Marcus Aurelius was born in Rome and was raised by his grandfather, a relative of Hadrian. Hadrian ordered his own successor Antoninus Pius to adopt Marcus Aurelius as imperial heir. After Marcus succeeded as emperor in 161, he named his adopted brother Lucius Verus as co-emperor. Throughout his reign, Marcus faced crises including invasion by the Parthians from Iran and subsequent attacks from Germanic tribes. He nonetheless found time to write his famous philosophical treatise known as the Meditations.
Martin Beckmann, The Column of Marcus Aurelius: The Genesis and Meaning of a Roman Imperial Monument (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 67-80.