Born Marcus Annius Verus in A.D. 121, he was brought up by his grandfather because his father passed away when he was very young.
When he was sixteen, a series of events would lead him to the throne. The reigning emperor Hadrian was childless and became ill. He chose the childless senator Antoninus as a successor, under the condition that the senator adopt Marcus and Lucius Verus. Marcus took the name of his adopted father, and became Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
In 161, Antoninus died, and left Marcus as his successor along with Lucius Verus as co-regent. He would be the ruler of the Roman Empire for almost twenty years.
Marcus Aurelius is said to have been fond of quoting Plato's dictum:
States will never be happy until rulers become philosophers or philosophers
Meditations is believed to be composed during the last ten years of Marcus’ life, that is, from 169 to 170.
This was a stressful period for Marcus as he fought battles outside the frontier against the barbarian tribes, and civil wars inside the border against rivals.
This was a dark period for Marcus as he witnessed the deaths of his colleague Verus, and his cherished wife Faustina.
The quotes are based on the new translation of Meditations by Gregory Hays.