Marcus Aurelius was crowned Emperor of the Roman Empire on 7 March 161, beginning a reign that was characterised by bitter and near-continuous warfare. He also faced the financial weakening of the Empire, which he had to solve through extensive government reforms and, on a personal front, was betrothed to a notoriously unfaithful wife who bore him an unsuitable heir.
Aside from his political and military successes, however, Marcus Aurelius left a formidable legacy in the form of his diary, known today as the Meditations, but in his original writings headed simply 'To Myself'. Written in his later life while he was campaigning on the northern frontier, they demonstrated his adherence to the stoic school of ancient philosophy and his reverence for virtue and duty - to one's self and to others. He famously wrote in book VIII, 5, ‘The first rule is, to keep an untroubled spirit; for all things must bow to Nature's law, and soon enough you must vanish into nothingness, like Hadrian and Augustus. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are, remembering that it is your duty to be a good man. Do without flinching what man's nature demands; say what seems to you most just - though with courtesy, modesty and sincerity’ (quoted in C. Scarre, Chronicle of the Roman Emperors, London, 1995, p. 118).