Trajan Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus (born September 18, 53, Italica Santiponce, d. 8 or 9 August 117 Selinus Cilicia), Emperor Roman between 98-117, was the second of the so-called five good emperors of the Roman Empire and one of its most important. During his reign, the empire reached its maximum territorial reach.
His full title was IMPERATOR • CAESAR • DIVI • NERVES • FILIVS • MARCVS • VLPIVS • NERVA • TRAIANVS • OPTIMVS • AVGVSTVS • FORTISSIMVS • PRINCEPS • GERMANICS • DACICVS • PARTHICVS • MAXIMVS.
Trajan was the son of Marcus Ulpius Traianus, a prominent senator and general of a famous Roman family (Ulpii). The family settled in the province of Baetica in Spain today, sometime towards the end of the Second Punic War, and Trajan was only one of the members of the Ulpii family, a family that continued after his death.
He was born on September 18, 53, in the town of Italica, in the Roman province of Hispania. Young, he climbed into the hierarchy of the Roman army, fighting in the most dangerous area of the Roman Empire in the Rhine. He took part in Domitian wars against the Germans and was one of the greatest military commanders of the empire when Domitian was killed in 96.
His renown served during Domitian's successor, Nerva, who was unpopular in the army and needed someone to get the legions back. He obtained this support by appointing Traian as his adoptive son and successor in autumn 97 (October 27). The future Emperor Hadrian brought Traian's news of his adoption, thus obtaining Trajan's goodwill for the rest of his life. At the death of Nerva on January 27, 98, Trajan succeeded him without any incident, being respected by his subjects. Thus the first non-Italian novel became emperor.
The new emperor was welcomed by the people of Rome with great enthusiasm, which he justified through peaceful and bloodless government, unlike Domitian's reign. He freed Roman citizens who had been imprisoned by Domitian and returned property confiscated. His popularity became so great that the Roman Senate gave Traian the title of optimus, that is "the best".
Traian - Dacicus Maximus
But Trajan remained in history for his struggles. In 101, he launched an expedition to the Dacia kingdom, north of the Danube, and forced King Decebal to capitulate a year later, after Trajan successfully besieged the Sarmizegetusa capital. Trajan returned to Rome successfully crowned and received the title of Dacicus Maximus.
However, shortly after, Decebal brought the Roman Empire's problems again, trying to persuade the neighboring North Danubian kingdoms to join him. Trajan decides to attack again, his engineers building a huge bridge over the Danube, and they manage to conquer Dacia in 106, the Dacian capital, Sarmizegetusa being destroyed. Decebal committed suicide, and in place of the destroyed capital, Traian built a new city called Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa. He decided to colonize Dacia with the Romans and annexed it as a Roman province.
In the footsteps of Alexander the Great
At about the same time, King Nabatea died. He left his kingdom to Trajan, while Dacia was conquered, and the empire gained what would become the province of Arabia Petrea (southern Jordan today and a small part of Saudi Arabia).
For the next seven years, Trajan ruled as a civil emperor. During this time, he corresponded with Pliny on the subject of Christians, saying in principle that he would leave them alone for as long as they did not practice religion in public. He built several new buildings, monuments and roads in Italy and his native Iberia. The Magnificent Forum, which houses the Trajan's Column, both of which were erected to commemorate the victories of Dacia, remains in Rome until today, as is the Mérida triumphal arch.
In 113 he embarked on his last campaign, being challenged by the Party's decision to put a king on the throne of Armenia, a kingdom over which the two great empires have divided hegemony since Nero's time. Trajan came first in Armenia, dethroned the existing king, and annexed the kingdom to the Roman Empire. Then he turned his attention to the south, to the Partia, conquering Babylon, Seleucia, and finally Ctesiphon, the capital of Armenia, in 116. He continued to go southward to the Persian Gulf, declared Mesopotamia as a new province of the empire, and wept that he is too old to trace Alexander the Great.
And yet it did not stop here. Later, in 116, he passed the Khuzestan mountains of Persia and conquered the great city of Susa. He dethroned the Chrosoes Party King and stepped on his throne with his own puppet, Parthamaspates. The Roman Empire will never advance so far in the East.
At this time the fate of the war as well as his own health betrayed him. With the fortress town of Hatra on the Tiger River behind him, he continued to resist Roman attacks. The Jews revolted, as was the population of Mesopotamia. Traian was thus forced to withdraw his armies to suppress the riots. Trajan saw this as a minor detail, but he did not manage to lead an army on the battlefield.
Statue of Trajan in London, UK
Death and reputation
Late in 116, when he was resting in the Cilicia province and planning another war against the Pariah, Traian got sick. His health worsened in the spring and summer of 117, until he died on 9 August. On the deathbed he named Hadrian as his successor. This, becoming emperor, returned the Mesopotamia of the Party. All other territories conquered by Trajan have been preserved.
The ashes of the emperor were deposited in the room at the base of Trajan's column (a columna that had been erected to commemorate the Emperor's victories as a true stone-engraved history and to serve as a mausoleum). An inscription from the entrance to the columna, somewhat cryptic, because part of the text has disappeared, has the following content:
"Senatus populusque Romanus imp. Caesari divi Nervae f. Nervae Traiano Aug. Germ Dacico pontif Maximo tribe pot XVII imp. VI pp. Ad declarandum quantae altitudinis mons et locus tant [is oper] ibus sit egestus."
For the next period, any new emperor, even the one of the Byzantine Empire, was hated by the Senate to be congratulator Augusto, better Traiano, "happier as Augustus and better as Trajan." To the devotion of other leaders in history, Traian's reputation has remained unspoilt for more than 1,900 years.
Some see Trajan as an example of Rome's acceptance of ideals throughout the empire, while others consider the rise of a Spanish to the throne of Rome as the beginning of the end of the true ancient Roman society.