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Marcus Cocceius Nerva, (AD 35 - 98) Roman emperor (AD 96 - 98), was a member of the Italian nobility rather than one of the elite of Rome, like Vespasian the founder of the Flavian dynasty. He was born in the Etruscan town of Narnia, to the north of Rome, on November 8, 35. He was the last emperor who was Italian both by family and by birth. Nerva had not pursued the usual administrative career, although he had been consul with Vespasian in 71 and with Domitian in 90.

After Domitian's assassination in 96 following his reign of terror, Nerva proceeded to set a new tone. Elevated to emperor on September 18, 96, 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.

Preceded by:
Domitian (81 - 96)
Roman emperors
Followed by:
Trajan (98 - 117)

NERVA is also an acronym for Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application, part of a NASA project to produce a nuclear thermal rocket engine. See spacecraft propulsion.