from 161 to 180 AD. He ruled with Lucius Verus
as co-emperor from 161 until Verus' death in 169. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic
During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire
; Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius
sacked the capital Ctesiphon
in 164. Aurelius fought the Marcomanni
, and Sarmatians
with success during the Marcomannic Wars
, but the threat of the Germanic tribes
began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire.
161 Emperor Antoninus Pius dies and is succeeded by his adoptif sons Marcus Aurelius en Lucius Verus.
173 Marcomannic Wars: The Roman army in Moravia is encircled by the Quadi, who has broken the peace treaty (171). In a violent thunderstorm emperor Marcus Aurelius defeats and subdue them in the so-called "miracle of the rain".
176 Emperor Marcus Aurelius grant his son Commodus the rank of ''Imperator'' and makes him Supreme Commander of the Roman legions.
180 Marcus Aurelius dies leaving Commodus the sole emperor of the Roman Empire.
Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today inquisitive, ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill.
You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.
The longest-lived and the shortest-lived man, when they come to die, lose one and the same thing.
This thou must always bear in mind, what is the nature of the whole...
Τούτων ἀεὶ μεμνῆσθαι, τίς ἡ τῶν ὅλων φύσις
A man should be upright, not kept upright.
Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.
Remember that man lives only in the present, in this fleeting instant; all the rest of his life is either past and gone, or not yet revealed.
By a tranquil mind I mean nothing else than a mind well ordered.
Men seek retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such things very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For nowhere either with more quiet or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul
from 161 to 180 AD. He ruled with Lucius Verus
as co-emperor from 161 until Verus' death in 169. He was the last of the "Five Good Emperors", and is also considered one of the most important Stoic
During his reign, the Empire defeated a revitalized Parthian Empire
; Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius
sacked the capital Ctesiphon
in 164. Aurelius fought the Marcomanni
, and Sarmatians
with success during the Marcomannic Wars
, but the threat of the Germanic tribes
began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. A revolt in the East led by Avidius Cassius failed to gain momentum and was suppressed immediately.
Marcus Aurelius' Stoic
, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.
SourcesThe major sources for the life and rule of Marcus Aurelius 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, but are in fact written by a single author (referred to here as "the biographer") from the later 4th century (c. 395). The later biographies and the biographies of subordinate emperors and usurpers are a tissue of lies and fiction, but the earlier biographies, derived primarily from now-lost earlier sources (Marius Maximus
or Ignotus), are much better. For Marcus' life and rule, the biographies of Hadrian, Pius, Marcus and Lucius Verus are largely reliable, but those of Aelius Verus and Avidius Cassius are full of fiction.
Tutor Fronto and various Antonine officials survives in a series of patchy manuscripts, covering the period from c. 138 to 166. Marcus' own Meditations offer a window on his inner life, but are largely undateable, and make few specific references to worldly affairs. 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. Some other literary sources provide specific detail: 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. Inscriptions
and coin finds
supplement the literary sources.
Family, childhood, and early education, 121–136Marcus' 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' 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. Verus' elder son—Marcus Aurelius' father—Marcus Annius Verus (III)
married Domitia Lucilla
. Lucilla was the daughter of the patrician P. Calvisius Tullus Ruso and the elder Domitia Lucilla. The elder 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. 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.
, probably born in 122 or 123. Verus (III) probably died in 124, during his praetor
ship, when Marcus was only three years old. Though he can hardly have known him, Marcus Aurelius wrote in his Meditations that he had learned "modesty and manliness" from his memories of his father and from the man's posthumous reputation. Lucilla did not remarry. Lucilla, following prevailing aristocratic customs, probably did not spend much time with her son. Marcus was in the care of "nurses". Marcus credits his mother with teaching him "religious piety, simplicity in diet" and how to avoid "the ways of the rich". In his letters, Marcus 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".
After his father's death, Aurelius was adopted by his paternal grandfather Marcus Annius Verus (II). Another man, Lucius Catilius Severus, also participated in his upbringing. Severus is described as Marcus' "maternal great-grandfather"; he is probably the stepfather of the elder Lucilla. Marcus was raised in his parents' home on the Caelian Hill
, a district he would affectionately refer to as "my Caelian". It was an upscale region, with few public buildings but many aristocratic villas. Marcus' grandfather owned his own palace beside the Lateran
, where Marcus would spend much of his childhood. Marcus thanks his grandfather for teaching him "good character and avoidance of bad temper". He was less fond of the mistress his grandfather took and lived with after the death of Rupilia Faustina, his wife. Marcus was grateful that he did not have to live with her longer than he did.
Marcus was taught at home, in line with contemporary aristocratic trends; Marcus thanks Catilius Severus for encouraging him to avoid public schools. One of his teachers, Diognetus, a painting-master, proved particularly influential; he seems to have introduced Marcus to the philosophic way of life. 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. A new set of tutors—Alexander of Cotiaeum
, Trosius Aper, and Tuticius Proculus—took over Marcus' education in about 132 or 133. Little is known of the latter two (both teachers of Latin), but Alexander was a major littérateur, the leading Homer
ic scholar of his day. Marcus thanks Alexander for his training in literary styling. Alexander's influence—an emphasis on matter over style, on careful wording, with the occasional Homeric quotation—has been detected in Marcus' Meditations.
Civic duties and family connections, 127–36
. Though this was not completely unprecedented, and other children are known to have joined the order, Marcus was still unusually young. In 128, Marcus was enrolled in the priestly college of the Salii
. Since the standard qualifications for the college were not met—Marcus did not have two living parents—they must have been waived by Hadrian, Marcus' nominator, as a special favor to the child. Hadrian had a strong affection for the child, and nicknamed him Verissimus, "most true". Marcus took his religious duties seriously. He rose through the offices of the priesthood, becoming in turn the leader of the dance, the vates
(prophet), and the master of the order.
Hadrian did not see much of Marcus in his childhood. He spent most of his time outside Rome, on the frontier, or dealing with administrative and local affairs in the provinces. By 135, however, he had returned to Italy for good. He had grown close to Lucius Ceionius Commodus
, husband of the daughter of Gaius Avidius Nigrinus
, a dear friend of Trajan who was executed for attempting to overthrow Hadrian early in his reign. In 136, shortly after Marcus assumed the toga virilis symbolizing his passage into manhood, Hadrian arranged for his engagement to one of Commodus' daughters, Ceionia Fabia
. Marcus was made prefect of the city
during the feriae Latinae soon after (he was probably appointed by Commodus). Although the office held no real administrative significance—the full-time prefect remained in office during the festival—it remained a prestigious office for young aristocrats and members of the imperial family. Marcus conducted himself well at the job.
Through Commodus, Marcus met Apollonius of Chalcedon, a Stoic
philosopher. Apollonius had taught Commodus, and would have an enormous impact on Marcus, who would later study with him regularly. He is one of only three people Marcus thanks the gods for having met. At about this time, Marcus' younger sister, Annia Cornificia, married Ummidius Quadratus, her first cousin. Domitia Lucilla
asked Marcus to give part of his father's inheritance to his sister. He agreed to give her all of it, content as he was with his grandfather's estate.
Succession to Hadrian, 136–38In late 136, Hadrian almost died from hemorrhage. Convalescent in his villa
, he selected Lucius Ceionius Commodus as his successor, and adopted him as his son. The selection was done invitis omnibus, "against the wishes of everyone"; its rationale is still unclear. After a brief stationing on the Danube frontier, Lucius 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 hemorrhage later in the day. On 24 January 138, Hadrian selected Aurelius Antoninus
as his new successor. After a few days' consideration, Antoninus accepted. He was adopted on 25 February. As part of Hadrian's terms, Antoninus adopted Marcus and Lucius Commodus
, the son of Aelius. Marcus became M. Aelius Aurelius Verus; Lucius became L. Aelius Aurelius Commodus. At Hadrian's request, Antoninus' daughter Faustina was betrothed to Lucius. Marcus was appalled to learn that Hadrian had adopted him. Only with reluctance did he move from his mother's house on the Caelian to Hadrian's private home.
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, consul for 139. Marcus' adoption diverted him from the typical career path of his class. But 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."
, a seaside resort on the Campania
n 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. His remains were buried quietly at Puteoli
. 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. For his dutiful behavior, Antoninus was asked to accept the name "Pius".
Heir to Antoninus Pius, 138–45Immediately 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 consented to Antoninus' proposal.
Pius bolstered Marcus' dignity: Marcus was made consul for 140, with Pius 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. 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". At the senate's request, Marcus joined all the priestly colleges (pontifices, augures, quindecimviri sacris faciundis, septemviri epulonum, etc.); direct evidence for membership, however, is available only for the Arval Brethren
Pius demanded that Marcus take up residence in the House of Tiberius, the imperial palace on the Palatine. Pius 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"—but he found it difficult nonetheless. He would criticize himself in the Meditations for "abusing court life" in front of company.
As quaestor, Marcus would have had little real administrative work to do. He would read imperial letters to the senate when Pius 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. He felt drowned in paperwork, and complained to his tutor, Fronto
: "I am so out of breath from dictating nearly thirty letters". He was being "fitted for ruling the state", in the words of his biographer. He was required to make a speech to the assembled senators as well, making oratorical training essential for the job.
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". 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 [...] I am having treatment and taking care not to do anything that interferes with it." Marcus 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.
In April 145, Marcus married Faustina, as had been planned since 138. Since Marcus was, by adoption, Pius' son, under Roman law he was marrying his sister; Pius would have had to formally release one or the other from his paternal authority (his patria potestas) for the ceremony to take place. Little is specifically known of the ceremony, but it is said to have been "noteworthy". Coins were issued with the heads of the couple, and Pius, as Pontifex Maximus
, would have officiated. Marcus makes no apparent reference to the marriage in his surviving letters, and only sparing references to Faustina.
Fronto and further education, 136–61After taking the toga virilis in 136, Marcus probably began his training in oratory
. He had three tutors in Greek, Aninus Macer, Caninius Celer, and Herodes Atticus
, and one in Latin, Fronto. (Fronto and Atticus, however, probably did not become his tutors until his adoption by Antoninus in 138.) The preponderance of Greek tutors indicates the importance of the language to the aristocracy of Rome. 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. The latter two were the most esteemed orators of the day.
, perhaps even an alternative to him. He did not care much for Herodes, 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. 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." Marcus spent time with Fronto's wife and daughter, both named Cratia, and they enjoyed light conversation. 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". 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 suffering—about one quarter of the surviving letters deal with the man's sicknesses. Marcus asks that Fronto's pain be inflicted on himself, "of my own accord with every kind of discomfort".
Fronto never became Marcus' full-time teacher, and continued his career as an advocate. One notorious case brought him into conflict with Herodes. Marcus pleaded with Fronto, first with "advice", then as a "favor", not to attack Herodes; he had already asked Herodes to refrain from making the first blows. Fronto replied that he was surprised to discover Marcus counted Herodes as a friend (perhaps Herodes was not yet Marcus' tutor), allowed that Marcus might be correct, 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." The outcome of the trial is unknown.
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." 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. 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.
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". 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. Marcus kept in close touch with Fronto, but he would ignore his scruples.
Apollonius may have introduced Marcus to Stoic philosophy, but Quintus Junius Rusticus
would have the strongest influence on the boy. He was the man Fronto recognized as having "wooed Marcus away" from oratory. He was twenty years older than Marcus, older than Fronto. 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; the true successor of Seneca
(as opposed to Fronto, the false one). 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'".
Births and deaths, 147–52On 30 November 147, Faustina gave birth to a girl, named Domitia Faustina. She was the first of at least fourteen children (including two sets of twins) that Faustina would bear over the next twenty-three years. The next day, 1 December, Pius gave Marcus the tribunician
power and the imperium
—authority over the armies and provinces of the emperor. As tribune, Marcus had the right to bring one measure before the senate after the four Pius could introduce. His tribunican powers would be renewed, with Pius', on 10 December 147.
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.
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'." He quoted from the Iliad
what he called the "briefest and most familiar saying...enough to dispel sorrow and fear":
Another daughter was born on 7 March 150, Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla
the wind scatters some on the face of the ground;
like unto them are the children of men.
– Iliad 6.146
. At some time between 155 and 161, probably soon after 155, Marcus' mother, Domitia Lucilla, died. Faustina probably had another daughter in 151, but the child, Annia Galeria Aurelia Faustina, might not have been born until 153. 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.
By 28 March 158, however, when Marcus replied, the child was dead. Marcus thanked the temple synod, "even though this turned out otherwise". The child's name is unknown. In 159 and 160, Faustina gave birth to daughters: Fadilla, after one of Faustina's dead sisters, and Cornificia, after Marcus' dead sister.
Pius' last years, 152–61
In 156, Pius 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 Pius aged, Marcus would have taken on more administrative duties, more still when the praetorian prefect
(an office that was as much secretarial as military) Gavius Maximus died in 156 or 157. In 160, Marcus and Lucius were designated joint consuls for the following year. Perhaps Pius was already ill; in any case, he died before the year was out. Two days before his death, the biographer records, Pius was at his ancestral estate in Lorium
. 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, he summoned the imperial council, and passed the state and his daughter to Marcus. He ordered that the golden statue of Fortune, which had been in the bedroom of the emperors, should go to Marcus' bedroom. Pius turned over, as if going to sleep, and died.
Accession of Marcus and Lucius, 161After the death of Antoninus Pius, 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. This may have been a genuine horror imperii, "fear of imperial power". Marcus, with his preference for the philosophic life, found the imperial office unappealing. His training as a Stoic, however, had made the choice clear. It was his duty.
Although Marcus shows 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. Thus, although the senate planned to confirm Marcus alone, he refused to take office unless Lucius received equal powers. The senate accepted, granting Lucius the imperium, the tribunician power, and the name Augustus. 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. It was the first time that Rome was ruled by two emperors.
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 Pius' 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 Marcus...as a lieutenant obeys a proconsul or a governor obeys the emperor."
Immediately 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. This donative, however, was twice the size of those past: 20,000 sesterces
) 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. 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.
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. However, Marcus would later revisit the issue of currency reform.
Pius' funeral ceremonies were, in the words of the biographer, "elaborate". If his funeral followed the pattern of past funerals, his body would have been incinerated on a pyre at the Campus Martius
, while his spirit would rise to the gods' home in the heavens. Marcus and Lucius nominated their father for deification. In contrast to their behavior during Pius' 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 Pius, now Divus Antoninus. Pius' remains were laid to rest in the Hadrian's mausoleum, beside the remains of Marcus' children and of Hadrian himself. 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, Pius' fortune passed on to Faustina. (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.) 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. On 31 August she gave birth at Lanuvium
to twins: T. Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus. Aside from the fact that the twins shared Caligula
's birthday, the omens were favorable, and the astrologers drew positive horoscopes for the children. The births were celebrated on the imperial coinage.
Early rule, 161–62Soon 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). At the ceremonies commemorating the event, new provisions were made for the support of poor children, along the lines of earlier imperial foundations. Marcus and Lucius proved popular with the people of Rome, who strongly approved of their civiliter ("lacking pomp") behavior. The emperors permitted free speech, evinced by the fact that the comedy writer Marullus was able to criticize them without suffering retribution. At any other time, under any other emperor, he would have been executed. But it was a peaceful time, a forgiving time. And thus, as the biographer wrote, "No one missed the lenient ways of Pius."
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. 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. Fronto's son-in-law, Aufidius Victorinus, was appointed governor of Upper Germany
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. 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." Fronto called on Marcus alone; neither thought to invite Lucius.
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." Marcus' early reign proceeded smoothly. Marcus was able to give himself wholly to philosophy and the pursuit of popular affection. Soon, however, Marcus would find he had many anxieties. It would mean the end of the felicitas temporum ("happy times") that the coinage of 161 had so glibly proclaimed.
In the spring of 162, the Tiber
flooded over its banks, destroying much of Rome. It drowned many animals, leaving the city in famine. Marcus and Lucius gave the crisis their personal attention. In other times of famine, the emperors are said to have provided for the Italian communities out of the Roman granaries.
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". 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
, yet, against your will, not the philosopher's woolen cape." The early days of Marcus' reign were the happiest of Fronto's life: his pupil was beloved by the people of Rome, an excellent emperor, a fond pupil, and, perhaps most importantly, as eloquent as could be wished. 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.
War with Parthia, 161–66
- For details, see: Roman–Parthian War of 161–66Roman–Parthian War of 161–66The Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 was fought between the Roman and Parthian Empires over Armenia and upper Mesopotamia...
. See also: Roman–Persian Wars
Origins to Lucius' dispatch, 161–62On his deathbed, Pius spoke of nothing but the state and the foreign kings who had wronged him. One of those kings, Vologases IV of Parthia
, made his move in late summer or early autumn 161. Vologases entered the Kingdom of Armenia (then a Roman client state), expelled its king and installed his own—Pacorus, an Arsacid like himself. The governor of Cappadocia, the front-line in all Armenian conflicts, was Marcus Sedatius Severianus, a Gaul with much experience in military matters. Convinced by the prophet Alexander of Abonutichus that he could defeat the Parthians easily, and win glory for himself, Severianus led a legion (perhaps the IX Hispana
) 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. Severianus made some attempt to fight Chosrhoes, but soon realized the futility of his campaign, and committed suicide. His legion was massacred. The campaign had only lasted three days.
and Upper Germany
, where the Chatti
of the Taunus
mountains had recently crossed over the limes. Marcus was unprepared. Pius seems to have given him no military experience; the biographer writes that Marcus spent the whole of Pius' twenty-three-year reign at his emperor's side—and not in the provinces, where most previous emperors had spent their early careers.
More bad news arrived: the Syrian governor's army had been defeated by the Parthians, and retreated in disarray. 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. Three full legions were also sent east: I Minervia
from Bonn in Upper Germany, II Adiutrix
from Aquincum, and V Macedonica
from Troesmis. The northern frontiers were strategically weakened; frontier governors were told to avoid conflict wherever possible. M. Annius Libo, Marcus' first cousin, was sent to replace the Syrian governor. He was young—his first consulship was in 161, so he was probably in his early thirties—and, as a mere patrician, lacked military experience. Marcus had chosen a reliable man rather than a talented one.
Marcus took a four-day public holiday at Alsium
, a resort town on the Etruria
n coast. He was too anxious to relax. Writing to Fronto, he declared that he would not speak about his holiday. Fronto replied ironically: "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?" He encouraged Marcus to rest, calling on the example of his predecessors (Pius had enjoyed exercise in the palaestra
, fishing, and comedy), going so far as to write up a fable about the gods' division of the day between morning and evening—Marcus had apparently been spending most of his evenings on judicial matters instead of at leisure. Marcus could not take Fronto's advice. "I have duties hanging over me that can hardly be begged off," he wrote back. Marcus 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!"
Fronto sent Marcus a selection of reading material, 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, 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".
Lucius at Antioch, 162–65Over the winter of 161–62, as more bad news arrived—a rebellion was brewing in Syria—it was decided that Lucius should direct the Parthian war in person. He was stronger and healthier than Marcus, the argument went, more suited to military activity. Lucius' biographer suggests ulterior motives: to restrain Lucius' debaucheries, to make him thrifty, to reform his morals by the terror of war, to realize that he was an emperor. Whatever the case, the senate gave its assent, and, in the summer of 162, Lucius left. Marcus would remain in Rome; the city "demanded the presence of an emperor".
Lucius spent most of the campaign in Antioch, though he wintered at Laodicea
and summered at Daphne
, a resort just outside Antioch. Critics declaimed Lucius' luxurious lifestyle. He had taken to gambling, they said; he would "dice the whole night through". He enjoyed the company of actors. Libo died early in the war; perhaps Lucius had murdered him.
In 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. Marcus moved up the date; perhaps he had already heard of Lucius' mistress, the low-born and beautiful Panthea. Lucilla's thirteenth birthday was in March 163; whatever the date of her marriage, she was not yet fifteen. Lucilla was accompanied by her mother Faustina and M. Vettulenus Civica Barbarus, the half-brother of Lucius' father. Civica was made comes
Augusti, "companion of the emperors"; perhaps Marcus wanted him to watch over Lucius, the job Libo had failed at.
Marcus may have planned to accompany them all the way to Smyrna (the biographer says he told the senate he would); this did not happen. Marcus only accompanied the group as far as Brundisium, where they boarded a ship for the east. Marcus returned to Rome immediately thereafter, and sent out special instructions to his proconsuls not to give the group any official reception.
Counterattack and victory, 163–66The Armenian capital Artaxata
was captured in 163. At the end of the year, Verus took the title Armeniacus, despite having never seen combat; Marcus declined to accept the title until the following year. When Lucius was hailed as imperator again, however, Marcus did not hesitate to take the Imperator II with him.
Occupied Armenia was reconstructed on Roman terms. In 164, a new capital, Kaine Polis ('New City'), replaced Artaxata. 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. Sohaemus was hailed on the imperial coinage of 164 under the legend : Lucius sat on a throne with his staff while Sohamenus stood before him, saluting the emperor.
In 163, the Parthians intervened in Osroene
, a Roman client in upper Mesopotamia centered on Edessa
, and installed their own king on its throne. In response, Roman forces were moved downstream, to cross the Euphrates at a more southerly point. Before the end of 163, however, Roman forces had moved north to occupy Dausara and Nicephorium on the northern, Parthian bank. Soon after the conquest of the north bank of the Euphrates, other Roman forces moved on Osroene from Armenia, taking Anthemusia, a town south-west of Edessa.
In 165, Roman forces moved on Mesopotamia. Edessa was re-occupied, and Mannus, the king deposed by the Parthians, was re-installed. The Parthians retreated to Nisibis, but this too was besieged and captured. The Parthian army dispersed in the Tigris. A second force, under Avidius Cassius and the III Gallica, moved down the Euphrates, and fought a major battle at Dura. 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 got 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.
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. Lucius took the title Parthicus Maximus, and he and Marcus were hailed as imperatores again, earning the title 'imp. III'. Cassius' army returned to the field in 166, crossing over the Tigris into Media. Lucius took the title 'Medicus', and the emperors were again hailed as imperatores, becoming 'imp. IV' in imperial titulature. Marcus took the Parthicus Maximus now, after another tactful delay.
Conclusion of the war and events at Rome, mid-160s–167Most of the credit for the war's success must be ascribed to subordinate generals, the most prominent of which was C. Avidius Cassius
, commander of III Gallica, one of the Syrian legions. Cassius was a young senator of low birth from the north Syrian town of Cyrrhus
. His father, Heliodorus, had not been a senator, but was nonetheless a man of some standing: he had been Hadrian's ab epistulis, followed the emperor on his travels, and was prefect of Egypt at the end of Hadrian's reign. Cassius also, with no small sense of self-worth, claimed descent from the Seleucid kings
. Cassius and his fellow commander in the war, Martius Verus, still probably in their mid-thirties, took the consulships for 166. After their consulships, they were made governors: Cassius, of Syria; Martius Verus, of Cappadocia.
At Rome, Marcus was occupied with family matters. Matidia, his great-aunt, had died. Her will was invalid under the lex Falcidia: Matidia had assigned more than three-quarters of her estate to non-relatives; her clients had convinced her to include them in codicils
to her will. Matidia had never confirmed the documents, but, as she lay unconscious, her clients had sealed them in with the original, making them valid. It was an embarrassing situation. Fronto urged Marcus to push the family's case; Marcus demurred. He was going to consult his brother, who would make the final call.
On the return from the campaign, Lucius was awarded with a triumph
; the parade was unusual because it included the two emperors, their sons and unmarried daughters as a big family celebration. Marcus Aurelius' two sons, Commodus
five years old and Annius Verus of three, were elevated to the status of Caesar for the occasion.
The returning army carried with them a plague, afterwards known as the Antonine Plague
, or the Plague of Galen
, which spread through the Roman Empire between 165 and 180. The disease was a pandemic
believed to be either of smallpox
, and would ultimately claim the lives of two Roman emperors—Lucius Verus
, who died in 169, and Marcus Aurelius, whose family name, Antoninus, was given to the epidemic. The disease broke out again nine years later, according to the Roman historian Dio Cassius
, and caused up to 2,000 deaths a day at Rome, one quarter of those infected. Total deaths have been estimated at five million.
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
: 安敦), who can be identified either with Marcus Aurelius or his predecessor Antoninus Pius.
Legal and administrative work, 161–80Like many emperors, Marcus spent most of his time addressing matters of law such as petitions and hearing disputes. Marcus took great care in the theory and practice of legislation. Professional jurists called him "an emperor most skilled in the law" and "a most prudent and conscientiously just emperor". He shows 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).
In 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 Marcus reverted to the previous values because of the military crises facing the empire.
Germania and the Danube
- For details, see: Marcomannic WarsMarcomannic WarsThe Marcomannic Wars were a series of wars lasting over a dozen years from about AD 166 until 180. These wars pitted the Roman Empire against the Marcomanni, Quadi and other Germanic peoples, along both sides of the upper and middle Danube...
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 farther east. A first invasion of the Chatti
in the province of Germania Superior
was repulsed in 162. Far more dangerous was the invasion of 166, when the Marcomanni
of Bohemia, clients of the Roman Empire since 19, crossed the Danube together with the Lombards
and other German tribes. At the same time, the Iranian Sarmatians
attacked between the Danube and the Theiss
Due to the situation in the East, only a punitive expedition
could be launched in 167. Both Marcus and Verus led the troops. After the death of Verus (169), Marcus led personally the struggle against the Germans for the great part of his remaining life. The Romans suffered at least two serious defeats by the Quadi
and Marcomanni, who could cross the Alps, ravage Opitergium (Oderzo
) and besiege Aquileia
, the main Roman city of north-east Italy. At the same time the Costoboci
, coming from the Carpathian
area, invaded Moesia
and Greece. After a long struggle, Marcus Aurelius managed to push back the invaders. Numerous Germans settled in frontier regions like Dacia
, 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 and Hungary.
The emperor's plans were, however, prevented by a revolt in East, led by Avidius Cassius, which was prompted by false news of the death of Marcus after an illness. Of the eastern provinces, only Cappadocia
did not side with the rebels. When it became clear that Marcus Aurelius was still alive, Cassius' fortunes declined quickly and he was killed by his troops after only 100 days of power.
Together with his wife Faustina, Marcus Aurelius toured the eastern provinces until 173. He visited Athens, declaring himself a protector of philosophy. After a triumph in Rome, the following year he marched again to the Danubian frontier. After a decisive victory in 178, the plan to annex Bohemia
seemed poised for success but was abandoned after Marcus Aurelius again fell ill in 180.
Death and successionMarcus Aurelius died on 17 March 180, in the city of Vindobona (modern Vienna
). He was immediately deified and his ashes were returned to Rome
, and rested in Hadrian
(modern Castel Sant'Angelo
) until the Visigoth
sack of the city
. His campaigns against Germans and Sarmatians were also commemorated by a column
and a temple
built in Rome
Marcus gave the succession to his son Commodus
, whom he had named Caesar in 166 and made co-emperor in 177. This decision, putting an end to the series of "adoptive emperors", was highly criticized by later historians since Commodus was a political and military outsider, as well as an extreme egotist with neurotic problems.
At the end of his history of Marcus' reign, Cassius Dio wrote an encomium
to the emperor, and described the transition to Commodus, to Dio's own times, with sorrow.
...[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 71.36.3–4
Michael Grant, in The Climax of Rome (1968), 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 involved one of the civil wars which were to proliferate so disastrous around future successions."
Legacy and reputationMarcus Aurelius 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". Christians—Justin Martyr
, Athenagoras, Melito—gave him the title too. The last named went so far as to call Marcus "more philanthropic and philosophic" than Pius and Hadrian, and set him against the persecuting emperors Domitian and Nero to make the contrast bolder. "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."
The 2000 movie Gladiator
featured a character based on him.
Marriage and issue
Faustina the Younger
in 145. During their 30-year marriage Faustina bore 13 children. Only one son and four daughters outlived their father:
- Annia Aurelia Galeria FaustinaAnnia Aurelia Galeria FaustinaAnnia Aurelia Galeria Faustina , was a Roman Princess. She was the first born daughter and child to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. Her younger sister was Roman Empress Lucilla and younger brother was Roman Emperor Commodus...
- Gemellus Lucillae (died around 150), twin brother of Lucilla
- Annia Aurelia Galeria LucillaLucillaAnnia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla or Lucilla was the second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger and an elder sister to future Roman Emperor Commodus....
(148/50–182), twin sister of Gemellus, married her father's co-ruler Lucius VerusLucius VerusLucius Verus , was Roman co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius, from 161 until his death.-Early life and career:Lucius Verus was the first born son to Avidia Plautia and Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar, the first adopted son and heir of Roman Emperor Hadrian . He was born and raised in Rome...
- Titus Aelius Antoninus (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
- Titus Aelius Aurelius (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
- Hadrianus (152–157)
- Domitia Faustina (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
- Annia Aurelia FadillaFadillaAnnia Aurelia Fadilla, most commonly known as Fadilla was an influential Roman Princess and was one of the daughters born to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was a sister to Roman Empress Lucilla and Roman Emperor Commodus. Fadilla was named in honor of her...
- Annia Cornificia Faustina MinorAnnia Cornificia Faustina MinorAnnia Cornificia Faustina Minor was a Roman princess and daughter of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was sister to Roman Empress Lucilla and Roman Emperor Commodus...
- Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (161–165), twin brother of Commodus
- Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (CommodusCommodusCommodus , was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father's death in 180. His name changed throughout his reign; see changes of name for earlier and later forms. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded...
) (161–192), twin brother of Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, later emperor
- Marcus Annius Verus CaesarMarcus Annius Verus CaesarMarcus Annius Verus Caesar was one of the thirteen children born to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger....
- Vibia Aurelia SabinaVibia Aurelia SabinaVibia Aurelia Sabina was a Roman Princess, she was the youngest daughter and child born to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Roman Empress Faustina the Younger. She was a sister to Roman Empress Lucilla and Roman Emperor Commodus...
(170–died before 217)
WritingsWhile on campaign between 170 and 180, Aurelius wrote his Meditations
in Greek as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. The title of this work was added posthumously—originally he entitled his work simply: 'To Myself'. He had been a priest at the sacrificial altars of Roman service and was an eager patriot. 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. The book has been a favourite of Frederick the Great, John Stuart Mill
, Matthew Arnold
, Goethe and Wen Jiabao
It is not known how far 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 Marcus' reputation as a philosopher, though he does not specifically mention the Meditations. The book itself, though mentioned in correspondence by Arethas of Caesarea
in the 10th century and in the Byzantine Suda
, was first published in 1558 in Zurich by Wilhelm Holzmann, from a manuscript copy that is now lost. The only other surviving complete copy of the manuscript is in the Vatican library
CitationsAll 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.
- 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. Accessed 31 August 2009.
- Scott, S.P., trans. The Digest or Pandects in The Civil Law. 17 vols. Cincinnati: Central Trust Company, 1932. Online at the Constitution Society. Accessed 31 August 2009.
- Cassius Dio. Roman History.
- Cary, Earnest, trans. Roman History. 9 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1914–27. Online at LacusCurtius. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 31 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 14 September 2009.
- Scott, S.P., trans. Institutes of Gaius in The Civil Law. 17 vols. Cincinnati: Central Trust Company, 1932. Online at the Constitution Society. Accessed 31 August 2009.
- Harmon, A.M., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 9 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1936. Alexander online at Tertullian. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 27 August 2009.
- 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 Harvard University Centre for Hellenic Studies. Accessed 27 August 2009.
- 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. Accessed 14 September 2009.
- 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. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- Birley, Anthony R., trans. Lives of the Later Caesars. London: Penguin, 1976.
- Themistius. Orationes (Orations).
- Harmon, A.M., trans. The Works of Lucian of Samosata. 9 vols. Loeb ed. London: Heinemann, 1936. Alexander online at Tertullian. Accessed 26 August 2009.
- Astarita, Maria L. Avidio Cassio (in Italian). Rome: Edizione di Storia e Letteratura, 1983.
- Barnes, Timothy D. "Hadrian and Lucius Verus." Journal of Roman Studies 57:1–2 (1967): 65–79.
- Birley, Anthony R. Marcus Aurelius: A Biography. New York: Routledge, 1966, rev. 1987. ISBN 0-415-17125-3
- Birley, Anthony R. "Hadrian to the Antonines." In The Cambridge Ancient History Volume XI: The High Empire, A.D. 70–192, edited by Alan Bowman, Peter Garnsey, and Dominic Rathbone, 132–94. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-521-26335-1
- Champlin, Edward. "The Chronology of Fronto." Journal of Roman Studies 64 (1974): 136–59.
- Champlin, Edward. Fronto and Antonine Rome. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. ISBN 0-674-32668-7
- Millar, Fergus. The Roman Near East: 31 BC – AD 337. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-674-77886-3
- McLynn, Frank. Marcus Aurelius: Warrior, Philosopher, Emperor. London: Bodley Head, 2009. ISBN 9780224072922 online review
- Stertz, Stephen A. "Marcus Aurelius as Ideal Emperor in Late-Antique Greek Thought." The Classical World 70:7 (1977): 433–39.
- Syme, Ronald. "The Ummidii." Historia 17:1 (1968): 72–105.