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Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
CommonName:     Marcus Aurelius
FullName:  Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Reign:  161-180 AD
Title:  Emperor
Born:  121 AD
Died:  180 AD
Relationship:  Adopted son of Antoninus
Marcus Annius Verus, later named Marcus Aurelius after adoption by Antoninus, was the supreme example of the philosopher-king. His Meditations is still in print, and not just in editions for classical scholars. This work, not written for publication, is a masterpiece of Stoic philosophy.

Marcus was from an old family in Baetica, in the south of Spain. He early attracted the attention of Hadrian, who had him educated by the best teachers of the time. In 138 Hadrian adopted Antoninus, who in turn adopted Marcus as well as Lucius, son of Aelius. One of the by-products of this was his marriage to the daughter of Antoninus, namely Annia Galeria Faustina, Faustina Junior, in 139.

Marcus had to face two miltary crises: first, an attept by the Parthians to seize Armenia; the king, Vologases III, invaded but was driven out by an army under the nominal control of Verus. In fact Verus did little; but the victory was won, and the triumph was duly celebrated. In the west various German tribes burst on the scene. First of all, in 162, the Chatti invaded upper Germany. Then in 166 the Marcomanni, Quadi, Langobardi and Sarmatians invaded in strength at various points, overrunning much territory due to concentration of effort on the Parthian frontier.

In 167 the emperors were at last free to deal with the problem. The Marcomanni and Quadi ravaged as far as Aquileia; others raided the area of the lower Danube. For the remainder of his reign Marcus had to deal with this threat.

Two interesting events marked this campaigning. The story of the Thundering Legion is one: in 174 one legion found itself trapped in the heat by a large body of the Quadi. The Germans waited for sunstroke to put the Romans out of the fight; all of a sudden, however, a violent thunderstorm blew up, raining on the Romans but hailing and thundering in the faces of their enemies. The Romans charged; the Quadi were routed. Dio claims that it was due to the prayers of an Egyptian magician; the Christians, to the prayers of Chrstian troops. It is certain that the legion received the title of "Fulminatrix", thundering; and the event was commemorated on monuments.

The second was the revolt of Avidius Cassius, governor of Syria, who set himself up on the rumor that Marcus was dying; his revolt collapsed once the truth became apparent. Cassius's troops then killed him.

Marcus died on 17 March 180, leaving the throne to his son Commodus. He had done his best to make Commodus fit for the task, but in this he failed. Unfortunately he had to make the best of it, since he had little choice; he had no better candidates available.

Marcus Aurelius, as Caesar. 140-144 AD. AR Denarius (3.28 gm). Bare head right / Sacrificial implements. RIC III 424a (Pius); RSC 451. Toned VF. 717345

Marcus Aurelius. 161-180 AD. AR Denarius Struck 166 AD, 3.65g. M ANTONINVS AVG ARM PART MAX, laureate head right / TR P X IMP IIII COS III, Victory standing right placing shield inscribed VIC/PAR in two lines on palm tree. RIC III 163; BMCRE 406;  RSC 878. Nice EF. .EX-HJB

Marcus Aurelius sestertius of Aurelius Reverse depicts winged Liberalitas holding tessara and cornucopiae.