MARCUS AURELIUS ANTONINUS° (121–180 C.E.), Roman emperor, 161–180 C.E., adopted son and successor of Antoninus Pius; the ideal philosopher-king as envisaged by political thought of the period. Ironically enough, the years of his reign were spent in war defending the borders of the Roman Empire. In 164–5 C.E., Aurelius' general Avidius Cassius captured Seleucia and the Parthian capital Ctesiphon, bringing the Mesopotamian Jews temporarily under Roman rule. When Cassius later proclaimed himself emperor in Syria, the Jews are supposed to have supported him, as a result of which Aurelius "crushed them by means of his preses and legates" (Marcellinus, 23:3). Aurelius held a highly unfavorable opinion of the Jews of Palestine. After passing through the country on his way to Egypt, where he was harassed by their importunities and turbulence, he exclaimed "I find these people [the Jews] to be worse than the Marcomanni, the Quadi, and the Sarmatae!" (ibid., 22:5). There may be an allusion to Marcus Aurelius in the *Sybilline Oracles (5:51). Possibly some characteristics of this philosopher-emperor find expression in the portrayal of the *Antoninus found in the Talmud.
H.D. Sedgwick, Marcus Aurelius (1922), 216–7, 226–7; S. Krauss, Antoninus und Rabbi (1910).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.