Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (Marcus Aelius Aurelius Antoninus) (mär´kəs ôrē´lēəs), 121–180, Roman emperor, named originally Marcus Annius Verus. He was a nephew of Faustina, the wife of Antoninus Pius, who adopted him. Marcus married Antoninus' daughter, another Faustina. From youth he was a diligent student and a zealous Stoic. With his adoptive brother, Lucius Verus, as colleague, Marcus succeeded Antoninus in 161. Verus allowed him to dominate, and from 169 Marcus was sole emperor. His reign was spent defending the empire against Parthians, Germans, and Britons. He won a victory over the Marcomanni (167–168), which was commemorated by the Antonine column (Piazza Colonna, Rome), erected by his son and successor, Commodus. Devoted to his duty and humanitarian in his conception of it, Marcus Aurelius was concerned with improving living conditions for the poor, particularly minors. He was always lenient with political criminals and tried to decrease the brutality at gladiatorial shows. He did, however, persecute the Christians, whom he regarded as natural enemies of the empire. His Meditations, available in several translations, expresses with great beauty and humanity a philosophy with a Stoic basis. The virtuous character of Marcus Aurelius is revealed in his letters to his tutor Fronto.

See biography by A. R. Birley (1966); study by J. H. Oliver (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
Paul Barron Watson.
Harper & Brothers, 1884
The Roman Mind: Studies in the History of Thought from Cicero to Marcus Aurelius
M. L. Clarke.
Harvard University Press, 1956
FREE! Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius
Samuel Dill.
MacMillan, 1905 (2nd edition)
Ethics and Rhetoric: Classical Essays for Donald Russell on His Seventy-Fifth Birthday
Doreen Innes; Harry Hine; Christopher Pelling; D. A. Russell.
Oxford University, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "Julian and Marcus Aurelius"
FREE! The Roman Empire, B.C. 29-A.D. 476
H. Stuart Jones.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1908
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VI "The Age of the Antonine" which discusses Marcus Aurelius
The Roman Philosophers: From the Time of Cato the Censor to the Death of Marcus Aurelius
Mark Morford.
Routledge, 2002
Citizens of Long Ago: Essays on Life and Letters in the Roman Empire
Adeline Belle Hawes.
Oxford University Press, 1934
The Life and Principate of the Emperor Hadrian, A.D. 76-138
Bernard W. Henderson.
Methuen, 1923
The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics
Brad Inwood.
Cambridge University Press, 2003
The Roman World, 44 BC-AD 180
Martin Goodman; Jane Sherwood.
Routledge, 1997
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