Western Civilization lesson 55

Why do historians tend to look with favor on the period of the five good emperors? What differences do you observe between that period and the period from the death of Augustus through the death of Domitian?

During the Empire of Ancient Rome, the system referred to as “The Period of the Five Good Emperors” was a virtual country-saver. Emperors until then were determined by blood succession or by the brutal murder of the previous tyrant. However, in 98 AD the Roman Emperor Nerva chose, not his own son to rule after himself, but the fairly bright and non-tyrannical Trajan. When Trajan gave up the throne, he passed it not to his own son, but mirrored Nerva in this respect and gave it to Hadrian. The succession continued this way with the previous emperor adopting a boy as his own son to continue ruling based on their smarts and care of the people. The emperors were not nearly as cordial as they were presented as in our history books today, but compared to the previous tyrants, they appeared sent by the gods. Finally in 180 AD Marcus Aurelius chose his own son Commodus to be emperor. Commodus was cruel and violent and the chain of the Five Good Emperors finally broke apart.

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