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Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli

Felix dies natalis, Marce Aureli

Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus 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. When Marcus Aurelius was a young child he gained the attention and favor of Hadrian by the frankness of his character. Hadrian nicknamed himVerissimus, meaning most truthful or sincere.

In 127, at the age of six, Hadrian gave him equestrian honors, 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, Marcus’ uncle, on condition that he in turn adopt Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Ceionius Commodus (Lucius Verus), 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’.

Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius in a fringed cloak, circa 160-170, found in the House of Jason Magnus in Cyrene (Libya), British Museum Carole Raddato CC BY-SA

Marcus Aurelius, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen © Carole Raddato

Cuirassed statue of Marcus Aurelius, Capitoline Museums © Carole Raddato