Emperor Trajan

Early Life

Born ‘Marcus Ulpius Traianus’ on 18 September 53AD.

Trajan’s father was a successful general and senator and Trajan followed in his father’s footsteps. At a young age he served in the Roman army and rose through the ranks.

In 76AD – 77AD Trajan served as ‘Tribunis legionis’ (Military Tribune) in Syria.

Around 86AD Trajan became co-guardian of future emperor Hadrian following the death of Hadrian’s father, and Hadrian learnt a lot under Trajan’s parentage.

In around 91AD Trajan was nominated for Consul. At around the same time he married Pompeia Plotina, who was to outlive him; however the marriage did not produce any children.

Trajan fought alongside the current emperor Nerva in the Domitian wars, and he was himself adopted by Nerva as his son.

Emperor Nerva died in 98AD and was succeeded by Trajan.

Emperor 98AD – 117AD

Trajan was not in Rome when he was declared emperor and this declaration did not hasten his return. He chose instead to tour the Rhine and Danube frontiers. He did not return to Rome until 99AD.

When he returned to Rome he chose to do so on foot. He entered the city, embraced senators and walked and talked amongst his people.

Trajan had a good relationship with the senate and he embarked early into his rule, a major public works project. New buildings were erected, roads, bridges and aqueducts were built. He also set up funds to help the children of Rome.

Cassius Dio wrote ‘Trajan was most conspicuous for his justice, for his bravery and for the simplicity of his habits’.

He is known as one of the ‘Five Good Emperors’.

Trajan’s passion was war and he spent much of his reign away on battle. In 101AD he fought a campaign in the Dacian kingdom and defeated them at Tapae. The war continued until 102AD whereby the Dacian king Decebalus was defeated and agreed to keep the peace.

Trajan held a three-month series of gladiatorial games to celebrate this success.

Trajan was to fight Decebalus again in 105AD. Decebalus had spent the intervening years rebuilding his armies. Again he was defeated and Decebalus committed suicide. Following this Trajan returned to Rome in 106AD.

In 114AD Trajan went to war against the Parthians. He was not to return to Rome again.

He died on 9 August 117AD in Selinus (Turkey) and on his deathbed he adopted Hadrian as his successor, although there is speculation that his wife Pompeia Plotina forged documents to secure the succession to Hadrian as Trajan died before naming his successor.

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