It seems that some of our Imperial Friends and Heroes are making their rounds elsewhere at present as amongst the Dionysian Dead: Hadrian and Polydeukion, to be specific! May they be remembered and praised always!
But, another Emperor is our focus today: Antoninus Pius, who was born on this day in 86 CE.
I took this photo myself, when I stood before this image of Antoninus Pius in the British Museum during one of my trips there between 2002 and 2005.
Antoninus Pius often gets more attention than Hadrian does, since the Antonine Dynasty began with him, and was adoptive and relatively successful until the son of Marcus Aurelius took the reigns of the Empire. He most certainly deserves to be remembered for a variety of reasons, including that he was responsible for Hadrian’s apotheosis, which was under threat after the Emperor’s death.
The Historia Augusta has this to say about him in its first two chapters of his life:
Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Antoninus Pius1 was descended, on his father’s side, from a family which came from the country of Transalpine Gaul, more specifically, from the town of Nîmes. His grandfather was Titus Aurelius Fulvus, who after various offices of honour attained to a second consulship and the prefecture of the city; his father was Aurelius Fulvus, also consul, and a stern and upright man. His mother was Arria Fadilla; her mother was Boionia Procilla and her father Arrius Antoninus, twice consul and a righteous man, who pitied Nerva that he assumed the imperial power. Julia Fadilla was his mother’s daughter, his stepfather being Julius Lupus, a man of consular rank. His father-in‑law was Annius Verus and his wife Annia Faustina, who bore him two sons6 and two daughters, of whom the elder was married to Lamia Silanus and the younger to Marcus Antoninus.
Antoninus himself was born at an estate at Lanuvium on the thirteenth day before the Kalends of October in the twelfth consulship of Domitian and first of Cornelius Dolabella. He was reared at Lorium on the Aurelian Way, where he afterwards built the palace whose ruins stand there to‑day. He passed his childhood first with his paternal grandfather, then later with his maternal; and he showed such a dutiful affection toward all his family, that he was enriched by legacies from even his cousins, his stepfather, and many still more distant kin.
In personal appearance he was strikingly handsome, in natural talent brilliant, in temperament kindly; he was aristocratic in countenance and calm in nature, a singularly gifted speaker and an elegant scholar, conspicuously thrifty, a conscientious land-holder, gentle, generous, and mindful of others’ rights. He possessed all these qualities, moreover, in the proper mean and without ostentation, and, in fine, was praiseworthy in every way and, in the minds of all good men, well deserving of comparison with Numa Pompilius. He was given the name of Pius by the senate, either because, when his father-in‑law was old and weak, he lent him a supporting hand in his attendance at the senate (which act, indeed, is not sufficient as a token of great dutifulness, since a man were rather undutiful who did not perform this service than dutiful if he did), or because he spared those men whom Hadrian in his ill-health had condemned to death, or because after Hadrian’s death he had unbounded and extraordinary honours decreed for him in spite of opposition from all, or because, when Hadrian wished to make away with himself, by great care and watchfulness he prevented him from so doing, or because he was in fact very kindly by nature and did no harsh deed in his own time. He also loaned money at four per cent, the lowest rate ever exacted, in order that he might use his fortune to aid many.
As quaestor he was generous, as praetor illustrious, and in the consulship he had as colleague Catilius Severus. His life as a private citizen he passed mostly on his estates but he was well-known everywhere. He was chosen by Hadrian from among the four men of consular rank under whose jurisdiction Italy was placed, to administer that particular part of Italy in which the greater part of his own holdings lay; from this it was evident that Hadrian had regard for both the fame and the tranquillity of such a man.
So, let us remember him today!
Ave Dive Antonine Pie Auguste!