The final “act” of the “Five Good Emperors”: Emperor Marcus Aurelius assumed his rule of Rome on 8 March 161 CE. Born near Córdoba in 121 CE, Aurelius spent much of his youth in Rome. He was not initially of imperial lineage but rather was adopted into the Hadrianic Dynasty as the son of Antoninus Pius in 138 CE. Thus, when Antoninus Pius died on 7 March 161, Marcus Aurelius became Emperor – that is, alongside his adopted brother, Lucius Verus. Aurelius and Verus served as co-Emperors until Verus’ death in 169 CE, after which point Aurelius would excel as a powerful and just leader.
Among his accomplishments as Emperor, Marcus Aurelius was renowned for his defeat of the Parthians and also for his philosophical rumination on the administration of the Empire, which resulted in relative peace and prosperity for the people of Rome. In 177 CE, Aurelius entered in joint rule once again, this time with his son Commodus, who was being groomed to take on his father’s position. Though Commodus’ reign would prove relatively disastrous, Marcus Aurelius is regarded nevertheless as one of the most significant rulers of 2nd-century CE Rome.
Portrait Bust of Marcus Aurelius, 2nd century CE. Glyptothek, Munich.
Portrait Bust of Marcus Aurelius as a Young Man, c. 140 CE. Capitoline Museum, Rome.
Portrait Bust of Marcus Aurelius, between 161-180 CE. Walters Art Museum.
Bronze Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 CE. Capitoline Museum, Rome.