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Marcus Cocceius Nerva
(November 8, 26 - January 27, 98 AD) - Rome




Marcus Cocceius Nerva was born at Narnia in Umbria. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65. Later, as a loyalist to the Flavians, he attained consulships in 71 and 90 during the reigns of Vespasian and Domitian respectively.

Suetonius briefly noted that Domitian had been debauched by Nerva (Dom. 1.1). This remark was made in reference to the supposed poverty in which Domitian was reared that forced him to accept money for sexual services. This anecdote was meant to reflect poorly on Domitian’s conservative morality when he was emperor, suggesting that he had never had any morals. In this regard, the statement is mere gossip. The other side of this story provides an indication of Nerva’s sexual preferences. There is little beyond this to suggest that Nerva was homosexual, but it is striking that Suetonius recorded this anecdote when we usually only hear that Nerva was exiled or in fear of Domitian.

On 18 September 96, Domitian was assassinated in a palace conspiracy involving members of the Praetorian Guard and several of his freedmen. The same day, Nerva was declared emperor by the Roman Senate. As the new ruler of the Roman Empire, he vowed to restore liberties which had been curtailed during the autocratic government of Domitian, however Nerva's brief reign was marred by financial difficulties and his inability to assert his authority over the Roman army. In his short ruling period, he introduced state loans for farmers, family allowances, and allotments of land to poor citizens.

A revolt by the Praetorian Guard in October 97 all but forced him to adopt the more popular Marcus Ulpius Traianus(Trajan) as his heir and successor. After barely fifteen months in office, Nerva died of natural causes. Upon his death he was succeeded and deified by Trajan.


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