Marcus Aurelius

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Marcus Aurelius
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| regent = Lucius Verus (161–169)Commodus (177–180)| spouse = Faustina the Younger| issue = 14, incl. Commodus, Marcus Annius Verus Caesar, Antoninus and Lucilla| issue-link = #Marriage and childrenNerva–Antonine dynasty>Nerva-Antonine Early life of Marcus Aurelius>Marcus Annius Verus| birth_date = 26 April 121| birth_place = Rome180174df=y}}| death_place = Vindobona or SirmiumCastel Sant'Angelo>Hadrian's Mausoleumregnal name=Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus}}{{Marcus Aurelius}}Marcus Aurelius ({{IPAc-en|ɔː|ˈ|r|iː|l|i|ə|s}}; ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180 AD), called the Philosopher, was Roman emperor from {{no wrap|161 to 180}}. He was adopted by Antoninus Pius, whose daughter Faustina he married and whom he and his adoptive brother, Lucius Verus, succeeded. He ruled the Roman Empire with Lucius until Lucius' death in 169, and with his son by Faustina, Commodus, from 177. He was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors. He was a practitioner of Stoicism, and his personal philosophical writings, which later came to be called Meditations, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire in the East; Marcus' general Avidius Cassius sacked the Parthian capital Ctesiphon in 164. In central Europe, Marcus fought the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatians with success during the Marcomannic Wars, although the threat of the Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Persecution of Christians is said to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague, a pandemic that broke out in 165, devastated the population of the Roman Empire and may have been the cause of death for his co-ruler Lucius. Marcus' death in 180 is seen as an end to the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Empire.


The major sources depicting the life and rule of Marcus are patchy and frequently unreliable. The most important group of sources, the biographies contained in the Historia Augusta, claim to be written by a group of authors at the turn of the 4th century AD, but were in fact written by a single author (referred to here as "the biographer") from about 395 AD. The later biographies and the biographies of subordinate emperors and usurpers are unreliable, but the earlier biographies, derived primarily from now-lost earlier sources (Marius Maximus or Ignotus), are much more accurate.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 229–30. The thesis of single authorship was first proposed in H. Dessau's "Über Zeit und Persönlichkeit der Scriptoes Historiae Augustae" (in German), Hermes 24 (1889), pp. 337ff. For Marcus' life and rule, the biographies of Hadrian, Antoninus, Marcus, and Lucius are largely reliable, but those of Aelius Verus and Avidius Cassius are not.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 230. On the HA Verus, see Barnes, pp. 65–74.A body of correspondence between Marcus' tutor Fronto and various Antonine officials survives in a series of patchy manuscripts, covering the period from c. 138 to 166.Beard; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 226. Marcus' own Meditations offer a window on his inner life, but are largely undateable, and make few specific references to worldly affairs.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 227. The main narrative source for the period is Cassius Dio, a Greek senator from Bithynian Nicaea who wrote a history of Rome from its founding to 229 in eighty books. Dio is vital for the military history of the period, but his senatorial prejudices and strong opposition to imperial expansion obscure his perspective.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 228–29, 253.Some other literary sources provide specific details: the writings of the physician Galen on the habits of the Antonine elite, the orations of Aelius Aristides on the temper of the times, and the constitutions preserved in the Digest and Codex Justinianus on Marcus' legal work.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 227–28. Inscriptions and coin finds supplement the literary sources.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 228.File:Antoninus Pius, with Marcus Aurelius Caesar, denarius, AD 139, RIC III 412a.jpg|Denarius of Antoninus Pius (AD 139), with a portrait of his adoptive son Marcus Aurelius on the reverse.Mattingly & Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, vol. III, p. 77.File:257 arte romana, marco aurelio e faustina, calcedonio, 190 dc ca..JPG|Marcus Aurelius depicted with his wife Faustina the Younger|alt=Depiction of Marcus Aurelius facing his wife FaustinaFile:Arte romana, marc'aurelio e lucio vero su agata-onice, II sec.JPG|Marcus Aurelius depicted with his adoptive brother and co-ruler Lucius Verus|alt=Depiction of Marcus Aurelius facing his co-ruler Lucius VerusFile:Medaglione contorniato di marco aurelio con olimpia macedone su triclinio tra delfino e serpente a cui dà pomo.JPG|alt=Medallion of Marcus Aurelius depicting a dolphin and a snake, which is being attacked with a sword|Medallion of Marcus AureliusFile:Medaglione di marco aurelio, zecca di tiatira-lidia, divinità in quadriga e fiume Lico.JPG|alt=Medallion of Marcus Aurelius depicting a man drawing a chariot with four horses|Medallion of Marcus Aurelius

Early life and career


File:Marcus_Aurelius,_AE_medallion,_AD_168,_Gnecchi_II_52.jpg|alt=|thumb|250x250px|alt=Bronze medallion of Marcus Aurelius|Bronze medallion of Marcus Aurelius (AD 168). The reverse depicts Jupiter, flanked by Marcus and Lucius VerusLucius VerusMarcus was born in Rome on 26 April 121. His name at birth was supposedly Marcus Annius Verus,BOOK,weblink Dictionary of World Biography, 9781579580407, Magill, Frank Northen, 2003-01-23, but some sources assign this name to him upon his father's death and adoption by his grandfather, upon his coming of age,Historia MA I.9–10Van Ackeren, p. 139.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 33. or at the time of his marriage.Dio 69.21.1; HA Marcus i. 10; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 24. He may have been known as Marcus Annius Catilius Severus,Dio lxix.21.1; HA Marcus i. 9; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 24. at birth or at some point in his youth,Historia MA I.9–10 or Marcus Catilius Severus Annius Verus. Upon his adoption by Antoninus as heir to the throne, he was known as Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus Caesar and, upon his ascension, he was Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus until his death;Van Ackeren, p. 78. Epiphanius of Salamis, in his chronology of the Roman emperors On Weights and Measures, calls him Marcus Aurelius Verus.Dean, p. 32.

Family origins

File:Young Marcus Aurelius Musei Capitolini MC279.jpg|thumb|A bust of Marcus Aurelius as a young boy (Capitoline Museum). (Anthony Birley]], his modern biographer, writes of the bust: "This is certainly a grave young man."Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 49.|alt=Bust of a young Marcus Aurelius)Marcus' family originated in Ucubi, a small town southeast of Córdoba in Iberian Baetica. The family rose to prominence in the late 1st century AD. Marcus Aurelius' great-grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (I) was a senator and (according to the Historia Augusta) ex-praetor; in 73–74, his grandfather, Marcus Annius Verus (II), was made a patrician.HA Marcus i. 2, 4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 28; McLynn, p. 14.{{refn|Cassius Dio asserts that the Annii were near-kin of Hadrian, and that it was to these familial ties that they owed their rise to power.Dio 69.21.2, 71.35.2–3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 31. The precise nature of these kinship ties is nowhere stated. One conjectural bond runs through Annius Verus (II). Verus' wife Rupilia Faustina was the daughter of the consular senator Libo Rupilius Frugi and an unnamed mother. It has been hypothesized Rupilia Faustina's mother was Matidia, who was also the mother (presumably through another marriage) of Vibia Sabina, Hadrian's wife.Codex Inscriptionum Latinarum 14.3579 {{Webarchive|url= |date=29 April 2012 }}; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 29; McLynn, pp. 14, 575 n. 53, citing Ronald Syme, Roman Papers 1.244.|group=notes}} Verus' elder son—Marcus Aurelius' father—Marcus Annius Verus (III) married Domitia Lucilla.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 29; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 14.Lucilla was the daughter of the patrician P. Calvisius Tullus Ruso. Her mother, also Domitia Lucilla, had inherited a great fortune (described at length in one of Pliny's letters) from her maternal grandfather and her paternal grandfather by adoption.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 29, citing Pliny, Epistulae 8.18. The younger Lucilla would acquire much of her mother's wealth, including a large brickworks on the outskirts of Rome—a profitable enterprise in an era when the city was experiencing a construction boom.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 30.


File:Young Marcus Aurelius.jpg|thumb|Statue of young Marcus Aurelius from a private collection housed in the alt=Statue of a young Marcus AureliusMarcus' sister, Annia Cornificia Faustina, was probably born in 122 or 123.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 31, 44. His father probably died in 124, during his praetorship, when Marcus was three years old.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 31.{{refn|Farquharson dates his death to 130, when Marcus was nine.Farquharson, 1.95–96.|group=notes}} Though he can hardly have known his father, Marcus wrote in his Meditations that he had learned "modesty and manliness" from his memories of his father and from the man's posthumous reputation.Meditations 1.1, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 31. His mother Lucilla did not remarry.Lucilla, following prevailing aristocratic customs, probably did not spend much time with her son. Instead, Marcus was in the care of "nurses".HA Marcus ii. 1 and Meditations v. 4, qtd. in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 32. Even so, Marcus credits his mother with teaching him "religious piety, simplicity in diet", and how to avoid "the ways of the rich".Meditations i. 3, qtd. in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 35. In his letters, he makes frequent and affectionate reference to her; he was grateful that, "although she was fated to die young, yet she spent her last years with me".Meditations i. 17.7, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 35.After his father's death, Marcus was raised by his paternal grandfather Marcus Annius Verus, who had always retained the legal authority of patria potestas over his son and grandson. Technically this was not an adoption, the creation of a new and different patria potestas. Lucius Catilius Severus, described as Marcus' maternal great-grandfather, also participated in his upbringing; he was probably the elder Domitia Lucilla's stepfather. Marcus was raised in his parents' home on the Caelian Hill, a district he would affectionately refer to as "my Caelian".Ad Marcum Caesarem ii. 8.2 (= Haines 1.142), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 31.It was an upscale area, with few public buildings but many aristocratic villas. Marcus' grandfather owned a palace beside the Lateran, where he would spend much of his childhood.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 31–32. Marcus Aurelius thanks his grandfather for teaching him "good character and avoidance of bad temper".Meditations i. 1, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 35. He was less fond of the mistress his grandfather took and lived with after the death of his wife, Rupilia Faustina.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 35. Marcus Aurelius was grateful that he did not have to live with her longer than he did.Meditations i. 17.2; Farquharson, 1.102; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 23; cf. Meditations i. 17.11; Farquharson, 1.103.Marcus was educated at home, in line with contemporary aristocratic trends;McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, 20–21. he thanks Catilius Severus for encouraging him to avoid public schools.Meditations 1.4; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 20. One of his teachers, Diognetus, a painting master, proved particularly influential; he seems to have introduced Marcus Aurelius to the philosophic way of life.HA Marcus ii. 2, iv. 9; Meditations i. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 37; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, pp. 21–22. In April 132, at the behest of Diognetus, Marcus took up the dress and habits of the philosopher: he studied while wearing a rough Greek cloak, and would sleep on the ground until his mother convinced him to sleep on a bed.HA Marcus ii. 6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 38; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 21.A new set of tutors—Alexander of Cotiaeum, Trosius Aper, and Tuticius Proculus{{refn|Birley amends the text of the HA Marcus from "Eutychius" to "Tuticius".Birley, Lives of the Later Caesars, pp. 109, 109 n.8; Marcus Aurelius, pp. 40, 270 n.27, citing Bonner Historia-Augusta Colloquia 1966/7, pp. 39ff.|group=notes}}—took over Marcus' education in about 132 or 133.HA Marcus ii. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 40, 270 n.27. Little is known of the latter two (both teachers of Latin), but Alexander was a major littérateur, the leading Homeric scholar of his day.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 40, citing Aelius Aristides, Oratio 32 K; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 21. Marcus thanks Alexander for his training in literary styling.Meditations i. 10; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 40; McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor, p. 22. Alexander's influence—an emphasis on matter over style and careful wording, with the occasional Homeric quotation—has been detected in Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 40, 270 n.28, citing A.S.L. Farquharson, The Meditations of Marcus Antoninus (Oxford, 1944) ii. 453.

Succession to Hadrian

{{multiple image|total_width=400|image1=Bust of Marcus Aurelius at the National Museum of Serbia.jpg|caption1=Bust of Marcus Aurelius at the National Museum of Serbia|image2=Roman - Portrait of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius - Walters 23215.jpg|caption2=A marble bust of Marcus Aurelius at The Walters Art MuseumPortrait of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius.}}In late 136, Hadrian almost died from a haemorrhage. Convalescent in his villa at Tivoli, he selected Lucius Ceionius Commodus, Marcus' intended father-in-law, as his successor and adopted sonBirley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 41–42. invitis omnibus, "against the wishes of everyone".HA Hadrian xiii. 10, qtd. in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 42. While his motives are not certain, it would appear that his goal was to eventually place the then-too-young Marcus on the throne.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 42. Van Ackeren, 142. On the succession to Hadrian, see also: T.D. Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", Journal of Roman Studies 57:1–2 (1967): 65–79; J. VanderLeest, "Hadrian, Lucius Verus, and the Arco di Portogallo", Phoenix 49:4 (1995): pp. 319–30. As part of his adoption, Commodus took the name Lucius Aelius Caesar. His health was so poor that, during a ceremony to mark his becoming heir to the throne, he was too weak to lift a large shield on his own.HA Aelius vi. 2-3 After a brief stationing on the Danube frontier, Aelius returned to Rome to make an address to the senate on the first day of 138. The night before the speech, however, he grew ill, and died of a haemorrhage later in the day.HA Hadrian xxiii. 15–16; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 45; "Hadrian to the Antonines", 148.{{refn|Commodus was a known consumptive at the time of his adoption, so Hadrian may have intended Marcus' eventual succession anyway.Dio, lxix.17.1; HA Aelius, iii. 7, iv. 6, vi. 1–7; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 147.|group=notes}}On 24 January 138, Hadrian selected Aurelius Antoninus, the husband of Marcus' aunt Faustina the Elder, as his new successor.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 46. Date: Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 148. As part of Hadrian's terms, Antoninus in turn adopted Marcus and Lucius Verus, the son of Lucius Aelius.Weigel. Marcus became M. Aelius Aurelius Verus, and Lucius became L. Aelius Aurelius Commodus. At Hadrian's request, Antoninus' daughter Faustina was betrothed to Lucius.Dio 69.21.1; HA Hadrian xxiv. 1; HA Aelius vi. 9; HA Antoninus Pius iv. 6–7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 48–49. Marcus reportedly greeted the news that Hadrian had become his adoptive grandfather with sadness, instead of joy. Only with reluctance did he move from his mother's house on the Caelian to Hadrian's private home.HA Marcus v. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 49.At some time in 138, Hadrian requested in the senate that Marcus be exempt from the law barring him from becoming quaestor before his twenty-fourth birthday. The senate complied, and Marcus served under Antoninus, the consul for 139.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 49–50. Marcus' adoption diverted him from the typical career path of his class. If not for his adoption, he probably would have become triumvir monetalis, a highly regarded post involving token administration of the state mint; after that, he could have served as tribune with a legion, becoming the legion's nominal second-in-command. Marcus probably would have opted for travel and further education instead. As it was, Marcus was set apart from his fellow citizens. Nonetheless, his biographer attests that his character remained unaffected: "He still showed the same respect to his relations as he had when he was an ordinary citizen, and he was as thrifty and careful of his possessions as he had been when he lived in a private household."HA Marcus v. 6–8, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 50.File:Joseph Mallord William Turner - The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl - Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|right|300px|Baiae, seaside resort and site of Hadrian's last days. Marcus Aurelius would holiday in the town with the imperial family in the summer of 143.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 80–81. (J.M.W. TurnerJ.M.W. TurnerAfter a series of suicide attempts, all thwarted by Antoninus, Hadrian left for Baiae, a seaside resort on the Campanian coast. His condition did not improve, and he abandoned the diet prescribed by his doctors, indulging himself in food and drink. He sent for Antoninus, who was at his side when he died on 10 July 138.Dio 69.22.4; HA Hadrian xxv. 5–6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 50–51. Hadrian's suicide attempts: Dio, lxix. 22.1–4; HA Hadrian xxiv. 8–13. His remains were buried quietly at Puteoli.HA Hadrian xxv. 7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 53. The succession to Antoninus was peaceful and stable: Antoninus kept Hadrian's nominees in office and appeased the senate, respecting its privileges and commuting the death sentences of men charged in Hadrian's last days.HA Antoninus Pius v. 3, vi. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 55–56; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 151. For his dutiful behavior, Antoninus was asked to accept the name "Pius".Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 55; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 151.

Heir to Antoninus Pius (138–145)

File:Antoninus Pius, sestertius, AD 140-144, RIC III 601.jpg|alt=Coin commemorating the betrothal of Marcus Aurelius to his eventual wife Faustina|thumb|300x300px|Sestertius of Antoninus Pius (AD 140-144). It celebrates the betrothal of Marcus Aurelus and Faustina the Younger in 139, pictured below Pius, who is holding a statuette of Concordia and clasping hands with Faustina the ElderFaustina the ElderImmediately after Hadrian's death, Antoninus approached Marcus and requested that his marriage arrangements be amended: Marcus' betrothal to Ceionia Fabia would be annulled, and he would be betrothed to Faustina, Antoninus' daughter, instead. Faustina's betrothal to Ceionia's brother Lucius Commodus would also have to be annulled. Marcus Aurelius consented to Antoninus' proposal.HA Marcus vi. 2; Verus ii. 3–4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 53–54.{{multiple image|width1=225|image1=Faustina Minor Louvre Ma1144.jpg|alt1=Bust of Marcus Aurelius' wife Faustina|width2=200|image2=Faustine la Jeune 01.JPG|alt2=Bust of Marcus Aurelius' wife Faustina|footer=Busts of Faustina the Younger, Louvre, Paris}}Antoninus bolstered Marcus' dignity: Marcus was made consul for 140, with Antoninus as his colleague, and was appointed as a seviri, one of the knights' six commanders, at the order's annual parade on 15 July 139. As the heir apparent, Marcus became princeps iuventutis, head of the equestrian order. He now took the name Caesar: Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus Caesar.Dio 71.35.5; HA Marcus vi. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 56. Marcus would later caution himself against taking the name too seriously: "See that you do not turn into a Caesar; do not be dipped into the purple dye—for that can happen".Meditations vi. 30, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 57; cf. Marcus Aurelius, p. 270 n.9, with notes on the translation. At the senate's request, Marcus joined all the priestly colleges (pontifices, augures, quindecimviri sacris faciundis, septemviri epulonum, etc.);HA Marcus vi. 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 57. direct evidence for membership, however, is available only for the Arval Brethren.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 57, 272 n.10, citing Codex Inscriptionum Latinarum weblink" title="">6.32, weblink" title="">6.379, cf. Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">360.Antoninus demanded that Marcus take up residence in the House of Tiberius, the imperial palace on the Palatine. Antoninus also made him take up the habits of his new station, the aulicum fastigium or "pomp of the court", against Marcus' objections. Marcus would struggle to reconcile the life of the court with his philosophic yearnings. He told himself it was an attainable goal—"Where life is possible, then it is possible to live the right life; life is possible in a palace, so it is possible to live the right life in a palace"Meditations 5.16, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 57.—but he found it difficult nonetheless. He would criticize himself in the Meditations for "abusing court life" in front of company.Meditations 8.9, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 57.As quaestor, Marcus would have had little real administrative work to do. He would read imperial letters to the senate when Antoninus was absent, and would do secretarial work for the senators. His duties as consul were more significant: one of two senior representatives of the senate, he would preside over meetings and take a major role in the body's administrative functions.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 57–58. He felt drowned in paperwork, and complained to his tutor, Fronto: "I am so out of breath from dictating nearly thirty letters".Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 7, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 90. He was being "fitted for ruling the state", in the words of his biographer.HA Marcus vi. 5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 58. He was required to make a speech to the assembled senators as well, making oratorical training essential for the job.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 89.On 1 January 145, Marcus was made consul a second time. He might have been unwell at this time: a letter from Fronto that might have been sent at this time urges Marcus to have plenty of sleep "so that you may come into the Senate with a good colour and read your speech with a strong voice".Ad Marcum Caesarem v. 1, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 89. Marcus had complained of an illness in an earlier letter: "As far as my strength is concerned, I am beginning to get it back; and there is no trace of the pain in my chest. But that ulcer [...]{{refn|The manuscript is corrupt here.|group=notes}} I am having treatment and taking care not to do anything that interferes with it."Ad Marcum Caesarem 4.8, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 89. Marcus Aurelius was never particularly healthy or strong. The Roman historian Cassius Dio, writing of his later years, praised him for behaving dutifully in spite of his various illnesses.Dio 71.36.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 89.In April 145 AD, Marcus married Faustina, as had been planned since 138 AD. Since Marcus was, by adoption, Antoninus' son, under Roman law he was marrying his sister; Antoninus would have had to formally release one or the other from his paternal authority (his patria potestas) for the ceremony to take place.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 90–91. Little is specifically known of the ceremony, but it is said to have been "noteworthy".HA Antoninus Pius x. 2, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 91. Coins were issued with the heads of the couple, and Antoninus, as Pontifex Maximus, would have officiated. Marcus makes no apparent reference to the marriage in his surviving letters, and only sparing references to Faustina.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 91.

Fronto and further education

After taking the toga virilis in 136, Marcus probably began his training in oratory.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 61. He had three tutors in Greek, Aninus Macer, Caninius Celer, and Herodes Atticus, and one in Latin, Fronto. The latter two were the most esteemed orators of the day,HA Marcus iii. 6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 62. but probably did not become his tutors until his adoption by Antoninus in 138. The preponderance of Greek tutors indicates the importance of the Greek language to the aristocracy of Rome.HA Marcus ii. 4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 62. This was the age of the Second Sophistic, a renaissance in Greek letters. Although educated in Rome, in his Meditations, Marcus would write his inmost thoughts in Greek.Alan Cameron, review of Anthony Birley's Marcus Aurelius, Classical Review 17:3 (1967): p. 347.File:Herodes Atticus - bust - Athens Museum.jpg|thumb|left|200px|A bust of Herodes Atticus, from his villa at Kephissia (alt=Bust of Herodes Atticus, a tutor of Marcus AureliusAtticus was controversial: an enormously rich Athenian (probably the richest man in the eastern half of the empire), he was quick to anger, and resented by his fellow Athenians for his patronizing manner.Vita Sophistae 2.1.14; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 63–64. Atticus was an inveterate opponent of Stoicism and philosophic pretensions.Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 9.2.1–7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 64–65. He thought the Stoics' desire for a "lack of feeling" foolish: they would live a "sluggish, enervated life", he said.Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 19.12, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 65. Marcus would become a Stoic. He would not mention Herodes at all in his Meditations, in spite of the fact that they would come into contact many times over the following decades.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 65.Fronto was highly esteemed: in the self-consciously antiquarian world of Latin letters,Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 67–68, citing Champlin, Fronto and Antonine Rome, esp. chs. 3 and 4. he was thought of as second only to Cicero, perhaps even an alternative to him.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 65–67.{{refn|Modern scholars have not offered as positive an assessment. His second modern editor, Niebhur, thought him stupid and frivolous; his third editor, Naber, found him contemptible.Champlin, Fronto, pp. 1–2. Historians have seen him as a "pedant and a bore", his letters offering neither the running political analysis of a Cicero or the conscientious reportage of a Pliny.Mellor, p. 460. Recent prosopographic research has rehabilitated his reputation, though not by much.Cf., e.g.: Mellor, p. 461 and passim.|group=notes}} He did not care much for Atticus, though Marcus was eventually to put the pair on speaking terms. Fronto exercised a complete mastery of Latin, capable of tracing expressions through the literature, producing obscure synonyms, and challenging minor improprieties in word choice.A significant amount of the correspondence between Fronto and Marcus has survived.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 69. The pair were very close. "Farewell my Fronto, wherever you are, my most sweet love and delight. How is it between you and me? I love you and you are not here."Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 6 (= Haines 1.80ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 76. Marcus Aurelius spent time with Fronto's wife and daughter, both named Cratia, and they enjoyed light conversation.Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 6 (= Haines 1.80ff); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 76–77.He wrote Fronto a letter on his birthday, claiming to love him as he loved himself, and calling on the gods to ensure that every word he learned of literature, he would learn "from the lips of Fronto".Ad Marcum Caesarem iii. 10–11 (= Haines 1.50ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 73. His prayers for Fronto's health were more than conventional, because Fronto was frequently ill; at times, he seems to be an almost constant invalid, always sufferingBirley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 73.—about one-quarter of the surviving letters deal with the man's sicknesses.Champlin, "Chronology of Fronto", p. 138. Marcus asks that Fronto's pain be inflicted on himself, "of my own accord with every kind of discomfort".Ad Marcum Caesarem v. 74 ( =Haines 2.52ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 73.Fronto never became Marcus' full-time teacher, and continued his career as an advocate. One notorious case brought him into conflict with Atticus.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 77. On the date, see Champlin, "Chronology of Fronto", p. 142, who (with Bowersock, Greek Sophists in the Roman Empire (1964), 93ff) argues for a date in the 150s; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 78–79, 273 n.17 (with Ameling, Herodes Atticus (1983), 1.61ff, 2.30ff) argues for 140. Marcus pleaded with Fronto, first with "advice", then as a "favour", not to attack Atticus; he had already asked Atticus to refrain from making the first blows.Ad Marcum Caesarem iii. 2 (= Haines 1.58ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 77–78. Fronto replied that he was surprised to discover Marcus counted Atticus as a friend (perhaps Atticus was not yet Marcus' tutor), and allowed that Marcus might be correct,Ad Marcum Caesarem iii. 3 (= Haines 1.62ff); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 78. but nonetheless affirmed his intent to win the case by any means necessary: "...the charges are frightful and must be spoken of as frightful. Those in particular which refer to the beating and robbing I will describe in such a way that they savour of gall and bile. If I happen to call him an uneducated little Greek it will not mean war to the death."Ad Marcum Caesarem iii. 3 (= Haines 1.62ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 79. The outcome of the trial is unknown.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 80.By the age of twenty-five (between April 146 and April 147), Marcus had grown disaffected with his studies in jurisprudence, and showed some signs of general malaise. His master, he writes to Fronto, was an unpleasant blowhard, and had made "a hit at" him: "It is easy to sit yawning next to a judge, he says, but to be a judge is noble work."Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 13 (= Haines 1.214ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 93. Marcus had grown tired of his exercises, of taking positions in imaginary debates. When he criticized the insincerity of conventional language, Fronto took to defend it.Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 3.1 (= Haines 1.2ff); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 94. In any case, Marcus' formal education was now over. He had kept his teachers on good terms, following them devotedly. It "affected his health adversely", his biographer writes, to have devoted so much effort to his studies. It was the only thing the biographer could find fault with in Marcus' entire boyhood.HA Marcus iii. 5–8, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 94.Fronto had warned Marcus against the study of philosophy early on: "It is better never to have touched the teaching of philosophy...than to have tasted it superficially, with the edge of the lips, as the saying is".Ad Marcum Caesarem iv. 3, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 69. He disdained philosophy and philosophers, and looked down on Marcus' sessions with Apollonius of Chalcedon and others in this circle. Fronto put an uncharitable interpretation of Marcus' "conversion to philosophy": "In the fashion of the young, tired of boring work", Marcus had turned to philosophy to escape the constant exercises of oratorical training.De Eloquentia iv. 5 (= Haines 2.74), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 95. Alan Cameron, in his review of Birley's biography (The Classical Review 17:3 (1967): p. 347), suggests a reference to chapter 11 of Arthur Darby Nock's Conversion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1933, rept. 1961): "Conversion to Philosophy". Marcus kept in close touch with Fronto, but would ignore Fronto's scruples.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 94, 105.Apollonius may have introduced Marcus to Stoic philosophy, but Quintus Junius Rusticus would have the strongest influence on the boy.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 95; Champlin, Fronto, p. 120.{{refn|Champlin notes that Marcus' praise of him in the Meditations is out of order (he is praised immediately after Diognetus, who had introduced Marcus to philosophy), giving him special emphasis.Champlin, Fronto, p. 174 n. 12.|group=notes}} He was the man Fronto recognized as having "wooed Marcus away" from oratory.Ad Antoninum Imperator i.2.2 (= Haines 2.36), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 95. He was older than Fronto and twenty years older than Marcus. As the grandson of Arulenus Rusticus, one of the martyrs to the tyranny of Domitian (r. 81–96), he was heir to the tradition of "Stoic Opposition" to the "bad emperors" of the 1st century;Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 94–95, 101. the true successor of Seneca (as opposed to Fronto, the false one).Champlin, Fronto, p. 120. Marcus thanks Rusticus for teaching him "not to be led astray into enthusiasm for rhetoric, for writing on speculative themes, for discoursing on moralizing texts.... To avoid oratory, poetry, and 'fine writing.'"Meditations i.7, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 94–95.

Births and deaths

On November 30, 147, Faustina gave birth to a girl named Domitia Faustina. She was the first of at least thirteen children (including two sets of twins) that Faustina would bear over the next twenty-three years. The next day, 1 December, Antoninus gave Marcus the tribunician power and the imperium—authority over the armies and provinces of the emperor. As tribune, he had the right to bring one measure before the senate after the four Antoninus could introduce. His tribunican powers would be renewed with Antoninus' on 10 December 147.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 103.File:RomaCastelSantAngelo-2.jpg|thumb|300px|The alt=Mausoleum of HadrianThe first mention of Domitia in Marcus' letters reveals her as a sickly infant. "Caesar to Fronto. If the gods are willing we seem to have a hope of recovery. The diarrhea has stopped, the little attacks of fever have been driven away. But the emaciation is still extreme and there is still quite a bit of coughing." He and Faustina, Marcus wrote, had been "pretty occupied" with the girl's care.Ad Marcum Caesarem 4.11 (= Haines 1.202ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 105. Domitia would die in 151.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 247 F.1.In 149, Faustina gave birth again, to twin sons. Contemporary coinage commemorates the event, with crossed cornucopiae beneath portrait busts of the two small boys, and the legend temporum felicitas, "the happiness of the times". They did not survive long. Before the end of the year, another family coin was issued: it shows only a tiny girl, Domitia Faustina, and one boy baby. Then another: the girl alone. The infants were buried in the Mausoleum of Hadrian, where their epitaphs survive. They were called Titus Aurelius Antoninus and Tiberius Aelius Aurelius.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 206–07.Marcus steadied himself: "One man prays: 'How I may not lose my little child', but you must pray: 'How I may not be afraid to lose him'."Meditations ix.40, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 207. He quoted from the Iliad what he called the "briefest and most familiar saying...enough to dispel sorrow and fear": leaves,the wind scatters some on the face of the ground;like unto them are the children of men.– Iliad vi.146Meditations x.34, tr. Farquharson, pp. 78, 224.Another daughter was born on 7 March 150, Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla. At some time between 155 and 161, probably soon after 155, Marcus' mother Domitia Lucilla died.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 107. Faustina probably had another daughter in 151, but the child, Annia Galeria Aurelia Faustina, might not have been born until 153.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 107–08. Another son, Tiberius Aelius Antoninus, was born in 152. A coin issue celebrates fecunditati Augustae, "the Augusta's fertility", depicting two girls and an infant. The boy did not survive long; on coins from 156, only the two girls were depicted. He might have died in 152, the same year as Marcus' sister Cornificia.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 108.By 28 March 158, when Marcus replied, another of his children was dead. Marcus Aurelius thanked the temple synod, "even though this turned out otherwise". The child's name is unknown.Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas pertinentes 4.1399, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 114. In 159 and 160, Faustina gave birth to daughters: Fadilla and Cornificia, named respectively after Faustina's and Marcus' dead sisters.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 114.

Antoninus Pius' last years

File:Antoninus Pius Glyptothek Munich 337 cropped.jpg|thumb|left|Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius' adoptive father and predecessor as emperor (alt=Bust of Antoninus PiusLucius started his political career as a quaestor in 153. He was consul in 154,Reed, p. 194. and was consul again with Marcus in 161.Lendering, "Marcus Aurelius". Lucius had no other titles, except that of "son of Augustus". Lucius had a markedly different personality from Marcus: he enjoyed sports of all kinds, but especially hunting and wrestling; he took obvious pleasure in the circus games and gladiatorial fights.HA Verus 2.9–11; 3.4–7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 108.{{refn|Although part of the biographer's account of Lucius is fictionalized (probably to mimic Nero, whose birthday Lucius sharedSuetonius, Nero 6.1; HA Verus 1.8; Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", 67; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 158. See also: Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", pp. 69–70; Pierre Lambrechts, "L'empereur Lucius Verus. Essai de réhabilitation" (in French), Antiquité Classique 3 (1934), pp. 173ff.) and another part poorly compiled from a better biographical source,Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", p. 66. Poorly compiled: e.g. Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", p. 68. scholars have accepted these biographical details as accurate.Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", pp. 68–69.|group=notes}} He did not marry until 164.HA Verus 2.9–11; 3.4–7; Barnes, "Hadrian and Lucius Verus", 68; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 108.In 156, Antoninus turned 70. He found it difficult to keep himself upright without stays. He started nibbling on dry bread to give him the strength to stay awake through his morning receptions. As Antoninus aged, Marcus would take on more administrative duties, more still when he became the praetorian prefect (an office that was as much secretarial as military) as Gavius Maximus died in 156 or 157.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 112. In 160, Marcus and Lucius were designated joint consuls for the following year. Antoninus may have already been ill.Two days before his death, the biographer reports, Antoninus was at his ancestral estate at Lorium, in Etruria,Bowman, 156; Victor, 15:7 about 19 kilometres (12 mi) from Rome.Victor, 15:7 He ate Alpine cheese at dinner quite greedily. In the night he vomited; he had a fever the next day. The day after that, 7 March 161,Dio 71.33.4–5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 114. he summoned the imperial council, and passed the state and his daughter to Marcus. The emperor gave the keynote to his life in the last word that he uttered when the tribune of the night-watch came to ask the password—"aequanimitas" (equanimity).Bury, p. 532. He then turned over, as if going to sleep, and died.HA Antoninus Pius 12.4–8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 114. His death closed out the longest reign since Augustus, surpassing Tiberius by a couple of months.Bowman, p. 156.


Accession of Marcus Aurelius and Verus (161)

File:Lucius Verus - MET - L.2007.26 edit.jpg|thumb|Lucius Verus, Marcus Aurelius' co-emperor from 161 to Lucius' death in 169 (alt=Bust of Marcus Aurelius' co-ruler Lucius VerusAfter Antoninus died in 161, Marcus was effectively sole ruler of the Empire. The formalities of the position would follow. The senate would soon grant him the name Augustus and the title imperator, and he would soon be formally elected as Pontifex Maximus, chief priest of the official cults. Marcus made some show of resistance: the biographer writes that he was "compelled" to take imperial power.HA Marcus vii. 5, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 116. This may have been a genuine horror imperii, "fear of imperial power". Marcus Aurelius, with his preference for the philosophic life, found the imperial office unappealing. His training as a Stoic, however, had made the choice clear that it was his duty.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 116. Birley takes the phrase horror imperii from HA Pert. xiii. 1 and xv. 8.Although Marcus showed no personal affection for Hadrian (significantly, he does not thank him in the first book of his Meditations), he presumably believed it his duty to enact the man's succession plans.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 156. Thus, although the senate planned to confirm Marcus Aurelius alone, he refused to take office unless Lucius received equal powers.HA Verus iii.8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 116; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 156. The senate accepted, granting Lucius the imperium, the tribunician power, and the name Augustus.HA Verus iv.1; Marcus vii.5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 116. Marcus became, in official titulature, Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; Lucius, forgoing his name Commodus and taking Marcus' family name, Verus, became Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 116–17.{{refn|These name-swaps have proven so confusing that even the Historia Augusta, our main source for the period, cannot keep them straight.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 117; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 157 n.53. The 4th-century ecclesiastical historian Eusebius of Caesarea shows even more confusion.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 157 n.53. The mistaken belief that Lucius had the name "Verus" before becoming emperor has proven especially popular.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 117.|group=notes}} It was the first time that Rome was ruled by two emperors.{{refn|There was, however, much precedent. The consulate was a twin magistracy, and earlier emperors had often had a subordinate lieutenant with many imperial offices (under Antoninus, the lieutenant had been Marcus). Many emperors had planned a joint succession in the past: Augustus planned to leave Gaius Caesar and Lucius Caesar as joint emperors on his death; Tiberius wished to have Gaius Caligula and Tiberius Gemellus do so as well; Claudius left the empire to Nero and Britannicus, imagining that they would accept equal rank. All of these arrangements had ended in failure, either through premature death (Gaius and Lucius Caesar) or judicial murder (Gemellus by Caligula and Britannicus by Nero).|group=notes}}In spite of their nominal equality, Marcus held more auctoritas, or "authority", than Lucius. He had been consul once more than Lucius, he had shared in Antoninus' administration, and he alone was Pontifex Maximus. It would have been clear to the public which emperor was the more senior. As the biographer wrote, "Verus obeyed a lieutenant obeys a proconsul or a governor obeys the emperor."HA Verus iv.2, tr. David Magie, cited in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 117, 278 n.4.File:Co-emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, British Museum (23455313842).jpg|thumb|left|Busts of the co-emperors Marcus Aurelius (left) and Lucius Verus (right), alt=Busts of Marcus Autelius and his co-ruler Lucius VerusImmediately after their senate confirmation, the emperors proceeded to the Castra Praetoria, the camp of the Praetorian Guard. Lucius addressed the assembled troops, which then acclaimed the pair as imperatores. Then, like every new emperor since Claudius, Lucius promised the troops a special donative.HA Marcus vii. 9; Verus iv.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 117–18. This donative, however, was twice the size of those past: 20,000 sesterces (5,000 denarii) per capita, with more to officers. In return for this bounty, equivalent to several years' pay, the troops swore an oath to protect the emperors.HA Marcus vii. 9; Verus iv.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 117–18. "twice the size": Duncan-Jones, p. 109. The ceremony was perhaps not entirely necessary, given that Marcus' accession had been peaceful and unopposed, but it was good insurance against later military troubles.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 118.Upon his accession he also devalued the Roman currency. He decreased the silver purity of the denarius from 83.5% to 79%—the silver weight dropping from 2.68 grams to 2.57 grams.weblink" title="">Roman Currency of the Principate.Antoninus' funeral ceremonies were, in the words of the biographer, "elaborate".HA Marcus vii. 10, tr. David Magie, cited in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 118, 278 n.6. If his funeral followed those of his predecessors, his body would have been incinerated on a pyre at the Campus Martius, and his spirit would have been seen as ascending to the gods' home in the heavens. Marcus and Lucius nominated their father for deification. In contrast to their behavior during Antoninus' campaign to deify Hadrian, the senate did not oppose the emperors' wishes. A flamen, or cultic priest, was appointed to minister the cult of the deified Antoninus, now Divus Antoninus. Antoninus' remains were laid to rest in Hadrian's mausoleum, beside the remains of Marcus' children and of Hadrian himself.HA Marcus vii. 10–11; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 118. The temple he had dedicated to his wife, Diva Faustina, became the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. It survives as the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.In accordance with his will, Antoninus' fortune passed on to Faustina.HA Antoninus Pius xii.8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 118–19. (Marcus had little need of his wife's fortune. Indeed, at his accession, Marcus transferred part of his mother's estate to his nephew, Ummius Quadratus.HA Marcus vii. 4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119.) Faustina was three months pregnant at her husband's accession. During the pregnancy she dreamed of giving birth to two serpents, one fiercer than the other.HA Comm. i.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119. On 31 August she gave birth at Lanuvium to twins: T. Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus.HA Comm. i.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119.{{refn|The biographer relates the scurrilous (and, in the judgment of Anthony Birley, untrue) rumor that Commodus was an illegitimate child born of a union between Faustina and a gladiator.HA Marcus xix. 1–2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 278 n.9.|group=notes}} Aside from the fact that the twins shared Caligula's birthday, the omens were favorable, and the astrologers drew positive horoscopes for the children.HA Commodus. i.4, x.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119. The births were celebrated on the imperial coinage.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 155ff.; 949ff.

Early rule

File:Marcus Aurelius Louvre MR561 n02.jpg|thumb|Bust of Marcus Aurelius, alt=Bust of Marcus AureliusSoon after the emperors' accession, Marcus' eleven-year-old daughter, Annia Lucilla, was betrothed to Lucius (in spite of the fact that he was, formally, her uncle).HA Marcus vii. 7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 118. At the ceremonies commemorating the event, new provisions were made for the support of poor children, along the lines of earlier imperial foundations.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 118, citing Werner Eck, Die Organization Italiens (1979), pp. 146ff. Marcus and Lucius proved popular with the people of Rome, who strongly approved of their civiliter ("lacking pomp") behavior. The emperors permitted free speech, evidenced by the fact that the comedy writer Marullus was able to criticize them without suffering retribution. As the biographer wrote, "No one missed the lenient ways of Pius."HA Marcus viii. 1, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 157.Marcus replaced a number of the empire's major officials. The ab epistulis Sextus Caecilius Crescens Volusianus, in charge of the imperial correspondence, was replaced with Titus Varius Clemens. Clemens was from the frontier province of Pannonia and had served in the war in Mauretania. Recently, he had served as procurator of five provinces. He was a man suited for a time of military crisis.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 122–23, citing H.G. Pfalum, Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain I–III (Paris, 1960–61); Supplément (Paris, 1982), nos. 142; 156; Eric Birley, Roman Britain and the Roman Army (1953), pp. 142ff., 151ff. Lucius Volusius Maecianus, Marcus ' former tutor, had been prefectural governor of Egypt at Marcus' accession. Maecianus was recalled, made senator, and appointed prefect of the treasury (aerarium Saturni). He was made consul soon after.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123, citing H.G. Pfalum, Les carrières procuratoriennes équestres sous le Haut-Empire romain I–III (Paris, 1960–61); Supplément (Paris, 1982), no. 141. Fronto's son-in-law, Gaius Aufidius Victorinus, was appointed governor of Germania Superior.HA Marcus viii. 8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123, citing W. Eck, Die Satthalter der germ. Provinzen (1985), pp. 65ff.Fronto returned to his Roman townhouse at dawn on 28 March, having left his home in Cirta as soon as news of his pupils' accession reached him. He sent a note to the imperial freedman Charilas, asking if he could call on the emperors. Fronto would later explain that he had not dared to write the emperors directly.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120, citing Ad Verum Imperator i.3.2 (= Haines 1.298ff). The tutor was immensely proud of his students. Reflecting on the speech he had written on taking his consulship in 143, when he had praised the young Marcus, Fronto was ebullient: "There was then an outstanding natural ability in you; there is now perfected excellence. There was then a crop of growing corn; there is now a ripe, gathered harvest. What I was hoping for then, I have now. The hope has become a reality."Ad Antoninum Imperator iv.2.3 (= Haines 1.302ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 119. Fronto called on Marcus Aurelius alone; neither thought to invite Lucius.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120.Lucius was less esteemed by Fronto than his brother, as his interests were on a lower level. Lucius asked Fronto to adjudicate in a dispute he and his friend Calpurnius were having on the relative merits of two actors.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120, citing Ad Verum Imperator i.1 (= Haines 1.305). Marcus told Fronto of his reading—Coelius and a little Cicero—and his family. His daughters were in Rome with their great-great-aunt Matidia; Marcus thought the evening air of the country was too cold for them. He asked Fronto for "some particularly eloquent reading matter, something of your own, or Cato, or Cicero, or Sallust or Gracchus—or some poet, for I need distraction, especially in this kind of way, by reading something that will uplift and diffuse my pressing anxieties."Ad Antoninum Imperator iv.1 (= Haines 1.300ff), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120.Marcus' early reign proceeded smoothly; he was able to give himself wholly to philosophy and the pursuit of popular affection.HA Marcus viii. 3–4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120. Soon, however, he would find he had many anxieties. It would mean the end of the felicitas temporum ("happy times") that the coinage of 161 had proclaimed.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 841; 845.File:Tiber in flood 2.jpg|thumb|300px|alt=Tiber IslandIn the spring of 162,{{refn|Because both Lucius and Marcus are said to have taken active part in the recovery (HA Marcus viii. 4–5), the flood must have happened before Lucius' departure for the east in 162; because it appears in the biographer's narrative after Antoninus' funeral has finished and the emperors have settled into their offices, it must not have occurred in the spring of 161. A date in autumn 161 or spring 162 is probable, and, given the normal seasonal distribution of Tiber flooding, the most probable date is in spring 162.Gregory S. Aldrete, Floods of the Tiber in ancient Rome (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), pp. 30–31. (Birley dates the flood to autumn 161.)|group=notes}} the Tiber overflowed its banks, flooding much of Rome. It drowned many animals, leaving the city in famine. Marcus and Lucius gave the crisis their personal attention.HA Marcus viii. 4–5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 120.{{refn|Since 15 AD, the river had been administered by a Tiber Conservancy Board, with a consular senator at its head and a permanent staff. In 161, the curator alevi Tiberis et riparum et cloacarum urbis ("Curator of the Tiber Bed and Banks and the City Sewers") was A. Platorius Nepos, son or grandson of the builder of Hadrian's Wall, whose name he shares. He probably had not been particularly incompetent. A more likely candidate for that incompetence is Nepos' likely predecessor, M. Statius Priscus. A military man and consul for 159, Priscus probably looked on the office as little more than "paid leave".Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">5932 (Nepos), weblink" title="">1092 (Priscus); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 121.|group=notes}} In other times of famine, the emperors are said to have provided for the Italian communities out of the Roman granaries.HA Marcus xi. 3, cited in Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 278 n.16.Fronto's letters continued through Marcus' early reign. Fronto felt that, because of Marcus' prominence and public duties, lessons were more important now than they had ever been before. He believed Marcus was "beginning to feel the wish to be eloquent once more, in spite of having for a time lost interest in eloquence".Ad Antoninum Imperator 1.2.2 (= Haines 2.35), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 128. Fronto would again remind his pupil of the tension between his role and his philosophic pretensions: "Suppose, Caesar, that you can attain to the wisdom of Cleanthes and Zeno, yet, against your will, not the philosopher's woolen cape."De eloquentia 1.12 (= Haines 2.63–65), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 128.The early days of Marcus' reign were the happiest of Fronto's life: Marcus was beloved by the people of Rome, an excellent emperor, a fond pupil, and, perhaps most importantly, as eloquent as could be wished.Ad Antoninum Imperator 1.2.2 (= Haines 2.35); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 127–28. Marcus had displayed rhetorical skill in his speech to the senate after an earthquake at Cyzicus. It had conveyed the drama of the disaster, and the senate had been awed: "Not more suddenly or violently was the city stirred by the earthquake than the minds of your hearers by your speech." Fronto was hugely pleased.Ad Antoninum Imperator 1.2.4 (= Haines 2.41–43), tr. Haines; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 128.

War with Parthia (161–166)

{{see also|Roman–Persian Wars}}File:Coin of Vologases IV of Parthia.jpg|thumb|300px|Coin of alt=Coin of Parthian ruler Vologases IVOn his deathbed, Antoninus Pius spoke of nothing but the state and the foreign kings who had wronged him.HA Antoninus Pius xii.7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 114, 121. One of those kings, Vologases IV of Parthia, made his move in late summer or early autumn 161.Event: HA Marcus viii. 6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 121. Date: Jaap-Jan Flinterman, "The Date of Lucian's Visit to Abonuteichos," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 119 (1997): p. 281. Vologases entered the Kingdom of Armenia (then a Roman client state), expelled its king and installed his own—Pacorus, an Arsacid like himself.HA Marcus viii. 6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 121. The governor of Cappadocia, the frontline in all Armenian conflicts, was Marcus Sedatius Severianus, a Gaul with much experience in military matters.Lucian, Alexander 27; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 121.Convinced by the prophet Alexander of Abonutichus that he could defeat the Parthians easily and win glory for himself,Lucian, Alexander 27; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 121–22. On Alexander, see: Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), pp. 241–50. Severianus led a legion (perhaps the IX HispanaBirley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 278 n.19.) into Armenia, but was trapped by the great Parthian general Chosrhoes at Elegia, a town just beyond the Cappadocian frontiers, high up past the headwaters of the Euphrates. After Severianus made some unsuccessful efforts to engage Chosrhoes, he committed suicide, and his legion was massacred. The campaign had lasted only three days.Dio 71.2.1; Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 21, 24, 25; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 121–22.There was threat of war on other frontiers as well—in Britain, and in Raetia and Upper Germany, where the Chatti of the Taunus mountains had recently crossed over the limes.HA Marcus viii. 7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 122. Marcus was unprepared. Antoninus seems to have given him no military experience; the biographer writes that Marcus spent the whole of Antoninus' twenty-three-year reign at his emperor's side and not in the provinces, where most previous emperors had spent their early careers.HA Antoninus Pius vii.11; Marcus vii.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 103–04, 122.{{refn|Alan Cameron adduces the 5th-century writer Sidonius Apollinaris's comment that Marcus commanded "countless legions" vivente Pio (while Antoninus was alive) while contesting Birley's contention that Marcus had no military experience. (Neither Apollinaris nor the Historia Augusta (Birley's source) are particularly reliable on 2nd-century history.Pan. Ath. 203–04, qtd. and tr. Alan Cameron, review of Anthony Birley's Marcus Aurelius, The Classical Review 17:3 (1967): p. 349.)|group=notes}}More bad news arrived: the Syrian governor's army had been defeated by the Parthians, and retreated in disarray.HA Marcus viii. 6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. Reinforcements were dispatched for the Parthian frontier. P. Julius Geminius Marcianus, an African senator commanding X Gemina at Vindobona (Vienna), left for Cappadocia with detachments from the Danubian legions.Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum weblink" title="">8.7050–weblink" title="">51; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. Three full legions were also sent east: I Minervia from Bonn in Upper Germany,Incriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">1097–weblink" title="">98; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. II Adiutrix from Aquincum,Incriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">1091; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. and V Macedonica from Troesmis.Incriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">2311; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123.The northern frontiers were strategically weakened; frontier governors were told to avoid conflict wherever possible.HA Marcus xii. 13; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. M. Annius Libo, Marcus' first cousin, was sent to replace the Syrian governor. His first consulship was in 161, so he was probably in his early thirties,L'Année Épigraphique 1972.657 {{webarchive|url= |date=29 April 2012 }}; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 125. and, as a patrician, he lacked military experience. Marcus had chosen a reliable man rather than a talented one.HA Verus 9.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 125.File:Marcus_Aurelius,_aureus,_AD_166,_RIC_III_160.jpg|alt=|thumb|250x250px|alt=Aureus of Marcus Aurelius|Aureus of Marcus Aurelius (AD 166). On the reverse, Victoria is holding a shield inscribed 'Vic(toria) Par(thica)', referring to his victory against the Parthians.Mattingly & Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, vol. III, p. 226.]]Marcus took a four-day public holiday at Alsium, a resort town on the coast of Etruria. He was too anxious to relax. Writing to Fronto, he declared that he would not speak about his holiday.De Feriis Alsiensibus 1 (= Haines 2.3); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 126. Fronto replied: "What? Do I not know that you went to Alsium with the intention of devoting yourself to games, joking, and complete leisure for four whole days?"De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.1 (= Haines 2.5), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 126. He encouraged Marcus to rest, calling on the example of his predecessors (Antoninus had enjoyed exercise in the palaestra, fishing, and comedy),De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.4 (= Haines 2.9); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 126–27. going so far as to write up a fable about the gods' division of the day between morning and evening—Marcus Aurelius had apparently been spending most of his evenings on judicial matters instead of at leisure.De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.6–12 (= Haines 2.11–19); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 126–27. Marcus could not take Fronto's advice. "I have duties hanging over me that can hardly be begged off," he wrote back.De Feriis Alsiensibus 4, tr. Haines 2.19; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 127. Marcus Aurelius put on Fronto's voice to chastise himself: "'Much good has my advice done you', you will say!" He had rested, and would rest often, but "—this devotion to duty! Who knows better than you how demanding it is!"De Feriis Alsiensibus 4 (= Haines 2.19), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 127.{{multiple image|total_width=400|image1=Antioch in Syria engraving by William Miller after H Warren.jpgAntioch's open-air taverns than with their units.Ad Verum Imperator 2.1.19 (= Haines 2.149); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129. (Engraving by William Miller (engraver)>William Miller after a drawing by H. Warren from a sketch by Captain Byam Martin, R.N., 1866)|alt1=Depiction of Antioch, Syria|image2=ArRaqqahEuphrates.jpg|caption2=The Euphrates River near Raqqa, Syria|alt2=Euphrates River}}Fronto sent Marcus a selection of reading material,De bello Parthico x. (= Haines 2.31), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 127. and, to settle his unease over the course of the Parthian war, a long and considered letter, full of historical references. In modern editions of Fronto's works, it is labeled De bello Parthico (On the Parthian War). There had been reverses in Rome's past, Fronto writes,De bello Parthico i-ii. (= Haines 2.21–23). but, in the end, Romans had always prevailed over their enemies: "Always and everywhere [Mars] has changed our troubles into successes and our terrors into triumphs."De bello Parthico i. (= Haines 2.21), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 127.Over the winter of 161–162, news that a rebellion was brewing in Syria arrived and it was decided that Lucius should direct the Parthian war in person. He was stronger and healthier than Marcus, the argument went, and thus more suited to military activity.Dio, lxxi. 1.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 123. Lucius' biographer suggests ulterior motives: to restrain Lucius' debaucheries, to make him thrifty, to reform his morals by the terror of war, and to realize that he was an emperor.HA Verus v. 8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 123, 125.{{refn|Birley believes there is some truth in these considerations.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 125.|group=notes}} Whatever the case, the senate gave its assent, and, in the summer of 162, Lucius left. Marcus would remain in Rome, as the city "demanded the presence of an emperor".HA Marcus viii. 9, tr. Magie; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 123–26. On Lucius' voyage, see: HA Verus vi. 7–9; HA Marcus viii. 10–11; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 125–26.Lucius spent most of the campaign in Antioch, though he wintered at Laodicea and summered at Daphne, a resort just outside Antioch.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129. Critics declaimed Lucius' luxurious lifestyle.HA Verus iv.4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129. He had taken to gambling, they said; he would "dice the whole night through".HA Verus iv. 6, tr. Magie; cf. v. 7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129. He enjoyed the company of actors.HA Verus viii. 7, viii. 10–11; Fronto, Principae Historia 17 (= Haines 2.217); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129.{{refn|The whole section of the vita dealing with Lucius' debaucheries (HA Verus iv. 4–6.6), however, is an insertion into a narrative otherwise entirely cribbed from an earlier source. Most of the details are fabricated by the biographer himself, relying on nothing better than his own imagination.Barnes, p. 69.|group=notes}} Libo died early in the war; perhaps Lucius had murdered him.HA Verus ix. 2; Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 3.199 {{webarchive|url= |date=29 April 2012 }}; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 130–31.File:Statue of Lucilla detail.jpg|thumb|Marble statue of Lucilla, 150–200 AD, Bardo National Museum, alt=Statue of Marcus' daughter LucillaIn the middle of the war, perhaps in autumn 163 or early 164, Lucius made a trip to Ephesus to be married to Marcus' daughter Lucilla.HA Verus vii. 7; Marcus ix. 4; Barnes, p. 72; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163; cf. also Barnes, "Legislation Against the Christians", p. 39; "Some Persons in the Historia Augusta", p. 142, citing the Vita Abercii 44ff. Marcus moved up the date; perhaps he had already heard of Lucius' mistress Panthea.HA Verus 7.10; Lucian, Imagines 3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131. Cf. Lucian, Imagines, Pro Imaginibus, passim. Lucilla's thirteenth birthday was in March 163; whatever the date of her marriage, she was not yet fifteen.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163. Lucilla was accompanied by her mother Faustina and Verus' uncle (his father's half-brother) M. Vettulenus Civica Barbarus,HA Verus vii. 7; Marcus ix. 4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131. who was made comes Augusti, "companion of the emperors". Marcus may have wanted Civica to watch over Verus, the job Libo had failed at.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 131, citing Année Épigraphique 1958.15. Marcus may have planned to accompany them all the way to Smyrna (the biographer says he told the senate he would), but this did not happen.HA Verus 7.7; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131. He only accompanied the group as far as Brundisium, where they boarded a ship for the east.HA Marcus ix. 4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131. He returned to Rome immediately thereafter, and sent out special instructions to his proconsuls not to give the group any official reception.HA Marcus ix. 5–6; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131.The Armenian capital Artaxata was captured in 163.HA Marcus ix. 1; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162. At the end of the year, Lucius took the title Armeniacus, despite having never seen combat; Marcus declined to accept the title until the following year.HA Marcus ix. 1; HA Verus vii. 1–2; Ad Verrum Imperator 2.3 (= Haines 2.133); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162. When Lucius was hailed as imperator again, however, Marcus did not hesitate to take the Imperator II with him.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 129; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 233ff.Occupied Armenia was reconstructed on Roman terms. In 164, a new capital, Kaine Polis ('New City'), replaced Artaxata.Dio, lxxi.3.1; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 131; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162; Millar, Near East, p. 113. A new king was installed: a Roman senator of consular rank and Arsacid descent, Gaius Julius Sohaemus. He may not even have been crowned in Armenia; the ceremony may have taken place in Antioch, or even Ephesus.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 280 n. 42; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162. Sohaemus was hailed on the imperial coinage of 164 under the legend {{Smallcaps|Rex armeniis Datus}}: Lucius sat on a throne with his staff while Sohaemus stood before him, saluting the emperor.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 131; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 261ff.; 300 ff.In 163, the Parthians intervened in Osroene, a Roman client in upper Mesopotamia centered on Edessa, and installed their own king on its throne.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 130, 279 n. 38; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163, citing Prosopographia Imperii Romani2 M 169; Millar, Near East, p. 112. In response, Roman forces were moved downstream, to cross the Euphrates at a more southerly point.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162. Before the end of 163, however, Roman forces had moved north to occupy Dausara and Nicephorium on the northern, Parthian bank.Fronto, Ad Verum Imperator ii.1.3 (= Haines 2.133); Astarita, 41; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 130; "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 162. Soon after the conquest of the north bank of the Euphrates, other Roman forces moved on Osroene from Armenia, taking Anthemusia, a town southwest of Edessa.Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae weblink" title="">1098; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 130.In 165, Roman forces moved on Mesopotamia. Edessa was re-occupied, and Mannus, the king deposed by the Parthians, was re-installed.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163, citing Prosopographia Imperii Romani2 M 169. The Parthians retreated to Nisibis, but this too was besieged and captured. The Parthian army dispersed in the Tigris.Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 15, 19; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163. A second force, under Avidius Cassius and the III Gallica, moved down the Euphrates, and fought a major battle at Dura.Lucian, Historia Quomodo Conscribenda 20, 28; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 163, citing Syme, Roman Papers, 5.689ff.By the end of the year, Cassius' army had reached the twin metropolises of Mesopotamia: Seleucia on the right bank of the Tigris and Ctesiphon on the left. Ctesiphon was taken and its royal palace set to flame. The citizens of Seleucia, still largely Greek (the city had been commissioned and settled as a capital of the Seleucid Empire, one of Alexander the Great's successor kingdoms), opened its gates to the invaders. The city was sacked nonetheless, leaving a black mark on Lucius' reputation. Excuses were sought, or invented: the official version had it that the Seleucids broke faith first.HA Verus 8.3–4; Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", 163. Birley cites R.H. McDowell, Coins from Seleucia on the Tigris (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935), pp. 124ff., on the date.Cassius' army, although suffering from a shortage of supplies and the effects of a plague contracted in Seleucia, made it back to Roman territory safely.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 164. Lucius took the title Parthicus Maximus, and he and Marcus were hailed as imperatores again, earning the title 'imp. III'.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 164, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 384 ff., 1248 ff., 1271 ff. Cassius' army returned to the field in 166, crossing over the Tigris into Media. Lucius took the title 'Medicus',Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 164, citing P. Kneissl, Die Siegestitulatur der römischen Kaiser. Untersuchungen zu den Siegerbeinamen des 1. und 2. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen, 1969), pp. 99 ff. and the emperors were again hailed as imperatores, becoming 'imp. IV' in imperial titulature. Marcus took the Parthicus Maximus now, after another tactful delay.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", p. 164, citing H. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum IV: Antoninus Pius to Commodus (London, 1940), Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, nos. 401ff.

War with Germanic tribes (166–180)

File:Aurelius180AD.png|thumb|upright=2.5|The Roman Empire at the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180. His annexation of lands of the Marcomanni and the Jazyges – perhaps to be provincially called Marcomannia and SarmatiaBirley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 253. – was cut short in 175 by the revolt of Avidius Cassius and by his death.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 183. The light pink territory represents Roman dependencies - Armenia, Georgia, Iberia, and AlbaniaAlbania{{multiple image|header = Scenes from the Marcomannic Wars, 176–180 AD (bas reliefs from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, now in the Capitoline Museums)|image1=0 Relief - Monument honoraire de Marc Aurèle - La soumission des germains (1).JPG|width1=210|caption1=Marcus Aurelius receiving the submission of the vanquished, with raised vexillum standards|alt1 =Scene from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius|image2=Rilievo da monumento onorario di Marco Aurelio trionfo, 176-180.JPG|width2=258Roman triumph>his triumph over Rome's enemies in 176 AD, riding in a quadriga chariot|alt2=Scene from the Arch of Marcus Aurelius}}File:Marcus_Aurelius,_aureus,_AD_161-180,_RIC_III_362.jpg|thumb|alt=Aureus of Marcus AureliusDuring the early 160s, Fronto's son-in-law Victorinus was stationed as a legate in Germany. He was there with his wife and children (another child had stayed with Fronto and his wife in Rome).Dio 72.11.3–4; Ad amicos 1.12 (= Haines 2.173); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 132. The condition on the northern frontier looked grave. A frontier post had been destroyed, and it looked like all the peoples of central and northern Europe were in turmoil. There was corruption among the officers: Victorinus had to ask for the resignation of a legionary legate who was taking bribes.Dio, lxxii. 11.3–4; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 132, citing De nepote amisso ii (= Haines 2.222); Ad Verum Imperator ii. 9–10 (= Haines 2.232ff.).Experienced governors had been replaced by friends and relatives of the imperial family. Lucius Dasumius Tullius Tuscus, a distant relative of Hadrian, was in Upper Pannonia, succeeding the experienced Marcus Nonius Macrinus. Lower Pannonia was under the obscure Tiberius Haterius Saturnius. Marcus Servilius Fabianus Maximus was shuffled from Lower Moesia to Upper Moesia when Marcus Iallius Bassus had joined Lucius in Antioch. Lower Moesia was filled by Pontius Laelianus' son. The Dacias were still divided in three, governed by a praetorian senator and two procurators. The peace could not hold long; Lower Pannonia did not even have a legion.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 133, citing Geza Alföldy, Konsulat und Senatorenstand (1977), Moesia Inferior: pp. 232f.; Moesia Superior: p. 234f.; Pannonia Superior: p. 236f.; Dacia: p. 245f.; Pannonia Inferior: p. 251.Starting in the 160s, Germanic tribes and other nomadic people launched raids along the northern border, particularly into Gaul and across the Danube. This new impetus westwards was probably due to attacks from tribes further east. A first invasion of the Chatti in the province of Germania Superior was repulsed in 162.McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: A Life, pp. 323–24.Far more dangerous was the invasion of 166, when the Marcomanni of Bohemia, clients of the Roman Empire since 19 AD, crossed the Danube together with the Lombards and other Germanic tribes.Le Bohec, p. 56. Soon thereafter, the Iranian Sarmatians attacked between the Danube and the Theiss rivers.Grant, The Antonines: The Roman Empire in Transition, p. 29.The Costoboci, coming from the Carpathian area, invaded Moesia, Macedonia, and Greece. After a long struggle, Marcus Aurelius managed to push back the invaders. Numerous members of Germanic tribes settled in frontier regions like Dacia, Pannonia, Germany, and Italy itself. This was not a new thing, but this time the numbers of settlers required the creation of two new frontier provinces on the left shore of the Danube, Sarmatia and Marcomannia, including today's Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. Some Germanic tribes who settled in Ravenna revolted and managed to seize possession of the city. For this reason, Marcus Aurelius decided not only against bringing more barbarians into Italy, but even banished those who had previously been brought there.Dio, lxxii.11.4-5; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 253.

Legal and administrative work

File:Portrait de Marc Aurèle 2.jpg|thumb|Bust of Marcus Aurelius in the alt=Bust of Marcus AureliusLike many emperors, Marcus spent most of his time addressing matters of law such as petitions and hearing disputes,Fergus Millar, The Emperor in the Roman World, 31 BC â€“ AD 337 (London: Duckworth, 1977), 6 and passim. See also: idem. "Emperors at Work", Journal of Roman Studies 57:1/2 (1967): 9–19. but unlike many of his predecessors, he was already proficient in imperial administration when he assumed power.Thinkers at War. "Pius, one of longest-serving emperors, became infirm in his last years, so Marcus Aurelius gradually assumed the imperial duties. By the time he succeeded in AD 161, he was already well-practised in public administration." He took great care in the theory and practice of legislation. Professional jurists called him "an emperor most skilled in the law"Codex Justinianus 7.2.6, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 133. and "a most prudent and conscientiously just emperor".Digest 31.67.10, qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 133. He showed marked interest in three areas of the law: the manumission of slaves, the guardianship of orphans and minors, and the choice of city councillors (decuriones).Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 133.Marcus showed a great deal of respect to the Roman Senate and routinely asked them for permission to spend money even though he did not need to do so as the absolute ruler of the Empire.William b. Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp.57-58 In one speech, Marcus himself reminded the Senate that the imperial palace where he lived was not truly his possession but theirs.Cassius Dio, lxxii.33In 168, he revalued the denarius, increasing the silver purity from 79% to 82%—the actual silver weight increasing from 2.57 grams to 2.67 grams. However, two years later he reverted to the previous values because of the military crises facing the empire.A possible contact with Han China occurred in 166 when a Roman traveller visited the Han court, claiming to be an ambassador representing a certain Andun (Chinese: (wikt:安|安)(wikt:敦|敦)), ruler of Daqin, who can be identified either with Marcus or his predecessor Antoninus.Pulleyblank, Leslie and Gardiner, 71–79.Yü, 460–61.De Crespigny, 600. In addition to Republican-era Roman glasswares found at Guangzhou along the South China Sea,An, 83. Roman golden medallions made during the reign of Antoninus and perhaps even Marcus have been found at Óc Eo, Vietnam, then part of the Kingdom of Funan near the Chinese province of Jiaozhi (in northern Vietnam). This may have been the port city of Kattigara, described by Ptolemy (c. 150) as being visited by a Greek sailor named Alexander and laying beyond the Golden Chersonese (i.e. Malay Peninsula).Young, 29–30.For further information on Óc Eo, see Osborne, Milton. The Mekong: Turbulent Past, Uncertain Future. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2006, revised edition, first published in 2000. pp. 24–25. {{ISBN|9781741148930}}. Roman coins from the reigns of Tiberius to Aurelian have been found in Xi'an, China (site of the Han capital Chang'an), although the far greater amount of Roman coins in India suggests the Roman maritime trade for purchasing Chinese silk was centered there, not in China or even the overland Silk Road running through Persia.Ball, p. 154.


When Lucius' army returned from the war with Parthia, it brought with it plague. Cases of "Antonine Plague", also known as "the Plague of Galen", occurred throughout the Empire for years. The pandemic is believed to have been either smallpox or measles,Haeser, p. 24–33."There is not enough evidence satisfactorily to identify the disease or diseases" concluded J. F. Gilliam in his summary (1961) of the written sources, with inconclusive Greek and Latin inscriptions, two groups of papyri and coinage. but the true cause remains undetermined. The epidemic may have claimed the life of Lucius, who died in 169. The disease broke out again nine years later, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius, causing up to 2,000 deaths a day in Rome, one-quarter of those who were affected, giving the disease a mortality rate of about 25%.Dio Cassius, lxxii. 14.3–4; his book that would cover the plague under Marcus is missing; this later outburst was the greatest of which the historian had knowledge. The total deaths have been estimated at five million,Murphy. and the disease killed as much as one-third of the population in some areas and devastated the Roman army.Plague in the Ancient World.

Death and succession (180)

File:Delacroix-Marc Aurèle-MBA-Lyon.jpg|upright=1.2|thumb|left|Last Words of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (1844) by alt=Painting that depicts Marcus on his deathbed and his son Commodus, surrounded by the emperor's philosopher friendsMarcus died on 17 March 180 due to natural causes in the city of Vindobona (modern Vienna). He was immediately deified and his ashes were returned to Rome, where they rested in Hadrian's mausoleum (modern Castel Sant'Angelo) until the Visigoth sack of the city in 410. His campaigns against Germans and Sarmatians were also commemorated by a column and a temple built in Rome.Kleiner, p. 230. Some scholars consider his death to be the end of the Pax Romana.Merrony, p. 85.He was succeeded by his son Commodus, whom he had named Caesar in 166 and with whom he had jointly ruled since 177.Birley, "Hadrian to the Antonines", pp. 186–91. Biological sons of the emperor, if there were any, were considered heirs;Kemezis, p. 45. however, it was only the second time that a "non-adoptive" son had succeeded his father, the only other having been a century earlier when Vespasian was succeeded by his son Titus. Historians have criticized the decision, citing Commodus' erratic behavior and lack of political and military acumen. At the end of his history of Marcus' reign, Cassius Dio wrote an encomium to the emperor, and described the transition to Commodus in his own lifetime with sorrow:File:Castings of Ancient Roman busts in the Pushkin Museum (Antonin Pius, Marcus Aurelius and Clodius) by shakko.jpg|thumb|left|Castings of the busts of Antonius Pius (left), Marcus Aurelius (centre), and Clodius Albinus (right), alt=Busts of Marcus' adoptive father Antoninus, Marcus, and Clodius Albinus, a claimant to the Roman throne...[Marcus] did not meet with the good fortune that he deserved, for he was not strong in body and was involved in a multitude of troubles throughout practically his entire reign. But for my part, I admire him all the more for this very reason, that amid unusual and extraordinary difficulties he both survived himself and preserved the empire. Just one thing prevented him from being completely happy, namely, that after rearing and educating his son in the best possible way he was vastly disappointed in him. This matter must be our next topic; for our history now descends from a kingdom of gold to one of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans of that day.
–Cassius Dio lxxi. 36.3–4Tr. Cary, ad loc.
Dio adds that from Marcus' first days as counsellor to Antoninius to his final days as emperor of Rome, "he remained the same [person] and did not change in the least."Cassius Dio lxxii. 36, 72.34 Michael Grant, in The Climax of Rome, writes of Commodus:The youth turned out to be very erratic, or at least so anti-traditional that disaster was inevitable. But whether or not Marcus ought to have known this to be so, the rejections of his son's claims in favour of someone else would almost certainly have involved one of the civil wars which were to proliferate so disastrously around future successions.Grant, The Climax Of Rome, p. 15.

Legacy and reputation

Marcus acquired the reputation of a philosopher king within his lifetime, and the title would remain his after death; both Dio and the biographer call him "the philosopher".HA Marcus i. 1, xxvii. 7; Dio lxxi. 1.1; James Francis, Subversive Virtue: Asceticism and Authority in the Second-Century Pagan World (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995), 21 n. 1.Mark. Christians such as Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Melito also gave him the title.Francis, p. 21 n.1, citing Justin, 1 Apologia 1; Athenagoras, Leg. 1; Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 4.26.9–11. The last named went so far as to call him "more philanthropic and philosophic" than Antoninus and Hadrian, and set him against the persecuting emperors Domitian and Nero to make the contrast bolder.Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica 4.26.9–11, qtd. and tr. Francis, 21 n. 1. "Alone of the emperors," wrote the historian Herodian, "he gave proof of his learning not by mere words or knowledge of philosophical doctrines but by his blameless character and temperate way of life."Herodian, Ab Excessu Divi Marci i.2.4, tr. Echols. Iain King concludes that Marcus' legacy is tragic, because the emperor's "Stoic philosophy—which is about self-restraint, duty, and respect for others—was so abjectly abandoned by the imperial line he anointed on his death".Thinkers at War.

Attitude towards Christians

In the first two centuries of the Christian era, it was local Roman officials who were largely responsible for the persecution of Christians. In the second century, the emperors treated Christianity as a local problem to be dealt with by their subordinates.Barnes, "Legislation Against the Christians". The number and severity of persecutions of Christians in various locations of the empire seemingly increased during the reign of Marcus. The extent to which Marcus himself directed, encouraged, or was aware of these persecutions is unclear and much debated by historians.McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: A Life, p. 295. According to Edward Gibbon, with the onset of the Germanic war, his treatment of the Christians degraded with increased persecutions uncharacteristic of the previous years of his reign and those of his predecessors.Gibbon, Ch. 16 Pt. 5.

{{anchor|Marriage and issue}}Marriage and children

{{multiple image|image1=Commodus Musei Capitolini MC1120.jpg|caption1=Commodus as Hercules, Capitoline Museums|alt1=Bust of Commodus, Marcus' son and successor|image2=Annius Verus 01.JPG|caption2=Bust of Marcus Annius Verus Caesar, Louvre|alt2=Bust of Marcus Annius Verus Caesar, Marcus' son|image3=Busto de Vibia Sabina (M. Prado) 01.jpgVibia Aurelia Sabina, Museo del Prado>Prado Museum|alt3=Bust of Vibia Aurelia Sabina, Marcus' daughter|total_width=500}}Marcus married his first cousin Faustina in 145. During their 30-year marriage, they had at least 13 children,Stephens, p. 31. including two sets of twins. One son and four daughters outlived their father:Ackermann, Schroeder, Terry, Lo Upshur and Whitters, 39.
  • Domitia Faustina (147 – 151)McLynn, Marcus Aurelius: A Life, 92.
  • Titus Aelius Antoninus (149)Lendering, "Antoninus and Aelius".Levick, 171.
  • Titus Aelius Aurelius (149)
  • Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla (150 – 182Lendering, "Lucilla".), married her father's co-ruler Lucius Verus
  • Annia Galeria Aurelia Faustina (born 151)
  • Tiberius Aelius Antoninus (born 152, died before 156)
  • Unknown child (died before 158)
  • Annia Aurelia Fadilla (born 159)
  • Annia Cornificia Faustina Minor (born 160)
  • Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (161 – 165), elder twin brother of Commodus
  • Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (Commodus) (161 – 192),Gagarin, p. 37. twin brother of Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, later emperorBenario.
  • Marcus Annius Verus Caesar (162Adams, p. 94. – 169Adams, p. 104.)
  • Hadrianus
  • Vibia Aurelia Sabina (170 – died before 217Levick, p. 160.)


File:MeditationsMarcusAurelius1811.jpg|thumb|First page of the 1792 English translation by alt=First page of MeditationsWhile on campaign between 170 and 180, Marcus wrote his Meditations in Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. The original title of this work, if it had one, is unknown. "Meditations"–as well as other titles including "To Himself"–were adopted later. He had a logical mind and his notes were representative of Stoic philosophy and spirituality. Meditations is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty. According to Hays, the book was a favourite of Christina of Sweden, Frederick the Great, John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, and Goethe, and is admired by modern figures such as Wen Jiabao and Bill Clinton.Hays, xlix. It has been considered by many commentators to be one of the greatest works of philosophy.Collins, 58.It is not known how widely Marcus' writings were circulated after his death. There are stray references in the ancient literature to the popularity of his precepts, and Julian the Apostate was well aware of his reputation as a philosopher, though he does not specifically mention Meditations.Stertz, 434, citing Themistius, Oratio 6.81; HA Cassius 3.5; Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus 16.9. It survived in the scholarly traditions of the Eastern Church and the first surviving quotes of the book, as well as the first known reference of it by name ("Marcus' writings to himself") are from Arethas of Caesarea in the 10th century and in the Byzantine Suda (perhaps inserted by Arethas himself). It was first published in 1558 in Zurich by Wilhelm Xylander (ne Holzmann), from a manuscript reportedly lost shortly afterwards.Hays, xlviii–xlix. The oldest surviving complete manuscript copy is in the Vatican library and dates to the 14th century.Hadot, 22.

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

{{multiple image|align=right|total_width=250|direction = vertical|image1=Marcus_Aurelius,_aureus,_AD_174,_RIC_III_295.jpg|caption1=Aureus of Marcus Aurelius (AD December 173- June 174), with his equestrian statue on the reverse.Mattingly & Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, vol. III, p. 236.|image2=0 Marcus Aurelius - Piazza del Campidoglio (2).JPG|alt=Replica of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius|caption2=Replica of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Capitoline Hill}}The Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome is the only Roman equestrian statue which has survived into the modern period.Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius. This is perhaps due to it being wrongly identified during the Middle Ages as a depiction of the Christian emperor Constantine the Great and hence was spared destruction, unlike some other statues associated with paganism. Crafted of bronze in circa 175 AD, it stands {{cvt|11.6|ft|m}} and is now located in the Capitoline Museums of Rome. The emperor's hand is outstretched in an act of clemency offered to a bested enemy, while his weary facial expression due to the stress of leading Rome into nearly constant battles perhaps represents a break with the classical tradition of sculpture.Kleiner, 193.Image:Statua Marco Aurelio Musei Capitolini.JPG|alt=Equestrian Statue of Marcus AureliusImage:Statua Marco Aurelio Musei Capitolini Fronte.JPG|alt=Equestrian Statue of Marcus AureliusImage:Statua Marco Aurelio Musei Capitolini Fronte2.JPG|alt=Equestrian Statue of Marcus AureliusImage:Marco Aurelio bronzo.JPG|alt=Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius

Column of Marcus Aurelius

Marcus' victory column, established in Rome either in his last few years of life or after his reign and completed in 193 AD, was built to commemorate his victory over the Sarmatians and Germanic tribes in 176 AD. A spiral of carved reliefs wraps around the column, showing scenes from his military campaigns. A statue of Marcus had stood atop the column but disappeared during the Middle Ages. It was replaced with a statue of Saint Paul in 1589 by pope Sixtus V."Column of Marcus Aurelius: Overall view, of base and column". University of Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library. Accessed 24 November 2018. The column of Marcus and the column of Trajan are often compared by scholars given how they are both Doric in style, had a pedestal at the base, had sculpted friezes depicting their respective military victories, and a statue on top."The Columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius". Grinnell College, Classics. Accessed 24 November 2018.File:column.of.marcus.aurelius.complete.arp.jpg|The Column of Marcus Aurelius in Piazza ColonnaFile:detail.from.column.of.marcus.aurelius.arp.jpg|Detail from the column. The five horizontal slits (visible in the larger version) allow light into the internal spiral staircase.File:Germanische ratssitzung.png|German council of war depicted on the column – considered early evidence of what would become known as the Thing (assembly)File:Montecitorio Panini.jpg|The column, right, in the background of Panini's painting of the Palazzo Montecitorio, with the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius in the right foreground (1747)File:Inscription Column Marcus Aurelius.jpg|An inscription describing the restoration by pope Sixtus V




All citations to the Historia Augusta are to individual biographies, and are marked with a "HA". Citations to the works of Fronto are cross-referenced to C.R. Haines' Loeb edition.{{Reflist|30em}}


Ancient sources

  • Aelius Aristides. Orationes (Orations).
  • Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus.
  • Codex Justinianus.

Scott, Samuel P., trans. The Code of Justinian, in The Civil Law. 17 vols. 1932. Online at the Constitution Society.
  • Cassius Dio. Roman History.

Cary, Earnest, trans. Roman History. 9 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1914–27. Online at LacusCurtius.
  • Digest.

Scott, S.P., trans. The Digest or Pandects in The Civil Law. 17 vols. Cincinnati: Central Trust Company, 1932. Online at the Constitution Society.

Dean, James Elmer, ed. Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures – The Syriac Version. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935.
  • Epitome de Caesaribus.

Banchich, Thomas M., trans. A Booklet About the Style of Life and the Manners of the Imperatores. Canisius College Translated Texts 1. Buffalo, NY: Canisius College, 2009. Online at De Imperatoribus Romanis.
  • Fronto, Marcus Cornelius.

Haines, Charles Reginald, trans. The Correspondence of Marcus Cornelius Fronto. 2 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1920. Online at the Internet Archive: Vol. 1, 2.
  • Galen.

ad Pisonem de Theriaca. de Antidotis.
  • Gellius, Aulus. Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights).

Rolfe, J.C., trans. The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius. 3 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1927–28. Vols. 1 and 2 online at LacusCurtius.
  • Herodian. Ab Excessu Divi Marci (History of the Roman Empire from the Death of Marcus Aurelius).

Echols, Edward C., trans. Herodian of Antioch's History of the Roman Empire. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1961. Online at Tertullian and Livius.
  • Institutes.

Scott, S.P., trans. Institutes of Gaius in The Civil Law. 17 vols. Cincinnati: Central Trust Company, 1932. Online at the Constitution Society.
  • Lucian.

Harmon, A.M., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 9 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1936. Alexander online at Tertullian.
Historia Quomodo Conscribenda (The Way to Write History).
Fowler, H.W., and H.G., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905. The Way to Write History, in volume 2, online at Sacred Texts, based on the Gutenberg e-text.
Imagines (Essays in Portraiture [Images]).
Fowler, H.W., and H.G., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905. A Portrait Study, in volume 3, online at Sacred Texts, based on the Gutenberg e-text.
Pro Imaginibus (Essays in Portraiture Defended).
Fowler, H.W., and H.G., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 4 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905. Defence of the 'Portrait-Study{{'}}, in volume 3, online at Sacred Texts, based on the Gutenberg e-text.
  • Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Meditations.

Farquharson, A.S.L., trans. Meditations. New York: Knopf, 1946, rept. 1992.
  • Pausanias. Description of Greece.

Jones, W.H.S., and H.A. Omerod, trans. Pausanias' Description of Greece. 4 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1918. Online at Theoi and Perseus at Tufts.
  • Philostratus. Heroicus (On Heroes).

Aiken, Ellen Bradshaw, and Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean, trans. On Heroes. Washington, DC: Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies, 2007. Online at weblink" title="">Harvard University Centre for Hellenic Studies.
  • Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria (Institutes of Oratory).

Butler, H.E., trans. The Orator's Education. 5 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1920–22. Online at LacusCurtius.
  • Scriptores Historiae Augustae (Authors of the Historia Augusta). Historia Augusta (Augustan History).

Magie, David, trans. Historia Augusta. 3 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1921–32. Online at LacusCurtius. Birley, Anthony R., trans. Lives of the Later Caesars. London: Penguin, 1976.
  • Themistius. Orationes (Orations).

Modern sources

External links

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