Nerva  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Marcus Cocceius Nerva (8 November 30 – 25 January 98) was a Roman Emperor who reigned from 96 until his death in 98. Nerva acceded to this position at the advanced age of 65, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynastyVespasian, Titus and Domitian. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65. Later, as a loyalist to the Flavians, he attained consulships in 71 and 90 during the reigns of Vespasian and Domitian respectively.

On 18 September 96, Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy involving members of the Praetorian Guard and several of his freedmen. On the same day, Nerva was declared emperor by the Roman Senate. As the new ruler of the Roman Empire, he vowed to restore liberties which had been curtailed during the autocratic government of Domitian; however, Nerva's brief reign was marred by financial difficulties and his inability to assert his authority over the Roman army. A revolt by the Praetorian Guard in October 97 all but forced him to adopt the more popular Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan) as his heir and successor. After barely fifteen months in office, Nerva died of natural causes on 27 January 98. Upon his death he was succeeded and deified by Trajan.

Although much of his life remains obscure, Nerva was considered a wise and moderate emperor by ancient historians, a view which was later popularized by the 18th century scholar Edward Gibbon, who termed the rule of Nerva and his four successors as that of the Five Good Emperors (the concept is older). Recent historians have revised this assessment, characterizing Nerva as a well-intentioned, but ultimately weak ruler, whose reign brought the Roman Empire to the brink of civil war. Nerva's greatest success therefore, was his ability to ensure a peaceful transition to the Trajanic-Antonine dynasty.




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