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Trajan ( ; la, Caesar Nerva Traianus; 18 September 539/11 August 117) was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared ''optimus princeps'' ("best ruler") by the
senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
, Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over one of the greatest military expansions 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 la ...
and led the empire to attain its greatest territorial extent by the time of his death. He is also known for his
philanthropic Philanthropy is a form of altruism that consists of "private initiatives, for the Public good (economics), public good, focusing on quality of life". Philanthropy contrasts with business initiatives, which are private initiatives for private goo ...
rule, overseeing extensive public building programs and implementing social welfare policies, 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), ''5'' (visual novel), a 2008 visual novel by Ram * 5 (comic ...
who presided over an era of peace within the Empire and prosperity in the Mediterranean world. Trajan was born in
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) was a ancient Romans, Roman town founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers in Hispania; its site is close to the town of Santiponce, part of the province of Seville in modern-day Spain. It was founded in 206 BC by Roman ...
, close to modern
Seville Seville (; es, Sevilla, ) 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 on the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir, River Gua ...
in present-day
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = ''Plus ultra'' (Latin)(English: "Further Beyond") , national_anthem = (English: "Royal March") , i ...
, a small Roman ''
municipium In ancient Rome, the Latin term (pl. ) referred to a town or city. Etymologically, the was a social contract among ("duty holders"), or Roman citizenship, citizens of the town. The duties () were a communal obligation assumed by the in exch ...
'' founded by Italic settlers in the
province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
of
Hispania Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica remained one of the basic di ...
. He came from a branch of the gens Ulpia, the ''Ulpi Traiani'', that originated in the
Umbria Umbria ( , ) is a Regions of Italy, region of central Italy. It includes Lake Trasimeno and Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. It is the only landlocked region on the Italian Peninsula, Apennine Peninsula. The ...
n town of Tuder. His father Marcus Ulpius Traianus, also born in Italica, was a senator, and therefore Trajan was born into a senatorial family. Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Flavia ...
. Serving as a
legatus legionis 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 ...
in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania. It encompassed much of the northern, eastern and central territories of modern Spain along with modern North Region, Portugal, northern Portugal. Southern Spain, the region now c ...
, in 89 Trajan supported Domitian against a revolt on the
Rhine The Rhine ; french: Rhin ; nl, Rijn ; wa, Rén ; li, Rien; rm, label=Sursilvan, Rein, rm, label=Sutsilvan and Surmiran, Ragn, rm, label=Rumantsch Grischun, Vallader and Puter, Rain; it, Reno ; gsw, Rhi(n), including in Alsatian dialect, Al ...
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 Roman emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became emperor when aged almost 66, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the succeeding rulers of the Flavian dyn ...
, 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 language, Latin: ''cohortēs praetōriae'') was a unit of the Imperial Roman army that served as personal Bodyguard, bodyguards and military intelligence, intelligence agents for the Roman emperors. During the Roman R ...
, 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. Trajan's extensive public building program reshaped the city of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg ...
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 to be constructed in ancient Rome. The architect Apollodorus of Damascus oversaw its construction. History This forum was built on the order of the empe ...
, Trajan's Market, and
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column ( it, Colonna Traiana, la, Columna Traiani) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Trajan's Dacian Wars, Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision o ...
. Early in his reign, he annexed the
Nabataean Kingdom The Nabataean Kingdom (Nabataean Aramaic: 𐢕𐢃𐢋𐢈 ''Nabāṭū''), also named Nabatea (), was a political state of the Arabs, Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity. The Nabataean Kingdom controlled many of the trade routes of the r ...
, 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 Ἀραβίας) or simply Arabia, was a frontier Roman province, province o ...
. His conquest of
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians, its core in Transylvania, stretching to the Danube in the south, the Black Sea in the east, and the Tisza in the west. The Carpathian Mountains were located in the middle of Dacia. It thus ...
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 Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conq ...
ended with the sack of its 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 ...
and the annexation of
Armenia Armenia (), , group=pron officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the CIA World Factbook , , and '' ...
,
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
, and (possibly)
Assyria Assyria (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: , romanized: ''māt Aššur''; syc, ܐܬܘܪ, ʾāthor) was a major ancient Mesopotamia, Mesopotamian civilization which existed as a city-state from the 21st century BC to the 14th century BC, then to a terr ...
. In late 117, while sailing back to Rome, Trajan fell ill and died of a
stroke A stroke is a disease, medical condition in which poor cerebral circulation, blood flow to the brain causes cell death. There are two main types of stroke: brain ischemia, ischemic, due to lack of blood flow, and intracranial hemorrhage, hemorr ...
in the city of
Selinus Selinunte (; grc, Σελῑνοῦς, Selīnoûs ; la, Selīnūs , ; scn, Silinunti ) was a rich and extensive Ancient Greece, ancient Greek city on the south-western coast of Sicily in Italy. It was situated between the valleys of the Co ...
. He was deified by the Senate and his cousin and successor,
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Trâiānus Hadriānus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born in Italica (close to modern Santiponce in Spain), a Roman ''municipium'' founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers ...
, whom Trajan had supposedly adopted while on his deathbed. According to historical tradition, Trajan's ashes were entombed in a small room beneath Trajan's Column.


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 (born Gaius Octavius; 23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14), also known as Octavian, was the first Roman emperor; he reigned from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. He is known for being the founder of the Roman Pri ...
and better than Trajan"). Among
medieval In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
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. Such study concentrates primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament and of the New Testament, as well as o ...
. In the
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a Periodization, period in History of Europe, European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an e ...
, Machiavelli, speaking on the advantages of adoptive succession over heredity, mentioned the five successive good emperors "from Nerva to Marcus"a
trope Trope or tropes may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media * Trope (cinema), a cinematic convention for conveying a concept * Trope (literature), a figure of speech or common literary device * Trope (music), any of a variety of different things ...
out of which the 18th-century historian
Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon (; 8 May 173716 January 1794) was an English historian, writer, and member of parliament. His most important work, ''The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'', published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, is k ...
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), ''5'' (visual novel), a 2008 visual novel by Ram * 5 (comic ...
, 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 or journalistic works, speeches, or other texts that are officially credited to another person as the author. Celebrities, executives, participants in timely news stories, and political leaders ofte ...
and modelled after
Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; ; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC), was a Roman people, Roman general and statesman. A member of the First Triumvirate, Caesar led the Roman armies in the Gallic Wars before defeating his political rival Pompey in Caes ...
's ''
Commentarii de Bello Gallico ''Commentarii de Bello Gallico'' (; en, Commentaries on the Gallic War, italic=yes), also ''Bellum Gallicum'' ( en, Gallic War, italic=yes), is Julius Caesar's firsthand account of the Gallic Wars, written as a third-person narrative. In it Ca ...
'', 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 (; Greek: ''Arrianos''; la, Lucius Flavius Arrianus; ) was a Greek historian, public servant, military commander and philosopher of the Roman period. '' The Anabasis of Alexander'' by Arrian is considered the be ...
, has met a similar fate. Book68 in
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of the History of ancient Rome, history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. 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 survi ...
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 for embodiment. Epitomacy represents "t ...
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. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate ...
's ''Panegyricus'' and
Dio Chrysostom Dio Chrysostom (; el, wikt:Δίων, Δίων Χρυσόστομος ''Dion Chrysostomos''), Dion of Prusa or Cocceianus Dio (c. 40 – c. 115 AD), was a Greece, Greek orator, writer, philosopher and historian of the Roman Empire in the 1st cent ...
'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''. 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; it is the science of identifying graphemes, clarifying their meanings, classifying their uses according to dates and cultural contexts, and drawing conclusions about the wr ...
, and
numismatics Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, medals and related objects. Specialists, known as numismatists, are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, but the discipline also includ ...
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 provinces in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica remained one of the basic di ...
Syme, Tacitus, 30–44; PIR Vlpivs 575 (in what is now
Andalusia Andalusia (, ; es, Andalucía ) is the southernmost Autonomous communities of Spain, autonomous community in Peninsular Spain. It is the most populous and the second-largest autonomous community in the country. It is officially recognised as a ...
in modern
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = ''Plus ultra'' (Latin)(English: "Further Beyond") , national_anthem = (English: "Royal March") , i ...
), in the small roman ''
municipium In ancient Rome, the Latin term (pl. ) referred to a town or city. Etymologically, the was a social contract among ("duty holders"), or Roman citizenship, citizens of the town. The duties () were a communal obligation assumed by the in exch ...
'' of
Italica Italica ( es, Itálica) was a ancient Romans, Roman town founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers in Hispania; its site is close to the town of Santiponce, part of the province of Seville in modern-day Spain. It was founded in 206 BC by Roman ...
(now in the municipal area of Santiponce, in the outskirts of
Seville Seville (; es, Sevilla, ) 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 on the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir, River Gua ...
). At the time of Trajan's birth, it was a small town, without baths, theatre and amphitheatre, and with a very narrow territory under its direct administration. His year of birth is not reliably attested and may have been 56 AD. Some ancient authors, most notably
Cassius Dio Lucius Cassius Dio (), also known as Dio Cassius ( ), was a Roman historian and senator of maternal Greek origin. He published 80 volumes of the History of ancient Rome, history on ancient Rome, beginning with the arrival of Aeneas in Italy. The ...
, claim that Trajan was the first emperor of non-Italic origins. However, Trajan's '' patria'' of Italica, in Spanish Baetica, was a Roman colony of Italic settlers founded in 206BC by
Scipio Africanus Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (, , ; 236/235–183 BC) was a Roman general and statesman, most notable as one of the main architects of Rome's victory against Ancient Carthage, Carthage in the Second Punic War. Often regarded as one of the ...
. Trajan's paternal branch of the gens Ulpia came from
Umbria Umbria ( , ) is a Regions of Italy, region of central Italy. It includes Lake Trasimeno and Cascata delle Marmore, Marmore Falls, and is crossed by the River Tiber. It is the only landlocked region on the Italian Peninsula, Apennine Peninsula. The ...
, particularly from the city of ''Tuder'' (
Todi Todi () is a town and ''comune The (; plural: ) is a local administrative division of Italy, roughly equivalent to a township or municipality. It is the third-level administrative division of Italy, after regions (''Regions of Italy, regi ...
), and was either among the original settlers of the town or arrived there at an unknown time, and his maternal gens Marcia was of
Sabine The Sabines (; lat, Sabini; it, Sabini, all exonyms) were an Italic peoples, Italic people who lived in the central Apennine Mountains of the ancient Italian Peninsula, also inhabiting Latium north of the Aniene, Anio before the founding of Ro ...
origin. For this reason, modern historians, such as Julian Bennett, reject Dio's claim. It is possible, but cannot be substantiated, that Trajan's ancestors married locals and lost their citizenship at some point, but they would have certainly recovered their status when the city became a
municipium In ancient Rome, the Latin term (pl. ) referred to a town or city. Etymologically, the was a social contract among ("duty holders"), or Roman citizenship, citizens of the town. The duties () were a communal obligation assumed by the in exch ...
with
Latin citizenship Latin rights (also Latin citizenship, Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known ...
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 from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death. Before becoming emperor, Titus gained renown as a milit ...
, 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 AD 69 to 79. The fourth and last emperor who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors, he founded the Flavian dynasty that ruled the Empir ...
in the
First Jewish-Roman War First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number 1 (number), one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, D ...
, 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, and his niece was Salonia Matidia. 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) was a ancient Romans, Roman town founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers in Hispania; its site is close to the town of Santiponce, part of the province of Seville in modern-day Spain. It was founded in 206 BC by Roman ...
with his father during Trajanus’ governorship of
Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica remained one of the basic di ...
(ca. 64–65). The lack of a strong local power base caused by the size of the town from which they came, made it necessary for the Ulpii (and for the Aelii, the other important senatorial family of Italica with whom they were allied) to weave local alliances, in the
Baetica Hispania Baetica, often abbreviated Baetica, was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). Baetica was bordered to the west by Lusitania, and to the northeast by Hispania Tarraconensis. Baetica remained one of the basic di ...
(with the
Annii The gens Annia was a plebeian family at ancient Rome. Livy mentions a Lucius Annius, praetor of the Roman colony of Sezze, Setia, in 340 BC, and other Annii are mentioned at Rome during this period. Members of this gens held various positions of ...
, the Ucubi and perhaps the Dasumii from Corduba), the Tarraconense and the Narbonense, here above all through
Pompeia Plotina Pompeia Plotina (died 121/122) was Roman empress from 98 to 117 as the wife of Trajan. She was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and her virtue, dignity and simplicity. She was particularly devoted to the Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophic ...
, Trajan's wife. Many of these alliances were made not in Spain, but in Rome. The family home in Rome, the Domus Traiana, was on the
Aventine Hill The Aventine Hill (; la, Collis Aventinus; it, Aventino ) is one of the Seven hills of Rome, Seven Hills on which ancient Rome was built. It belongs to Ripa (rione of Rome), Ripa, the modern twelfth ''rione'', or ward, of Rome. Location and ...
, and excavation findings under a car park in the 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, Trajan rose through the ranks of the
Roman army The Roman army (Latin language, Latin: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of Ancient Rome, from the Roman Kingdom (c. 500 BC) to the Roman Republic (500–31 BC) and the Roman Empire (31 BC–395 AD), and its ...
, serving in some of the most contested parts of the Empire's frontier. In 7677, his father was
Governor A governor is an administrative leader and head of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized s ...
of
Syria Syria ( ar, سُورِيَا or سُورِيَة, translit=Sūriyā), officially the Syrian Arab Republic ( ar, الجمهورية العربية السورية, al-Jumhūrīyah al-ʻArabīyah as-Sūrīyah), is a Western Asian country loc ...
(''
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 ...
pro praetore Syriae''), where Trajan himself remained as '' Tribunus 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 Aelius Afer died, leaving his young children
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Trâiānus Hadriānus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born in Italica (close to modern Santiponce in Spain), a Roman ''municipium'' founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers ...
and Paulina orphans. Trajan and his colleague Publius Acilius Attianus became co-guardians of the two children. Trajan, in his late thirties, was created ordinary
Consul Consul (abbrev. ''cos.''; Latin plural ''consules'') was the title of one of the two chief Roman magistrate, magistrates of the Roman Republic, and subsequently also an important title under the Roman Empire. The title was used in other European ...
for the year 91. The minimum legal age for that position was 32. This early appointment may reflect 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. Around this time Trajan brought the architect and engineer
Apollodorus of Damascus Apollodorus of Damascus ( grc, Ἀπολλόδωρος ὁ Δαμασκηνός) was a Nabataean architect and engineer from Damascus, Syria (Roman province), Roman Syria, who flourished during the 2nd century AD. As an engineer he authored sever ...
with him to
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg ...
,Augustan History, ''Life of Hadrian'
2.5–6
/ref> and married
Pompeia Plotina Pompeia Plotina (died 121/122) was Roman empress from 98 to 117 as the wife of Trajan. She was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and her virtue, dignity and simplicity. She was particularly devoted to the Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophic ...
, a noblewoman from the Roman settlement at
Nîmes Nîmes ( , ; oc, Nimes ; Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ...
; the marriage ultimately remained childless. Dio Cassius later noted that Trajan was a lover of young men, in contrast to the usual
bisexual Bisexuality is a Romance (love), romantic or sexual attraction or Human sexual activity, behavior toward both males and females, or to more than one gender. It may also be defined to include romantic or sexual attraction to people regardless ...
activity that was common among upper class Roman men of the period. The Emperor Julian also made a sardonic reference to his predecessor's sexual preference, stating that Zeus himself would have had to be on guard had his Ganymede come within Trajan's vicinity. This distaste reflected a change of mores that began with the
Severan dynasty The Severan dynasty was a Ancient Rome, Roman imperial dynasty that ruled the Roman Empire between 193 and 235, during the Roman imperial period (chronology), Roman imperial period. The dynasty was founded by the emperor Septimius Severus (), w ...
, Trajan's putative lovers included the future emperor Hadrian, pages of the imperial household, the actor Pylades, a dancer called Apolaustus, Lucius Licinius Sura, and Trajan's predecessor 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 Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8t ...
on account of the latter's beautiful son, Arbandes, who would then dance for Trajan at a banquet. The details of Trajan's early military career are obscure, save for the fact that in 89, as legate of
Legio VII Gemina __NOTOC__ Legio VII Gemina (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ...
in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania. It encompassed much of the northern, eastern and central territories of modern Spain along with modern North Region, Portugal, northern Portugal. Southern Spain, the region now c ...
, he supported Domitian against an attempted ''coup'' by Lucius Antonius Saturninus, the governor of
Germania Superior Germania Superior ("Upper Germania") was an imperial province of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, R ...
. Trajan probably remained in the region after the revolt was quashed, to engage with the
Chatti The Chatti (also Chatthi or Catti) were an ancient Germanic peoples, Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser (''Visurgis''). They lived in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of that rive ...
who had sided with Saturninus, before returning the VII Gemina legion to Legio in
Hispania Tarraconensis Hispania Tarraconensis was one of three Roman provinces in Hispania. It encompassed much of the northern, eastern and central territories of modern Spain along with modern North Region, Portugal, northern Portugal. Southern Spain, the region now c ...
. In 91 he held a consulate with Acilius Glabrio, a rarity in that neither consul was a member of the ruling dynasty. He held an unspecified consular commission as governor of either
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire bounded on the north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Roman Italy, Italy, and southward with Dalmatia (Roman province), Dalmatia and upper Moesia ...
or
Germania Superior Germania Superior ("Upper Germania") was an imperial province of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, R ...
, or 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

Domitian's successor,
Nerva Nerva (; originally Marcus Cocceius Nerva; 8 November 30 – 27 January 98) was Roman emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became emperor when aged almost 66, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the succeeding rulers of the Flavian dyn ...
, was unpopular with the army, and had been forced by his Praetorian Prefect Casperius Aelianus to execute Domitian's killers. Nerva needed the army's support to avoid being ousted. He accomplished this in the summer of 97 by naming Trajan as his adoptive son and successor, claiming that this was entirely due to 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 was 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, including
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus, known simply as Tacitus ( , ; – ), was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historiography, Roman historians by modern scholars. The surviving portions of his t ...
and Pliny. According to the ''
Augustan History The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies, written in Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. ...
'', the future Emperor
Hadrian Hadrian (; la, Caesar Trâiānus Hadriānus ; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born in Italica (close to modern Santiponce in Spain), a Roman ''municipium'' founded by Italic peoples, Italic settlers ...
brought word to Trajan of his adoption. Trajan retained Hadrian on the Rhine frontier as a
military tribune A military tribune (Latin ''tribunus militum'', "tribune of the soldiers") was an officer of the Roman army who ranked below the legatus, legate and above the centurion. Young men of Equestrian rank often served as military tribune as a stepping ...
, and Hadrian thus became privy to the circle of friends and relations with whom Trajan surrounded himself. Among them was the governor of
Germania Inferior Germania Inferior ("Lower Germania") was a Roman province from AD 85 until the province was renamed Germania Secunda in the fourth century, on the west bank of the Rhine bordering the North Sea. The capital of the province was Colonia Agrippine ...
, the Spaniard
Lucius Licinius Sura Lucius Licinius Sura was an influential Ancient Rome, Roman Roman Senate, Senator from Tarraco, Hispania, a close friend of the Emperor Trajan and three times Roman consul, consul, in a period when three consulates were very rare for non-members of ...
, who became Trajan's chief personal adviser and official friend. Sura was highly influential, and was appointed consul for third term in 107. Some senators may have resented Sura's activities as a
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. Origin ...
and éminence grise, among them the historian Tacitus, who acknowledged Sura's military and oratorical talents, but compared his rapacity and devious ways to those of Vespasian's éminence grise Licinius Mucianus. Sura is said to have informed Hadrian in 108 that he had been chosen as Trajan's imperial heir. 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 adverse incident. The fact that he chose not to hasten towards Rome, but made a lengthy tour of inspection on the Rhine and Danube frontiers, may suggest that he was unsure of his position, both in Rome and with the armies at the front. Alternatively, Trajan's keen military mind understood the importance of strengthening the empire's frontiers. His vision for future conquests required the diligent improvement of surveillance networks, defences and transport along the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
. Prior to his frontier tours, Trajan ordered his Prefect Aelianus to attend him in
Germany Germany,, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central Europe. It is the second most populous country in Europe after Russia, and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between ...
, where he was apparently executed forthwith ("put out of the way"), and his now-vacant post 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 In ancient Rome In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. It encompasses the Roman ...
a direct gift of money. The traditional
donative The ''donativum'' (plural ''donativa'') was a gift of money by the Roman emperors to the soldiers of the Roman legions or to the Praetorian Guard. The English translation is ''wikt:donative, donative''. The purpose of the ''donativa'' varied. So ...
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 Curia (Latin plural curiae) in ancient Rome referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers, they came ...
. 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: " erything 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 Achaea () or Achaia (), sometimes transliterated from Greek language, Greek as Akhaia (, ''Akhaïa'' ), is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the modern regions of Greece, region of Western Greece and is situated in the northweste ...
and
Bithynia Bithynia (; Koine Greek: , ''Bithynía'') was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), adjoining the Sea of Marmara, the Bosporus, and the Black Sea. It bordered Mysia to the southwest, Pa ...
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
proconsul A proconsul was an official of ancient Rome who acted on behalf of a Roman consul, consul. A proconsul was typically a former consul. The term is also used in recent history for officials with delegated authority. In the Roman Republic, military ...
s 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 An honorific is a title that conveys esteem, courtesy, or respect for position or rank when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term "honorific" is used in a more specific sense to refer to an honorary academic title. It ...
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 Chrysostom—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 Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
, who, as a notable of
Delphi Delphi (; ), in legend previously called Pytho (Πυθώ), in ancient times was a sacred precinct that served as the seat of Pythia, the major oracle who was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The oracle ...
, 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 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 Nicomedia (; el, Νικομήδεια, ''Nikomedeia''; modern İzmit) was an ancient Greece, ancient Greek city located in what is now Turkey. In 286, Nicomedia became the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire (chosen by the e ...
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 ''
vigintiviri __NOTOC__The ''vigintisexviri'' ( ''vigintisexvir''; ) were a college (collegium (ancient Rome), ''collegium'') of minor magistrates (''magistratus minores'') in the Roman Republic. The college consisted of six boards: * the ''decemviri stlitibu ...
''). 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 In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as sig ...
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 Herod I (; ; grc-gre, ; c. 72 – 4 or 1 BCE), also known as Herod the Great, was a History of the Jews in the Roman Empire, Roman Jewish client state, client king of Judea, referred to as the Herodian Kingdom of Judea, Herodian kingdom. He ...
, 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 Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is a coastal city in the Mediterranean and is both the capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Greece, largest city of Greece. With a population close to ...
Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, a member of the Royal House of
Commagene Commagene ( grc-gre, Κομμαγηνή) was an ancient Greco-Iranian kingdom ruled by a Hellenized branch of the Iranian peoples, Iranian Orontid dynasty that had ruled over Satrapy of Armenia, Armenia. The kingdom was located in and around th ...
, left behind him a funeral monument on the Mouseion Hill that was later disparagingly described by
Pausanias Pausanias ( el, wikt:Παυσανίας, Παυσανίας) may refer to: *Pausanias of Athens, lover of the poet Agathon and a character in Plato's ''Symposium'' *Pausanias the Regent, Spartan general and regent of the 5th century BC *Pausanias of ...
as "a monument built to a
Syrian Syrians ( ar, سُورِيُّون, ''Sūriyyīn'') are an Eastern Mediterranean Eastern Mediterranean is a loose definition of the East, eastern approximate One half, half, or third, of the Mediterranean Sea, often defined as the countries a ...
man".


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 Philostratus or Lucius Flavius Philostratus (; grc-gre, Φιλόστρατος ; c. 170 – 247/250 AD), called "the Athenian", was a Greek sophist A sophist ( el, σοφιστής, sophistes) was a teacher in ancient Greece in the fifth and ...
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 ''correctores'' to audit the civic finances of the 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 The Second Sophistic is a literary-historical term referring to the Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece, a country in Southern Europe: *Greeks, an ethnic group. *Greek language, a branch of the Indo-Europea ...
; 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... 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 (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 he cities' financesare 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, 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. According to the Digest, Trajan decreed that when a city magistrate promised to achieve a particular public building, his heirs inherited responsibility for its completion.


Building projects

Trajan was a prolific builder. Many of his buildings were designed and erected by the gifted architect
Apollodorus of Damascus Apollodorus of Damascus ( grc, Ἀπολλόδωρος ὁ Δαμασκηνός) was a Nabataean architect and engineer from Damascus, Syria (Roman province), Roman Syria, who flourished during the 2nd century AD. As an engineer he authored sever ...
, including a massive bridge over the Danube, which the Roman army and its reinforcements could use regardless of weather; the Danube sometimes froze over in winter, but seldom enough to bear the passage of a party of soldiers. Trajan's works at the
Iron Gates The Iron Gates ( ro, Porțile de Fier; sr, / or / ; Hungarian language, Hungarian: ''Vaskapu-szoros'') is a Canyon, gorge on the river Danube. It forms part of the boundary between Serbia (to the south) and Romania (north). In the broad ...
region of the
Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running through their territories or being a border. Originating in Germany, the Danube flows southeast for , pa ...
created or enlarged the
boardwalk A boardwalk (alternatively board walk, boarded path, or promenade) is an elevated footpath, walkway, or causeway built with wooden planks that enables pedestrians to cross wet, fragile, or marshy land. They are also in effect a low type of bridge ...
road cut into the cliff-face along the Iron Gate's gorge. A canal was built between the Danube's Kasajna tributary and Ducis Pratum, circumventing rapids and cataracts. Trajan's Forum Traiani was Rome's largest forum. It was built to commemorate his victories in
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians, its core in Transylvania, stretching to the Danube in the south, the Black Sea in the east, and the Tisza in the west. The Carpathian Mountains were located in the middle of Dacia. It thus ...
, and was largely financed from that campaign's loot. To accommodate it, parts of the Capitoline and
Quirinal Hill The Quirinal Hill (; la, Collis Quirinalis; it, Quirinale ) is one of the Seven Hills of Rome, at the north-east of the city center. It is the location of the official residence of the Italian head of state, who resides in the Quirinal Palace ...
s had to be removed, the latter enlarging a clear area first established by Domitian.
Apollodorus of Damascus Apollodorus of Damascus ( grc, Ἀπολλόδωρος ὁ Δαμασκηνός) was a Nabataean architect and engineer from Damascus, Syria (Roman province), Roman Syria, who flourished during the 2nd century AD. As an engineer he authored sever ...
' "magnificent" design incorporated a
Triumphal arch A triumphal arch is a free-standing monumental structure in the shape of an archway with one or more arched passageways, often designed to span a road. In its simplest form a triumphal arch consists of two massive Pier (architecture), piers conne ...
entrance, a forum space approximately 120 m long and 90m wide, surrounded by peristyles: a monumentally sized
basilica In Ancient Roman architecture, a basilica is a large public building with multiple functions, typically built alongside the town's Forum (Roman), forum. The basilica was in the Latin West equivalent to a stoa in the Greek East. The building ...
: and later,
Trajan's Column Trajan's Column ( it, Colonna Traiana, la, Columna Traiani) is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, that commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Trajan's Dacian Wars, Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision o ...
and libraries. It was started in 107 AD, dedicated on 1 January 112, and remained in use for at least 500 years. It still drew admiration when Emperor
Constantius II Constantius II (Latin: ''Flavius Julius Constantius''; grc-gre, Κωνστάντιος; 7 August 317 – 3 November 361) was Roman emperor from 337 to 361. His reign saw constant warfare on the borders against the Sasanian Empire and Germanic ...
visited Rome in the fourth century. It accommodated Trajan's Market, and an adjacent brick market. Trajan was also a prolific builder of triumphal arches, many of which survive. He built roads, such as the
Via Traiana image:Via Appia map.jpg, Via Appia ''(white)'' and Via Traiana ''(red)'' The Via Traiana was an ancient Roman roads, Roman road. It was built by the emperor Trajan as an extension of the Via Appia from Benevento, Beneventum, reaching Brundisium ...
, an extension of the
Via Appia The Appian Way (Latin and Italian language, Italian: ''Via Appia'') is one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient Roman Republic, republic. It connected Rome to Brindisi, in southeast Italy. Its importance is ...
from Beneventum to
Brundisium Brindisi ( , ) ; la, Brundisium; grc, Βρεντέσιον, translit=Brentésion; cms, Brunda), group=pron is a city in the region of Apulia in southern Italy, the capital of the province of Brindisi, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. Histor ...
and the
Via Traiana Nova The Via Traiana Nova or Via Nova Traiana ( for, , Latin, Trajan's New Road), previously known as the King's Highway (ancient), Via Regia or King's Highway, was an ancient Roman road built by Emperor Trajan in the province of Arabia Petraea, from ...
, a mostly military road between
Damascus )), is an adjective which means "spacious". , motto = , image_flag = Flag of Damascus.svg , image_seal = Emblem of Damascus.svg , seal_type = Seal , map_caption = , ...
and Aila, which Rome employed in its annexation of Nabataea and founding of Arabia Province. Some historians attribute the construction or reconstruction of
Old Cairo Old Cairo (Arabic: مصر القديمة , Miṣr al-Qadīma, Egyptian pronunciation: Maṣr El-ʾAdīma) is a historic area in Cairo, Egypt, which includes the site of a Roman-era fortress and of Islamic-era settlements pre-dating the founding of ...
's Roman fortress (also known as "Babylon Fort") to Trajan, and the building of a canal between the
River Nile The Nile, , Bohairic , lg, Kiira , Nobiin language, Nobiin: Áman Dawū is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa. It flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and has historically been considered ...
and the
Red Sea The Red Sea ( ar, البحر الأحمر - بحر القلزم, translit=Modern: al-Baḥr al-ʾAḥmar, Medieval: Baḥr al-Qulzum; or ; Coptic language, Coptic: ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϩⲁϩ ''Phiom Enhah'' or ⲫⲓⲟⲙ ⲛ̀ϣⲁⲣⲓ ''P ...
. In Egypt, Trajan was "quite active" in constructing and embellishing buildings. He is portrayed, together with
Domitian Domitian (; la, Domitianus; 24 October 51 – 18 September 96) was a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Flavia ...
, on the
propylon In ancient Greek architecture Ancient Greek architecture came from the Greek-speaking people (''Hellenic'' people) whose culture Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and Social norm, nor ...
of the Temple of Hathor at
Dendera Dendera ( ar, دَنْدَرة ''Dandarah''; grc, Τεντυρις or Τεντυρα; Bohairic Coptic (Bohairic Coptic: , ) is a language family of closely related dialects, representing the most recent developments of the Ancient Egyptian l ...
. His
cartouche In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a line at one end tangent to it, indicating that the text enclosed is a pharaoh, royal name. The first examples of the cartouche are associated with pharaohs at the end of the Third Dynasty of ...
also appears in the column shafts of the Temple of
Khnum Khnum or also romanised Khnemu (; egy, 𓎸𓅱𓀭 wikt:ẖnmw, ẖnmw, grc-koi, Χνοῦβις) was one of the earliest-known ancient Egyptian religion, Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile. Since the annual flood ...
at
Esna Esna ( ar, إسنا  , egy, jwny.t or ; cop, or ''Snē'' from ''tꜣ-snt''; grc-koi, Λατόπολις ''Latópolis'' or (''Pólis Látōn'') or (''Lattōn''); Latin: ''Lato''), is a city of Egypt. It is located on the west bank of ...
."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"


Games

Trajan invested heavily in the provision of popular amusements. He carried out a "massive reconstruction" of the
Circus Maximus The Circus Maximus (Latin for "largest circus"; Italian language, Italian: ''Circo Massimo'') is an ancient Rome, ancient Roman chariot racing, chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue in Rome, Italy. In the valley between the Aventin ...
, which was already the Empire's biggest and best appointed circuit for the immensely popular sport of
chariot racing Chariot racing ( grc-gre, ἁρματοδρομία, harmatodromia, la, ludi circenses) was one of the most popular Ancient Greece, ancient Greek, Roman Empire, Roman, and Byzantine sports. In Greece, chariot racing played an essential role in a ...
. The Circus also hosted religious theatrical spectacles and games, and public processions on the grandest possible scale. Trajan's reconstruction, completed by 103, was modestly described by Trajan himself as "adequate" for the Roman people. It replaced flammable wooden seating tiers with stone, and increased the Circus' already vast capacity by about 5,000 seats. Its lofty, elevated Imperial viewing box was rebuilt among the seating tiers, so that spectators could see their emperor sharing their enjoyment of the races, alongside his family and images of the gods, At some time during 108 or 109, Trajan held 123 days of games to celebrate his Dacian victory. They involved "fully 10,000"
gladiator A gladiator ( la, gladiator, "swordsman", from , "sword") was an armed combatant who entertained audiences in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire in violent confrontations with other gladiators, wild animals, and condemned criminals. Some gla ...
s, and the slaughter of thousands, "possibly tens of thousands" of animals, both wild and domestic. Trajan's careful management of public spectacles led the orator Fronto to congratulate him for paying equal attention to public entertainments and more serious issues, acknowledging that "neglect of serious matters can cause greater damage, but neglect of amusements greater discontent". State-funded public entertainments helped to maintain contentment among the populace; the more "serious matter" of the corn dole aimed to satisfy individuals.


Christians

During the period of peace that followed the Dacian war, Trajan exchanged letters with Pliny the Younger on how best to deal with the
Christians Christians () are people who follow or adhere to Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of ...
of Pontus. Trajan told Pliny to continue prosecutions of Christians if they merited that, but not to accept anonymous or malicious denunciations. He considered this to be in the interests of justice, and to reflect "the spirit of the age". Non-citizens who admitted to being Christians and refused to recant were to be executed "for obstinacy". Citizens were sent to Rome for trial.


Currency and welfare

In 107, Trajan devalued the
Roman currency Roman currency for most of Roman history consisted of gold, silver, bronze, orichalcum#Numismatics, orichalcum and copper coinage. From its introduction to the Roman Republic, Republic, during the third century BC, well into Roman Empire, Imperial ...
, decreasing the silver content of the
denarius The denarius (, dēnāriī ) was the standard Roman silver coin from its introduction in the Second Punic War to the reign of Gordian III (AD 238–244), when it was gradually replaced by the antoninianus. It continued to be minted in ver ...
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 through his Dacian wars, allowed Trajan to mint many more denarii than his predecessors. He also withdrew from circulation silver denarii minted before Nero's devaluation. Trajan's devaluation may have had a political intent, enabling planned increases in civil and military spending. Trajan formalised the alimenta, a welfare program that helped orphans and poor children throughout Italy by providing cash, food and subsidized education. The program was supported out of Dacian War booty, estate taxes and philanthropy. The alimenta also relied indirectly on mortgages secured against Italian farms (''fundi''). Registered landowners received a lump sum from the imperial treasury, and in return were expected to repay an annual sum to support the alimentary fund.


Military campaigns


Conquest of Dacia

Trajan took the Roman empire to its greatest expanse. The earliest conquests were Rome's two wars against
Dacia Dacia (, ; ) was the land inhabited by the Dacians, its core in Transylvania, stretching to the Danube in the south, the Black Sea in the east, and the Tisza in the west. The Carpathian Mountains were located in the middle of Dacia. It thus ...
, 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 a Roman emperor who reigned from 81 to 96. The son of Vespasian and the younger brother of Titus, his two predecessors on the throne, he was the last member of the Flavia ...
's ministers with the powerful Dacian king
Decebalus Decebalus (), sometimes referred to as Diurpaneus, was the last Dacians, Dacian king. He is famous for fighting three wars, with varying success, against the Roman Empire under two emperors. After raiding south across the Danube, he defeated a Rom ...
. Dacia would be reduced by Trajan's Rome to a
client kingdom A client state, in international relations International relations (IR), sometimes referred to as international studies and international affairs, is the Scientific method, scientific study of interactions between sovereign states. In a b ...
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 The Marcomanni were a Germanic people * * * that established a powerful kingdom north of the Danube The Danube ( ; ) is a river that was once a long-standing frontier of the Roman Empire and today connects 10 European countries, running ...
,
Quadi The Quadi were a Germanic peoples, Germanic * * * people who lived approximately in the area of modern Moravia in the time of the Roman Empire. The only surviving contemporary reports about the Germanic tribe are those of the Romans, whose em ...
and
Sarmatians The Sarmatians (; grc, Σαρμαται, Sarmatai; Latin: ) were a large confederation of Ancient Iranian peoples, ancient Eastern Iranian languages, Eastern Iranian peoples, Iranian Eurasian nomads, equestrian nomadic peoples of classical ant ...
. However, senatorial opinion never forgave Domitian for paying what was seen as tribute to a barbarian king. 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. In May of 101, Trajan launched his first campaign into the Dacian kingdom, crossing to the northern bank of the Danube and defeating the Dacian army at
Tapae Tapae was a fortified settlement, guarding Sarmizegetusa, the main political centre of Dacia. Its location was on the Iron Gates of Transylvania, a natural passage breaking between Țarcului and Poiana Ruscă Mountains and connecting Banat B ...
(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, 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 The Iazyges (), singular Ἰάζυξ. were an ancient Sarmatian tribe that traveled westward in BC from Central Asia Central Asia, also known as Middle Asia, is a region of Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notabl ...
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: II Traianawhich, however, may have been posted in the East, at the Syrian port of Laodiceaand XXX Ulpia Victrix, which was posted to Brigetio, in
Pannonia Pannonia (, ) was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire bounded on the north and east by the Danube, coterminous westward with Noricum and upper Roman Italy, Italy, and southward with Dalmatia (Roman province), Dalmatia and upper Moesia ...
. 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
auxilia The (, lit. "auxiliaries") were introduced as non-citizen troops attached to the citizen Roman legion, legions by Augustus after his reorganisation of the Imperial Roman army from 30 BC. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same ...
ries, 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 Sarmizegetusa Regia, also Sarmisegetusa, Sarmisegethusa, Sarmisegethuza, Ζαρμιζεγεθούσα (''Zarmizegethoúsa'') or Ζερμιζεγεθούση (''Zermizegethoúsē''), was the Capital city, capital and the most important military, ...
, 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 fled 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
Capitol A capitol, named after the Capitoline Hill in Rome, is usually a legislative building where a legislature meets and makes laws for its respective political entity. Specific capitols include: * United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. * Numerous ...
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, 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 ( decurions,
aedile ''Aedile'' ( ; la, aedīlis , from , "temple edifice") was an elected office of the Roman Republic. Based in Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, l ...
s, 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 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 ( ''vici'') developed around military encampments in Dacia proper – the most important being 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 In Ancient Rome, the Latin term (plural ) designated a village within a rural area () or the neighbourhood of a larger settlement. During the Roman Republic, Republican era, the four of the History of Rome, city of Rome were subdivided into . ...
was also created around the Tropaeum Traianum. The garrison city of
Oescus Oescus, Palatiolon or Palatiolum ( bg, Улпия Ескус, ) was an important ancient city on the Danube river in Ancient Rome, Roman Moesia. It later became known as ''Ulpia Oescus''. It lay northwest of the modern Bulgarian city of Plev ...
received the status of
Roman colony A Roman (plural ) was originally a Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it. Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of a Roman city. It is also the origin of the modern term '' colony''. Characte ...
after its
legionary The Roman legionary (in Latin ''legionarius'', plural ''legionarii'') was a professional heavy infantryman of the Roman army The Roman army (Latin language, Latin: ) was the armed forces deployed by the Romans throughout the duration of Anc ...
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. After the post-Trajanic evacuation of lands across the lower Danube, land extending from the Danube to the inner arch of the
Carpathian Mountains The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians () are a range of mountains forming an arc across Central Europe. Roughly long, it is the third-longest European mountain range after the Ural Mountains, Urals at and the Scandinavian Mountains at . The ...
, including
Transylvania Transylvania ( ro, Ardeal or ; hu, Erdély; german: Siebenbürgen) is a historical and cultural region in Central Europe, encompassing central Romania. To the east and south its natural border is the Carpathian Mountains, and to the west the Ap ...
, the Metaliferi Mountains and
Oltenia Oltenia (, also called Lesser Wallachia in antiquated versions, with the alternative Latin names ''Wallachia Minor'', ''Wallachia Alutana'', ''Wallachia Caesarea'' between 1718 and 1739) is a historical province and geographical region of Romania ...
was absorbed into the Roman province, which eventually took the form of an "excrescence" with ill-defined limits, stretching from the Danube northwards to the
Carpathians The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians () are a range of mountains forming an arc across Central Europe. Roughly long, it is the third-longest European mountain range after the Urals at and the Scandinavian Mountains at . The range stretche ...
. 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 XIII Gemina, stationed at 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 Crisis of the Third Century, also known as the Military Anarchy or the Imperial Crisis (AD 235–284), was a period in which the Roman Empire nearly collapsed. The crisis ended due to the military victories of Aurelian and with the ascensio ...
, 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 Procurator (with procuracy or procuratorate referring to the office itself) may refer to: * Procurator, one engaged in procuration, the action of taking care of, hence management, stewardship, agency * ''Procurator'' (Ancient Rome), the title o ...
of equestrian rank (''procurator aurariarum''). On the other hand, commercial agricultural exploitation on the
villa A villa is a type of house that was originally an Ancient Rome, ancient Roman upper class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, vi ...
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.


Nabataean annexation

In 106, Rabbel II Soter, one of Rome's client kings, died. This event might have prompted the annexation of the
Nabataean Kingdom The Nabataean Kingdom (Nabataean Aramaic: 𐢕𐢃𐢋𐢈 ''Nabāṭū''), also named Nabatea (), was a political state of the Arabs, Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity. The Nabataean Kingdom controlled many of the trade routes of the r ...
, 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 Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning the North Africa, northeast corner of Africa and Western Asia, southwest corner of Asia via a land bridg ...
. What is known is that by 107, Roman legions were stationed in the area around
Petra Petra ( ar, ٱلْبَتْرَاء, Al-Batrāʾ; grc, Πέτρα, "Rock", Nabataean Aramaic, Nabataean: ), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu or Raqēmō, is an historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. It is adjacent to t ...
and Bosra, 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 Hegra, over south-west of
Petra Petra ( ar, ٱلْبَتْرَاء, Al-Batrāʾ; grc, Πέτρα, "Rock", Nabataean Aramaic, Nabataean: ), originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu or Raqēmō, is an historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. It is adjacent to t ...
. 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 Ἀραβίας) or simply Arabia, was a frontier Roman province, province o ...
(modern southern
Jordan Jordan ( ar, الأردن; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' ), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,; Romanization of Arabic, tr. ' is a country in Western Asia. It is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, within the Levan ...
and northwest
Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), is a country in Western Asia. It covers the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and has a land area of about , making it the List of Asian countries by area, fifth-largest country in Asia ...
). At this time, a Roman road (''
Via Traiana Nova The Via Traiana Nova or Via Nova Traiana ( for, , Latin, Trajan's New Road), previously known as the King's Highway (ancient), Via Regia or King's Highway, was an ancient Roman road built by Emperor Trajan in the province of Arabia Petraea, from ...
'') was built from Aila (now
Aqaba Aqaba (, also ; ar, العقبة, al-ʿAqaba, al-ʿAgaba, ) is the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Situated in southernmost Jordan, Aqaba is the administrative centre of the Aqaba Govern ...
) in
Limes Arabicus The ''Limes Arabicus'' was a desert frontier of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Romanum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of a ...
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.


Parthian campaign

In 113, Trajan embarked on his last campaign, provoked by
Parthia Parthia ( peo, 𐎱𐎼𐎰𐎺 ''Parθava''; xpr, 𐭐𐭓𐭕𐭅 ''Parθaw''; pal, 𐭯𐭫𐭮𐭥𐭡𐭥 ''Pahlaw'') is a historical region located in northeastern Greater Iran. It was conquered and subjugated by the empire of the Medes ...
's decision to put an unacceptable king on the throne of
Armenia Armenia (), , group=pron officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the CIA World Factbook , , and '' ...
, a kingdom over which the two great empires had shared
hegemony Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state over other states. In Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing ...
since the time of
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
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.


Cause of 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 The Via Traiana Nova or Via Nova Traiana ( for, , Latin, Trajan's New Road), previously known as the King's Highway (ancient), Via Regia or King's Highway, was an ancient Roman road built by Emperor Trajan in the province of Arabia Petraea, from ...
, that went from Bostra to Aila on the Red Sea. That meant that 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 Palmyra (; Palmyrene dialect, Palmyrene: () ''Tadmor''; ar, تَدْمُر ''Tadmur'') is an ancient city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic period, and documents first mention the city i ...
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 Bahrain ( ; ; ar, البحرين, al-Bahrayn, locally ), officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, ' is an island country in Western Asia. It is situated on the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Persian Gulf, and comprises a small archipelago made u ...
islands, which offered the possibility of extending Roman hegemony into the Persian Gulf itself. (A Palmyrene citizen held office as
satrap A satrap () was a governor of the provinces of the ancient Medes, Median and Achaemenid Empires and in several of their successors, such as in the Sasanian Empire and the Hellenistic period, Hellenistic empires. The satrap served as viceroy to t ...
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 Paul Veyne (; 13 June 1930 – 29 September 2022) was a French archaeologist and historian, and a specialist of Ancient Rome. A student of the École Normale Supérieure and member of the École française de Rome, he was honorary professor at th ...
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 Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
. The fact that emissaries from the
Kushan Empire The Kushan Empire ( grc, Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; xbc, Κυϸανο, ; sa, कुषाण वंश; Brahmi: , '; Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit, BHS: ; xpr, 𐭊𐭅𐭔𐭍 𐭇𐭔𐭕𐭓, ; zh, wikt:貴霜, 貴霜 ) was a Sync ...
might have attended to the commemorative ceremonies for the Dacian War may have kindled in some Greco-Roman intellectuals like
Plutarch Plutarch (; grc-gre, Πλούταρχος, ''Ploútarchos''; ; – after AD 119) was a Greek people, Greek Middle Platonism, Middle Platonist philosopher, historian, Biography, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo (D ...
who 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 Hercules (, ) is the Roman equivalent of the Greek divine hero Heracles Heracles ( ; grc-gre, Ἡρακλῆς, , glory/fame of Hera), born Alcaeus (, ''Alkaios'') or Alcides (, ''Alkeidēs''), was a divine hero in Greek mythology ...
. 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 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 war

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 (who was afterwards murdered while kept in the custody of Roman troops in an unclear incident, later described by 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 Quietus Lusius Quietus ( la, Lusius Quiētus, ; grc-koi, Λούσιος Κυήτος, Loúsios Kyítos, ) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th c ...
an outstanding cavalry general who had signalled himself during the Dacian Wars by commanding a unit from his native
Mauretania Mauretania (; ) is the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) ar ...
crossed the
Araxes , az, Araz, fa, ارس, tr, Aras The Aras (also known as the Araks, Arax, Araxes, or Araz) is a river in the Caucasus The Caucasus () or Caucasia (), is a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azer ...
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 The Caspian Sea is the world's largest inland body of water, often described as the List of lakes by area, world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. An endorheic basin, it lies between Europe and Asia; east of the Caucasus, west of the broad s ...
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 Nusaybin (; '; ar, نُصَيْبِيْن, translit=Nuṣaybīn; syr, ܢܨܝܒܝܢ, translit=Nṣībīn), historically known as Nisibis () or Nesbin, is a city in Mardin Province, Turkey. The population of the city is 83,832 as of 2009 and is ...
and Batnae and organizing a province of
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the F ...
, including the Kingdom of
Osrhoene Osroene or Osrhoene (; grc-gre, Ὀσροηνή) was an ancient region and state in Upper Mesopotamia Upper Mesopotamia is the name used for the Upland and lowland, uplands and great outwash plain of northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and s ...
where 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 Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8t ...
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 Singara (, ''tà Síngara'') was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical reg ...
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 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
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western A ...
into
Adiabene Adiabene was an ancient monarchy, kingdom in northern Mesopotamia, corresponding to the northwestern part of ancient Assyria. The size of the kingdom varied over time; initially encompassing an area between the Zab Rivers, it eventually gained con ...
, sweeping south and capturing Adenystrae; a second followed the river south, capturing
Babylon ''Bābili(m)'' * sux, 𒆍𒀭𒊏𒆠 * arc, 𐡁𐡁𐡋 ''Bāḇel'' * syc, ܒܒܠ ''Bāḇel'' * grc-gre, Βαβυλών ''Babylṓn'' * he, בָּבֶל ''Bāvel'' * peo, 𐎲𐎠𐎲𐎡𐎽𐎢 ''Bābiru'' * elx, 𒀸𒁀𒉿𒇷 ''Babi ...
; Trajan himself sailed down the
Euphrates The Euphrates () is the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Tigris–Euphrates river system, Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia ( ''the land between the rivers'') ...
from
Dura-Europos Dura-Europos, ; la, Dūra Eurōpus, ( el, Δούρα Ευρωπός, Doúra Evropós, ) was a Hellenistic, Parthian Empire, Parthian, and Ancient Rome, Roman border city built on an escarpment above the southwestern bank of the Euphrates riv ...
where 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'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 Seleucia (; grc-gre, Σελεύκεια), also known as or , was a major Mesopotamian city of the Seleucid Empire, Seleucid empire. It stood on the west bank of the Tigris River, within the present-day Baghdad Governorate in Iraq. Name Seleu ...
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 ...
. He continued southward to the
Persian Gulf The Persian Gulf ( fa, خلیج فارس, translit=xalij-e fârs, lit=Gulf of Persis, Fars, ), sometimes called the ( ar, اَلْخَلِيْجُ ٱلْعَرَبِيُّ, Al-Khalīj al-ˁArabī), is a Mediterranean sea (oceanography), me ...
, 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. 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 Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
. 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 city of
Susa Susa ( ; Middle elx, 𒀸𒋗𒊺𒂗, translit=Šušen; Middle and Neo- elx, 𒋢𒋢𒌦, translit=Šušun; Neo-Elamite language, Elamite and Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid elx, 𒀸𒋗𒐼𒀭, translit=Šušán; Achaemenid Empire, Achaem ...
was apparently also occupied by the Romans. According to late literary sources (not backed by numismatic or inscriptional evidence) a province of
Assyria Assyria (Neo-Assyrian cuneiform: , romanized: ''māt Aššur''; syc, ܐܬܘܪ, ʾāthor) was a major ancient Mesopotamia, Mesopotamian civilization which existed as a city-state from the 21st century BC to the 14th century BC, then to a terr ...
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 The Zagros Mountains ( ar, جبال زاغروس, translit=Jibal Zaghrus; fa, کوه‌های زاگرس, Kuh hā-ye Zāgros; ku, چیاکانی زاگرۆس, translit=Çiyakani Zagros; Turkish language, Turkish: ''Zagros Dağları''; Luri Lan ...
into the
Iranian plateau The Iranian plateau or Persian plateau is a geology, geological feature in Western Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia. It comprises part of the Eurasian Plate and is wedged between the Arabian Plate and the Indian Plate; situated between th ...
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, a nephew of the Parthian king Osroes I who had retained a cavalry force, possibly strengthened by the addition of
Saka The Saka (Old Persian: ; Kharosthi, Kharoṣṭhī: ; Egyptian language, Ancient Egyptian: , ; , Old Chinese, old , Pinyin, mod. , ), Shaka (Sanskrit (Brahmi script, Brāhmī): , , ; Sanskrit (Devanagari, Devanāgarī): , ), or Sacae (An ...
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 Edessa (; grc, Ἔδεσσα, Édessa) was an ancient city (''polis'') in Upper Mesopotamia, founded during the Hellenistic period by King Seleucus I Nicator (), founder of the Seleucid Empire. It later became capital of the Kingdom of Osroene ...
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 Hatra ( ar, الحضر; syr, ‎ܚܛܪܐ) was an ancient city in Upper Mesopotamia located in present-day eastern Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq. The city lies northwest of Baghdad and southwest of Mosul. Hatra was a strongly fortified ...
, on the
Tigris The Tigris () is the easternmost of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western A ...
in his rear, continued to hold out against repeated Roman assaults. He was personally present at the
siege A siege is a military blockade of a city, or fortress, with the intent of conquering by attrition warfare, attrition, or a well-prepared assault. This derives from la, sedere, lit=to sit. Siege warfare is a form of constant, low-intensity con ...
, 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 Cyprus ; tr, Kıbrıs (), officially the Republic of Cyprus,, , lit: Republic of Cyprus is an island country located south of the Anatolian Peninsula in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Its continental position is disputed; while it is geo ...
, 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 Attianus. It has been thought 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 The praetorian prefect ( la, praefectus praetorio, el, ) was a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders be ...
. 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 to forestall these prospective rivals.


Death and succession

Early in 117, Trajan grew ill and set sail for Italy. His health declined throughout the spring and summer of 117, possibly acknowledged to the public by the display of a bronze portrait-bust at the public baths of Ancyra, showing an aged and emaciated man, though the identification with Trajan is disputed. He reached
Selinus Selinunte (; grc, Σελῑνοῦς, Selīnoûs ; la, Selīnūs , ; scn, Silinunti ) was a rich and extensive Ancient Greece, ancient Greek city on the south-western coast of Sicily in Italy. It was situated between the valleys of the Co ...
, where he suddenly died, probably on 11 August and apparently from
edema Edema, also spelled oedema, and also known as fluid retention, dropsy, hydropsy and swelling, is the build-up of fluid in the body's tissue. Most commonly, the legs or arms are affected. Symptoms may include skin which feels tight, the area ma ...
. Trajan in person could have lawfully nominated Hadrian as his successor, but Dio claims that Trajan's wife,
Pompeia Plotina Pompeia Plotina (died 121/122) was Roman empress from 98 to 117 as the wife of Trajan. She was renowned for her interest in philosophy, and her virtue, dignity and simplicity. She was particularly devoted to the Epicureanism, Epicurean philosophic ...
, assured Hadrian's succession by keeping Trajan's death a secret, long enough for her to produce and sign a document attesting to Hadrian's adoption as son and successor. Dio, who tells this narrative, offers his fatherthe governor of Cilicia Apronianusas a source, so his narrative may be based on contemporary rumour. It may also reflect male Roman displeasure that an empresslet alone any woman could presume to meddle in Rome's political affairs. 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 Pannonia Inferior, lit. Lower Pannonia, was a Roman province, province of the Roman Empire. Its capital was Sirmium. It was one of the border provinces on the Danube. It was formed in the year 103 AD by Emperor Trajan who divided the former prov ...
. 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 Athens ( ; el, Αθήνα, Athína ; grc, Ἀθῆναι, Athênai (pl.) ) is a coastal city in the Mediterranean and is both the capital and largest city of Greece. With a population close to four million, it is also the seventh largest c ...
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. 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. Hadrian seems to have been well connected to the powerful and influential coterie of Spanish senators at Trajan's court, through his ties to Plotina and the Prefect Attianus. His refusal to sustain Trajan's senatorial and expansionist policy during his own reign may account for the "crass hostility" shown him by literary sources. Hadrian's first major act as emperor was to abandon Mesopotamia as too costly and distant to defend, and to restore Armenia and Osrhoene to Parthian hegemony, under Rome's suzerainty. The Parthian campaign had been an enormous setback to Trajan's policy, proof that Rome had overstretched its capacity to sustain an ambitious program of conquest. According to the ''
Historia Augusta The ''Historia Augusta'' (English: ''Augustan History'') is a late Roman collection of biographies, written in Latin, of the Roman emperors, their junior colleagues, Caesar (title), designated heirs and Roman usurper, usurpers from 117 to 284. S ...
'', Hadrian claimed to follow the precedent set by
Cato the Elder Marcus Porcius Cato (; 234–149 BC), also known as Cato the Censor ( la, Censorius), the Elder and the Wise, was a Roman soldier, senator A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Legislative chamber, chamber of a ...
towards the Macedonians, who "were to be set free because they could not be protected" – something Birley sees as an unconvincing precedent. Other territories conquered by Trajan were retained. According to a well-established historical tradition, Trajan's ashes were placed within the small cella that still survives at the base of Trajan's column. In some modern scholarship, his ashes were more likely interred near his column, in a mausoleum, temple or tomb built for his cult as a ''divus'' of the Roman state.


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 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 Thomas Aquinas, Dominican Order, OP (; it, Tommaso d'Aquino, lit=Thomas of Aquino, Italy, Aquino; 1225 – 7 March 1274) was an Italian Dominican Order, Dominican friar and Catholic priest, priest who was an influential List of Catholic philo ...
discussed Trajan as an example of a virtuous pagan. In the ''
Divine Comedy The ''Divine Comedy'' ( it, Divina Commedia ) is an Italian narrative poetry, narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun 1308 and completed in around 1321, shortly before the author's death. It is widely considered the pre-eminent work in Ital ...
'',
Dante Dante Alighieri (; – 14 September 1321), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to as Dante (, ), was an Italian people, Italian Italian poetry, poet, writer and philosopher. His ''Divine Comedy'', origin ...
, following this legend, sees the spirit of Trajan in the Heaven of
Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the List of Solar System objects by size, largest in the Solar System. It is a gas giant with a mass more than two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined, but ...
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 Purgatory (, borrowed into English language, English via Anglo-Norman language, Anglo-Norman and Old French) is, according to the belief of some Christianity, Christian denominations (mostly Catholic), an intermediate state after physical death ...
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.''


Iconography

After the despised
Nero Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus ( ; born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus; 15 December AD 37 – 9 June AD 68), was the fifth Roman emperor and final emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, reigning from AD 54 unti ...
, Roman emperors until Trajan were depicted shaven. Trajan's successor Hadrian made beards fashionable again for emperors.


Later Emperors

Many emperors after Trajan would, when they were sworn into office, be wished '' Felicior Augusto, Melior Traiano'' ("May you rule fortunate like Augustus and better than Trajan"). The fourth-century emperor
Constantine I Constantine I ( la, Flavius Valerius Constantinus; ; 27 February 22 May 337), also known as Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor from AD 306 to 337, and the first of which to Constantine the Great and Christianity, convert to Christiani ...
is credited with calling him a "plant upon every wall" for the many buildings bearing inscriptions with his name.


After Rome

In the 18th century, King
Charles III of Spain Charles III (born Charles Sebastian; es, Carlos Sebastián; 20 January 1716 – 14 December 1788) was King of Spain (1759–1788). He also was Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, as Charles I (1731–1735); Kingdom of Naples, ...
commissioned
Anton Raphael Mengs Anton Raphael Mengs (22 March 1728 – 29 June 1779) was a German people, German painter, active in Dresden, Rome, and Madrid, who while painting in the Rococo period of the mid-18th century became one of the precursors to Neoclassicism, Neoclas ...
to paint ''The Triumph of Trajan'' on the ceiling of the banquet hall of the
Royal Palace of Madrid The Royal Palace of Madrid ( es, Palacio Real de Madrid) is the official residence of the Spanish royal family at the city of Madrid, although now used only for state ceremonies. The palace has of floor space and contains 3,418 rooms. It is the ...
considered among the best works of this artist. It was only during the Enlightenment that this legacy began to be contested, when
Edward Gibbon Edward Gibbon (; 8 May 173716 January 1794) was an English historian, writer, and member of parliament. His most important work, ''The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'', published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, is k ...
expressed doubts about the militarized character of Trajan's reign in contrast to the "moderate" practices of his immediate successors. 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
Fascist Fascism is a far-right, authoritarian, ultra-nationalist political ideology and movement,: "extreme militaristic nationalism, contempt for electoral democracy and political and cultural liberalism, a belief in natural social hierarchy an ...
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 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". For
Paul Veyne Paul Veyne (; 13 June 1930 – 29 September 2022) was a French archaeologist and historian, and a specialist of Ancient Rome. A student of the École Normale Supérieure and member of the École française de Rome, he was honorary professor at th ...
, 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''.


In Jewish legend

In the Jewish homiletical works, such as '' Esther Rabbah'', Trajan is described with the epitaph "may his bones be crushed" ( he, שְׁחִיק עֲצָמוֹת, ''sh'hik atzamot''). The same epitaph is also used for Hadrian.Pius, A., Italica, H., Sabina, V., Aelius, L., Hadrianus, P. A., Augustus, C. P. A. T. H., ... & Paulina, D. Roman imperial dynasties. Nerva, 96, 98.


See also

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


Notes


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

*


External links

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