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From Vol. 3, Issue 4, April 2021

A Tale of Two Faustinas


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It is commonly believed that Marcus Aurelius’ wife Faustina was unfaithful to him. Personally, such things don’t interest me. We read Marcus Aurelius because his thoughts are uplifitng. Little does it matter (except for him maybe) whether his wife was faithful to him or not.

Were there two Faustinas?

Yet when I recieved an email recently from one of our readers, Willi Sadbury, with the following question, I was intrigued:

Is it possible that the stories about Marcus Aurelius' wife being an adulterer are false...? Aurelius Antoninus married Faustina and they had Faustina the second. Marcus Aurelius married Faustina the second when he was twenty and she was sixteen. There are stories to the effect that the wife of Marcus Aurelius severely tried her husband's temper at times, but these tales seem to have arisen through a confusion of the two Faustinas. As far as we know, the younger Faustina was a most loyal and loving wife, the mother of a full dozen children.

To support his claim, Willi provided a reference to a biography of Marcus by Elbert Hubbard.

Who was Elbert Hubbard?

It so happens that I am familiar with the works of Elbert Hubbard. He was a Renaissance man - an intellectual, magazine publisher, author, advertising man, and the creator of a style of artisan furniture known as Roycroft. Like Musonius Rufus 2,000 years before him, Hubbard was a social activist, protofeminist, vegetarian, outdoorsman, and a pacifist. Like Musonius, Hubbard was affluent, famous during his lifetime, and friends with many influential figures of his time, including heads of States.

His house (which now houses a restaurant and inn), his printing press, and his Roycroft style furniture are still well-preserved and on display in upstate New York in a village called East Aurora. (As an aside, I have visited this place several times, partly because I am intrigued by the man and partly because East Aurora is a charming village with nice restaurants.)

I am familiar with the book referred to by Willi, but I haven’t read it in a long time. So I located the book and re-read the section on Marcus Aurelius. There is nothing that can resolve the question raised by Willi, but it is a plausible explanation.

The Story of Marcus Aurelius

As I was re-reading the book, I was thinking how good a storyteller Elbert Hubbard was. He provides some details not normally found in other biographies of Marcus.

Sure we can find detailed accounts of Marcus Aurelius in books like Donald Robertson’s How to Think Like a Roman Emperor or Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman’s I. Nevertheless, I think Hubbard’s little-known biography of Marcus Aurelius deserves a wider audience.

With that in mind, we are serializing the Marcus Aurelius section of Little Journeys to The Homes of The Great, Vol. 8 by Elbert Hubbard.

Thank you, Willi, for calling my attention to a long-forgotten book!

Dr. Chuck Chakrapani, Editor-in-Chief