Marble bust of Trajan.
|13th Emperor of the Roman Empire|
|Reign||27 January 98 – 8 August 117|
|Predecessor||Nerva, adoptive father|
18 September 53|
|Died||8 August 117
|Burial||Rome (ashes in foot
of Trajan's Column, now lost)
|Father||Marcus Ulpius Traianus|
Trajan (//; Latin: Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Divi Nervae filius Augustus; September 18, 53 – August 8, 117 AD) was Roman emperor from 98 AD until his death in 117 AD. Officially declared by the Senate 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 in the city of Italica in the province of Hispania Baetica, Trajan's non-patrician family was of Italian and perhaps Iberian origin. 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. 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, culminating in a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard, Nerva was compelled to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. He 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 numerous 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, as the new province possessed many valuable gold mines. However, its exposed position north of the Danube made it susceptible to attack on three sides, and it was later abandoned by Emperor Aurelian.
Trajan's 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.
- 1 Sources
- 2 Early life and rise to power
- 3 Roman Emperor
- 4 Death and succession
- 5 Building activities
- 6 Trajan's legacy
- 7 Notes
- 8 References and further reading
- 9 External links
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 (that he 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 whom Trajan was the second. However, as far as literary sources are concerned, an extant continuous account of Trajan's reign does not exist. Book 68 in Cassius Dio's Roman History, which survives mostly as Byzantine abridgments and epitomes, is the best source for the political history of Trajan's rule. Besides this, Pliny the Younger's Panegyricus and Dio of Prusa's orations are the best surviving contemporary sources. Both are 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. 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. Therefore, discussion of Trajan and his rule in modern historiography cannot avoid speculation, as well as recourse to non-literary sources such as archaeology and epigraphy.
Early life and rise to power
Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born on 18 September 53 AD in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica (in what is now Andalusia in modern Spain), in the city of Italica (now in the municipal area of Santiponce, in the outskirts of Seville). Although frequently designated the first provincial emperor, and dismissed by later writers like Cassius Dio "an Iberian, and neither an Italian nor even an Italiot", Trajan appears to have hailed, at least on his father's side, from the area of Tuder (modern Todi) in in northern Umbria. Trajan's birthplace of Italica was founded as a Roman military colony in 206 BC, although it is unknown when the Ulpii arrived there. It is possible, but cannot be substantiated, that Trajan's ancestors married local women and lost their citizenship at some point, but they certainly recovered their status when the city became a municipium with Latin citizenship in the mid-1st century BC.
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. 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, where their ancestors had settled late in the 3rd century BC.
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. 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 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 he brought Apollodorus of Damascus with him to Rome. Around this time he married Pompeia Plotina, a noble woman from the settlement at Nîmes; 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 Trajan's putative lovers included Hadrian and the pages of the imperial household, the actor Pylades, a dancer called Apolaustus, and possibly Licinius Sura and Nerva.
As the details of Trajan's military career are obscure, it's only sure that in 89, as legate of Legio VII Gemina in Hispania Tarraconensis, he supported Domitian against an attempted coup. Later, he held some unspecified consular commission as governor on either Pannonia or Germania Superior - maybe both. Pliny attributes to him, at the time, various (and uspecified) feats of arms.
As Domitian's successor, Nerva was unpopular with the army and had just been forced by his Praetorian Prefect Casperius Aelianus to execute Domitian's killers, he felt the need to do something in order to avoid ousting by gaining the support of the military. He accomplished this in the summer of 97 by naming Trajan as his adoptive son and successor, basing himself - allegedly - solely on Trajan's outstanding military merits. There are hints, however, in contemporary literary sources that Trajan's adoption was imposed on Nerva. Pliny actually admitted as much when he wrote that, although an emperor could not be coerced into doing something, if this were the way in which Trajan was raised to power, then it was worth it. If this was what actually occurred, Trajan would be a usurper, and the notion of a natural continuity between Nerva's and Trajan's reigns would be an ex post fiction developed later by historians such as Tacitus.
According to the Augustan History, it was the future Emperor Hadrian who brought word to Trajan of his adoption. Hadrian was then 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. As a token of his influence, Sura would later become consul for the third time in 107; some ancient sources also tell about his having built a bath named after him on the Aventine Hill, or having this bath built by Trajan and then named after him; in 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. These baths were later expanded by the third century emperor Decius as a means of stressing his purported identity with Trajan. Sura is also described as telling Hadrian in 108 about his selection as imperial heir. According to a modern historian, Sura's role as kingmaker 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.
When Nerva died on 27 January 98, Trajan succeeded to the role of emperor without any outward incident. However, the fact that he chose not to hasten towards Rome, but instead to make a lengthy tour of inspection on the Rhine and Danube frontiers, hints to the possible fact that his power position in Rome was unsure and that he first had to assure himself 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"), with his post being taken by Attius Suburanus. Trajan's accession, therefore, would qualify more as a successful coup than an orderly succession.
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. 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 a motif of feigned 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 low-key, something on which Pliny the Younger elaborated.
Also, by not openly supporting Domitian's preference for equestrian officers, 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. Therefore, he could point to the allegedly republican character of his rule. In the inaugural for his third consulship, on 1 January 100, Trajan would exhort the Senate to share with him the caretaking of the Empire – an event later celebrated on a coin. Trajan did not share 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". 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 on public works by local magnates, and with general mismanagement of provincial affairs by various proconsuls appointed by the Senate.
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. If in reality Trajan was an autocrat, his deferential behavior towards his peers qualified him to the role of virtuous monarch. The whole idea was 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 mostly by means of acting as a role model, for, according to Pliny, "men learn better from examples".
Eventually, Trajan's popularity among his peers was such that the Roman Senate bestowed upon him the honorific of optimus, meaning "the best", which appears on coins since 105. This title had to do mostly with Trajan's role as benefactor, as in the case of his returning confiscated property.
That Trajan's ideal role was a conservative one becomes evident from Pliny's works as well as from the orations of 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. 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.
The Correctores: Greek/Roman relations
As a senatorial Emperor, Trajan was inclined to choose his local basis of political support 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 Greek notables' families. The Greeks, however, had their own memories of independence – as well as their commonly acknowledged cultural superiority – and disdained Roman rule instead of seeing themselves as Roman as did their Western counterparts. What the Greek oligarchies wanted from Rome was, above all, to be left in peace and to be allowed to concentrate on their local interests – something the Romans were not inclined to do, as they felt the Greeks were shunning their responsibilities in the management of Imperial affairs.
An outstanding example of this Greek alienation was the personal role played by Dio of Prusa in his relationship with Trajan. 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 a target for one of Trajan's authoritarian innovations: the setting of imperial correctores to audit the civic finances of the technically free Greek cities. This had to do mostly with curbing overenthusiastic spending on public works as a means of channeling ancient rivalries between neighboring cities.
Competition between Greek cities and their ruling oligarchies had to do mostly with marks of preeminence, specially for titles bestowed by the Roman emperor. Such titles were ordered into a ranking system which determined how the cities were to be 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 over "extravagant, needless ... structures that would make a show". Such extravagant spending had as side effect that junior and thus less wealthy members of the local oligarchies felt disinclined to present themselves to fill posts as local magistrates, such positions involving ever increasing personal expenses.
As much as Roman authorities liked to play the Greek cities against one another, they also had an interest in assuring their solvency and therefore ready collection of Imperial taxes. However, inordinate spending on civic buildings was also a means for the local Greek elites to maintain a separate cultural identity – something expressed in the contemporary rise of the Second Sophistic; this "cultural patriotism" acted as a kind of substitute for the loss of political independence, and as such was shunned by Roman authorities. As Trajan himself wrote to Pliny: "These poor Greeks all love a gymnasium ... 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 favorably received by Trajan, 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. Eventually, Dio gained for Prusa the right to become the head of the assize-district, conventus (meaning that Prusans had not 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 110 AD, to deal with the consequences of the financial mess wrought by Dio and his fellow civic officials."It's well established that [the cities' finances] are in a state of disorder", Pliny once wrote to Trajan, plans for unnecessary works made in collusion with local contractors being identified as one of the main problems. One of the compensatory measures proposed by Pliny expressed a thoroughly Roman conservative position: as the cities' financial solvency depended on the councilmen' 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 proceedings from the entrance fees paid by "supernumerary" members of the Council, enrolled with Trajan's permission. 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.
Trajan ingratiated himself with the Greek intellectual elite by recalling to Rome many (including Dio) who had been exiled by Domitian, and by returning (in a process begun by Nerva) a great deal of private property that Domitian had confiscated. He also had good dealings with Plutarch, who, as a notable of Delphi, seems to have been favored 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 neighboring 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 from 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 in his and Pliny's fears about excessive civic generosities by local notables such as distribution of money and/or gifts. For the same reason, judging from Pliny's letters it can also be assumed 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.
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 vigintivirate).
Such must be the case of the Galatian notable and "leading member of the Greek community" (according to one inscription) Gaius Julius Severus, who was a descendant of several Hellenistic dynasts and client kings. Severus was the grandfather of the prominent general Gaius Julius Quadratus Bassus, consul in 105. Other prominent Eastern senators included Gaius Julius Alexander Berenicianus, a descendant of Herod the Great, suffect consul in 116.
Trajan created at least 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. 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. It is interesting to note that one of Trajan's senatorial creations from the East, the Athenian Gaius Julius Antiochus Epiphanes Philopappos, 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".
Conquest of Dacia
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. 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. The fact that the Dacian kingdom – unlike the Germanic tribes – was an organized state that could develop a network of alliances of its own made strategical considerations one of the motives for Trajan's decision to make war on it.
In the first military campaign c. March–May 101, Trajan launched a victorious campaign into the Dacian kingdom, 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, 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.
During the following winter, King Decebalus took the initiative by launching a counter-attack across the Danube further downstream, supported by Sarmatian cavalry, forcing Trajan to come to the aid of the troops in his rearguard. The Dacian invasion was repulsed after two battles in Moesia: in Nicopolis ad Istrum and Adamclisi. 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, return all Roman runaways (most of them technical experts), and 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, 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, and held 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 already raised two entirely new legions: II Traiana – which, however, may have been posted in the East, at the Syrian port of Laodicea – and XXX Ulpia Victrix, which was posted to Brigetio, in Pannonia. By 105, the concentration of Roman troops assembled in the middle and lower Danube amounted to fourteen legions (up from nine in 101) – about half of the entire Roman army. Also, following 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 as to send in reinforcements, even in winter when the river was not frozen enough to bear the passage of a party of soldiers. Trajan also reformed the infrastructure of the Iron Gates region of the Danube. He commissioned either the creation or enlargement of the road along the Iron Gates carved into the side of the gorge. Additionally, Trajan commissioned a canal to be built around the rapids of the Iron Gates. Evidence of this comes from a marble slab discovered near Caput Bovis, the site of a Roman fort. The slab, dated to the year 101, commemorates the building of at least one canal that went from the Kasajna tributary to at least Ducis Pratum, whose embankments were still visible until recently. However, the placement of the slab at Caput Bovis suggests that the canal extended to this point or that there was a second canal downriver of the Kasajna-Ducis Pratum one.
These costly infrastructures completed, in 105 Trajan took to the field again and in 106 conquered part of Dacia. 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 (see also Second Dacian War), the Romans tightened their grip around Decebalus' stronghold in Sarmizegetusa Regia, which they finally took and destroyed. Decebalus fled but, rather than being captured by the 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 and thrown on the Gemonian stairs.
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 center and was provided the usual Romanized administrative apparatus (decurions, aediles, etc.). Urban life in Roman Dacia seems to have been restricted to Roman colonists, mostly military veterans; there is no extant evidence for the existence in the province of peregrine cities. Native Dacians continued to live in scattered rural settlements, according to their own ways. 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. The garrison city of Oescus received the status of Roman colony after its legionary garrison was redeployed.
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", and closer to the ocean, than it actually was. 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. 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.
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 of equestrian rank (procurator aurariarum). Agricultural exploitation on the villa model, on the contrary, was poorly developed. Similarly, 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 of Trajan's Column, which depicts in stone carved bas-reliefs the Dacian Wars' most important moments.
Annexation of Nabataea
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, 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. 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) was Hegra, over 300 kilometres (190 mi) south-west of Petra. The empire gained what became the province of Arabia Petraea (modern southern Jordan and north west Saudi Arabia). As Nabataea was the last client kingdom in Asia west of the Euphrates, the annexation meant that the entire Roman East had been provincialized, completing a trend towards direct rule that had begun under the Flavians.
Period of peace: public buildings and festivities
For 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 to persecute Christians but not to accept anonymous denounciations in the interests of justice as well as of "the spirit of the age". People who admitted to their being Christians and refused to recant, however, were to be executed "for obstinacy" when non-citizens, and sent to Rome for trial if they were Roman citizens.
Trajan 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 a rebuilder of roads (Via Traiana and Via Traiana Nova).
One of Trajan's notable acts 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 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".
Devaluation of the currency
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. 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.
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. 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.
Although the system is well documented in literary sources and contemporary epigraphy, its precise aims are controversial and have generated considerable dispute among modern scholars, especially about 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. Nevertheless, as an aim this was in itself anachronistic, in that it saw the Roman Empire as a hegemony centering on a purely Italian manpower base. 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. 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. According to the French historian Paul Petit, the alimenta should be seen 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.
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 – 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 – and that the fact that these charities seem to have been backed by loans to great landowners only (in Veleia, only some 17 square kilometers were mortgaged) restricted the extent of the scheme further. It seems that the mortgage scheme was simply a way of making local notables participate, albeit in a lesser role, in imperial benevolence. It is possible that the scheme was, to some extent, a forced loan, something that tied unwilling landowners to the imperial fisc in order to make then supply some funds to civic expenses. On the other hand, 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. 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.
War against Parthia
In 113, Trajan 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, 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. 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. That meant that Charax on the Persian Gulf was the sole remaining western terminus of the Indian trade route outside direct Roman control, 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 at the period are well documented in contemporary Palmyrene epigraph, which tells of various Palmyrene citizens honored for holding office in Charax. 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 – but then, the appointment was made by a Parthian king of Charax) something which offered the possibility of extending Roman hegemony into the Persian Gulf itself. 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.
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 sources – trade by land through Parthia seems to have been unhampered by Parthian authorities and left solely to the devices of private enterprise. Commercial activity in second century Mesopotamia seems to have been a general phenomenon, shared by many peoples within and without the Roman Empire, with no sign of a concerted Imperial policy towards it. As in the case of the alimenta, scholars like Moses Finley and Paul Veyne have considered the whole idea of a foreign trade "policy" behind Trajan's war anachronistic: according to them, the sole Roman concern with the Far Eastern luxuries trade – besides collecting toll taxes and customs – was moral and involved frowning upon the "softness" of luxuries, but no economic policy. 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.
The alternative view is to see the campaign as triggered by the lure of territorial annexation and prestige, the sole motive ascribed by Cassius Dio. As far as territorial conquest involved tax-collecting, especially of the 25% tax levied on all goods entering the Roman Empire, the tetarte, one can say that Trajan's Parthian War had an "economic" motive. Also, there was the propaganda value of an Eastern conquest that would emulate, in Roman fashion, those of Alexander the Great. The fact that emissaries from the Kushan Empire might have attended to the commemorative ceremonies for the Dacian War may have kindled in some Greco-Roman intellectuals like 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. Also, it is 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. 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 quite modest: 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.
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. The intended campaign, therefore, was immensely costly from its very beginning.
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) 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. At the same time, a Roman column under the legate Lusius Quietus – an outstanding cavalry general who had signaled himself during the Dacian Wars by commanding a unit from his native Mauretania – crossed the Araxes river from Armenia into Media Atropatene and the land of the Mardians (present-day Ghilan). It is possible that Quietus' campaign had as its goal the extending of the newer, more defensible Roman border eastwards towards the Caspian Sea and northwards to the foothills of the Caucasus.
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 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 – as a Roman protectorate. This process seems to have been completed at the beginning of 116, when coins were issued announcing that Armenia and Mesopotamia had been put under the authority of the Roman people. The area between the Khabur River and the mountains around Singara seems to have been considered as the new frontier, and as such received a road surrounded by fortresses.
After wintering in Antioch during 115/116 – and, according to literary sources, barely escaping from a violent earthquake that claimed the life of one of the consuls, M. Pedo Virgilianus – Trajan 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 "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. 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 into Adiabene, sweeping south and capturing Adenystrae; a second followed the river south, capturing Babylon; 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 Tigris, capturing Seleucia and finally the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon.
He continued southward to the Persian Gulf, when, after escaping with his fleet a tidal bore on the Tigris, 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. Since Charax was a de facto independent kingdom whose connections to Palmyra were described above, Trajan's bid for the Persian Gulf may have coincided with Palmyrene interests in the region. Another hypothesis is that the rulers of Charax had expansionist designs on Parthian Babylon, giving them a rationale for alliance with Trajan. The Parthian summer capital of Susa was apparently also occupied by the Romans.
According to late literary sources (not backed by numismatic or inscriptional evidence) a province of Assyria was also proclaimed, apparently covering the territory of Adiabene. Some measures seem to have been considered regarding the fiscal administration of Indian trade – or simply about the payment of customs (portoria) on goods traded on the Euphrates and Tigris. It is possible that it was this "streamlining" of the administration of the newly conquered lands according to the standard pattern of Roman provincial administration in tax collecting, requisitions and the handling of local potentates' prerogatives, that triggered later resistance against Trajan.
According to some modern historians, Trajan might have busied himself during his stay on the Persian Gulf with ordering raids on the Parthian coasts, as well as probing into extending Roman suzerainty over the mountaineer tribes holding the passes across the Zagros Mountains into the Iranian Plateau eastward, as well as establishing some sort of direct contact between Rome and the Kushan Empire. No attempt was made to expand into the Iranian Plateau itself, where the Roman army, with its relative weakness in cavalry, would be at a disadvantage.
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 – a sudden outburst of Parthian resistance, led by a nephew of the Parthian king, Sanatruces, who had retained a cavalry force, possibly strengthened by the addition of Saka archers, imperilled Roman positions in Mesopotamia and Armenia, something Trajan sought to deal with by forsaking direct Roman rule in Parthia proper, at least partially.
Trajan sent two armies towards Northern Mesopotamia: the first, under Lusius Quietus, recovered Nisibis and Edessa from the rebels, probably having King Abgarus deposed and killed in the process, while a second, under Appius Maximus Santra (probably a governor of Macedonia), was defeated, with Santra being killed. Later in 116, Trajan, with the assistance of Quietus and two other legates, M. Erucius Clarus and Tiberius Julius Alexander Julianus, defeated a Parthian army in a battle where Sanatruces 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. 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 Sanatruces' son Vologeses – and Mesopotamia.
It was at this point that Trajan's health started to fail him. The fortress city of Hatra, on the Tigris in his rear, continued to hold out against repeated Roman assaults. He was personally present at the siege, and it is possible that he suffered a heat stroke while in the blazing heat.
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. 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 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 commission successfully, so much that the war was afterward named after him – Kitus being a corruption of Quietus.
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 theorized that Quietus and his colleagues were executed on Hadrian's direct orders, for fear of their popular standing with the army and their close connections to Trajan.
In contrast, the next prominent Roman figure in charge of the repression of the Jewish revolt, the equestrian Quintus Marcius Turbo, who had dealt with the rebel leader from Cyrene, Loukuas, retained Hadrian's trust, eventually becoming his Praetorian Prefect. Apparently, Hadrian could not allow the continued existence alongside him of a group of independent-minded senatorial generals inherited from his predecessor. 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.
Death and succession
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. By the time he had reached Selinus (modern Gazipasa) in Cilicia, which was afterwards called Trajanopolis, he suddenly died from edema on 8 August. Some say that Trajan 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.
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; 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); received no post after his 108 consulate, with no other honors than being made Archon eponymos for Athens in 111/112; and had probably not taken part in the Parthian War. The literary sources tell that Trajan had considered others, such as the jurist Neratius Priscus, as heir. However, Hadrian 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, all making him as good as heir designate. 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. The fact that Hadrian during his reign did not pursue Trajan's senatorial policy can account for the "crass hostility" shown him by literary sources.
Aware that the Parthian campaign was an enormous setback, and that it revealed that the Roman Empire had no means for an ambitious program of conquests, Hadrian's first act as emperor was to abandon – outwardly out of his own free will – the distant and indefensible Mesopotamia and to restore Armenia, as well as Osrhoene, to the Parthian hegemony under Roman suzerainty. However, all the other territories conquered by Trajan were retained. Roman friendship ties with Charax (also known by the name of Mesene) were also retained (although it is debated whether this had to do more with trade concessions than with common Roman policy of exploiting dissensions amid the Empire's neighbors). Trajan's ashes were laid to rest underneath Trajan's column, the monument commemorating his success.
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; 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.
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. 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. 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.
Some theologians such as Thomas Aquinas discussed Trajan as an example of a virtuous pagan. In the Divine Comedy, Dante, following this legend, sees the spirit of Trajan in the Heaven of Jupiter 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.
In the 18th-century King Charles III of Spain commissioned Anton Raphael Mengs to paint The Triumph of Trajan on the ceiling of the banquet hall of the Royal Palace of Madrid – considered among the best works of this artist.
It was only during the Enlightenment that this legacy began to be contested, when Edward Gibbon 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".
It was exactly this military character of Trajan's reign that attracted his early twentieth century biographer, the Italian Fascist historian Roberto Paribeni, who in his 1927 two volume biography Optimus Princeps described Trajan's reign as the acme of the Roman principate, which he saw as Italy's patrimony. Following in Paribeni's footsteps, the German historian Alfred Heuss saw in Trajan "the accomplished human embodiment of the imperial title"(die ideale Verkörperung des humanen Kaiserbegriffs). Trajan's first English-language biography by Julian Bennett 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 whole – something 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 of 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, 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-centered 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.
- Trajan's regal name had an equivalent English meaning of "Commander Caesar Nerva Trajan, son of the Divine Nerva, the Emperor"
- Julian Bennett, Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2nd Edition, Routledge 2000, 11.
- Benett, Julian (1997). Trajan. Optimus Princeps. Routledge, pp. 30–31
- Nelson, Eric (2002). Idiots guide to the Roman Empire. Alpha Books. pp. 207–209. ISBN 0-02-864151-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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Battle of Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetuza), A.D. 105. During Trajan's reign one of the most important Roman successes was the victory over the Dacians. The first important confrontation between the Romans and the Dacians had taken place in the year 87 and was initiated by Domitian. The praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus led five or six legions across the Danube on a bridge of ships and advanced towards Banat (in Romania). The Romans were surprised by a Dacian attack at Tapae (near the village of Bucova, in Romania). Legion V Alaude was crushed and Cornelius Fuscus was killed. The victorious Dacian general was called Decebalus (the brave one).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Michael Schmitz, The Dacian Threat, 101–106 AD. Armidale, Australia: Caeros Pty, 2005, ISBN 0-9758445-0-4 , page 9
- Luttwak, Grande Strategy, 100
- "De Imperatoribus Romanis". An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
Because the Dacians represented an obstacle against Roman expansion in the east, in the year 101 the emperor Trajan decided to begin a new campaign against them. The first war began on 25 March 101 and the Roman troops, consisting of four principal legions (X Gemina , XI Claudia , II Traiana Fortis, and XXX Ulpia Victrix), defeated the Dacians.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Patrick Le Roux, Le Haut-Empire Romain en Occident, d'Auguste aux Sévères. Paris: Seuil, 1998, ISBN 2-02-025932-X , page 73
- "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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- José Maria Blázquez, Las res gestae de Trajano militar: las guerras dácicas. Aquila Legionis, 6 (2005) 19
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However, during the years 103–105, Decebalus did not respect the peace conditions imposed by Trajan and the emperor then decided to destroy completely the Dacian kingdom and to conquer Sarmizegetuza.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- 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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- Their military function fulfilled, most of them fell into disrepair or were wrecked on purpose after Trajan's reign: cf. Alan Bowman, Peter Garnsey, Averil Cameron, eds., The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193–337,2005, ISBN 0-521-30199-8 , page 238
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- Le Roux, 74
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- Le Roux, 268
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- Sartre, 269
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- Maurice Sartre, 46
- Bennett, Trajan, 177
- Bennett, Trajan, 172–182
- Sartre, 46
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- Bennett, J. Trajan: Optimus Princeps. 1997. Fig. 1
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- Finley, Ancient Economy, 158
- Quoted by Bennett, Trajan, 188
- Michael Alexander Speidel: "Bellicosissimus Princeps". In: Annette Nünnerich-Asmus ed., Traian. Ein Kaiser der Superlative am Beginn einer Umbruchzeit? Mainz 2002, pages 23/40.
- Steven E. Sidebotham, Roman Economic Policy in the Erythra Thalassa, page 144
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- Dexter Hoyos, ed., A Companion to Roman Imperialism. Leiden: Brill, 2012, ISBN 978-90-04-23593-9 , page 262
- Luttvak, Grand Strategy, 108
- Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C. – A.D. 337. Harvard University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-674-77886-3 , page 103
- M.Christol & D. Nony, Rome et son Empire. Paris: Hachette, 2003, ISBN 2-01-145542-1, page 171
- John Rich,Graham Shipley, eds., War and Society in the Roman World. London: Routledge, 1993, ISBN 0-415-06644-1, page 235
- Bennett, Trajan, 194–195
- Hermann Bengtson, Römische Geschichte: Republik und Kaiserzeit bis 284 n. Chr. Munich: Beck, 2001, ISBN 3-406-02505-6 , page 289
- Alfred S. Bradford, With Arrow, Sword, and Spear: A History of Warfare in the Ancient World. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001, ISBN 0-275-95259-2 , page 232
- Emmanuel Choisnel, Les Parthes et la Route de la Soie. Paris: L'Harmattan, ISBN 2-7475-7037-1, page 164
- S.J. De Laet, review of Lepper, Trajan's Parthian War. L'Antiquité Classique, 18-2, 1949, pages 487–489
- Sheldon, Rose Mary (2010). Rome's Wars in Parthia: Blood in the Sand. London: Vallentine Mitchell. p. 133.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
- Bennett, 195
- 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
- Bennett, 199
- Bennett, Trajan, 196; Christol & Nony, Rome,171
- Petit, Pax Romana, 44
- 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
- Patrick Le Roux, IN Ségolène Demougin, ed., H.-G. Pflaum, un historien du XXe siècle: actes du colloque international, Paris les 21, 22 et 23 octobre 2004. Geneva: Droz, 2006, ISBN 2-600-01099-8 , pages 182/183
- Petit, Pax Romana, 45
- Bennett, Trajan, 197/199; Anthony R Birley, Hadrian: The Restless Emperor. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013, ISBN 0-415-16544-X , page 72
- Longden, "Notes on the Parthian Campaigns", 8
- 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
- Bennett, Trajan, 199
- Peter Edwell, Between Rome and Persia: The Middle Euphrates, Mesopotamia and Palmyra Under Roman Control. London: Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0-203-93833-X, page 21
- 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
- George Rawlinson, Parthia. New York: Cosimo, 2007, ISBN 978-1-60206-136-1 , page 310
- Christopher S. Mackay, Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History.Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-80918-5 , page 227
- Various authors have discussed the existence of the province and its location: André Maricq (La province d'Assyrie créée par Trajan. A propos de la guerre parthique de Trajan. In: Maricq: Classica et orientalia, Paris 1965, pages 103/111) identifies Assyria with Southern Mesopotamia; Chris S. Lightfood ("Trajan's Parthian War and the Fourth-Century Perspective", Journal of Roman Studies 80, 1990, pages 115–126), doubts the actual existence of the province; Maria G. Angeli Bertinelli ("I Romani oltre l'Eufrate nel II secolo d. C. - le provincie di Assiria, di Mesopotamia e di Osroene", In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt, Bd. 9.1, Berlin 1976, pages 3/45) puts Assyria between Mesopotamia and Adiabene; Lepper (1948, page 146) considers Assyria and Adiabene to be the same province.
- Luttvak, Grand Strategy, 110; Peter Edwell, Between Rome and Persia, 21
- Janos Harmatta and others, eds., History of Civilizations of Central Asia: The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations, 700 B.C. to A.D. 250. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1999, ISBN 81-208-1408-8, page 135
- Pirouz Mojtahed-Zadeh, Security and Territoriality in the Persian Gulf: A Maritime Political Geography,London: Routledge, 2013, ISBN 0-7007-1098-1, page 120
- Choisnel, 164/165
- Axel Kristinsson, Expansions: Competition and Conquest in Europe Since the Bronze Age. Reykjavik: ReykjavíkurAkademían, 2010, ISBN 978-9979-9922-1-9 , page 129
- Kaveh Farrokh, Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. Oxford: Osprey, 2007, ISBN 978-1-84603-108-3 , page 162
- Bennett, Trajan, 200
- Julián González, ed. , Trajano Emperador De Roma, 216
- The last two were made consuls (suffecti) for the year 117
- González, 216
- Theodor Mommsen, A History of Rome Under the Emperors. London: Routledge, 1999, page 289
- Bennett, Trajan,203
- James J. Bloom, The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66–135: A Military Analysis. McFarland, 2010, page 191
- Bloom, 194
- 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
- Bloom, 190
- 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
- Margret Fell, ed., Erziehung, Bildung, Recht. Berlim: Dunker & Hunblot, 1994, ISBN 3-428-08069-6 , page 448
- Histoire des Juifs, Troisième période, I – Chapitre III – Soulèvement des Judéens sous Trajan et Adrien
- Bloom, 195/196
- Hoyos, A Companion to Roman Imperialism, 325
- Gabriele Marasco, ed., Political Autobiographies and Memoirs in Antiquity: A Brill Companion. Leiden: Brill, 2011, ISBN 978-90-04-18299-8 , page 377
- Bennett, Trajan, 201
- Francesca Santoro L'Hoir, Tragedy, Rhetoric, and the Historiography of Tacitus' Annales.University of Michigan Press, 2006, ISBN 0-472-11519-7 , page 263
- Birley,50 & 52
- Birley, 52
- Françoise Des Boscs-Plateaux, Un parti hispanique à Rome?, 306
- Birley, 64
- Birley, 50
- Christopher S. Mackay, Ancient Rome: A Military and Political History. Cambridge University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-80918-5 , page 229
- Petit, Pax Romana, 53
- Françoise Des Boscs-Plateaux, Un parti hispanique à Rome?, 307
- Garzetti, From Tiberius to the Antonines, 379
- Christol & Nony, 171
- The German historian Mommsen, who was no lover of Hadrian - "a repellent manner , and a venomous, envious and malicious nature" - at the same time acknowledged that, in renouncing to Trajan's conquests, Hadrian was "doing what the situation clearly required". Mommsen, A History of Rome Under the Emperors. London: Routledge, 2005, page 290<
- 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
- 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
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- Dio Cassius, Epitome of Book 6; 21.2–3
- Karl Strobel, Das Imperium Romanum im "3. Jahrhundert": Modell einer historischen Krise? Zur Frage mentaler Strukturen breiterer Bevölkerungsschichten in der Zeit von Marc Aurel bis zum Ausgang des 3. Jh.n.Chr. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1993, ISBN 3-515-05662-9, page 319
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- Mommsen, A History of Rome Under the Emperors, page 488
- Römische Kaisergeschichte. Munich: 1992, page 389.
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- Richard Jean-Claude, "Eugen Cizek, L'époque de Trajan. Circonstances politiques et problèmes idéologiques [compte rendu]. Bulletin de l'Association Guillaume Budé, Année 1985, Volume 44, Numéro 4 pp. 425–426. Available at . Retrieved December 13, 2015.
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- Veyne, Le Pain et le Cirque, 654/655
References and further reading
- 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
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