The Life and Times: Antoninus Pius

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  • Topic: Roman Empire, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius
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The Life and Times: Antoninus Pius- “The Excellent Emperor”

Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius. Another dead white guy. Evidence points toward the reign of Antoninus Pius being one of prosperity; when Rome was ruled by an upright man, who could not be troubled to expand or dominate, instead choosing to internalize efforts and innovate both policy and structure. Pius’s image and reception, those exact innovations, and the connections from him to the rest of Roman History all make him a standout Roman leader. Antoninus achieved quite the successful career prior to his Emperorship, working under his later adoptive father, Hadrian, as a proconsul of Asia that helped shaped his views and priorities- frankly, at that point he could have retired, living on as a respected and wealthy man- but when Hadrian’s heir died, Pius was offered (and adopted into) the tribunician power. A few months afterwards, on Hadrian's death, he was welcomed to the throne by the Roman people, who were not only familiar to his work, but for the first time, not disappointed in their anticipation of a happy reign. Antoninus proceeded to his new office with common pleasures, kindly disposition, extensive experience, a well-trained intelligence and the sincerest desire for the success of his people (Roman-Colosseum)- essentially the closest an Emperor could be to the popular idea of a political everyman. The people regarded Pius as someone they could trust, even a father (once deemed “pater patriae” or “Father of His Country”)- "With such care did he govern all peoples under him that he looked after all things and all men as if they were his own." (Capitolinus 7.1) This well placed trust easily shaped his reign into the most pleasing period in Roman history (in the favor of the people.) The world enjoyed a general peace, and the emperor slaved to ensure utilitarian values and prosperity. Economically, Pius was relatively conservative and avoided luxurious waste;...
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