Biblical Concept: Roman Emperors of New Testament Times
Augustus Caesar† Also known as Octavian, he ruled from 27 B.C. to A.D. 14.† Jesus Christ was born during his rule. Augustus† is mentioned in Luke 2:1 as the Caesar who ordered a census of the world.† Jesus was born in Bethlehem because of this census and it fulfilled the prophecy of Mica 5:2. He was a reformer who promoted constitutional rights and brought prosperity.
Tiberius Caesar The adopted son of Augustus Caesar, he ruled from A.D. 14 to 37.† He was fifty-six years old at the start of his leadership. Suspicion and cruelty marked his time. Luke 3:1-2 lists various rulers at the beginning of John the Baptistís and Jesusí public ministries--starting in the 15th year of Tiberiusí rule. †
Caligula Also known as Gaius, he ruled from A.D. 37 to 41.† The Senate chose him to succeed Tiberius.† Profligate public spending aided his initial popularity.† Growing mental problems (example: demand to be worshipped as a god) and cruel policies for replenishing the depleted public treasury culminated with assassination by the Praetorian Guard.
Claudius The Praetorian Guard appointed him as leader.† He suffered some form of paralysis that made his appearance bumbling, but his mind was sharp. He ruled from A.D. 41 to 54.† Acts 11:28 states that there would be a world wide famine in† the reign of Claudius.† Acts 18:2 mentions that Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome.
Nero The adopted son of Claudius (a child of his fourth wife, Agrippina), He ruled from A.D. 54 to 68.† His reign began well, but meddling Agrippina was murdered at his command.† He depleted the public treasury and practiced various forms of confiscation to restore it.† Perhaps he was behind a fire in the capital that conveniently made room for an elaborate palace (Golden House).† His administration blamed Christians for the fire and a general persecution followed.† His grew unpopular with the military and eventually fled Rome and ordered a servant to kill him rather than fall into the hands of his enemies. Church tradition observes that Peter and Paul died as part of the persecution. Acts 25:10-12 records Paulís appeal to CaesaróNero.† The suffering cited by Peter, in 1 Peter 4:12-16, might have been inspired by Neroís state sponsored persecution?
Galba He was a commander of the Roman army in Spain. The Senate placed him into power, but he quickly lost support for not being generous enough with public funds.† Senator Otho plotted against him and convinced the Praetorian Guard to kill Galba and place him in power. Galba ruled from A.D. 68 to 69.
Otho He was a Roman Senator placed into power by the Praetorian Guard. Disputes over civilian leadership among the military lead Vitellius, a general in German provinces, to march on Rome and they swiftly defeated the defenders of Otho.† Otho took his own life, having lead from January through April of A.D. 69.
Vitellius He was the general of the Roman armies in the German provinces.† More divided opinions among the military on civilian leadership lead troops in the eastern provinces to declare Vespasian, their general, †as Emperor.† Vespasian cut off the food supplies to Rome and his supporters in the city captured Rome and killed Vitellius. Vitellius ruled from July through December of A.D. 69.
Vespasian He was age 60 at his ascension to power and ruled from A.D. 69 through 79. He accomplished a restoration of order to the Senate, the military, and the Praetorian Guard (limiting their size and number). He taxed everything to replenish the treasury, built and refurbished many temples, and started construction of the Colosseum.†
Titus The son of Vespasian, a generous and popular emperor, he ruled from A.D. 79 through 81. Various disasters occurred during his rule: a severe fire in Rome, Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii, and Romeís worst plague occurred. He died of a fever at age 42. Prior to being Emperor, his military leadership included the 70 A.D. destruction of †Jerusalem and subjugation of Judea.
Domitian A son of Vespasian and a younger brother of Titus, the Senate made him Emperor.† On the one hand, he was an efficient economic manager of the Empire.† On the other, he was politically suspicious and ruthless, to the point that his own family arranged for his assassination (he was 45). He declared the divinity of his father, brother, wife, sisters, and himself. He persecuted various religions, including Christians, that refused him worship. †He ruled from A.D. 81 through 96.†
Nerva After the assassination of Domitian, the Senate chose one of its own members as Emperor--66 year old Nerva.† His short, harmless, benevolent rule, lasted from A.D. 96 through 98.
Trajan Nerva, three months before his death, chose the able military commander Trajan as his successor. Trajan administered the daily affairs of government as a fiscal conservative. In contrast, however, the tribute and booty from occupied foreign lands was lavishly spent on Rome and her citizens. He lead the legions that expanded the empire to the Indian Ocean in the east and died at age 64 on his way back to Rome. †He ruled from A.D. 98 through 117.