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Roman Emperor - Antoninus Pius

Updated on November 1, 2009

Antoninus Pius (86-161 A.D.) was emperor of Rome from 138 to 161 A.D. His full name was Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus. He was born at Lanuvium, in Latium, the son (his father was Aurelius Fulvus) and grandson of consuls.

Embarking on a political career, he served as quaestor and praetor, and attained the consulship in 120 A.D. After serving in a legal capacity in Etruria and Umbria, he held the office of proconsul in the province of Asia from 133 to 136 A.D. As a member of the consilium, the chief advisory body to the emperor, he won the respect of the emperor Hadrian by his integrity and loyalty. After the death of Lucius Aelius, Hadrian's choice for the succession, Antoninus was adopted by Hadrian as heir to the throne, and succeeded him when he died in 138 A.D.

He was intelligent, humane, and in all things sincerely anxious for the welfare of his subjects. The provinces were well administered, legal reforms were instituted, art and science encouraged, fine buildings erected, and public welfare services improved. The title 'Pius' was conferred by the Senate in recognition of the emperor's devotion to Hadrian's memory.

The 23-year reign of Antoninus was a relatively peaceful period during which trade and communications advanced and literature was encouraged. Disorders in Numidia, Mauretania, and Egypt were settled, and a revolt in Dacia was put down.

In Britain, the turf wall known as the wall of Antoninus was built across Scotland from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. On the continent, Roman defenses were strengthened between the Rhine and the Danube. Unlike Hadrian, Antoninus does not seem to have traveled throughout the empire after his accession. He maintained good relations with the Senate, consulted his advisory concilium on all matters, and managed the fiscal affairs of the state soundly.

It had been Hadrian's wish that Antoninus should adopt Lucius Verus, the son of Lucius Aelius. He did so, but also adopted Marcus Aurelius, his nephew by marriage. In 139 A.D., Marcus Aurelius was made heir to the throne. He later married Antoninus' daughter, Faustina.

Antoninus died at Lorium in Etruria in March 161 A.D. Marcus Aurelius, in his Meditations, described him as mild, even-tempered, judicious, and resolute.

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