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13th Emperor of the Roman Empire
Traianus Glyptothek Munich 336.jpg
Marble bust of Trajan.
Reign January 28, 98 – August 8, 117
Predecessor Nerva, adoptive father
Successor Hadrian
Full name
Marcus Ulpius Traianus
(from birth to adoption);
Caesar Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus (from adoption to accession);
Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae filius Augustus (as emperor)
Dynasty Nerva-Antonine
Father Marcus Ulpius Traianus
Mother Marcia
Born (53-09-18)18 September 53
Italica, Hispania
Died 8 August 117(117-08-08) (aged 63)
Selinus, Cilicia
Burial Rome (ashes in foot
of Trajan's Column, now lost)
Roman imperial dynasties
Nervo-Trajanic Dynasty
   Natural - (none)
   Adoptive - Trajan
   Natural - (none)
   Adoptive - Hadrian
   Natural - (none)
   Adoptive - Lucius Aelius
   Adoptive - Antoninus Pius

Trajan (/ˈtrən/; Latin: Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae filius Augustus;[1] September 18, 53 – August 8, 117 AD) was Roman emperor from 98 AD until his death in 117 AD. Officially declared by the Senate as optimus princeps ("the best ruler"), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over the greatest military expansion in Roman history, leading the empire to attain its maximum territorial extent by the time of his death. He is also known for his philanthropic 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 who presided over an era of peace and prosperity in the Mediterranean world.

Born into an ethnically Hispanic family of partial Italian origin in the city of Italica in the province of Hispania Baetica,[2] Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in 89 Trajan supported Domitian against a revolt on the Rhine led by Antonius Saturninus.[3] In September 96, Domitian was succeeded by Marcus Cocceius Nerva, an old and childless senator who proved to be unpopular with the army. After a brief and tumultuous year in power, a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard compelled him to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. Nerva died on 27 January 98, and was succeeded by his adopted son without incident.

As a civilian administrator, Trajan is best known for his extensive public building program which reshaped the city of Rome and left multiple enduring landmarks such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column. Early in his reign, he annexed the Nabataean kingdom, creating the province of Arabia Petraea. His conquest of Dacia enriched the empire greatly — the new province possessed many valuable gold mines. However, the new province's exposed position to the north of the Danube made it susceptible to attack on three sides, and it was later abandoned by Emperor Aurelian.

His war against the Parthian Empire ended with the sack of the capital Ctesiphon and the annexation of Armenia and Mesopotamia. His campaigns expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest territorial extent. In late 117, while sailing back to Rome, Trajan fell ill and died of a stroke in the city of Selinus. He was deified by the Senate and his ashes were laid to rest under Trajan's Column. He was succeeded by his adopted son Hadrian.


As an emperor, Trajan's reputation has endured — he is one of the few rulers whose reputation has survived nineteen centuries. Every new emperor after him was honored by the Senate with the wish felicior Augusto, melior Traiano ("[be] luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan"). Among medieval Christian theologians, Trajan was considered a virtuous pagan, while the 18th-century historian Edward Gibbon popularized the notion of the Five Good Emperors, of which Trajan was the second.[4] However, it's noteworthy that as far as literary sources are concerned, an extant continuous account of Trajan's reign does not exist: what we have in the way of a political history is Book 68 in Cassius Dio Roman History, which survives mostly as Byzantine abridgments and epitomes. Besides this, what we have in the way of contemporary writings are Pliny the Younger's Panegyricus and Dio of Prusa's orations - both adulatory perorations typical of the late Roman era, that describe an idealized monarch and an equally idealized view of Trajan's rule, and concern themselves more with ideology than with actual fact.[5] The Tenth Volume of Pliny's letters contain his correspondence with Trajan, which deals with various aspects of Imperial Roman government, but such correspondence is in no way intimate or candid: it's an exchange of official mail, in which Pliny's stance borders on the servile.[6] Therefore the fact that discussion of Trajan and his rule in modern historiography cannot avoid speculation, as well as resource to non-literary sources such as archaeology and epigraphy.[7]

Early life and rise to power[edit]

Denarius of Trajan

Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born on 18 September 53 in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica[8] (in what is now Andalusia in modern Spain), a province that was thoroughly Romanized and called southern Hispania, in the city of Italica (now in municipal area of Santiponce, in the outskirts of Seville), where Hispano-Roman families were paramount. Ethnically Hispanic, and of partial Italian stock himself, Trajan is frequently but misleadingly designated the first provincial emperor.[9]

Trajan was the son of Marcia and Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a prominent senator and general from the gens Ulpia. Marcus Ulpius Traianus the elder served Vespasian in the first Jewish war, commanding the X Fretensis legion.[10] 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 Salonina Matidia. The patria of the Ulpii was Italica, in Spanish Baetica,[8] where their ancestors had settled late in the 3rd century BC. During his tenure in Pannonia, he fought against the Suebic tribes in Germania. Under Nerva's rule, Trajan was one of the most gifted generals.[11]

As a young man, he rose through the ranks of the Roman army, serving in some of the most contentious parts of the Empire's frontier. In 76–77, Trajan's father was Governor of Syria (Legatus pro praetore Syriae), where Trajan himself remained as Tribunus legionis.

In about 86, Trajan's cousin P. Aelius Afer died, leaving his young children Hadrian and Paulina orphans. Trajan and a colleague of his, Publius Acilius Attianus, became co-guardians of the two children, raising them in their respective households.

Around 91, Trajan was nominated as Consul, and brought Apollodorus of Damascus with him to Rome.[12] Around this time also, he married Pompeia Plotina, a noble woman from the settlement at Nîmes, although the marriage ultimately remained childless. It is not clear that Trajan was actively predisposed towards homosexuality, as bisexual activity was common among Roman men of the period, and so his homosexual activities could be interpreted as nothing more than a functional aspect of his class. Nevertheless, Cassius Dio makes reference to them, and his identified lovers included Hadrian and the pages of the imperial household, the actor Pylades, a dancer called Apolaustus, and possibly Licinius Sura and Nerva.[13]

Along the Rhine river, he took part in the Emperor Domitian's wars while under Domitian's successor, Nerva, who was unpopular with the army - he had just been forced by his Praetorian Prefect Casperius Aelianus to execute Domitian's killers[14] - and needed to do something to gain their support. He accomplished this by naming Trajan as his adoptive son and successor in the summer of 97. Actually, there are hints in contemporary literary sources that Trajan's adoption was imposed on Nerva (and Pliny the Younger wrote, that, although an emperor could not be coerced into doing something, if this were the way in which Trajan was raised to power, then it was worth it). In this case, Trajan would be actually an usurper, and the notion of a natural continuity between Nervas's and Trajan's reigns, therefore, an ex post fiction developed later by historians such as Tacitus[15]

According to the Augustan History, it was the future Emperor Hadrian who brought word to Trajan of his adoption.[12] Hadrian was retained on the Rhine frontier by Trajan as a military tribune, becoming privy to the circle of friends and relations with which Trajan hedged himself - among them, the then governor of Germania Inferior , the Spaniard Lucius Licinius Sura, who would become Trajan's chief personal adviser and official friend.[16] As a token of his influence, Sura would later become consul for the third time in 107; some Ancient sources also tell about him having built a bath named after him on the Aventine Hill - or having this bath built by Trajan and then named after him - on either case, a signal honor, the only exception to the established rule that a public building in the Roman Empire could be dedicated only to a member of the imperial family [17] These baths were later expanded by the Third Century emperor Decius as a means of stressing his purported identity with Trajan.[18] Sura is also described as telling Hadrian in 108 about his choice as imperial heir.[19] According to a modern historian, Sura's role as kingmaker and grey eminence was deeply resented by some senators, especially the historian Tacitus, who acknowledged Sura's military and oratory virtues, but at the same time resented his rapacity and devious ways, similar to those of Vespasian's grey eminence Licinius Mucianus.[20]

When Nerva died on 27 January 98, Trajan succeeded without any outward incident. However, the fact that he chose not to hasten towards Rome, but instead to make a lengthy tour of inspection on the Rhine and Danube frontiers hints to the possible fact that his power position in Rome was unsure and that he had to assure himself first of the loyalty of the armies at the front. It is noteworthy that Trajan ordered Prefect Aelianus to attend him in Germany, where he was apparently executed ("put out of the way"),[21] with his post being taken by Attius Suburanus.[22] Trajan's accession, therefore, would qualify more as a successful coup than an orderly succession.[23]

Roman Emperor[edit]

On his entry at Rome, Trajan granted the plebs a direct gift of money. The traditional donative to the troops, however, was reduced by half.[24] There remained the issue of the strained relations between the emperor and the Senate, especially after the supposed bloodiness that had marked Domitian's reign and his dealings with the Curia. By playing on the motif of his feigned reluctance to hold power, Trajan was able to start building a consensus around him in the Senate.[25] His belated ceremonial entry into Rome in 99 was notably low-key, something on which Pliny the Younger elaborated.[26]

Also, by not supporting openly Domitian's preference for equestrian officers,[27] Trajan appeared as conforming to the idea (developed by Pliny) that an emperor derived his legitimacy from his adherence to traditional senatorial morals and traditional hierarchies.[28] Therefore, he could point to the allegedly republican character of his rule.[29] In the inaugural for his third consulship, on 1 January 100, Trajan would exhort the Senate to share with him the care-taking of the Empire - an event later celebrated on a coin.[30] Not that Trajan shared power in any meaningful way with the Senate - something that Pliny admits candidly: "everything depends on the whims of a single man who, in behalf of the common welfare, has taken upon himself all functions and all tasks".[31] One of the most salient traits of his reign was his encroachment on the Senate's sphere of authority, as when he made the senatorial provinces of Achaea and Bythinia into imperial ones in order to deal with the inordinate spending in public works by local magnates.[32] - as well as with general mismanagement of provincial affairs by various proconsuls appointed by the Senate.[33]

However, in the formula developed by Pliny, Trajan was a "good" emperor in that, by himself, he approved or blamed the same things the Senate would have approved or blamed.[34] If actually Trajan was an autocrat, nevertheless his deferential behavior towards his peers qualified him to the role of virtuous monarch.[35] The whole idea was that Trajan wielded autocratic power through moderatio instead of contumacia- moderation instead of insolence.[36] Eventually, Trajan's popularity among his peers was such that the Roman Senate eventually bestowed upon him the honorific of optimus, meaning "the best",[37][38] which appears on coins since 105.[39] This title had to do mostly with Trajan's role as benefactor, as in the case of his returning confiscated property.[40]

That Trajan's ideal role was a conservative one becomes evident from Pliny's works as well as from the orations by Dio of Prusa - mostly 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.[41] 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.[42]

The Correctores: Greek/Roman relations[edit]

Dio, however, as a local magnate with a taste for costly building projects - as well as pretensions of being an important political agent for Rome[43] - was a target for one of Trajan's authoritarian innovations: the setting of imperial correctores to audit civic finances[44] of the technically free Greek cities.[45] This had to do mostly with the overenthusiastic spending in public works as a means to channel ancient rivalries between neighboring cities, and therefore with the fact that junior members of the local oligarchies would feel disinclined to present themselves to fill posts as local magistrates, such positions involving ever increasing personal expenses.[46]

The Roman interest in the cities' finances was mostly intended to assure solvency and therefore ready collection of the Imperial taxes.[47] However, inordinate spending in civic buildings was also a means for the local Greek elites to ascertain a separate cultural identity - something expressed in the contemporary rise of the Second Sophistic; this "cultural patriotism" acted as a form of substitute for the loss of political independence,[48] and as such was shunned by Roman authorities.[49] 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".[50]

The first known corrector was precisely 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 wasn't enough to curb the pretensions of the Greek notables.[51] It is noteworthy that an embassy from Dio's city Prusa was not favorably received by Trajan already upon his accession,[52] and that this had to do with Dio's chief pretension, which was to elevate Prusa to the status of a free city, an "independent" city-state exempt from paying taxes to Rome.[53]

Eventually it fell to Pliny, as imperial governor of Bythinia in 110 AD, to deal with the consequences of the financial mess wrought by Dio and his fellow civic officials.[54]"It's well established that [the cities' finances] are in a state of disorder" - Pliny once wrote to Trajan - blueprints for unnecessary works taken in collusion with local contractors being identified as one of the chief problems.[55] One of the compensatory measures proposed by Pliny expressed a thoroughly Roman conservative position: that it was necessary to lower the minimum age to hold a seat in the local city council, in order to have more younger members of the local oligarchies contributing to civic spending, something that was better than enrolling upstarts from the plebs into the councils.[56] Such an increasing in the number of council members was granted to Dio's Prusa - to the dismay of existing councilmen, who felt their status lowered.[57] A similar situation happened in Claudiopolis, where a public bath was built with the proceedings from the entrance fees paid by "supranumerary" members of the Council, enrolled with Trajan's permission.[58] Also, according to the Digest, it was decreed by Trajan that when a city magistrate promised to achieve a particular public building, it was incumbent on his heirs to complete the building.[59]

However, Trajan ingratiated himself with Greek elite intellectuals by recalling to Rome many (including Dio) who had been exiled by Domitian[60] and returned a great deal of private property that Domitian had confiscated (a process that had been begun by Nerva). He also had good dealings with Plutarch, who, as a notable of Delphi, seems to have been favored by the decisions taken in behalf of his home-place by one of Trajan's legates, who arbitrated a boundary dispute between Delphi and its neighboring cities.[61] However, it was clear for 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 condition.[62] As Pliny expressed in one of his letters at the time, it was official policy that Greek civic elites should be treated according to their status as notionally free, although they should not be put on an equal footing with their Roman rulers.[63] When the city of Apamea complained of an audit in 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. The same fear of any independent local political activity is present in Trajan's forbidding Nicomedia having a corps of firemen ("If people assemble for a common purpose [...] they soon turn it into a political society" Trajan wrote Pliny) as well as by his and Pliny's fears about excessive civic generosities by local notables. such as distribution of money and/or gifts[64]

Nevertheless, as far as the office of corrector was intended as a tool to curb any hint of local notables' independent political activity in the Greek cities,[65] on the other hand, the correctores themselves were all men of the highest social standing entrusted with an exceptional commission, and the post seems to have been conceived partly as a reward for senators who had chosen to make a career solely in the Emperor's behalf. Therefore the post was conceived as a means for "taming" both Greek notables and Roman senators.[66] Also, it must be added that, although Trajan was wary of the civic oligarchies from the Greek cities, he also admitted into the Senate a number of individual Eastern prominent notables already slated for promotion by holding one of the twenty posts open yearly for minor magistrates (the vigintivirate) during Domitian's reign.[67]

Such must be the case of the Galatian notable and "leading member of the Greek community" (according to one inscription) Gaius Julius Severus,who was a descendant of several Hellenistic dynasts and client kings.[68] Severus was the grandfather of the prominent general Gaius Julius Quadratus Bassus , consul in 105.[69] Other prominent Eastern senators included Gaius Julius Alexander Berenicianus, a descendant of Herod the Great, suffect consul in 116.[70]

Trajan created at least 14 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[71] But then Trajan's new Eastern senators were mostly very powerful and very wealthy men with more than local influence[72] and much interconnected by marriage, so that many of them were not altogether "new" to the Senate.[73] On the local level, among the lower section of the Eastern propertied,[74] the alienation of most Greek notables and intellectuals towards Roman rule and the fact that the Romans were seem by most such Greek notables as aliens persisted well after Trajan's reign.[75] It's interesting to note that one of Trajan's senatorial creations from the East, the Athenian Gaius Julius Anthiocus Epiphanes Pholopappus, a member of the Royal House of Commagene , left behind him a funeral monument on the Mouseion Hill that was later disparagingly described by Pausanias as "a monument built to a Syrian man".[76]

Conquest of Dacia[edit]

Main article: Trajan's Dacian Wars

It was as a military commander that Trajan is best known to history, particularly for his conquests in the Near East, but initially for the two wars against Dacia — the reduction to client kingdom (101–102), followed by actual incorporation into the Empire of the trans-Danube border group of Dacia — an area that had troubled Roman thought for over a decade with the unfavourable (and to some, shameful) peace negotiated by Domitian's ministers with the powerful Dacian king Decebalus.[77] According to the provisions of this treaty, Decebalus was acknowledged as rex amicus, that is, client king; nevertheless, in exchange for accepting client status, he received a generous stipend from Rome, as well as being supplied with technical experts.[78] The fact that the Dacian kingdom - unlike the Germanic tribes - was an organized state, that could develop a network of alliances of its own[79] therefore, made strategical considerations one of the motives for Trajan's decision for making war on it.[80]

In the first military campaign c. March–May 101, Trajan launched a victorious campaign into the Dacian Kingdom[81] crossing to the northern bank of the Danube and defeating the Dacian army at Tapae (see Second Battle of Tapae) near the Iron Gates of Transylvania. It was not a decisive victory,[82] however: Trajan's troops were mauled in the encounter and he put off further campaigning for the year to let the troops heal, reinforce, and regroup.[83]

During the following winter, King Decebalus took the initiative by launching a counter-attack across the Danube further downstream, supported by Sarmatian cavalry,[84] forcing Trajan to come to the aid of the troops in his rearguard: the Dacian invasion was repulsed after two battles in Moesia, in Nicopolis ad Istrum and Adamclisi.[85] Trajan's army then advanced further into Dacian territory and forced King Decebalus to submit to him a year later. Decebalus had to renounce claim to some regions of his kingdom, as well as returning all Roman runaways (most of them technical experts) and to surrender all his war machines.

Trajan returned to Rome in triumph and was granted the title Dacicus Maximus. The victory was celebrated by the Tropaeum Traiani.

Although the peace of 102 had restored him to the condition of more or less harmless client king, Decebalus, though, after being left to his own devices, began to rearm, to harbor Roman runaways anew, as well as to pressure his Western neighbors, the Iazyges Sarmatians, into allying themselves to him. In 104, he devised a failed attempt on Trajan's life by mean of some Roman deserters, as well as helding prisoner Trajan's legate Longinus - who eventually poisoned himself while in Decebalus' custody. Finally, in 105, he undertook an invasion against Roman-occupied territory North of the Danube.[86][87]

Prior to the campaign, Trajan had already raised two entirely new legions: II Traiana - which, however, was possibly posted in the East, at the Syrian port of Laodicea - and XXX Ulpia Victrix, which was posted to Brigetio, in Pannonia.[88][89] By 105, the concentration of Roman troops assembled in the middle and lower Danube amounted to fourteen legions (up from nine at 101) - about half of the entire Roman army.[90] Also, with the design of Apollodorus of Damascus, he ordered the building of a massive bridge over the Danube, over which the Roman army was able to cross the Danube swiftly and in numbers, as well to send in reinforcements, even in winter when the river was not frozen enough to bear the passage of a party of soldiers.[91] Trajan also reformed the infrastructure of the Iron Gates region of the Danube. He either commissioned the creation or enlargement of the road along the Iron Gates carved into the side of the gorge.[92] Additionally, Trajan commissioned a canal to be built around the rapids of the Iron Gates. Evidence of this comes from a marble slab discovered near Caput Bovis, the site of a Roman fort. It can be dated to the year 101 and commemorates the building of at least one canal that went from the Kasajna tributary to at least Ducis Pratum, whose embankments were still visible until recently. However, the placement of the slab at Caput Bovis suggests that the canal extended to this point or that there was a second canal downriver of the Kasajna-Ducis Pratum one.[93]

These costly infrastructures completed,[94] in 105 Trajan took to the field again and conquered part of Dacia in 106. After a fierce campaign, which seems to have consisted mostly of static warfare in which the Dacians, devoid of maneuvering room, kept to their network of fortresses, which the Romans sought systematically to storm[95] (see also Second Dacian War), the Romans tightened the grip around Decebalus' stronghold in Sarmizegetusa Regia,[96] which was finally taken and destroyed. Decebalus fled but, rather than being captured by the Roman cavalry, committed suicide, and his severed head, brought to Trajan by the cavalryman Tiberius Claudius Maximus,[97] was later exhibited in Rome on the steps leading up to the Capitol and thrown on the Gemonian stairs.[98]

Trajan built a new city, Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa, on another site (North to hill citadel holding the previous Dacian Capital)[99] although bearing the same full name, Sarmizegetusa. This capital city was conceived as a purely civilian administrative center and was provided the usual Romanized administrative apparatus (decurions aediles, etc.).[100] Urban life in Roman Dacia seems to have been restricted to Roman colonists, mostly military veterans:[101] 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.[102]The main effort of urbanization was concentrated by Trajan at the rearguard, in Moesia, where he created the new cities of Nicopolis ad Istrum and Marcianopolis.A vicus was also created around the Tropaeum Traianum[103]The garrison city of Oescus received the status of Roman colony after its legionary garrison was redeployed.[104]

Not all of Dacia was permanently occupied: the Roman province eventually took the form of a gigantic spearhead stretching from the Danube northwards to the Carpathians, and was intended perhaps as a basis for further expansion in Eastern Europe - which the Romans conceived to be much more "flattened", closer to the ocean, than in reality.[105] Defense of the province was entrusted to a single legion, the XIII Gemina, stationed at Apulum, which functioned as an advanced guard that could, in case of need, strike either West or East at the Sarmatians living at the borders.[106] Therefore, the problem of the indefensible character of the province did not pose itself for Trajan, as the province was conceived more as a sally-base for further attacks.[107]

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)[108] Trajan's Dacian campaigns benefited the Empire's finances through the acquisition of Dacia's gold mines, managed by an imperial procurator of equestrian rank (procurator aurariarum).[109] Agricultural exploitation on the villa model, on the contrary, was poorly developed.[110] Slave labor in the province itself seems to have been relatively undeveloped and epigraphic evidence points to work in the gold mines by mean of labor contracts (locatio conductio rei) and seasonal wage-earning.[111]

The victory was commemorated by the construction of Trajan's Column, which depicts in stone carved basreliefs the Dacian Wars' most important moments.

Annexation of Nabataea[edit]

At about the same time Rabbel II Soter, one of Rome's client kings, died. This event might have prompted the annexation of the Nabataean kingdom, although the manner and the formal reasons for the annexation are unclear. Some epigraphic evidence suggests a military operation, with forces from Syria and Egypt. What is known is that by 107, Roman legions were stationed in the area around Petra and Bostra, 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)[112] was Hegra, over 300 km south-west of Petra.[113] The empire gained what became the province of Arabia Petraea (modern southern Jordan and north west Saudi Arabia).[114]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.[115]

Period of peace: public buildings and festivities[edit]

Tabula Traiana near Trajan's Bridge in Đerdap National Park, Serbia.

The next seven years, Trajan ruled as a civilian emperor, to the same acclaim as before. It was during this time that he corresponded with Pliny the Younger on the subject of how to deal with the Christians of Pontus, telling Pliny to continue but not to use an anonymous list in the interests of justice. He built several new buildings, monuments and roads in Italia and his native Hispania. His magnificent complex in Rome raised to commemorate his victories in Dacia (and largely financed from that campaign's loot)—consisting of a forum, Trajan's Column, and Trajan's Market still stands in Rome today. He was also a prolific builder of triumphal arches, many of which survive, and rebuilder of roads (Via Traiana and Via Traiana Nova).

One notable act of Trajan during this period was the hosting of a three-month gladiatorial festival in the great Colosseum in Rome (the precise date of this festival is unknown). Combining chariot racing, beast fights and close-quarters gladiatorial bloodshed, this gory spectacle reputedly left 11,000 dead (mostly slaves and criminals, not to mention the thousands of ferocious beasts killed alongside them) and attracted a total of five million spectators over the course of the festival. The care bestowed by Trajan on the managing of such public spectacles led the orator Fronto to state later approvingly that Trajan had paid equal attention to entertainments as well as to serious issues. Fronto concluded that "neglect of serious matters can cause greater damage, but neglect of amusements greater discontent".[116]

Devaluation of the currency[edit]

In 107 he devalued the Roman currency. He decreased the silver purity of the denarius from 93.5% to 89% — the actual silver weight dropping from 3.04 grams to 2.88 grams.[117] This devaluation, coupled with the massive amount of gold and silver carried off after Trajan's Dacian Wars, allowed the emperor to mint a larger quantity of denarii than his predecessors. Also, Trajan withdrew from circulation silver denarii minted before the previous devaluation achieved by Nero, something that allows for thinking that Trajan's devaluation had to do with political ends, such as allowing for increased civil and military spending.[118]

The Alimenta[edit]

Another important act was his formalisation of the Alimenta, a welfare program that helped orphans and poor children throughout Italy. It provided general funds, as well as food and subsidized education. The program was supported initially by funds from the Dacian War, and then later by a combination of estate taxes and philanthropy.[119] In general terms, the scheme functioned by means of mortgages on Italian farms (fundi), through which registered landowners received a lump sum from the imperial treasure, being in return engaged to pay yearly a given proportion of the loan to the maintenance of the alimentary fund.[120]

Although the system is well documented in literary sources and contemporary epigraphy, its precise aims are controversial and have generated considerable dispute between modern scholars, especially above its actual aims and scope as a piece of Welfare policy. It is usually assumed that the program was intended to bolster citizen numbers in Italy, following the provisions of Augustus' moral legislation (Lex Julia) favoring procreation on moral grounds - something openly acknowledged by Pliny.[121] Nevertheless, as an aim this was in itself anachronistic, in that it saw the Roman Empire as an hegemony centering on a purely Italian manpower base.[122] This anachronistic stance is confirmed by Pliny, when he wrote that the recipients of the alimenta were supposed to people "the barracks and the tribes" as future soldiers and electors - two roles ill-fitted to the contemporary reality of a Mediterranean hegemony ruled by an autocracy.[123] The fact that the scheme was restricted to Italy points to the fact that it might be conceived as a form of political privilege accorded to the heartland of the Roman Empire.[124] According to the French historian Paul Petit, the alimenta should be seem as part of a set of measures aimed towards the economic recovery of Italy, such as the stricture laid down by Trajan ordering all senators, even when from the provinces, to have at least a third of their landed estates in Italian territory.[125]

Besides, the fact that the scheme was subsidized by means of interest payments on loans made by landowners - and mostly large ones, assumed to be more reliable debtors[126] - actually restricted it to a small percentage of potential welfare recipients (Paul Veyne has assumed that, in the city of Veleia, only one child out of ten was an actual beneficiary) – therefore, the idea, advanced by Moses I. Finley, that the whole scheme was at most a form of random charity, a mere imperial benevolence[127] - and that the fact that these charities seem to be backed by loans to great landowners only (in Veleia, only some 17 square kilometers were mortgaged)[128] restricted the extent of the scheme further. It seems that the mortgage scheme was simply a form of making local notables to participate in imperial benevolence in a lesser role.[129] It's possible that the scheme was, to some extent, a forced loan, something that tied unwillingly landowners to the imperial fisc in order to make then supply some funds to civic expenses.[130] Oppositely, a senator such as Pliny had endowed his city of Comum a perpetual right to an annual charge (vectigal) of thirty thousand sestertii on one of his estates, allowing for the maintenance of his, Pliny's, private charitable foundation.[131] The fact that the alimenta scheme was developed during and after the Dacian Wars, and followed two distributions of money to the population of Rome (congiaria) during Dacian triumphs, points towards the purely charitable character of the scheme.[132]

War against Parthia[edit]

Aureus issued by Trajan to celebrate the conquest of Parthia.
The extent of the Roman Empire under Trajan (117).[133]

In 113, he embarked on his last campaign, provoked by Parthia's decision to put an unacceptable king on the throne of Armenia, a kingdom over which the two great empires had shared hegemony since the time of Nero some fifty years earlier.

As the surviving literary accounts of Trajan's Parthian War are fragmentary and scattered,[134] it's difficult to assign them a proper context, something that has led an everlasting controversy about its precise happenings and ultimate aims. Many modern historians consider that Trajan's decision to wage war against Parthia might have had economic motives: after Trajan's annexation of Arabia, he built a new road, Via Traiana Nova, that went from Bostra to Aila on the Red Sea.[135] That meant that Charax on the Persian Gulf was the sole remaining Western terminus of the Indian trade route outside direct Roman control,[136] and such Roman 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.[137]

That Charax traded with the Roman Empire, there can be no doubt, as its actual connections with merchants from Palmyra at the period are well documented in contemporary Palmyrene epigraph, which tells of various Palmyrene citizens honored for holding office in Charax.[138] Also, Charax's rulers domains at the time possibly included the Bahrain islands (where a Palmyrene citizen held office, shortly after Trajan's death, as satrap[139]—but then, the appointment was made by a Parthian king of Charax[140]) something which offered the possibility of extending Roman hegemony into the Persian Gulf itself.[141] The rationale behind Trajan's campaign, in this case, would be 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.[142]

In his Dacian conquests, Trajan had already resorted to Syrian auxiliary units, whose veterans, alongside with Syrian traders, had an important role in the subsequent colonization of Dacia.[143] He had recruited Palmyrene units into his army, including a camel unit[144]—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 were to interrupt the flux of trade from the Persian Gulf and/or foment trouble at the Roman frontier on the Danube.[145]

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 sources—trade by land through Parthia seems to have been unhampered by Parthian authorities and left solely to the devices of private enterprise.[146] 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.[147] As in the case of the alimenta, scholars like Moses Finley and Paul Veyne have considered the whole idea of a foreign trade "policy" behind Trajan's war anachronistic: according to them, the sole Roman concern with the Far Eastern luxuries trade—besides collecting toll taxes and customs[148]—was moral and involved frowning upon the "softness" of luxuries, but no economic policy.[149] In his controversial book on the Ancient economy, Finley considers Trajan's "badly miscalculated and expensive assault on Parthia" to be an example of Roman "commercial wars" that had in common the fact of existing only in the books of modern historians.[150]

The alternative view is to see the campaign as triggered by the lure of territorial annexation and prestige,[150] the sole motive ascribed by Cassius Dio.[151] 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.[152] Also, there was the propaganda value of an Eastern conquest that would emulate, in Roman fashion, those of Alexander the Great.[153] The fact that emissaries from the Kushan Empire might have attended to the commemorative ceremonies for the Dacian War may have kindled in some Greco-Roman intellectuals like Plutarch—who wrote about only 70,000 Roman soldiers being necessary to a conquest of India—as well as in Trajan's closer associates, speculative dreams about the booty to be obtained by reproducing Macedonian Eastern conquests.[154] Also, it's possible that the attachment of Trajan to an expansionist policy was supported by a powerful circle of conservative, war hawk senators from Hispania, among them Licinius Sura.[155] 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 to coincide.[156]

Finally, there are other modern historians who think that Trajan's original aims were purely military and quite modest: to assure a more defensible Eastern frontier for the Roman Empire, crossing across Northern Mesopotamia along the course of the Khabur River in order to offer cover to a Roman Armenia.[157]

The campaign was carefully planned in advance: ten legions were concentrated in the Eastern theater; 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.[158] The intended campaign, therefore, was immensely costly from its very beginning.[159]

Trajan marched first on Armenia, deposed the Parthian-appointed king (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[160]) 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 Sea — a process that kept him busy until the end of 114.[161] At the same time, a Roman column under the legate Lusius Quietus—an outstanding cavalry general[162] who had signaled himself during the Dacian Wars by commanding a unit from his native Mauretania[163]—crossed the Araxes river from Armenia into Media Atropatene and the land of the Mardians (present-day Ghilan).[164] It's possible that Quietus' campaign had as its goal the extending of the newer, more defensible Roman border eastwards towards the Caspian Sea and northwards at the foothills of the Caucasus.[165]

The chronology of subsequent events is uncertain, but it's 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.[166] 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,[167] whose apparent result was to establish a Roman presence into the core Parthian hegemony, with Trajan taking the Northern Mesopotamian cities of Nisibis and Batnae and organizing a province of Mesopotamia, including the Kingdom of Osrhoene—where King Abgaros VII submitted to Trajan publicly[168]—as a Roman protectorate.[169] This process seems to have been completed in the beginning of 116, when coins were issued announcing that Armenia and Mesopotamia had been put under the authority of the Roman people.[170] The area between the Khabur River and the mountains around Singara seems to have been considered as the new frontier, and as such received a road surrounded by fortresses.[171]

Sestertius issued by the Senate (SC, Senatus Consultus) during 116 to commemorate Trajan's Parthian victories. Obverse: bust of Trajan, with laurel crown. Caption: Trajan's titulature Reverse: Trajan standing between prostate allegories of Armenia (crowned with a tiara) and the Rivers Tigris & Euphrates. Caption: "Armenia & Mesopotamia put under the authority of the Roman People"
Bronze bust of Trajan in his later years, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, Ankara, Turkey

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 of 115, M. Pedo Virgilianus[172]—Trajan took again 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 "preemptive 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.[173] It's 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.[174]

As far as the sources allows a description of this campaign, it seems that one Roman division crossed the Tigris into Adiabene, sweeping South and capturing Adenystrae; a second followed the river South, capturing Babylon; while Trajan himself sailed down the Euphrates from Dura-Europos—where a triumphal arch was erected in his honour—through 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 latter river, capturing Seleucia and finally the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon.[175]

He continued southward to the Persian Gulf, when, after escaping with his fleet a tidal bore on the Tigris,[176] he received the submission of Athambelus, the ruler of Charax, whence he declared Babylon a new province of the Empire, had his statue erected on the shore of the Persian Gulf,[177] and 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.[178] 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.[179] Another hypothesis is that the rulers of Charax had expansionist designs on Parthian Babylon and that was their rationale for alliance with Trajan.[180] The Parthian summer capital of Susa was apparently also occupied by the Romans.[181]

According to late literary sources (not backed by numismatic or inscriptional evidence) a province of Assyria was also proclaimed,[182] apparently covering the territory of Adiabene, as well as some measures seem to have been considered about the fiscal administration of the Indian trade—or simply about the payment of customs (portoria) on goods traded on the Euphrates & Tigris[183] It's 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.[184]

According to some modern historians, Trajan might have busied himself during his stay on the Persian Gulf to order raids on the Parthian coasts,[185] as well as probing into extending Roman suzerainty over the mountaineer tribes holding the passes across the Zagros Mountains into the Iranian Plateau eastward, as well as establishing some sort of direct contact between Rome and the Kushan Empire.[186] No attempt was made to expand into the Iranian Plateau itself, where the Roman army, with its relative weakness in cavalry, would be at a disadvantage.[187]

A coin of Trajan, found together with coins of the Kushan ruler Kanishka, at the Ahin Posh Buddhist Monastery, Afghanistan

However, as Trajan left the Persian Gulf for Babylon — where he intended to offer sacrifice to Alexander in the house where he had died in 323 BC.[178] — a sudden outburst of Parthian resistance, led by a nephew of the Parthian king, Sanatrukes, who had retained a cavalry force, possibly strengthened by the addition of Saka archers,[188] imperilled Roman positions in Mesopotamia and Armenia, something Trajan sought to deal with by forsaking direct Roman rule in Parthia proper, at least partially.[189]

Trajan sent two armies towards Northern Mesopotamia: the first, under Lusius Quietus, recovered Nisibis and Edessa from the rebels, probably having king Abgarus deposed and killed in the process.[176][189] while a second, under Appius Maximus Santra (probably a governor of Macedonia), was defeated, with Santra being killed.[190] Later in 116, Trajan defeated—assisted by Quietus and other two legates, M. Erucius Clarus and Tiberius Julius Alexander Julianus[191][192]—a Parthian army in a battle where Sanatrukes was killed. After re-taking and burning Seleucia, Trajan then formally deposed the Parthian king Osroes I and put his own puppet ruler Parthamaspates on the throne. This event was commemorated in a coin so as to be presented as the reduction of Parthia to client kingdom status: "a king is given to the Parthians", Rex Parthis Data.[193] That done, Trajan retreated North in order to retain what he could of the new provinces of Armenia—where he had already accepted an armistice in exchange for surrendering part of the territory to Sanatrukes' son Vologeses[194]—and Mesopotamia.[189]

Bust of Trajan, Glyptothek, Munich

It was at this point that Trajan's health started to fail him. The fortress city of Hatra, on the Tigris in his rear, continued to hold out against repeated Roman assaults. He was personally present at the siege and it is possible that he suffered a heat stroke while in the blazing heat.[189]

Shortly afterwards, the Jews inside the Eastern Roman Empire, in Egypt, Cyprus and Cyrene—this last province being probably the original trouble hotspot—rose up in what probably was an outburst of religious rebellion against the local pagans, this widespread rebellion being afterwards named the Kitos War.[195] Another rebellion flared up among the Jewish communities of Northern Mesopotamia, probably part of a general reaction against Roman occupation.[196] Trajan was forced to withdraw his army in order to put down the revolts. Trajan saw it 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 had been made governor of Judaea and might have had to deal earlier with some kind of Jewish unrest in the province.[197] Quietus discharged his commission successfully, so much that the war was afterward named after him—Kitus being a corruption of Quietus.[198]

Quietus was promised a consulate[199] 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 other three former consuls were sentenced to death after being tried on a vague charge of conspiracy by the (secret) court of the Praetorian Prefect Attianus.[200] It has been theorized that Quietus and his colleagues were executed on Hadrian's direct orders, for fear of their popular standing with the army and their close connections to Trajan.[201][202]

Opposedly, 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,[203] retained Hadrian's trust, eventually becoming his Praetorian Prefect. Be as it is, Hadrian could not admit for the continued existence of a group of independent-minded senatorial generals inherited from his predecessor alongside him.[204]As all four consulars were senators of the highest standing and as such generally regarded as able to take imperial power (capaces imperii) Hadrian seems to have decided on a preemptive strike against these prospective rivals.[205]

Death and succession[edit]

The Alcántara Bridge, widely hailed as a masterpiece of Roman engineering

Early in 117, Trajan grew ill and set out to sail back to Italy. His health declined throughout the spring and summer of 117, something publicly acknowledged by the fact that a bronze bust displayed at the time in the public baths of Ancyra showed him clearly aged and emaciated.[206] By the time he had reached Selinus in Cilicia which was afterwards called Trajanopolis, he suddenly died from edema on 8 August. Some say that he had adopted Hadrian as his successor, but others that it was his wife Pompeia Plotina who assured the succession to Hadrian by keeping his death secret and afterwards hiring someone to impersonate Trajan by speaking with a tired voice behind a curtain, well after Trajan had died. Dio, who tells this narrative, offers his father - the then governor of Cilicia Apronianus - as a source, and therefore his narrative is possibly grounded on contemporary rumor - or maybe on common Roman displeasure at an empress meddling in political affairs.[207]

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;[208] he had pursued a senatorial career without particular distinction, 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),[209] received no post after his 108 consulate,[210] with no other honors than being made Archon eponymos for Athens in 111/112,[211] and had probably not taken part in the Parthian War. The literary sources tell that Trajan toyed with designing others as heir, such as the jurist Neratius Priscus.[212] However, Hadrian was eventually entrusted with the governorship of Syria at the time of Trajan's death, was Trajan's cousin and married to Trajan's grandniece[213] - and that made him as good as heir designate.[214] Besides, Hadrian was born in Hispania and seems to have been well connected with the powerful group of Spanish senators influential at Trajan's court through his ties to Plotina and the Prefect Attianus.[215] The fact that Hadrian during his reign didn't pursue Trajan's senatorial policy can account for the "crass hostility" shown him by literary sources.[216]

Aware that the Parthian campaign was an enormous setback, and that it revealed that the Roman Empire had no means for an ambitious program of conquests,[217] Hadrian's first act as emperor was to abandon - outwardly out of his own free will[218] - the distant and indefensible Mesopotamia and to restore Armenia — as well as Osrhoene – to the Parthian hegemony under Roman suzerainty.[183] However, all the other territories conquered by Trajan were retained. Roman friendship ties with Charax (also known by the name of Mesene) were also retained - although it's debatable that this had to do more with trade concessions than with common Roman policy of exploiting dissensions amid the Empire's neighbors.[219] Trajan's ashes were laid to rest underneath Trajan's column, the monument commemorating his success.

Building activities[edit]

Trajan was a prolific builder in Rome and the provinces, and many of his buildings were erected by the gifted architect Apollodorus of Damascus. Notable structures include Trajan's Column, Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Bridge, Alcántara Bridge, the road and canal around the Iron Gates (see conquest of Dacia), and possibly the Alconétar Bridge. Some historians also attribute the construction of the Babylon fortress in Egypt to Trajan,[220] the remains of the fort is what is now known as the Church of Mar Girgis and its surrounding buildings. In order to build his forum and the adjacent brick market that also held his name Trajan had vast areas of the surrounding hillsides leveled.

Trajan's legacy[edit]

Unlike many lauded rulers in history, Trajan's reputation has survived undiminished for nearly nineteen centuries.

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.[221] The Christianisation of Rome resulted in further embellishment of his legend: it was commonly said in medieval times that Pope Gregory I, through divine intercession, resurrected Trajan from the dead and baptized him into the Christian faith. An account of this features in the Golden Legend.

Theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, discussed Trajan as an example of a virtuous pagan. In the Divine Comedy, Dante, following this legend, sees the spirit of Trajan in the Heaven of Jupiter with other historical and mythological persons noted for their justice. Also a mural of Trajan stopping to provide justice for a poor widow is present in the first terrace of Purgatory as a lesson to those who are purged for being proud.

He also features in Piers Plowman. An episode, referred to as the justice of Trajan was reflected in several art works.

In the 18th century King Charles III of Spain commissioned Anton Raphael Mengs to paint The Triumph of Trajan on the ceiling of the banqueting-hall of the Royal Palace of Madrid – considered among the best work of this artist.

It was only during the Enlightenment that this legacy began to be somewhat contested: Edward Gibbon expressed doubts about the militarized character of Trajan's reign in opposition to the "moderate" practice of his immediate successors.[222] Mommsen adopted a divided stance towards Trajan, at some point of his posthumously published lectures even speaking about his "vainglory" (Scheinglorie).[223]

"Traian" is used as a male first name in present-day Romania and Macedonia.

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]

  • (1) = 1st spouse
  • (2) = 2nd spouse (not shown)
  • (3) = 3rd spouse
  • Darker purple indicates Emperor of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty; lighter purple indicates designated imperial heir of said dynasty who never reigned
  • dashed lines indicate adoption; dotted lines indicate love affairs/unmarried relationships
  • small caps = posthumously deified (Augusti, Augustae, or other)

Q. Marcius Barea Soranus Q. Marcius Barea Sura Antonia Furnilla M. Cocceius Nerva Sergia Plautilla P. Aelius Hadrianus
(r. 79-81)
Marcia Furnilla Marcia Trajanus Pater Nerva
(r. 96–98)
Ulpia Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus
Julia Flavia Marciana C. Salonius Matidius Trajan
(r. 98–117)
Plotina P. Acilius Attianus P. Aelius Afer Paulina Major L. Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Mindius
Libo Rupilius Frugi
Matidia L. Vibius Sabinus
Antinous Hadrian (r. 117–138) Paulina
Matidia Minor Suetonius Sabina
Annius Verus
C. Fuscus Salinator I Julia Serviana Paulina
Rupilia Faustina Boionia Procilla Cn. Arrius Antoninus
L. Caesennius Paetus L. Ceionius Commodus Appia Severa C. Fuscus Salinator II
Arria Antonia Arria Fadilla T. Aurelius Fulvus
L. Caesennius Antoninus Lucius
Fundania Plautia Ignota Plautia C. Avidius
Antoninus Pius
(r. 138–161)
M. Annius Verus Domitia Lucilla Fundania M. Annius Libo FAUSTINA Lucius Aelius
Avidia Plautia
(r. 161–180)
FAUSTINA Minor C. Avidius Cassius Aurelia Fadilla LUCIUS VERUS
(r. 161–169)
Ceionia Fabia Plautius Quintillus Q. Servilius Pudens Ceionia Plautia
Cornificia Minor M. Petronius Sura COMMODUS
(r. 177–192)
Fadilla M. Annius Verus Caesar Ti. Claudius Pompeianus (2) Lucilla M. Plautius Quintillus Junius Licinius Balbus Servilia Ceionia
Petronius Antoninus L. Aurelius Agaclytus
Aurelia Sabina L. Antistius Burrus
Plautius Quintillus Plautia Servilla C. Furius Sabinus Timesitheus Antonia Gordiana Junius Licinius Balbus
Furia Sabina Tranquillina GORDIAN III
(r. 238-244)


  1. ^ Trajan's regal name had an equivalent English meaning of "Commander Caesar Nerva Trajan, son of the Divine Nerva, the Emperor"
  2. ^ Julian Bennett, Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2nd Edition, Routledge 2000, 12.
  3. ^ Benett, Julian (1997). Trajan. Optimus Princeps. Routledge, pp. 30–31
  4. ^ Nelson, Eric (2002). Idiots guide to the Roman Empire. Alpha Books. pp. 207–209. ISBN 0-02-864151-5. 
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  8. ^ a b Syme, Tacitus, 30–44; PIR Vlpivs 575
  9. ^ Arnold Blumberg, Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers who Made History, 1995, Greenwood Publishing Group, p.315: "Trajan is frequently but misleadingly designated the first provincial emperor, because the Ulpii were from Baetica (southern Spain). The family, resident in Spain for some time, originated in Italian Tuder, not far from the Flavian home of Reate. The emperor's father, M. Ulpius Traianus, was an early adherent of Vespasian and perhaps the old family friend. This Trajan evidently married a Marcia (her name is inferred from that of their daughter Marciana) whose family owned brickyards in the vicinity of Ameria, near both Reate and Tuder. She was possibly an older sister of Marcia Furnilla, second wife of Vespasian's son Titus. Further, Ulpia, sister of the senior Trajan, was a grandmother of Hadrian. In other words, the emperor Trajan was succeeded in 117 by his cousin, member of another Italian family resident in Baetica."
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  31. '^ Letters III, 20, 12, quoted by Veyne, L' Empire Gréco-Romain, 38, footnote 108
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  33. ^ M.S. Gsell, "Étude sur le rôle politique du Sénat Romain à l'époque de Trajan" , Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire, 1887, V.7.7, available at [2]. Accessed January 20, 2015
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  82. ^ Patrick Le Roux, Le Haut-Empire Romain en Occident, d'Auguste aux Sévères. Paris: Seuil, 1998, ISBN 2-02-025932-X , page 73
  83. ^ "De Imperatoribus Romanis". An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-11-08. Although the Dacians had been defeated, the emperor postponed the final siege for the conquering of Sarmizegetuza because his armies needed reorganization. Trajan imposed on the Dacians very hard peace conditions: Decebalus had to renounce claim to some regions of his kingdom, including Banat, Tara Hategului, Oltenia, and Muntenia in the area south-west of Transylvania. He had also to surrender all the Roman deserters and all his war machines. At Rome, Trajan was received as a winner and he took the name of Dacicus, a title that appears on his coinage of this period. At the beginning of the year 103 A.D., there were minted coins with the inscription: IMP NERVA TRAIANVS AVG GER DACICVS. 
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  89. ^ In the absence of literary references, however, the positioning of the new legions is conjectural: some scholars think that Legio II Traiana Fortis was originally stationed on the Lower Danube and participated in the Second Dacian War, being only later deployed to the East:cf. Ritterling, E., 1925. RE XII. Col. 1485. Syme, R., 1971. Danubian Papers, Bucharest. Page 106. Strobel, K., 1984. "Untersuchungen zu den Dakerkriegen Trajans. Studien zur Geschichte des mittleren und unteren Donauraumes in der Hohen Kaiserzeit", Antiquitas I 33. Bonn. Page 98. Strobel, K., 2010. Kaiser Traian. Eine Epoche der Weltgeschichte, Verlag Friedrich Pustet. Regensburg. Page 254-255, 265, 299, 364. Urloiu, R-L., AGAIN ON LEGIO II TRAIANA FORTIS,. History and Civilization. EUBSR 2013 International Conference, Volume 2.
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  156. ^ Dexter Hoyos, ed., A Companion to Roman Imperialism. Leiden: Brill, 2012, ISBN 978-90-04-23593-9 , page 262
  157. ^ Luttvak, Grand Strategy, 108
  158. ^ Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C. – A.D. 337. Harvard University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-674-77886-3 , page 103
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  162. ^ Hermann Bengtson, Römische Geschichte: Republik und Kaiserzeit bis 284 n. Chr. Munich: Beck, 2001, ISBN 3-406-02505-6 , page 289
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  165. ^ S.J. De Laet, review of Lepper, Trajan's Parthian War. L'Antiquité Classique, 18-2, 1949, pages 487–489
  166. ^ Sheldon, Rose Mary (2010). Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand. London: Vallentine Mitchell. p. 133. 
  167. ^ Bennett, 195
  168. ^ Maurice Sartre,The Middle East Under Rome. Harvard University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-674-01683-1, page 146. According to Cassius Dio, the deal between Trajan and Abgaros was sealed by the king's son offering himself as Trajan's paramour—Bennett, 199
  169. ^ Bennett, 199
  170. ^ Bennett, Trajan, 196; Christol & Nony, Rome,171
  171. ^ Petit, Pax Romana, 44
  172. ^ Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C. – A.D. 337. Harvard University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-674-77886-3, page 101; Anthony R Birley, Hadrian: The Restless Emperor, Routledge, 2013, page 71
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  174. ^ Petit, Pax Romana, 45
  175. ^ Bennett, Trajan, 197/199; Anthony R Birley, Hadrian: The Restless Emperor. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, ISBN 0-415-16544-X , page 72
  176. ^ a b Longden, "Notes on the Parthian Campaigns", 8
  177. ^ T. Olajos, "Le monument du triomphe de Trajan en Parthie. Quelques renseignements inobservés (Jean d'Ephèse, Anthologie Grecque XVI 72)". Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 1981, vol. 29, no1-4, pp. 379–383. The statue was torn down by Sassanids in 571/572
  178. ^ a b Bennett, Trajan, 199
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  180. ^ E. J. Keall, Parthian Nippur and Vologases' Southern Strategy: A Hypothesis. Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 95, No. 4 (Oct. – Dec., 1975), pp. 620–632
  181. ^ George Rawlinson, Parthia. New York: Cosimo, 2007, ISBN 978-1-60206-136-1 , page 310
  182. ^ Christopher S. Mackay, Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History.Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-80918-5 , page 227
  183. ^ a b Luttvak, Grand Strategy, 110; Peter Edwell, Between Rome and Persia, 21
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  186. ^ Choisnel, 164/165
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  189. ^ a b c d Bennett, Trajan, 200
  190. ^ Julián González, ed. , Trajano Emperador De Roma, 216
  191. ^ The last two were made consuls (suffecti) for the year 117
  192. ^ González, 216
  193. ^ Theodor Mommsen, A History of Rome Under the Emperors. London: Routledge, 1999, page 289
  194. ^ Bennett, Trajan,203
  195. ^ James J. Bloom, The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66–135: A Military Analysis. McFarland, 2010, page 191
  196. ^ Bloom, 194
  197. ^ A precise description of events in Judaea at the time being impossible, due to the non-historical character of the Jewish (rabbinic) sources, and the silence of the non-Jewish ones: William David Davies,Louis Finkelstein,Steven T. Katz, eds., The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman–Rabbinic Period.Cambridge U. Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-521-77248-8 ,page 100
  198. ^ Bloom, 190
  199. ^ He was already consul in absentia: Tanja Gawlich, Der Aufstand der jüdischen Diaspora unter Traian. GRIN Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-640-32753-9, page 11
  200. ^ Margret Fell, ed., Erziehung, Bildung, Recht. Berlim: Dunker & Hunblot, 1994, ISBN 3-428-08069-6 , page 448
  201. ^ Histoire des Juifs, Troisième période, I – Chapitre III – Soulèvement des Judéens sous Trajan et Adrien
  202. ^ Bennett, Trajan, 203
  203. ^ Bloom, 195/196
  204. ^ Hoyos, A Companion to Roman Imperialism, 325
  205. ^ Gabriele Marasco, ed., Political Autobiographies and Memoirs in Antiquity: A Brill Companion. Leiden: Brill, 2011, ISBN 978-90-04-18299-8 , page 377
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  208. ^ Birley,50 & 52
  209. ^ Birley, 52
  210. ^ Françoise Des Boscs-Plateaux, Un parti hispanique à Rome?, 306
  211. ^ Birley, 64
  212. ^ Birley, 50
  213. ^ Christopher S. Mackay, Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History. Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-80918-5 , page 229
  214. ^ Petit, Pax Romana, 53
  215. ^ Françoise Des Boscs-Plateaux, Un parti hispanique à Rome?, 307
  216. ^ Garzetti, From Tiberius to the Antonines, 379
  217. ^ Christol & Nony, 171
  218. ^ According to Historia Augusta, Hadrian declared that he was following the precedent set by Cato the Elder towards the Macedonians, who "were to be set free because they could not be protected" - something Birley sees as an unconvincing precedent: Birley, 78
  219. ^ D. S. Potter, The Inscriptions on the Bronze Herakles from Mesene: Vologeses IV's War with Rome and the Date of Tacitus' "Annales". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik Bd. 88, (1991), pp. 277-290; Young, Rome's Eastern Trade, 132
  220. ^ Butler, A. J. (1914). Babylon of Egypt: A study in the history of Old Cairo. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 5. 
  221. ^ Dio Cassius, Epitome of Book 6; 21.2–3
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  223. ^ Mommsen, A History of Rome Under the Emperors. London: Routledge, 2005, page 488

References and further reading[edit]

  • Ancel, R. Manning. "Soldiers." Military Heritage. December 2001. Volume 3, No. 3: 12, 14, 16, 20 (Trajan, Emperor of Rome).
  • Bennett, J. Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2nd Edition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2001, ISBN 0-253-21435-1
  • Bowersock, G.W. Roman Arabia, Harvard University Press, 1983
  • Christol, M. & Nony, N. Rome et son Empire, Paris: Hachette, 2003, ISBN 2-01-145542-1
  • Finley, M.I. The Ancient Economy, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999, ISBN 0-520-21946-5
  • 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; ISBN 0-306-80304-6: 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 ISBN 0-198-14891-7 OCLC 20091873
  • Kennedy, D. The Roman Army in Jordan, Revised Edition, Council for British Research in the Levant, 2004. ISBN 0-953-91021-0 OCLC 59267318
  • Lepper, F.A. Trajan's Parthian War. London: Oxford University Press, 1948. OCLC 2898605 Also available online.
  • Luttvak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century A.D. to the Third, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979, ISBN 0-8018-2158-4
  • (French) Minaud, Gérard, Les vies de 12 femmes d’empereur romain - Devoirs, Intrigues & Voluptés , Paris, L’Harmattan, 2012, ch. 6, La vie de Plotine, femme de Trajan, p. 147-168. ISBN 978-2-336-00291-0.
  • Wildfeuer, C.R.H. Trajan, Lion of Rome: the Untold Story of Rome's Greatest Emperor, Aquifer Publishing, 2009. ISBN 0-981-84606-8 OCLC 496004778 Historical fiction.

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary material[edit]

External links[edit]

Born: 18 September 53 Died: 8 August 117
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Roman Emperor
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Marcus Cocceius Nerva
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Manius Acilius Glabrio
Succeeded by
Quintus Volusius Saturninus
Preceded by
Marcus Cocceius Nerva
Lucius Verginius Rufus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Nerva
Succeeded by
Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus
Quintus Sosius Senecio
Preceded by
Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus
Quintus Sosius Senecio
Consul of the Roman Empire
Succeeded by
Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Licinius Sura
Preceded by
Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Licinius Sura
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Marcus Laberius Maximus
Succeeded by
Sextus Attius Suburanus Aemilianus
Marcus Asinius Marcellus
Preceded by
Gaius Calpurnius Piso
Marcus Vettius Bolanus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Titus Sextius Cornelius Africanus
Succeeded by
Lucius Publilius Celsus
Gaius Clodius Crispinus