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Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Trajanus; 18 September 539/11 August 117) was
Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles throughout history. Often when a given Roman is described as becom ...
from 98 to 117. Officially declared by the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
''optimus princeps'' ("best ruler"), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the second-greatest military expansion in
Roman history The history of Rome includes the history of the Rome, city of Rome as well as the Ancient Rome, civilisation of ancient Rome. Roman history has been influential on the modern world, especially in the history of the Catholic Church, and Roman law ...
, after
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles througho ...

Augustus
, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death. He is also known for his
philanthropic Philanthropy consists of "private initiatives, for the public good, focusing on quality of life". Philanthropy contrasts with business initiatives, which are private initiatives for private good, focusing on material gain, and with government en ...
rule, overseeing extensive public building programs and implementing
social welfare policies Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and whether the exchange is Volition (psychology), voluntary/involuntary. Etymology The wo ...
, which earned him his enduring reputation as the second of the
Five Good Emperors 5 is a number, numeral, and glyph. 5, five or number 5 may also refer to: * AD 5, the fifth year of the AD era * 5 BC, the fifth year before the AD era Literature * ''5'' (visual novel), a 2008 visual novel by Ram * ''5'' (comics), an awa ...
who presided over an era of peace within the Empire and prosperity in the
Mediterranean world The history of the Mediterranean region and of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Ancient Egypt, Egyptian, Canaanites, Canaanite, Phoenician, History of ...
. Trajan was born in
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic peoples, Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio Africanus, Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the ...
, close to modern
Seville Seville (; es, Sevilla, Castilian Spanish , Andalusian Spanish (with yeísmo) ) is the capital and largest city of the Spain, Spanish autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated ...

Seville
in present-day
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
, an Italic settlement in the
Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire. Each province was ruled ...
of
Hispania Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under ...

Hispania Baetica
. Although misleadingly designated by some later writers as a provincial, his
Ulpia gens The gens Ulpia was a Roman family that rose to prominence during the first century AD. The gens In ancient Rome, a gens ( or ), plural gentes, was a family consisting of individuals who shared the same Roman naming conventions#Nomen, nomen and ...
came from
Umbria Umbria ( , ) is a of central . It includes Lake and , and is crossed by the River . It is the only landlocked region on the . The regional capital is . The region is characterized by hills, mountains, valleys and historical towns such as the un ...
and he was born in the senatorial family.Arnold Blumberg, ''Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers who Made History'', 1995, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 315: "Trajan is frequently but misleadingly designated the first provincial emperor, because the Ulpii were from Baetica (southern Spain). The family, resident in Spain for some time, originated in Italian Tuder, not far from the Flavian home of Reate. The emperor's father, M. Ulpius Trajanus, was an early adherent of Vespasian and perhaps the old family friend. This Trajan evidently married a Marcia (her name is inferred from that of their daughter Marciana) whose family owned brickyards in the vicinity of Ameria, near both Reate and Tuder. She was possibly an older sister of Marcia Furnilla, second wife of Vespasian's son Titus. Further, Ulpia, sister of the senior Trajan, was a grandmother of Hadrian. In other words, the emperor Trajan was succeeded in 117 by his cousin, member of another Italian family resident in Baetica." Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
. Serving as a
legatus legionis A ''legatus'' (anglicised Linguistic anglicisation (or anglicization, occasionally anglification, anglifying, or Englishing) is the practice of modifying foreign words, names, and phrases to make them easier to spell, pronounce, or understand ...
in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic ...
, in 89 Trajan supported Domitian against a revolt on the
Rhine ), Surselva Surselva Region is one of the eleven administrative districts Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as well as many si ...

Rhine
led by Antonius Saturninus. In September 96, Domitian was succeeded by the old and childless
Nerva Nerva (; originally Marcus Cocceius Nerva; 8 November 30 – 27 January 98) was from 96 to 98. Nerva became emperor when aged almost 66, after a lifetime of imperial service under and the rulers of the . Under Nero, he was a member of the im ...
, who proved to be unpopular with the army. After a brief and tumultuous year in power, culminating in a revolt by members of the
Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of th ...
, he decided to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. Nerva died in 98 and was succeeded by his adopted son without incident. As a civilian administrator, Trajan is best known for his extensive public building program, which reshaped the city of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
and left numerous enduring landmarks such as
Trajan's Forum Trajan's Forum ( la, Forum Traiani; it, Foro di Traiano) was the last of the Imperial fora The Imperial fora (''Fori Imperiali '' in Italian) are a series of monumental '' fora'' (public squares), constructed in Rome , established_title ...

Trajan's Forum
,
Trajan's Market Trajan's Market (; ) is a large complex of ruin Ruins () are the remains of a civilization's architecture: structures that were once intact have fallen, as time went by, into a state of partial or total disrepair, due to lack of maintenanc ...

Trajan's Market
and
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column ( it, Colonna Traiana, la, COLVMNA·TRAIANI) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune ...

Trajan's Column
. Early in his reign, he annexed the
Nabataean Kingdom The Nabataean Kingdom ( ar, المملكة النبطية, al-Mamlakah an-Nabaṭiyyah), also named Nabatea (), was a political state of the Arab The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, ISO 233 The international standard a ...
, creating the province of
Arabia Petraea Arabia Petraea or Petrea, also known as Rome's Arabian Province ( la, Provincia Arabia; ar, العربية البترائية; grc, ἐπαρχία Πετραίας Αραβίας) or simply Arabia, was a frontier Roman province, province of ...

Arabia Petraea
. His conquest of
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians The Dacians (; la, Daci ; grc-gre, Δάκοι, Δάοι, Δάκαι) were a Thracians, Thracian people who were the ancient inhabitants of the cultural region of Dacia, located in the ar ...

Dacia
enriched the empire greatly, as the new province possessed many valuable gold mines. Trajan's war against the
Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major political and cultural power in from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, , who led the tribe in conquering the region of in 's northeast, ...

Parthian Empire
ended with the sack of the capital
Ctesiphon Ctesiphon ( ; Middle Persian: 𐭲𐭩𐭮𐭯𐭥𐭭 ''tyspwn'' or ''tysfwn''; fa, تیسفون; grc-gre, Κτησιφῶν, ; syr, ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢThomas A. Carlson et al., “Ctesiphon — ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modi ...

Ctesiphon
and the annexation of
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...
,
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...
and (possibly)
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a n kingdom and of the that existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BCE (in the form of the city-state) until its collapse between 612 BCE and 609 BCE; thereby spanning ...
. In late 117, while sailing back to Rome, Trajan fell ill and died of a
stroke A stroke is a medical condition A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function (biology), function of all or part of an organism, and that is not due to any immediate external injury. Dis ...

stroke
in the city of
Selinus Selinunte (; grc, Σελῑνοῦς, Selīnoûs ; la, Selīnūs , ; scn, Silinunti ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...
. He was
deified Apotheosis (, from gr, ἀποθεόω/ἀποθεῶ, label=none, link=no, lit='to deify', transliteration=apotheoo/apotheo; also called divinization and deification from ) is the glorification of a subject to divine level and most commonly, t ...
by the Senate and his ashes were laid to rest under Trajan's Column. He was succeeded by his cousin
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of in . His father was of senatorial rank and was ...

Hadrian
, whom Trajan supposedly adopted on his deathbed.


Sources

As an emperor, Trajan's reputation has enduredhe is one of the few rulers whose reputation has survived nineteen centuries. Every new emperor after him was honoured by the Senate with the wish '' felicior Augusto, melior Traiano'' (that he be "luckier than
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles througho ...

Augustus
and better than Trajan"). Among
medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
Christian theologians, Trajan was considered a
virtuous pagan Virtuous pagan is a concept in Christian theology Christian theology is the theology of Christianity, Christian belief and practice. * help them better understand Christian tenets * make comparative religion, comparisons between Christianity a ...
. In the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full stop (or period), a punctuation mark Arts, entertainment, and media * Period (music), a concept in ...

Renaissance
, Machiavelli, speaking on the advantages of adoptive succession over heredity, mentioned the five successive good emperors "from Nerva to
Marcus
Marcus
"a trope out of which the 18th-century historian
Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon (; 8 May 173716 January 1794) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Eng ...

Edward Gibbon
popularized the notion of the
Five Good Emperors 5 is a number, numeral, and glyph. 5, five or number 5 may also refer to: * AD 5, the fifth year of the AD era * 5 BC, the fifth year before the AD era Literature * ''5'' (visual novel), a 2008 visual novel by Ram * ''5'' (comics), an awa ...
, of whom Trajan was the second. An account of the Dacian Wars, the '' Commentarii de bellis Dacicis'', written by Trajan himself or a
ghostwriter A ghostwriter is hired to write literary Literature broadly is any collection of written work, but it is also used more narrowly for writings specifically considered to be an art form, especially prose fiction, drama Drama is the s ...
and modelled after
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *Roman people, the people of anc ...

Caesar
's ''
Commentarii de Bello Gallico ''Commentarii de Bello Gallico'' (; en, Commentaries on the Gallic War The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman Republic, Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against numerous Gauls, Gallic tribes between 58 B ...

Commentarii de Bello Gallico
'', is lost with the exception of one sentence. Only fragments remain of the ''Getica'', a book by Trajan's personal physician Titus Statilius Criton. The ''Parthica'', a 17-volume account of the Parthian Wars written by
Arrian Arrian of Nicomedia (; Ancient Greek, Greek: ''Arrianos''; la, Lucius Flavius Arrianus; ) was a Greek people, Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman Greece, Roman period. ''The Anabasis of Alex ...

Arrian
, has met a similar fate. Book68 in
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (; ) or Dio Cassius ( ''Dion Kassios'')), Cassius Lucius Dio or Cassius Claudius Dio; alleged to have the ' (nickname) Cocceianus was a Roman statesman and historian of Greek and Roman origin. He published 80 volumes of the ...
's ''Roman History'', which survives mostly as
Byzantine The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It surviv ...
abridgements and
epitome An epitome (; gr, ἐπιτομή, from ἐπιτέμνειν ''epitemnein'' meaning "to cut short") is a summary or miniature form, or an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme A m ...
s, is the main source for the political history of Trajan's rule. Besides this,
Pliny the Younger Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo (61 – c. 113), better known as Pliny the Younger (), was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman people, Rom ...

Pliny the Younger
's ''Panegyricus'' and Dio of Prusa's orations are the best surviving contemporary sources. Both are adulatory perorations, typical of the High Imperial period, that describe an idealized monarch and an equally idealized view of Trajan's rule, and concern themselves more with ideology than with fact. The tenth volume of Pliny's letters contains his correspondence with Trajan, which deals with various aspects of imperial Roman government, but this correspondence is neither intimate nor candid: it is an exchange of official mail, in which Pliny's stance borders on the servile. It is certain that much of the text of the letters that appear in this collection over Trajan's signature was written and/or edited by Trajan's Imperial secretary, his ''
ab epistulis''Ab epistulis'' was the chancellor's office in the Roman Empire with responsibility for the emperor's Letter (message), correspondence. The office sent ''mandata'' (instructions) to provincial governors and other officials. ''Ab epistulis'' wrote i ...
''. Therefore, discussion of Trajan and his rule in modern historiography cannot avoid speculation. Non-literary sources such as archaeology,
epigraphy Epigraphy () is the study of inscriptions, or epigraphs, as writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writing systems are not themselves human languages (with th ...
, and
numismatics Numismatics is the study or collection of currency A currency, "in circulation", from la, currens, -entis, literally meaning "running" or "traversing" in the most specific sense is money Image:National-Debt-Gillray.jpeg, In a 1786 James ...

numismatics
are also useful for reconstructing his reign.


Early life

Marcus Ulpius Trajanus was born on 18 September 53AD in the Roman province of
Hispania Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under ...

Hispania Baetica
Syme, Tacitus, 30–44; PIR Vlpivs 575 (in what is now
Andalusia Andalusia (, ; es, Andalucía ) is the southernmost autonomous community eu, autonomia erkidegoa ca, comunitat autònoma gl, comunidade autónoma oc, comunautat autonòma an, comunidat autonoma ast, comunidá autónoma , alt_name ...
in modern
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

Spain
), in the city of
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic peoples, Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio Africanus, Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the ...
(now in the municipal area of
Santiponce Santiponce is a town located in the province of Seville, Spain. According to the 2006 census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, and acquiring and recording information about the members of a given Statistical population, popu ...
, in the outskirts of
Seville Seville (; es, Sevilla, Castilian Spanish , Andalusian Spanish (with yeísmo) ) is the capital and largest city of the Spain, Spanish autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated ...

Seville
). His year of birth is not reliably attested and may have been in 56 AD. Although frequently designated the first provincial emperor, his father's side
Ulpia gens The gens Ulpia was a Roman family that rose to prominence during the first century AD. The gens In ancient Rome, a gens ( or ), plural gentes, was a family consisting of individuals who shared the same Roman naming conventions#Nomen, nomen and ...
appears to have hailed from the area of Tuder (modern
Todi Todi () is a town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenance of local roads and public works. It is ...

Todi
) in
Umbria Umbria ( , ) is a of central . It includes Lake and , and is crossed by the River . It is the only landlocked region on the . The regional capital is . The region is characterized by hills, mountains, valleys and historical towns such as the un ...
, at the border with
Etruria Etruria () was a region of Central Italy Central Italy ( it, Italia centrale or just ) is one of the five official statistical regions of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ) ...

Etruria
, and on his mother's side from the gens Marcia, of an Italic family of
Sabine The Sabines (; lat, Sabini; it, Sabini, all exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Sou ...
origin. Trajan's birthplace of Italica was founded as a Roman military colony of ''Italic'' settlers in 206BC, though it is unknown when the Ulpii arrived there. It is possible, but cannot be substantiated, that Trajan's ancestors married local women and lost their citizenship at some point, but they certainly recovered their status when the city became a
municipium Municipium (pl. municipia) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the p ...
with
Latin citizenship Latin Rights (also latin citizenship, Latin: ''ius Latii'' or ''ius latinum'') were a set of legal rights that were originally granted to the Latins (Latin: "Latini", the People of Latium, the land of the Latins) under Roman law. "''Latinitas'' ...
in the mid-1st century BC. Trajan was the son of Marcia, a Roman noblewoman and sister-in-law of the second Flavian Emperor
Titus Titus Caesar Vespasianus ( ; 30 December 39 – 13 September 81 AD) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thro ...

Titus
, and Marcus Ulpius Trajanus, a prominent senator and general from the '' gens Ulpia''. Marcus Ulpius Trajanus the elder served
Vespasian Vespasian (; la, Vespasianus ; 17 November AD 9 – 23/24 June 79) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 69 to 79 AD. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empire ...

Vespasian
in the
First Jewish-Roman War First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill, ...
, commanding the '' Legio X ''Fretensis''''. Trajan himself was just one of many well-known Ulpii in a line that continued long after his own death. His elder sister was
Ulpia Marciana Ulpia Marciana (August 48 – 112) was the beloved elder sister of Roman Emperor The Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of di ...
, and his niece was
Salonina Matidia Salonia Matidia (4 July 68 CE – 23 December 119 CE) was the daughter and only child of Ulpia Marciana and wealthy praetor Praetor ( , ), also spelled prætor or pretor in English, was a title A title is one or more words used before or after ...
. The ''
patria Patria may refer to: Entertainment * Patria (novel), a 2016 novel by Spanish writer Fernando Aramburu * Patria (TV series), a 2020 limited television series, based on the novel * Patria (serial), ''Patria'' (serial), a 1917 American serial film ...
'' of the Ulpii was Italica, in Spanish Baetica. Very little is known about Trajan’s early formative years, but it is thought likely that he spent his first months or years in Italica before moving to Rome and then, perhaps at around eight or nine years of age, he almost certainly would have returned temporarily to
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) north of modern-day Santiponce, 9 km northwest of Seville in southern Spain, was an Italic peoples, Italic settlement founded by the Roman general Scipio Africanus, Scipio in the province of Hispania Baetica. It was the ...
with his father during Trajanus’ governorship of
Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Roman ...

Baetica
(ca. 64–65). The family home in Rome, the Domus Traiana, was located on the
Aventine Hill The Aventine Hill (; la, Collis Aventinus; it, Aventino ) is one of the Seven Hills on which ancient Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legend ...
, and excavation findings under a car park in Piazza del Tempio di Diana are thought to be the family’s large suburban villa with exquisitely decorated rooms.


Military career

As a young man, he rose through the ranks of the
Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

Roman army
, serving in some of the most contested parts of the Empire's frontier. In 7677, Trajan's father was
Governor A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, ''governor'' may be t ...
of
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or ar, سُورِيَة, ''Sūriyā''), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, ٱلْجُمْهُورِيَّةُ ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلسُّورِيَّةُ, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-S ...
(''
Legatus A ''legatus'' (Anglicisation, anglicised as legate) was a high-ranking Roman military officer in the Roman Army, equivalent to a modern high-ranking general officer. Initially used to delegate power, the term became formalised under Augustus as ...

Legatus
pro praetore Syriae''), where Trajan himself remained as ''
Tribunus Tribune () was the title of various elected officials in ancient Rome. The two most important were the Tribune of the Plebs, tribunes of the plebs and the military tribunes. For most of Roman history, a college of ten tribunes of the plebs act ...
legionis''. From there, after his father's replacement, he seems to have been transferred to an unspecified Rhine province, and Pliny implies that he engaged in active combat duty during both commissions. In about 86, Trajan's cousin died, leaving his young children
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of in . His father was of senatorial rank and was ...

Hadrian
and
Paulina Paulina or Paullina (, ) was a name shared by three relatives of the Roman Emperor Hadrian: his mother, his elder sister and his niece. Mother of Hadrian Domitia Paulina or Paullina, Domitia Paulina Major or Paulina Major, (''Major'' Latin for ...
orphans. Trajan and a colleague of his,
Publius Acilius Attianus Publius Acilius Attianus (1st – 2nd century AD) was a powerful Roman official who played a significant, though obscured, role in the transfer of power from Trajan Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Trajanus; 18 September 538August 117) was ...

Publius Acilius Attianus
, became co-guardians of the two children. In 91, Trajan was created ordinary
Consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...

Consul
for the year, which was a great honour as he was in his late thirties and therefore just above the minimum legal age (32) for holding the post. This can be explained in part by the prominence of his father's career, as his father had been instrumental to the ascent of the ruling
Flavian dynasty The Flavian dynasty ruled the Roman Empire between AD 69 and 96, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian (69–79), and his two sons Titus (79–81) and Domitian (81–96). The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as ...
, held consular rank himself and had just been made a
patrician Patrician may refer to: * Patrician (ancient Rome), the original aristocratic families of ancient Rome, and a synonym for "aristocratic" in modern English usage * Patrician (post-Roman Europe), the governing elites of cities in parts of medieval a ...
. Around this time Trajan brought
Apollodorus of DamascusApollodorus (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as ...
with him to
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
Augustan History, ''Life of Hadrian'
2.5–6
/ref> and also married
Pompeia Plotina Pompeia Plotina, (died 121/122) was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Trajan. She was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and her virtue, dignity and simplicity. She was particularly devoted to the Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophical ...
, a noble woman from the Roman settlement at
Nîmes Nîmes ( , ; oc, Nimes ; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roma ...
; the marriage ultimately remained childless. It has been remarked by later authors (among them Trajan's late successor Julian) that Trajan was strong inclined towards
homosexuality Homosexuality is Romance (love), romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or Human sexual activity, sexual behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality is "an enduring pattern of emotional, romanti ...
, in contrast to the usual
bisexual Bisexuality is romantic Romantic may refer to: Genres and eras * The Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement of the 18th and 19th centuries ** Romantic music, of that era ** Romantic poetry, of that era ** R ...
activity that was common among upper class Roman men of the period. His homosexuality was remarked in scathing fashion by Julian, reflecting a change of mores that began with the
Severan dynasty The Severan dynasty was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened to ''Romans'', a letter in the New Tes ...
, but an earlier author, Cassius Dio, already makes reference to Trajan's marked personal preference for the male sex. Trajan's putative lovers included
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of in . His father was of senatorial rank and was ...

Hadrian
, pages of the imperial household, the actor Pylades, a dancer called Apolaustus,
Lucius Licinius Sura Lucius Licinius Sura was an influential Roman Senator The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper hou ...
, and Nerva. Cassius Dio also relates that Trajan made an ally out of
Abgar VII Abgar VII was king of Osrhoene from . His primary goal was to remain independent of both the major powers in the region, the Roman and the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian politic ...
on account of the latter's beautiful son, Arbandes, who would then dance for Trajan at a banquet. As the details of Trajan's military career are obscure, it is only sure that in 89, as legate of
Legio VII Gemina 330px, Map of the Iberian peninsula in 125 AD, under emperor Hadrian, showing the Legio VII Gemina, stationed at Castra Legionis (León, Spain), in Hispania Tarraconensis province, from 75 AD until the 4th century __NOTOC__ Legio VII Gemina (Latin ...
in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic ...
, he supported Domitian against an attempted ''coup'' by Lucius Antonius Saturninus, the governor of
Germania Superior Germania Superior ("Upper Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "bar ...
. It is probable that Trajan remained in the region after the revolt was quashed to engage with the
Chatti The Chatti (also Chatthi or Catti) were an ancient Germanic tribe This list of ancient s is an inventory of ancient Germanic cultures, tribal groupings and other alliances of Germanic tribes and civilisations in ancient times. The information c ...
who had sided with Saturninus, before returning the VII Gemina legion to Legio in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic ...
. Later, after his 91 consulate (held with Acilius Glabrio, a rare pair of consuls at the time, in that neither consul was a member of the ruling dynasty), he held some unspecified consular commission as governor on either
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, first-level subdivision, as ...

Pannonia
or
Germania Superior Germania Superior ("Upper Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "bar ...
possibly both. Plinywho seems to deliberately avoid offering details that would stress personal attachment between Trajan and the "tyrant" Domitianattributes to him, at the time, various (and unspecified) feats of arms.


Rise to power

Since Domitian's successor, Nerva, was unpopular with the army, and had just been forced by his Praetorian Prefect
Casperius Aelianus Casperius Aelianus, (13 AD - 98 AD) who served as Praetorian Prefect The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard The Praetorian Guard (L ...
to execute Domitian's killers, he felt the need to gain the support of the military in order to avoid being ousted. He accomplished this in the summer of 97 by naming Trajan as his adoptive son and successor, allegedly solely on Trajan's outstanding military merits. There are hints, however, in contemporary literary sources that Trajan's adoption was imposed on Nerva. Pliny implied as much when he wrote that, although an emperor could not be coerced into doing something, if this were the way in which Trajan was raised to power, then it was worth it. Alice König argues that the notion of a natural continuity between Nerva's and Trajan's reigns was an ''ex post facto'' fiction developed by authors writing under Trajan, like
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
and
Pliny Pliny may refer to: People from antiquity * Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79), ancient Roman nobleman, scientist, historian, and author of ''Naturalis Historia'' (''Pliny's Natural History'') * Pliny the Younger (died 113), ancient Roman statesman, ...

Pliny
. According to the ''
Augustan History The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies A biography, or simply bio, is a detailed description of a person's life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, r ...
'', it was the future Emperor
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Traianus Hadrianus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was from 117 to 138. He was born into a Roman Italo-Hispanic family, which settled in Spain from the Italian city of in . His father was of senatorial rank and was ...

Hadrian
who brought word to Trajan of his adoption. Hadrian was then retained on the Rhine frontier by Trajan as a
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army The Roman army (: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of , from the (to c. 500 BC) to the (500– ...
, becoming privy to the circle of friends and relations with which Trajan surrounded himselfamong them the then governor of
Germania Inferior Germania Inferior ("Lower Germania") was a Roman province The Roman provinces (Latin: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome outside Roman Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Rom ...
, the Spaniard
Lucius Licinius Sura Lucius Licinius Sura was an influential Roman Senator The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper hou ...
, who became Trajan's chief personal adviser and official friend. As a token of his influence, Sura would later become consul for the third time in 107. Some ancient sources also tell about his having built a bath named after him on the
Aventine Hill The Aventine Hill (; la, Collis Aventinus; it, Aventino ) is one of the Seven Hills on which ancient Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legend ...
in Rome, or having this bath built by Trajan and then named after him, in either case a signal of honour as the only exception to the established rule that a public building in the capital could be dedicated only to a member of the imperial family. These baths were later expanded by the third century emperor
Decius Gaius Messius Quintus Traianus Decius (c. 201 ADJune 251 AD), sometimes translated as Trajan Decius or Decius, was the emperor An emperor (from la, imperator, via fro, empereor) is a monarch, and usually the sovereignty, sovereign ruler ...

Decius
as a means of stressing his link to Trajan. Sura is also described as telling Hadrian in 108 about his selection as imperial heir. According to a modern historian, Sura's role as
kingmaker A kingmaker is a person or group that has great influence on a royal or political succession, without themselves being a viable candidate. Kingmakers may use political, monetary, religious, and military means to influence the succession. Origina ...
and
éminence grise An ''éminence grise'' () or grey eminence is a powerful decision-maker or adviser who operates "behind the scenes", or in a non-public or unofficial capacity. This phrase originally referred to François Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man ...
was deeply resented by some senators, especially the historian Tacitus, who acknowledged Sura's military and oratory virtues but at the same time resented his rapacity and devious ways, similar to those of éminence grise Licinius Mucianus. As governor of Upper Germany (Germania Superior) during Nerva's reign, Trajan received the impressive title of ''Germanicus'' for his skilful management and rule of the volatile Imperial province. When Nerva died on 28 January 98, Trajan succeeded to the role of emperor without any outward incident. However, the fact that he chose not to hasten towards Rome, but instead to make a lengthy tour of inspection on the Rhine and Danube frontiers, hints to the possible fact that his power position in Rome was unsure and that he had first to assure himself of the loyalty of the armies at the front. Alternatively, Trajan’s keen military mind understood the importance of improving the empire’s frontiers and his vision for future conquests required the diligent improvement of surveillance networks, defences and transport along the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
. Prior to his frontier tours, Trajan ordered Prefect Aelianus to attend him in
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...

Germany
, where he was apparently executed ("put out of the way"), with his post being taken by Attius Suburanus. Trajan's accession, therefore, could qualify more as a successful ''coup'' than an orderly succession.


Roman emperor

On his entry to Rome, Trajan granted the plebs a direct gift of money. The traditional Donativum, donative to the troops, however, was reduced by half. There remained the issue of the strained relations between the emperor and the Senate, especially after the supposed bloodiness that had marked Domitian's reign and his dealings with the Curia. By feigning reluctance to hold power, Trajan was able to start building a consensus around him in the Senate. His belated ceremonial entry into Rome in 99 was notably understated, something on which Pliny the Younger elaborated. By not openly supporting Domitian's preference for equestrian officers, Trajan appeared to conform to the idea (developed by Pliny) that an emperor derived his legitimacy from his adherence to traditional hierarchies and senatorial morals. Therefore, he could point to the allegedly republican character of his rule. In a speech at the inauguration of his third consulship, on 1January 100, Trajan exhorted the Senate to share the care-taking of the Empire with himan event later celebrated on a coin. In reality, Trajan did not share power in any meaningful way with the Senate, something that Pliny admits candidly: "[E]verything depends on the whims of a single man who, on behalf of the common welfare, has taken upon himself all functions and all tasks". One of the most significant trends of his reign was his encroachment on the Senate's sphere of authority, such as his decision to make the senatorial provinces of Achaea (Roman province), Achaea and Bithynia into imperial ones in order to deal with the inordinate spending on public works by local magnates and the general mismanagement of provincial affairs by various proconsuls appointed by the Senate.


''Optimus princeps''

In the formula developed by Pliny, however, Trajan was a "good" emperor in that, by himself, he approved or blamed the same things that the Senate would have approved or blamed. If in reality Trajan was an autocrat, his deferential behavior towards his peers qualified him to be viewed as a virtuous monarch. The idea is that Trajan wielded autocratic power through ''moderatio'' instead of ''contumacia''moderation instead of insolence. In short, according to the ethics for autocracy developed by most political writers of the Imperial Roman Age, Trajan was a good ruler in that he ruled less by fear, and more by acting as a role model, for, according to Pliny, "men learn better from examples". Eventually, Trajan's popularity among his peers was such that the Roman Senate bestowed upon him the honorific of ''optimus'', meaning "the best", which appears on coins from 105 on. This title had mostly to do with Trajan's role as benefactor, such as in the case of him returning confiscated property. Pliny states that Trajan's ideal role was a conservative one, argued as well by the orations of Dio of Prusa—in particular his four ''Orations on Kingship'', composed early during Trajan's reign. Dio, as a Greek notable and intellectual with friends in high places, and possibly an official friend to the emperor (''amicus caesaris''), saw Trajan as a defender of the ''status quo''. In his third kingship oration, Dio describes an ideal king ruling by means of "friendship"that is, through patronage and a network of local notables who act as mediators between the ruled and the ruler. Dio's notion of being "friend" to Trajan (or any other Roman emperor), however, was that of an ''informal'' arrangement, that involved no formal entry of such "friends" into the Roman administration. Trajan ingratiated himself with the Greek intellectual elite by recalling to Rome many (including Dio) who had been exiled by Domitian, and by returning (in a process begun by Nerva) a great deal of private property that Domitian had confiscated. He also had good dealings with Plutarch, who, as a notable of Delphi, seems to have been favoured by the decisions taken on behalf of his home-place by one of Trajan's legates, who had arbitrated a boundary dispute between Delphi and its neighbouring cities. However, it was clear to Trajan that Greek intellectuals and notables were to be regarded as tools for local administration, and not be allowed to fancy themselves in a privileged position. As Pliny said in one of his letters at the time, it was official policy that Greek civic elites be treated according to their status as notionally free but not put on an equal footing with their Roman rulers. When the city of Apamea Myrlea, Apamea complained of an audit of its accounts by Pliny, alleging its "free" status as a Roman colony, Trajan replied by writing that it was by his own wish that such inspections had been ordered. Concern about independent local political activity is seen in Trajan's decision to forbid Nicomedia from having a corps of firemen ("If people assemble for a common purpose... they soon turn it into a political society", Trajan wrote to Pliny) as well as in his and Pliny's fears about excessive civic generosities by local notables such as distribution of money or gifts. Pliny's letters suggest that Trajan and his aides were as much bored as they were alarmed by the claims of Dio and other Greek notables to political influence based on what they saw as their "special connection" to their Roman overlords. Pliny tells of Dio of Prusa placing a statue of Trajan in a building complex where Dio's wife and son were buried – therefore incurring a charge of treason for placing the Emperor's statue near a grave. Trajan, however, dropped the charge. Nevertheless, while the office of ''corrector'' was intended as a tool to curb any hint of independent political activity among local notables in the Greek cities, the ''correctores'' themselves were all men of the highest social standing entrusted with an exceptional commission. The post seems to have been conceived partly as a reward for senators who had chosen to make a career solely on the Emperor's behalf. Therefore, in reality the post was conceived as a means for "taming" both Greek notables and Roman senators. It must be added that, although Trajan was wary of the civic oligarchies in the Greek cities, he also admitted into the Senate a number of prominent Eastern notables already slated for promotion during Domitian's reign by reserving for them one of the twenty posts open each year for minor magistrates (the ''Vigintisexviri, vigintiviri''). Such must be the case of the Galatian notable and "leading member of the Greek community" (according to one inscription) Gaius Julius Severus, who was a descendant of several Hellenistic dynasts and client kings. Severus was the grandfather of the prominent general Gaius Julius Quadratus Bassus, consul in 105. Other prominent Eastern senators included Gaius Julius Alexander Berenicianus, a descendant of Herod the Great, suffect consul in 116. Trajan created at least fourteen new senators from the Greek-speaking half of the Empire, an unprecedented recruitment number that opens to question the issue of the "traditionally Roman" character of his reign, as well as the "Hellenism" of his successor Hadrian. But then Trajan's new Eastern senators were mostly very powerful and very wealthy men with more than local influence and much interconnected by marriage, so that many of them were not altogether "new" to the Senate. On the local level, among the lower section of the Eastern propertied, the alienation of most Greek notables and intellectuals towards Roman rule, and the fact that the Romans were seen by most such Greek notables as aliens, persisted well after Trajan's reign. One of Trajan's senatorial creations from the East, the Athenian Philopappos, Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a member of the Royal House of Commagene, left behind him a Philopappos Monument, funeral monument on the Mouseion Hill that was later disparagingly described by Pausanias (geographer), Pausanias as "a monument built to a Syrian man".


The ''Correctores'': Greek/Roman relations

As a senatorial Emperor, Trajan was inclined to choose his local base of political support from among the members of the ruling urban oligarchies. In the West, that meant local senatorial families like his own. In the East, that meant the families of Greek notables. The Greeks, though, had their own memories of independenceand a commonly acknowledged sense of cultural superiorityand, instead of seeing themselves as Roman, disdained Roman rule. What the Greek oligarchies wanted from Rome was, above all, to be left in peace, to be allowed to exert their right to self-government (i.e., to be excluded from the provincial government, as was Italy) and to concentrate on their local interests. This was something the Romans were not disposed to do as from their perspective the Greek notables were shunning their responsibilities in regard to the management of Imperial affairsprimarily in failing to keep the common people under control, thus creating the need for the Roman governor to intervene. An excellent example of this Greek alienation was the personal role played by Dio of Prusa in his relationship with Trajan. Dio is described by Philostratus as Trajan's close friend, and Trajan as supposedly engaging publicly in conversations with Dio. Nevertheless, as a Greek local magnate with a taste for costly building projects and pretensions of being an important political agent for Rome, Dio of Prusa was actually a target for one of Trajan's authoritarian innovations: the appointing of imperial corrector, ''correctores'' to audit the civic finances of the Free city (antiquity), technically free Greek cities. The main goal was to curb the overenthusiastic spending on public works that served to channel ancient rivalries between neighbouring cities. As Pliny wrote to Trajan, this had as its most visible consequence a trail of unfinished or ill-kept public utilities. Competition among Greek cities and their ruling oligarchies was mainly for marks of pre-eminence, especially for titles bestowed by the Roman emperor. Such titles were ordered in a ranking system that determined how the cities were to be outwardly treated by Rome. The usual form that such rivalries took was that of grandiose building plans, giving the cities the opportunity to vie with each other over "extravagant, needless... structures that would make a show". A side effect of such extravagant spending was that junior and thus less wealthy members of the local oligarchies felt disinclined to present themselves to fill posts as local magistrates, positions that involved ever-increasing personal expense. Roman authorities liked to play the Greek cities against one anothersomething of which Dio of Prusa was fully aware: These same Roman authorities had also an interest in assuring the cities' solvency and therefore ready collection of Imperial taxes. Last but not least, inordinate spending on civic buildings was not only a means to achieve local superiority, but also a means for the local Greek elites to maintain a separate cultural identitysomething expressed in the contemporary rise of the Second Sophistic; this "cultural patriotism" acted as a kind of substitute for the loss of political independence, and as such was shunned by Roman authorities. As Trajan himself wrote to Pliny: "These poor Greeks all love a Gymnasium (Ancient Greece), gymnasium... they will have to content with one that suits their real needs". The first known ''corrector'' was charged with a commission "to deal with the situation of the free cities", as it was felt that the old method of ''ad hoc'' intervention by the Emperor and/or the proconsuls had not been enough to curb the pretensions of the Greek notables. It is noteworthy that an embassy from Dio's city of Prusa was not favourably received by Trajan, and that this had to do with Dio's chief objective, which was to elevate Prusa to the status of a free city, an "independent" city-state exempt from paying taxes to Rome. Eventually, Dio gained for Prusa the right to become the head of the assize-district, conventus iuridicus, conventus (meaning that Prusans did not have to travel to be judged by the Roman governor), but ''eleutheria'' (freedom, in the sense of full political autonomy) was denied. Eventually, it fell to Pliny, as imperial governor of Bithynia in 110AD, to deal with the consequences of the financial mess wrought by Dio and his fellow civic officials. "It's well established that [the cities' finances] are in a state of disorder", Pliny once wrote to Trajan, plans for unnecessary works made in collusion with local contractors being identified as one of the main problems. One of the compensatory measures proposed by Pliny expressed a thoroughly Roman conservative position: as the cities' financial solvency depended on the councilmen's purses, it was necessary to have more councilmen on the local city councils. According to Pliny, the best way to achieve this was to lower the minimum age for holding a seat on the council, making it possible for more sons of the established oligarchical families to join and thus contribute to civic spending; this was seen as preferable to enrolling non-noble wealthy upstarts. Such an increase in the number of council members was granted to Dio's city of Prusa, to the dismay of existing councilmen who felt their status lowered. A similar situation existed in Claudiopolis (Bithynia), Claudiopolis, where a public bath was built with the proceeds from the entrance fees paid by "supernumerary" members of the council, enrolled with Trajan's permission. Also, according to the Digest (Roman law), Digest, it was decreed by Trajan that when a city magistrate promised to achieve a particular public building, it was incumbent on his heirs to complete the building.


Conquest of Dacia

Trajan took the Roman empire to its greatest expanse. The earliest conquests were Rome's two wars against Dacia, an area that had troubled Roman politics for over a decade in regard to the unstable peace negotiated by
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
's ministers with the powerful Dacian king Decebalus. Dacia would be reduced by Trajan's Rome to a satellite state, client kingdom in the first war (101102), followed by a second war that ended in actual incorporation into the Empire of the trans-Danube border group of Dacia. According to the provisions of Decebalus's earlier treaty with Rome, made in the time of Domitian, Decebalus was acknowledged as ''rex amicus'', that is, client king; in exchange for accepting client status, he received from Rome both a generous stipend and a steady supply of technical experts. The treaty seems to have allowed Roman troops the right of passage through the Dacian kingdom in order to attack the Marcomanni, Quadi and Sarmatians. However, senatorial opinion never forgave Domitian for paying what was seen as "tribute" to a "barbarian" king. In addition, unlike the Germanic tribes, the Dacian kingdom was an organized state capable of developing alliances of its own, thus making it a strategic threat and giving Trajan a strong motive to attack it. Overall, one can summarize Trajan’s justification for war based on five factors: recent Dacian aggression against Rome; an unsatisfactory peace settlement between Dacia and Rome that included Roman subsidies; a dangerous flow of Roman deserters over to Dacia able to better train the Dacians against Roman tactics; the promise of plentiful booty; and the growing threat of destabilization in the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
region given potential alliances between Dacia and surrounding tribes. In May of 101, Trajan launched his first campaign into the Dacian kingdom, crossing to the northern bank of the Danube and defeating Dacia, the Dacian army at Tapae (see Second Battle of Tapae), near the Iron Gates of Transylvania. It was not a decisive victory, however. Trajan's troops took heavy losses in the encounter, and he put off further campaigning for the year in order to regroup and reinforce his army. Nevertheless, the battle was considered a Roman victory and Trajan strived to ultimately consolidate his position, including other major engagements, as well as the capture of Decebalus’ sister as depicted on Trajan's Column. The following winter, King Decebalus took the initiative by launching a counter-attack across the Danube further downstream, supported by Sarmatian cavalry, forcing Trajan to come to the aid of the troops in his rearguard. The Dacians and their allies were repulsed after two battles in Moesia, at Nicopolis ad Istrum and Adamclisi. Trajan's army then advanced further into Dacian territory, and, a year later, forced Decebalus to submit. He had to renounce claim to some regions of his kingdom, return runaways from Rome then under his protection (most of them technical experts), and surrender all his war machines. Trajan returned to Rome in triumph and was granted the title ''Dacicus''. The peace of 102 had returned Decebalus to the condition of more or less harmless client king; however, he soon began to rearm, to again harbour Roman runaways, and to pressure his Western neighbours, the Iazyges Sarmatians, into allying themselves with him. Through his efforts to develop an anti-Roman bloc, Decebalus prevented Trajan from treating Dacia as a protectorate instead of an outright conquest.Christol & Nony, 171 In 104, Decebalus devised an attempt on Trajan's life by means of some Roman deserters, a plan that failed. Decebalus also took prisoner Trajan's legate Longinus, who eventually poisoned himself while in custody. Finally, in 105, Decebalus undertook an invasion of Roman-occupied territory north of the Danube. Prior to the campaign, Trajan had raised two entirely new legions: Legio II Traiana Fortis, II Traianawhich, however, may have been posted in the East, at the Syrian port of Laodicea ad Mare, Laodiceaand XXX Ulpia Victrix, which was posted to Brigetio, in Pannonia (Roman province), Pannonia. By 105, the concentration of Roman troops assembled in the middle and lower Danube amounted to fourteen legions (up from nine in 101)about half of the entire Roman army. Even after the Dacian wars, the Danube frontier would permanently replace the Rhine as the main military axis of the Roman Empire. Including auxiliaries, the number of Roman troops engaged on both campaigns was between 150,000 and 175,000, while Decebalus could dispose of up to 200,000.. Other estimates for the Roman forces involved in Trajan's second Dacian War cite around 86,000 for active campaigning with large reserves retained in the proximal provinces, and potentially much lower numbers around 50,000 for Decebalus' depleted forces and absent allies. In a fierce campaign that seems to have consisted mostly of static warfare, the Dacians, devoid of manoeuvring room, kept to their network of fortresses, which the Romans sought systematically to storm (see also Second Dacian War). The Romans gradually tightened their grip around Decebalus' stronghold in Sarmizegetusa Regia, which they finally took and destroyed. A controversial scene on Trajan's column just before the fall of Sarmizegetusa Regia suggests that Decebalus may have offered poison to his remaining men as an alternative option to capture or death while trying to flee the besieged capital with him. Decebalus succeeded in fleeing, but, when later cornered by Roman cavalry, committed suicide. His severed head, brought to Trajan by the cavalryman Tiberius Claudius Maximus, was later exhibited in Rome on the steps leading up to the Capitoline Hill, Capitol and thrown on the Gemonian stairs. The famous Dacian treasures were not found in the captured capital and their whereabouts were only revealed when a Dacian nobleman called Bikilis was captured. Decebalus’ treasures had been buried under a temporarily diverted river and the captive workers executed to retain the secret. Staggering amounts of gold and silver were found and packed off to fill Rome’s coffers. Trajan built a new city, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa, on another site (north of the hill citadel holding the previous Dacian capital), although bearing the same full name, Sarmizegetusa. This capital city was conceived as a purely civilian administrative centre and was provided the usual Romanized administrative apparatus (Decurion (administrative), decurions, aediles, etc.). Urban life in Roman Dacia seems to have been restricted to Roman colonists, mostly military veterans; there is no extant evidence for the existence in the province of Peregrinus (Roman), peregrine cities. Native Dacians continued to live in scattered rural settlements, according to their own ways. In another arrangement with no parallels in any other Roman province, the existing quasi-urban Dacian settlements disappeared after the Roman conquest. A number of unorganized urban settlements (vicus, ''vici'') developed around military encampments in Dacia proper – the most important being Alba Iulia, Apulum – but were only acknowledged as cities proper well after Trajan's reign. The main regional effort of urbanization was concentrated by Trajan at the rearguard, in Moesia, where he created the new cities of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis. A vicus was also created around the Tropaeum Traianum. The garrison city of Oescus received the status of Roman colony after its legionary garrison was redeployed. The fact that these former Danubian outposts had ceased to be frontier bases and were now in the deep rear acted as an inducement to their urbanization and development. Not all of Dacia was permanently occupied. What was permanently included in the province, after the post-Trajanic evacuation of some land across the lower Danube, were the lands extending from the Danube to the inner arch of the Carpathian Mountains, including Transylvania, the Metaliferi Mountains and Oltenia. The Roman province eventually took the form of an "excrescence" north of the Danube, with ill-defined limits, stretching from the Danube northwards to the Carpathians. This may have been intended as a basis for further expansion within Eastern Europe, as the Romans believed the region to be much more geographically "flattened", and thus easier to traverse, than it actually was; they also underestimated the distance from those vaguely defined borders to the ocean. Defence of the province was entrusted to a single legion, the Legio XIII Gemina, XIII Gemina, stationed at Alba Julia, Apulum, which functioned as an advance guard that could, in case of need, strike either west or east at the Sarmatians living at the borders. Therefore, the indefensible character of the province did not appear to be a problem for Trajan, as the province was conceived more as a sally-base for further attacks. Even in the absence of further Roman expansion, the value of the province depended on Roman overall strength: while Rome was strong, the Dacian salient was an instrument of military and diplomatic control over the Danubian lands; when Rome was weak, as during the Crisis of the Third Century, the province became a liability and was eventually abandoned. Trajan resettled Dacia with Romans and annexed it as a province of the Roman Empire. Aside from their enormous booty (over half a million slaves, according to John Lydus), Trajan's Dacian campaigns benefited the Empire's finances through the acquisition of Dacia's gold mines, managed by an imperial Procurator (Roman), procurator of Equestrian order, equestrian rank (''procurator aurariarum''). On the other hand, commercial agricultural exploitation on the Roman villa, villa model, based on the centralized management of a huge landed estate by a single owner (''fundus'') was poorly developed. Therefore, use of slave labor in the province itself seems to have been relatively undeveloped, and epigraphic evidence points to work in the gold mines being conducted by means of labor contracts (''locatio conductio rei'') and seasonal wage-earning. The victory was commemorated by the construction both of the 102 cenotaph generally known as the Tropaeum Traiani in Moesia, as well of the much later (113) Trajan's Column in Rome, the latter depicting in stone carved bas-reliefs the Dacian Wars' most important moments.


Annexation of Nabataea

In 106, Rabbel II Soter, one of Rome's client kings, died. This event might have prompted the annexation of the Nabataean kingdom, but the manner and the formal reasons for the annexation are unclear. Some epigraphic evidence suggests a military operation, with forces from Syria and Egypt (Roman province), Egypt. What is known is that by 107, Roman legions were stationed in the area around Petra and Bosrah, as is shown by a papyrus found in Egypt. The furthest south the Romans occupied (or, better, garrisoned, adopting a policy of having garrisons at key points in the desert) was Mada'in Saleh, Hegra, over south-west of Petra. The empire gained what became the province of
Arabia Petraea Arabia Petraea or Petrea, also known as Rome's Arabian Province ( la, Provincia Arabia; ar, العربية البترائية; grc, ἐπαρχία Πετραίας Αραβίας) or simply Arabia, was a frontier Roman province, province of ...

Arabia Petraea
(modern southern Jordan and northwest Saudi Arabia). At this time, a Roman road (''Via Traiana Nova'') was built from Aila (now Aqaba) in Limes Arabicus to Bosrah. As Nabataea was the last client kingdom in Asia west of the Euphrates, the annexation meant that the entire Roman East had been provincialized, completing a trend towards direct rule that had begun under the Flavians.


Period of peace


Building projects

Following the design of
Apollodorus of DamascusApollodorus (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as ...
, Trajan ordered the building of a Trajan's Bridge, massive bridge over the Danube, over which the Roman army was able to cross the river swiftly and in numbers, as well as to send in reinforcements, even in winter when the river was not frozen enough to bear the passage of a party of soldiers. Trajan also reformed the infrastructure of the Iron Gates region of the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is the List of rivers of Europe#Longest rivers, second-longest river in Europe, after the Volga in Russia. It flows through much of Central Europe, Central and Southeastern Europe, from the Black Forest into the Black Sea. It ...

Danube
. He commissioned either the creation or enlargement of the road along the Iron Gates, carved into the side of the gorge. Additionally, Trajan commissioned a canal to be built around the rapids of the Iron Gates. Evidence of this comes from a marble slab discovered near Caput Bovis, the site of a Roman fort. The slab, dated to the year 101, commemorates the building of at least one canal that went from the Kasajna tributary to at least Ducis Pratum, whose embankments were still visible until recently. However, the placement of the slab at Caput Bovis suggests that the canal extended to this point or that there was a second canal downriver of the Kasajna-Ducis Pratum one. Trajan constructed several new buildings, monuments and roads in Italia (Roman province), Italia and his native Hispania. However, Trajan’s defining contribution was to build the last and greatest forum Rome had ever seen, the Forum Traiani. Started in 107 AD and dedicated on 1 January 112, it utilised a space created initially by Domitian who had removed a section of the Quirinal Hill.
Apollodorus of DamascusApollodorus (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as ...
' magnificent design incorporated a triumphal arch entrance, a vast forum space (approximately 120 m long and 90m wide) surrounded by peristyles, a monumentally sized basilica, Trajan’s Column (later installed) and libraries. It was in use for at least 500 years and still drew admiration when Emperor Constantius II visited Rome in the fourth century. This magnificent complex in Rome, raised to commemorate his victories in Dacia (and largely financed from that campaign's loot), also designed to accommodate Trajan's Market, still stands in Rome today. He was also a prolific builder of triumphal arches, many of which survive, and a builder of roads such as the Via Traiana – the extension of the Via Appia from Benevento, Beneventum to Brundisium – and Via Traiana Nova, a mostly military road between Damascus and Aqaba, Aila, whose building was connected to the founding of the province of Arabia (see #Annexation of Nabataea, annexation of Nabataea) .


Celebratory Games

Trajan also hosted a three-month gladiatorial festival in the great Colosseum in Rome (the precise date is unknown). Combining chariot racing, beast fights and close-quarters gladiatorial bloodshed, this gory spectacle reputedly left 11,000 dead (mostly slaves and criminals, not to mention the thousands of ferocious beasts killed alongside them) and attracted a total of five million spectators over the course of the festival. The care bestowed by Trajan on the managing of such public spectacles led the orator Fronto to state approvingly that Trajan had paid equal attention to entertainments as well as to serious issues. Fronto concluded that "neglect of serious matters can cause greater damage, but neglect of amusements greater discontent". As Fronto added, amusements were a means to assure the ''general'' acquiescence of the populace, while the more "serious" issue of the corn dole aimed ultimately only at individuals.


Christianity

It was during this period of peace that Trajan corresponded with Pliny the Younger on the subject of how to deal with the Christianity, Christians of Pontus (region), Pontus, telling Pliny the Younger on Christians, Pliny to continue to persecute Christians but not to accept anonymous denunciations in the interests of justice as well as of "the spirit of the age". Non-citizens who admitted to being Christians and refused to recant, however, were to be executed "for obstinacy". Citizens were sent to Rome for trial.


Devaluation of the currency

In 107 Trajan devalued the Roman currency by decreasing the silver content of the denarius from 93.5% to 89.0%the actual silver weight dropping from 3.04grams to 2.88grams. This devaluation, along with the massive amounts of gold and silver acquired as a result of Trajan's Dacian Wars, allowed the emperor to mint many more denarii than his predecessors. Also, Trajan withdrew from circulation silver denarii minted before the previous devaluation achieved by Nero, something that allows for thinking that Trajan's devaluation had to do with political ends, such as allowing for increased civil and military spending.


The ''alimenta''

Another important act was his formalisation of the alimenta, a welfare program that helped orphans and poor children throughout Italy. It provided general funds, as well as food and subsidized education. The program was supported out of Dacian War booty and by a combination of estate taxes and philanthropy. In general terms, the scheme functioned by means of mortgages on Italian farms (''fundi''), through which registered landowners received a lump sum from the imperial treasure, being in return expected to pay yearly a given proportion of the loan to the maintenance of an alimentary fund.


War against Parthia

In 113, Trajan embarked on his last campaign, provoked by Parthian Empire, Parthia's decision to put an unacceptable king on the throne of Armenia, a kingdom over which the two great empires had shared hegemony since the time of Nero some fifty years earlier. Trajan, already in Syria early in 113, consistently refused to accept diplomatic approaches from the Parthians intended to settle the Armenian imbroglio peacefully. As the surviving literary accounts of Trajan's Parthian War are fragmentary and scattered, it is difficult to assign them a proper context, something that has led to a long-running controversy about its precise happenings and ultimate aims.


Rationale for the war

Modern historians advance the possibility that Trajan's decision to wage war against Parthia had economic motives: after Trajan's annexation of Arabia, he built a new road, Via Traiana Nova, that went from Bosra, Bostra to Aqaba, Aila on the Red Sea. That meant that Charax Spasinou, Charax on the Persian Gulf was the sole remaining western terminus of the Indian trade route outside direct Roman control,Christol & Nony, Rome, 171 and such control was important in order to lower import prices and to limit the supposed drain of precious metals created by the deficit in Roman trade with the Far East. That Charax traded with the Roman Empire, there can be no doubt, as its actual connections with merchants from Palmyra during the period are well documented in a contemporary Palmyrene epigraph, which tells of various Palmyrene citizens honoured for holding office in Charax. Also, Charax's rulers domains at the time possibly included the Bahrain islands, which offered the possibility of extending Roman hegemony into the Persian Gulf itself. (A Palmyrene citizen held office as satrap over the islands shortly after Trajan's death, though the appointment was made by a Parthian king of Charax.) The rationale behind Trajan's campaign, in this case, was one of breaking down a system of Far Eastern trade through small Semitic ("Arab") cities under Parthia's control and to put it under Roman control instead. In his Dacian conquests, Trajan had already resorted to Syrian auxiliary units, whose veterans, along with Syrian traders, had an important role in the subsequent colonization of Dacia. He had recruited Palmyrene units into his army, including a camel unit, therefore apparently procuring Palmyrene support to his ultimate goal of annexing Charax. It has even been ventured that, when earlier in his campaign Trajan annexed Armenia, he was bound to annex the whole of Mesopotamia lest the Parthians interrupt the flux of trade from the Persian Gulf and/or foment trouble at the Roman frontier on the Danube. Other historians reject these motives, as the supposed Parthian "control" over the maritime Far Eastern trade route was, at best, conjectural and based on a selective reading of Chinese sourcestrade by land through Parthia seems to have been unhampered by Parthian authorities and left solely to the devices of private enterprise. Commercial activity in second century Mesopotamia seems to have been a general phenomenon, shared by many peoples within and without the Roman Empire, with no sign of a concerted Imperial policy towards it. As in the case of the ''alimenta'', scholars like Moses Finley and Paul Veyne have considered the whole idea of a foreign trade "policy" behind Trajan's war anachronistic: according to them, the sole Roman concern with the Far Eastern luxuries tradebesides collecting toll taxes and customswas moral and involved frowning upon the "softness" of luxuries, but no economic policy. In the absence of conclusive evidence, trade between Rome and India might have been far more balanced, in terms of quantities of precious metals exchanged: one of our sources for the notion of the Roman gold drainPliny's the Younger's uncle Pliny the Elderhad earlier described the Gangetic Plains as one of the gold sources for the Roman Empire. Accordingly, in his controversial book on the Ancient economy, Finley considers Trajan's "badly miscalculated and expensive assault on Parthia" to be an example of the many Roman "commercial wars" that had in common the fact of existing only in the books of modern historians. The alternative view is to see the campaign as triggered by the lure of territorial annexation and prestige, the sole motive ascribed by Cassius Dio. As far as territorial conquest involved tax-collecting, especially of the 25% tax levied on all goods entering the Roman Empire, the ''tetarte'', one can say that Trajan's Parthian War had an "economic" motive. Also, there was the propaganda value of an Eastern conquest that would emulate, in Roman fashion, those of Alexander the Great. The fact that emissaries from the Kushan Empire might have attended to the commemorative ceremonies for the Dacian War may have kindled in some Greco-Roman intellectuals like Plutarchwho wrote about only 70,000 Roman soldiers being necessary to a conquest of Indiaas well as in Trajan's closer associates, speculative dreams about the booty to be obtained by reproducing Macedonian Eastern conquests. There could also be Trajan's idea to use an ambitious blueprint of conquests as a way to emphasize quasi-divine status, such as with his cultivated association, in coins and monuments, to Hercules. Also, it is possible that the attachment of Trajan to an expansionist policy was supported by a powerful circle of conservative senators from Hispania committed to a policy of imperial expansion, first among them being the all-powerful Licinius Sura. Alternatively, one can explain the campaign by the fact that, for the Romans, their empire was in principle unlimited, and that Trajan only took advantage of an opportunity to make idea and reality coincide. Finally, there are other modern historians who think that Trajan's original aims were purely military and strategic: to assure a more defensible Eastern frontier for the Roman Empire, crossing Northern Mesopotamia along the course of the Khabur (Euphrates), Khabur River in order to offer cover to a Roman Armenia. This interpretation is backed by the fact that all subsequent Roman wars against Parthia would aim at establishing a Roman presence deep into Parthia itself. It is possible that during the onset of Trajan's military experience, as a young tribune, he had witnessed engagement with the Parthians; so any strategic vision was grounded in a tactical awareness of what was needed to tackle Parthia.


Course of the campaign

The campaign was carefully planned in advance: ten legions were concentrated in the Eastern theatre; since 111, the correspondence of Pliny the Younger witnesses to the fact that provincial authorities in Bithynia had to organize supplies for passing troops, and local city councils and their individual members had to shoulder part of the increased expenses by supplying troops themselves. The intended campaign, therefore, was immensely costly from its very beginning. Trajan marched first on Armenia, deposed the Parthian-appointed king, Parthamasiris of Armenia, Parthamasiris (who was afterwards murdered while kept in the custody of Roman troops in an unclear incident, later described by Marcus Cornelius Fronto, Fronto as a breach of Roman good faith), and annexed it to the Roman Empire as a province, receiving in passing the acknowledgement of Roman hegemony by various tribes in the Caucasus and on the Eastern coast of the Black Seaa process that kept him busy until the end of 114. At the same time, a Roman column under the legate Lusius Quietusan outstanding cavalry general who had signalled himself during the Dacian Wars by commanding a unit from his native Mauretaniacrossed the Araxes river from Armenia into Media Atropatene and the land of the Mardians (present-day Ghilan). It is possible that Quietus' campaign had as its goal the extending of the newer, more defensible Roman border eastwards towards the Caspian Sea and northwards to the foothills of the Caucasus. This newer, more "rational" frontier, depended, however, on an increased, permanent Roman presence east of the Euphrates. The chronology of subsequent events is uncertain, but it is generally believed that early in 115 Trajan launched a Mesopotamian campaign, marching down towards the Taurus mountains in order to consolidate territory between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. He placed permanent garrisons along the way to secure the territory. While Trajan moved from west to east, Lusius Quietus moved with his army from the Caspian Sea towards the west, both armies performing a successful pincer movement, whose apparent result was to establish a Roman presence into the Parthian Empire proper, with Trajan taking the northern Mesopotamian cities of Nisibis and Suruç#History, Batnae and organizing a province of
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...
, including the Kingdom of Osrhoenewhere King
Abgar VII Abgar VII was king of Osrhoene from . His primary goal was to remain independent of both the major powers in the region, the Roman and the Parthian Empire The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian politic ...
submitted to Trajan publiclyas a Roman protectorate. This process seems to have been completed at the beginning of 116, when coins were issued announcing that Armenia and Mesopotamia had been put under the authority of the Roman people. The area between the Khabur River and the mountains around Singara seems to have been considered as the new frontier, and as such received a road surrounded by fortresses. After wintering in Antioch during 115/116 and, according to literary sources, barely escaping from a violent earthquake that claimed the life of one of the consuls, Marcus Pedo Vergilianus, Marcus Pedo VirgilianusTrajan again took to the field in 116, with a view to the conquest of the whole of Mesopotamia, an overambitious goal that eventually backfired on the results of his entire campaign. According to some modern historians, the aim of the campaign of 116 was to achieve a "pre-emptive demonstration" aiming not toward the conquest of Parthia, but for tighter Roman control over the Eastern trade route. However, the overall scarcity of manpower for the Roman military establishment meant that the campaign was doomed from the start. It is noteworthy that no new legions were raised by Trajan before the Parthian campaign, maybe because the sources of new citizen recruits were already over-exploited. As far as the sources allow a description of this campaign, it seems that one Roman division crossed the River Tigris, Tigris into Adiabene, sweeping south and capturing Adenystrae; a second followed the river south, capturing Babylon; Trajan himself sailed down the Euphrates from Dura-Europoswhere a triumphal arch was erected in his honourthrough Ozogardana, where he erected a "tribunal" still to be seen at the time of Julian the Apostate, Julian the Apostate's campaigns in the same area. Having come to the narrow strip of land between the Euphrates and the Tigris, he then dragged his fleet overland into the Tigris, capturing Seleucia on the Tigris, Seleucia and finally the Parthian capital of
Ctesiphon Ctesiphon ( ; Middle Persian: 𐭲𐭩𐭮𐭯𐭥𐭭 ''tyspwn'' or ''tysfwn''; fa, تیسفون; grc-gre, Κτησιφῶν, ; syr, ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢThomas A. Carlson et al., “Ctesiphon — ܩܛܝܣܦܘܢ ” in The Syriac Gazetteer last modi ...

Ctesiphon
. He continued southward to the Persian Gulf, when, after escaping with his fleet a tidal bore on the Tigris,Longden, "Notes on the Parthian Campaigns", 8 he received the submission of Athambelus, the ruler of Charax Spasinu, Charax. He declared Babylon a new province of the Empire and had his statue erected on the shore of the Persian Gulf, after which he sent the Senate a laurelled letter declaring the war to be at a close and bemoaning that he was too old to go on any further and repeat the conquests of Alexander the Great. Since Charax was a ''de facto'' independent kingdom whose connections to Palmyra were described above, Trajan's bid for the Persian Gulf may have coincided with Palmyrene interests in the region. Another hypothesis is that the rulers of Charax had expansionist designs on Parthian Babylon, giving them a rationale for alliance with Trajan. The Parthian summer capital of Susa was apparently also occupied by the Romans. According to late literary sources (not backed by numismatic or inscriptional evidence) a province of Roman Assyria, Assyria was also proclaimed, apparently covering the territory of Adiabene. Some measures seem to have been considered regarding the fiscal administration of Indian tradeor simply about the payment of customs (''portoria'') on goods traded on the Euphrates and Tigris. It is possible that it was this "streamlining" of the administration of the newly conquered lands according to the standard pattern of Roman provincial administration in tax collecting, requisitions and the handling of local potentates' prerogatives, that triggered later resistance against Trajan. According to some modern historians, Trajan might have busied himself during his stay on the Persian Gulf with ordering raids on the Parthian coasts, as well as probing into extending Roman suzerainty over the mountaineer tribes holding the passes across the Zagros Mountains into the Iranian Plateau eastward, as well as establishing some sort of direct contact between Rome and the Kushan Empire. No attempt was made to expand into the Iranian Plateau itself, where the Roman army, with its relative weakness in cavalry, would have been at a disadvantage. Trajan left the Persian Gulf for Babylonwhere he intended to offer sacrifice to Alexander in the house where he had died in 323BCBennett, Trajan, 199 But a revolt led by Sanatruces II of Parthia, Sanatruces, a nephew of the Parthian king Osroes I who had retained a cavalry force, possibly strengthened by the addition of Saka archers, imperilled Roman positions in Mesopotamia and Armenia. Trajan sought to deal with this by forsaking direct Roman rule in Parthia proper, at least partially. Trajan sent two armies towards Northern Mesopotamia: the first, under Lusius Quietus, recovered Nisibis and Edessa from the rebels, probably having King Abgarus deposed and killed in the process, with Quietus probably earning the right to receive the honors of a senator of praetorian rank (''adlectus inter praetorios''). The second army, however, under Appius Maximus Santra (probably a governor of Macedonia) was defeated and Santra killed.Julián González, ed., ''Trajano Emperador De Roma'', 216 Later in 116, Trajan, with the assistance of Quietus and two other legates, Marcus Erucius Clarus and Tiberius Julius Alexander Julianus, defeated a Parthian army in a battle where Sanatruces was killed (possibly with the assistance of Osroes' son and Sanatruces' cousin, Parthamaspates, whom Trajan wooed successfully). After re-taking and burning Seleucia, Trajan then formally deposed Osroes, putting Parthamaspates on the throne as client ruler. This event was commemorated in a coin as the reduction of Parthia to client kingdom status: REX PARTHIS DATUS, "a king is given to the Parthians". That done, Trajan retreated north in order to retain what he could of the new provinces of Armeniawhere he had already accepted an armistice in exchange for surrendering part of the territory to Sanatruces' son Vologesesand Mesopotamia. It was at this point that Trajan's health started to fail him. The fortress city of Hatra, on the Tigris in his rear, continued to hold out against repeated Roman assaults. He was personally present at the siege, and it is possible that he suffered a heat stroke while in the blazing heat.


Kitos war

Shortly afterwards, the Jews inside the Eastern Roman Empire, in Egypt, Cyprus and Cyrenethis last province being probably the original trouble hotspotrose up in what probably was an outburst of religious rebellion against the local pagans, this widespread rebellion being afterwards named the Kitos War. Another rebellion flared up among the Jewish communities of Northern Mesopotamia, probably part of a general reaction against Roman occupation. Trajan was forced to withdraw his army in order to put down the revolts. He saw this withdrawal as simply a temporary setback, but he was destined never to command an army in the field again, turning his Eastern armies over to Lusius Quietus, who meanwhile (early 117) had been made governor of Judaea and might have had to deal earlier with some kind of Jewish unrest in the province. Quietus discharged his commissions successfully, so much that the war was afterward named after him''Kitus'' being a corruption of ''Quietus''. Whether or not the Kitos War theatre included Judea proper, or only the Jewish Eastern diaspora, remains doubtful in the absence of clear epigraphic and archaeological evidence. What is certain is that there was an increased Roman military presence in Judea at the time. Quietus was promised a consulate in the following year (118) for his victories, but he was killed before this could occur, during the bloody purge that opened Hadrian's reign, in which Quietus and three other former consuls were sentenced to death after being tried on a vague charge of conspiracy by the (secret) court of the Praetorian Prefect Publius Acilius Attianus, Attianus. It has been theorized that Quietus and his colleagues were executed on Hadrian's direct orders, for fear of their popular standing with the army and their close connections to Trajan. In contrast, the next prominent Roman figure in charge of the repression of the Jewish revolt, the equestrian Quintus Marcius Turbo, who had dealt with the rebel leader from Cyrene, Loukuas, retained Hadrian's trust, eventually becoming his Praetorian Prefect. As all four consulars were senators of the highest standing and as such generally regarded as able to take imperial power (''capaces imperii''), Hadrian seems to have decided on a pre-emptive strike against these prospective rivals.


Death

Early in 117, Trajan grew ill and set out to sail back to Italy. His health declined throughout the spring and summer of 117, something publicly acknowledged by the fact that a bronze bust displayed at the time in Roman Baths of Ankara, the public baths of Ancyra showed him clearly aged and emaciated. After reaching
Selinus Selinunte (; grc, Σελῑνοῦς, Selīnoûs ; la, Selīnūs , ; scn, Silinunti ) was an ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the used in and the from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into ...
(modern Gazipaşa) in Cilicia, which was afterwards called ''Trajanopolis'', he suddenly died from edema, probably on 11 August. Some say that Trajan had adopted Hadrian as his successor, but others claim that it was his wife
Pompeia Plotina Pompeia Plotina, (died 121/122) was a Roman Empress and wife of Roman Emperor Trajan. She was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and her virtue, dignity and simplicity. She was particularly devoted to the Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophical ...
who assured the succession to Hadrian by keeping his death secret and afterwards hiring someone to impersonate Trajan by speaking with a tired voice behind a curtain, well after Trajan had died. Dio, who tells this narrative, offers his fatherthe then governor of Cilicia Cassius Apronianus, Apronianusas a source, and therefore his narrative is possibly grounded on contemporary rumor. It may also originate in Roman displeasure at an empress meddling in political affairs.


Succession

Hadrian held an ambiguous position during Trajan's reign. After commanding Legio I Minervia during the Dacian Wars, he had been relieved from front-line duties at the decisive stage of the Second Dacian War, being sent to govern the newly created province of Pannonia Inferior. He had pursued a senatorial career without particular distinction and had not been officially adopted by Trajan (although he received from him decorations and other marks of distinction that made him hope for the succession). He received no post after his 108 consulate, and no further honours other than being made Archon eponymos for Athens in 111/112. He probably did not take part in the Parthian War. Literary sources relate that Trajan had considered others, such as the jurist Lucius Neratius Priscus, as heir. However, Hadrian, who was eventually entrusted with the governorship of Syria at the time of Trajan's death, was Trajan's cousin and was married to Trajan's grandniece, which all made him as good as heir designate. In addition Hadrian was born in Hispania and seems to have been well connected with the powerful group of Spanish senators influential at Trajan's court through his ties to Plotina and the Prefect Attianus. The fact that during Hadrian's reign he did not pursue Trajan's senatorial policy may account for the "crass hostility" shown him by literary sources. Aware that the Parthian campaign was an enormous setback, and that it revealed that the Roman Empire had no means for an ambitious program of conquests, Hadrian's first act as emperor was to abandonoutwardly out of his own free willthe distant and indefensible Mesopotamia and to restore Armenia, as well as Osrhoene, to the Parthian hegemony under Roman suzerainty. However, all the other territories conquered by Trajan were retained. Roman friendship ties with Charax (also known by the name of Mesene) were also retained (although it is debated whether this had to do more with trade concessions than with common Roman policy of exploiting dissensions amid the Empire's neighbors). Trajan's ashes were laid to rest underneath Trajan's column, the monument commemorating his success.


Building activities

Trajan was a prolific builder in Rome and the provinces, and many of his buildings were erected by the gifted architect Apollodorus of Damascus. Notable structures include the Baths of Trajan,
Trajan's Forum Trajan's Forum ( la, Forum Traiani; it, Foro di Traiano) was the last of the Imperial fora The Imperial fora (''Fori Imperiali '' in Italian) are a series of monumental '' fora'' (public squares), constructed in Rome , established_title ...

Trajan's Forum
,
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column ( it, Colonna Traiana, la, COLVMNA·TRAIANI) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune ...

Trajan's Column
, Trajan's Bridge, Alcántara Bridge, Porto di Traiano of Portus, the road and canal around the Iron Gates (see #Conquest of Dacia, conquest of Dacia), and possibly the Alconétar Bridge. Some historians also attribute the construction of the Babylon fortress in Egypt to Trajan; the remains of the fort is what is now known as the Church of Mar Girgis and its surrounding buildings. In order to build his forum and the adjacent brick market that also held his name Trajan had vast areas of the surrounding Capitoline and Quirinal hills levelled. In Egypt, Trajan was quite active in constructing buildings and decorating them. He appears, together with
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles thr ...

Domitian
, in offering scenes on the propylon of the Dendera Temple complex, Temple of Hathor at Dendera. His cartouche also appears in the column shafts of the Temple of Khnum at Esna."Trajan was, in fact, quite active in Egypt. Separate scenes of Domitian and Trajan making offerings to the gods appear on reliefs on the propylon of the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. There are cartouches of Domitian and Trajan on the column shafts of the Temple of Knum at Esna, and on the exterior a frieze text mentions Domitian, Trajan, and Hadrian"


Iconography

After the despised Nero, Roman emperors until Trajan were depicted shaven. His successor Hadrian made beards fashionable again for emperors.


Legacy

Ancient sources on Trajan's personality and accomplishments are unanimously positive. Pliny the Younger, for example, celebrates Trajan in his panegyric as a wise and just emperor and a moral man. Cassius Dio added that he always remained dignified and fair.Dio Cassius, Epitome of Book 6; 21.2–3 A third-century emperor, Decius, even received from the Senate the name Trajan as a decoration. After the setbacks of the Crisis of the Third Century, third century, Trajan, together with Augustus, became in the Later Roman Empire the paragon of the most positive traits of the Imperial order. Some theologians such as Thomas Aquinas discussed Trajan as an example of a virtuous pagan. In the ''Divine Comedy'', Dante, following this legend, sees the spirit of Trajan in the Heaven of Jupiter (mythology), Jupiter with other historical and mythological persons noted for their justice. Also, a mural of Trajan stopping to provide justice for a poor widow is present in the first terrace of Purgatory as a lesson to those who are purged for being proud.
I noticed that the inner bank of the curve... Was of white marble, and so decorated With carvings that not only Polycletus But nature herself would there be put to shame... There was recorded the high glory Of that ruler of Rome whose worth Moved Gregory to his great victory; I mean by this the Emperor Trajan; And at his bridle a poor widow Whose attitude bespoke tears and grief... The wretched woman, in the midst of all this, Seemed to be saying: 'Lord, avenge my son, Who is dead, so that my heart is broken..' So he said: 'Now be comforted, for I must Carry out my duty before I go on: Justice requires it and pity holds me back.' ''Dante, The Divine Comedy, Purgatorio X, ll. 32 f. and 73 f.''


Later Emperors

Many emperors after Trajan would, when they were sworn into office, be wished ''Felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, Felicior Augusto, Melior Traiano''("May you rule fortunate like Augustus and better than Trajan". The fourth-century emperor Constantine I is credited with saying "[Trajan] is like a spider that creeps up on every wall."


After Rome

In the 18th century, King Charles III of Spain commissioned Anton Raphael Mengs to paint ''The Triumph of Trajan'' on the ceiling of the banquet hall of the Royal Palace of Madridconsidered among the best works of this artist. It was only during the Age of Enlightenment, Enlightenment that this legacy began to be contested, when
Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon (; 8 May 173716 January 1794) was an English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Eng ...

Edward Gibbon
expressed doubts about the militarized character of Trajan's reign in contrast to the "moderate" practices of his immediate successors. Theodor Mommsen, Mommsen adopted a divided stance towards Trajan, at some point of his posthumously published lectures even speaking about his "vainglory" (''Scheinglorie''). Mommsen also speaks of Trajan's "insatiable, unlimited lust for conquest". Although Mommsen had no liking for Trajan's successor Hadrian"a repellent manner, and a venomous, envious and malicious nature"he admitted that Hadrian, in renouncing Trajan's conquests, was "doing what the situation clearly required". It was exactly this military character of Trajan's reign that attracted his early twentieth-century biographer, the Italian Italian Fascism, Fascist historian Roberto Paribeni, who in his 1927 two-volume biography ''Optimus Princeps'' described Trajan's reign as the acme of the Roman principate, which he saw as Italy's patrimony. Following in Paribeni's footsteps, the German historian Alfred Heuss saw in Trajan "the accomplished human embodiment of the imperial title" (''die ideale Verkörperung des humanen Kaiserbegriffs''). Trajan's first English-language biography by Julian Bennett (archaeologist), Julian Bennett is also a positive one in that it assumes that Trajan was an active policy-maker concerned with the management of the empire as a wholesomething his reviewer Lendon considers an anachronistic outlook that sees in the Roman emperor a kind of modern administrator. During the 1980s, the Romanian historian Eugen Cizek took a more nuanced view as he described the changes in the ''personal'' ideology of Trajan's reign, stressing the fact that it became ever more autocratic and militarized, especially after 112 and towards the Parthian War (as "only an universal monarch, a ''kosmocrator'', could dictate his law to the East"). The biography by the German historian Karl Strobel stresses the continuity between Domitian's and Trajan's reigns, saying that Trajan's rule followed the same autocratic and sacred character as Domitian's, culminating in a failed Parthian adventure intended as the crown of his personal achievement. It is in modern French historiography that Trajan's reputation becomes most markedly deflated: Paul Petit writes about Trajan's portraits as a "lowbrow boor with a taste for booze and boys".Petit, ''Histoire Générale de L'Empire Romain, 1: Le Haut Empire (27 av. J.C.- 161 apr. J.C.)''. Paris: Seuil, 1974, , p. 166 For Paul Veyne, what is to be retained from Trajan's "stylish" qualities was that he was the last Roman emperor to think of the empire as a purely Italian and Rome-centred hegemony of conquest. In contrast, his successor Hadrian would stress the notion of the empire as ecumenical and of the Emperor as universal benefactor and not ''kosmocrator''.


See also

* Felicior Augusto, melior Traiano * Justice of Trajan * Trajanic art


References


Sources and further reading

* * * Ancel, R. Manning. "Soldiers." ''Military Heritage.'' December 2001. Volume 3, No. 3: 12, 14, 16, 20 (Trajan, Emperor of Rome). * * * * Bowersock, G.W. ''Roman Arabia'', Harvard University Press, 1983 * * * * Cizek, Eugen. ''L'époque de Trajan: circonstances politiques et problèmes idéologiques''. Bucharest, Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică, 1983, * * * * Fuller, J.F.C. ''A Military History of the Western World''. Three Volumes. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1987 and 1988. ** v. 1. ''From the late times to the Battle of Lepanto''; . 255, 266, 269, 270, 273 (Trajan, Roman Emperor). * * * * Isaac, B. ''The Limits of Empire'', The Roman Army in the East, Revised Edition, Oxford University Press, 1990 * Jackson, N. ''Trajan: Rome's Last Conqueror'', 1st edition, GreenHill Books, 2022. ISBN 9781784387075 * Kennedy, D. ''The Roman Army in Jordan'', Revised Edition, Council for British Research in the Levant, 2004. * * * Lepper, F.A. ''Trajan's Parthian War''. London: Oxford University Press, 1948. Also available online. * * * * Minaud, Gérard, ''Les vies de 12 femmes d'empereur romainDevoirs, Intrigues & Voluptés '', Paris, L'Harmattan, 2012, ch. 6, '' La vie de Plotine, femme de Trajan'', p.147–168. . * * * * * * * * * * * * * Wildfeuer, C.R.H. ''Trajan, Lion of Rome: the Untold Story of Rome's Greatest Emperor'', Aquifer Publishing, 2009. Historical fiction.


Primary sources


Cassius Dio, ''Roman History'' Book 68
English translation

English translation

English translation


Secondary material

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External links

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