About this artwork
Five Good Roman Emperors
The Roman Empire, which flourished from 27 B.C. to A.D. 410, was ruled by a variety of emperors, some who inherited the throne and some who seized it. As rulers came and went, it was important to announce the transition of power quickly. Since the Mint regularly struck coins to pay the armies stationed throughout the empire, it was easy to change the portrait, revise names in the inscription, and publish the news.
In A.D. 96 Emperor Domitian (r. A.D. 81–96) who fancied himself a god, was assassinated with the assent of his wife. To avert a succession battle, the Army and the Senate stepped in to choose the next ruler. From A.D. 96 to 180, Rome enjoyed a series of five wise leaders who were chosen for their merit and who came to be known as the "Good Emperors." Nerva (r. A.D. 96–98; no. 1), an honest and respected senator, took the throne with the understanding that he would be succeeded by a popular general from Spain named Trajan (r. A.D. 98–117). Although Nerva ruled only two years, he enacted compassionate social programs and is considered the first of the Good Emperors. For the next 85 years each emperor would select from among the best possible candidates, adopting his chosen successor as his son.
- Ancient Roman
- Aureus (Coin) Portraying Emperor Nerva
- 97 AD
- Obverse: IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR P COS III P P Reverse: LIBERTAS PVBLICA "Public Liberty"
- Diam. 1.9 cm; 7.64 g
- Gift of Martin A. Ryerson