Parents: Marcus Cocceius Nerva and Sergia Plautilla
Date of Birth: 8 November 30
Royal House: Nervo-Trajanic
Reign: 96 – 98
Summary: Born into a noble Italian family, Nerva did not seemed destined for the Imperial throne in 30 C.E. His family had held the consulship many times over the previous century, but it was always only briefly held. The family was related through Nerva's uncle to Emperor Tiberius, but it was a minor connection. Nerva himself came to fame during the reign of Emperor Nero, where he served as an advisor. It was in his service to Nero that Nerva met Vespasian and his son Domitian. Nero died in 68 and three emperors succeeded him in rapid succession. One of them, Otho, was a brother-in-law through his sister. Yet Nerva was nowhere to be seen during this time. He rose to prominence again under the Flavians, with Vespasian as the new emperor. It is unclear, but it seems Nerva remained an advisor to the subsequent two emperors, Titus and Domitian. Nerva appears for the final—and longest—time from 89, when he helped uncover a conspiracy and was honored with a triumph. Nerva was selected for this triumph probably because it showed continuity of the empire, since Nerva had served four emperors now. With his new place solidified, it was only a matter of time before he became Roman Emperor. That chance came in the aftermath of Domitian's assassination in 96. The day of the assassination, the Senate chose Nerva as emperor. Nerva was old and childless and had never been a public figure except in extreme times.
Nerva was a respected old man and loved by the Senate if not by the populace. He was probably selected to act as a bridge while the Senate hoped to consolidate power. He took the imperial purple partially to avoid a civil war, but it was to be a rash decision. Nerva was a good emperor. He decided not to punish the Senate for any part in Domitian's assassination. He released those who had been imprisoned on trumped up charges and he granted amnesty to exiles. Since he was not a popular emperor, he had to buy his popularity. He lowered taxes, distributed land and money, and granted new privileges. Meanwhile, to save money, public games and unnecessary religious sacrifices were abolished. The military, however, remained cautious and demanded the death of Domitian's assassin, which he would not grant. He eventually had to give into the military's demands. In addition, he adopted a general named Trajan as his successor, a move to appease the military. Unlike his predecessors, Nerva died of a stroke at the ripe old age of 67. He died in his gardens and was succeeded by Trajan.
Date of Death: 27 January 98
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