Beacon Lights of History, Volume 04 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 04.
cruel masters; when women generally were degraded and slighted; when money was the object of universal idolatry; when the only pleasures were in banquets and races and other demoralizing sports; when no value was placed upon the soul, and infinite value on the body; when there was no charity, no compassion, no tenderness; when no poor man could go to law; when no genius was encouraged unless for utilitarian ends; when genius was not even appreciated or understood, still less rewarded; when no man dared to lift up his voice against any crying evil, especially of a political character; when the whole civilized world was fettered, deceived, and mocked, and made to contribute to the power, pleasure, and pride of a single man and the minions upon whom he smiled?  Is all this to be overlooked in our estimate of human happiness?  Is there nothing to be considered but external glories which appeal to the senses alone?  Shall our eyes be diverted from the operation of moral law and the inevitable consequences of its violation?  Shall we blind ourselves to the future condition of our families and our country in our estimate of happiness?  Shall we ignore, in the dazzling life of a few favored extortioners, monopolists, and successful gamblers all that Christianity points out as the hope and solace and glory of mankind?  Not thus would we estimate human felicity.  Not thus would Marcus Aurelius, as he cast his sad and prophetic eye down the vistas of succeeding reigns, and saw the future miseries and wars and violence which were the natural result of egotism and vice, have given his austere judgment on the happiness of his Empire.  In all his sweetness and serenity, he penetrated the veil which the eye of the worldly Gibbon could not pierce. He declares that “those things which are most valued are empty, rotten, and trifling,”—­these are his very words; and that the real life of the people, even in the days of Trajan, had ceased to exist,—­that everything truly precious was lost in the senseless grasp after what can give no true happiness or permanent prosperity.


The “Meditations” of Marcus Aurelius; Epictetus should be read in connection.  Renan’s Life of Marcus Aurelius.  Farrar’s Seekers after God.  Arnold has also written some interesting things about this emperor.  In Smith’s Dictionary there is an able article.  Gibbon says something, but not so much as we could wish.  Tillemont, in his History of the Emperors, says more.  I would also refer my readers to my “Old Roman World,” to Sismondi’s Fall of the Roman Empire, and to Montesquieu’s treatise on the Decadence of the Romans.  The original Roman authorities which have come down to us are meagre and few.


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A.D. 272-337.


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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 04 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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