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Roman Emperors | Five Good Emperors

The political and military actions of the Roman emperors fundamentally influenced the development of European history and, ultimately, the world.

The Roman emperors were the rulers who took control of the Roman world when the institutional and social structure on which the Republic was based collapsed. The legitimacy of an emperor’s rule depended on his army command and recognition by the Senate; usually, an emperor was proclaimed by his troops, invested with imperial titles by the Senate, or both. But the Roman people regarded emperors as the equivalent of kings, even though the first emperor, Octavian Augustus, refused to be seen as a monarch.

The era of the Roman Republic ended with the death of Julius Caesar and Augustus, marking the beginning of the Roman Empire, which lasted from 27 BC to 476 AD with the abdication of Romulus Augustus. Throughout this period, several Roman emperors ruled, and their reigns were divided into several dynasties. Ancient History has created a list of ten of the most significant Roman emperors.

Holy Roman Empire

The history of the Roman Empire is long and complex. And it is considered one of the largest and most essential empires in human history. From the 8th century BC, Ancient Rome grew steadily from a small town on the banks of the river Tiber. Into what was to become one of the greatest cradles of civilization.

The Roman Empire was antiquity’s most significant and enduring political construction. Unlike the great empires, Rome’s power expanded gradually. They were initially encompassing the territories of the Italic Peninsula. The need arose to defend the Italian coasts or inland territories against pirate or naval attacks from the north. Rome’s authority extended beyond the Adriatic Sea and then beyond the Alps.

At the beginning of the 2nd century, the Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Trajan experienced its most significant expansion. This was also the time of the famous Dacian-Roman wars when large parts of Dacia became a Roman province. The remaining population in the region north of the Danube came under the influence of Rome, the power center of the ancient empire. 

Who was the first Roman Emperor?

Augustus defeated the latter as well as the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Augustus’ reign ushered in an era of relative peace known as Pax Romana or ‘Roman Peace. There were several wars on the Roman frontiers in the name of expansion and a year-long civil war, but after August’s succession to the throne, the Roman world was free of large-scale warfare for over two centuries.

The founder of The Roman Empire and the first Roman Emperor was Augustus, who had the longest reign of 41 years, from 27 BCE to 14 CE. Born as Octavian, the Senate gave him the name Augustus as an honor for his outstanding political and military achievements. He went on to avenge Caesar’s death along with Marcus Antonius.

August ruled wisely and built roads, aqueducts and buildings. Augustus was not only the first but also certainly one of the best Roman emperors.

First Roman Emperor

Caius Octavius was born into a wealthy family in Velitrae (Velletri), SE Rome. His father, who died in 59 BC, was the first of his family to become a Roman senator. He was later elected to the annual high office of praetor, second in the political hierarchy after consul. Caius Octavius’s mother, Atia, was the daughter of Julius Caesar’s sister Julius Caesar, who would launch the young Octavius into public life.

Caius Octavius took the official name Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus as the first Roman emperor after the republic’s fall. His autocratic regime was known as a princess, as he was the first of the citizens placed at the head of the seemingly revived republican institutions in such a way that autocracy could be endured. With inexhaustible patience, skill and efficiency, he took charge of every aspect of Roman life, ensuring peace and prosperity throughout the empire.

Augustus suffered from a host of illnesses and weaknesses, many of them relapsing. Especially in his youth, only his strong will kept him alive, foreshadowing the unfolding of an unprecedented and unparalleled life.

roman emperors

Best Roman Emperor

Emperor Trajan, full name Nerva Traianus Marcus Ulpius, was born on 18 September 53 AD in the city of Italica (on the outskirts of present-day Seville) in Hispania Baetica (the region of Andalusia in modern Spain). His father, M. Ulpius Traianus, was a well-known senator and general of the famous Roman Ulpia family, originally from the Italic peninsula. His mother, Marcia, also came from a prominent family that claimed to trace her lineage back to the early kings of Rome.

The most significant Roman emperor is considered to be Trajan. During his rule, the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent. His severe and honest character made him highly regarded by the Senate and the people from the beginning. It is said that on the death of Emperor Nerva in January 98 AD, although he was the legal successor, Trajan was the emperor’s adopted son. He did not rush to Rome to take the throne, as this haste could be considered unworthy of him.

Trajan rose through the ranks of the Roman army, fighting in the most dangerous part of the Roman Empire and on the Rhine River, participating in Domitian’s wars against the Germanic tribes. Contrary to popular belief, the conqueror of Dacia was not the first emperor born outside Italy, but the second, the first being Claudius.

The Last Roman Emperor

Rome was originally a kingdom, but in 509 BC, the city’s nobility revolted against the tyrant Tarquinius Superbus. And founded the Roman Republic. Initially dominated by the Etruscans, Rome gradually grew in strength and power. They were conquering neighboring kingdoms in the early 5th century BC.

Theodosius was the last emperor of the entire Roman Empire. Flavius Theodosius, known as Theodosius I or Theodosius the Great, was born on 11 January 347 in Cuca (north-west Spain), the son of the general Flavius Theodosius. At the age of 32 (19 January 379), he became co-emperor with Gratian after the death of Emperor Valens at Adrianople (378).

Theodosius I ruled the Eastern provinces, where he instituted several measures to strengthen the Empire, including reforms in law, taxation, finance, and the acceptance of an increased number of ‘barbarian’ contingents in the army.

Five Good Roman Emperors

The Roman Empire was led by many strong personalities and people who provided they could rule it. From the 8th century BC, Ancient Rome grew steadily from a small town on the banks of the Tiber River into what was to become one of the greatest cradles of civilization.

According to historical resources, the 5 Good Roman Emperors are the following:

  1. Caligula
  2. Commodus
  3. Constantine The Great
  4. Diocletian
  5. Domitian

An important thing to know about Roman legend is one of the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. When they were just babies, the two were abandoned shortly after their birth and found by a she-wolf on the banks of the Tiber. She raised them, but when the boys grew up, they fought for power. Romulus killed Remus and thus became the first king of Rome in 753 BC, naming the city after him.

1. Caligula

Although during the time of Tiberius (his uncle), he did not assert himself in political life, on his death (16 March 37), he was proclaimed emperor by the Praetorian Guard and recognized by the Senate. After the first eight months of his reign, his politics suddenly took on the signs of despotism and incoherence.

Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus (31 August 12 – 24 January 41), known as Caligula, was the third Roman emperor and the third member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from 37 to 41. The son of General Germanicus and Agrippina Major, he spent his childhood with his father among the soldiers of the Rhine.

Arbitrary domestic and foreign policies, extravagance and cruelty, the pomp of the feasts and the squandering of the treasures collected by his predecessor, and oppressive fiscal measures trigger two conspiracies against him (in 39 and 40), each resulting in numerous executions.

2. Commodus

Proclaimed emperor on the death of his father, Commodus renounced the offensive policy. He institutes an absolutist regime in the theatrical forms of the Eastern monarchies.

Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus (31 August 161-31 December 192) was a Roman emperor from 180 to 192. Son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina, born in Rome (“the first heir to the throne born in the purple”), Commodus was elevated to the rank of Caesar in 166 and Augustus (and coregent) in 177.

Power is exercised by his favorites, Tigidius Perennius and M.Aurelius Cleander, then by Q.Aemilius Laetus, prefects of the praetorship. Oriental cults are now widespread. On 31 December 192, he falls victim to a conspiracy initiated by Q. Aemilius Laetus, Eclectus, and Marcia (the emperor’s mistress). With him, the Antonine dynasty (96-192) ends.

3. Constantine The Great

The reign of Constantine the Great, which would transform the pagan Empire into a Christian one, and Rome would be stripped of its importance in favor of Constantinople, marks the beginning of Byzantine history. It should be noted, however, that we do not now see a clean break between Roman and Byzantine history: for three centuries until Justinian’s failure to restore the Empire’s unity, it will appear instead as a continuation of Romans.

Constantine the Great was the Roman emperor who granted freedom to Christianity, convened the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (325), founded the new capital of the Empire at Byzantium and named it Constantinople, building several churches to emphasize the Christian character of the New Rome.

Constantinople was founded on the site of ancient Byzantium, but the inhabitants of the new Rome, as well as those of the Empire, would not take the name Byzantine; they would remain Romans, their Empire would remain the Roman Empire, and the Emperor would remain the Emperor of the Romans. Only a few enthusiasts of ancient literature will be aware of this distant prehistory of the city and occasionally call it Byzantium.

4. Diocletian

Diocletian came from the Kalamata area from a family of humble origin. He served in the army of the empire, rising to the rank of general.

Diocletian, officially Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus Augustus, was born on December 22, 224, and died on December 3, 311. He was the 51st Roman Emperor, from 20 November 284 to July 285 (in competition with Carinius), from July 285 to 1 April 286 (alone) and from 1 April 286 to 1 May 305 (as Augustus of the East, and together with Maximilian as Augustus of the West).

After the death of Emperor Numerian, he has proclaimed Emperor (a title contested by his son Carus, Carinius, associated as Emperor with his brother Numerian). During his reign, he secured the borders of the empire. He was related to co-Roman emperors Maximilian and later Galerius and Constantius. He was preceded as Emperor by Numerian and succeeded by Constantius Chlorus and Galerius.

5. Domitian

Meliton and Bruttius merely state that Domitian persecuted the Christians. Tertullian adds that shortly after the persecution began, the emperor gave up and summoned the exiles from exile. And Hegessippus mentions that the meeting brought about the change. And also release of Jewish Christians, descendants of Jesus’ family.

Titus Flavius Domitianus (51-96 AD) was the son of Vespasianus and Flavia Domitilla, and his reign from 81-96 was an absolutist monarchy. Suetonius notes that he demanded that his subjects address him as dominus et Deus.

He was assassinated in 96, and his name was condemned to damnation memoriae, a process whereby the public memory of a person, usually a Roman emperors, was erased (and often replaced with another emperor’s name) from public inscriptions and buildings and monuments.

Things that you might want to know about…

On 21 April 753 BC, Romulus and Remus, descendants of the Trojan Aeneas and the goddess Venus, founded Rome, according to the accounts of Virgil, Titus Livius, and Varro. After the Trojan War, the hero Aeneas left his burning city with his father Anchises, his son Ascanius and the survivors of Troy. It arrived in Italy, in the region later called Latium, on the banks of the Tiber.

Here he meets the Aborigines of Latinus. There are two traditions: the first states that they fought, and the Trojans were victorious, with King Latinus swearing allegiance to Aeneas. The second says that Latinus allied with Aeneas, recognizing the Trojan hero’s merits, and the battle never happened.

To find out who will enjoy the honor of the founder of the new city, the twins leave themselves to the will of the gods. So they go to the banks of the Tiber, where they had been abandoned, and each climbs a hill. Romulus chooses Palatine and Remus Aventine. Remus is the first to receive a premonitory sign: six eagles, birds symbolizing Jupiter, fly over the Aventine hill. Soon after, however, a double number of birds fly over the Palatine and Romulus’ heads.

Remus claims that he had the upper hand, and Romulus that he had more than one eagle, each being proclaimed king by his flock. The conflict degenerates into a battle in which Remus is killed.

What did the Roman houses look like?

At the beginning of the 2nd century, the Roman Empire under the rule of Emperor Trajan experienced its most significant expansion. This was also the time of the famous Dacian-Roman wars when large parts of Dacia became a Roman province. And the remaining population in the region north of the Danube came under the influence of Rome. The power center of the ancient empire. Here are some of the curiosities of the Roman way of life, which may have spread throughout the empire.

The Roman luxury houses were huge flats called Domus and looked perfect. At the same time, most homes were massive blocks of flats lacking comfort. An important architectural feature of ancient Roman villas was the impluvium. A pool is often placed in the center of the house. And fed by rainwater without a roof, a marble-rimmed pool for ornamental and domestic use.

Despite Domus’s beauty, most rooms remained dark and cool, with small windows. The rooms were heated by wood, and opaques chased away the darkness. Furniture was rudimentary, but small art objects often decorated the dwellings.

Primary Takeaways

  • Rome, originally a modest city in Italy, has come to dominate the town Mediterranean. The city was ruled first by royalty, then by the Republic, and finally by the Empire.
  • Between 753 BC and 509 BC, Rome was ruled by kings. After Romulus, the legendary founder, came kings of Sabine origin. Then Etruscan kings, the last of whom was Tarquin the Great.
  • During the Republic, the city was ruled by the Senate, in the hands of the patricians. And by two consuls elected each year. Rome gradually expanded, fighting against its neighbors. The Latins and Etruscans, and then occupying the southern peninsula. Where the Greeks had established numerous colonies.


The Roman Empire was a period of ancient Rome from 27 BC to 476 AD. It began when the Senate granted the title Augustus to Octavian, Caesar’s grandson. Under the pretext of restoring the republic, he instituted a new political regime: the principality. For two hundred years, the Roman Empire prospered. It eventually expanded from Brittany to the Mediterranean basin and Mesopotamia.

The empire became disproportionate, and Emperor Diocletian cut it in two and established a tetrarchy. It was reunited in 324 by Constantine I, who chose Constantinople as the new Roman capital. The Western Roman Empire disappeared in 476 when Romulus Augustus was stripped of his title by general Odoacer. A multitude of barbarian kingdoms replaced it. In the east, the Eastern Roman Empire lasted until 1453, when the Ottomans conquered Constantinople.