Claudius Maximus (fl. 2nd century AD) was a Roman politician, a Stoic philosopher and a teacher of Marcus Aurelius. No works by him are known to exist; however, he is mentioned in a few prestigious works from classical literature.
Probably born around 101 AD, he was consul in 144, governor of Upper Pannonia from 150-154, and proconsul of Africa in 158. While proconsul he acted as judge at the trial where Apuleius delivered a defense against a charge of magic. The Historia Augusta mentions Claudius Maximus as one of Marcus Aurelius' stoic teachers. Marcus Aurelius also mentions Maximus’ sickness and death as well as that of his wife, Secunda, in his Meditations. If the sickness mentioned resulted in Maximus' death, then he must have died before 161.
Characterization in works
In the Meditations
In the first book of his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius remembers all of the people who have had a strong and benevolent influence upon him. A "Maximus" is listed last among Marcus Aurelius' teachers and to him is given one of the longer descriptions in the first book. It is likely that Maximus' education of the future emperor took place during the reign of Antoninus Pius. Marcus claims to have learned from Maximus among other virtue self-control, honesty, gravity of character, and kindness. He describes Maximus as the perfect sage.
Later in the Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, when reflecting on suffering and death remembers how Maximus endured sickness and the death of his wife without complaint. He takes this as a model of good behavior.
In the Apologia
In the Apologia, Apuleius, author of The Golden Ass, the only surviving Roman novel, attempts to defend himself against a charge of magic, largely by appealing to his judge whom he identifies as Claudius Maximus. According to Apuleius, Maximus was a pious man who shunned ostentatious displays of wealth and was intimately familiar with the works of Plato and Aristotle. Apuleius also makes reference to the sternness of his judge's philosophy which is understood to be a reference to Stoicism. Though Apuleius is clearly trying to flatter his judge, at least some of his attributions were likely true since he was acquitted.
In the Historia Augusta
The Historia Augusta mentions Claudius Maximus in a single sentence in the section on Marcus Aurelius. It mentions that his name was Claudius Maximus, he was one of the emperor's instructors, and that he was a Stoic philosopher. It is from this entry that association was originally made between the Claudius Maximus of the Apologia and the Maximus mentioned in the Meditations. It is also from this that we gain confirmation of his status as a Stoic.
Though the Historia Augusta is known for its inaccuracies, Pierre Hadot feels that there is no reason to doubt this portion of the text because it accurately characterizes other philosophers mentioned in the same paragraph.
Historians have had difficulty in the past identifying the person of "Maximus" mentioned in the Meditations. Méric Casaubon in his 1692 edition of the Meditations refutes in his footnotes a previously held identification of this Maximus with “…that other Maximus Tyrius; mentioned by Eusebius.” William Smith some two hundred years later wrote, "Some have identified Claudius Maximus with the Maximus who was consul, A.D. 144; Fabricius... identifies him with the Claudius Maximus, 'proconsul of [Africa.]'" He however concludes that the truth of all these identifications is "very uncertain." Only towards the end of the 20th century has there been any consensus on the matter favoring full identification of all these persons with the Maximus of the Meditations (excepting Maximus Tyrius, who was a Platonic).
- Historia Augusta, Marcus Aurelius, 3.
- McLynn, Frank, Marcus Aurelius: A Life, Da Capo Press, 2010, pp 48 ISBN 978-0-306-81830-1
- RMM 32 e CIL 16, 104.
- Birley, Anthoney, Marcus Aurelius: A Biography, Psychology Press, 2000, pp 96 ISBN 0-415-17125-3
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, viii. 25
- Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by Various Writers, vol 2. John Murray, 1872, pp. 988
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, i. 15
- Apuleius, Apologia, i. 19
- Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations, tl. Méric Casaubon, John Churchill, 1692, pp. 8