Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Marius is a young Roman whose family has for many years lived on Whitenights, an estate in northern Italy. On that estate, Marius had grown to adolescence in an atmosphere of pagan piety and rural simplicity. The family leads a relatively simple life because Marius’s grandfather had squandered much of the family fortune. In the atmosphere of his childhood, Marius finds a great joy in worshiping the household gods and in overseeing the work on the estate. His life is one of contemplation rather than one of activity, and his idealism and religiosity are almost morbid in their extreme.
While still in his teens, young Marius is taken to a temple of Aesculapius in the Etrurian hills for the cure of a childhood disease. There the quiet, fresh atmosphere of the place, as well as the teachings of Galen, the great Roman physician, give him a new outlook on life. Upon his return home, Marius finds his mother’s health failing. She dies shortly afterward, and the effect of her death on Marius is to turn him into a skeptic, a young man who questions all aspects of life as they present themselves to him.
Soon afterward, relatives send young Marius to Pisa, where he attends school. While there, he conceives the idea of becoming a poet of the intellectual school. His inclination in that direction is stimulated by his friendship with Flavian, a schoolmate. Flavian is three years older than Marius and has great influence over the younger boy. The two read...
(The entire section is 1189 words.)
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