chapter  1
6 Pages


A. ANCIENT EVIDENCE Marcus Aurelius presents a unique opportunity to an ancient historian. I. His correspondence with his tutor Fronto gives insight into his life from his late teens until his mid-forties, c. 138-66; and his Meditations offer us his private thoughts during the last years, c. 172-180. The Codex containing Fronto’s correspondence was rediscovered by Angelo Mai in 1815, and further portions of it a few years later. Mai’s original publication of the damaged and fragmentary MS was improved on several times in the nineteenth century, the best edition being that of S.A. Naber in 1867. In 1919-20 C.R. Haines produced the Loeb edition, with English translation, in which he rearranged the correspondence in chronological order (naturally, this was to a considerable extent conjectural), and took account of improved readings, notably by E. Hauler. The most recent edition is that by M.P.J. van den Hout (1954), who gives the text in the original order of the Codex, with readings in many cases superior to those of Haines. A promised second volume, with commentary, ancient testimonia, and full index verborum (p. lxxx) has not materialised. In 1974, E. Champlin tackled the chronology of the letters in a fundamental new study in JRS, and followed this up with his monograph, Fronto and Antonine Rome (1980). These two investigations are now indispensable guides to any study of Fronto and of Marcus. Naturally, there are some interpretations which have been corrected by subsequent discoveries. In two particular cases, I have been unconvinced by Champlin’s arguments. First, on the trial in which Fronto and Herodes appeared on opposite sides, I have been swayed by W. Ameling, Herodes Atticus (1983) to retain the earlier date. Second, there is the very important question of Marcus’ ‘conversion’ to philosophy. I am totally persuaded by Champlin’s case, JRS 64 (1974) 144, that the letter written by Marcus when he was twenty-five, Ad MC 4.13, refers to (Titius) Aristo, the jurisconsult and friend of Pliny, rather than to the third century BC Stoic philosopher Aristo of Chios. But the conclusion that he draws seems to me slightly excessive. I accept that there was ‘no sudden conversion to philosophy’ and that ‘there was no abandonment of literature and eloquence’ (Fronto and Antonine Rome 121; cf. 77). On the other hand, the letter does indicate very plainly that Marcus had been undergoing some inner ‘crisis’, was dissatisfied with himself and how he was spending his time, and felt the need for higher things. On the date of Fronto’s death I am totally in agreement with Champlin’s conclusion that ‘there can be little hope that the unhappy orator survived the year 167’ (Fronto and Antonine Rome 142). Finally, it may be noted that in van den Hout’s edition, the five books of correspondence with Marcus as

Caesar occupy pp. 1-87; then come 4 books to him as emperor (88-110); 2 books to Lucius Verus as emperor (111-30); miscellaneous pieces addressed to Marcus as emperor (De eloquentia, 131-48; De orationibus, 149-55); letters to Antoninus Pius (156-162); 2 books of letters to friends (163-90); the Principia Historiae (191-200); Laudes fumi etc. (201-5); De bello Parthico (206-11); De feriis Alsiensibus (212-19); De nepote amisso (220-4); Arion (225-6); and the Additamentum (mainly letters in Greek, 227-39), followed by fragments (240-4).