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WHEN the new ruler was called to the throne, he
received the surname Pius, because he had been very
good to Hadrian when that emperor was ill and would
 fain have killed himself. Antoninus had no ambition to
reign, but he accepted the crown because it had been
Hadrian's wish that he should look after the welfare of
the Roman people.
One of his first acts was to adopt another good man,
Marcus Aurelius, as his successor, and to show
clemency toward a few of the senators who conspired
against him. The leaders of the conspiracy, fearing
his wrath, killed themselves in their terror; but
Antoninus would not allow any inquiry to be made into
the plot, lest he should hear that there were other
Romans who hated him.
All through his long reign of more than twenty years,
his gentleness and moderation continued, and his first
and constant thought was the good of his people. Once,
during a famine, he was stoned by some of the most
ignorant Romans, who fancied that their sufferings were
his fault. But, instead of punishing them, he freely
forgave them, and divided all the food he had in his
palace among the famished multitude.
We are told that Antoninus built the great circus at
Nimes, in Gaul, because his family had lived there; and
that he ordered the erection of the huge aqueduct near
there which is known as the "Bridge of the Gard."
Antoninus once read the works of a philosopher named
Justin, who had been converted to Christianity. From
them he learned that the Christians, whom the Romans
despised and illtreated, taught their disciples nothing
but good; and he therefore put an end to the
persecutions against them.
Although the emperor himself was not a Christian, he
allowed the new sect to practice their religion openly.
 Before this, the Christians had been obliged to hide in
the Catacombs, long, underground passages, where they
had held their meetings in constant terror for their
When Antoninus died, at the age of seventy-four, the
people all mourned for him as for a father; and they
erected a column in his honor, of which nothing but the
base can now be seen. We are told that this monument
bore the emperor's favorite maxim, which was: "I would
rather save the life of one citizen, than put to death
a thousand enemies."