The Gita According to Marcus Aurelius

Amit Majmudar at The Marginalia Review:

In his litany of beautiful things, Marcus Aurelius mentions a sword in the same breath as a blossom.

“Among the Quadi, on the river Gran” is the only reference to the barbarian tribes that Marcus Aurelius fought. Nowhere do we find assertions that the barbarians are despicable and deserve to have their way of life destroyed. There are no rants against the Quadi, no lurid accounts of Quadi evil that justify their subjugation. Marcus fought the Quadi without demonizing them.

The Mahabharata war centered on two rival sets of cousins, the five Pandavas and the hundred Kauravas. Arjuna is a Pandava, and Krishna is his mentor. After vowing not to take up arms in the war, Krishna serves as Arjuna’s charioteer. In the Gita, Krishna never launches into a tirade against the Kauravas. He never says a word against them. “Infidels,” “pagans,” “heathen,” “savages”: The Gita is missing these words. It is a rare scripture without an outgroup. Arjuna fought the Kauravas without demonizing them.

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