Marcus Cocceius Nerva

AD30 ~ AD98

Marcus Cocceius Nerva born 30 and reined from 96 to 98.

He was the first roman emperor to choose his successor by their potential ruling capabilities rather than by a family relationship either through bloodline or adoption.


Born 50 miles north of Rome, his family was of Italian nobility rather than part of the roman elite, and was also the last Italian ruler who was Italian by both birth and family heritage. his position before elevation to emperor was that of consul to both Vespasian in 71 and then again to Domitian in 90, upon Domitian’s death the senate elected Nerva as new emperor it is thought that he was a safe choice as he was elderly and without heir. during his reign he set about righting Domitian’s wrongs by releasing those imprisoned by Domitian for treason, allowed most who had been exiled the privilege of amnesty and re-included the roman senate to have a say over the ruling of the empire.

The problem was Domitian still had followers in the Praetorian Guard, and in 97 these followers took Nerva hostage and was forced to disclose the parties that were responsible for the death of Domitian. Nerva wasn’t killed but his reputation was sorely damaged after this incident, as he had no natural child of his own he set about adopting an heir who would have support of both the roman civilians and the army. After much consideration he adopted a commander of the armies on the German frontier, Trajan. Nerva was reportedly ill with fever shortly after the adoption process and died.

Back to top