165 A.D. Roman Empire Silver Denarius, Emperor Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180 A.D.). Light wear and a strong strike. Well-centered obverse, slightly off-center reverse. Bright rainbow toning on both sides. 18mm diameter, 3.2g weight, silver.
Made famous in popular culture by the movie Gladiator, Marcus Aurelius was the last of the Five Good Emperors. He was adopted by Antoninus Pius, whom he succeeded upon the latter’s death of illness in 161.
For the first eight years of his reign, he served alongside junior emperor Lucius Verus. After Verus’ death, he served another 11 years as sole emperor. Marcus Aurelius spent most of his time at war.
Early in his reign, his armies fought and defeated the Parthian Empire in the East. Facing increasing border raids from Germanic tribes to the north, he spent the last 14 years of his life personally leading his legions in the northern provinces.
Apart from his legacy as emperor, Marcus Aurelius has gained a lasting reputation as a philosopher. His “Meditations” is considered one of the foremost pieces of Stoic philosophy. (It’s also very readable and worthwhile to read).
Marcus Aurelius died of illness while campaigning in Germania – his natural son, the disreputable Commodus, succeeded him. It would perhaps have been more fortunate if he had no son, so that he could have followed the example of his predecessors and adopted a more deserving man as his heir. As it was, the Empire would soon fall once more into civil war.
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