Marcus Aurelius

The Arch of Constantine. July 25, 315.

The Arch of Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I’s victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge that took place on 28 October 312. The Battle took its name from the Milvian Bridge, an important route over the Tiber. Constantine won the battle and started on the path that led him to end the Tetrarchy and become the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. Maxentius drowned in the Tiber during the battle; his body was later taken from the river and decapitated, his head paraded through the streets of Rome on the day following the battle. According to chroniclers such as Eusebius of Caesarea and Lactantius, the battle marked the beginning of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Eusebius of Caesarea recounts that Constantine and his soldiers had a vision sent by the Chr...

The Battle of Lugdunum. February 19, 197.

After the murder of Emperor Pertinax (193), a struggle began for the succession to the throne, the so-called Year of the Five Emperors. The new self-proclaimed Emperor in Rome, Didius Julianus, had to face the commander of the Pannonian legions, Septimius Severus. Before moving on Rome, Severus made an alliance with the powerful commander of the legions in Britannia, Clodius Albinus, recognizing him as Caesar. After eliminating Didius that same year and then defeating the governor of Syria in 194, Severus launched a successful campaign in the East in 195. Severus then tried to legitimize his power, connecting himself with Marcus Aurelius, and raising his own son to the rank of Caesar. This last act broke Severus’ alliance with Albinus, who was declared a public enemy by the Senate. I...

This Week In History – Commodus Imperator. 27 November 177 AD.

On November 27, 177, Emperor Marcus Aurelius granted his son Commodus the rank of “Imperator” and makes him Supreme Commander of the Roman legions. This marked the start of Commodus´ rule, first as co-emperor with his father, and solely after his father´s death in 180. His accession was the first time a son had succeeded his biological father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. He was also the first emperor to have both a father and grandfather (who had adopted his father) as the two preceding emperors. During his solo reign, the Empire enjoyed a period of peace and reduced military conflict compared to his father´s reign but intrigues and conspiracies abounded, leading Commodus to an increasingly dictatorial style of leadership that culminated in a God-like personality cult...

Hadrian Dies at Baiae – July 10, 138 AD

Trajan expanded the borders of the Roman Empire to its greatest extent and was hoping his adopted successor, Hadrian, would continue to conquer even more territory. Hadrian was an experienced soldier, having campaigned with Trajan against the Parthians as a legate in early 117. History doesn’t describe Hadrian as having done anything outstanding during the campaign, however, Trajan did appoint him as governor of Syria when the current governor had to vacate to deal with problems in Dacia. During this time, Trajan was of ill health and getting worse, so he returned to Rome and left Hadrian in the East to keep matters under control. This is a great category in Roman Coins. After Trajan died on August 8, 117, Hadrian was endorsed by the Senate on August 9 as the next Roman emperor. Although n...

Didius Julianus – January 30, 133 AD

According to Cassius Dio, Marcus Didius Severus Julianus was born in Milan on January 30, 133 AD to Quintus Petronius Didius Severus and Aemilia Clara. His father hailed from a prominent Milanese family and his North African mother from a family of rank of consuls. This well-connected parentage afforded him the opportunity to be raised in the house of Domitia Lucilla, the mother of emperor Marcus Aurelius. Domitia helped Julianus attain his first appointment at an early age – a member of the vigintivirate, a college of twenty minor magistrates in charge of everything from lawsuits to road maintenance to casting and striking coins. This college was often a stepping-stone of the sons of senators to begin their public careers and even Julius Caesar served in it as curator viarum. While in off...

Death of Antoninus Pius – March 7, 161 AD

Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus was born September 19, 86 AD to Titus Aurelius Fulvus and Arria Fadilla near Lanuvium, Italy. Antoninus’s father and grandfather were both consuls in Rome and in 130 AD, he held the position as well. Sometime between 133 and 136 he became the proconsul of Asia. Nearing the end of his life, the emperor Hadrian adopted Lucius Aelius Verus in 136 in expectations of passing along the throne to him. When Aelius died unexpectedly of an acute illness on January 1, 138, Hadrian had a problem – no heirs and failing health himself. On February 25, he adopted Antoninus, who was married to Faustina Senior, with the understanding he would in turn adopt Faustina’s nephew, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, the son of Aelius. On July 10, Hadrian died and An...

The Gladiator Emperor – December 31, 192

Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus was born in 161 AD, at Lanuvium, to the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and Faustina Junior. Even though the practice of naming genetic offspring as the next ruler had fallen out of fashion with end of the Flavian Era, Commodus and his younger brother, Annius Verus, were made co-Caesar when they were both elevated at 5 or 6 years old and 3 respectively. Only Commodus lived to adulthood, however – Annius Verus died around six years old. Commodus accompanied Marcus Aurelius on campaigns during his early adolescent years, where he began his training. When Commodus was 15, his father elevated him to co-Augustus and he married Crispina. Marcus Aurelius died only three years later and Commodus abandoned pretty much everything his father worked to achieve on...

Marcus Aurelius Promoted – December 1, 147 AD

Marcus Aurelius was born to Marcus Annius Verus and Domitia Lucilla in 121 AD. Although his parents were wealthy, they were not descendants of the current emperor, Hadrian, or his lineage. However, these were different times in the Roman Empire from when Augustus began it the century previous – these were the times of adoptive lineage. Aurelius spent his childhood in his family’s estate, with private tutors, and later credited his family for all of his upbringing and good personality traits. Although his father died when he was only three, he credits him with instilling “modesty and manliness” through his teachings and his posthumous reputation. He credits his mother for his “piety, simplicity of diet and avoiding the ways of the rich”. Aurelius also credited his tutors for shaping h...

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