Marcus Aurelius Denarius. 174-5 AD. M ANTONINVS AVG TR PXXV, laureate head right / IMP VI COS III, Victory seated left, holding patera and palm
"Marcus Antoninus the Philosopher"
Marcus Aurelius, who assumed power in 161CE and reigned until 180 CE, was the fifth of the"Adoptive Emperors," the Golden Age of the Empire under the emperors Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and himself. Unfortunately, Marcus Aurelius broke the tradition of adopting the best man for the job, and passed the Empire on to his own son; the dynasty soon came to an end. Marcus ruled during difficult times; famine and plague hurt Rome within, and barbarians were pushing back the borders from without. He seems to have been a good and conscientious ruler who was magnanimous towards his enemies. He banned informers, stamped down hard on corruption, and freed slaves at every opportunity. Although he tolerated the circus, he ordered gladiators to fight with blunted points. Needing extra funds for his wars in Eastern Europe, he refused to raise taxes but instead held a public auction of his own golden tableware and of his wife's silk and gold embroidered dresses. Marcus Aurelius is best known as the philosopher-emperor who wrote down his "meditations" in greek; they are among the best examples of stoic philosophy which we have. "Plato's judgment was always on his lips, that states flourished if philosophers ruled or rulers were philosophers." It is this quality of Marcus' character which has made him a unique figure in Roman history since he was the first emperor whose life was molded by, and devoted to, philosophy.
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