Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius (/ɑːˈriːliəs/ or /ɑːˈriːljəs/; Latin: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180 and a Stoic philosopher. He was the last of the rulers traditionally known as the Five Good Emperors, and the last emperor of the Pax Romana, an age of relative peace and stability for the Roman Empire. He served as Roman consul in 140, 145, and 161.

The son of the praetor Marcus Annius Verus (III) and the wealthy heiress Domitia Lucilla, Marcus was raised by his grandfather, Marcus Annius Verus (II), after his father died. His uncle, Antoninus Pius, adopted him shortly before becoming emperor in 138. Now heir to the throne, Marcus studied Greek and Latin under tutors such as Herodes Atticus and Marcus Cornelius Fronto. He kept in close correspondence with Fronto for many years afterwards. Marcus married Antoninus' daughter Faustina in 145. Antoninus died following an illness in 161.

The reign of Marcus Aurelius was marked by military conflict. In the East, the Roman Empire fought successfully with a revitalized Parthian Empire and the rebel Kingdom of Armenia. Marcus defeated the Marcomanni, Quadi, and Sarmatian Iazyges in the Marcomannic Wars; however, these and other Germanic peoples began to represent a troubling reality for the Empire. He modified the silver purity of the Roman currency, the denarius. The persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire is believed to have increased during his reign. The Antonine Plague broke out in 165 or 166 and devastated the population of the Roman Empire, causing the deaths of five million people.

Marcus never adopted an heir unlike some of his predecessors; his children included Lucilla (who married Lucius Verus, co-emperor from 161 to 169) and Commodus, whose succession after Marcus has become a subject of debate among both contemporary and modern historians. The Column and Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius still stand in Rome, where they were erected in celebration of his military victories. Meditations, the writings of 'the philosopher' – as contemporary biographers called Marcus, are a significant source of the modern understanding of ancient Stoic philosophy. They have been praised by fellow writers, philosophers, monarchs, and politicians centuries after his death.

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Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius Antonius*

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Meditations (Medieval Greek: Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν, romanized: Ta eis heauton, literally "things to one's self") is a series of persona