The Roman Empire - In The First Century
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Empire Reborn
Rome is thrown back into civil war
Nero's death propelled Rome back into civil war. Before long, Vespasian emerged as victor. Rome had a new emperor and a new dynasty, with the same dangers as before.

The death of Nero marked the end of Augustus' dynasty. With nobody to take command, Rome descended again into civil war. The months that followed became known as the "year of the four emperors." Almost as soon as they had been fitted out for their robes, Galba, Otho and Vitellius were all dead, either murdered or killed in battle.

Last man standing

After bloody fighting in Rome itself, Vespasian was declared emperor. An army general who had been suppressing the rebellion in Judea, he wasted no time in establishing his own dynasty.

Vespasian was a successful emperor. He restored the city's finances, began a huge building program, reinvigorated the army and gave Rome a decade of stability and peace.

When Vespasian died, the throne passed to Titus, his eldest son. Although at first he was widely feared, Titus emerged as a calm, fair and generous emperor. But he died after just two years and his brother, Domitian, took control.

Return to tyranny

Domitian was a bad one - an emperor in the mold of Nero or Caligula. He terrorized leading Roman figures and executed or banished even his mildest critics.

Although he had bought the army's loyalty, it was not enough to save him. In 96 AD he was murdered by his senior advisors and the throne was again up for grabs.

The Senate immediately appointed Nerva as emperor. But the army were furious that Domitian was dead. Soldiers stormed the palace and killed many of those responsible. Nerva died just months later.

History takes a turn

Shortly before Nerva's death, Rome's generals had chosen to debate who should next serve as emperor. They chose Trajan, a former general and the governor of Upper Germany. The very fact he was elected made Trajan special. What's more, he came from Spain and so was the first emperor born outside Italy.

It was a good choice. Trajan expanded the empire to its furthest limits and looked for honest and capable people to govern it - a stunning departure from tradition. In Rome, he started a massive building program, reduced taxes and began giving poor children state welfare.

Trajan's very existence as emperor meant that educated and wealthy men from across the empire could now reach the top. His civilized, humane rule set the tone for the future and suggested that Rome's best days still lay ahead.

Where to next:
Enemies and Rebels: Josephus and Judaea
Emperors - Nerva and Trajan

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The Roman Empire

Republic to Empire

Age of Augustus

Years of Trial

Empire Reborn


Social Order

Life in Roman Times


Enemies and Rebels


The Roman Empire - In The First Century