AURELIUS, Antoninus Marcus, Roman emperor and philosopher, known in history as Marcus Aurelius, born in 121; died March 17, 180 A. D. He is counted the crown and flower of the school of philosophy known as Stoicism, the noblest of all pagans, and was the adopted son and the son-in-law of Antoninus Pius, whom he succeeded on the throne in 161.
At the early age of seventeen he gained the favor of Emperor Hadrian. He was a pupil of Sextus, of the orator Herodes Atticus, and of Mecianus, an eminent jurist, through whom he formed the acquaintance of many learned men, and became an advocate of Stoic philosophy.
He distinguished himself as sole commander of the army as early as 169, in which capacity he prosecuted with great vigor successive campaigns against the barbarians, and finally compelled them to sue for peace. Subsequently he conducted effective warfare in Asia, and, while in the East, visited Egypt and Northern Africa, and before returning home made an extended visit to Greece.
On reaching Rome he was again compelled to take the field against new barbarian invasions of the savage Marcomanni and defeated the enemy several times, but was taken sick and died at Vindobona, now the city of Vienna. Although he possessed great liberality, a wide knowledge of philosophy, and magnanimity of character, he persecuted the Christians; not that he desired to suppress their worship, but rather that he feared their doctrines would hinder good government, and thought them enemies of the empire. While he was noted as a philosopher and wrote much on scientific subjects, the only work extant is one written in Greek, called "Meditations." This work has been translated into most modern languages and has had a wide circulation.