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The Five Good Emperors
Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian,
Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius
The Roman Empire
Principal Roman Emperors
The Setting…
• When we last left our emperors, the overallgood Flavian Dynasty had come to an end…
– Domitian lay murdered by his own court officials
– Which family would rule Rome next?
The Five Good Emperors
• Sometimes called the “adoptive emperors.”
• Each one picked his own successor by
adoption to ensure a smooth transition of
government upon his death
• If we could time-travel, this period would be
an excellent time to see the Roman Empire at
its peak: AD 96-AD 180
• Ruled from AD 96-98
• 65 years old when he became
• First emperor chosen
the Senate
• Supporter of the Flavians
• Stopped executions of
senators and treason trials
• Returned property that
Domitian had confiscated
• Passed many tax reliefs for poor
• Forced to choose an heir in AD 97
• Chose Trajan as heir
• Died of natural causes (stroke)
in AD 98 after 15 months in
• Was deified (made a god)
• Ruled from AD 98-117
• Born in Spain
• Became emperor at the age
of 44
• Famous military campaign:
conquered Dacia (modern
Romania) in AD 106
• The Roman Empire was at its
greatest size during his reign
• Famous for many architectural works:
Trajan’s Column, Trajan’s Forum, and
• Started a welfare program for poor
children: alimenta
• Died of illness when returning
to Rome from war against
•Ruled from AD 117-138
•Born in Spain
•His father was a cousin
of Trajan
•Hadrian loved army life
•He traveled to almost every
province of the Roman
Empire during his reign
•He loved Greece and
Greek ideas
•He loved architecture!
•Remembered for building Hadrian’s Wall in
Britain; rebuilding the
Pantheon in Rome; and
starting construction of
Hadrian’s Mausoleum (the
modern Castel Sant’Angelo)
•Died at Baiae, Italy, aged 62
Antoninus Pius
• Ruled from AD 138-161
• Governed from Rome
• “Pius”: convinced Senate to
deify Hadrian
• Ruled well and justly
• No major military conflicts
Antoninus Pius
• Married Anna Galeria Faustina
• Very happy marriage
• 4 children; one daughter
outlived the parents
• Faustina did much charity
• Puellae Faustinianae:
“Faustina’s Girls”---paid
for education
of poor girls
Antoninus Pius
• Faustina died in AD 141
• Antoninus Pius grieved her death
– Had her deified
– Built a temple to her in
the Forum
– After his death in 161, the
temple was rededicated to
them both
Marcus Aurelius
• Ruled from AD 161-180
• Co-ruled with Lucius Verus
from AD 161-169
(Verus’ death)
• Early education was
overseen by Hadrian
• He and Lucius Verus were
adopted by Antoninus Pius
as part of Hadrian’s adoption
agreement with Pius
Marcus Aurelius
• Fought wars with Parthia and Germany
• Was a Stoic philosopher
– Stoics believed in moderation in everything
– Be content with what you have
– Popular philosophy with upper-class Romans
– Marcus Aurelius wrote the “Meditations,” a book
about Stoicism
Marcus Aurelius
• He married Faustina the Younger (daughter of
Antoninus Pius and Faustina)
• 30-year marriage
• 13 children! Only 5 outlived him.
• Annia Aurelia Galeria Faustina (147–after 165)
• Gemellus Lucillae (died around 150), twin brother of Lucilla
• Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla (148/50–182), twin sister of Gemellus,
married her father's co-ruler Lucius Verus
• Titus Aelius Antoninus (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
• Titus Aelius Aurelius (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
• Hadrianus (152–157)
• Domitia Faustina (born after 150, died before 7 March 161)
• Annia Aurelia Fadilla (159–after 211)
• Annia Cornificia Faustina Minor (160–after 211)
• Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus (161–165), twin brother of
• Lucius Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (Commodus) (161–192), twin
brother of Titus Aurelius Fulvus Antoninus, later emperor
• Marcus Annius Verus Caesar (162–169)
• Vibia Aurelia Sabina (170–died before 217)
Marcus Aurelius
• Died in Vienna, Austria,
March 17, AD 180
• Was succeeded by his son
Commodus, who had been
co-ruler since AD 177
• Was deified after his death
Quotes from “Meditations”
A man should be upright, not be kept upright.
Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the
people with whom fate brings you together, but do so
with all your heart.
If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.
Quotes from “Meditations”
Waste no more time arguing about what a good
man should be. Be one.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a
precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to
think, to enjoy, to love.
You have power over your mind - not outside
events. Realize this, and you will find strength.