Antoninus Pius, Denarius, AD 147-148
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS PP TR P XI, laureate head
Reverse: COS IIII, Annona or Abundantia, draped, standing
holding two corn-ears over modius, and anchor on ground
BMCRE IV 621; C. 283; RIC III 162
Antoninus Pius, 138-161 AD Denarius
Obverse : ANTONINUS AUG. PIUS P.P. IMP. II. - Laureate
Reverse : TR. POT. XXI. COS. IIII. - Anonna stg. right
holding corn ears in modius
with left hand, right hand holding rudder, left foot
set on prow
Antoninus Pius AE Dupondius
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS PP TR P COS III, radiate
Reverse: CONCORDIA EXERCITVVM S-C, Concordia standing
Victory and standard with vaxillum
Antoninus Pius AE Sestertius
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P, laureate head right
Reverse: R POT COS III, she-wolf standing right, suckling
twins, SC in exergue
Antoninus Pius AE As. 143-144 AD
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS PP TR P COS III, laureate
Reverse: IMPERATOR II, wolf standing right, head not
suckling twins, SC and boat in exergue
Antoninus Pius AE Sestertius
Obverse: ANTONINVS AVG PIVS P P, laureate head right
Reverse: TR POT COS III, she-wolf standing right,
suckling twins, SC in exergue
Antoninus Pius (Latin: Titus Fulvus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus
Pius; 19 September 86 CE 7 March 161 CE), also known as Antoninus, was
Roman Emperor from 138 to 161. He was one of the Five Good Emperors
in the NervaAntonine dynasty and the Aurelii.
He acquired the name Pius after his accession to the throne, either because
he compelled the Senate to deify his adoptive father Hadrian, or because
he had saved senators sentenced to death by Hadrian in his later years.
He died of illness in 161 and was succeeded by his adopted sons Marcus
Aurelius and Lucius Verus as co-emperors.
Childhood and family:
He was born as the only child of Titus Aurelius Fulvus, consul in 89 whose
family came from Nemausus (modern Nîmes). Titus Aurelius Fulvius
was the son of a senator of the same name, who, as legate of Legio III
Gallica, had supported Vespasian in his bid to the Imperial office and
been rewarded with a suffect consulship, plus an ordinary one under Domitian
in 85. The Aurelii Fulvii were therefore a relatively new senatorial
family from Gallia Narbonensis whose rise to prominence was supported by
the Flavians. The link between Antoninus' family and their home province
explains the increasing importance of the post of Proconsul of Gallia Narbonensis
during the late Second Century.
Antoninus was born near Lanuvium and his mother was Arria Fadilla.
Antoninus father died shortly after his 89 ordinary consulship, his son
being raised by his maternal grandfather Gnaeus Arrius Antoninus, reputed
by contemporaries to be a man of integrity and culture and a friend of
Pliny the Younger. The Arrii Antoninii were an older senatorial family
from Italy, very influential during Nerva's reign. Arria Fadilla,
Antoninus' mother, married afterwards Publius Julius Lupus, a man of consular
rank, suffect consul in 98, and two daughters, Arria Lupula and Julia Fadilla,
were born from that union.
Marriage and children:
Some time between 110 and 115, Antoninus married Annia Galeria Faustina
the Elder. They are believed to have enjoyed a happy marriage. Faustina
was the daughter of consul Marcus Annius Verus and Rupilia Faustina (a
half-sister to Roman Empress Vibia Sabina). Faustina was a beautiful
woman, and despite (basically unproven) rumours about her character, it
is clear that Antoninus cared for her deeply.
Faustina bore Antoninus four children, two sons and two daughters. They
- Marcus Aurelius
Fulvus Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been
found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome.
- Marcus Galerius
Aurelius Antoninus (died before 138); his sepulchral inscription has been
found at the Mausoleum of Hadrian in Rome. His name appears on a
Greek Imperial coin.
- Aurelia Fadilla
(died in 135); she married Lucius Lamia Silvanus, consul 145. She appeared
to have no children with her husband and her sepulchral inscription has
been found in Italy.
- Annia Galeria Faustina
Minor or Faustina the Younger (between 125130175), a future Roman Empress,
married her maternal cousin, future Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in 146.
When Faustina died in 141, Antoninus was greatly distressed. In honour
of her memory, he asked the Senate to deify her as a goddess, and authorised
the construction of a temple to be built in the Roman Forum in her name,
with priestesses serving in her temple. He had various coins with
her portrait struck in her honor. These coins were scripted DIVA
FAUSTINA and were elaborately decorated. He further created a charity
which he founded and called it Puellae Faustinianae or Girls of Faustina,
which assisted destitute girls of good family. Finally, Antoninus
created a new alimenta (see Grain supply to the city of Rome).
The emperor never remarried. Instead, he lived with Galena Lysistrata,
one of Faustina's freed women. Concubinage was a form of female companionship
sometimes chosen by powerful men in Ancient Rome, especially widowers like
Vespasian, and Marcus Aurelius. Their union could not produce any
legitimate offspring who could threaten any heirs, such as those of Antoninus.
Also, as one could not have a wife and an official concubine (or two concubines)
at the same time, Antoninus avoided being pressed into a marriage with
a noblewoman from another family (Later, Marcus Aurelius would also reject
the advances of his former fiancee Ceionia Fabia, Lucius Verus's sister,
on the grounds of protecting his children from a stepmother, and took a
Favor with Hadrian:
Having filled the offices of quaestor and praetor with more than usual
success, he obtained the consulship in 120. He was next appointed
by the Emperor Hadrian as one of the four proconsuls to administer Italia,
then greatly increased his reputation by his conduct as proconsul of Asia,
probably during 134135.
He acquired much favor with the Emperor Hadrian, who adopted him as his
son and successor on 25 February 138, after the death of his first adopted
son Lucius Aelius, on the condition that Antoninus would in turn adopt
Marcus Annius Verus, the son of his wife's brother, and Lucius, son of
Lucius Aelius, who afterwards became the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius
By this scheme, Verus, who was already Hadrian's adoptive grandson through
his natural father, remained Hadrian's adoptive son through his new father.
The adoption of Marcus Aurelius was probably a suggestion of Antoninus
himself, since the former was the nephew of the latter's wife and would
be his favorite son.
On his accession, Antoninus' name and style became Imperator Caesar Titus
Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pontifex Maximus. One of his
first acts as Emperor was to persuade the Senate to grant divine honours
to Hadrian, which they had at first refused; his efforts to persuade the
Senate to grant these honours is the most likely reason given for his title
of Pius (dutiful in affection; compare pietas). Two other reasons
for this title are that he would support his aged father-in-law with his
hand at Senate meetings, and that he had saved those men that Hadrian,
during his period of ill-health, had condemned to death.
Immediately after Hadrian's death, Antoninus approached Marcus and requested
that his marriage arrangements be amended: Marcus' betrothal to Ceionia
Fabia would be annulled, and he would be betrothed to Faustina, Antoninus'
daughter, instead. Faustina's betrothal to Ceionia's brother Lucius
Commodus would also have to be annulled. Marcus consented to Antoninus'
Antoninus built temples, theaters, and mausoleums, promoted the arts and
sciences, and bestowed honours and financial rewards upon the teachers
of rhetoric and philosophy. Antoninus made few initial changes when
he became emperor, leaving intact as far as possible the arrangements instituted
by Hadrian. Epigraphical and prosopographical research has revealed
that Antoninus' imperial ruling team centered around a group of closely
knit senatorial families, most of them members of the priestly congregation
for the cult of Hadrian, the sodales Hadrianales. According to the
German historian H.G. Pflaum, prosopographical research of Antoninus' ruling
team allows us to grasp the deeply conservative character of the ruling
A non-military reign:
There are no records of any military related acts in his time in which
he participated. One modern scholar has written "It is almost certain
not only that at no time in his life did he ever see, let alone command,
a Roman army, but that, throughout the twenty-three years of his reign,
he never went within five hundred miles of a legion".
His reign was the most peaceful in the entire history of the Principate;
notwithstanding the fact that there were several military disturbances
throughout the Empire in his time. Such disturbances happened in
Mauretania where a senator was named as governor of Mauretania Tingitana
in place of the usual equestrian procurator and cavalry reinforcements
from Panonnia were brought in, towns such as Sala and Tipasa being fortified.
Similar disturbances took place in Iudaea, and amongst the Brigantes in
Britannia, none of them being considered serious. It was however
in Britain that Antoninus decided to follow a new, more aggressive path,
with the appointment of a new governor in 139, Quintus Lollius Urbicus
a native of Numidia and previously governor of Germania Inferior.
Under instructions from the emperor, Lollius undertook an invasion of southern
Scotland, winning some significant victories, and constructing the Antonine
Wall from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. The wall, however,
was soon gradually decommissioned during the mid-150s and eventually abandoned
late during the reign (early 160s), for reasons that are still not quite
clear. Antonine's Wall is mentioned in just one literary source,
Antoninus' biography in the Historia Augusta. Pausanias makes a brief
and confused mention of a war in Britain. In one inscription honoring
Antoninus, erected by Legio II Augusta, which participated in the building
of the Wall, a relief showing four naked prisoners, one of them beheaded,
seems to stand for some actual warfare.
Although Antonine's Wall was, in principle, much shorter and at first sight
more defensible than Hadrian's Wall, the additional area that it enclosed
within the Empire was barren, with the effect that supply lines to it were
strained enough that the costs from maintaining the additional territory
outweighed the benefits of doing so. It has been therefore speculated
that the invasion of Lowland Scotland and the building of the wall had
to do mostly with internal politics, that is, offering Antoninus an opportunity
to gain some modicum of necessary military prestige at the start of his
reign. Actually, the campaign in Britannia was followed by an Imperial
salutation that is, by Antoninus formally taking for the second (and
last) time the title of Imperator in 142. The fact that around
the same time coins were struck announcing a victory in Britain points
to Antoninus' need to publicize his achievements. The orator Fronto
was later to say that, although Antoninus bestowed the direction of the
British campaign to others, he should be regarded as the helmsman who directed
the voyage, whose glory, therefore, belonged to him.
That this quest for some military achievement responded to an actual need,
is proved by the fact that, although generally peaceful, Antoninus' reign
was not free from attempts of usurpation: Historia Augusta mentions two,
made by senators Cornelius Priscianus (by the way, Lollius Urbicus' successor
as governor of Britain) and Atilius Rufius Titianus both confirmed by
the Fasti Ostienses as well as by the erasing of Priscianus' name from
an inscription. In both cases, Antoninus was not in formal charge
of the ensuing repression: Priscianus committed suicide and Titianus was
found guilty by the Senate, with Antoninus abstaining from sequestering
their families' properties.
There were also some troubles in Dacia Inferior which required the granting
of additional powers to the procurator governor and the dispatchment of
additional soldiers to the province. On the Northern Black Sea coast,
the Greek city of Olbia was held against the Scythians. Also during
his reign the governor of Upper Germany, probably Caius Popillius Carus
Pedo, built new fortifications in the Agri Decumates, advancing the Limes
Germanicus fifteen miles forward in his province and neighboring Raetia.
In the East, Roman suzerainty over Armenia was retained by the 140 choosing
of Arsacid scion Sohaemus as client king.
Nevertheless, Antoninus was virtually unique among emperors in that he
dealt with these crises without leaving Italy once during his reign, but
instead dealt with provincial matters of war and peace through their governors
or through imperial letters to the cities such as Ephesus (of which some
were publicly displayed). This style of government was highly praised
by his contemporaries and by later generations.
Antoninus was the last Roman Emperor recognised by the Indian Kingdoms.
Raoul McLaughlin quotes Aurelius Victor as saying "The Indians, the Bactrians
and the Hyrcanians all sent ambassadors to Antoninus. They had all
heard about the spirit of justice held by this great emperor, justice that
was heightened by his handsome and grave countenance, and his slim and
vigorous figure." Due to the outbreak of the Antonine epidemic and
wars against northern Germanic tribes, the reign of Marcus Aurelius was
forced to alter the focus of foreign policies and matters of the Far East
was increasingly abandoned in favour of those directly concerning the Empire's
Economy and administration:
Antoninus was regarded as a skilled administrator and as a builder.
In spite of an extensive building directive the free access of the people
of Rome to drinking water was expanded with the construction of aqueducts,
not only in Rome but throughout the Empire, as well as bridges and roads
the emperor still managed to leave behind a sizable public treasury of
around two and a half million sesterces (Rome would not witness another
Emperor leaving his successor with a surplus for a long time.). But
this treasury was depleted almost immediately after Antoninus's reign due
to the plague brought back by soldiers after the Parthian victory).
The Emperor also famously suspended the collection of taxes from cities
affected by natural disasters, such as when fires struck Rome and Narbona,
and earthquakes affected Rhodes and the Province of Asia. He offered
hefty financial grants for rebuilding and recovery of various Greek cities
after two serious earthquakes: the first, circa 140, which affected mostly
Rhodes and other islands; the second, in 152, which hit Cyzicus where
the huge and newly built Temple to Hadrian was destroyed Ephesus and
Smyrna. Antoninus' financial help earned him praise by Greek writers such
as Aelius Aristides and Pausanias. These cities received from Antoninus
the usual honorific accolades, such as when he commended that all governors
of Asia should enter the province, when taking office, by way of Ephesus.
Ephesus was specially favoured by Antoninus, who confirmed and upheld its
first place in the list of imperial honor titles, as opposed to Smyrna
In his dealings with Greek-speaking cities, Antoninus followed the policy
adopted by Hadrian of ingratiating himself with local elites, specially
with local intellectuals: philosophers, teachers of literature, rhetoricians
and physicians were explicitly exempted from any duties involving private
spending for civic purposes a privilege granted by Hadrian that Antoninus
confirmed by means of an edict preserved in the Digest (220.127.116.11).
Antoninus also created a chair for the teaching of rhetoric in Athens.
Antoninus was known as an avid observer of rites of religion and of formal
celebrations both Roman and foreign. He is known for having increasingly
formalized the official cult offered to the Great Mother, which from his
reign onwards included a bull sacrifice, a taurobolium, formerly only a
private ritual, now being also performed for the sake of the Emperor's
welfare. Antoninus also offered patronage to the worship of Mithras,
to whom he erected a temple in Ostia. In 148, he presided over the
celebrations of the 900th anniversary of the founding of Rome.
Antoninus tried to portray himself as a magistrate of the res publica,
no matter how extended and ill-defined his competences were. He is
credited with the splitting of the imperial treasury, the Fiscus.
This splitting had to do with the division of imperial properties into
two parts: firstly, the fiscus itself or patrimonium, meaning the properties
of the "Crown", the hereditary properties of each succeeding person that
sat on the throne, transmitted to his successors in office, regardless
of their being members of the imperial family or not; secondly, the res
privata, the "private" properties tied to the personal maintenance of the
Emperor and his family. An anecdote in the Historia Augusta biography,
where Antoninus replies to Faustina who complained about his stinginess
that "we have gained an empire [and] lost even what we had before" possibly
relates to Antoninus' actual concerns at the creation of the res privata.
While still a private citizen, Antoninus had increased his personal fortune
greatly by mean of various legacies, the consequence we are told of
his caring scrupulously for his relatives.
The res privata lands could be sold and/or given away, while the patrimonium
properties were regarded as public. It was a way of pretending that
the Imperial function and most properties attached to it was a public
one, formally subject to the authority of the Senate and the Roman people.
That the distinction played no part in subsequent political history that
the personal power of the princeps absorbed his role as office-holder
proves that the autocratic logic of the imperial order had already subsumed
the old republican institutions.
Of the public transactions of this period there is only the scantiest of
information, but, to judge by what is extant, those twenty-two years were
not remarkably eventful in comparison to those before and after the reign.
However, Antoninus did take a great interest in the revision and practice
of the law throughout the empire. One of his chief concerns was to
having local communities conform their legal procedures to existing Roman
norms: in a case concerning repression of banditry by local police officers
("irenarchs") in Asia Minor, Antoninus ordered that these officers should
not treat suspects as already condemned, and also keep a detailed copy
of their interrogations, to be used in the possibility of an appeal to
the Roman governor. Also, although Antoninus was not an innovator,
he would not always follow the absolute letter of the law; rather he was
driven by concerns over humanity and equality, and introduced into Roman
law many important new principles based upon this notion.
In this, the emperor was assisted by five chief lawyers: L. Fulvius Aburnius
Valens, an author of legal treatises; L. Ulpius Marcellus, a prolific writer;
and three others. These last three included L. Volusius Maecianus,
a former military officer turned by Antoninus into a civil procurator,
and who, in view of his subsequent career (discovered on the basis of epigraphical
and prosopographical research) was the Emperor's most important legal adviser.
Maecianus would eventually be chosen to occupy various prefectures (see
below) as well as to conduct the legal studies of Marcus Aurelius.
He was also the author of a large work on Fidei Commissa (Testamentary
Trusts). As a hallmark of the increased connection between jurists
and the imperial government, Antoninus' reign also saw the appearance of
the Institutes of Gaius, an elementary legal manual for beginners (see
Antoninus passed measures to facilitate the enfranchisement of slaves.
Mostly, he favoured the principle of favor libertatis, giving the putative
freedman the benefit of the doubt when the claim to freedom was not clearcut.
Also, he punished the killing of a slave by his/her master without previous
trial and determined that slaves could be forcibly sold to another master
by a proconsul in cases of consistent mistreatment. Antoninus upheld
the enforcement of contracts for selling of female slaves forbidding their
further employment in prostitution. In criminal law, Antoninus introduced
the important principle that accused persons are not to be treated as guilty
before trial as in the case of the irenarchs. He also asserted
the principle that the trial was to be held, and the punishment inflicted,
in the place where the crime had been committed. He mitigated the
use of torture in examining slaves by certain limitations. Thus he
prohibited the application of torture to children under fourteen years,
though this rule had exceptions. However, it must be stressed that
Antoninus extended, by means of a rescript, the use of torture as a means
of obtaining evidence to pecuniary cases, when it had been applied up until
then only in criminal cases. Also, already at the time torture of
free men of low status (humiliores) had become legal, as proved by the
fact that Antoninus exempted town councillors expressly from it, and also
free men of high rank (honestiores) in general.
One highlight during his reign occurred in 148, with the nine-hundredth
anniversary of the foundation of Rome being celebrated by the hosting of
magnificent games in Rome. It lasted a number of days, and a host
of exotic animals were killed, including elephants, giraffes, tigers, rhinoceroses,
crocodiles and hippopotami. While this increased Antoninuss popularity,
the frugal emperor had to debase the Roman currency. He decreased
the silver purity of the denarius from 89% to 83.5% the actual silver
weight dropping from 2.88 grams to 2.68 grams.
Scholars place Antoninus Pius as the leading candidate for fulfilling the
role as a friend of Rabbi Judah the Prince. According to the Talmud
(Avodah Zarah 10a-b), Rabbi Judah was very wealthy and greatly revered
in Rome. He had a close friendship with "Antoninus", possibly Antoninus
Pius, who would consult Rabbi Judah on various worldly and spiritual matters.
In 156, Antoninus Pius turned 70. He found it difficult to keep himself
upright without stays. He started nibbling on dry bread to give him
the strength to stay awake through his morning receptions. Marcus
Aurelius had already been created consul with Antoninus in 140, receiving
the title of Caesar i.e., heir apparent. As Antoninus aged, Marcus
would take on more administrative duties, more still after the death
in 156 or 157 of one of Antoninus' most trusted advisers, Gavius Maximus,
who had been praetorian prefect (an office that was as much secretarial
as military) for twenty years. Gavius Maximus, who had been one of
the most important members of Antoninus' "team" of long standing advisers,
had been awarded with the consular insignia and to the honors due to a
senator. He had left behind himself the reputation of being a most
strict disciplinarian (vir severissimus, according to Historia Augusta)
as well as some lasting grudges among fellow equestrian procurators one
of them, by predeceasing Gavius and vilifying him in his will, created
a serious embarrassment to one of the heirs, the orator Fronto. Gavius
Maximus' death offered the opportunity to a welcome change in the ruling
team, and it has been speculated that it was the legal adviser Volusius
Maecianus who, after a brief spell as Praefect of Egypt, took the office
of Praefectus annonae in Rome who assumed the role of grey eminence precisely
in order to prepare the incoming and altogether new joint succession.
In 160, Marcus and Lucius were designated joint consuls for the following
year. Perhaps Antoninus was already ill; in any case, he died before the
year was out.
Two days before his death, the biographer reports, Antoninus was at his
ancestral estate at Lorium, in Etruria, about twelve miles (19 km) from
Rome. He ate Alpine cheese at dinner quite greedily. In the
night he vomited; he had a fever the next day. The day after that, 7 March
161, he summoned the imperial council, and passed the state and his daughter
to Marcus. The emperor gave the keynote to his life in the last word
that he uttered when the tribune of the night-watch came to ask the password"aequanimitas"
(equanimity). He then turned over, as if going to sleep, and died.
His death closed out the longest reign since Augustus (surpassing Tiberius
by a couple of months).
Antoninus Pius' funeral ceremonies were, in the words of the biographer,
"elaborate". If his funeral followed the pattern of past funerals,
his body would have been incinerated on a pyre at the Campus Martius, while
his spirit would rise to the gods' home in the heavens. However,
it seems that this was not the case: according to his Historia Augusta
biography (which seems to reproduce an earlier, detailed report) Antoninus'
body (and not his ashes) was buried in Hadrian's mausoleum. After
a seven-day interval (justitium), Marcus and Lucius nominated their father
for deification. In contrast to their behavior during Antoninus'
campaign to deify Hadrian, the senate did not oppose the emperors' wishes.
A flamen, or cultic priest, was appointed to minister the cult of the deified
Antoninus, now Divus Antoninus.
A column was dedicated to Antoninus on the Campus Martius, and the temple
he had built in the Forum in 141 to his deified wife Faustina was rededicated
to the deified Faustina and the deified Antoninus. It survives as
the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda.
Diplomatic mission to China:
The first group of people claiming to be an ambassadorial mission of Romans
to China was recorded in 166 AD by the Hou Hanshu. The embassy came
to Emperor Huan of Han China from "Andun", "king of Daqin" (Rome).
As Antoninus Pius died in 161, leaving the empire to his adoptive son Marcus
Aurelius (Antoninus), and the envoy arrived in 166, confusion remains about
who sent the mission given that both Emperors were named 'Antoninus'.
The Roman mission came from the south (therefore probably by sea), entering
China by the frontier province of Jiaozhi at Rinan or Tonkin (present-day
northern Vietnam). It brought presents of rhinoceros horns, ivory,
and tortoise shell, probably acquired in Southern Asia. The text
specifically states that it was the first time there had been direct contact
between the two countries.
Furthermore, a Republican-era Roman glassware has been found at a Western
Han tomb in Guangzhou along the South China Sea, dated to the early 1st
century BC. Roman golden medallions made during the reign of Antoninus
Pius and perhaps even Marcus Aurelius have been found at Óc Eo in
southern Vietnam, then part of the Kingdom of Funan near the Chinese province
of Jiaozhi. This may have been the port city of Kattigara, described
by Ptolemy (c. 150) as being visited by a Greek sailor named Alexander
and laying beyond the Golden Chersonese (i.e. Malay Peninsula). Roman
coins from the reigns of Tiberius to Aurelian have been discovered in Xi'an,
China (site of the Han capital Chang'an), although the significantly greater
amount of Roman coins unearthed in India suggest the Roman maritime trade
for purchasing Chinese silk was centered there, not in China or even the
overland Silk Road running through ancient Iran.
The only intact account of his life handed down to us is that of the Augustan
History, an unreliable and mostly fabricated work. Nevertheless,
it still contains information that is considered reasonably sound for
instance, it is the only source that mentions the erection of the Antonine
Wall in Britain. Antoninus is unique among Roman emperors in that
he has no other biographies. Historians have therefore turned to
public records for what details we know.
In later scholarship:
Antoninus in many ways was the ideal of the landed gentleman praised not
only by ancient Romans, but also by later scholars of classical history,
such as Edward Gibbon or the author of the article on Antoninus Pius in
the ninth edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica: "A
few months afterwards, on Hadrian's death, he was enthusiastically welcomed
to the throne by the Roman people, who, for once, were not disappointed
in their anticipation of a happy reign. For Antoninus came to his
new office with simple tastes, kindly disposition, extensive experience,
a well-trained intelligence and the sincerest desire for the welfare of
his subjects. Instead of plundering to support his prodigality, he
emptied his private treasury to assist distressed provinces and cities,
and everywhere exercised rigid economy (hence the nickname "cummin-splitter").
Instead of exaggerating into treason whatever was susceptible of unfavorable
interpretation, he turned the very conspiracies that were formed against
him into opportunities for demonstrating his clemency. Instead of
stirring up persecution against the Christians, he extended to them the
strong hand of his protection throughout the empire. Rather than
give occasion to that oppression which he regarded as inseparable from
an emperor's progress through his dominions, he was content to spend all
the years of his reign in Rome, or its neighbourhood."
Some historians have a less positive view of his reign. According
to the historian J. B. Bury, "...however estimable the man,
Antoninus was hardly a great statesman. The rest which the Empire
enjoyed under his auspices had been rendered possible through Hadrians
activity, and was not due to his own exertions; on the other hand, he carried
the policy of peace at any price too far, and so entailed calamities on
the state after his death. He not only had no originality or power
of initiative, but he had not even the insight or boldness to work further
on the new lines marked out by Hadrian."
German historian Ernst Kornemann has had it in his Römische Geschichte
[2 vols., ed. by H. Bengtson, Stuttgart 1954] that the reign of Antoninus
comprised "a succession of grossly wasted opportunities," given the upheavals
that were to come. There is more to this argument, given that the
Parthians in the East were themselves soon to make no small amount of mischief
after Antoninus' passing. Kornemann's brief is that Antoninus might
have waged preventive wars to head off these outsiders. Micheal Grant
agrees that it is possible that had Antoninus acted decisively sooner (it
appears on his death bed, he was preparing a large scale action against
the Parthians), the Parthians might have been unable to choose their own
time, but current evidences are not conclusive. Grant opines that
Antoninus and his officers did act in a resolute manner dealing with frontier
disturbances of his time, although conditions for long lasting peace were
not created. On the whole, according to Grant, Marcus Aurelius' eulogistic
picture of Antoninus seems deserved, and Antonius appears to have been
a conservative and nationalistic (although he respected and followed Hadrian's
example of Philhellenism moderately) Emperor who was not tainted by the
blood of either citizen or foe, combined and maintained Numa Pompilius'
good fortune, pacific dutifulness and religious scrupulousness, and whose
laws removed anomalies and soften harshnesses.
Krzysztof Ulanowski argues that the claims of military inability is exaggerated,
considering that although the sources praise Antoninus' love for peace
and his efforts 'rather to defend, than enlarge the provinces', he could
hardly be considered a pacifist, as shown by the conquest of the Lowlands,
the building of the Antonine Wall and the expansion of Germania Superior.
Ulianowski also praises Antoninus for being successful in deterrence by
Although only one of his four children survived to adulthood, Antoninus
came to be ancestor to generations of prominent Roman statesmen and socialites,
including at least one empress consort and as the maternal grandfather
of the Emperor Commodus. The family of Antoninus Pius and Faustina
the Elder also represents one of the few periods in ancient Roman history
where the position of Emperor passed smoothly from father to son.
Direct descendants of Antoninus and Faustina were confirmed to exist at
least into the fifth century AD.
1. Marcus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus
(died before 138), died young without issue
2. Marcus Galerius Aurelius Antoninus
(died before 138), died young without issue
3. Aurelia Fadilla (died in 135),
died without issue
4. Faustina the Younger (16 February
between 125 and 130 175), had thirteen children
Aurelia Galeria Faustina (30 November 147 after 165), had one child
I. Tiberius Claudius Severus Proculus (c. 163 218), had one child
a. Annia Faustina (about 201 after 222), had two children
i. Pomponia Ummidia (219 after 275), died without known issue
ii. Pomponius Bassus (220 after 271), had one child
i. Pomponia Bassa (born c. 250), had one child
i. Septimius Bassus, had one child
i. Septimia (born c. 305), had one child
i. Lucius Valerius Septimius Bassus (c. 328 aft. 379 or 383), had one
i. Valerius Adelphius Bassus (c. 360 aft. 383), had one child
i. Valerius Adelphius (born c. 385), had one child
i. Adelphia (c. 410 aft. 459), had possibly one child
i. Anicia Ulfina
Lucillae (7 March 148 or 150 c. 150), died young without issue
(7 March 148 or 150 182), had four children
I. Aurelia Lucilla (born 165), died young without issue
II. Lucilla Plautia (after 165 182), died without issue
III. Lucius Verus, died young without issue
IV. Pompeianus (170 between 212 and 217), died without issue
Aelius Antoninus (after 150 before 7 March 161), died young without issue
Aelius Aurelius (after 150 before 7 March 161), died young without issue
(152 157), died young without issue
Faustina (after 150 before 7 March 161), died young without issue
(159 after 192), had two children
I. Plautius Quintillus
II. Plautia Servilla
Cornificia Faustina Minor (160 after 211), had one child
I. Petronius Antoninus (after 173 between 190 and 192), died young without
Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (161 165), died young without issue
(31 August 161 31 December 192), died without issue
Annius Verus Caesar (after May 162 10 September 169), died young without
Aurelia Sabina (170 before 217), died without issue
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