chapter  1
17 Pages

The Age of the Antonines

So wrote Edward Gibbon of the ‘happy period of more than four-score years,’ from AD 96-180, during which the Roman empire was ruled by the ‘Five Good Emperors’ – Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. Marcus’ own life (121-80) spanned almost three-quarters of this epoch while his reign (16180) occupied its last nineteen years. It was in describing Marcus’ death, and the accession of his son Commodus, that Cassius Dio, born soon after Marcus’ accession, wrote: ‘My history now descends from a kingdom of gold to a kingdom of iron and rust, as affairs did for the Romans at that time.’1