Roman Empire

Nerva, Emperor AD 96-98

RIC 24; RCV II cover (this coin); BN 21; BMC 32; Calicó 960 same dies), Superb Mint State

Rome. AD 87. IMP NERVA CAES AVG P M TR POT, laureate head of Nerva right. Reverse: COS III PATER PATRIAE, priestly implements: simpulum, sprinkler, jug, and lituus.

Ex George W. La Borde Collection (NAC 91, 23 May 2016), 15; Michael L. J. Winckless Collection (sold privately by Spink & Son, London, in October 2006); MMAG 43 (13 November, 1970), 326; Hall Park McCullough Collection (Stack’s, 22 November 1967), 865; Sir Arthur John Evans Collection (J. Hirsch XXX, 11 May 1911), 953

The sudden death of Domitian created a dangerous vacuum that required immediate filling if a new round of civil war was to be averted. In an attempt to stave off disaster, the Senate immediately proclaimed a somewhat unlikely candidate as the new Emperor: M. Coccaeus Nerva. He was exactly to senatorial taste—after all he was himself a member of that august body—and worked to undo the evils of Domitian’s reign. Nerva also endeared himself to the people through the remission of certain taxes, and various distributions of food, money, and land to the urban poor of Rome. However, his position became precarious in AD 97 when he was challenged by the Praetorian Guard. As Nerva was 66 years old and childless it was suddenly very clear that if he should happen to die from natural or not-so-natural causes Rome would again be plunged into civil war. In order to avoid this terrible fate, Nerva adopted Trajan, the popular governor of Germania Inferior, to be his heir. This development brought the Roman army on side with Nerva and averted disaster. The succession question had been settled just in time, for Nerva suffered a stroke and died at the beginning of AD 98.