For over twenty years, Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire with wisdom, diligence and a firm, steady hand. However, like Trajan before him, Hadrian had no sons of his own. By about 136 AD the emperor’s health was in decline, and so Roman politics turned yet again towards the question of the imperial succession.
On 18 September, 96 AD the Year of the Four Emperors threatened to repeat itself when the Emperor Domitian was murdered in his palace. A son of the much-beloved Vespasian, Domitian had ruled as Roman Emperor for 15 years after the deaths of his father and older brother. Domitian was popular with the Roman army but hated by most Roman senators for refusing to pay lip service to the Senate’s admittedly limited role in imperial politics. This didn’t seem to bother the emperor; Domitian was an autocrat, and apparently he saw no reason why he shouldn’t behave like one.
Nero was dead. The throne was vacant. The rebellious governor of Spain, Servius Sulpicius Galba, began preparing to take it as soon as he heard the news. By October, 68 AD he had reached Rome with an army at his back. By that time, the nervous and defenseless Senate had already ratified Galba’s appointment to the imperial office.
Gaius Octavius Thurinus was no one special. At least, that was how he would’ve seemed to anyone who knew him as a boy. As the clever but perpetually ill son of a minor Roman nobleman, no one could have known that little Gaius would grow up to change the course of Roman history. No one could have known that Continue reading VII. Augustus and the End of the Republic: Part 1→
By the end of the second century BC, stability in Roman society and politics was starting to unravel. Though the Roman Republic itself was stronger, larger and wealthier than ever before, the Roman people had never been more divided.
Upper-class Romans were becoming increasingly rich and powerful, profiting from successful wars of foreign conquest and prestigious careers in politics, but most citizens Continue reading VI. Julius Caesar→
Exploring the rise and fall of the ancient world's greatest nation