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Marcus Aurelius – the Unemotional Stoic?

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The title of this essay may sound redundant: aren’t all Stoics unemotional, making it their business to go through life with a stiff upper lip? Actually, no, and neither was Marcus, whose 1,898th birthday falls on April 26th of this year.It is true that he wrote in the Meditations, his personal philosophical diary:'When you have savouries and fine dishes set before you, you will gain an idea of their nature if you tell yourself that this is the corpse of a fish, and that the corpse of a bird or a pig; or again, that fine Falernian wine is merely grape-juice, and this purple robe some sheep’s wool dipped in the blood of a shellfish; and as for sexual intercourse, it is the friction of a piece of gut and, following a sort of convulsion, the expulsion of mucus.' (VI.13) These don’t exactly sound like the musings of someone who delights in gourmet food or drinks (Falernian was the best wine an ancient Roman could buy), not to mention someone with a romantic bent. But Marcus was deploying a...

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