Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/477

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A PHILOSOPHICAL EMPEROR.

worlds to conquer, if we move the world of the imagination to the ends of truth and beauty; for a greater triumph is ours then, and the soul may leap at the inward shout, "Victory! victory! conquest of self!"

 
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A PHILOSOPHICAL EMPEROR.[1]
By CALVERT VAUX.

AT our last meeting we listened with keen interest to all Mr. Lewis had to say about the Emperor Justinian; and his dramatic presentation of the subject cannot fail to leave a permanent impression on our minds, in regard to the life of this conspicuous example of a bad type of Roman. Selfish and sensuous, remorseless, bloodthirsty, energetic, full of vitality, a barbarian at heart; repulsive in his theories, odious in his practices, true to the woman he chose with an accurate instinct as his mate—not as wife or mother, or with any respect for the sex to which she belonged, but rather as an exaggerated exception to every idea that was then, and is now, current in regard to what a woman ought to be. There was nothing attractive or genial in the life of either Justinian or Theodora; and, so far as this forcible sketch allowed us to form an opinion, we were unable to discover any suggestion in the so-called civilization of the period that would be likely to help us in these times.

Imperial Rome, at the beginning of the Christian era, may of course be viewed from a different standpoint; and it seems to me worth while to-night to follow the clew that is given us by the writings of another Roman emperor, Marcus Antoninus, who began his reign in the middle of the second century,.

We do not depend here on any exaggerated history, or on a narrative full of misstatements, of the biased and interested kind, that appertain to the work of a contemporary reporter; but we have the clean words of the man himself, "published, and not published," as Aristotle said of his own writings to Alexander, who expressed a distaste to having such exquisitely subtile brain-work scattered broadcast in the common highway, where it might be picked up by anybody. The volume seems to be a commonplace book, made up of notes that have no special connection with each other in the pages on which they happen to stand, but are very definitely related in the sequence of moods that occur to the writer. It would, indeed, be interesting to collate the scattered beads of similar color, and group them together.

  1. "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus," a paper read before the New York "Fraternity Club."