Lucius Verus

Lucius Verus

Infobox Roman emperor
title=Emperor of the Roman Empire
name=Lucius Verus
full name =Lucius Ceionius Commodus
(from birth to adoption);
Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus (from adoption to accession);
Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus Augustus (as emperor)

caption =Bust of Lucius Verus
reign =March 8 161-169
(with Marcus Aurelius)
predecessor =Antoninus Pius
successor =Marcus Aurelius (alone)
spouse 1 =Lucilla
spouse 2 =
issue =3 children
dynasty =Antonine
father =Lucius Aelius (natural); Antoninus Pius (adoptive, from Feb 138)
mother =Avidia Plautia
date of birth =birth date|130|12|15|df=y
place of birth =
date of death =169 (age 39)
place of death =Rome
place of burial =Hadrian's Mausoleum|
Antonine dynasty

caption=Lucius Verus on a coin issued to celebrate his victory against Vologases IV of Parthia

Lucius Aurelius Verus (December 15 130 – 169), born as Lucius Ceionius Commodus, known simply as Lucius Verus, was Roman co-emperor with Marcus Aurelius (161–180), from 161 until his death.


Adoption by Hadrian

Verus was the son of Avidia Plautia and Lucius Aelius Caesar, the adopted son, and intended successor, of Emperor Hadrian (117–138).

When Aelius Caesar died in 138, Hadrian chose Antoninus Pius (138–161) as his successor, on the condition that Antoninus adopt both Verus (then seven years old) and Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian's nephew. As an imperial prince, Verus received careful education from the most famous "grammaticus" Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Verus is reported to have been an excellent student, fond of writing poetry and delivering speeches.

Verus had two sisters. One sister Ceionia Fabia was engaged to Marcus Aurelius in 136. However Marcus Aurelius in 138, broke off the engagement to Fabia. Aurelius was adopted by emperor Antoninus Pius’ and was engaged to Pius’ daughter Faustina the Younger whom he later married. Lucius had another sister Ceionia Plautia, little is known about the sisters.

Imperial accession

Verus' political career started as quaestor in 153 and then as consul in 154. In 161, he was once again consul, with Marcus Aurelius as senior partner. Antoninus died on March 7, 161, and was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius. Verus was nonetheless adopted as co-emperor, an unprecedented event in the Roman Empire. Officially both men shared equal powers, but in practice it was Marcus Aurelius who became the leader. Verus was given the control of the armies, proving the confidence between him and his senior brother. To solidify this alliance, Marcus Aurelius gave his daughter Lucilla in marriage to Verus. Lucius and Lucilla had two daughters and a son. The elder daughter and son died young, however the younger daughter lived long enough to be involved in a plot against her maternal uncle, emperor Commodus in 182. She was killed with her mother.

Eastern campaigns

Between 162 and 166 Verus was in the East, commanding a campaign against the Parthian empire for the control over the Armenian kingdom. In this war, the city of Seleucia on the Tigris was destroyed and the palace at the capital Ctesiphon was burned to the ground by Avidius Cassius in 165. The Roman legions advanced as far as Media. Vologases IV of Parthia (147–191) made peace but was forced to cede western Mesopotamia to the Romans. Verus is reported to have been an excellent commander, without fear of delegating military tasks to more competent generals.

Contemporary accounts state that Verus did not live a hard life during the campaign. He was always surrounded with actors and musicians, enjoying copious banquets and other pleasures of life. Apparently his cheerful disposition spread to the troops, since the morale was high. His attitude apparently did not undermine his effectiveness. Verus remained a diligent leader and performed his tasks with competence. On his return to Rome, Verus was awarded with a triumph, and the title of "Armeniacus". The parade was unusual because it included Verus, Marcus Aurelius, their sons and unmarried daughters as a big family celebration.

Years in Rome

The next two years (166–168) were spent in Rome. Verus continued with his glamorous lifestyle and kept the troupe of actors and favourites with him. He had a tavern built in his house, where he celebrated parties with his friends until dawn. He also enjoyed roaming around the city among the population, without acknowledging his identity. The games of the circus were another passion in his life, especially chariot racing. Marcus Aurelius disapproved of his conduct but, since Verus continued to perform his official tasks with efficiency, there was little he could do.

Wars on the Danube and death

In the spring of 168 war broke out in the Danubian border when the Marcomanni invaded the Roman territory. This war would last until 180, but Verus did not see the end of it. In 168, as Verus and Marcus Aurelius returned to Rome from the field, Verus fell ill with symptoms attributed to food poisoning, dying after a few days (169). However, scholars believe that Verus may have been a victim of smallpox, as he died during a widespread epidemic known as the Antonine Plague. Despite the minor differences between them, Marcus Aurelius grieved the loss of his adoptive brother. He accompanied the body to Rome, where he offered games to honour his memory. After the funeral, the senate declared Verus divine to be worshipped as "Divus Verus".


* Augustan History

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