Marcus Aurelius was one of the greatest emperors of Rome. Not only was he a great military strategist and political leader, but he was also a profound philosopher, heir to Stoic doctrines.
From an early age he managed to gain the trust of Emperor Hadrian, who wanted him to be his successor after Antoninus Pius. With Marcus Aurelius, it seemed that Plato’s ideal was fulfilled, which predicted that the happiness of peoples would be achieved with philosophical kings.
But Marc Aureli’s mandate was not a path of roses. If Rome couldn’t be more elated, it also had its problems. In addition, their direct parents were not up to what should be an Imperial family. Let’s see their story through a biography of Marc Aureli.
Brief biography of Marc Aureli
The life of Marco Aurelio is that of an excellent emperor, who knew how to manage the kingdoms of the most powerful civilization of his time, Rome. But, also, it is the life of an avid reader, interested in the philosophical doctrines of his time. He also practiced it, writing his Meditations and expressing his stoic nature. Marcus Aurelius accepted reality as a natural diktat to which humans must submit. For this reason, from an early age, the philosopher emperor accepted without complaint the fate that awaited him.
Randy, (born Marcus Aurelius) was born in Rome in 121, in a Hispanic people of the city of Rome. Her mother was Domicia Lucilla, and was orphan of father, exercising this paper during a time her paternal grandfathers, the prefect Rome Annio Vero. From a young age he attracted attention with his frankness and naive intelligence, which aroused the interest of Emperor Hadrian who, being only six years old, raised him to the equestrian order. .
Having obtained such an honor, a really important aristocratic rank, Marcus Aurelius was obliged to appear from an early age in all kinds of ceremonies. He didn’t like it, as he had to distance himself from his playmates and, over time, the boy became more taciturn.
At the age of eight, he was admitted to the sacerdotal college of Salis, That along with the arvales, the lupercos and the fecials conformed the four brotherhoods in charge of the ceremonial tasks in the college of the pontiffs. These monks performed the rites of war and alliance on behalf of the Roman people.
It was a really moving time for Marc Aureli. Even the attire was something that surpassed him, as he had to wear a thick crimson robe, accompanied by heavy armor and a bronze helmet, which he had to wear poses to perform complicated priestly dances. In addition, he had to endure exaggerated banquets, tiberias which made him feel aversion to such excesses, causing him to develop a taste for sobriety.
During his early years, Marc Aureli lived under the protection of his paternal grandfather, but after his death all this work was left in the hands of his mother Domicia Lucilla.. She was an affectionate but demanding woman, devoted to the task of taking care of Marcus Aurelius, especially since the Emperor was interested in him as a possible successor. Domicia was a cultured woman who insisted that Marco practice Greek, because it was the language of Plato, suitable for culture, thought and philosophy.
At that time, he went to live with his maternal great-grandfather Catherine Severus, on Mount Celius, a district of Aptricias mansions that rivaled the Imperial Palatine villages. Catalino Sever knew how to see the virtues of his descendant and granted him the exemption from school so that he could study at home. In his house he would receive the teachings of prestigious disciples of Seneca and of the Stoic school, known as Porche. They taught him mainly Latin literature.
To complete your training, his mother’s name was Diognetus, another master of the porch with whom young aristocrats learned the art of painting, singing and dancing.. It is this sage more than anyone who initiated the young Marc Aureli to philosophical reflection. However, in this pleasant youth surrounded by philosophers, he had no experience or any first contact with the art of war, which he could catch up with several years later.
Philosopher in practice
Philosophical influences prompted Marcus Aurelius to want to behave like a true philosopher in his adolescence, by putting it into practice. He considered that what was good for a simple shepherd should not be bad for him, so decides to wear coarse tunics and fall asleep on the tables on the floor, behaving in the poorest way possible. He wanted to show that an apprentice philosopher born in a not at all wealthy country was able to practice his philosophy and not simply limit himself to the theorist.
Over time, new thinkers will come through their lives. Among them is Rústic June, a philosopher who forces Marc Aureli to contact the work of Epictetus.. Specifically, he talks about the Inquiridion, a manual of moral maxims that serves as a guide and literary inspiration for the young man. However, the most important of those who cross his path is undoubtedly Corneli Frontó, a teacher, a confidant and, over time, a dear friend with whom he will maintain a fraternal bond that will last for many years.
Inspired by his Stoic principles, Marcus Aurelius tried to give everything its true value. However, over time it was felt that nothing, however unfair, should be reformed. Everything had to be accepted as an expression of nature and the cosmos. Even slavery, which he regarded as a disgusting social scourge, should not be repressed. It was the right order of things. Some have seen in this acceptance the forerunner of Christian resignation.
Marc Aureli he thought that even though the great Epictetus had been a slave and the terrible emperor Nero, the world was well, balanced. The cruelty of the emperor was outweighed by the wisdom of the free philosopher. He thought that, as Epictetus had been wise, he ended up being highly respected, while Emperor Nero ended up being the enemy of all his subjects. Fate, one way or another, ended up putting everyone in their place.
In spring 136, Marc Aurèle celebrates his fifteenth birthday and takes the manly toga. He is already considered a full adult and can attend audiences, rituals and banquets as such. This is a very important moment, because in these religious ceremonies hints and portents of the great future that awaited him were revealed to him.
To greet Mars salii, the priests each had to throw their garland on the statue of the god of war. When it was Marc Aureli’s turn, unlike the gurinaldas of the other participants who had fallen at the feet of the god, his fall on his head. admired, priests interpreted this as a sign of their greatness, especially in terms of warAnd they recognized him as a future consul bathed in victories.
These predictions attracted courtiers, who tried to win their favor. Knowing that Marcus Aurelius would be an illustrious figure for the empire, it was advisable to win his friendship so that he would be generous once in power. However, the young man, at least free from ceremonial obligations, fled in terror of any company other than that of a good book.
It is then when Adriano calls him to Rome, to walk with him through his city on the outskirts. with that Adriano wanted to get to know Marc Aureli better, to see what pasta it was made of and how it had matured. He wanted to know if, given his demeanor, she could trust him to take the reins of the all-powerful Roman Empire.
When Hadrian appoints Antoninus Pius as his direct successor, he asks him to adopt Marcus Aurelius as his successor.. At that time, the young man was already 18 years old and, before his appointment as the new Caesar associated with the throne, he moved with his mother Domicai to the Imperial Palace of the Palatine, although he did not wish to. The world begins to see it and not to Antonin Pius as the real one heir, because Antoninus was already 50 years old and his health was fragile, so his government was to be nothing more than an interregnum.
He arrived in 138 and Hadrian was satisfied with his management of the empire. He had brought peace and prosperity to an empire he had inherited. This resulted in serious wars and economic instability. He was calm knowing that he had found a good successor, not in the figure of Antoninus Pius, but in that of Marcus Aurelius. However, the plan did not unfold as he had planned because, wearing the imperial diadem, Antony Pius, far from living barely a few years, succeeded in reigning for twenty-one years.
so Marcus Aurelius was appointed Caesar in 139 and, already consul, in 145, he married Faustina, daughter of Antoninus Pius himself.. The main reason for this was to be able to establish stronger dynastic ties. He wanted her but not passionately, because the future Empress was not up to her position. Faustina had no decorum and this quality gave her a very bad reputation, especially since her relations with strong gladiators were public, which the imperial court chatted day and night.
Antoninus Pius was not a bad leader. He continued the reforms proposed by Hadrian, managed to maintain the status quo and created several works. His reign was profitable for Marcus Aurelius because he was able to continue his apprenticeship without having to leave Rome, firmly attached to the heart of the Empire. He was not yet interested in adventures in distant lands or in war, for he was still very attached to his books and to the porch masters who had taught him so much.
Emperor Marcus Aurelius
In 161, Marcus Aurelius finally ascended the imperial throne. Rome and its empire have reached their greatest expansion. The Roman Empire is the largest civilization in the Mediterranean to have conquered its coasts and has key territories such as Hispania, Anatolia and Great Britain. The Romans see themselves as the border between the civilized and the grandiose with the barbarian and the primitive, and their border is always a place under constant threat.
Already known as Marcus Elius Aurelius Verus Antoninus Imperor, Marcus Aurelius is aware of the power he wields. He is at the helm of an empire that is in its golden age and is doing everything possible to preserve and defend it. Rome had succeeded in unifying East and West, trying to impose its lifestyle on other European, Asian and African cultures., Whether by reason and progress or by arms.
Marcus Aurelius prefers to preserve the territories and during the twenty years of his reign he chooses not to risk conquests. He chose to establish diplomatic contact with other cultures because, contrary to what his contemporaries thought, Marcus Aurelius did not believe that Rome was the only seat of culture. There must have been greater civilizations, which could offer new knowledge to the Roman world. Still not without difficulty, he managed to send ambassadors to countries like China and India.
From philosophy to combat
Although the priests promised him a bright future and his political management was full of excellent intentions and good intentions, problems arose. Wars, disease and revolts have become a daily thing, forcing the ruler to move across the empire to reduce tensions. He did not want to expand, but war with the barbarian tribes was inevitable.
As a tenacious and wise man, Marcus Aurelius, who was already well known as the philosopher emperor, knew how to control the empire. During his travels through the empire, he found the time to devote himself to writing his Meditations, his most famous work. It is a collection of stoicism in which he tries to forget his military function and seeks the dignity of human nature.
Marc Aureli loved Rome, and as much as he could, he tried to stay. However, the military campaigns required his presence to take the head of the army and he therefore passed quickly through the capital. Although in his youth he had not been trained in the art of war he served as a great military strategist, leading to numerous victories in the military, As the priests of Mars predicted. He proved that Hadrian had chosen him wisely.
Although he is not the same as the city, he ends up enjoying the military life. It was a life of sobriety, without women or luxury, as he had wanted since his teenage years. In this stage their best friendly were not philosophers, but the generals of the staff, between which we can emphasize to Claudius Pompeià and Helvetio Pertinax. It was truly a change of scenery, and it didn’t hurt to defeat the hordes of barbarians threatening the border. Some saw it as the reincarnation of Alexander the Great.
The soldier Marc Aurèle awakens the conscience of the Empress Faustina. Whether out of remorse for his behavior or because her husband had become a virile soldier, Faustina decided to report to the Sirmium camp at the beginning of 175 with two of her daughters, to accompany her husband who, at that time, was sick.
As her husband was ill, Faustina took care of her duties in military ceremonies and led the army on behalf of the emperor when Marcus Aurelius could not stand up. The bad reputation of the daughter of Antoninus Pius disappeared, giving way to a very good reputation among the military, who gave her the title of Mater Castrorum, that is to say the Mother of the Camps. This name would begin to appear on the coins bearing his image.
Crossing Asia and back to Rome
After pacifying the lands of Asia, the emperor spent the winter of 175 to 176 in the city of Alexandria. He could not miss such a magnificent city, a city full of culture, especially in its library where Marc Aureli spent many hours before leaving. He later decided to return to Europe, crossing Palestine and Syria, lands where he would be shocked by the primitives represented by the desert tribes.
This trip ended up being bittersweet like, although he appreciated the magnificence of Alexandria, he must have experienced the sudden death of his wife Faustina upon arriving in Halala, Cappadocia. Legend has it that Faustina had not abandoned her sexual customs and that the emperor, fed up with his debauchery, suggested that she commit suicide for the decoration, following the Stoic tradition.
After that, Marcus Aurelius stopped in Izmir where he could appreciate seeing dozens of palaces. In that same town, he warned his son Comfortable about his licentious life. The young man was barely sixteen but was violent and disrespectful, quite the opposite of what his father was. Confortable was known to have a lover, a Greek master of intrigue who was only interested in circus life. The emperor did not have many illusions about his son, but his successor wanted to., Thinking that he would mature when he took office.
After leaving Izmir, he went to Athens, which he considered his spiritual homeland. There he visited all the philosophical schools and also established a college. This college could be considered the oldest antecedent of what would be the medieval universities, in which there were four chairs for the existing currents: Stoic, Aristotelian (Peripatetic), Cynic and Epicurean. The emperor’s tolerance for the rights of others surprised the people of Athens.
Soon after, he managed to return to Rome where his people were waiting in ecstasy for him.. The crowd cheerfully shouted to see the Emperor return, strolling the avenues and Imperial Forums. However, at one point in the cavalcade, the emperor wanted to pay homage to his son Comfortable, descending from the chariot and giving the reins to his son. Unfortunately, people couldn’t ignore Comfortable’s bad reputation, calling and cursing him.
Marcus Aurelius could not take advantage of his beloved Rome, because the barbarians decided to rise up on the banks of the Danube. He spent the year 179 in the Carnuntum camp, trying to pacify the region. While he was here he wrote down his thoughts, especially his worry for death and how he was trying to make his son more comfortable. responsible, that he would live up to his future leadership position.
Unfortunately, the end of his path has come. The plague that had ravaged the empire since 166 found him victim and flat on him. Marc Aureli dies at 180 being considered one of the greatest rulers in the history of Rome. His successor was his son Commodus who, far from being like his father, precipitated the fall of the great Roman Empire. With the death of Marcus Aurelius died an emperor who, as Plato had predicted, being a philosopher king had brought happiness and wealth to his subjects.
- Grimal, P. (1997). Marc Aureli. Mexico: Fund for Economic Culture. ISBN 84-375-0434-1.
- Adams, Geoff W. (2013) Marc Aurelius in Augustan History and Beyond. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739176382.