The First Blogger

Statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.

Philip Greenspun suggested online that perhaps Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 160 AD to 180 AD, might have been the first blogger.

Marcus kept a journal during a military campaign in central Europe (171-175).

Do not disturb thyself by thinking of the whole of thy life. Let not thy thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles which thou mayest expect to befall thee: but on every occasion ask thyself, What is there in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For thou wilt be ashamed to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this.

Greenspun conjectures that:

This was preserved because the author had been Emperor. How much ancient wisdom was lost because the common Roman citizen lacked TCP/IP? By 1700 BC, the Minoans were trading with Spain, had big cities with flush toilets, a written language, and moderately sophisticated metalworking technology. Had it not been for the eruption of Thera (on Santorini), it is quite possible that Romans would have watched the assassination of Julius Caesar on television.

I shared that with my colleague, the very erudite Professor Jenkins, who disagreed, as he often does with my ideas.

Marcus Aurelius kept a journal, not a blog. I think, by definition, a blog is an initial journal entry in which it is anticipated and expected that there will be timely reader responses which will cause the discussion of the topic to evolve.

From that perspective, I would say that medieval monastic scribes were the first bloggers. In the production of a manuscript “text”, wide margins were deliberately left on each page so that future users could gloss the text. Once completed, a product of a monastic scriptorium was frequently lent out to other monasteries whose readers would leave glossed comments in the margins. The manuscript often circulated in “round robin” fashion with several requested borrowers (“ye olde listserve”) before returning to its original home.

Yeah, bloggers of the ancient world is probably not a good dissertation thesis topic (or even a good thesis sentence) but it’s a nice conversation starter over coffee.

Professor J. did conclude by saying:

Marcus Aurelius died of some kind of intestinal problems. So maybe you don’t mean “first blogger” but rather “burst flogger”?

Emperor Marcus Aurelius as a boy. ...

I’ll allow Marcus to have the last words:

“Confine yourself to the present. Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

And Marc on the life of the body:

“The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.”

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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