) uses the terms "universal nature" or "nature of the universe." He (vi. 25) calls the universe "the one and all, which we name Cosmos or Order" ([Greek: kosmos]). If he ever seems to use these general terms as significant of the All, of all that man can in any way conceive to exist, he still on other occasions plainly distinguishes between Matter, Material things ([Greek: hyle, hylikon]), and Cause, Origin, Reason ([Greek: aitia, aitiodes, logos]).[B] This is conformable to Zeno's doctrine that there are two original principles ([Greek: archai]) of all things, that which acts ([Greek: to poioun]) and that which is acted upon ([Greek: to paschon]). That which is acted on is the formless matter ([Greek: hyle]): that which acts is the reason ([Greek: logos]), God, who is eternal and operates through all matter, and produces all things. So Antoninus (v. 32) speaks of the reason ([Greek: logos])which pervades all substance ([Greek: ousia]), and through all time by fixed periods (revolutions) administers the universe ([Greek: to pan]). God is eternal, and Matter is eternal. It is God who gives form to matter, but he is not said to have created matter. According to this view, which is as old as Anaxagoras, God and matter exist independently, but God governs matter. This doctrine is simply the expression of the fact of the existence both of matter and of God. The Stoics did not perplex themselves with the in-soluble question of the origin and nature of matter.[C] Antoninus also assumes a beginning of things, as we now know them; but his language is sometimes very obscure. I have endeavored to explain the meaning of one difficult passage (vii. 75, and the note).
[A] As to the word [Greek: ousia], the reader may see the Index. I add here a few examples of the use of the word; Antoninus has (v. 24), [Greek: he sumpasa ousia], "the universal substance." He says (xii. 30 and iv. 40), "there is one common substance" ([Greek: ousia]), distributed among countless bodies. In Stobaeus (tom. 1, lib. 1, tit. 14) there is this definition, [Greek: ousian de phasin ton onton hapanton ten proten hylen]. In viii. II, Antoninus speaks of [Greek: to ousiodes kai hyulikon], "the substantial and the material;" and (vii. 10) he says that "everything material" ([Greek: enulon]) disappears in the substance of the whole ([Greek: te ton holon ousia]). The [Greek: ousia] is the generic name of that existence which we assume as the highest or ultimate, because we conceive no existence which can be coordinated with it and none above it. It is the philosopher's "substance:" it is the ultimate expression for that which we conceive or suppose to be the basis, the being of a thing. "From the Divine, which is substance in itself, or the only and sole substance, all and everything that is created exists" (Swedenborg, Angelic Wisdom, 198).
[B] I remark, in order to anticipate any misapprehension, that all these general terms involve a contradiction. The "one and all," and the like, and "the whole," imply limitation. "One" is limited; "all" is limited; the "whole" is limited. We cannot help it. We cannot find words to express that which we cannot fully conceive. The addition of "absolute" or any other such word does not mend the matter. Even the word God is used by most people, often unconsciously, in such a way that limitation is implied, and yet at the same time words are added which are intended to deny limitation. A Christian martyr, when he was asked what God was, is said to have answered that God has no name like a man; and Justin says the same (Apol. ii. 6), "the names Father, God, Creator, Lord, and Master are not names, but appellations derived from benefactions and acts." (Compare Seneca, De Benef. iv. 8.) We can conceive the existence of a thing, or rather we may have the idea of an existence, without an adequate notion of it, "adequate" meaning coextensive and coequal with the thing. We have a notion of limited space derived from the dimensions of what we call a material thing, though of space absolute, if I may use the term, we have no notion at all; and of infinite space the notion is the same—no notion at all; and yet we conceive it in a sense, though I know not how, and we believe that space is infinite, and we cannot conceive it to be finite.
[C] The notions of matter and of space are inseparable. We derive the notion of space from matter and form. But we have no adequate conception either of matter or space. Matter in its ultimate resolution is as unintelligible as what men call mind, spirit, or by whatever other name they may express the power which makes itself known by acts. Anaxagoras laid down the distinction between intelligence [Greek: nous] and matter, and he said that intelligence impressed motion on matter, and so separated the elements of matter and gave them order; but he probably only assumed a beginning, as Simplicius says, as a foundation of his philosophical teaching. Empedocles said, "The universe always existed." He had no idea of what is called creation. Ocellus Lucanus (i, Sec. 2) maintained that the Universe ([Greek: to pan]) was imperishable and uncreated. Consequently it is eternal. He admitted the existence of God; but his theology would require some discussion. On the contrary, the Brachmans, according to Strabo (p. 713, ed. Cas.), taught that the universe was created and perishable; and the creator and administrator of it pervades the whole. The author of the book of Solomon's Wisdom says (xi. 17): "Thy Almighty hand made the world of matter without form," which may mean that matter existed already.
The common Greek word which we translate "matter" is [Greek: hyle]. It is the stuff that things are made of.
Matter consists of elemental parts ([Greek: stoicheia]) of which all material objects are made. But nothing is permanent in form. The nature of the universe, according to Antoninus' expression (iv. 36), "loves nothing so much as to change the things which are, and to make new things like them. For everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be. But thou art thinking only of seeds which are cast into the earth or into a womb: but this is a very vulgar notion." All things then are in a constant flux and change; some things are dissolved into the elements, others come in their places; and so the "whole universe continues ever young and perfect" (xii. 23).
Antoninus has some obscure expressions about what he calls "seminal principles" ([Greek: spermatikoi logoi]). He opposes them to the Epicurean atoms (vi. 24), and consequently his "seminal principles" are not material atoms which wander about at hazard, and combine nobody knows how. In one passage (iv. 21) he speaks of living principles, souls ([Greek: psychahi]) after the dissolution of their bodies being received into the "seminal principle of the universe." Schultz thinks that by "seminal principles Antoninus means the relations of the various elemental principles, which relations are determined by the Deity and by which alone the production of organized beings is possible." This may be the meaning; but if it is, nothing of any value can be derived from it.[A] Antoninus often uses the word "Nature" ([Greek: physis]), and we must attempt to fix its meaning, The simple etymological sense of [Greek: physis] is "production," the birth of what we call Things. The Romans used Natura, which also means "birth" originally. But neither the Greeks nor the Romans stuck to this simple meaning, nor do we. Antoninus says (x. 6): "Whether the universe is [a concourse of] atoms or Nature [is a system], let this first be established, that I am a part of the whole which is governed by nature." Here it might seem as if nature were personified and viewed as an active, efficient power; as something which, it not independent of the Deity, acts by a power which is given to it by the Deity. Such, if I understand the expression right, is the way in which the word Nature is often used now, though it is plain that many writers use the word without fixing any exact meaning to it. It is the same with the expression Laws of Nature, which some writers may use in an intelligible sense, but others as clearly use in no definite sense at all. There is no meaning in this word Nature, except that which Bishop Butler assigns to it, when he says, "The only distinct meaning of that word Natural is Stated, Fixed, or Settled; since what is natural as much requires and presupposes an intelligent agent to render it so, i.e., to effect it continually or at stated times, as what is supernatural or miraculous does to effect it at once." This is Plato's meaning (De Leg., iv. 715) when he says that God holds the beginning and end and middle of all that exists, and proceeds straight on his course, making his circuit according to nature (that is by a fixed order); and he is continually accompanied by justice, who punishes those who deviate from the divine law, that is, from the order or course which God observes.
[A] Justin (Apol. ii. 8) has the words [Greek: kata spermatikou logou meros], where he is speaking of the Stoics; but he uses this expression in a peculiar sense (note II). The early Christian writers were familiar with the Stoic terms, and their writings show that the contest was begun between the Christian expositors and the Greek philosophy. Even in the second Epistle of St. Peter (ii. I, v. 4) we find a Stoic expression, [Greek: Ina dia touton genesthe theias koinonoi physeos.]
When we look at the motions of the planets, the action of what we call gravitation, the elemental combination of unorganized bodies and their resolution, the production of plants and of living bodies, their generation, growth, and their dissolution, which we call their death, we observe a regular sequence of phenomena, which within the limits of experience present and past, so far as we know the past, is fixed and invariable. But if this is not so, if the order and sequence of phenomena, as known to us, are subject to change in the course of an infinite progression,—and such change is conceivable,—we have not discovered, nor shall we ever discover, the whole of the order and sequence of phenomena, in which sequence there may be involved according to its very nature, that is, according to its fixed order, some variation of what we now call the Order or Nature of Things. It is also conceivable that such changes have taken place,—changes in the order of things, as we are compelled by the imperfection of language to call them, but which are no changes; and further it is certain that our knowledge of the true sequence of all actual phenomena, as for instance the phenomena of generation, growth, and dissolution, is and ever must be imperfect.
We do not fare much better when we speak of Causes and Effects than when we speak of Nature. For the practical purposes of life we may use the terms cause and effect conveniently, and we may fix a distinct meaning to them, distinct enough at least to prevent all misunderstanding. But the case is different when we speak of causes and effects as of Things. All that we know is phenomena, as the Greeks called them, or appearances which follow one another in a regular order, as we conceive it, so that if some one phenomenon should fail in the series, we conceive that there must either be an interruption of the series, or that something else will appear after the phenomenon which has failed to appear, and will occupy the vacant place; and so the series in its progression may be modified or totally changed. Cause and effect then mean nothing in the sequence of natural phenomena beyond what I have said; and the real cause, or the transcendent cause, as some would call it, of each successive phenomenon is in that which is the cause of all things which are, which have been, and which will be forever. Thus the word Creation may have a real sense if we consider it as the first, if we can conceive a first, in the present order of natural phenomena; but in the vulgar sense a creation of all things at a certain time, followed by a quiescence of the first cause and an abandonment of all sequences of Phenomena to the laws of Nature, or to the other words that people may Use, is absolutely absurd.[A]
[A] Time and space are the conditions of our thought; but time infinite and space infinite cannot be objects of thought, except in a very imperfect way. Time and space must not in any way be thought of when we think of the Deity. Swedenborg says, "The natural man may believe that he would have no thought, if the ideas of time, of space, and of things material were taken away; for upon those is founded all the thought that man has. But let him know that the thoughts are limited and confined in proportion as they partake of time, of space, and of what is material; and that they are not limited and are extended, in proportion as they do not partake of those things; since the mind is so far elevated above the things corporeal and worldly" (Concerning Heaven and Hell, 169).
Now, though there is great difficulty in understanding all the passages of Antoninus, in which he speaks of Nature, of the changes of things and of the economy of the universe, I am convinced that his sense of Nature and Natural is the same as that which I have stated; and as he was a man who knew how to use words in a clear way and with strict consistency, we ought to assume, even if his meaning in some passages is doubtful, that his view of Nature was in harmony with his fixed belief in the all-pervading, ever present, and ever active energy of God. (ii. 4; iv. 40; x. 1; vi. 40; and other passages. Compare Seneca, De Benef., iv. 7. Swedenborg, Angelic Wisdom, 349-357.)
There is much in Antoninus that is hard to understand, and it might be said that he did not fully comprehend all that he wrote; which would however be in no way remarkable, for it happens now that a man may write what neither he nor anybody can understand. Antoninus tells us (xii. 10) to look at things and see what they are, resolving them into the material [Greek: hyle], the casual [Greek: aition], and the relation [Greek: anaphora], or the purpose, by which he seems to mean something in the nature of what we call effect, or end. The word Caus ([Greek: aitia]) is the difficulty. There is the same word in the Sanscrit (hetu); and the subtle philosophers of India and of Greece, and the less subtle philosophers of modern times, have all used this word, or an equivalent word, in a vague way. Yet the confusion sometimes may be in the inevitable ambiguity of language rather than in the mind of the writer, for I cannot think that some of the wisest of men did not know what they intended to say. When Antoninus says (iv. 36), "that everything that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be," he might be supposed to say what some of the Indian philosophers have said, and thus a profound truth might be converted into a gross absurdity. But he says, "in a manner," and in a manner he said true; and in another manner, if you mistake his meaning, he said false. When Plato said, "Nothing ever is, but is always becoming" ([Greek: aei gignetai]), he delivered a text, out of which we may derive something; for he destroys by it not all practical, but all speculative notions of cause and effect. The whole series of things, as they appear to us, must be contemplated in time, that is in succession, and we conceive or suppose intervals between one state of things and another state of things, so that there is priority and sequence, and interval, and Being, and a ceasing to Be, and beginning and ending. But there is nothing of the kind in the Nature of Things. It is an everlasting continuity (iv. 45; vii. 75). When Antoninus speaks of generation (x. 26), he speaks of one cause ([Greek: aitia]) acting, and then another cause taking up the work, which the former left in a certain state, and so on; and we might perhaps conceive that he had some notion like what has been called "the self-evolving power of nature;" a fine phrase indeed, the full import of which I believe that the writer of it did not see, and thus he laid himself open to the imputation of being a follower of one of the Hindu sects, which makes all things come by evolution out of nature or matter, or out of something which takes the place of Deity, but is not Deity. I would have all men think as they please, or as they can, and I only claim the same freedom which I give. When a man writes anything, we may fairly try to find out all that his words must mean, even if the result is that they mean what he did not mean; and if we find this contradiction, it is not our fault, but his misfortune. Now Antoninus is perhaps somewhat in this condition in what he says (x. 26), though he speaks at the end of the paragraph of the power which acts, unseen by the eyes, but still no less clearly. But whether in this passage (x. 26) lie means that the power is conceived to be in the different successive causes ([Greek: aitiai]), or in something else, nobody can tell. From other passages, however, I do collect that his notion of the phenomena of the universe is what I have stated. The Deity works unseen, if we may use such language, and perhaps I may, as Job did, or he who wrote the book of Job. "In him we live and move and are," said St. Paul to the Athenians; and to show his hearers that this was no new doctrine, he quoted the Greek poets. One of these poets was the Stoic Cleauthes, whose noble hymn to Zeus, or God, is an elevated expression of devotion and philosophy. It deprives Nature of her power, and puts her under the immediate government of the Deity.
"Thee all this heaven, which whirls around the earth, Obeys, and willing follows where thou leadest. Without thee, God, nothing is done on earth, Nor in the ethereal realms, nor in the sea, Save what the wicked through their folly do."
Antoninus' conviction of the existence of a divine power and government was founded on his perception of the order of the universe. Like Socrates (Xen. Mem., iv. 3, 13, etc.) he says that though we cannot see the forms of divine powers, we know that they exist because we see their works.
"To those who ask, Where hast thou seen the gods, or how dost thou comprehend that they exist and so worshipest them? I answer, in the first place, that they may be seen even with the eyes; in the second place, neither have I seen my own soul, and yet I honor it. Thus then with respect to the gods, from what I constantly experience of their power, from this I comprehend that they exist, and I venerate them." (xii. 28, and the note. Comp. Aristotle de Mundo, c. 6; Xen. Mem. i. 4, 9; Cicero, Tuscul. i. 28, 29; St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, i. 19, 20; and Montaigne's Apology for Raimond de Sebonde, ii. c. 12.) This is a very old argument, which has always had great weight with most people, and has appeared sufficient. It does not acquire the least additional strength by being developed in a learned treatise. It is as intelligible in its simple enunciation as it can be made. If it is rejected, there is no arguing with him who rejects it: and if it is worked out into innumerable particulars, the value of the evidence runs the risk of being buried under a mass of words.
Man being conscious that he is a spiritual power, or that he has such a power, in whatever way he conceives that he has it—for I wish simply to state a fact—from this power which he has in himself, he is led, as Antoninus says, to believe that there is a greater power, which, as the old Stoics tell us, pervades the whole universe as the intellect[A] ([Greek: nous]) pervades man. (Compare Epictetus' Discourses, i. 14; and Voltaire a Mad^e. Necker, vol. lxvii., p. 278, ed. Lequien.)
[A] I have always translated the word [Greek: nous], "intelligence" or "intellect." It appears to be the word used by the oldest Greek philosophers to express the notion of "intelligence" as opposed to the notion of "matter." I have always translated the word [Greek: logos] by "reason," and [Greek: logikos] by the word "rational," or perhaps sometimes "reasonable," as I have translated [Greek: noeros] by the word "intellectual." Every man who has thought and has read any philosophical writings knows the difficulty of finding words to express certain notions, how imperfectly words express these notions, and how carelessly the words are often used. The various senses of the word [Greek: logos] are enough to perplex any man. Our translators of the New Testament (St. John, c. 1.) have simply translated [Greek: ho logos] by "the word," as the Germans translated it by "das Wort;" but in their theological writings they sometimes retain the original term Logos. The Germans have a term Vernunft, which seems to come nearest to our word Reason, or the necessary and absolute truths which we cannot conceive as being other than what they are. Such are what some people have called the laws of thought, the conceptions of space and of time, and axioms or first principles, which need no proof and cannot be proved or denied. Accordingly the Germans can say, "Gott ist die hoechste Vernunft," the Supreme Reason. The Germans have also a word Verstand, which seems to represent our word "understanding," "intelligence," "intellect," not as a thing absolute which exists by itself, but as a thing connected with an individual being, as a man. Accordingly it is the capacity of receiving impressions (Vorstellungen, [Greek: phantasiai],) and forming from them distinct ideas (Begriffe), and perceiving differences. I do not think that these remarks will help the reader to the understanding of Antoninus, or his use of the words [Greek: nous] and [Greek: logos]. The emperor's meaning must be got from his own words, and if it does not agree altogether with modern notions, it is not our business to force it into agreement, but simply to find out what his meaning is, if we can.
Justinus (ad Diognetum, c. vii.) says that the omnipotent, all-creating, and invisible God has fixed truth and the holy, incomprehensible Logos in men's hearts; and this Logos is the architect and creator of the Universe. In the first Apology (c. xxxii.), he says that the seed ([Greek: sperma]) from God is the Logos, which dwells in those who believe in God. So it appears that according to Justinus the Logos is only in such believers. In the second Apology (c. viii.) he speaks of the seed of the Logos being implanted in all mankind; but those who order their lives according to Logos, such as the Stoics, have only a portion of the Logos ([Greek: kata spermatikou logou meros]), and have not the knowledge and contemplation of the entire Logos, which is Christ. Swedenborg's remarks (Angelic Wisdom, 240) are worth comparing with Justinus. The modern philosopher in substance agrees with the ancient; but he is more precise.
God exists then, but what do we know of his nature? Antoninus says that the soul of man is an efflux from the divinity. We have bodies like animals, but we have reason, intelligence, as the gods. Animals have life ([Greek: psyche]) and what we call instincts or natural principles of action: but the rational animal man alone has a rational, intelligent soul ([Greek: psyche logike noera]). Antoninus insists on this continually: God is in man,[A] and so we must constantly attend to the divinity within us, for it is only in this way that we can have any knowledge of the nature of God. The human soul is in a sense a portion of the divinity, and the soul alone has any communication with the Deity; for as he says (xii. 2): "With his intellectual part alone God touches the intelligence only which has flowed and been derived from himself into these bodies." In fact he says that which is hidden within a man is life, that is, the man himself. All the rest is vesture, covering, organs, instrument, which the living man, the real[B] man, uses for the purpose of his present existence. The air is universally diffused for him who is able to respire; and so for him who is willing to partake of it the intelligent power, which holds within it all things, is diffused as wide and free as the air (viii. 54). It is by living a divine life that man approaches to a knowledge of the divinity.[C] It is by following the divinity within [Greek: daimon] or [Greek: theos], as Antonius calls it, that man comes nearest to the Deity, the supreme good; for man can never attain to perfect agreement with his internal guide ([Greek: to hegemonikon]). "Live with the gods. And he does live with the gods who constantly shows to them that his own soul is satisfied with that which is assigned to him, and that it does all the daemon ([Greek: daimon]) wishes, which Zeus hath given to every man for his guardian and guide, a portion of himself. And this daemon is every man's understanding and reason" (v. 27).
[A] Comp. Ep. to the Corinthians, i. 3, 17, and James iv. 8, "Drawnigh to God and he will draw nigh to you."
[B] This is also Swedenborg's doctrine of the soul. "As to what concerns the soul, of which it is said that it shall live after death, it is nothing else but the man himself, who lives in the body, that is, the interior man, who by the body acts in the world and from whom the body itself lives" (quoted by Clissold, p. 456 of "The Practical Nature of the Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, in a Letter to the Archbishop of Dublin (Whately)," second edition, 1859; a book which theologians might read with profit). This is an old doctrine of the soul, which has been often proclaimed, but never better expressed than by the "Auctor de Mundo," c. 6, quoted by Gataker in his "Antoninus," p. 436. "The soul by which we live and have cities and houses is invisible, but it is seen by its works; for the whole method of life has been devised by it and ordered, and by it is held together. In like manner we must think also about the Deity, who in power is most mighty, in beauty most comely, in life immortal, and in virtue supreme: wherefore though he is invisible to human nature, he is seen by his very works." Other passages to the same purpose are quoted by Gataker (p. 382). Bishop Butler has the same as to the soul: "Upon the whole, then, our organs of sense and our limbs are certainly instruments, which the living persons, ourselves, make use of to perceive and move with." If this is not plain enough, be also says: "It follows that our organized bodies are no more ourselves, or part of ourselves, than any other matter around us." (Compare Anton, x. 38).
[C] The reader may consult Discourse V., "Of the existence and nature of God," in John Smith's "Select Discourses." He has prefixed as a text to this Discourse, the striking passage of Agapetus, Paraenes. Sec. 3: "He who knows himself will know God; and he who knows God will be made like to God; and he will be made like to God, who has become worthy of God; and he becomes worthy of God, who does nothing unworthy of God, but thinks the things that are his, and speaks what he thinks, and does what he speaks." I suppose that the old saying, "Know thyself," which is attributed to Socrates and others, had a larger meaning than the narrow sense which is generally given to it. (Agapetus, ed. Stephan. Schoning, Franeker, 1608. This volume contains also the Paraeneses of Nilus.)
There is in man, that is in the reason, the intelligence, a superior faculty which if it is exercised rules all the rest. This is the ruling faculty ([Greek: to hegemonikon]), which Cicero (De Natura Deorum, ii. 11) renders by the Latin word Principatus, "to which nothing can or ought to be superior." Antoninus often uses this term and others which are equivalent. He names it (vii. 64) "the governing intelligence." The governing faculty is the master of the soul (v. 26). A man must reverence only his ruling faculty and the divinity within him. As we must reverence that which is supreme in the universe, so we must reverence that which is supreme in ourselves; and this is that which is of like kind with that which is supreme in the universe (v. 21). So, as Plotinus says, the soul of man can only know the divine so far as it knows itself. In one passage (xi. 19) Antoninus speaks of a man's condemnation of himself when the diviner part within him has been overpowered and yields to the less honorable and to the perishable part, the body, and its gross pleasures. In a word, the views of Antoninus on this matter, however his expressions may vary, are exactly what Bishop Butler expresses when he speaks of "the natural supremacy of reflection or conscience," of the faculty "which surveys, approves, or disapproves the several affections of our mind and actions of our lives."
Much matter might be collected from Antoninus on the notion of the Universe being one animated Being. But all that he says amounts to no more, as Schultz remarks, than this: the soul of man is most intimately united to his body, and together they make one animal, which we call man; so the Deity is most intimately united to the world, or the material universe, and together they form one whole. But Antoninus did not view God and the material universe as the same, any more than he viewed the body and soul of man as one. Antoninus has 110 speculations on the absolute nature of the Deity. It was not his fashion to waste his time on what man cannot understand.[A] He was satisfied that God exists, that he governs all things, that man can only have an imperfect knowledge of his nature, and he must attain this imperfect knowledge by reverencing the divinity which is within him, and keeping it pure.
[A] "God, who is infinitely beyond the reach of our narrow capacities" (Locke, Essay concerning the Human Understanding, ii. chap. 17).
From all that has been said, it follows that the universe is administered by the Providence of God ([Greek: pronoia]), and that all things are wisely ordered. There are passages in which Antoninus expresses doubts, or states different possible theories of the constitution and government of the universe; but he always recurs to his fundamental principle, that if we admit the existence of a deity, we must also admit that he orders all things wisely and well (iv. 27; vi. 1; ix. 28; xii. 5; and many other passages). Epictetus says (i. 6) that we can discern the providence which rules the world, if we possess two things,—the power of seeing all that happens with respect to each thing, and a grateful disposition.