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The Reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius, AD 138–161 (Hardback)

Ancient History Rome P&S History Biographies

By John S McHugh
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 36 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526773982
Published: 30th September 2022

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The reign of Antoninus Pius is widely seen as the apogee of the Roman Empire yet, due to gaps in the historical sources, his reign has been overlooked by modern historians. He is considered one of the five good emperors of the Antonine dynasty under whom the pax Romana enabled the empire to prosper, trade to flourish and culture to thrive. His reign is considered a Golden Age but this was partly an image created by imperial propaganda. There were serious conflicts in North Africa and Dacia, as well as a major revolt in Britain. On his death the empire stood on the cusp of the catastrophic invasions and rebellions that marked the reign of his successor Marcus Aurelius.

Antoninus Pius became emperor through the hand of fate, being adopted by Hadrian only after the death of his intended heir, Lucius Aelius Caesar. His rule was a balancing act between securing his own safety, securing the succession of his adopted heir and denying opportunities for conspiracy and rebellion. ‘Equanimity’ was the last password he issued to his guards as he lay on his death bed. In the face of the threats and challenges he remained calm and composed, providing twenty-three years of stability; a calm before the storms that gathered both within and beyond Rome’s borders.

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 John S McHugh

About John S McHugh

JOHN S MCHUGH has a BA and MA in Ancient History. His love of the ancient world has led him to travel to many classical sites. Before his recent (early) retirement he was Assistant Headmaster at a secondary school in Bolton. He is the co-author of a text book on Bolton’s connections with the slave trade and assisted Bolton Museum with a project to record the oral history of the local populace with the aim of promoting understanding between people of different generations or ethnic and social backgrounds. He is the author of The Emperor Commodus: God and GladiatorEmperor Alexander Severus: Rome's Age of Insurrection, AD 222-235; and Sejanus, Regent of Rome, which were also published by Pen & Sword Books.

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Commodus is synonymous with debauchery and megalomania, best remembered for fighting as a gladiator. Ridiculed and maligned by historians since his own time, modern popular culture knows him as the patricidal villain in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Much of his infamy is clearly based on fact, but is this the full story? John McHugh reviews the ancient evidence to present the first full-length biography of Commodus in English. His twelve-year reign is set in its historical context, showing that the 'kingdom of gold' he supposedly inherited was actually an empire devastated by plague and war. Openly…

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