Marcus Aurelius Biography

Marcus Aurelius was one of the most cherished Roman emperors in history. Go through this article to learn more about his profile, childhood, life and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: April 26, 121

Nationality: Ancient Roman

Famous: Quotes By Marcus Aurelius Leaders

Died At Age: 58

Sun Sign: Taurus

Also Known As: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus

Born in: Rome

Famous as: Roman Emperor

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Spouse/Ex-: Faustina the Younger

father: Marcus Annius Verus

mother: Domitia Lucilla

Died on: March 17, 180

place of death: Vindobona

Personality: ISFJ

City: Rome, Italy

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Marcus Aurelius was one of the most revered Roman Emperors who believed in placing his empire before everything else in his life. To date, his name is well-maintained in antiquity. An eager follower of Stoicism, his philosophical ideals and writings were all compiled and preserved in a dairy for over ten years, which is known to the world today as ‘Meditations’. At a time when battle and malady destabilized the Roman empire from all sides, Aurelius made sure that he was every bit the emperor his people wanted him to be, by protecting them from the callousness of the Germans and the Parthians. As a young boy, it is believed that this powerful leader was in fact, an earnest child and took to music, drama, literature, the sciences and geometry to keep himself busy. In his youth, he studied philosophy with fervor for the next couple of decades and also developed an interest in law, which earned him the position of the leader of the senate. During his reign as the emperor, he fought the northern nemeses along with his brother, Verus and son, Commodus and began to expand his empire’s borders despite all the war pandemonium. Today, he is remembered for his writings, reflective nature and his statute driven by cause.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Marcus Aurelius was born on 26 April 121 into a wealthy, prominent family in Rome, Italy. He was extremely bright as a young boy and was a dedicated student, tutored by many private educators.
  • He was passionate about literature, music, Latin and Greek, but took great interest and absorbed himself in the works of the Stoic philosopher, Epictetus, who had a great influence over the Roman emperor’s ideologies from very early on. This sort of intellectual dedication was noticed by the-then emperor, Hadrian.
  • After Hadrian’s former choice of heir passed away, he adopted Titus Aurelius Antoninus to succeed him as emperor. Hadrian also organized for Antoninus to embrace and take young Aurelius under his wing at the age of 17.
  • Thus, he lived and worked closely with his adopted father, while learning the ways of political and public affairs.
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Accession & Reign
  • In 140 CE, Aurelius became emissary, or leader of the senate—a post he would hold twice in his life. As the years passed, he was given more political errands and official powers and thus, he slowly progressed into a sturdy source of backing and guidance for Antoninus, his father.
  • During this time, he also continued to study philosophy and harbored an interest in law. After his father passed away in 161 CE, he rose to power and was officially known as ‘Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus’.
  • While many documents suggest that he was the emperor’s only successor, Aurelius is believed to have insisted that his adopted brother, Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus, also serve as the co-ruler.
  • Unlike the nonviolent reign of their father, Antoninus, the joint sovereignty of the two brothers was dotted with countless bloody wars and plagues. Through the mid and late 160s, the brothers combated the Parthians for control of lands in the East.
  • Verus, his brother, supervised the war struggle, while Aurelius managed their empire back home. Much of their victory in this battle has been credited to the generals employed under Verus, particularly Avidius Cassius.
  • The soldiers, who returned from war back to Rome, carried with them a number of lethal illnesses, which destroyed nearly half the population of Rome.
  • Aurelius and his brother clashed with the German tribes in the late 160s.This was after the tribes crossed the Danube river and attacked a Roman city.
  • Following the sudden death of his brother, Verus (possibly due to an illness), in 169 CE, Aurelius continued the battle with his troops, fighting the Germans back from the border.
  • In 175 CE, his position as the emperor was challenged by none other than Avidius Cassius. While Aurelius was away combating the Germans, rumors were rife that that he had become seriously ill. Seizing the opportunity, Cassius claimed the title of emperor for himself.
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  • This forced Aurelius to travel back to Rome to regain control; however, he never had to confront Cassius himself, as the general was slain by his own soldiers. Thus, he got back to traveling the eastern regions with his wife, re-establishing control in every city he set foot on.
  • In 177 CE, Aurelius made his son, Commodus, his co-ruler. They fought the German tribes and also tussled with the northern enemies of the empire, while trying to extend the empire’s geographical borders.
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Major Battles
  • In 167, the German tribes invaded a Roman city. Marcus and Verus arranged for funds for their own soldiers and finally after assembling a strong army, they drove the Germans away from their lands. However, Verus died during this time and Aurelius was made the sole emperor of Roman empire.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married Faustina the Younger, a relative, in 145. The couple had 13 children together in their marriage of three decades. Two of them went on to become famous; Lucilla and Commodus.
  • From 170 to 180, Aurelius wrote ‘Meditations’ a philosophical text. The book itself was first published in 1558 in Zurich and the only remaining copy can be found in the Vatican library.
  • He passed away in Vindobona (Vienna) on 17 March 180 and his ashes were taken back to Rome. His son, Commodus, succeeded his father as the emperor. In 410, his battles against the Germans were memorialized by a pillar and a shrine in Rome.
  • Following his death, he earned the title of philosopher-king; a title that still exists today.
  • In 1964, the film, ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ and the 2000 film, ‘Gladiator’ were based on the character of Marcus Aurelius.
  • This famous Roman emperor was a devout student of philosophy and loved the subject so much that he donned the attire of a philosopher and was even known to sleep on the floor, until his mother stopped him from doing so.

See the events in life of Marcus Aurelius in Chronological Order

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- Marcus Aurelius Biography
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Last Updated
- September 13, 2017
Marcus Aurelius

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