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Marcus Annius Verus (II)

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Marcus Annius Verus (II) (c. 50 – 138 AD) was the grandfather and adoptive father of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and father-in-law of Emperor Antoninus Pius. He was prefect of Rome and was enrolled as a patrician when Vespasian and Titus were censors. Verus was three times consul, the first time as a suffect in 97,[1] then as ordinary consul in both 121 and 126. This is apparently the cause for a "very strange inscription, found on a large marble tablet excavated in the sixteenth century at St. Peter's in Rome" which alludes to this achievement while celebrating his skill "playing with a glass ball". Edward Champlin notes it was likely the creation of a friendly rival, Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus, who also held the consulate three times the last after Verus.[2]

One explanation is that the whole thing is a joke, based on the connection between Verus' known passion for playing ball and the notion of the ball game as political juggling: an elegant, self-deprecating and rather bitter joke, one not wholly complimentary to Verus. The aged L. Iulius Servianus wrote the piece himself, had it engraved on a marble slab - perhaps accompanying it with the statue of a toga-clad bear playing ball? - and had it delivered to M. Annius Verus on the Kalends of January, 126. When next they met, the two old men affected to laugh heartily at the joke. Fantasy perhaps, but this is a very strange inscription.

Verus was the son of an elder Marcus Annius Verus, who gained the rank of senator and praetor. His family originated from Uccibi (modern Espejo) near Corduba (modern Córdoba) in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica. The family came to prominence and became wealthy through olive oil production in Spain.[3] He was close friends with the emperor Hadrian.

He died in 138, nearly aged ninety. Marcus Aurelius says in his "Meditations": "From my grandfather Verus, [I learned] a kindly disposition and sweetness of temper".[4] In his elder years, he had a mistress, of whom he expresses gratitude that "I wasn’t raised by my grandfather's mistress for longer than I was".[5]



Verus married Rupilia Faustina, a daughter of the niece of Trajan, Matidia, and had three children:[6]

After Verus the son died in 124, the elder Verus adopted, and, together with their mother Domitia, raised their two grandchildren.[7]

Nerva–Antonine family treeEdit


  1. ^ Fausto Zevi "I consoli del 97 d. Cr. in due framenti gia' editi dei Fasti Ostienses", Listy filologické / Folia philologica, 96 (1973), pp. 125-137
  2. ^ Champlin, "The Glass Ball Game", Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, 60 (1985), pp. 159-163
  3. ^ Anthony Birley, Marcus Aurelius, a Biography (London: Routlege, 1987), p. 28
  4. ^ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, i.1
  5. ^ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, i.17
  6. ^ Birley, Marcus Aurelius, pp. 28f
  7. ^ Birley, Marcus Aurelius, p. 31

Further readingEdit