chapter  5
2 Pages

The Illustrations

The face of Marcus Aurelius is unusually well recorded on the imperial coinage, from his first appearance as ‘Aurelius Caesar, son of Pius Augustus, consul designate’ in 139, to his last in the year of his death forty-one years later. There were in his lifetime and subsequently very numerous portraits in other materials too, as we would know even without the much-quoted passage in Fronto’s letter to him (Ad MC 4.12.6 = H.i 207 = vdH 67) about the cheap painted busts in clay or wood that he came across everywhere in the shops and markets of Rome. Cf. M. Wegner, Die Herrscherbildnisse in antoninischer Zeit (Berlin 1939); M. Bargmann, Marc Aurel (Frankfurt 1978). I have preferred to select coins rather than sculpted portraits, both of Marcus and of other members of the imperial family, since they can be more precisely dated – giving in the case of Marcus himself, a series showing him at the ages of seventeen, twentysix, thirty-seven, forty-eight and fifty-six. The other coins are intended to illustrate the principal figures in the dynasty: Hadrian and his empress, Aelius Caesar, Antoninus and Faustina I, Faustina II, Lucius and Lucilla, Commodus and Crispina. I have added portraits of Pertinax, who played a not insignificant role in Marcus’ wars and of Caracalla, whose name was changed to that of Marcus. I have also included the equestrian statue of Marcus now in the Piazza del Campidoglio, one of the most celebrated imperial images of all time, and as copious a selection as was possible of scenes from the Aurelian Column, focusing mainly on those in which Marcus himself appears Brief comment on these may be helpful.