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Marcus Aurelius Distributing Bread to the People, by Joseph-Marie Vien  (1765) Musée de Picardie (Public Domain)

The Antonine Dynasty: The Good Roman Emperors

While much appreciated by the plebeians and especially by the army, Emperor Domitian was hated by the aristocracy and the Senate, which he himself despised. His absolutist attitude, his austere financial measures and his persecuting actions perpetrated even against those close to him who were provoked by his unhealthy anxiety concerning his personal security, made him powerful enemies. When the Praetorian Guard joined the ranks of his opponents, the inevitable happened. Under the tacit approval of the Praetorians and the Senate, the Emperor’s own servants, who feared for their own lives, murdered him in September 96 AD. Domitian was 45 years old.

The death of Domitian put an abrupt end to the Flavian Dynasty of emperors. He was remembered as a ruthless but efficient tyrant whose cultural, economic, and political programs nevertheless provided the groundwork for an impending prosperous period of the Roman Empire which was to be driven by the emperors of a new dynasty. The Antonine Dynasty was thus ushered in when the senate elected the elderly Marcus Cocceius Nerva as the new Emperor.

Marcus Cocceius Nerva. Chiaramonti Museum (I, Sailko/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

Marcus Cocceius Nerva. Chiaramonti Museum (I, Sailko/ CC BY-SA 3.0)


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