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ANTONINUS PIUS (Titus Aurelius Fulvius Bojonius Arrius) whose paternal race came originally from Nismes, was born at Lanuvium (a city of Latium) in the year of Rome 839 (A. D. 86). He was the son of Aurelius Fulvius - a man of consular rank - and of Arria Fadilla.
Having passed through the offices of Quaestor and Praetor, with approved liberality, he served his first Consulship in A.D. 120) being then 33 years of age, in a magnificent style. The emperor Hadrian afterwards appointed him one of the four ex-consuls, to whom the administration of the affairs in Italy, was committed. Sent next as Pro-consul to Asia, he governed that extensive and most important province, with great wisdom and integrity; insomuch as to have exceeded in repute all his predecessors.
On his return, a seat was assigned to him in Hadrian's council of state; and, after the death of Aelius his brother-in-law, he was invested with the Tribunitian Power, in A.D. 138. Hadrian at the same time adopted him, on the condition, that he should himself adopt M. Aurelius, the son of his wife's (Faustina's) brother, and L. Verus, the son of Aelius Caesar. It was then that he took the names of T. Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus. The same year, Hadrian dying, Antoninus received from the Senate the title of Augustus, and the surname of Pius. In A.D. 139, he accepted the title Pater Patriae. In A.D. 141, the third year of his reign, his wife Annia Galeria Faustina died. In A.D. 145, he served his 14th consulship, with Marcus Aurelius Caesar for his colleague. Antoninus gave the toga virilis to L. Verus; dedicated a temple to his father by adoption, Hadrianus; and bestowed a congiarium on the people. In A.D. 146, he celebrated with secular games, the 900th year of the city; and in A.D. 148 he paid the vows due (solcit vota) for the first ten years of his reign (Primi Decennales). From this period to A.D. 160 ancient annals are either silent, or afford only vague and uncertain information. on the subject of events connected with the imperial government of Antoninus; although during that interval of 14 years, a great variety of coins, bearing reverses of geographical, historical and mythological religious interest, are extent; showing by their legends and types, that this emperor had restored several public edifices, and erected others, besides having concluded many important transactions, and given many public spectacles and largesses to the people.
After a reign of 23 years, which the gratitude of his contemporaries has handed down to the veneration of mankind, he died in his palace at Lorium in Etruria, universally regretted, on the 7th of March, A.D. 161 in the 75th year of his age.
Antoninus richly merited the titles and distinctions conferred upon him, as well before as after his accession to the throne; not only by his many and rare virtues as an individual, but also because the welfare and happiness of his people were the constant objects of his care and occupation. Sagacious, learned, eloquent, benign, compassionate, and affable, he was peculiarly endowed with calmness and equanimity, well sustained on all political occasions, by the requisite display of energy and firmness. Kindly disposed towards everybody, and free from vindictiveness, he anticipated, by acts of liberality and beneficence, the utmost wishes of his subjects. Distinguished for probity of character and for dignity of conduct, he delighted in rural retirement and innocent recreation. Well formed in person, mildly expressive in physiognomy, active in disposition, exhibiting an air which commanded respect, and a deportment which conciliated the most favorable opinion; he was plain in his dress, simple in his establishments, frugal at his table. Living within the limits of his patrimonial revenues, of which a portion was always spared for the relief and solace of the wretched; he treated his friends as if he had been their host or their guest rather than their sovereign master. His private habits were decorous and regular, though he was not altogether proof against the allurements of women. As a prince and a ruler, his maxim was to administer strict justice equally to rich and poor, to high and low, to the weak and humble, as well as to the proud and powerful.
In attention to the sacred ceremonies and religious institutions of his country, his inclinations seem to have been assimilated with the policy of Numa, whom he was said to resemble. He caused his adopted son, Marcus Aurelius, to serve all of the state offices, and instructed him in the science of government, with a view to qualify him for the succession. Circumspect in his choice of ministers; vigilant, wise and fortunate, in the management of public affairs, his sole aim was to rule the empire well, and to leave it in prosperity and peace to his successor. Chosen as an arbitrator by kings and peoples, at the most remote distances from Rome, he made a moral conquest of the world by his well-earned influence and preeminent reputation. Among other nations, the Hyrcanians, and the Bactrians, sent embassies of submission to him. Sovereign princes from Mesopotamia and from the further East, personally paid the homage of their admiration to the emperor at his own capital. Through his lieutenants and deputies, he subdued and kept in awe the Britons, the Mauritanians, the Dacians, and the different Germanic tribes; he also suppressed a revolt of the Jews, and put down rebellions in the provinces of Achaia and Egypt. Under this signally mild and tolerant prince, the Christians enjoyed comparative freedom from persecution, until about the 12th tear of his reign (A.D. 151). And even then he issued no edicts against them. But in consequence of his having been induced, rashly and unadvisedly, to withdraw his protection, many virtuous followers of Christianity were put to death under laws of former emperors. Afterwards, however his own sense of humanity and justice again prevailed with him to grant certain indulgences to the Christians, who generally remained in peace and security throughout the remaining period of his life.
In his matrimonial union he been unfortunate, his consort being a woman of dissolute life. But judging from the honorable character of the man, there is every reason to believe, that he deeply felt the disgrace which his wife's misconduct had brought upon his family and court, although the impolicy of bringing her to public shame probably operated, with other motives, in inducing him to be lenient, and even affectionate towards her to the last. Still, nothing could justify the bestowal of "divine honors", by the Senate, at his own gratuitous solicitation, on the faithless Faustina.
The funeral of Antoninus was distinguished by all the imposing ceremonies of Consecration; and his ashes were deposited in the mausoleum of Hadrian. To show how much he was beloved by those he governed, each Roman family was accustomed to have a statue of him in their houses. "No wonder, that," as Spanheim observes, "there should have come even to our days so many visible and durable monuments of his reign, some of which also remain to us, and not falsely, on his coins". - These indeed are abundant, in each metal; and it is surprising how many fine and interesting brass medallions there are of his mintage. - Gold, common (except some in the third degree of rarity; - Silver, common (except in the sixth degree of rarity); - Brass, common (except in the eighth degree of rarity). - He is thereon styled ANTONIVS AVGustus PIVS.P.P. (Pater Patriae) - also IMPerator CAESar T. AELIVS. HADRIANVS. ANTONINVS. PIVS AVG. - The names of Aelius Hadrianus has been already been mentioned, were those of his adoption. - Some rare pieces, struck under this emperor, represent him with Hadrian, Faustina senior, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus.
[The portrait at the head of this notice is engraved after the obverse type of a brass medallion, one of the finest in the Cabinet de France; for the reverse of which see Bacchus and Ariadne.]