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.