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most happy and prosperous

November 20, 2009

[PopMatters] Edward Gibbon, author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote that the era Marcus Aurelius reigned in was the period of history “during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous”. McLynn takes particular umbrage with this overly generous assertion. In truth, Marcus’ Roman Empire was a Hobbesean trial where the consumptive whims of the ruling elite were fueled by the labor and exploitation of a vast, oppressed underclass.

Standards of living were low and death was ever present in a multitude of forms, including plague, famine, war, and high rates of infant mortality. The empire was strained economically, requiring near constant warfare and annexations to keep things afloat, a situation that empowered the military and imperiled the stability of the government. (read)

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