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Marcus Aurelius: The Dialogues

Marcus Aurelius: The Dialogues


‘In this delightful and well written book, Alan Stedall … has done an enormous service in making some ofMarcus Aurelius’s reflections very accessible to the modern reader’ Faith & Freedom‘The Dialogues are eminently readable and immediate …in places it is irresistible’The Philosopher‘I was drawn deeper and deeper into the simple solid reasoning …Stedall’s imagined dialogue had me fully in the present’Midwest Book Review‘I knew within a few lines this was going to be a treasure... Stedall is a word master... Bravo!’ The Smoking Poet Marcus Aurelius, one of the greatest Roman emperors, is remembered less for his military exploits than for his private reflections. His Meditations, as they became known, have been a major influence on Western thought and behaviour down the centuriesthe pen is mightier than the sword. Seeking an alternative to faith based religion, Alan Stedall came across the book and found rational answers to questions about the meaning and purpose of life that had been troubling him. Here too were answers to his concern that, in the absence of moral beliefs based on religion, we risk creating a world where relativism, the rejection of any sense of absolute right or wrong, prevails. In such a society any moral position is considered subjective and amoral behaviour is unchallengeable. Because the Meditations were jotted down in spare moments during a busy life ruling and defending a huge empire, they lack order and sequence. Inspired by the wisdom of Marcus Aurelius, Stedall has sought to present the contents in a more contemporary and digestible way.To achieve this, he employed the Greek philosophical technique of dialogue to create a fictional conversation between five historical figures who actually met at Aquileia on the Adriatic coast in AD 168. Apart from Marcus, they were his brother and coemperor, Lucius, the famous Hellenic surgeon of antiquity, Galen, an Egyptian high priest of Isis, Harnouphis, and Bassaeus Rufus, Prefect of the Praetorian Guard. The Dialogues afford Marcus and his guests the opportunity to express their views on such topics as the brevity of life and the need to seek meaning; the pursuit of purpose; the supreme good and the pursuit of a virtuous life – issues as relevant today as they were in antiquity. By a gentle process of question and answer, Marcus shows up the weakness of his guests’ arguments and reveals how a virtuous life may be lived without the threat of eternal damnation or promise of salvation to enforce compliance. Virtue is its own reward.