Rome was a country rich in history and culture, and Roman emperors were known for leading a variety of scientific and technological advancements in the world. They established modern tools, built exquisite buildings, and facilitated artists and writers all across the globe. Here is a list of Roman emperors who were popular both during and after their time.
This blog does not only contain popular leaders who ruled for decades and boasted military prowess. It also includes Roman emperors who were unsuccessful, unpopular, and utter failures. The latter is discussed because their reigns were still impactful and created a domino effect for events of the future.
To know more about Roman emperors and why they are still relevant today, look at the list of Roman emperors given below.
Why Are Roman Emperors Popular in the World?
Ancient Romans are known to be extremely educated and skillful. The Roman emperors were enthusiastic about scientific discoveries and facilitated individuals who created innovations.
Additionally, the list of Roman emperors discussed below were mostly skillful military commanders who not only increased the Roman army in size but also made it one of the fiercest armies in the world.
Moreover, these leaders were known for being ruthless and cruel and for taking up extreme measures to eliminate their enemies, but more on that later.
25 Most Famous Roman Emperors of the World
Whether it was for their cruelty or their military prowess, the list of Roman emperors discussed below left an everlasting impact on Roman society. Here is why they are still popular today.
Also known as Augustus, Caesar was the first Roman emperor after the downfall of the republic. He was the adoptive child and nephew of Julius Caesar, one of the most famous leaders of the world.
He ruled Rome successfully and was known for bringing a lot of everlasting peace and prosperity to the nation. Additionally, he is known for his irrevocable patience.
Claudius, also known as Tiberious Claudius Nero Germanicus extended Roman Rule and encompassed North Africa. He also made Britain a Roman province. His rule started with the unfortunate incident of his father’s murder. He also faced a lot of resistance from the autocracy.
However, his Military skill set and diplomacy helped make him a popular leader. He was trusted by his troops and his senate, which helped legitimize his rule in the country.
Galba, another famous Roman emperor’s reign, lasted only seven months. Although he was an upright and courageous leader, he had corrupt and misguided advisors. Unlike other Roman emperors, he was entrusted with leadership positions long before he became emperor.
At the age of 33, he began his career in the Senate. Then, at age 40, he was handed the command of the upper German army. Additionally, he served some time in Africa, thus giving him valuable insights into International Relations.
4. Aulus Vitellius
The Roman emperor reigned while his empire had an ongoing war and continued instability. Although he was born into a very established and rich family, he did not prove to be a very fruitful leader.
Before becoming a Roman emperor, he held a diverse range of positions, including the position of governor of Germania Inferior. After the death of Galba, another Roman emperor, the troops appointed Aulus as their leader. He challenged Otho, the successor of Galba, and took over Rome.
Known for his valor and his strength, Trajan showed physical prowess from an early age. He was a highly successful Roman emperor and his reign included cultural advancement, geographical expansion, and economic prosperity.
He joined the famous Roman Army when he was quite young, and his skill and his dedication made him rise in the ranks. After becoming an emperor, he initiated a lot of military campaigns and expanded his empire. The modern-day Jordan, Iraq, Hungarian, Bulgaria, and Romania became part of the Roman empire during Trajan’s rule.
6. Marcus Aurelius
Military success and political stability were the main tenants of Marcus’s rule. He enjoyed philosophy as a child and became a deep philosopher thinker in his older years. He also joined the Roman army and rose in his ranks, becoming the military consul in 147 AD.
He fought a lot of Germanic tribes and the Parthians and achieved success. He also wrote many philosophical pieces on life and the intricacies of the universe.
Commodus, although, known as one of the five good emperors, was unfortunate because his reign is often considered to be the beginning of the end for the empire. He was a fierce, cruel, and often ruthless leader.
Apart from abusing his power and dealing with his enemies in the most ruthless manner, he was also known for his haughtiness. His reign saw various economic problems. He had a lavish lifestyle and was known for wasting a lot of money on his personal lifestyle. To maintain that lifestyle, he increased taxes, which made him a highly unpopular leader.
8. Septimius Severus
Born in Libya, Septimius Severus rose through Roman Army ranks and became the governor of Africa. Severus challenged the sitting emperor of the Roman Empire, Didius Julianus. He won in battle and declared himself the sole ruler of the empire.
As a highly polished military officer and commander, he led many successful campaigns and captured a lot of great cities. He was also an intelligent and autocratic leader who increased the pay of his employees to increase their loyalty. Additionally, he was a fan of arts and literature and ordered the building of many world-class Roman buildings.
The son of Septimius Severus, Caracella had his reign marked with both failures and successes. Among his successes is that he eased the citizenship laws in Rome and made it a relatively free empire. Additionally, he defeated the Parthians in battle and created many large Roman buildings.
Among his failures was that as an autocratic and ruthless leader, he murdered his own brother. He was also cruel towards his enemies and raised taxes on his own people. In the end, he met a gruesome death at the hand of some soldiers.
Also, Read About What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership?
With his reign marked by political unrest and economic instability, Macrinus did not prove to be a very efficient ruler for the Roman empire. Like many other Roman leaders, he also rose to power by his inclusion in the Roman army.
As a conservative ruler, he tried to bring the empire out of chaos, but he was somewhat unsuccessful. Additionally, his effort to reduce the size of the Roman empire did not gain much favor. Elagabalus overthrew him, ending his small reign rather successfully.
11. Severus Alexander
Severus Alexander became a famous Roman emperor at just 14 years of age. However, for most of his reign, his mother Julia Mamaea held power and reigned vicariously through him. He is mostly known for being an inclusive leader who allowed for religious freedom for all people.
His campaign against the Persians from 231 to 233 AD proved quite successful, and he emerged victorious. However, he was soon assassinated by the soldiers of his own army. Despite being a short tenure, his reign brought peace and prosperity to the nation.
12. Gordian II
Known to have one of the shortest reigns in the world, Gordian remained the emperor of Rome for just 22 days. After becoming the ruler, he marched into battle and was killed by opposing troops. His reign is important because it marked the first time in Rome that the senate appointed someone as the ruler.
Additionally, a civil war started during his empire. This war continued for decades to come. His reign also ended the rule of Severn dynasty, which had ruled the country for more than 5 decades.
A Roman senator turned king, Balbinus was in opposition to Maximinus Thrax, the reigning emperor at the time. He ruled for a short time and had a rather unpopular rein. He was overthrown and soon killed by the praetorian guard.
In his short rule, lasting 62 days, he tried his best to improve the administration of the country. He was a capable administrator, but he did not have a strong command over diplomacy and tact. Additionally, he is known for being indifferent to the concerns of his people, which made him an unsuccessful leader.
The younger son of emperor Decius, Hostilian, ruled Rome for only a few months. He was born in Serbia and had a difficult childhood riddled with illness. Due to his medical condition, his father prohibited him from participating in military campaigns.
He used his time to study the Roman law in depth and became an authority on it. Hostilian became an emperor and was declared by the senate as a legitimate ruler. However, the legions declared Gallus as the emperor. Both Hostilian and Gallus ruled the country together. However, he soon died of a fever when he was just 21 years old.
Aemilian was a Roman emperor who ruled for only 3 months. His troops declared him emperor after he invaded Goths and won the battle. He defeated the sitting emperor Gallus in 253. He was, however, killed by his own troops just a month after waging war on the previous emperor.
Like others that preceded him, he was also a skillful military commander who defeated many warring tribes and armies. His rule was short, and hence valid conclusions on his administrative prowess and capability can not be drawn.
16. Claudius II Gothicus
Claudius 11 Gothicus replaced the highly unpopular and inefficient emperor Gallienus and was declared emperor by his troops. Known for his military prowess, Claudius defeated many enemies, and is most known for defeating the Alemanni in battle. He also won against the Goths in battle.
His reign saw the Roman Empire become relatively stable again. He also introduced many administrative measures that were favorable to his people. In the end, he died of the plague and was succeeded by his brother.
Florian was emperor for just 4 months. He became emperor after his brother Tacitus passed away. However, his proclamation as king was not fully accepted by the Senate.
Additionally, he was challenged by the legions in Syria, who proclaimed their own King Probus. This resulted in a civil war, which led to the death of Florian.
One of the famous Roman emperors of the 3rd century, Maximian’s rise to power began in Syria. He was one of the senior co-emperors of the Tetrarchy. The government was divided into four parts because of this system. He was a popular leader whose responsibility was the protection of the west side of the empire.
During his reign, he led many successful campaigns and defeated the Saxons and the Franks. He also protected the empire from the very powerful Vandals. He was taken over by his son.
19. Constantius I
Constantius 1 was the co-emperor of Tetrarchy. According to this system, the government was divided into four parts. His responsibility was the defense of the eastern side of the empire. As a skillful military commander and fighter, he was able to perform this duty successfully.
He was also a very kind and generous leader and vastly popular among his people. He gave the order for new infrastructure that greatly improved the Roman people’s life. Apart from building bridges and canals, he also sponsored many public and non-profit projects.
Severus was an army officer who served in Hungary and modern-day Croatia. Emperor Caesar appointed him as the junior emperor and was given the responsibility to control the regions of Pannonia. After the death of Caesar, the newly appointed emperor was overthrown because of his unpopularity.
Severus was not a very popular leader, and he raised many taxes. Additionally, he introduced unpopular reforms and built a lavish new palace in Rome, thus taking away the funds from the use of the general public. He was overthrown by Maxentius in the end.
Licinius was born of peasant stock and was part of the Roman army. He advanced through the ranks and gained favor from the then-emperor Galerius. Although Galerius wanted his friend to rule major parts of Rome, they were controlled by Maxentius. Licinius ended up ruling Pannonia.
After the death of Galerius, Licinius married Galerius’s sister and became emperor. He was a successful military commander who was able to expand the region and add the eastern half of the empire to his dominion.
22. Constantine the Great
The son of empress Helana, Constantine was undoubtedly one of the most famous emperors of Rome. He introduced many modern military reforms and strengthened the foundations of the empire. Additionally, Christianity flourished under his reign and was declared the official language.
Many notable buildings, including the Arch of Constantine, were built during his reign. His reign ended in 337 AD leaving the people of Rome to mourn his death.
23. Gallus Caesar
The son of Julius Constantius and half-brother to Constantine the Great, Gallus Caesar’s rule was termed as tyrannical. He was a strict Christian but lacked morals and ethics. He was also quite stern in his rule and lacked any tactful knowledge.
He also executed a lot of his enemies and his people. Additionally, he suppressed and defeated many revolts that occurred in the regions of Palestine. He was finally stripped of his powers and ultimately executed.
Compared to other leaders of the 5th century, Majorian was quite popular and boasted some notable victories. Most Roman emperors in the 5th century had short reigns and died as unpopular leaders. He belonged to a military family and was extremely skillful.
Majorian was able to defeat the very powerful Almannic invaders in Switzerland and became emperor. He introduced favorable reforms and reduced taxes in the region. Additionally, he stopped the abuse of power and protected the interest of the common people. All this made him gain favor among his people.
25. Romulus Augustus
Described as the last of the Roman emperors, his reign ended in 476 AD. His reign also ended Ancient Rome and began the Middle Ages in Western Europe. He was soon forced to abdicate by Odoacer after being emperor for just four months.
He was a highly unpopular leader. However, the fall of ancient Rome can not just be attributed to his failures. It was long in the making.
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Most of these famous leaders started as mere soldiers and rose in their ranks. They broke away from the shackles of society and become emperors of one of the most successful nations in the world.
Who is the Greatest Roman King?
Caesar Augustus who reigned Rome from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. is generally considered as the greatest Roman king. He is also known as the first official emperor of the empire. He transformed Rome from a republic to a very successful empire.
How many Roman Emperors are there?
There are roughly 70 emperors that have reigned over Rome. The list of Roman emperors begins with Caesar Augustus who ruled from 27 BC and ends with Romulus Augustus whose reign ended in 476 AD.
How did Rome fall?
The biggest reason why Rome fell was because its army became overconfident and did not prioritize training as it used to. Some Roman emperors increased the size of the army without increasing the training and resources needed to maintain such an army.
Who is the last Roman Emperor?
Romulus Augustus is the last Roman emperor of the world. His reign marked the end of the empire. However, the fall is not attributed to him, as it was long in the waiting.
Which Roman Emperor converted to Christianity?
Constantine is known for his conversion to Christianity. He was preparing for a battle when he saw a cross in one of his visions. He took this as a sign from God and converted.
How long did the Roman Empire Last?
The Roman Empire lasted for 500 years. It was established by its first emperor, Caesar Augustus. During the 500 years, the empire saw more than 70 emperors and many significant scientific and technological reforms.