Five Good Emperors

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The Nerva–Antonine dynasty was a dynasty of seven consecutive Roman Emperors who ruled over the Roman Empire from 96 to 192. These Emperors are Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, and Commodus.

The first five of the six successions within this dynasty were notable in that the reigning Emperor adopted the candidate of his choice to be his successor. Under Roman law, an adoption established a bond legally as strong as that of kinship. Because of this, the second through sixth Nerva-Antonine emperors are also called Adoptive Emperors.

This has often been considered[1] as a conscious repudiation of the principle of dynastic inheritance and has been deemed as one of the factors of the period's prosperity.[2] The naming by Marcus Aurelius of his son Commodus was considered to be an unfortunate choice and the beginning of the Empire's decline.[3]


Nerva-Trajan dynasty




Antonine dynasty

The Antonines are four Roman Emperors who ruled between 138 and 192: Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus and Commodus.

In 138, after a long reign dedicated to the cultural unification and consolidation of the empire, the Emperor Hadrian named Antoninus Pius his son and heir, under the condition that he adopt both Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. Hadrian died that same year, and Antoninus began a peaceful, benevolent reign. He adhered strictly to Roman traditions and institutions and shared his power with the Roman Senate.

Marcus Aurelius succeeded Antoninus Pius in 161 upon that emperor's death and continued his legacy as an unpretentious and gifted administrator and leader. Marcus Aurelius died in 180 and was followed by his biological son Commodus.

Antoninus Pius

Marcus Aurelius

Lucius Verus


Five Good Emperors

The term Five Good Emperors was coined by the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli in 1503:

Machiavelli argued that these adopted emperors, through good rule, earned the respect of those around them:

The 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon, in his work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, opined that their rule was a time when "the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the guidance of wisdom and virtue".[5] Gibbon believed these benevolent dictators and their moderate policies were unusual and contrast with their more tyrannical and oppressive successors (their predecessors are not covered by Gibbon).

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