Marcus Aurelius (full name: Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus) was the last of the Five Good Emperors of Rome born in 121 AD and ruling from 161 to 180. He honored the wishes of Pius, the previous Emperor, by sharing the imperial powers with Lucius Aurelius Verus until the latter's death in 169.
Marcus was a philosopher king who wrote many great works and his ascension to the throne is considered to be the triumph of stoicism. His book Meditations emphasized one's duty. Marcus Aurelius should have thought more about his successor, however, because his death marked the end of the Pax Romana when he passed the Emperorship on to his son instead of the most worthy successor.
In truth, Marcus Aurelius was involved in almost constant warfare, so some think that the Pax Romana ended with his reign. Parthia declared war and multiple Germanic tribes attacked. Marcus adeptly repelled all invasions. Unfortunately, the war with Parthia in the East had another consequence as the returning troops brought the plague with them in 166 and 167. Areas of the Empire were severely depopulated. Marcus allowed German tribes to settle in the Empire to repopulate the decimated areas.
Although considered to have been a good Emperor for Rome, he was not necessarily a friend of Christianity, which he persecuted.
A great, bronze equestrian statue of Aurelius remains on the Palatine Hill, at the Palatine Museum, where it was preserved from incineration because later Romans thought it was a statue of Constantine.
- Dupuy & Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History, 1977
- William L. Langer, An Encyclopedia of World History, 1948