By Pat Southern
Last updated 2011-02-17
Hadrian determined upon Marcus Aurelius for the succession while he was still a child. Marcus was the nephew of Faustina and her husband Antoninus Pius, who succeeded Hadrian. On the death of Hadrian, Marcus married their daughter.
A few years after his accession in 161 AD Marcus was plunged into warfare on the northern frontiers, where it was essential that the emperor himself led the campaigns. Here he wrote his philosophical meditations. Before he could bring these wars to a satisfactory conclusion, he was forced to go to the east where his general Avidius Cassius had raised rebellion. He was back on the Danube by 178 AD and remained there till his death in 180 AD.
One of the notable features of his reign is his promotion of army officers and civilian administrators on merit, rather than on noble birth. The increasing employment of the middle classes had begun under Hadrian. Marcus refined the process, appointing capable people to posts most suited to their abilities. Usually he elevated them in rank also, so that senatorial feathers were not ruffled. By this means he laid the foundations of social mobility and broadened the recruitment base for the armies, allowing for greater future flexibility.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.