Marcus Aurelius, Nerva–Antonine dynasty, Roman Portraiture, SPQR

Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli!

Marcus Aurelius was born Marcus Annius Verus on April 26, 121 AD of an aristocratic family of Spanish origin (from Ucubi, a small town southeast of Cordoba in Baetica). He was the last of the five “good” emperors of Rome and a major Stoic philosopher.

Portrait of Emperor Marcus Aurelius as a boy, Musei Capitolini, Rome

When Marcus Aurelius was a young child he gained the attention and favour of Hadrian by the frankness of his character. Hadrian nicknamed him Verissimus, meaning most truthful or sincere.

In 127 AD, at the age of six, Hadrian gave him equestrian honours and made him a priest of the Salii at the age of eight.  After the death of Aelius Caesar (the adopted son and intended successor of Hadrian), Hadrian adopted as his heir Antoninus Pius, the uncle of Marcus, on condition that he, in turn, should adopt both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Ceionius Commodus (Lucius Verus), the son of Aelius Caesar. This became known as the Antonine Dynasty. Their reigns were considered as the height of Roman power and glory, and it was once said that this was ‘the happiest times of humanity’.

Portrait of Marcus Aurelius as a young man, from the Area of San Teodoro on the Palatine, Palatine Museum, Rome
Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius in a fringed cloak, circa 160-170, found in the House of Jason Magnus in Cyrene (Libya), British Museum

Links and further reading:

Marcus Aurelius, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Cuirassed statue of Marcus Aurelius, Capitoline Museums

“All is ephemeral — fame and the famous as well.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Marcus Aurelius, from the Mausoleum of Hadrian, Rome, AD 170-180, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love…” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Musei Capitolini, Rome

“Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you foresee the future too.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Portrait of emperor Marcus Aurelius, from Rome, after AD 169, Liebieghaus, Frankfurt am Main

“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Young Marcus Aurelius, Venice Museo Archeologico, Italy

“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.” Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Marcus Aurelius, between 180 and 183 AD, from the villa of Marcus Aurelius daughter Lucilla at Acqua Traversa, near Rome (Italy), Louvre Museum, Paris

Further portraits of Marcus Aurelius can be viewed from my image collection on Flickr.

4 thoughts on “Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli!”

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