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Marcus was born in Rome on April 26, 121 and raised
in a wealthy and politically prominent family. He was
noticed by the Emperor Hadrian while he was still a
child and was consequently given special educational
privileges. Marcus was enrolled in the Equestrians at
the age of six and the next year he was given special
permission to attend the priestly college of the Salii in
Rome. It was here that Marcus was taught by the
greatest thinkers of the day, representing a variety of
In 167, the German tribes invaded a Roman city.
Marcus and Verus arranged for funds for their
own soldiers and finally after assembling a
strong army, they drove the Germans away from
their lands. However, Verus died during this
time and Aurelius was made the sole emperor of
Roman empire.
He ruled during the era of the "Five Good
Emperors" and was considered one of them, but
came to power during troubled times, which
some historians describe as the beginning of the
decline of the empire, therefore his
accomplishments, compared to the JulioClaudians, for example, were limited. Most of his
time as emperor was spent fending off invading
Germanic tribes in the north and the Parthian
empire in the east.
Several German tribes invaded Italy in 169. This is the
first actual invasion of Italy by foreign forces in several
centuries. It shocked the Romans into action. However,
the plague that was brought back by victorious Roman
legions from the Parthian War caused serious problems.
There were not enough Roman freedmen to fill out the
legions. Faced with this recruitment problem, Marcus
Aurelius conscripted gladiators, bandits, slaves, and
Germanic tribesmen. This was an unorthodox move by
Marcus Aurelius but it probably was a necessity. It
certainly was an instance of decisive problem solving.
The End