Sunday, 20 March 2016

Marcus Aurelius (EII): Personality Type Analysis

The following information is available about the 16th Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. The broad-brush history of his life and reign, from many sources; eyewitness reports from people who knew him, like the historian Cassius Dio; his personal correspondence with one of his teachers, Fronto; the general impression he made on his contemporaries, as reported; and, finally, his book, the so-called "Meditations", actually his sort of "personal blog", a disjointed collection of his thoughts which he wrote down for distraction, relief, or reflection; apparently never meant for publication.

'Meditations' has so many individual items that can, in isolation, arguably be used to support many typings. I will give here my own summary of the main points and themes.

It contains several brief descriptions of the character of individuals close to him and what he felt he owed them in building his character. He describes twice his predecessor and adoptive father, the Emperor Antoninus Pius, praising him as a calm, temperate and fair-minded man who also took care of his health and ate properly (Marcus praises Antoninus for not needing to empty his bowels more than once a day, even).

Other very common themes in this, the notebook of the "ruler of the known world", is a skepticism of power in individuals: he says that both Alexander the Great (SLE) and his servant, when they died, either went to whatever afterlife there is, or both returned to dust -- he goes back to this subject a few times.

Writing from the Danube frontier, while commanding an army fighting the Sarmatians, he comments that those hunting Sarmatians are like predators in a way -- he says that as a ruler, he is a Roman citizen, but as a person, he sees himself as a citizen of the world. Again, he comes back to this general theme a few times.

The book is also full of instructions to himself to be a better person: not to say he's too busy to receive or to write to someone unless he really really is; to aways think in such a way as not to mind if he was always thinking out loud; to always be patient even with apparently disagreeable people. He also tells himself to assume that if someone causes him offense, that it wasn't intended.

Lots of it is about the general theme of, live life as it is, don't worry about death or future fame, accept your role in the world, do as much good as you can. And so on and so forth.

Interestingly, at some point someone clearly pissed him off too much, leading him to write: "a black character, a womanish character, a stubborn character, bestial, childish, animal, stupid, counterfeit, scurrilous, fraudulent, tyrannical".

He seems aware of the impression he makes on others, saying, "will there not be at least someone who says to himself, let us now breathe freely, rid of this schoolmaster; he was harsh to none of us, but I noticed that he quietly condemned us".

In summary: his personal notes are full of R, 'world-accepting' I, a total dislike for F, lots about tolerance of others and accepting of life, and of others. It has lots of S images. That is, it seems clear to me that the author was a Delta.

Among Delta values, is interesting that P is elusive. There is P in the sense of anti-E. But for a 'CEO of the known world', a man who was not only the commander-in-chief but also the one-man supreme court, it is noticeable how little there is, in this collection of thoughts, that could be called 'practical P matters'. One way to explain it is that his day was full of matters and it was also as a escape from them that he wrote this 'blog'. Which suggests the Delta with the weakest P.

What is known of his life and reign reinforces this. He was spotted by the Emperor Hadrian (ILE) as 'future emperor material' at 17, already a very serious young man.

The reign of his predecessor had been the golden age of Roman peace and prosperity, but when Marcus became emperor everything fell on his head at once: simultaneous invasions by the Parthians in Syria and by Germans at the Danube frontier. Against his natural inclinations, Marcus spent most of his 19-year reign at war, with himself at the Danube front. To make things even worse, the victorious army returning from today's Iraq brought back the 'Antonine Plague' (possibly smallpox) with a huge physical and moral blow on the army and population. Also, a rumour that Marcus had died at the Danube led the Eastern commander, Avidius Cassius, to proclaim himself emperor. One month later, when the news came that Marcus was, well, alive, Cassius's own soldiers said "oops" and murdered him. That led Marcus to suspend his campaigns and spend a couple of years touring the east, showing that he was both alive and not inclined to punish those who had supported Cassius.

Due to all of the above, contemporaries like the historians Cassius Dio and Herodian noted that, objectively speaking, Marcus' reign was difficult in material terms and he left the Empire in worse shape than he had found it. Yet his moral authority and reputation was such that his good name survived for generations, with later emperors naming themselves after him in hopes of borrowing that.

As a ruler, Marcus was famously unconcerned with social status, promoting to Senator men whose fathers had been slaves (Romans usually preferred social mobility to be a bit slower) and also not inclined to do sweeping reforms by legislation: he preferred to act by piecemeal, judicial decisions that would serve as precedent. Ancient jurists liked him for the care with which he decided on such matters.

Unlike many of his predecessors and successors, Marcus was unconcerned with grandiose public works or in any kind of major reforms. His concern seemed to be, to keep things running well, go to war if necessary, act by example, show clemency and benevolence when he could in individual cases. But with no idea of fundamentally changing society.

Interestingly, he presided over games (races, gladiators, etc) when he had to, but disliked them and did not bother about pretending: he caught up with his paperwork while at the games, which made him a bit disliked.

I would say that all of the evidence strongly suggests EII: Delta values with least visible P, apparent E7, no focus on F+L, I and S acceptance of the world and focus on the present, besides his overall impression.

Recommended reading and sources: Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations" are easily available online and in several paperback versions. The main primary sources, the "Historia Augusta" and Cassius Dio, are available online. Anthony Birley's biography, "Marcus Aurelius", is scholarly; the massive biography by Frank McLynn, "Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor", is more accessible despite its length.

To learn more about EII, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.


  1. I like this description a lot.
    If I may subscribe to strong R, and correct me if I'm wrong, I just popped open Book one of Meditations and the Emperor lists what he has learned from various people. In a book that is called meditations or rather dialogue with myself, this is interesting.

  2. Yes that is a hint to his R1