The Flavians and The Five Good Emperors

Historically, the Roman Empire had periods of rise and decay, which depended largely on the people who ruled it. While the reign of the Flavian dynasty was controversial, having its positive and negative aspects, the historical period of “the Five Good Emperors” is known to be a golden age in all spheres.


The Flavians were a dynasty, which included Vespasian and his two sons, and lasted from 69 and 96 AD. There is little historical evidence about Vespasian, although it is known that he started as a ruler in Egypt but then won power in Rome. His most remarkable contribution is financial reforms, including tax system. After his death his son Titus inherited the throne in 79, and he is generally praised by the historians. Special construction program for Rome was among his positive initiatives; however, he had bad luck as he had to fight the consequences of two disasters including volcano Vesuvius eruption and Roman fire. His death was unexpected, so his rule lasted only for two years. After that Titus’ junior brother, Domitian Flavius, became an emperor and stayed in office for fifteen years, which was historically quite long. Among his achievements were rebuilding Rome after fire, strengthening borders of the Roman Empire and introduction of local coinage. However, he was at odds with Senate, which resulted in his bad reputation created by senators’ memoires.

The next period is historically called “Five Good Emperors”, which marks their contribution to the empire’s peace and flourishing. They belonged to the dynasty of Antonines, although this period is remarkable by the fact that power succession was not hereditary. Instead, an emperor chose his successor from aristocracy who had also to be approved by Senators. Then he “adopted” him like a son, so that it was clear long before his death who is going to take his place. An exception was the last emperor of the dynasty, Marcus Aurelius, who chose his son as his successor and the idea did not prove to be successful.

Nerva was the first of the Five Good Emperors. He started as consul, and was announced as emperor after Domitian’s death. He is known for the fact that he swore that not a single Senator was to be executed while he was an emperor. This brought relief to the political situation, frightened by prosecution. Nerva donated the poor, gave them lands; he was the one who banned gladiator fights and started repairing roads.

His successor, Traianus, belonged to an aristocratic Spanish family. As an emperor, he is famous for his military campaigns as he was initially a general. His operations in Dacia and Asia were most significant. He was very popular both among aristocracy and ordinary people for his justice. He raised funds for the poor and developed other similar initiatives started by Nerva. Adrian was the next emperor, who was more peaceful in terms of external policy. He preferred traveling to wars, and did a lot for cultural and economic growth. A lot of libraries and theaters opened; poetry, music and philosophy flourished. Antoninus Pius, the next emperor, got his name for his piety. He was deeply religious but did not persecute Christians. He took efforts in such fields as building, diplomacy and law making. The last of the five emperors, Marcus Aurelius, was of Spanish origin, and belonged to aristocracy and received a brilliant education. He paid a lot of attention to philosophy and law but had to take part in military operations as well.

Overall, the reign of the Flavians and especially of the Five Good Emperors was the peak of the Roman Empire’s Golden Age.