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Marcus replaced a number of the empire's major officials. The ab epistulis Sextus Caecilius Crescens Volusianus, in charge of the imperial correspondence, was replaced with Titus Varius Clemens. Clemens was from the frontier province of Pannonia and had served in the war in Mauretania. Recently, he had served as procurator of five provinces. He was a man suited for a time of military crisis. Maecianus was recalled, made senator, and appointed prefect of the treasury aerarium Saturni. He was made consul soon after.

Fronto returned to his Roman townhouse at dawn on 28 March, having left his home in Cirta as soon as news of his pupils' accession reached him. He sent a note to the imperial freedman Charilas, asking if he could call on the emperors.

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Fronto would later explain that he had not dared to write the emperors directly. Reflecting on the speech he had written on taking his consulship in , when he had praised the young Marcus , Fronto was ebullient: "There was then an outstanding natural ability in you; there is now perfected excellence. There was then a crop of growing corn; there is now a ripe, gathered harvest. What I was hoping for then, I have now. The hope has become a reality. Lucius was less esteemed by his tutor than his brother, as his interests were on a lower level.

Lucius asked Fronto to adjudicate in a dispute he and his friend Calpurnius were having on the relative merits of two actors. His daughters were in Rome, with their great-great-aunt Matidia; Marcus thought the evening air of the country was too cold for them. He asked Fronto for "some particularly eloquent reading matter, something of your own, or Cato, or Cicero, or Sallust or Gracchus—or some poet, for I need distraction, especially in this kind of way, by reading something that will uplift and diffuse my pressing anxieties.

Marcus ' early reign proceeded smoothly.

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Marcus was able to give himself wholly to philosophy and the pursuit of popular affection. It would mean the end of the felicitas temporum "happy times" that the coinage of had so glibly proclaimed. In the spring of ,[notes 13] the Tiber overflowed its banks, flooding much of Rome. It drowned many animals, leaving the city in famine. Marcus and Lucius gave the crisis their personal attention. Fronto's letters continued through Marcus' early reign.

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Fronto felt that, because of Marcus ' prominence and public duties, lessons were more important now than they had ever been before. He believed Marcus was "beginning to feel the wish to be eloquent once more, in spite of having for a time lost interest in eloquence". The early days of Marcus ' reign were the happiest of Fronto's life: his pupil was beloved by the people of Rome, an excellent emperor, a fond pupil, and, perhaps most importantly, as eloquent as could be wished.

It had conveyed the drama of the disaster, and the senate had been awed: "not more suddenly or violently was the city stirred by the earthquake than the minds of your hearers by your speech". Fronto was hugely pleased. On his deathbed, Antoninus Pius spoke of nothing but the state and the foreign kings who had wronged him. Convinced by the prophet Alexander of Abonutichus that he could defeat the Parthians easily, and win glory for himself,[] Severianus led a legion perhaps the IX Hispana[] into Armenia, but was trapped by the great Parthian general Chosrhoes at Elegia, a town just beyond the Cappadocian frontiers, high up past the headwaters of the Euphrates.

Severianus made some attempt to fight Chosrhoes, but soon realized the futility of his campaign, and committed suicide. His legion was massacred. The campaign had only lasted three days. There was threat of war on other frontiers as well—in Britain, and in Raetia and Upper Germany, where the Chatti of the Taunus mountains had recently crossed over the limes.

1. " A mon signal, déchaîne les enfers."

Antoninus seems to have given him no military experience; the biographer writes that Marcus spent the whole of Antoninus' twenty-three-year reign at his emperor's side—and not in the provinces, where most previous emperors had spent their early careers. More bad news arrived: the Syrian governor's army had been defeated by the Parthians, and retreated in disarray. The northern frontiers were strategically weakened; frontier governors were told to avoid conflict wherever possible.

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Annius Libo, Marcus ' first cousin, was sent to replace the Syrian governor. He was young—his first consulship was in , so he was probably in his early thirties[]—and, as a mere patrician, lacked military experience. Marcus had chosen a reliable man rather than a talented one. Marcus took a four-day public holiday at Alsium, a resort town on the coast of Etruria.

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He was too anxious to relax. Writing to Fronto, he declared that he would not speak about his holiday. 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? Who knows better than you how demanding it is! Fronto sent Marcus a selection of reading material,[] and, to settle his unease over the course of the Parthian war, a long and considered letter, full of historical references.

There had been reverses in Rome's past, Fronto writes,[] 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". Over the winter of —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. Marcus would remain in Rome; the city "demanded the presence of an emperor".

Lucius spent most of the campaign in Antioch, though he wintered at Laodicea and summered at Daphne, a resort just outside Antioch. In the middle of the war, perhaps in autumn or early , Lucius made a trip to Ephesus to be married to Marcus ' daughter Lucilla. Vettulenus Civica Barbarus, the half-brother of Lucius' father. Marcus may have planned to accompany them all the way to Smyrna the biographer says he told the senate he would ; this did not happen. The Armenian capital Artaxata was captured in Occupied Armenia was reconstructed on Roman terms.

He may not even have been crowned in Armenia; the ceremony may have taken place in Antioch, or even Ephesus. In , the Parthians intervened in Osroene, a Roman client in upper Mesopotamia centered on Edessa, and installed their own king on its throne. In , Roman forces moved on Mesopotamia. Edessa was re-occupied, and Mannus, the king deposed by the Parthians, was re-installed. The Parthian army dispersed in the Tigris.

By the end of the year, Cassius' army had reached the twin metropolises of Mesopotamia: Seleucia on the right bank of the Tigris and Ctesiphon on the left. Ctesiphon was taken and its royal palace set to flame. The citizens of Seleucia, still largely Greek the city had been commissioned and settled as a capital of the Seleucid Empire, one of Alexander the Great's successor kingdoms , opened its gates to the invaders.

The city got sacked nonetheless, leaving a black mark on Lucius' reputation. Excuses were sought, or invented: the official version had it that the Seleucids broke faith first. Cassius' army, although suffering from a shortage of supplies and the effects of a plague contracted in Seleucia, made it back to Roman territory safely.

Lucius took the title 'Medicus',[] and the emperors were again hailed as imperatores, becoming 'imp.

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  4. IV' in imperial titulature. Marcus took the Parthicus Maximus now, after another tactful delay. Most of the credit for the war's success must be ascribed to subordinate generals, the most prominent of which was C. Cassius was a young senator of low birth from the north Syrian town of Cyrrhus. His father, Heliodorus, had not been a senator, but was nonetheless a man of some standing: he had been Hadrian's ab epistulis, followed the emperor on his travels, and was prefect of Egypt at the end of Hadrian's reign.

    Cassius also, with no small sense of self-worth, claimed descent from the Seleucid kings. At Rome, Marcus was occupied with family matters. Matidia, his great-aunt, had died. However, her will was invalid under the lex Falcidia: Matidia had assigned more than three-quarters of her estate to non-relatives.

    This was because many of her clients were included in codicils to her will. Matidia had never confirmed the documents, but as she was dying, her clients had sealed them in with the original, making them valid. Fronto urged Marcus to push the family's case, but Marcus demurred, saying his brother would make the final decision.