Verus was the son of Lucius Aelius Caesar, a man close to emperor Hadrian and his first choice as successor, by his wife Avidia. When Aelius Caesar died in AD 138, Hadrian chose Antoninus Pius as his successor, on the condition that Antoninus adopted both Verus (then seven years old) and Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian's nephew. As an imperial prince, Verus received careful education from the most famous grammaticus Marcus Cornelius Fronto. Verus is reported as an excellent student, fond of writing poetry and delivering oratory speeches.
Verus' political career started as quaestor in 153 and then as consul in 154, much earlier than the stipulated minimum age for the job (32 years) and without being praetor in between. In 161, he was once again consul, with Marcus Aurelius as senior partner. That same year Antoninus died and was succeeded by Marcus Aurelius. Verus was neonetheless opted as co-emperor, an unprecedented event in the Roman Empire. Officially both men shared equal powers, but in practice it was Marcus Aurelius who became the leader. Verus was given the control of the armies, proving the confidence between him and his senior brother. To solidify this alliance, Marcus Aurelius gave his daughter Lucilla in marriage to Verus and together they had three children.
Between 162 and 166 Verus was in the East, commanding a campaign against the Parthian empire. The expedition was not a success, but Verus is reported to be an excellent commander, without fear of delegating military tasks to more competent generals. Contemporary accounts state that Verus did not live a hard life during the campaign. He was always surrounded with actors and musicians, enjoying copious banquets and other pleasures of life. Apparently the merry disposition was transposed to the ranking troops, since the morale was high. This attitude did not either stop his reasonable actions: Verus remained a competent leader and preformed his tasks with competence. On the return of the campaign, Verus was awarded with a Roman triumph. The parade was unusual because it included Verus, Marcus Aurelius, their sons and unmarried daughters as a big family celebration.
The next two years were spent in Rome. Verus continued with his glamorous lifestyle and kept the troupe of actors and favourites with him. He had a tavern built in his house, where he celebrated parties with his friends until dawn. He also enjoyed roaming around the city among the population and without acknowledging his identity. The games of the circus were another passion in his life, especially chariot racing. Marcus Aurelius disapproved of his conduct but, since Verus continued to perform his official tasks with efficiency, there was little he could do.
In the spring of 168 war broke out in the Danubian border when the Alamanni and the Marcomanni invaded the Roman territory. This war would last until 180, but Verus did not see the end of it. In 169, as Verus and Marcus Aurelius returned to Rome from the field, Verus fell ill with the symptoms of food poisoning, dying after a few days. Despite the minor differences between them, Marcus Aurelius grieved the loss of his adoptive brother. He accompanied the body to Rome, where he offered games to honor his memory. After the funeral, the senate declared Verus a god to be worshipped as Divus Verus.
Antoninus Pius (138 - 161)
Concurrent with and succeeded by:
Marcus Aurelius (161 - 180)