here for a list of Roman Emperors to AD 476.
The following can be found at and/or is adapted from http://psdweb.parklandsd.org/bbcards/requiredemperors/augustus.htm
Julio-Claudian Emperors (27 BC – 68
AUGUSTUS (27 BC - 14
In his will, Julius Caesar adopted his great-nephew Octavian
and gave him the name Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. He
also left most of his fortune to the 18-year old youth.
At the time of Caesar's murder, Octavian was serving in
the army in Albania . When Octavian learned of Caesar's
will, he hurried back to Rome . Octavian became extremely
powerful due to his inheritance and was made Consul by
Octavian joined with Mark Antony and Lepidus to form
the Second Triumvirate. This plan was proposed by Mark
Antony in an attempt to gain power for himself. The Roman
world was soon divided between Octavian and Antony (Octavian
forced Lepidus out and took his share). Things did not
stay quiet for long however, as Mark Antony got involved
with Cleopatra which infuriated the Romans. Octavian declared
war against Cleopatra; and in 31 BC, Augustus' forces under
Agrippa, defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium . Octavian
was now master of the entire Roman world.
In Rome , Octavian was honored and gained total control
by telling the Senate that he was giving up all of his
titles and that the Senate could govern Rome . This was
the last thing the Senate wanted as Rome needed a strong,
fair, and popular leader to govern. Augustus knew this
and in 27 BC, the Senate named Octavian Augustus which
means "the majestic one, the sacred one, the blessed
was now the supreme ruler of Rome . He was then able to
expand Rome by adding Egypt , Spain , Portugal , Gaul ,
Galatia , and Judea as Roman provinces. His stepson, Tiberius,
extended Roman territories to the Danube and Rhine Rivers
. Augustus also built and restored many of the public buildings
in Rome which pleased the people.
Augustus solved the continued problems of governing by
making the Roman state a one-man rule. He created a Roman
peace called the Pax Romana that lasted for two
centuries, until 180 AD During this period there was no
major war and the economy prospered. To ensure that the
rule of the empire stayed in the hands of the men of his
choice, Augustus arranged his own successors to the throne
by adopting them as his sons. When Augustus died (of natural
causes), Tiberius succeeded him as emperor. All Roman emperors
that followed continued this tradition which called for
a stable succession to the throne and allowed for peace
in Rome .
TIBERIUS (14 AD - 37
Augustus lived a long time, until 14 AD. When he died,
hardly anyone could remember before he was in power, or
all they remembered was killing and blood. His son-in-law
(his daughter Julia's husband) Tiberius took over as First
Citizen. Tiberius wasn't really a very good ruler (we call
them emperors now, but they didn't call themselves that).
He spent a lot of time swimming and having big parties.
He left most of the work to his assistants. But still people
thought that was better than civil war.
AD - 41 AD)
Tiberius died in 37 AD, and his nephew Germanicus' son
Gaius, who is often called Caligula, took over. Caligula
wasn't too bad at first, but he seems to have suffered
from mental illness. After a while he started doing things
like trying to make his horse a senator, and trying to
marry his sister. By 41 AD people decided he was too hard
to deal with and his own guards killed him.
CLAUDIUS (41 AD - 54
Then Caligula's uncle Claudius took over. He did better
than people expected. In his reign the Romans succeeded
in conquering England and making it into another province.
But Claudius' wife Agrippina poisoned him (according to
the Roman historian Suetonius) with bad mushrooms, and
NERO (54 AD - 68 AD)
In 54 AD, therefore, Claudius' stepson Nero took the
throne. Nero was only 16, and his mother Agrippina really
controlled politics through him (because women could not
be tribunes or senators), until Nero was in his mid-20's.
But then he decided he would rather rule on his own, and
had his mother killed.
Nero may be best known for how he handled the Great Fire
at Rome in 64 AD. People were blaming him for the fire,
and so he rounded up a lot of Christians and had them burned
alive as if the fire was their fault. Nero was also in
charge for the executions of St. Peter and St. Paul .
After he killed Agrippina, Nero became unpopular, and
in 68 AD the governor of Spain , Galba, revolted against
him and marched his army toward Rome . When it was clear
that he was going to lose, Nero killed himself. He was
the last ruler from the family of Julius Caesar and Augustus.
(96 - 180 AD)
NERVA (96 AD – 98 AD)
Nerva assumes the throne after the death of Domitian.
He is appointed emperor by the Senate. He is an elderly
and sickly man who rules for only 2 years and did not have
the support of the military at the start of his reign but
soon gained it through his appointment of Trajan as his
successor as well as his increase of military pensions.
He also increased the welfare payments to the masses. He
died of natural causes in 98 AD.
TRAJAN (98 AD – 117 AD)
Trajan ruled for 19 years and is remembered as one of
the most renowned and greatest of the Roman emperors. He
was the first non-Italian emperor (the first emperor to
come from a province), being born of Roman parents in Spain
. He is best remembered for his military conquests and
public works in Rome . He became a military hero after
his defeat of a Germanic invasion. He extended the Roman
frontier to its greatest extent by conquering and annexing
Dacia (the region north of the Danube River ). He also
fought the Parthians in the east and annexed Armenia ,
Mesopotamia , and part of Arabia to the Roman Empire .
The Empire, as far as territory goes, reached its largest
extent under Trajan, though some argue Trajan extended
the empire too far, making it too large to properly manage.
One of Trajan's many public works was the Column of Trajan
in Rome , around which the story of Trajan's achievements
in Dacia was carved on a spiral decoration. Trajan's good
rule in Rome and abroad earned him the title of "Optimus
Princeps" or "Best Ruler.” He died of a
stroke while on a military campaign in the eastern provinces.
HADRIAN (117 AD – 138 AD)
Hadrian succeeded Trajan as emperor and ruled for 21
years. Like Trajan, he also was born in Spain . Unlike
Trajan, however, he was a champion of the arts and culture
who had been tutored by the Greeks and spent much of his
time in scholarly pursuits. He is remembered for the codification
of the Roman laws and reform of the provincial governments.
He also consolidated the borders of the frontier and built
many walls of fortification which still stand today. Hadrian's
main goal was to stabilize the Roman Empire . Hadrian abandoned
the newly conquered provinces in the east as they were
difficult to hold and defend. He withdrew the eastern border
of the Roman Empire back to the Euphrates River . He also
strengthened the western boundaries by building defensive
walls along the Rhine and Danube Rivers , as well as a
wall in Britain which was named after him ( Hadrian's Wall
). Hadrian's Wall marked the northernmost boundary of the
Roman Empire at the time. Hadrian dealt mainly with troubles
in the provinces. He spent more than half of his reign
outside of Rome traveling. He once bragged that he had
visited every province during his reign. He finally suppressed
the massive Judean revolt which culminated in the massacre
of Masada . He died of natural causes after appointing
Antoninus Pius as his successor.
ANTONINUS PIUS (138 AD – 161 AD)
Antoninus Pius ruled Rome for almost 25 years yet left
less of a mark on the Empire than did any of his predecessors.
A product of the Senate, he became one of the most beloved
and honored of all Roman emperors. Under his reign the Pax
Romana reached its height with little time being spent
on war efforts or internal dissension. His main effort
was centralizing the government and making it more effective.
He soon gained the nickname "Pius" after his
extraordinary compassion. He died after eating some bad
MARCUS AURELIUS (161 AD – 180 AD)
Marcus Aurelius ruled for 19 years and was the last of
the "Five Good Emperors.” His death brought
an end to the Pax Romana. He was known as the "philosopher-king" because
he read so much and wrote his own book called "Meditations",
which is a classic of the Ancient world. The irony of his
reign was that it was dominated by barbaric invasions and
natural disasters which plagued the empire.
During most of his reign, Marcus Aurelius was involved
in defending the Empire against invaders from the north
and the east. In addition, a plague struck the Empire,
killing many. This led to a large number of Germans being
admitted into the Empire as auxiliary soldiers to defend
the frontiers. The results were that the Roman army was
now made up of mercenaries who were not from Rome and were
paid for their service. This caused Rome defensive and
financial problems. More money was being spent on the army
than was coming into the Empire. Thus, economic and political
stability began to decline in the Roman Empire . Marcus
Aurelius died after taking too much opium to kill the pain
of cancer (some scholars claim it was a battle wound).
Division of the Empire and Christian Persecution
DIOCLETIAN (284 AD – 305
The Roman Emperor Diocletian came to power in 284 AD.
He was an army general, and he felt that a lot of the empire's
problems could be solved by not allowing so much freedom,
but instead having everyone do the same thing, the right
way (his way). First he was busy fighting the Germans and
the Parthians and having civil wars, then for a while he
was busy trying to fix the economy.
Diocletian saw that the vast Roman Empire was ungovernable
by a single emperor in the face of internal pressures and
military threats. He decided to split the Empire in half
along a north-west axis just east of Italy , and created
two equal Emperors to rule under the title of Augustus.
Diocletian was Augustus of the eastern half, and gave his
long time friend Maximian the title of Augustus in the
By 301 AD, Diocletian had noticed that there were people
who had different religions in the Roman Empire . Diocletian
hated this idea. First of all, these people were different
from him, which seemed disrespectful. Second, they might
be making the gods mad. So they had to be stopped. First
Diocletian got rid of the Manichaeans. Then (since that
had gone pretty well), in 303 AD he began a big persecution
of the Christians.
This didn't go as well. Diocletian's co-emperor in the
West wasn’t very interested in killing Christians,
so a lot of Eastern Christians just moved to the West.
Also, even Diocletian didn't really want to kill a whole
lot of people. He just wanted them to worship his gods.
He didn't really know what to do with the people who said, “No!” Even
after Diocletian retired in 305 AD, his successor, Galerius,
still persecuted the Christians, but still without getting
rid of them.
Legalization of Christianity
AD – 337 AD)
Constantine had succeeded Constantius in 306 as ruler
of the western half of the empire. He defeated, one by
one, the other rival emperors. In 312 he defeated Maxentius
at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in Rome and became sole
ruler of the western half of the empire. Constantine claimed
that his victory in this battle was due to a miracle. Just
before the battle, Constantine claimed he saw a flaring
cross in the sky followed by the inscription: BY THIS S
IG N, THOU SHALT CONQUER. The sign was the Christian XP
(Chi-Rho) sign, which he put on the shields of his soldiers.
In this way, Constantine became the first Christian emperor
of the Roman Empire , although he was not baptized until
the moment of his death. In 324 Constantine defeated his
remaining rival in the East and became the sole ruler of
the Roman Empire .
During his reign, Constantine initiated many measures
favoring the Christians. In 313 he issued the Edict of
Milan which legalized Christianity throughout the Empire.
Imperial funds were used to subsidize the building of churches.
In 325 Constantine tried to resolve a dispute between Christian
factions at the Council of Nicea. This meeting produced
the Nicene Creed which essentially converted the Roman
Empire from paganism to Christianity.
When Rome was no longer capable of serving as the capital
of the Roman Empire due to its distant location from its
boundaries, Constantine founded a new capital. He built
it on the Greek town of Byzantium , located on the Bosporus
Strait , and renamed it Constantinople (modern day Istanbul
). These are Constantine 's two major contributions to
the Roman Empire : conversion of Rome from paganism to
Christianity and building a new capital at Constantinople
. Constantine died of an illness and was baptized just
before his death.
Click here for a list of Roman Emperors to AD 476.