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Marcus Aurelius


Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan (Martre-Tolosane, Haute-Garonne) c. 170-180 Inv. Ra 61b © J.-F. Peiré
Marble bust of Marcus Aurelius discovered at the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan (Martre-Tolosane, Haute-Garonne) c. 170-180 Inv. Ra 61b © J.-F. Peiré
Adopted by Antoninus at Hadrien’s request, Marcus Aurelius will rule conjointly with Lucius Verus until the death of the latter in 169.
Marcus Aurelius is in love with philosophy. His sensibility orients him toward stoicism, a method of thinking with a responsible or altruistic attitude. In the twelve books that make his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius benefits from his experience to put forth his intellectual ideal and his quest for wisdom.
If he is indeed the master of the world, it is at the price of numerous battles. He is obligated to return to the battle fields many times for long periods which distance him from his reflections and the tranquil life of a philosopher. At the end of his life, he is exhausted from numerous years of war, during the time when the frontiers of the Empire are seriously threatened by different populations: the Parthians in the East and the Quadi and the Marcomanni along the Danube.

The representations of Marcus Aurelius are particularly interesting because they show the physical evolution of this Prince of the Antonine dynasty, emperor from 161 to 180. This portrait represents the fifty-year-old emperor; however, his physique remains protected from time.  As leader of the armies, he is dressed in a breast-plate and wears a paludamentum, a military cape worn on the left shoulder. The armor is decorated with the head of Gorgon, the symbolic protector destined to distance the enemy. On the strap, there is a lightning bolt relief, the symbol of the connection between lightning, thunder, and sparks; all of which are associated with the omnipotent god Jupiter.
During the greatest political confusion, Marcus Aurelius will confer his power to his son Commodus, the last representative of the Antonine dynasty of whom a rare portrait exist in the collection in Toulouse.
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