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Nerva (born November 8, 30 in Narnia in Umbria , † January 27, 98 in Rome ) was the successor of Domitian's Roman emperor from September 18 (or 19) September 96 until his death. His full birth name was Marcus Cocceius Nerva ; as emperor he was called Imperator Nerva Caesar Augustus .


Career up to 96

Like Vespasian , the founder of the Flavian dynasty, Nerva came from the Italian nobility , not like its predecessor from the Roman. His family came from the Etrurian city ​​of Narni, north of Rome . His grandfather, Marcus Cocceius Nerva, and his father, Marcus Cocceius Nerva, were prominent lawyers with close ties to the Julio-Claudian imperial family . An uncle had married Rubellia Bassa, daughter of Julia Livia and great-granddaughter of Tiberius .

Bust of Emperor Nerva in the late 1st century in chalcedony from a private collection.

The first stages of Nervas cursus honorum can be proven: the priesthood of a Salius Palatinus , a command of a cavalry squadron, the office of praefectus urbi during the feriae Latinae and the bursar (probably as quaestor Augusti ). In 65 he was involved in the uncovering of the Pisonian conspiracy , a murder plot by senators against Emperor Nero . Together with the Praetorian prefect Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus and the consular Publius Petronius Turpilianus he received the ornamenta triumphalia , i.e. all honors of a triumphant except for the triumphal procession itself, which had been reserved for the emperors since Augustus . Statues of him and Tigellinus were placed in the imperial palace - an extraordinary honor for people who did not belong to the imperial family. Another honorary statue of Nerva was placed in the Roman Forum . In 66 Nerva reached the praetur . Even after Nero's murder, he was able to maintain an influential position among the Flavian emperors. He held the consulate twice: together with Vespasian in 71 and with Domitian in 90.

Nerva wasn't married.


Bust of Nerva
Narni , Italy

After Domitian's assassination in 96, the respected lawyer was elected as his successor by the Senate on September 18, 96 with the support of the conspirators, because he was older and also childless.

In contrast to Domitian, who was seen as a tyrant because of his disdain for the Senate, Nerva linked the principate with the idea of ​​freedom (principatum ac libertatem) . First, the damnatio memoriae was imposed on Domitian . Nerva then released those imprisoned for treason, banned further treason charges, banned majesty trials, and returned much of the confiscated property. The senators were withdrawn from imperial jurisdiction and were subject only to that of the senate. Secret voting was introduced in the Senate. In addition, he abolished free requisitions in Italy for the state post. Through great thrift he succeeded in restoring the broken state finances, for which he also sacrificed his own fortune. His benevolent and level-headed government was shown, among other things, in the establishment of state alimony funds, which enabled children in need to be supported and educated. Land worth 60 million sesterces was distributed to needy Roman citizens during his reign .

Nerva had the construction of a new forum begun by Domitian , which was to connect the old Roman Forum with the imperial forums ( forum transitorium or Nervaforum ). He appointed Sextus Iulius Frontinus as curator aquarum and in 98 appointed him consul. The later historian Tacitus also obtained a consulate under his government.

In the middle of 97 the Praetorian Guard mutinied , which he had not showered with lavish gifts of money like his predecessors. Nerva then adopted Trajan from Spain on October 27, 1997 , a commander of the armies on the Germanic border, who enjoyed great respect and support among the soldiers. With this he founded the adoptive emperorship ("Age of the Good Emperors"), which, however, contrary to earlier views, did not result from a conscious turning away from the dynastic principle and from the bad experience that Rome had to endure with some inadequate dynastic successors, but owed to the fact of imperial childlessness was.

On January 1, 98, Nerva suffered a stroke during a private audience and died three weeks later in his villa in the Sallust Gardens . He was the last Roman emperor whose ashes were buried in the mausoleum of Augustus on the Field of Mars . His full title at the time of his death was Imperator Nerva Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Pontifex maximus , Tribuniciae potestatis III, Consul IV, Imperator II, Pater patriae .


  • John D. Grainger: Nerva and the Roman succession crisis of AD 96-99 . London 2003, ISBN 0-415-34958-3 .
  • Bruno Grenzheuser: Emperor and Senate in the time from Nero to Nerva . Dissertation, Münster 1964.

Web links

Commons : Nerva  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Götz Lahusen : Roman portraits. Client - functions - locations. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2010, p. 131.
  2. ^ Tacitus , Agricola 3, 1 .
predecessor Office successor
Domitian Roman emperor