Marius the Epicurean

by Walter Pater

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Marius, a young Roman of intellectual power living in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. As a young man, influenced by life on a country estate, he becomes an idealist of strong convictions, but his mother’s death turns him into a skeptic. From skepticism he later turns to Oriental mysticism and the early Greek philosophers. After reading the writings of Aristippus of Cyrene, he becomes an epicurean, seeking sensory experiences that will lead him to wisdom and an appreciation of the universe. He is finally converted to Christianity before his death.


Flavian, Marius’ schoolmate and friend. He influences Marius to read literature and philosophy. He also encourages Marius to become a poet. His death from the plague is a great shock to Marius.

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, a patron of art and learning. He appoints Marius to be his secretary and editor.


Cornelius, an officer in the famous Twelfth Legion. He becomes Marius’ friend and acquaints Marius with the people of Rome and the city itself. Because he is a Christian and a happy man, he becomes an influence on Marius’ life and thinking. Under Cornelius’ and Cecelia’s influence, Marius turns to Christianity.


Cecilia, a calm, happy Christian woman. She is a friend of Cornelius and becomes Marius’ friend too, helping him to discover the beauty of Christian religion and thought.


Galen, the famous Roman physician under whose influence Marius comes for a time as a young man.

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