The study of philosophy and other scholarly pursuits were the things that Marcus Aurelius loved most of all, but it was his lot to spend most of his reign fighting barbarians far from the city of Rome. The hardships of living in an army camp did not stop him from writing, though. His Meditations have survived and are popular amongst those who study the Stoic philosophers. The Meditations also sheds some light on these last years of the period of peace and prosperity that came to a close with the death of Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 180. During his reign, increased attacks by barbarians along the northern borders, especially on the Danube River threatened the stability of the empire and caused a constant financial drain on the treasury. To add to these misfortunes, soldiers returning from the wars brought with them a new and disastrous plague. As a result, the death toll in many provinces of the empire was high. Instead of choosing a capable administrator or army general like the emperors before him, Marcus Aurelius elected to pass the empire on to his spoiled son, Commodus. This is probably the only thing historians can fault him for, as Marcus Aurelius had served as a faithful protector of the Roman people and empire all of his reign. The choice of Commodus was unfortunate as the long period of misrule and civil war that followed the reign of Marcus Aurelius was to prove so dramatically.
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