The conclusion of Pater’s historico-philosophical novel about a young Roman nobleman’s search for purpose and meaning. Set in the time of Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the book traces its title character’s encounters with the stoicism of Aurelius, Eastern philosophical and religious movements, and Christianity as they reacted with Marius’s own innate Epicureanism.
In exploring these issues, Pater focuses on themes of adult development, as he notes the impact of Marius’s childhood experiences as they inform his adult thinking; the value of the aesthetic life (a favorite idea of Pater’s); and the appeal of religion.
In addition, the work is stylistically distinct for its attempt to use classical historical and philosophical texts
to support and enrich a fictional narrative.