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The youth was most carefully brought up. He thanks the gods (i. 17) that
he had good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers,
good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good. He
had the happy fortune to witness the example of his uncle and adoptive
father Antoninus Pius, and he has recorded in his word (i. 16; vi. 30)
the virtues of the excellent man and prudent ruler. Like many young
Romans he tried his hand at poetry and studied rhetoric. Herodes Atticus
and M. Cornelius Fronto were his teachers in eloquence. There are extant
letters between Fronto and Marcus,[A] which show the great affection of
the pupil for the master, and the master's great hopes of his
industrious pupil. M. Antoninus mentions Fronto (i. 11) among those to
whom he was indebted for his education.
[A] M. Cornelii Frontonis Reliquiae, Berlin, 1816. There are a
few letters between Fronto and Antoninus Pius.
When he was eleven years old, he assumed the dress of philosophers,
something plain and coarse, became a hard student, and lived a most
laborious, abstemious life, even so far as to injure his health.
Finally, he abandoned poetry and rhetoric for philosophy, and he
attached himself to the sect of the Stoics. But he did not neglect the
study of law, which was a useful preparation for the high place which he
was designed to fill. His teacher was L. Volusianus Maecianus, a
distinguished jurist. We must suppose that he learned the Roman
discipline of arms, which was a necessary part of the education of a man
who afterwards led his troops to battle against a warlike race.
Antoninus has recorded in his first book the names of his teachers, and
the obligations which he owed to each of them. The way in which he
speaks of what he learned from them might seem to savor of vanity or
self-praise, if we look carelessly at the way in which he has expressed
himself; but if any one draws this conclusion, he will be mistaken.
Antoninus means to commemorate the merits of his several teachers, what
they taught, and what a pupil might learn from them. Besides, this book,
like the eleven other books, was for his own use; and if we may trust
the note at the end of the first book, it was written during one of M.
Antoninus' campaigns against the Quadi, at a time when the commemoration
of the virtues of his illustrious teachers might remind him of their
lessons and the practical uses which he might derive from them.
Among his teachers of philosophy was Sextus of Chaeroneia, a grandson of
Plutarch. What he learned from this excellent man is told by himself (i.
9). His favorite teacher was Q. Junius Rusticus (i. 7), a philosopher,
and also a man of practical good sense in public affairs. Rusticus was
the adviser of Antoninus after he became emperor. Young men who are
destined for high places are not often fortunate in those who are about
them, their companions and teachers; and I do not know any example of a
young prince having had an education which can be compared with that of
M. Antoninus. Such a body of teachers distinguished by their
acquirements and their character will hardly be collected again; and as
to the pupil, we have not had one like him since.
Hadrian died in July A.D. 138, and was succeeded by Antoninus Pius. M.
Antoninus married Faustina, his cousin, the daughter of Pius, probably
about A.D. 146, for he had a daughter born in 147. He received from his
adoptive father the title of Caesar, and was associated with him in the
administration of the state. The father and the adopted son lived
together in perfect friendship and confidence. Antoninus was a dutiful
son, and the emperor Pius loved and esteemed him.
Antoninus Pius died in March, A.D. 161. The Senate, it is said, urged M.
Antoninus to take the sole administration of the empire, but he
associated with himself the other adopted son of Pius, L. Ceionius
Commodus, who is generally called L. Verus. Thus Rome for the first time
had two emperors. Verus was an indolent man of pleasure, and unworthy of
his station. Antoninus however bore with him, and it is said Verus had
sense enough to pay to his colleague the respect due to his character. A
virtuous emperor and a loose partner lived together in peace, and their
alliance was strengthened by Antoninus giving to Verus for wife his
The reign of Antoninus was first troubled by a Parthian war, in which
Verus was sent to command; but he did nothing, and the success that was
obtained by the Romans in Armenia and on the Euphrates and Tigris was
due to his generals. This Parthian war ended in A.D. 165. Aurelius and
Verus had a triumph (A.D. 166) for the victories in the East. A
pestilence followed, which carried off great numbers in Rome and Italy,
and spread to the west of Europe.
The north of Italy was also threatened by the rude people beyond the
Alps, from the borders of Gallia to the eastern side of the Hadriatic.
These barbarians attempted to break into Italy, as the Germanic nations
had attempted near three hundred years before; and the rest of the life
of Antoninus, with some intervals, was employed in driving back the
invaders. In 169 Verus suddenly died, and Antoninus administered the
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