The following information is available about the 16th Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. The broad-brush history of his life and reign, from many sources; eyewitness reports from people who knew him, like the historian Cassius Dio; his personal correspondence with one of his teachers, Fronto; the general impression he made on his contemporaries, as reported; and, finally, his book, the so-called "Meditations", actually his sort of "personal blog", a disjointed collection of his thoughts which he wrote down for distraction, relief, or reflection; apparently never meant for publication.
'Meditations' has so many individual items that can, in isolation, arguably be used
to support many typings. I will give here my own summary of the main
points and themes.
It contains several brief
descriptions of the character of individuals close to him and what he
felt he owed them in building his character. He describes twice his
predecessor and adoptive father, the Emperor Antoninus Pius, praising
him as a calm, temperate and fair-minded man who also took care of his
health and ate properly (Marcus praises Antoninus for not needing to
empty his bowels more than once a day, even).
very common themes in this, the notebook of the "ruler of the known
world", is a skepticism of power in individuals: he says that both
Alexander the Great (SLE) and his servant, when they died, either went to
whatever afterlife there is, or both returned to dust -- he goes back to
this subject a few times.
Writing from the Danube
frontier, while commanding an army fighting the Sarmatians, he comments
that those hunting Sarmatians are like predators in a way -- he says
that as a ruler, he is a Roman citizen, but as a person, he sees himself
as a citizen of the world. Again, he comes back to this general theme a
The book is also full of instructions
to himself to be a better person: not to say he's too busy to receive or
to write to someone unless he really really is; to aways think in such a
way as not to mind if he was always thinking out loud; to always be
patient even with apparently disagreeable people. He also tells himself
to assume that if someone causes him offense, that it wasn't intended.
of it is about the general theme of, live life as it is, don't worry
about death or future fame, accept your role in the world, do as much
good as you can. And so on and so forth.
at some point someone clearly pissed him off too much, leading him to
write: "a black character, a womanish character, a stubborn character,
bestial, childish, animal, stupid, counterfeit, scurrilous, fraudulent,
He seems aware of the impression he
makes on others, saying, "will there not be at least someone who says to
himself, let us now breathe freely, rid of this schoolmaster; he was
harsh to none of us, but I noticed that he quietly condemned us".
summary: his personal notes are full of R, 'world-accepting' I, a
total dislike for F, lots about tolerance of others and accepting of
life, and of others. It has lots of S images. That is, it seems clear
to me that the author was a Delta.
values, is interesting that P is elusive. There is P in the sense of
anti-E. But for a 'CEO of the known world', a man who was not only the
commander-in-chief but also the one-man supreme court, it is noticeable
how little there is, in this collection of thoughts, that could be
called 'practical P matters'. One way to explain it is that his day was
full of P matters and it was also as a escape from them that he wrote
this 'blog'. Which suggests the Delta with the weakest P.
is known of his life and reign reinforces this. He was spotted by the
Emperor Hadrian (ILE) as 'future emperor material' at 17, already a very
serious young man.
The reign of his predecessor had
been the golden age of Roman peace and prosperity, but when Marcus
became emperor everything fell on his head at once: simultaneous
invasions by the Parthians in Syria and by Germans at the Danube
frontier. Against his natural inclinations, Marcus spent most of his
19-year reign at war, with himself at the Danube front. To make things
even worse, the victorious army returning from today's Iraq brought back
the 'Antonine Plague' (possibly smallpox) with a huge physical and
moral blow on the army and population. Also, a rumour that Marcus had
died at the Danube led the Eastern commander, Avidius Cassius, to
proclaim himself emperor. One month later, when the news came that
Marcus was, well, alive, Cassius's own soldiers said "oops" and murdered
him. That led Marcus to suspend his campaigns and spend a couple of
years touring the east, showing that he was both alive and not inclined
to punish those who had supported Cassius.
all of the above, contemporaries like the historians Cassius Dio and
Herodian noted that, objectively speaking, Marcus' reign was difficult
in material terms and he left the Empire in worse shape than he had
found it. Yet his moral authority and reputation was such that his good
name survived for generations, with later emperors naming themselves
after him in hopes of borrowing that.
As a ruler,
Marcus was famously unconcerned with social status, promoting to Senator
men whose fathers had been slaves (Romans usually preferred social
mobility to be a bit slower) and also not inclined to do sweeping
reforms by legislation: he preferred to act by piecemeal, judicial
decisions that would serve as precedent. Ancient jurists liked him for
the care with which he decided on such matters.
many of his predecessors and successors, Marcus was unconcerned with
grandiose public works or in any kind of major reforms. His concern
seemed to be, to keep things running well, go to war if necessary, act
by example, show clemency and benevolence when he could in individual
cases. But with no idea of fundamentally changing society.
he presided over games (races, gladiators, etc) when he had to, but
disliked them and did not bother about pretending: he caught up with his
paperwork while at the games, which made him a bit disliked.
would say that all of the evidence strongly suggests EII: Delta values
with least visible P, apparent E7, no focus on F+L, I and S acceptance of the world and focus on the present, besides his overall
Recommended reading and sources: Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" are easily available online and in several paperback versions. The main primary sources, the "Historia Augusta" and Cassius Dio, are available online. Anthony Birley's biography, "Marcus Aurelius", is scholarly; the massive biography by Frank McLynn, "Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor", is more accessible despite its length.
To learn more about EII, click here.
If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.