Marcus Aurelius  

8 March 161 - 17 March 180



8 March 161 - 17 March 180

Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius
Musée Saint-Raymond

Marcus Aurelius, though left sole successor to the throne, took Lucius Verus as his associate and equal in governing the state, A. D. 161. Aurelius was the son of Amicus Verus, of an ancient and illustrious family, which claimed its original from Numa. Lucius Verus, was the son of Commodus, who had been adopted by Adrian, but died before he succeeded to the throne.

Aurelius was remarkable for his virtues and accomplishments, as his partner in the empire was for his un governable passions, and debauched morals.

The two emperors were scarcely settled on the throne, when the empire was attacked on every side by the barbarous nations. The Catti invaded Germany and Rhoetia, ravaging all with fire and sword, but were repelled. The Britons likewise revolted, but were repressed. But the Parthians made an irruption more dreadful than either of the former. In order to stop the progress of it, Verus went in person, accompanied by Aurelius.

Verus, upon entering Antioch, gave an indulgence to every appetite, without attending to the fatigues of war, leaving all the glory of the field to his lieutenants.

In the course of four years, the Romans entered into the Parthian country, and subdued it; but upon their return, their army was wasted to less than half its former number by pestilence and famine.

During this expedition, Aurelius was distributing justice and happiness at home. While thus occupied, he was mortified with accounts of the enormities of his colleague; but feigning himself ignorant of these excesses, he judged marriage to be the best method of reclaiming him, and sent him his daughter Lucilia, a woman of great beauty, whom Verus married at Antioch.

But this was found ineffectual. Aurelius hoped that, up on the return of Verus to Rome, his presence would keep him in awe; but he was disappointed. His return seemed fatal to the empire.

A raging pestilence was now spreading terror and desolation through the western world; and the barbarous nations were taking advantage of its various calamities, and making their irruptions even into Italy itself.

The priests did all they could to put a stop to the miseries of the state, by attempting to appease their gods; vowing and offering numberless sacrifices; celebrating all the sacred rites that had ever been known in Rome; and exhibiting the solemnity called Lectisternia, seven days together. To crown the whole, these enthusiasts ascribed the distresses of the state to the impiety of the Christians, and a violent persecution was raised against them in all parts of the empire, in which Justin Martyr, St Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, and a great number of others, suffered martyrdom.

In this scene of distress, Aurelius inarched against the Marcomanni and Quadi, taking Verus with him. They came up with the Marcomanni near Aquileia, and after a furious engagement routed their whole army : then pursuing them across the Alps, overcame them in several contests, and returned into Italy without any considerable loss, A. D. 169. Verus going from Aquileia to Rome, was seized with an apoplexy, which put an end to his life, being thirty-nine years old.

Aurelius having subdued the Marcomanni, a barbarous people that had made inroads upon the empire, returned to Rome, where he began his usual endeavors to benefit mankind by a farther reformation of the internal policy of the state.

Having restored prosperity to his subjects, and peace to mankind, news was brought him that the Scythians and barbarous nations of the north were up in arms and invading the empire.

Aurelius again resolved to expose his aged person in defence of his country, and made speedy preparations to oppose them. He spent three days in giving the people lectures, by which they might regulate their lives, and then departed upon his expedition, amid the prayers and lamentations of all his subjects. It was upon going to open his third campaign that he was seized with the plague at Vienna, and expired in the fiftyninth year of his age after a reign of nineteen years.

Previous page                                                                         top of page                                                                                        Next page