Emperor Antoninus Pius: 3 Reasons He Is Remembered Today

Born19th of September, 86 AD
Died7th of March, 161 AD
Known ForSaving senators sentenced by Hadrian, legal reforms across the Empire,
Region of WorldRome, Italy, 2nd century AD
Further ReadingEmperor Hadrian: 3 Ways He Changed Roman Culture Forever

After the death of emperor Hadrian the 15th emperor of Rome would become Emperor Antoninus Pius. Today he is remembered for 3 things which have forever changed Roman history.

Emperor Antoninus Pius is remembered today for 3 things. First, effectively managing the Empire which made it extremely wealthy. Second, Pius significantly improved the quality of life for Roman’s around the empire. Third, Antonius Pius is remembered for implementing legal reforms around the Roman Empire.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why Emperor Antoninus Pius is remembered today.

Antoninus Pius Effectively Managed The Empire Leaving A Massive Amount Of Money For The Empire

One of the main reasons that Antoninus Pius is remembered today was because of his efficient management of the Empire.

Unlike Hadrian and Trajan, Antoninus Pius would use the elite of the Roman Senate to help administer the empire. This proved to be a huge success in helping to efficiently collect tax and run the empire.

In 1967 a French historian by the name of Hans-Georg mapped out the entirety of Antoninus Pius’s bureaucracy using Roman coins minted during his reign. What he discovered was that Antoninus Pius would strategically ally himself with Senatorial families that he could both trust and manipulate to manage the Roman provinces.

As a result Antoninus Pius is known as an emperor that would never leave the city of Rome. Both Hadrian and Trajan would spend a majority of their time as emperor away from the city of Rome. Antoninus Pius on the other hand preferred to rule from Rome.

This lack of traveling along with the aid of senators meant that Antoninus Pius could easily tax the provinces of the Roman Empire. Further, as a result of this hands off approach most of the provinces would gain some degree of autonomy which led to a lower chance of direct military conflict.

Because of this the Roman Empire enjoyed 22 years of peace under the reign of Antoninus Pius. There was not one major revolt or major military conflicts. This was highly unusual for an emperor and was one of the few times the Roman Empire was at peace.

As a result one of the main reasons that Antoninus Pius is remembered today was because of his efficient administration of the Roman empire. When Pius died in 161 he would leave a massively successful economy of around 2.7 billion sesterces along with a strong central government.

Pius Significantly Improved The Quality Of Life For Romans Around The Empire

cgb - http://www.cgb.fr/antonin-le-pieux-aureus,v57_0274,a.html
Aureus d'Antonin le Pieux Date : 145 Le revers fait peut-être référence à une statue cultuelle de Rome qui était déposée dans le temple de Vénus et de Rome dédicacé en 141, au début du règne. Rome, normalement nicéphore (qui tient la Victoire) porte ici le palladium. C’est la statuette votive qu’Énée aurait emportée de Troie et transportée dans le Latium. Associée Rome et le palladium, c’est revenir aux origines de la cité de Romulus dont le 900e anniversaire de la fondation (21 avril 753 avant J.-C.) sera célébré en 147 en liaison avec les decennalia d’Antonin.

One of the main reasons that Antoninus Pius is remembered today is because he significantly improved the quality of life for the average Roman around the empire.

Previous Roman emperors would use their wealth to build public buildings only in the city of Rome. While he did this as well he is known to increase the living conditions of Roman’s across the empire.

Across the eastern Roman empire Antoninus Pius would undertake a series of public building programs to give Roman’s living in overcrowded cities access to free drinking water.

One of the best sources we have on this elaborate aqueduct building program undertaken by Pius comes from a sixth-century Roman historian named John Malalas. In his work Malalas writes about how Antoninus Pius built several large aqueducts and public buildings across the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire including in the city of Antioch.

On top of this, whenever a Roman city experienced a natural disaster Antoninus Pius would stop collecting taxes from them. Further, Pius would donate enough money to have the city rebuilt to its former status. This was unique as most emperors before him would only fix select cities or towns while Pius seemed to have a blanket policy towards all Roman settlements.

In Greece, Antoninus Pius would establish university faculty members as exempt from forced local spending or tax collection. This policy started under Hadrian but was expanded under Pius.

As such one of the main reasons that Antoninus Pius is remembered today is because he significantly improved the quality of life for Romans across the Empire.

Antoninus Pius Is Remembered For Implementing Legal Reforms Around The Empire

Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany - Copy inscribed in marble of a letter from Antoninus Pius to the Ephesians, from the Bouleuterion at Ephesus, 140-144 AD, British Museum
The emperor resolves a dispute between the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna. Inscription 489 Inscription Translation The Emperor Caesar, son of the deified Hadrian, grandson of the deified Trajan, conqueror of Parthia, descendant from the deified Nerva, Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, Tribune of the people for the....time, Imperator for the .... time, Consul for the third time, Father of his country, to the Magistrates of the Ephesians, and to the Council, and the People, greeting. In my letters to you I expressed my satisfaction that the people of Pergamus had adopted the names which I had directed your city to use. I think, moreover, that the people of Smyrna have by accident passed over these in their decree concerning the joint sacrifice, and that for the future they will show their right feeling by their deliberate adoption of them, if you also in your letters to them shall always have made mention of their city in the manner that is becoming and has been decided. This decree is sent by Sulpicius Julianus, my Procurator. Farewell. This decree was drawn up by Publius Vedius Antoninus acting as scribe. Source:

One of the main reasons that Antoninus Pius is remembered today is because he began a formalization process for all Roman laws across the empire.

Antoninus Pius is credited with breaking up the emperor’s assets into two separate legal categories.

First was the patrimonium which was the official holdings of the Roman Empire and emperor. This property was considered public and any Roman had access to its uses and goods. Further, this property would transition from emperor to emperor and could not be sold without the approval of the Roman Senate or people. Historians debate why an emperor would voluntarily create this delineation.

Second was the res privata or the private properties of the Roman emperor and his family. Here the personal wealth of the emperor would remain in the Imperial family. This was done because before Antoninus Pius became emperor he became incredibly wealthy and did not want his family to lose its wealth.

On top of this Antoninus Pius would begin a massive undertaking of formalizing Roman law across the provinces. Before Pius most Romans were under a weird combination of Roman and provincial law that often resulted in no standard law being followed.

Antoninus Pius would change this. Over the course of his reign he would begin to implement several formal laws that would supersede provincial ones. One such example of this would be the law that local police officers would treat suspects in crimes as innocent until proven guilty.

It is reported that Antoninus Pius was fascinated with philosophy and the old writings of Cicero and the Greeks on natural law. Pius’s new Roman legal system would become a standard around the Roman Empire and heavily influence other governments later on.

As such one of the main reasons that Emperor Antoninus Pius is remembered today is because he implemented legal reforms around the Empire.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 3 reasons that Emperor Antoninus Pius is remembered today.

Antoninus Pius is an amazing Roman emperor to research. We know very little of him and his policies. Primary sources detailing his reign have largely been lost and his buildings have collapsed after disuse. However, prospective graduate students of history will find a wealth of information for a potential research project.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the internet.

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Sincerely,

Nick