Five Good Emperors

Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius

In Ancient Roman history, the period between 96 and 180 is known as the age of the Five Good Emperors. The rulers commonly known were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius.[1]


The term was first used by Niccolò Machiavelli in his book The Discourses on Livy from 1531:

From the study of this history we may also learn how a good government is to be established; for while all the emperors who succeeded to the throne by birth, except Titus, were bad, all were good who succeeded by adoption, as in the case of the five from Nerva to Marcus. But as soon as the empire fell once more to the heirs by birth, its ruin recommenced.[2]


  1. McKay, John P.; Hill, Bennett D.; Buckler, John; Ebrey, Patricia B.; & Beck, Roger B. (2007). A History of World Societies (7th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, v–vi. ISBN 978-0-618-61093-8.
  2. Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy, Book I, Chapter 10.