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Marcus Cocceius Nerva, (around A.D. 35-98) Roman emperor from A.D. 96-98, was like the founder of the Flavian dynasty Vespasian from the Italian nobility rather than from the city of Rome. Nerva's family was based in Narnia in Etruria, to the north of Rome. He was the last emperor both Italian by family and by birth. Nerva had not pursued the usual administrative career, but had been consul with Vespasian in 71 and with Domitian in 90.

After the assasination in 96 of Domitian in response to his reign of terror Nerva proceded to set a new tone. He released those imprisoned for treason, banned future prosecutions for treason, restored much confiscated property, and involved the Senate in his rule.

Nerva may have been approached by the conspirators against Domitian because he was elderly (61) and childless. He adopted Trajan, already a commander of the armies on the German frontier, in the face of rising difficulties in administering the empire.

previous emperor: Domitian (81 - 96)
following emperor: Trajan (98 - 117)

see Roman Emperors

Nerva is also the name of a type of nuclear thermal rocket engine. See spacecraft propulsion.