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Marcus Aurelius
by [?]

We are made for co-operation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to Nature, and it is acting against one another to be vexed and turn away.

—The Meditations

Annius Verus was one of the great men of Rome. He had been a soldier, governor of provinces, judge, senator and consul. Sixty years had passed over his head and whitened his hair, but the lines of care that were on his fine face ten years before had now given way to a cherubic double chin, and his complexion was ruddy as a baby’s. The entire atmosphere of the man was one of gentleness, repose and kindly good-will. Annius Verus was grateful to the gods, for the years had brought him much good fortune, and better still, knowledge. “Being old I shall know … the last of life for which the first was made!”

Religion isn’t a thing outside of a man, taught by priests out of a book. Religion is in the heart of man, and its chief quality is resignation and a grateful spirit. Annius Verus was religious in the best sense, and his life was peaceful and happy.

And surely Annius Verus should have been content–he was a Roman Consul, rich, powerful, honored by the wisest and best men in Rome, who considered it a privilege to come and dine at his table. His villa was on Mount Coelius, a suburb of Rome. The house was surrounded by a big stone wall enclosing a tract of about ten acres, where grew citron, orange and fig trees, and giant cedars of Lebanon lifted their branches to the clouds.

At least it seemed to little Marcus, grandson of the Consul, as if they reached the clouds. There was a long ladder running up one of these big cedar trees to a platform or “crow’s-nest” nearly a hundred feet from the ground. No boy was allowed to climb up there until he was twelve years old, and when Marcus was ten, time got stuck, he thought, and refused to budge. But this was only little Marcus’ idea, for he finally got to be twelve years old, and then he climbed the long ladder to the lookout in the tree and looked down on the Eternal City that lay below in the valley and stretched away over the seven hills. Often the boy would take a book and climb up there to read; and when the good grandfather missed him, he knew where to look, and standing under the tree the old man would call: “Come down, Marcus, come down and kiss your old grandfather–it is lonesome down here! Come down and read to your grandfather who loves his little Marcus!”

Such an appeal as this was irresistible, and the boy, slight, slim and agile, would clamber over the side of the crow’s-nest and down the ladder to the outstretched arms.

The boy’s father had died when he was only three months old, and the grandfather had adopted the child as his heir, and brought Lucilla, the widowed mother, and her baby to live in his house.

Years before, the Consul’s wife had passed away, and Faustina, his daughter, became the lady of the house. Lucilla and Faustina didn’t get along very well together–no house is big enough for two families, some man has said. Lucilla was gentle, gracious, spiritual, modest and refined; Faustina was beautiful and not without intellect, but she was proud, domineering and fond of admiration. But be it said to the credit of the good old Consul, he was able to suffuse the whole place with love, and even if Faustina had a tantrum now and then, it did not last long.

There were always visitors in the household–soldiers home on furloughs, governors on vacations, lawyers who came to consult the wise and judicial Verus.