This dynasty ruled from 96 to 192 CE. Its founder was Nerva.
The reign of this dynasty was the apex of Rome’s power, ruling over territories as far away as Dacia, Mesopotamia and Armenia. The reign of the emperors Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius is known as the “golden age of the empire”. Rulers were famous for their moderation in their use of power, and succession in their era was peaceful. Each emperor adopted an heir, thus avoiding the political struggle of succession, both before and after it.
The first five rulers were dubbed the “Five Good Emperors ” because of their good nature and rational thinking when making decisions.
Marcus Cocceius Nerva (30 – 98 CE)
He came from a distinguished senatorial family, though not belonging to the Roman elite. He was consul with Vespasian in 71 CE and with Domitian in 90 CE After the murder of Domitian, the conspirators appointed him emperor on September 18, 96 CE, including because of his old age (61) and childlessness.
He was a much gentler emperor than his predecessor. He released prisoners accused of treason, forbidding such accusations in the future, restored confiscated estates, and strengthened the importance of the senate. He adopted a young commander, Trajan, who fought in Germania.
Marcus Ulpius Traianus (53-117 CE)
He created new provinces: Dacia, Arabia, Armenia, Mesopotamia and Assyria. He won the Parthians in the war in 114 – 117 CE. A brilliant reformer and a good emperor. We know him, for example, from Trajan’s column, which was created in honour of his victories. He was awarded the title of “Best” (Optimus) for his achievements.
The internal politics led by Trajan was characterized by cooperation with the Senate (as evidenced by the title Optimus princeps he was assigned to him) while strengthening his own power. Trajan also took care of the development of the province, often communicating with the governors. Towards the end of his life, Trajan, who was seriously ill (he had, among other things, ascites) began to make controversial decisions that mainly harmed the aristocracy.
Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus (76 – 138 CE)
Son of Aelius Hadrianus Afer and Domitia Paulina. In 100 CE he married Vibia Sabina.
He became famous for his reforms. He reformed the tax system, relaxed slave laws, and issued legal instructions to praetors (perpetual edict). He suppressed an uprising in Jerusalem (Judea) in 132-135 CE. Art connoisseur; after his death, he was counted among the gods.
Lucius Ceionius Commodus (101 – 138 CE)
Commodus was elevated by Hadrian to the dignity of Caesar, as Lucius Aelius Verus Caesar and was expected to be heir to the throne. However, being in very poor health, he died a few months before Hadrian.
Titus Aurelius Fulvius Boionius Arrius Antoninus (86 – 161 CE)
He married Faustina the Elder and was the father of Faustina the Younger, he adopted Marcus Aurelius and married him to Faustina the Younger. He himself was adopted by Hadrian.
He was famous for suppressing the British uprising and erecting the Antoninus Wall. The wall was built in 142 CE in Scotland. His reign was a time of prosperity and peace, often called Pax Romana. His and Marcus Aurelius’ reign is the decline of Rome’s greatness. After his death, he was unanimously recognized as a god by the Senate.
Lucius Ceionius Commodus Verus (130 – 169 CE)
He was adopted by Antoninus Pius together with the elder Marcus Aurelius. He co-ruled with the emperor-philosopher. He was the complete opposite of his foster brother. He loved the games, games, and frolics when Aurelius devoted himself to examining court cases and administering the state. Despite their conflicting characters, there was never any conflict between them. Verus always gave way to the authority of the older Marcus.
He died of a stroke at the age of 39, having previously brought the great plague to Rome from the East with his legions. It was one of the greatest epidemics, if not the greatest in antiquity.
Marcus Annius Aurelius Verus (121 – 180 CE)
His father, Annius Verus, died when Marcus was 11 years old. He received a thorough, comprehensive education. He was adopted by his uncle Antoninus Pius in 138 CE. He married his daughter – Faustina, he had a son, Commodus, and daughters: Lucilla and Vibia Sabina. He ruled together with his infirm brother Lucius Verus.
His rule is a period of constant wars. In his “Meditations” he made it clear that he believed that his rule brought only death and sacrifice, without much good. The main enemies of Rome at that time were the Germanic tribes and the Parthians. He was a good commander, with spectacular victories.
Marcus Aurelius lived a modest, quiet life according to strict Stoic principles. He had a deep sense of duty to serve the country and its citizens. He maintained good relations with the Senate and carried out reforms in the field of administration and civil law. He tolerated the persecution of Christians whom he considered enemies of the state. He was buried in Hadrian’s Mausoleum. He was the last of the good emperors.
Lucius Aurelius Commodus (121 – 192 CE)
The son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina. Husband of Bruttia Crispina. In 176 CE together with his father, he took part in the expedition to the East against Avidius Cassius. From 177 CE co-ruled with his father.
His rule was a cruel tyranny. Compared to Caligula and Nero. Murdered as a result of a conspiracy in which his lover Marcia participated. From that moment on, Rome ceased to be as strong as it did in the days of the “five good emperors”.
Family tree of the Nerva–Antonine dynasty