A Roman Emperors list, including a few more detailed comments to add colour and memorable highlights for many of these individuals!
The following ancient Roman Emperors list provides an easy overview of who, when and what happened during the long course of the Roman Empire. The list starts with “The 12 Caesars“.
The image below shows a Roman emperors list – with a total count of 84 for the Western Empire, which is commonly accepted to end with the fall of Romulus Augustulus. However the Eastern Empire lasted well beyond this time.
It is also worth noting that for significant period of time the Roman empire was ruled through a Tetrarchy. An emperor for each of the western and eastern empires had a ‘Caesar’ to act as their substitute, rather like the vice-President.
It is quickly seen that it is difficult to have a definitive Roman Emperors list or list of Caesars, especially if we add the confusion of various break-away portions and provinces with their own claimant to the imperial throne!
The list section below the image provides a little further information about each Emperor listed.
Roman Emperors List – by years of rule
Year 16th Jan 27B.C – 19th Aug 14 A.D.
The Pax Romana Begins
- Emperor Augustus formerly known as
- GAIUS OCTAVIANUS
(aka) IMPERATOR CAESAR DIVI FILIVS AVGVSTVS
The month of August is named after him.
The first and perhaps greatest of all the emperors. A worthy heir and successor of his uncle Julius Caesar. Lacked the military genius but made up for it with Political genius. The godfather of modern Europe.
Emperor TIBERIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS
Loved to spend time at his villa on the island of Capri. His fear of getting done in turned him wacky and got him done in.
Jesus Christ was crucified during his reign.
GAIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS
Went wacko. Named Caligula because of the common soldiers’ shoes he used to wear as a boy (Caligae). Famous for his debauchery and also for naming his own horse a Senator.
TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS
Stuttered, limped and initially thought to be a fool, which saved his life. Proved to be good at his job. Liked women. Took Britannia. He was poisoned with a plate of mushrooms by his wife Agrippina Minor – Nero’s mother.
NERO CLAUDIUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS
His fame precedes him. Wanted to be an artist and a chariot racer. It appears his first years as Emperor were amongst the most illuminated thanks to his tutor Seneca. Got manipulated by his mother and wives. Eventually married a eunuch and killed himself.
The Julio-Claudian Dynasty ends here and gives way to a year of civil war known as “The Year of the 4 Caesars”.
Year of the four Caesars
- Emperor Galba
- Emperors Otho and Vitellius
Year 69 A.D
IMPERATOR VESPASIANUS CAESAR AUGUSTUS
Flavian Dynasty begins.
A soldier. Practical, pragmatic and tight with his money. Inventor of taxes on public latrines (Vespasians) and builder of the Colosseum. “Pecus non olet” (money doesn’t smell).
Good, dry, sense of humour. His dying words were “I think I’m about to become a god”
Year 79 A.D
Good emperor according to the Romans. Took Jerusalem with great bloodshed. Died young whilst helping his citizens fight the plague.
Year 81 AD
Envious of his brother Emperor Titus. Persecuted the Christians.
Was assassinated and condemned to Damnatio Memoriae by the Senate.
The Flavian Dynasty ends.
Year 96 AD
- Emperor Nerva
First of the “Five Good Emperors”
A Senator. Didn’t last long but set a very good trend going. Builder of a new forum.
Year 97 AD
See Trajan’s column for his deeds. It stands in his forum, just where his great Latin & Greek public library was.
He greatly extended the empire.
Year 117 AD
We like Hadrian a lot for also being a great architect & philosopher: There’s a great book by Marguerite Yourcenar worth reading “Hadrian’s Memories”
Travelled the empire and consolidated Trajan’s wins (see Hadrian’s wall).
Re-built the Pantheon as we know it.
Year 138 AD
Temple stands in the Forum with him and his wife ascending to the heavens on an eagle.
See his column – similar to Trajan’s yet different: art was changing register from Classical Greece to Christian Symbolism!
Year 161-180 AD
The Pax Romana Ends
(he co-ruled with brother Lucius Verus 161-169)
Last of the “Five Good Emperors”
A very groovy statue stands in the middle of the Capitoline Hill – it avoided destruction through the Middle Ages because it had long been considered a statue of St. Peter.
His beard is symbolic of him as a philosopher and thinker. He probably had a nasty scar under his cheek too (bad shavers in those days).
Year 176-192 AD
Bit of a good-for-nothing who had illusions of being Hercules reincarnate. Enjoyed the Gladiatorial shows no end.
Year 193 AD
Things start to get a little rocky from here on. The roman economy starts to rattle: As conquests stop the influx of wealth and cheap labour came to a halt. The military got restless and overly involved in politics…..
Year 193 AD
Who? Didn’t last long did he!
Years 193-211 AD
By some accounts he brought the empire to it’s greatest expanse. By other accounts this was achieved by Trajan.
Nice triumphal arch in the Forum
Good thermal baths to be visited on the south side of ancient Rome.
- Emperor Macrinus
- Emperor Elagabalus
The pits. Debauched lover of excess and orgies. Lover of peace with a wacky idea of assembling all deities under a single sun god.
Got murdered by his Praetorian guards in a toilet and thrown into the sewers (which got blocked). Got pulled out again and hung rotting in public display. His meddling mother got a similar treatment.
I don’t think they liked him.
Emperor Alexander Severus
Emperor Maximinus Thrax
Year 238 AD
Emperors Gordian I, II & III.
Emperor Philip and others
Emperor Decius and others
Emperor Gallienus and others
Emperor Claudius II
- Emperor Aurelian and others
Extended and fortified the walls around Rome. They still stand even if the barbarians inevitably got in (it took them a couple hundred years though). Bravo Aurelian.
Year 275 AD
Emperor Carinus and Numerian
Pretty good at his job and very pragmatic, although he too had a good bash at the Christians.
Diocletian realised the Empire was too big and too expensive to run.
He also saw the need to put an end to the continuous military coups so he split the empire into West and East, each with its own Emperor and vice emperor (Caesar). This was known as the “Tetrarchy”.
He set a fixed mandate, stuck to it and retired to tend to his vegetable garden.
Years 286-305 AD
Years 293-296 AD
Emperor Constantius Chlorus
Called Chlorus because of his white skin. Married a humble concubine who converted to Christianity. Fathered Constantine aka Constantine the Great.
Emperor Flavius Severus
Years 308-324 AD
A “dude” really worth learning about. Named Augustus at York, marched on Rome, beat his co-regent Maxentius and took absolute power.
Constantine took some severely good and forward looking decisions which ensured the survival of at least part of the empire through to the Renaissance (the Eastern half). Some notable things about him…He
- created a new capital for the Eastern part of the Empire on the Bosphorus which he called Constantinople (now Istanbul).
- authorised the Christian religion as equal to all others.
- got baptised a Christian on his death bed.
See Constantine’s triumphal arch by the Colosseum.
Years 337-340 AD
Emperor Constantine II
Years 337-350 AD
Emperor Constantius II
Year 375-393 AD
Emperor Valentinian II
Year 379-395 AD
Emperor Theodosius I
Year 385-388 AD
Year 392-394 AD
Year 395-423 AD
His inferiority complex got the better of him so he killed his best general Stilico. This was a ‘wonderful’ strategy which ensured that Alaric’s barbarians finally managed to sack Rome.
Years 425-455 AD
Emperor Valentinian III
Years 457-474 AD
Emperor Leo I
Years 475-476 AD
A boy. Got deposed.
Regarded last Emperor of Rome. Actually last Emperor of the Roman Empire of the West
Emperors of the Roman Empire actually reside in Constantinople – New Rome – Capital of the Roman Empire of the East.
Last Emperor of the Roman Empire of the East is deposed in the 15th Century – The Renaissance.
To see what what happened around their times and what they were involved in have a look at our Rome Timeline.