The Roman Empire fell after several hundred-years of being ruled by ruthless kings, savvy dictators, and infamous emperors. Nearing the end of the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius became the last great emperor of Rome, not to be surpassed by his two successors. Marcus Aurelius was the third from last emperor, only to be succeeded by his son, Commodus and after that, Constantine.
Marcus Aurelius was born on April 26, 121 A.D. He was the son of Lucilla and Verus. He came from a patrician family, thus he was given the ability to learn from mentors and those around him. Everyone one of his teachers all said he was a prodigy. Even those who he had barely spoken with agreed. Often, if people were asked, they would describe him as “All but perfect.”(Watson 39) He was taught the lessons and keys to life at a young age. He had good morals and control over his temper, taught to him by his grandfather, Verus. His father taught him, “..modesty and a manly character.”(Aurelius 3). His mother, Lucilla, taught him “…piety and beneficence, and abstinence, not only from evil deeds, but even from evil thoughts; and further, simplicity in my way of living, far removed from the habits of the rich.”(Aurelius 3). Marcus Aurelius grew up learning powerful, ideal lessons. Even though he was born a patrician, he was taught to always be better and more respectful than any one. Simply being born into wealth was not enough to set him aside as a greater person! Morals and life keys were the way to truly be seen as a nobler and higher person. Marcus knew that with great power, came great responsibility. He was to be the shinning example for all patricians and be the envy of everyone.
Marcus Aurelius grew up helping out in all sorts of ways. Besides being skilled with the sword, he was talented as a war strategist. He helped in the “…Palmyrene War against revolt uprisings…”(Watson 70), and brought them to a halt. He then achieved consulship which helped him to spread his idealism throughout Rome. His thoughts were that “So higher education meant education in rhetoric, as it had in the times of Cicero…”(Dwight x). Marcus Aurelius must have thought that education was key in life, and he wanted to help everyone receive an education of normal boundaries.
In the year 161 A.D. Marcus Aurelius attained the title of emperor. While he was emperor he devoted lots of his time to the study of philosophy and the community. All that he learned, he incorporated into his everyday life. He was a wise man, not one to raise swords against those who haven’t done him wrong. Marcus Aurelius was a quiet man, so much he disliked public events, “He had a special dislike for gladiatorial shows…’It is most kind of you to ask for the hexameters I wrote.’”(Dwight ix). This tells us how much he cared for public affairs and that he preferred to write poetry rather than watch a young man get slaughtered by another.
Soon, revolts were springing up all over the Roman Empire. He left Rome immediately, attempting to calm the situations. He traveled to Africa, where he successfully pleased the mobs into siding with Rome again. He then continued East into Egypt. His words were magical almost, he talked with a soothing tone, and when he made a promise, it was something real. After Egypt he traveled farther East into Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. There he found all sorts of Greek philosophy, and once he looked over everything, spent his time studying day after day. After several years in Greece he headed back to Italy, where he came home to Rome. With his newfound philosophy Marcus Aurelius changed the world of Rome. He brought in the lessons of Greece he had learned, and taught of the teachings he had mastered. Soon the Germanic tribes were attacking parts of the Roman Empire. He left it to his military, but soon found that they were incapable and he headed to Germania himself. In sixteen short days after arrival, he totally defeated the tribes and announced victory. He died there in Germania around the year 180.
Next in line for the throne was his son Commodus. This was a horrible mistake. Commodus was crazy and did not understand the meaning to be a patrician. He loved dressing up in women’s clothing and loved watching gladiator fights or anything gruesome. For his pleasures to be met, he spent loads of money from the Roman treasury. With Commodus, the economy spiraled down at a horrible rate. More people were losing there homes, and even more were not able to buy food for their families or themselves. Revolts of slaves were popping up everywhere, but Commodus was not like his father, Marcus Aurelius, and could not detour the mobs from their anger. The Roman Empire was facing inside squabbles as well as outside attacks from Germanic tribes. The empire was in chaos.
After Commodus had died, there was no one in line to become emperor. Moreover, an outsider to Rome, Constantine, took command and was appointed emperor of the East side of Rome. He was introduced to Christianity when he was a boy by his mother. He then grew up believing in Christianity and it became the dominant religion in Rome. Even though religion had always been the set gods, like Jupiter and Aphrodite, he came in and highly suggested Christianity to those who were not. Under his rule he separated Rome into halves, the East and the West. He was emperor of the East. He helped bring the economy back up quickly. Yet, when the empire was being attacked by outside forces, he did not Roman up and destroy the opposing forces, but packed up the capitol of Rome and moved it to the outskirts of Roman territory in Asia Minor.
Constantine, then proceeded to rename this city as the capitol called Constantinople. There he spent loads of money, and thousands of men from the military to build his brand new city. This left the other parts of the Roman Empire weak, and they easily fell to the devastating powers of the Germanic tribes. Constantine left the empire in haste of his own life, and took back soldiers and turned them into laborers to build a whole new city. This caused the empire to be weak, and eventually cause the downfall of the Roman Empire.
Marcus Aurelius always believed in moving forward, never to look back on what was lost or given away. Marcus Aurelius philosophies this by saying, “A noble man compares and estimates himself by an idea which is higher than himself; and a mean man, by one lower than himself. The one produces aspiration; the other ambition, which is the way in which a vulgar man aspires”(10). Marcus Aurelius was a quiet, strong leader. He never raised his voice unless the events called for him to do so. He was wise, respectable, and honest in the ways he argued his own ideas. He loved philosophy and spent tons of his time learning new thoughts. He helped implement these lessons into reality and made those that felt inadequate feel more homey and content. Marcus Aurelius was by far the last decent emperor of the Roman Empire, because his philosophy helped the overall well-being of Rome. Without him, the revolts would have kept spreading, and Rome would have fallen due to mass inside corruption, rather than outside force that was more powerful and worthy. He was a talented man, and would forever be known as the philosopher king. Marcus Aurelius was the last great emperor of the Roman Empire!