Thursday, May 11, 2006
Adoption by Antoninus
He was Antoninus Pius' nephew and the son of Hadrian's brother-in-law. Therefore, on the death of Hadrian's first adopted son Aelius Verus, Hadrian made it a precondition of making Antoninus his successor that Antoninus would adopt Marcus (then called Marcus Annius Verus) and Lucius Verus (Aelius Verus' son), and arrange for them to be next in the line.
This Antoninus did, adopting and designating them as his successors on February 25, 138, when Marcus was only seventeen years of age.
When Antoninus died on March 7, 161, Marcus accepted the throne on the condition that he and Verus were made joint emperors (Augusti), with Verus partly subordinate. This was partly because the two were Antoninus' joint heirs.
The joint succession may have also been motivated by military exigences, since, during his reign, Marcus Aurelius was almost constantly at war with various peoples outside the empire. A highly authoritative figure was needed to command the troops, yet the emperor himself could not defend both the German and Parthian fronts at the same time. Neither could he simply appoint a general to lead the legions; earlier popular military leaders like Julius Caesar and Vespasian had used the military to overthrow the existing government and install themselves as supreme leaders. Marcus Aurelius solved the problem by sending Verus to command the legions in the east. He was authoritative enough to command the full loyalty of the troops, but already powerful enough that he had little incentive to overthrow Marcus. The plan succeeded—Verus remained loyal until his death on campaign in 169.
This joint emperorship was faintly reminiscent of the political system of the Roman Republic, which functioned according to the principle of collegiality and did not allow a single person to hold supreme power. Joint rule was revived by Diocletian's establishment of the Tetrarchy in the late 3rd century.
Germany and the Danube
Germanic tribes and many people had launched many raids along the Northern border, particularly into Gaul and across the Danube— Germans, in turn, may have been under attack from more warlike tribes farther east. His campaigns against them are commemorated on the Column of Marcus Aurelius.
In Asia, a revitalized Parthian Empire renewed its assault. Marcus Aurelius sent his joint emperor Verus to command the legions in the east to face this threat. On the return from the victorious campaign, Verus was awarded with a triumph; the parade was unusual because it included Verus, Marcus Aurelius, their sons and unmarried daughters as a big family celebration.
While on campaign between 170 and 180, Aurelius wrote his Meditations as a source for his own guidance and self-improvement. He had been a priest at the sacrificial altars of Roman service and was an eager patriot. He had a logical mind though his notes were representative of Stoic philosophy and spirituality. Meditations is still revered as a literary monument to a government of service and duty. It has been praised for its "exquisite accent and its infinite tenderness" and "saintliness" being called the "gospel of his life." They have been compared by John Stuart Mill in his Utility of Religion to the Sermon on the Mount.
The book itself was first published in 1558 in Zurich, from a manuscript copy that is now lost. The only other surviving complete copy of the manuscript is in the Vatican library.
Contacts with China
At the time of Marcus Aurelius, the chronicles of the Han Dynasty say that in 166 AD, Roman representatives met Huan, the emperor of China, in the Chinese capital of Luoyang. According to the chronicles, the Romans stated that they had been sent by Antun. Given the year, this may have been Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. On the other hand, contemporary Roman chronicles make no mention of any attempts to contact the Chinese. (See also the article on Roman embassies to China.)
Marcus Aurelius died on March 17, 180 during the expedition against the Marcomanni and Quadi in the city of Vindobona (modern Vienna). His ashes were returned to Rome and rest in Hadrian's mausoleum (modern Castel Sant'Angelo). He was also commemorated by a column in Rome.
Succession and historical legacy
He was able to secure the succession for his son Commodus, whom he made co-emperor in his own lifetime (in 177), though the choice may have been unknowingly unfortunate. Commodus was a political and military outsider, as well as an extreme egotist. Many historians believe that the decline of Rome began under Commodus. For this reason, Aurelius' death is often held to have been the end of the Pax Romana.
From Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia you can write