Lucius Verus : biography
The northern frontiers were strategically weakened; frontier governors were told to avoid conflict wherever possible.HA Marcus 12.13; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. Attidius Cornelianus himself was replaced by M. Annius Libo, Marcus’ first cousin. He was young—his first consulship was in 161, so he was probably in his early thirtiesL’Année Épigraphique ; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 125.—and, as a mere patrician, lacked military experience. Marcus had chosen a reliable man rather than a talented one.HA Verus 9.2; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 125.
Marcus took a four-day public holiday at Alsium, a resort town on the Etrurian coast. He was too anxious to relax. Writing to Fronto, he declared that he would not speak about his holiday.De Feriis Alsiensibus 1 (= Haines 2.3); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 126. Fronto replied ironically: "What? Do I not know that you went to Alsium with the intention of devoting yourself to games, joking and complete leisure for four whole days?"De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.1 (= Haines 2.5), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 126. He encouraged Marcus to rest, calling on the example of his predecessors (Pius had enjoyed exercise in the palaestra, fishing, and comedy),De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.4 (= Haines 2.9); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 126–27. going so far as to write up a fable about the gods’ division of the day between morning and evening—Marcus had apparently been spending most of his evenings on judicial matters instead of at leisure.De Feriis Alsiensibus 3.6–12 (= Haines 2.11–19); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 126–27. Marcus could not take Fronto’s advice. "I have duties hanging over me that can hardly be begged off," he wrote back.De Feriis Alsiensibus 4, tr. Haines 2.19; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127. Marcus put on Fronto’s voice to chastise himself: "’Much good has my advice done you’, you will say!" He had rested, and would rest often, but "—this devotion to duty! Who knows better than you how demanding it is!"De Feriis Alsiensibus 4 (= Haines 2.19), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127.
Fronto sent Marcus a selection of reading material, including Cicero’s pro lege Manilia, in which the orator had argued in favor of Pompey taking supreme command in the Mithridatic War. It was an apt reference (Pompey’s war had taken him to Armenia), and may have had some impact on the decision to send Lucius to the eastern front.Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127. "You will find in it many chapters aptly suited to your present counsels, concerning the choice of army commanders, the interests of allies, the protection of provinces, the discipline of the soldiers, the qualifications required for commanders in the field and elsewhere […]"De bello Parthico 10 (= Haines 2.31), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127. To settle his unease over the course of the Parthian war, Fronto wrote Marcus a long and considered letter, full of historical references. In modern editions of Fronto’s works, it is labeled De bello Parthico (On the Parthian War). There had been reverses in Rome’s past, Fronto writes, at Allia, at Caudium, at Cannae, at Numantia, Cirta, and Carrhae;De bello Parthico 1 (= Haines 2.21). under Trajan, Hadrian, and Pius;De bello Parthico 2 (= Haines 2.21–23); Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127. but, in the end, Romans had always prevailed over their enemies: "always and everywhere [Mars] has changed our troubles into successes and our terrors into triumphs".De bello Parthico 1 (= Haines 2.21), qtd. and tr. Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 127.
Lucius’ dispatch and journey east, 162–63?
Over the winter of 161–62, as more bad news arrived—a rebellion was brewing in Syria—it was decided that Lucius should direct the Parthian war in person. He was stronger and healthier than Marcus, the argument went, more suited to military activity.Dio 71.1.3; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123. Lucius’ biographer suggests ulterior motives: to restrain Lucius’ debaucheries, to make him thrifty, to reform his morals by the terror of war, to realize that he was an emperor.HA Verus 5.8; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123, 125. Whatever the case, the senate gave its assent, and Lucius left. Marcus would remain in Rome; the city "demanded the presence of an emperor".HA Marcus 8.9, tr. Magie; Birley, Marcus Aurelius, 123.