7 March 161
Marcus Aurelius was the last in a remarkable succession of rulers of Rome that saw the empire reach its greatest extent and enjoy its true Golden Age. He succeeded his father-in-law Antoninus Pius (who had adopted him to ensure his ascendancy) when he was almost 40, and ruled for 19 years. He was not killed by his son Commodus, and he died in Vienna, not the wilds of Germany. However, Commodus was as bad as the movie Gladiator makes him out to be, and his reign began a long, slow decline of Roman power.
Aurelius is probably most famous for his Meditations, which he wrote down during his years as emperor. He had always been impressed by Greek philosophy and apparently saw himself in that mold. He ruled with moderation and toleration, forbidding the execution of senators and tolerating Christianity, although there is no evidence that he wanted to restore the Republic. He died in 180 at the age of 59, and evil Joaquin Phoenix messed things up for Rome. Boo hoo. Rome from AD 98 (the accession of Trajan) to 180 must have been an interesting place to live. It was, as I mentioned, the Golden Age.