Marcus Aurelius

(Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus)


Marcus Aurelius is one of the most widely admired of the Roman emperors. Although he lived during an age of great corruption and excess, he lived a virtuous life, and used his power and influence tirelessly working for the betterment of his fellow man. With Julius Caesar, he is one of only two emperors for whom we have existing writings. His Meditations is a treatise on Stoic philosophy that is still widely read, and some of his personal letters still exist that provide insight into his noble character.

A nephew of Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius was adopted into the imperial household as a youth. He was married to the daughter of the emperor, a woman named Faustina, and the two were blessed with eleven children. His honesty and diligence were notable from his youth, as was his adherence to the Stoic philosophy. At the death of Antoninus Pius, he was encouraged to assume the position of sole ruler by many ministers, but instead he insisted on sharing the honor with Lucius Verus, another adopted son of Pius. The ruled together, for eight years, until the death of Verus, but during this time Verus deferred on most matters to Aurelius. Aurelius then ruled alone for twenty-two additional years.

The reign of Aurelius was plagued by many problems, including floods and famine, pestilence, a tribal rebellion in Germany, and a military uprising in Asia. There were domestic problems, including a large percentage of out-of-wedlock and abandoned children, a general decline of morals, and a troublesome religious sect known as Christianity that opposed the moral authority of the emperor. There were even rumors of marital problems within the immediate family of Aurelius. But through all of these troubles, Aurelius maintained a stoic calm, magnanimity towards his rivals, and a tireless work ethic. Although he did preside over the persecution of Christians, in his own life he exemplified many of Christianity's most cherished virtues.

Key events during the life of Marcus Aurelius:

Adopted as heirby his uncle Antoninus Pius.
Married Faustina. Marriage produced 11 children.
Succeeded Antoninus Pius with brother Lucius Verus.
Flood of Tiber caused famine.
War in Parthia completed. Pestilence spreads through empire.
Marcomanni tribe rebellion comes to an end.
Becomes sole emperor on death of Verus.
Aurelius resides at Carnuntum, during war with Quadi and Marcomanni.
Defeat of the Quadi.
Rebellion led by Cassius in Asia put down. Death of Faustina.
Made Commodus co-emperor.
  Engaged in persecution of Christians.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Marcus of Rome  in  Historic Boys  by  E. S. Brooks
Imperial Philosopher  in  Pictures from Roman Life and Story  by  Alfred J. Church
Model Pagan  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Marcus Aurelius in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Marcus Aurelius  in  The Discovery of New Worlds  by  M. B. Synge
Marcus Aurelius, the Philosopher Emperor  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Eva March Tappan

Image Links

Marcus Annius Verus at fifteen: afterward, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
 in Historic Boys

At a word from Marcus, the three lads drew back their arms as if to brandish their weapons, and shouted their cry of attack
 in Historic Boys

A triumph of Marcus Aurelius, Tiepolo
 in Famous Men of Rome

Marcus Aurelius receiving the homage of the Parthians
 in Famous Men of Rome

Equestrian Status of Marcus Aurelius
 in Historical Tales: Roman

Marcus Aurelius.
 in Old World Hero Stories

Short Biography
Antoninus Pius Fourth of "Five Good Emperors." Continued policy of consolidation. Ruled justly.
Commodus Corrupt son of Aurelius, misruled for twelve years and was murdered.
Faustina Wife of Marcus Aurelius, bore him 11 children.
Lucius Verus Adoptive brother of Aurelius. Co-ruler with him for 8 years.
Avidius Cassius Commander of legions in Syria. Enemy of Aurelius.