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Marcus Aurelius and the Marcommannic Wars

Around 180 A.D., Emperor Marcus Aurelius ruled Rome, which is where he appears in the Bible Timeline.  It was during this time that the empire was experiencing some of its greatest incursions from foreign invaders. Barbarian tribes from eastern and central Europe had always proved to be problematic for Rome. Even though Rome had managed to keep the Germanic tribes on the borderlands between ancient Germany and France in check, they could not wipe them out. After losing the battle of Teutoburg Forest around 9 A.D., the Romans never again tried to push into German territory. However, since that time the Germans were constantly pushing against the outer edges of the empire.

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Marcus Aurelius

Emperor Marcus Aurelius had ruled Rome for nearly 20 years and during his reign a group of Germanic barbarians known as the Marcomanni had posed a significant threat to Rome. The Marcomanni had first encountered the Romans almost a century earlier when Augustus was aggressively expanding Roman lands. To avoid Roman domination, the Marcommani had settled into Bohemia where they established a powerful kingdom. Emperor August viewed them as a threat and soundly defeated them later in battle. The defeated Marcomanni remained under Roman dominion for almost 200 years before they decided to revolt against their rulers.

Over the years, the Marcomanni had built up its number of warriors and the territory had aligned itself with three other groups known as the Quasi, Vandals, and the Samaritans to form a confederation. Then around 166 A.D. they began to hit the northern and western parts of the Roman Empire. Emperor Aurelius had battled against his old enemies, and he was able to halt their advances, but he did so by suffering great losses.

The Marcomannic War had come during a bad period within the Roman Empire. Many Roman provinces were being ravaged by the outbreak of disease, and this plague caused the deaths of millions of people. Rome now had a limited supply of fighting forces and had to deal with containing this plague while trying to keep back its enemies. The soldiers were able to hold back initial Germanic invasions, but they eventually lost a major battle at Aquileia. Marcus Aurelius had countered the Germanic tribes by defeating them in a series of battles that lasted from 171 A.D. to 174 A.D. These series of battles were also used to take back Aquileia from the barbarians.

Marcus Aurelius died in 180 A.D. and was succeeded by Emperor Commodus, who was no longer interested in continuing this war. He had fought alongside Aurelius as co-emperor of Rome. Ultimately, he signed a peace treaty with the Marcomanni and the Quadi and went back to Rome to live a life of luxury and ease. Commodus told the people that Rome was victorious when they returned.

Most Romans at the time were not fully aware of the implications of this battle, but some soldiers and statesmen probably recognized what they meant. Rome was struggling to contain its barbaric enemies, and it was also reaching its limits with expansion. Ultimately, the Marcomannic Wars were a precursor to the coming barbaric invasions that would one day destroy Rome.

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