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Marcus Aurelius
by [?]

Instead of calling the boy Marcus Verus, the Emperor gave him the name “Verissimus,” which means “the open-eyed truthful one,” and this name stuck to Marcus for life.

Between Antoninus and Marcus there grew up a very close friendship. Antoninus could scale the ladder up the tall cedar, three rungs at a time, and come down hand over hand without putting his foot on a rest.

He and Marcus built another crow’s-nest thirty feet above the first. They drew up the lumber by ropes, and Antoninus being sinewy and strong climbed up first, and with thongs and nails they fixed the boards in place, and made a rope ladder such as sailors make, that they could pull up after them so no one could reach them. When the kind old Emperor came to the villa they showed him what they had done. He said he would not try to climb up now as he had a touch of rheumatism. But a light was fixed in the upper lookout, drawn up by a cord, so they could signal to the Emperor down at the palace.

Then Antoninus taught Marcus to ride horseback and pick up a spear off the ground, with his horse at a gallop. This was great sport for the Consul and the Emperor, who looked on, but they did not try it then, but said they would later on when they were feeling just right.

And beside all this Aurelius Antoninus taught Marcus to read from Epictetus, and told him how this hunchback slave, Epictetus, who was owned by a man who had been a slave himself, was one of the sweetest, gentlest souls who had ever lived. Together they read the Stoic-slave philosopher and made notes from him. And so impressed was Marcus that, boy though he was, he adopted the simple robe of the Stoics, slept on a plank, and made his life and language plain, truthful and direct.

This was all rather amusing to those near him–to all except Antoninus and the boy’s mother. The others said, “Leave him alone and he’ll get over it.”

Faustina was still fond of admiration–the simple, studious ways of her husband were not to her liking. He was twenty years her senior, and she demanded gaiety as her right. Her delight was to tread the borderline of folly, and see how close she could come to the brink and not step off. Julius Caesar’s wife was put away on suspicion, but Faustina was worse than that! She would go down to the city to masquerades, leaving her little girl at home, and be gone for three days.

When she returned Aurelius Antoninus spoke no word of anger or reproof. Her father said to her, “Beware! your husband’s patience has a limit. If he divorces you, I shall not blame him; and even if he should kill you, Roman law will not punish him!”

But long years after, Marcus, in looking back on those days, wrote: “His patience knew no limit; he treated her as a perverse child, and he once said to me: ‘I pity and love her. I will not put her away–this were selfish. How can her follies injure me? We are what we are, and no one can harm us but ourselves. The mistakes of those near us afford us an opportunity for self-control–we will not imitate their errors, but rather strive to avoid them. In this way what might be a great humiliation has its benefits.'”

Let no one imagine, however, that the tolerance of Antoninus was the soft acquiescence of weakness. After his death Marcus wrote: “Whatsoever excellent thing he had planned to do, he carried out with a persistency that nothing could divert. If he punished men, it was by allowing them to be led by their own folly–his foresight, wisdom and calm deliberation were beyond those of any man I ever knew.”

The studious, direct and manly ways of Marcus were not cast aside when he put on the toga virilis, as Faustina had predicted. In spite of the difference in their ages, Antoninus and Marcus mutually sustained each other.