Julia Maesa having died soon after Alexander’s accession, Mamaea, with his tutor Ulpian, determined the policies, and conceived the reforms, of Alexander’s administration. She ruled with wisdom and restraint, caring more for the success of the dynasty than for the pageantry of power; she yielded to the great lawyer and the young emperor the credit for the achievements of his reign. She and Ulpian chose sixteen outstanding senators to serve as an imperial council, without whose approval no major measures were carried out. She could control everything except her love for her son. When he married and showed an affectionate partiality for his wife, Mamaea had her banished, and Alexander, forced to choose, surrendered to his mother. As he grew older he took a more active part in administration. “He would give his attention to public business even before dawn,” says his ancient biographer, “and would continue at it to an advanced hour, never growing weary or irritated, but always cheerful and serene.”

His basic policy was to weaken the disruptive dominance of the army by restoring the prestige of the Senate and the aristocracy; rule by birth seemed to him the only actual alternative to rule by money, myth, or the sword. With the co-operation of the Senate he effected a hundred economies in administration, dismissed the supernumeraries in his palace, in governmental offices, and in provincial rule. He sold most of the imperial jewelry, and deposited the proceeds in the treasury. Perhaps with less Senatorial approval he legalized. encouraged, and reorganized the workers’ and tradesmen’s associations, and “allowed them to have advocates chosen from their own numbers.” Assuming a severe censorship over public morals, he ordered the arrest of prostitutes and the deportation of homosexuals. While reducing taxes, he restored the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla, built a public library, a fourteen-mile aqueduct, and new municipal baths, and financed the construction of baths, aqueducts, bridges, and roads throughout the Empire. To force down interest rates that were harassing debtors, he lent public money at four per cent, and advanced funds to the poor, without any interest charge, for the purchase of agricultural land. All the Empire prospered and applauded; the godly Aurelius, it seemed, had returned to earth and to power.