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As Emperor of Rome from 161-180, Marcus Aurelius kept the empire safe from the Parthians and Germans, but is best known for his intellectual pursuits.
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As the Parthian War ended, the two rulers had to face another military conflict with German tribes in the late 160s. German tribes crossed the Danube River and attacked a Roman city. After raising the necessary funds and troops, Aurelius and Verus went off to fight the invaders. Verus died in 169 so Aurelius pushed on alone, attempting to drive away the Germans.
In 175, he faced another challenge -- this time for his very position. After hearing a rumor about Aurelius being deathly ill, Avidius Cassius claimed the title of emperor for himself. This forced Aurelius to travel to the East to regain control. But he did not have to fight Cassius as he was murdered by his own soldiers. Instead Aurelius toured eastern provinces with his wife, re-establishing his authority. Unforunately, Faustina died during this trip.
While once again battling the German tribes, Aurelius made his son Commodus his co-ruler in 177. Together they fought the northern enemies of the empire. Aurelius even hoped to extend the empire’s borders through this conflict, but Aurelius did live long enough to see this vision to completion.
Marcus Aurelius died on March 17, 180. His son Commodus became emperor and soon ended the northern military efforts. Marcus Aurelius, however, is not best remembered for the wars he waged, but for his contemplative nature and his rule driven by reason. A collection of his thoughts have been published in a work called The Meditations. Based on his Stoic beliefs, the work is filled with his notes on life.
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