Cover image for Nerva and the Roman succession crisis of AD 96-99
Nerva and the Roman succession crisis of AD 96-99
Grainger, John D., 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Routledge, [2003]

Physical Description:
xxvii, 162 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Format :


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DG293 .G73 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The imperial succession at Rome was notoriously uncertain, and where possible hereditary succession was preferred.

John Grainger's detailed study looks at aperiod of intrigue and conspiracy. He explores how, why and by whom Domitian was killed, the rule of Nerva, chosen to succeed him, and finally Nerva's own choice of successor, Trajan, who became a strong and respected emperor against the odds.

Perhaps most significantly Grainger investigates the effects of this dynastic uncertainty both inside and outside the ruling group in Rome, asking why civil war did not occur in this time of political upheaval.

The last time a dynasty had failed, in AD 68, a damaging military conflict had resulted; at the next failure in AD 192, another war broke out; by the third century civil war was institutionalized, and was one of the main reasons for the eventual downfall of the entire imperial structure. Grainger argues that though AD 96-98 stands out as the civil war that did not happen, it was a perilously close-run thing.

Author Notes

John D. Grainger is a freelance historian and former teacher. He is the author of several books on ancient history including Seleukos Nikator, The League of Aitolians and The Roman War of Antiochus the Great.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

On September 18, 96 CE, the Emperor Domitian was assassinated, and on the following morning, the Roman Senate officially appointed as his successor Nerva, who died after reigning only 16 months. Unpromising material, yet out of this, Grainger constructs an interesting narrative, and, more importantly, a penetrating analysis of just how the imperial system worked. He has reconstructed the senatorial conspiracy behind the assassination, something never done before, and then goes on to show how aristocratic networks were formed in the provinces, and how service in the old Republican magistracies at Rome provided the basis for connections and alliances, forming a truly imperial ruling class. Two of these networks made Trajan the next emperor. This is history in the tradition of Sir Ronald Syme, focused on the power elite and drawing on literature, inscriptions, and prosopography. And it is written in an admirably lucid and elegant style. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. All levels and collections. R. I. Frank University of California, Irvine

Table of Contents

Abbreviationsp. vii
Platesp. ix
Tablesp. xiii
Mapsp. xviii
Introductionp. xxv
1 Assassinationp. 1
2 Conspiracyp. 4
3 Nervap. 28
4 Reactionsp. 45
5 The Emperor's Workp. 52
6 The Succession Problemp. 66
7 The Aristocratic Networksp. 73
8 Choicep. 89
9 Heirp. 103
10 New Emperorp. 109
Conclusionp. 126
Notesp. 129
Bibliographyp. 149
Indexp. 155