Roman History

History of Rome #

The quest for an objective and impartial account of history is often considered today as illusory, if not disingenuous. Consciously or unconsciously, it is said, these accounts are permeated with ideology and embody the world-view of the winners or of those in power.

Rome was built on low lying swamps surronded by seven hills. Rome is known became known as the divine city due to the myth of Mars seducing a Vestal Virgin giving birth to Romulous and Remus who are abandoned and suckled by a wolf. Other legends are a bit more prosaic.

Rome by Robert Hughes. In the founding myth of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus established the city on the banks of the Tiber River in roughly 750 BCE and invited the outcasts of society to be its first citizens: by creating an asylum or a place of refuge on what became the Capitol, and inviting in the trash of primitive Latium: runaway slaves, exiles, murderers, criminals of all sorts. Sounds a bit like the convicts settling Australia.

The Etruscans left behind a wealth of art and architecture that remains over 2,500 years. The Capitoline Wolf (Italian: Lupa Capitolina) a bronze sculpture depicting a scene from the legend of the founding of Rome was thought to be Etruscan but carbon dating suggests it comes from the Middle Ages.

The Romans overthrew their Etruscan conquerors in 509 B.C.E. Centered north of Rome, the Etruscans had ruled over the Romans for hundreds of years. At this time Rome was a small Polis - walled city state surrounded by many hostile walled city states. Five hundred years later, Rome’s expansion created an empire of all lands bordering the Mediterranean.

The Rape of Lucretia #

Lucretia was a legendary heroine of ancient Rome, the quintessence of virtue, the beautiful wife of the nobleman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus.

In a lull in the war at Ardea in 509 BCE, Tarquin took a male slave as an attendant and went to Lucretia’s home without Collatinus’ knowledge. As his kinsman, Tarquin was courteously received as a guest. That night after dinner, he entered Lucretia’s bed chamber armed with a knife and raped her.

William Shakespeare tells the story of what happened in his epic poem The Rape of Lucrece:

Imagine her as one in dead of night/
. . . That thinks she has beheld some ghastly sprite/
. . . What terror ‘tis! . . . From sleep disturbed, heedfully doth view/
The sight that makes supposed terror true.

James C. Harris, Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008; decribes The Rape of Lucretia depicting the gross violence of Rome in its early stages.

Lucretia survived the rape but committed suicide. After enduring the rape, she called her husband and her father to her and asked them to seek revenge. When so assured, she killed herself, despite their pleas, to prove her innocence and to demonstrate her refusal to live with tainted honor. For Shakespeare, although she stabs herself, it is Tarquin who pushed the dagger into her heart. Revenge for her death led to a pivotal event in Roman history: the Tarquin monarchy was overthrown, leading to the birth of the first Roman Republic.

Once free, the Romans established a republic, a government in which citizens elected representatives to rule on their behalf. A republic is quite different from a democracy, in which every citizen is expected to play an active role in governing the state.

Perhaps the best-known painting illustrating abduction is Nicolas Poussin’s Rape of the Sabine Women. The Romans needed brides and invited the Sabine men and women to a celebration, where they abducted the women. In the painting, nearly all the women are shown resisting the Romans. The men, husbands and fathers, are shown trying to prevent the abduction, rape, and marriage of the women to the Romans. Women were viewed as property and the crime of their abduction was against their husbands and fathers. Although clearly apparent, the distress of the Sabine women is rarely emphasized by art historians. Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome who ordered the capture of the Sabine women, justified his deed by celebrating the Sabine women as the mothers of Rome who later became peacemakers between the Sabines and Romans. James C. Harris

Shakespeare’s Titus of Andronicus, (a fiction with an indeterminate time period) with all its death and violence, would have pulled the crowds in. Twenty-one sons of the Roman general Titus Andronicus have died in battle, leaving four alive. After defeating the Goths, Titus permits the sacrifice of the oldest son of their queen, Tamora.

Titus helps Saturninus become emperor. Saturninus plans to marry Titus’s daughter, Lavinia. Instead, she marries Bassianus, aided by Titus’s sons, one of whom Titus kills. Saturninus then marries Tamora. The stage is set for multiple revenge plots.

Tamora’s sons also rape Lavinia, cutting off her tongue and hands. To save his sons from execution, Titus cuts off his own hand, but Aaron sends him their heads. Lucius, Titus’s last son, leads an army of Goths against Rome. Titus kills Tamora’s sons and serves them to her in a pie. In the ensuing events, Lavinia, Tamora, Titus, and Saturninus all die. Lucius becomes emperor and sentences Aaron to death.

Shakespeare appears to have influenced by Ovid’s Roman history. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses Arachne’s weaving, depicts nine rapes committed by Jove, six by Neptune, a few by Apollo and Bacchus, and one by Saturn, Jove’s father. Augustus was so offended by Ovid’s “The Art of Love,” he waited a decade to act. Some scholars believe that the “mistake” Ovid referred to later was not literary but political: he may have got too close to a conspiratorial faction at court that opposed Tiberius, Augustus’ chosen heir, and official outrage over the poem was merely a smoke screen to prevent news of the conspiracy from leaking out.

Within months Ovid was in the tiny frontier settlement of Tomis, on the northwest coast of the Black Sea, where few people spoke Latin: a particularly cruel punishment for a poet. Ovid felt he was silenced: “writing a poem you can read to no one / is like dancing in the dark.”

In contrast, The Aeneid by Virgil tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who fled the fall of Troy to Carthage before becoming the ancestor of the Romans. It is much more peaceful yet heroic tale more amenable to court favor with Augustus Caesar.

Initially Italy was ruled by the Etruscans from Tuscany until 509. Tarquin won major battles to subjugate them and established a Rebublic, in 509 BCE, run by a Senate of wealthy, landed, noble families (Patricians) - an Oligarchy or some would call it a Plutocracy. For almost 500 years, Rome resisted one man hereditary rule.

Roman Governance #

The history of the Roman Empire can be divided into four distinct periods:

  1. The Period of Kings (625-510 BCE),
  2. Republican Rome (510-31 BCE), and
  3. Imperial Rome (31 BC – AD 476).
  4. Eastern Empire Constantinople (AD 348 - 1453)

Rome created the most comprehensive and systematic code of goveranace with checks and balances to curb the power of one leader. The Senate nominated two Consuls, who were limited to a term of one year (due to fear of one-man arbitrary rule), to act as executive rulers. Eventually Tribunes were appointed to represent the needs of the Plebeians (people). About 10% Patricians, 65% Plebeians, 25% Slaves.

Roman Republic (509 - 31? BCE)

Year Event
494 BC First secessio plebis: the plebs abandoned Rome for the nearby Monte Sacro.
471 BC The Plebeian Council was reorganized by tribes.
459 BC Under popular pressure, the Senate increased the tribunes of the plebs from two to ten.
449 BC Resolutions of the Plebeian Council were given the full force of law subject to Senate veto. The second of two decemviri, specially-elected ten man commissions, issued the last of the Twelve Tables, the fundamental laws of the Republic.
447 BC The Tribal Assembly was established, and granted the right to elect quaestors - in charge of public revenue and expenditure. 445 BC Lex Canuleia: Marriage between patricians and plebeians was legalized.
443 BC The offices of the Tribuni militum consulari potestate were established. A collegium of three patrician or plebeian tribunes, one each from specific Roman tribes would hold the power of the consuls from year to year, subject to the Senate.

The early Republic recognised the need for codified laws which were inscribed on twelve tablets for all to see.

Tacitus warned:

When the state is most corrupt, then the laws are most multiplied.

Rome had to repel a number of invaders from the north and south. The Carthagian empire, based in norther Africa posed a threat during the Punic Wars. Sandra Benjamin. in Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History tells how the Romans took the oft-conquered island of Sicily in the First Punic War, from 263 to 252 BC:

“Messena fell to the Romans in 263, the first of Sicily’s cities to do so. ‘So the Carthaginian War had its beginning’ wrote Diodorus. As the Romans called the Carthaginians ‘Poeni,’ and as the Romans proved victorious, the Greek-named ‘Phoenicians’ came to be called ‘Punic’ and the Carthaginian War the Punic War.

“The Romans, rapid and ruthless on land, recognized their inferiority to the Carthaginians on the sea. In 261 an opportunity came to the Romans and they seized it: they captured a Carthaginian ship (a quinquereme, with five levels of oarsmen) and had their carpenters duplicate it exactly, a hundred times … in just a couple of months. Now the Romans had a fleet worthy of them.

After its defeat in the second Punic wars, Carthage was razed with salt spread on soil so it could not easily rise again. A Carthagian peace is annihilation.

The Carthaginians, now effectively dead as a people, wrote no history.

Spain took two hundred years to conquer and Caesar spent ten years subduing the Gauls up to 46 BCE.

With the expansion of the empire, due to longer travel times, the length of the Consuls terms were extended up to five year terms. This prolongation led to the development of loyalty of armies to their Generals, many of whom became extremeley wealthy due to spoils of war and the imposition of taxation on territories conquered. Power gravitated to successful military Generals. Some failed to make the transition from successful warlords to peace time leaders.

The rot began gradually and by the time of Caesar’s rise to power, it was well established. Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (138–78 BC), a Roman general and statesman won the first large-scale civil war in Roman history and became the first man of the Republic to seize power through force. Sulla held the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Money corrupted the politics as offices were awarded by patronage and nepotism. Caesar’s mentor was Sully.


The first major slave revolt was Spartacus in 73 BCE. At his high point he commanded 40,000 troops, fellow slaves and disaffected workers, controlling most of southern Italy. He won many battles against poorly organised Roman battalions, but was finally crushed by the might of an army led by Crassus in the spring of 71 BCE. He was killed in battle and his body never identified.

Roman Emperors #

Mary Beard claims most Romans thought the dead resided in a shadowy limbo, and, for emperors who hoped to transcend this fate, the Senate was the only path to deification. Turning dead emperors into immortal gods by a vote now seems like one of the most baffling aspects of politics during the first centuries of one-man rule in Rome.

The tradition began with the deification of Julius Caesar, in 42 B.C.E., and petered out only with the arrival of a series of Christian emperors in the fourth century C.E.

Julius Caesar #

Some historians claim Julius could, by today’s standards, be tried as a war criminal. His brutal total massacre of the Germanic tribes in 55 BC in the Netherlands constitutes genocide as he ordered his soldiers to kill all men, women and children. However we should not judge the past on our standards.

After over running most of Northern Europe including Gaul, Caesar was lauded as one of Rome’s greatest conquering Generals. However, to return to Rome and claim his accolades he was expected to give up the command of his army. Any General crossing the Rubicon while in command of his army was in effect declaring war on the Republic of Rome.

In defiance, on the 10th of January, 49 BC, by leading his army across the Rubicon Caesar passed “the point of no return”.

With Crassus having been defeated by the Persians in 56, BC, the Senate authorised Pompey to defend the Republic. Pompey’s forces were no match for the well-trained soldiers led by Caesar, so he fled to Spain and then Egypt with Caesar close behind. After Pompey’s defeat’, Caesar had a dalliance with Cleopatra producing a son a potential heir.

When a victorious Caesar returned to Rome it was celebrated by a major Triumph though he brought no new territories of conquest.

Cicero was one of many who raised ominous warnings about the rise and rise of Caesar. Cicero was a prominent and prolific conservative lawyer, politician and orator. He cautioned about the threat of the destruction of the Republic to no avail. By 44 BC, Romans celebrated Caesar’s birthday with honours. Caesar became more and more authoritarian, tyrannical and imperious. He longed to be crowned as a King for life.

It was this phenomenon that motivated a group of senators to assassinate him in the Rotunda in order to restore the Republic and end the despotic rise of a dictator. Cicero justified the murder and congratulated the Senators. It was only the persuasive ploys of his faithful lieutenant, Mark Antony who rescued Caesar’s reputation forcing Cassius, Brutus and other putative “conspirators” to flee Rome for their patriotic lives.

Mark Antony’s funeral speech is one of the greatest feats in turning the moods of a crowd of people illustrating how fickle and easily manipulated the masses can be.

Caesar was one of the first to have his image stamped on coins to celebrate his power – stamped with; “dictator for life”. He also commissioned thousands of statues of himself throughout Rome. Later it was followed by the Ides of March coin, depicting the 23 daggers used to kill Caesar together with a cap of liberty.

Hereditary succsession - in-breeding was always the privilege of royalty - and look what happened to them.

The Roman Empire lasted some 500+ years giving us some salutary lessons on enduring cohesion and good governance. It gave us the model of integrating diverse people through tolerance and co-opting talent from across the empire.

Even people at the periphery of the empire felt they were at the heart of the empire. Most young men from conquered territories were conscripted into the army to serve 25 years after which they became Roman citizens with lifelong pensions.

The Emperor Caracella in 212 made all free men citizens, simply so he could broaden the tax base.

The Roman Empire eventually became composed of an enormously diverse base of people from different racial and ethnic groups. They developed a system of naturalisation that allowed citizens to maintain dual allegiance to their original tribe or ancestral place – Spain or Britain.

The Roman Empire succeeded because it was ethnically heterogeneous – not homogeneous. Greece had a different approach. Queen Isabella of Spain used the Inquisition to homogenise the Iberian peninsula and it began its slow descent.

Some of the most interesting people I meet are miscegenous.

“People totally like Brutus
As much as they like Caesar
And when did it become okay
For one person
To become the boss of everybody?
Because that’s not what Rome is about


Augustus Caesar #

reigned 27BC – 14 CE

Good leadership, is rule by the brave, wise and benevolent, not those reliant on arms fearfully obedient to capricious, retributive or providential gods. Gods can be bought off with sacrifices, as giants can be with bribes. Au

Socrates questions whether life needs noble lies. To him virtue equals knowledge, which leads to deeper truth and understanding. Virtue leads to justice.

Augustus was born Gaius Octavius, the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. He took the extended name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus in 44 BC after Caesar’s assassination. Though in English texts, he was often referred to simply as Octavian.

Then in 31 BC, he defeated Mark Antony and Cleopatra to gain control over the empire. Finally in 27 BC, when he was named emperor, he was given the honorary title Augustus.

August, means majestic and inspires reverence or admiration. The word can also take the form of an adverb (augustly) and a noun (augustness).

August also relates to augury, the act of divination (telling the future), particularly by the behavior of birds and animals and the examination of their entrails and other parts.

His legacy is conflicted, fairly well regarded by some, but realistically, the first and greatest pragmatic, enlightened despot who dismantled the Republic and consolidated dynastic unaccountable authoritarianism.

Though a sickly man with many near death experiences, his life-long strong arm, henchman, Marcus Agrippa, propped up his leadership, giving Augustus, the appearance of an overpowering dictator. Also, renown for the dark arts of ancient propaganda and Machiavellian power machinations to seize absolute power. Like Trump he was a deal maker; most ended up, through duplicity, to his advantage. He betrayed both Lepidus and Antony by not honouring his side of the bargain.

To raise money, over 2000 wealthy families were accused of treason, declared enemies of the state, assassinated, their lands, wealth and other assets confiscated for the state – a policy known as proscription.

In his early twenties, he was invited to the second triumvirate with Mark Antony and Lepidus. Within 12 years he betrayed Lepidus and had Antony denounced as ”an enemy of the people”, Cicero was executed, Ovid banished, while Horace was offered sanction by his patron of the Arts, Maecenas if he wrote propaganda for Augustus’ cause.

Cicero, 55 BC, the great critical advisor to Caesar had advised:

“…the arrogance of officialdom needs to be tempered and controlled,….

Virgil submissively composed The Aeneid (19 BC). This Latin epic casts a patriotic spell over its audience in its evocation of the foundation of Rome from the ashes of Troy to the glory of the Augustan Age. Unlike his poetic successor, however, Virgil is alert to literary censorship under the reign of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, and carefully navigates its perilous terrain.

Augustus Caesar used large buildings as voting stations, but eliminated any serious candidates so elections were mere charades.

More positive civic reform, statecraft legacies include: ending nepotism by appointing civil servants on merit, eliminating corruption, establishing a professional army loyal to the empire, rather than their commanders, criminalised adultery – for others – not his cohort.

He claimed, “I found Rome a city of mud; but left it a city of marble.” Much of Roman infrastructure was built under the Emperors.

When his messy family tree, as a result of divorces and forced marriages, died out, he simply named his successor.

Mary Beard again:

Before becoming gods, emperors famously died in all kinds of different, often unsavory, circumstances. Caligula was killed in an alleyway in the palace complex by some of his closest advisers, in 41 C.E.; Domitian was stabbed in his cubiculum, or “private room,” in 96 C.E.; Caracalla was knifed while relieving himself on a military campaign in the East, in 217 C.E. These violent ends are partly explained by the fact that death was the only recognized way for an emperor to leave the throne. Apart from one bungled abdication attempt in the civil war of 69 C.E., no Roman ruler ever gave up his title willingly until the sick and elderly Diocletian, in 305 C.E. Many emperors died of illness in or near their beds, of course, but in general, if you wanted a change of regime, you had to kill for it.

Tiberius (14 – 37 CE) #

Born 42 BCE - 37 CE - 77 years.

His family had sided with Antony, so his career progression was carefully plotted by his mother, Livia, who groomed him for succession, when Augustus’s two heirs died young.

Tiberius wielded immense power, developing a morbid lust for capriciously seeing people suffer through sadistic torture. When his mother attempted to interfere in his running of the state, he had her assassinated, as he did to many others suspected of treason. Anyone opposing him was simply called a “Public Enemy”.

He acquired a reputation of later followed by Stalin of elimination all opponents including his wife, Agrippina.

Lingering on his death bed, it is generally accepted that he was finally smothered with his bedclothes.

Caligula (little boot) #

born 13 CE (ruled 37–41 CE) 28 years old

A Blueblood with lines back to Augustus, became Emperor at 24, but killed at 28. Ruled through fear – “Let them hate me; as long as they fear me”.

He was cunning, cruel and perverse, infamous for making his victims suffer. He especially loved to humiliate the Senators, by inviting their wives to banquets, where he would choose the ones he liked, force himself on them.

When he ran short of money, he too simply accused wealthy families of treason, have them exiled or killed and seized their estates.

Caligula was assasinated in a narrow space which offered little room for escape or rescue, and by the time Caligula’s loyal Germanic guard could come to his defence, their Emperor was already dead.

After Caligula was assassinated, the Praetorian Guard ringleader of the conspiracy, Tribune Cassius Chaerea was arrested and condemned to death.

His request to die by his own sword was granted. Cassius can be viewed both as a traitor and hero. He betrayed his oath to protect the Emperor but put an end to a reign of tyranny!

The Senate tried to use Caligula’s death as an opportunity to restore the Republic. This would have meant the abolition of the office of emperor, the end of dynastic rule, and restoration of the former social stature and privilege of nobles and senators. It failed.

Claudius (41–54 CE) #

Known for feasting and turning the court into brothels.

Among the Romans, apotheosis became a tool of statecraft, the ultimate form of memorialization. Cicero wanted to deify his daughter, Tullia; Hadrian arranged it for his wife and his mother-in-law, as well as for his young lover, Antinous. For emperors, it became a routine accolade—“Oh dear, I think I’m becoming a god,Vespasian is said to have joked on his deathbed in 79 CE.

Mary Beard on June 26, 2023, writes about the Emperors turning into gods.

An eagle, which was often included in the imperial funeral pyre, was thought to take the emperor’s soul to the gods on Mt. Olympus.

One of the funniest works of Roman literature to survive—and the only one that has ever made me laugh out loud—is a skit, written by the philosopher Seneca, about the Emperor Claudius’ adventures on his way to Mt. Olympus after his death.

Titled “Apocolocyntosis Divi Claudii” (“The ‘Pumpkinification’ of the Deified Claudius”), it recounts how the Roman Senate declared that the dead Emperor was now a god, complete with his own temple, priests, and official rites of worship. The deification of emperors was fairly standard practice at the time, and the spoof claimed to lift the lid on what really happened during the process.

It was an inside joke. Seneca was the tutor of Nero, who was Claudius’ successor and his stepson. The idea is that the befuddled old Emperor—who was rumored to have been finished off with some poisoned mushrooms by his wife, Agrippina—is not really fit to be divine. As Claudius climbs up Mt. Olympus, word comes to the “real” gods that a stranger has arrived, and that he is muttering incomprehensibly.

But, when Hercules is sent to investigate, the two of them swap a few lines of Homer’s poetry. (“Thank goodness there are some scholars in Heaven,” Claudius enthuses.) The gods meet in private to decide whether to allow Claudius to join their ranks. “Opinions were mixed, but were coming down generally in Claudius’ favor,” Seneca writes, until the Emperor Augustus, who was deified forty years earlier, swings the vote decisively against him.

Claudius, one of his successors, has been such a monster, Augustus points out, that he shouldn’t be allowed to become a god.

“He may look as if he couldn’t startle a fly, but he used to kill people as easily as a dog has a shit,” Augustus says.

So, despite the vote of the human Senate, the gods agree to send Claudius packing. In the skit, he will spend eternity in the underworld, as the legal secretary to one of the Emperor Caligula’s ex-slaves.

Nero (54–68 CE) #

Educated in Rome where he studied a philosophy with Seneca that blended Stoicism with neo-Pythagoreanism.

Seneca, born in Cordoba, began his career in law and politics in about A.D. 31, serving as consul in 57. He fell afoul of the first of 3 emperors, Caligula. Caligula’s sister, Livilla, suffered exile under Claudius on a charge of adultery with Seneca who was sent to Corsica for his punishment. Helped by Claudius’ last wife Agrippina the Younger, he overcame Corsican exile to serve as advisor of the last of the Julio-Claudians, from 54-62 A.D.

He suffered exile for a supposed liaison with Livilla, mockery for his pursuit of wealth, and the scorn heaped on hypocrites for condemning tyranny, yet being a tyrannodidaskalos - tyrant teacher

He became a learned stoic tutor to the unpredictable Emperor Nero. At the whim of the paranoid tyrant, Nero, who suspected Seneca of plotting to kill him, like Socrates, Seneca, committed suicide.

Domitian (81–96 CE) #

Domitian was killed in his palace by conspirators.

Juvenal’s family was well-to-do and that he became an officer in the army as a first step to a career in the administrative service of the emperor Domitian but failed to obtain promotion and grew embittered. He wrote a satire declaring that court favourites had undue influence in the promotion of officers, and for this he was banished to Aswān, in Egypt—and his property was confiscated. In 96, after Domitian’s assassination, Juvenal returned to Rome; but, without money or a career, he was reduced to living as a “client” on the grudging charity of the rich

Trajan (98–117 CE) #

Considered one of the best – Optimum Princip – Maximus. Born in North Africa, Trajan was appointed a Patrician’s Consul. He later promised, if appointed Emperor, not to kill any senators.

He expanded the empire and instituted many reforms.

Hadrian (117–138 CE) #

Hadrian (l. 78-138 CE) was emperor of Rome (r. 117-138 CE) and is recognized as the third of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius) who ruled justly. His reign marked the height of the Roman Empire, usually given as c. 117 CE, and provided a firm foundation for his successor.

Born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, in Italica (modern Spain), Hadrian is best known for his literary pursuits, his substantial building projects throughout the Roman Empire, and, especially, Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain. He is also remembered for his love affair with the Bithynian youth Antinous (l. c. 110-130 CE) whom he deified after the young man’s death, resulting in the popular cult of Antinous which, early on, rivaled Christianity. World History Encyclopedia

Antoninus Pius #

138 to 161.

One of the Five Good Emperors from the Nerva–Antonine dynasty. Born into a senatorial family, Antoninus held various offices during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.

Marcus Aurelius #

(161–180 CE)

A philosopher King who rules during the 16 years of the Antonian Plague. He left writings confirming his conversion to stoicism.

Matthew Sharpe, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Deakin University writes about Aurelius:

Of all the things in the world, we can only directly control what we do, think, choose, desire, and fear.

Everything else, including everything our society tells us that we need to “get a life” – riches, property, fame, promotions – depends on others and on fortune. It is here today and gone tomorrow, and it is usually distributed unfairly.

So to pin our dreams on achieving such things makes our happiness and peace of mind a highly uncertain prospect.

The Stoics propose that what they call “virtue” is the only good. And this virtue consists above all in knowing how best to respond to the things that befall us, rather than fretting about things we cannot control.

This is the Stoic “good news”. Pandemics, bullies, and mischances really can rob us of our money, our jobs, our reputations. If they are malign enough, they affect our physical health. But they cannot change our minds. They cannot make us commit evil actions. They are powerless to even compel us to think resentful or hateful things about our fellows.

If it becomes clear, for instance, that someone has back-stabbed you, Marcus advises:

Pronounce no more to yourself, beyond what the appearances directly declare. It is said to you that someone has spoken ill of you. This alone is told you, and not that you are hurt by it.

If what your insulter has said is true, then change. If what they have said is false, it does not merit your being upset by it.

If they have betrayed your trust, the shame and the fault lies with them.

“The best revenge, is not to become like the wrongdoer”.

These sentiments are very much like Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount.