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The Five Good Emperors of Rome

Updated on September 20, 2012

The Five Good Emperors of Ancient Rome

The five good emperors of ancient Rome have traditionally been labeled as Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. They rose to power after the assassination of Domitian because Rome feared another civil war similar to after the deaths of Julius Caesar or Nero. The Senate met to discuss this issue and choose one of their senators to become emperor, Nerva. The following 84 years were a time of Roman splendor, nothing seemed to be able to change their good fortunes.


Marcus Cocceius Nerva

Chosen by the Senate, Nerva was successful in a short period of time as emperor of Rome.

Nerva was the first of the five good emperors of rome and ruled from A.D. 96-98 after the assassination of the much disliked Domitian. In only two short years as ruler, Nerva's accomplishments set Rome back onto the road to success. Upon rising to power, Nerva made a vow not to execute senators for treason, promptly released citizens that were imprisoned under Domitian, and returned property to those who rightfully owned it. He was the first emperor to adopt an heir to the throne who was not part of his natural family. Nerva's main projects at emperor centered around improving public works. He built aqueducts, improved the transportation system, and built grain banks to improve the public food supply. Nerva funded these affairs by destroying Domitian's architecture, and saving the gold and silver from them for public use. Nerva died in 98 A.D. three weeks after having a stroke, his successor Trajan would deify him through the Senate.

Trajan Before His Death
Trajan Before His Death


Following in the footsteps of his step-father, Trajan was the second good emperor of Rome

Trajan was Roman Emperor from 98-117 A.D. He was not born into a wealthy family however, Trajan rose to fame through the military and established a name for himself as a General by crushing revolts along the German frontier. Just like his step-father, he was known for being an outstanding civil administrator, and his impact left several lasting impressions upon Rome, such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's MarketPlace, and Trajan's Column. He completed the process of freeing prisoners from Domitian's reign and returning confiscated property that was begun by Nerva. Trajan created one of the first welfare programs in document history, the Alimenta. The purpose of this program was to provide a form of education to orphans and poor children along with providing them food and enough gold to survive. Trajan died in 117 A.D. from edema, which is the collection of abnormal amounts of fluid beneath the skin, and choose Hadrian as his heir.

Fun Fact

Trajan was the first ruler of Rome born in an outer province, so he technically wasn't even Roman!

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Successor to Trajan, Hadrian made his name by building a massive wall in Britania.

Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117-138 A.D. During his reign, Hadrian traveled to nearly every territory in the Roman Empire. He was a man of his subjects, he often traveled with the military and even dined and slept with the soldiers. Despite Hadrian's love of the military, his time in power was marked by very few military engagements. He built a massive fortification stretching across the body of Britania in order to strengthen a treaty with Parthia, this became known as Hadrian's Wall. He has been described by historians as the more versatile of emperors, displaying affection towards the arts and showed a cunning intellect. Hadrian spent the final years of his life in Rome, and adopted a young consul as his heir, his name was Lucius Aurelius.

Fun Fact!

Hadrian's Wall still stands today, mostly intact along most of its length in England.

Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius

The last of the five good emperors

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161-180 A.D. and was the last of the five good emperors. Marcus ruled alongside of Lucius Verus as co-emperors until Lucius's death in 169 A.D. He is also considered one of ancient Rome's most important stoic philosophers. Marcus and Lucius allowed free speech, and enjoyed hearing how satirical writers pictured them without fear of retribution. Lax laws like this made for a peaceful time, which boosted popular opinion of Marcus. Later during his rule, there were outbreaks of resistance against Rome across the outer provinces. After a relatively short campaign against Parthia, Marcus fell ill and died before he could return to Rome. His ashes were sent to Rome where he was immediatly deified

What do you think? - Your opinions matter to me, what please leave any thoughts at all on this topic.

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      ------- H 3 years ago


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      anonymous 5 years ago

      :/ what about antonius pius?

    • Patduffy profile image

      Patduffy 7 years ago

      @javr: thank you very much

    • javr profile image

      javr 7 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Excellent and interesting lens! This lens has been blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • pkmcruk profile image

      pkmcr 7 years ago from Cheshire UK

      Very nicely done and presented. I have a great affection for all things Roman

    • stuhaynes lm profile image

      stuhaynes lm 7 years ago

      Excellent and very concise. I live not that far from Hadrians wall, it was supposed to keep the bl**dy Scots out...... ! It didn't work then and we've had to sack one as Prime Minister just recently!!!!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Nicely done! I'm very fond of Hadrian, a cosmopolitan man.

      P.S. I think the books are fine where they are

    • tourism-india profile image

      tourism-india 7 years ago

      The lens is nice and informative though I would say that books on ancient Rome section could have come below. It sort of disturbed my smooth reading. Can add a bit of more fun facts that will make your lens even more interesting

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 7 years ago

      I enjoyed this lens. I have a weakness for Ancient history. I would have liked even more content about these Roman emperors.

    • MagpieNest profile image

      MagpieNest 7 years ago

      I like a bit of ancient Rome. Very interesting.