Greatest ruler of antiquity

Aug 2011
137
The Castle Anthrax
#92
Marcus Aurelius gets my vote. I know that "greatest ruler in Antiquity" is a stretch here; however, as a recreational fan of history, I always enjoy reading history by trying to place myself in the times an places I'm reading about. Therefore, I place a high value upon benevolence. From everything I've read, Marcus Aurelius seemed to have genuinely cared for the people as well as the health and future of the nation, poor choice in successor notwithstanding.

Julian gets honorable mention. He seems to have been a genuinely intelligent person which I also find respectable, especially among the ruthless, degenerate and avaricious ruling class. I respect what I understand of his regard to old Roman values and his lack of an overly heavy handed approach in attempting to restore some of that old Roman culture.
 
Mar 2013
1,441
Escandinavia y Mesopotamia
#93
Julian the Apostate being intelligent? Very unlikely unless one learns his history from some Edward Gibberish works who polished the actions of Julian the Apostate who actually failed not just as religious reformer, but also culturally and militarily.

Julian combined a branch of polytheism with variety of different Pagan traditions that he put himself outside the mainstream of contemporary belief in such a way that his effort of reopening temples and appointing cult leaders across his empire was a failure when he found out that his reception by pagans was “as best lukewarm” as the Roman historian, David Potter, states in “Rome in the Ancient World” in page 288. - Taking into consideration that Julian and the pagans were majority in his reign while the Christians were still a minority, then his ineptitude as a religious reformer is quite embarrassing.

As a politician he was also not quite wise. He only became sole emperor because Constantius II died unexpected, and Potter also notes that “perhaps more serious than his religious policy was the fact that he mixed badly with society” giving his actions in Antioch where he lacked the ability to participated in the common entertainments of his people like chariot racing for example, or his botched handling of grain shortage around the city due to his army. He even alienated powerful groups within the bureaucracy in Antioch, and just after the death of Constantius II he ordered trials and execution of some leading officials despite many (including Ammianus) thought were treated unjustly.

He is, as far as I know, the only Roman emperor who ordered a ban on learning towards the Christians. Which stupid emperor apart from Julian the Apostate does such thing?

He also showed signs of being mentally ill or perhaps just a little bit retarded. David Potter notes: “Beyond this, Julian's appointees to various offices raises questions in people's mind. A contemporary orator says that he employed his prophetic powers to make these appointments, with the result that people who were expected to get them did not. (…)” :lol:

And this not to mention his disastrous campaign in Persia where he entered enemy area without proper knowledge of the geography and without bringing proper siege-equipment. The results were disaster: he found out that the Persians entrenched themselves in fortress in safety since Julian could not siege them, and not to mention that the Persians then flooded the area behind him with the Tigris River, and thus Julian and his army was trapped in the territory of the enemy. And the rest is history: He took a hasty decision to move his hungry and exhausted army up the Tigris River where the Persians easily could follow after and slowly harassing him and then that dumbass died when he was wounded, and the Roman Empire was forced to cede some areas to the Persians.

Here a Persian marble where the Persians stand on his body and the Shah on his face:

Julian weak emperor.jpg


What a pathetic erratic stupid inept loser Julian was. And all this happened in his paltry 1 and half year. Yes, in such a short reign he managed to ban the learning, failed to restore Paganism despite the pagans were a majority and even abused the military capacity of the Roman Empire. In only 1 and half year. Very inteligent of him. :lol:
 
Jan 2015
3,512
Australia
#94
Marcus Aurelius gets my vote. I know that "greatest ruler in Antiquity" is a stretch here; however, as a recreational fan of history, I always enjoy reading history by trying to place myself in the times an places I'm reading about. Therefore, I place a high value upon benevolence. From everything I've read, Marcus Aurelius seemed to have genuinely cared for the people as well as the health and future of the nation, poor choice in successor notwithstanding.

Julian gets honorable mention. He seems to have been a genuinely intelligent person which I also find respectable, especially among the ruthless, degenerate and avaricious ruling class. I respect what I understand of his regard to old Roman values and his lack of an overly heavy handed approach in attempting to restore some of that old Roman culture.
"I know the answer isn't X... but X". Like you say, Marcus Aurelius isn't a serious choice, just like a lot of the names being proffered here. Ok, he's a favourite of yours, but how on earth he could be the greatest ruler of antiquity I have no idea; he wasn't even the greatest of the Good Emperors. His absurd insistence on setting up a family dynasty, which he did when his kids were still toddlers and infants (but didn't dare do until his predecessor had passed away) shows he was a long way from putting his own people first; his family was far more important to him, which is a pretty damning criticism of a guy who was supposed to be a stoic philosopher.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,718
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
#95
"I know the answer isn't X... but X". Like you say, Marcus Aurelius isn't a serious choice, just like a lot of the names being proffered here. Ok, he's a favourite of yours, but how on earth he could be the greatest ruler of antiquity I have no idea; he wasn't even the greatest of the Good Emperors. His absurd insistence on setting up a family dynasty, which he did when his kids were still toddlers and infants (but didn't dare do until his predecessor had passed away) shows he was a long way from putting his own people first; his family was far more important to him, which is a pretty damning criticism of a guy who was supposed to be a stoic philosopher.
So he was lucky enough to be the first of the good emperors to have a family of natural children to be his heirs. What would have happened to his surviving sons if they weren't emperors but had a claim to the throne to rival whoever did become emperor?
 
#96
So he was lucky enough to be the first of the good emperors to have a family of natural children to be his heirs. What would have happened to his surviving sons if they weren't emperors but had a claim to the throne to rival whoever did become emperor?
That's a fair point. The eldest biological sons who do not succeed to the purple tend to eventually be killed or forcibly take the purple for themselves.

For the former, note Postumus Agrippa, Tiberius Gemellus, Britannicus, Candidianus (son of Galerius), Severianus (son of Severus II), Maximus (son of Maximinus II), the various half-brothers and half-nephews of Constantine who could claim superior legitimacy (that is, if Constantine was born illegitimate, as some have argued).

For the latter, note Constantine and Maxentius.
 
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Jan 2015
3,512
Australia
#97
So he was lucky enough to be the first of the good emperors to have a family of natural children to be his heirs. What would have happened to his surviving sons if they weren't emperors but had a claim to the throne to rival whoever did become emperor?
We're talking about whether he was the greatest ruler in antiquity here. Someone who prioritises his family over the Empire can't possibly qualify. I can get into why your statement is misleading and not entirely accurate, but it isn't necessary. Augustus, to take one example, is a guy who didn't go out looking for the closest bloodlink to be his heir; he chose the best person from his broader family, because he wanted stability, and to ensure he left his legacy in good hands; and hey look, it didn't lead to (all) Augustus other relatives being purged by Tiberius to ensure his succession, and if it had Augustus was obviously ok with taking that risk for the greater good. Aurelius didn't care about that at all. He had other flaws, but that alone makes his inclusion in this thread not serious.

To harp again about Augustus as a point of comparison. Augustus had a grandson still; he banished the guy to live elsewhere, because he wasn't a suitable successor, even though by blood he was ahead of his stepson Tiberius. He also forced Tiberius to adopt a suitable successor as a condition of his adoption (who was not his son either), and Tiberius apparent obsession with making his son Emperor (and probably poisoning Germanicus) is one of the big marks against Tiberius as an emperor; because it was the wrong policy! To say "well, it's understandable" isn't an argument in a thread about superior leadership. It's understandable why many Dark Ages rulers sucked, but we don't then compare them favourably to the leaders who transcended their time to provide a better quality of leadership. In contrast, Aurelius selected his kids as infants and toddlers to rule, and as they died he kept appointing more. He also waited for his predecessor to die before he dared do it, probably because it went entirely against the principle of stable succession that they'd all been following; and no, the good emperors hadn't had sons either, but it had been very possible some of them could have had sons at the time they adopted and began raising their handpicked heirs, they couldn't read the future and be sure what would happen. Clearly they weren't too fussed about natural successors.
 
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#98
To harp again about Augustus as a point of comparison. Augustus had a grandson still; he banished the guy to live elsewhere, because he wasn't a suitable successor, even though by blood he was ahead of his stepson Tiberius. He also forced Tiberius to adopt a suitable successor as a condition of his adoption (who was not his son either), and Tiberius apparent obsession with making his son Emperor (and probably poisoning Germanicus) is one of the big marks against Tiberius as an emperor; because it was the wrong policy! To say "well, it's understandable" isn't an argument in a thread about superior leadership. It's understandable why many Dark Ages rulers sucked, but we don't then compare them favourably to the leaders who transcended their time to provide a better quality of leadership. In contrast, Aurelius selected his kids as infants and toddlers to rule, and as they died he kept appointing more. He also waited for his predecessor to die before he dared do it, probably because it went entirely against the principle of stable succession that they'd all been following; and no, the good emperors hadn't had sons either, but it had been very possible some of them could have had sons at the time they adopted and began raising their handpicked heirs, they couldn't read the future and be sure what would happen. Clearly they weren't too fussed about natural successors.
The problem with the Postumus example is the very fact that he was banished. This suggests that he was punished for a crime undisclosed in our sources. So this isn't simply a case where a son was deemed unsuitable and passed over for the throne. Something more than this happened. Your analysis of the Julio-Claudian period also overlooks the apparent interest that the Julio-Claudians had with dual successors (Gaius and Lucius Caesar, Agrippa Postumus and Tiberius, Germanicus and Drusus Castor, Caligula and Tiberius Gemellus, Britannicus and Nero), something that did not survive the Julio-Claudian period because it lent itself to intra-dynastic murder, but seems to me to be evidence that the Julio-Claudians were still working out what exactly the emperorship was and how the succession was going to work.

We've already discussed your views on Antonine succession elsewhere (For the reference of others: The most biggest lie about roman emperors), but I'll repeat my conclusion from that discussion. You may be right that Hadrian and Antoninus were not willing to appoint children as heirs (this was yet to become the common thing that it later became), but I don't see how you can be so certain that Hadrian would have made Pius adopt if in 138 he did indeed have a biological son. I also don't see why you attach so much significance to the fact that Aurelius appointed his heirs only after he became emperor. The heirs were babies, as you acknowledge. They hadn't been alive for very long. I just don't buy what you're selling.
 
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Jan 2015
3,512
Australia
#99
Other takes are just that Postumus was being punished for being unsuitable as a successor, and was sent into exile for that reason. It is a perfect counterpoint to Aurelius, who just wasn't very interested in whether his sons were (or would be) suitable, and ignored any possibility they might not be and locked them in and stuck to that mistake all the way to his death. Either he lacked the judgment to determine how poor a choice Commodus was, or he didn't care enough. Either one is pretty disqualifying for "greatest ruler in antiquity". If Aurelius wanted to ensure his familial line survived, he had plenty of other more reasonable options; for instance, marrying his (much older) daughter to his successor, who could have been childless, and requiring him to adopt some or all of his own sons. This argument that Aurelius had no choice but to appoint his sons is simply nonsense. He had plenty of choices, and if he had any business being discussed as the greatest ruler of antiquity he should have made some of them (whether that was the more extreme choice of "just pick someone else and risk them being killed" or the moderate road, like one example I suggested above).
 
Aug 2011
137
The Castle Anthrax
Julian the Apostate being intelligent? Very unlikely unless one learns his history from some Edward Gibberish works who polished the actions of Julian the Apostate who actually failed not just as religious reformer, but also culturally and militarily.
What's your beef with Gibbon? He furthered the study, however imperfectly. Scaffolding my zealous friend, scaffolding.

Julian combined a branch of polytheism with variety of different Pagan traditions that he put himself outside the mainstream of contemporary belief in such a way that his effort of reopening temples and appointing cult leaders across his empire was a failure when he found out that his reception by pagans was “as best lukewarm” as the Roman historian, David Potter, states in “Rome in the Ancient World” in page 288. -
He even alienated powerful groups within the bureaucracy in Antioch, and just after the death of Constantius II he ordered trials and execution of some leading officials despite many (including Ammianus) thought were treated unjustly.
Yet, according to Ammianus, he was very well received at Antioch...

But hastening from there to visit Antioch, fair crown of the Orient, he reached it by the usual roads; and as he neared the city, he was received with public prayers, as if he were some deity, and he wondered at the cries of the great throng, who shouted that a lucky star had risen over the East.

and Ammianus even states that he was a health giving star.

There, rejoicing in his success and in the good omen, and with increased p135 hope of the future, since he believed that following the example of a populous and famous metropolis the other cities also would receive him as a health-giving star, he gave chariot races on the following day, to the joy of the people.

Taking into consideration that Julian and the pagans were majority in his reign while the Christians were still a minority, then his ineptitude as a religious reformer is quite embarrassing.
Although he did not succeed in removing Christianity, he did act intelligently:

Julian affected an understanding, moreover, that the bloodletting of violent persecution conducted by previous pagan emperors was often a counterproductive remedy.82 The sophist Libanius saw a medical analogy fit for praising this gentler policy of persuasion over persecution: “it is possible to heal those who are physically sick by restraining them (τὰ σώµατα νοσοῦντας δήσαντά ἐστιν ἰάσασθαι), but you cannot expel a false opinion about the gods by cutting and burning.”83 Julian advertised this policy even in response to reprisals taken out on Christians by zealous pagans in reaction to his accession. Julian advises the people of Bostra in a letter to refrain from violence and be more compassionate, “as we sympathize with those infected by a disease” (ὡς τοῖς µὲν ἐνεχοµένοις νόσῳ τινὶ συναλγοῦµεν).84 As noted by Pierre-Louis Malosse, Julian’s designation of his religious antagonists as the victims of a disease, rather than personally guilty of evil, reflects his rhetoric of a compassionate approach to heal by persuasion rather than punish by persecution, and is even a political application of Hippocratic medical ethics.85

Furthermore, he does have an enduring legacy:

Julian’s works are products of the Hellenic integration of medical science into what we would today term the humanities, and they teach us that not only is medical knowledge useful to civic virtue, but also that philosophy and other humanistic pursuits are useful to the practice of medicine.

Would that contemporary leaders were so wise!


As a politician he was also not quite wise. He only became sole emperor because Constantius II died unexpected,
This demonstrates his lack of wisdom how?



He is, as far as I know, the only Roman emperor who ordered a ban on learning towards the Christians. Which stupid emperor apart from Julian the Apostate does such thing?
In June 362 he promulgated an edict that banned Christians from teaching grammar, rhetoric, and, according John Chrysostom, medicine as well.90 In a subsequent rescript to this law, Julian defines proper paideia (παιδείαν ὀρθὴν) as having “a healthy condition (διάθεσιν ὑγιῆ) of a mind that possesses understanding and true doctrines about good and evil.”91 The Christians, though they ought to be forcibly “cured like those who are insane (ὥσπερ τοὺς φρενιτίζοντας … ἰᾶσθαι),” he insists must be healed “of such a disease as this” (τῆς τοιαύτης νόσου) by education alone.92 The challenge herein, though, was a symptom of that disease, that the Christians denied that the gods were the source of that very paideia they appropriated for themselves.

They were competing contemporaneous theologies. He had a reasoned argument for his actions, which he believed were benevolent to the Empire.

He also showed signs of being mentally ill or perhaps just a little bit retarded.
Ok, I made a grandiose statement about Julian while thinking about what I perceive as virtues in Aurelius; however, you have made an absurd and somewhat offensive statement, which is quite paradoxical considering your diatribe about the stupidly of Julian.
 

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