Marcus Aurelius is famous as one of Rome's 'good emperors', conducting a successful military career (mainly against invading German tribes) while also writing highly regarded books of stoic philosophy. His fame has endured into the modern world, with appearances in several epic movies, most famously Gladiator and The Fall of the Roman Empire. This issue of Ancient History magazine looks at both aspects of his life and how they combined.
We start with a look at his 'Meditations', covering their contents, what Marcus was doing when they were written and how their stoic point of view sits alongside his very active military career. We then look at the army during his reign, which sits between the 'classic' legion and the later developments of the more mobile army. Next is a look at the Parthian War of his less well known brother and co-Emperor Lucius Verus.
This is followed by a look at the evidence for fighting in Raetia during the Marcomannic Wars. This is an interesting example of how archaeology can be used to back up limited textual evidence - there is only one written reference to this campaign, but there is supporting evidence to be found on the ground. Next is a look at the Marcomannic invasion of Italy, the first threat to the peace of Italy outside a civil war for centuries. Finally the last article on Marcus looks at his column in Rome, which includes unflinching depictions of brutality aimed against civilians.
Away from the theme there is a look at Roman board and dice games, a tantalising topic where we often know what the board and the pieces were for a game, but not the rules. There is also a reconstruction of linen armour which proves that it could have been very effective, and finally a look at 'Alexander's Wall', a 100 mile long fortification that stretches east from the Caspian Sea, looking at who built it and when.
The wars of Marcus Aurelius: Historical Introduction
Thoughts of an emperor: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
The Roman army in transition: Legions of Marcus Aurelius
In a brother's shadow: Parthain War of Lucius Verus
The Marcomannic Wars in Raetia: A secondary theatre of war?
Coalition against Rome: The great Marcomannic invasion
Scenes of brutality: The Column of Marcus Aurelius
Gambling among the troops: Roman dice and boardgames
Reconstructing and testing: Ancient linen body armour
An ancient frontier war in northern Iran: Who built 'Alexander's Wall'?
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