Dafato Team | Aug 26, 2022

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Trajan, born as Marcus Ulpius Traianus on September 18, 53 in Italica (in what is now Andalusia in modern Spain) and died on August 8 or 9, 117 in Selinus, Cilicia, was Roman emperor from late January 98 to August 117. At his death, he bears the name and nicknames of Imperator Caesar Divi Nervae Filius Nerva Traianus Optimus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus Parthicus.

He was the first Roman emperor to come from a family established in a province of Hispania, but this family was in fact originally from Italy and settled in Betica as settlers. He remained in the historiography as the "best of the Roman emperors" (optimus princeps). After the reign of Domitian and the end of the Flavian dynasty, the short reign of Nerva and especially that of Trajan marked the foundation of the dynasty known as the "Antonines".

Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of the emperor Domitian, whose last years were marked by persecutions and executions of Roman senators. In September 96, after the assassination of Domitian, childless emperor, by members of his court, Nerva, a former consul, ascended the throne, but proved unpopular with the army. After a brief and tumultuous year in power, a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard weakened his power and forced him to retaliate by adopting the popular general Trajan as his heir and successor. Nerva, aged and childless, died at the end of January 98 and his adopted son succeeded him without incident.

It is generally considered that it is under his reign that the Roman Empire knows its greatest extension with the ephemeral conquests of Armenia and Mesopotamia, and that more perennial of Dacia as well as with the annexation of the Nabatean kingdom of Petra which gives birth to the province of Arabia Petra. His conquest of Dacia considerably enriched the Empire, the new province having several valuable metal mines. On the other hand, his conquest of the Parthian territories remained unfinished and fragile following a great Judeo-Parthian revolt. At his death, he left an economic situation that was not very flourishing; the eastern part of the Empire in particular was bloodless.

In parallel with this expansionist policy, Trajan carried out major construction works and initiated a policy of social measures of unprecedented scope. He is best known for his extensive public building program which reshaped the city of Rome and left several lasting monuments such as the Baths, the Forum and the Markets of Trajan, as well as the Trajan Column. He also reinforced the leading role of Italy in the Empire and continued the Romanization of the provinces.

Trajan was deified by the Senate and his ashes were buried at the foot of the Trajan column. His adopted son and grand-nephew Hadrian succeeded him, despite some troubles during the transfer of power. Hadrian did not continue the expansionist policy of Trajan, renounced all the territories newly conquered on the Parthians and reoriented the internal policy by putting the provinces in the foreground.

Before the accession to the Empire

Trajan was one of the descendants of a group of Italian settlers in Italica, in the province of Hispania, the future Betica, located in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. Trajan's ancestors, the Ulpii, came from Todi in Umbria. Italica was founded in 206 BC by a mixture of veterans and wounded or sick Roman soldiers and Italian allies from the army of Scipio the African. It is likely that the first Ulpius settled in Betica came from this army, although it is also possible that he arrived later, as a civilian, at the end of the first century.

During the imperial period, Italian families remained in the majority in the city of Italica. Trajan is frequently, but mistakenly, referred to as the first emperor of provincial origin, whereas he came from an Italian family established in a province.

Except for Eutrope, who wrote in the fourth century, all the other ancient authors say only that Trajan was originally from Hispania, that his family came from Italica, without affirming that he was born there.

The day of his birth is the fourteenth day before the calendas of October, that is to say September 18. The year of his birth is however more debated, some authors advance the year 56, based on his senatorial career, but the vast majority of modern historians now consider that Trajan was born in the year 53.

His father, Marcus Ulpius Traianus, was a prominent senator, praetor around 59

Ulpius Traianus is then raised to the rank of patrician in 73

For his actions, he received the triumphal ornaments, a rare and exceptional distinction for the time. He then became proconsul of Asia and was made sodalis Flavialis, that is to say a member of the religious college attached to the cult of the deified emperors Vespasian and Titus. He died probably before 98.

Thanks to his consulate, his belonging to the upper class and his rank of vir triumphalis, he offers to his son a ready-made path towards a senatorial career.

Little is known of Trajan's mother. She is perhaps part of the family of the Marcii, considering the name of her daughter and the links of Trajan with this family, and is probably descended from an Italian senatorial family of consular rank at the time of Tiberius. From her marriage with Marcus Ulpius Traianus came, besides Trajan, Ulpia Marciana, born before 50. She married a Matidius, probably Caius Salonius Matidius Patruinus, around 63. This last one is a praetor and member of the religious college of the Arvales Brothers before dying in 78.

Of this union is born Salonina Matidia. The latter was married at least twice, the first time with a Mindius, of whom she had a daughter, Matidia, and the second time with Lucius Vibius Sabinus, consular suffect, and it is of this marriage that Vibia Sabina, future wife of Hadrian, was born. In the third marriage, she may have married Libo Rupilius Frugi, which would make her one of the great grandmothers of Marcus Aurelius.

By his father, Trajan also has an aunt, Ulpia, who marries a certain Publius Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus. They have for son Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer and thus for grandson Hadrian.

In 86, Afer, Hadrian's father, died. Trajan as well as Publius Acilius Attianus, a Roman knight born in Italica, become jointly the guardians of Hadrian, and of his elder sister Aelia Domitia Paulina. This last one marries around 90 the future triple consular Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus.

Trajan's childhood and adolescence remain unknown. He received a dignified education that included, beyond learning to read and write Greek and Latin, grammar and rhetoric.

About 75

We have little information on the beginning of the senatorial career of Trajan before 89. He was probably, from 73 to 75, military tribune at the sides of his father in Syria. Under Vespasian in 78, or under Titus in 81, Trajan is named as quaestor of the senatorial treasury. He would have thereafter accompanied his father as a legate in the province of Asia at the head of which the latter was named proconsul in 79

Trajan acceded to the praetorship at the beginning of the reign of Domitian, probably in 84 or 86

In reward for its loyal attitude, it occupies in 91, with Manius Acilius Glabrio, the eponymous consulate, is relatively late for a patrician.

The sources on Trajan's career between his consulship in 91 and 97 are obscure and incomplete, coming mainly from Pliny the Younger's Panegyric of Trajan, which is unreliable, unclear and even contradictory. Thus, we do not know what happened to Trajan during this period until his governorship of Upper Germania in 97.

The loss of a Roman legion in the war against the Sarmatians Iazyges triggers an internal political crisis. Domitian, as Princeps, now clearly assumes his autocratic position in front of the Roman elite. Between 90 and 95, many measures are taken to punish adultery, the crime of lèse-majesté and high treason.

After August 93, a wave of persecutions eliminated the people suspected of being opposed to the regime. To the conspiracies, numerous, Domitian also answers by the executions. However, the number of senators executed (fourteen known names) remained much lower than under the reign of Claudius. One attends especially a great number of disgraces and exiles.

Domitian soon proved to be unpredictable as when, in 95, he had his cousin Titus Flavius Clemens executed. Even members of his own family no longer felt safe. The fear of so many people is the cause of a new plot which leads, on September 18, 96, to the assassination of Domitian. It is difficult to know to what extent the senators were involved, the conspiracy having been directly carried out only by people of the close entourage of the emperor, some of his freedmen and perhaps his wife Domitia Longina, with the support, active or not, of the two prefects of the prefecture. The death of Domitian puts an end to the dynasty of Flavians.

In September 96, it is a senator who mounts on the throne: Nerva, 65 years old, the princeps senatus, who has an exemplary senatorial career and seems the antithesis of Domitian. In spite of its political achievements, its reign reveals many weaknesses typical of a reign of transition. The question of succession remained open but a civil war marking the end of the Flavian dynasty was avoided, unlike what happened at the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty.

Nerva had no children and, given his age, it is certain that he did not intend to start a new dynasty. He owes his reign only to the conspirators who assassinated Domitian although he was probably not one of them. Nerva is not as popular with the soldiers as Domitian was. He had never, during his career, commanded a legion nor even, a priori, governed a province, and he thus did not have the necessary military reputation in the eyes of the army. Moreover, the Senate did not accept the new emperor without controversy. The discontent of the army and the praetorian guard and the weak support of the Senate made the position of Nerva fragile. A plot against him is put at the day at the beginning of year 97. In Pannonia, the philosopher Dion of Pruse calms a beginning of revolt. In upper Germania, hostile movements took place, camps were set on fire, a legion was dissolved, but Trajan, governor of the province, restored order in the name of the new emperor.

About a year after his accession to power, Nerva recalls Casperius Aelianus, former prefect of the praetorium under Domitian still very popular among the praetorians. He had occupied this post until about 94 before retiring or being victim of a disgrace. It is an unfortunate choice for the emperor. Aelianus claimed with his soldiers the head of the assassins of Domitian and besieged the imperial palace to capture those responsible for the death of the last of the Flavians, who had not been condemned by the new emperor. He succeeded in executing the murderers, including some praetorian officers, despite the opposition of the emperor, weakening the position of Nerva. The emperor is even forced to pronounce a public speech of thanks for this initiative.

It is at this moment that the true fight for the power begins. In the Senate, factions appear which wish that Nerva designates a successor. A first one supports Marcus Cornelius Nigrinus, general of Domitian very decorated and governor of Syria, which places him at the head of the most powerful army of the East. A second inclines in favor of Trajan, who occupies then the post of imperial governor of Germania superior. It is perhaps a question of avoiding a usurpation of Nigrinius, which can appear imminent, because three legions and many auxiliary units are stationed in Germania higher under the orders of Trajan, that is to say approximately 35 000 men. The governor of this area, closer to Italy, could use this large army against the emperor in place or to ensure his protection.

In the confusion of the end of the year 97, whereas the two factions indulge in an apparent fight, Trajan remains in his province. Among his supports, one finds in particular the senators Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus, Lucius Licinius Sura, Cnaeus Domitius Curvius Tullus, Sextus Iulius Frontinus and Titus Vestricius Spurinna.

Nerva took the lead, went up to the Capitol, and then solemnly adopted Trajan on October 28, 97 in these terms according to Dion Cassius: "May the thing be happy and favorable for the Senate and the Roman People, as well as for myself! I adopt Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus". It is probable that this decision is that of Nerva alone, but it is possible that he was guided in his choice by Lucius Licinius Sura, who encourages Trajan to seize the imperial power to avoid a crisis. Moreover, Cornelius Nigrinus is him resulting from a native Hispanic family, equestrian, and which does not have the prestige of that of Trajan, due in particular to the merits of the father of this last.

In October 97, this last receives the news informing him that he is adopted and in fact associated with the capacity, so that any opposition to Nerva is erased. The praetorians also remembered the events of 69 and knew that they could not face successfully the legions. Taken by surprise, they must bow. Trajan is recognized as successor of Nerva, the Senate ratifies by granting to Trajan the title of "Caesar", the tribune power and the imperium maius, as well as the consulate for year 98. Trajan takes the nickname of Germanicus. The year 98 thus begins with the joint consulship of Trajan and Nerva. It is probable that Trajan never met Nerva, the historical sources do not indicate that there was a meeting between the two men. It is in any case certain that during the reign of Nerva, Trajan remained in Germania and never came to join him in Rome.

When the news of the death of the emperor Nerva spread on January 28, 98, Trajan was in Cologne. It would be Hadrian, his little nephew and future emperor, who would have been the first to transmit the message to him.

Trajan, then very popular within the army and appreciated of the majority of the Senate, continues to push aside the adversaries of the time of Nerva. Nigrinius is spared, his governorship in Syria was nevertheless withdrawn to him so that it loses any support of the army, and this as of the adoption of Trajan at the end of 97. He withdraws in his native region, in Hispania, to finish his days there. Trajan makes mandate the prefect of the prétoire Casperius Aelianus on the Rhine, and this last is either executed, or forced to withdraw.

The principate of Trajan

Trajan made sure that Nerva was deified by decision of the Senate. He had his remains taken to the mausoleum of Augustus.

Despite the death of his predecessor, Trajan remained in Germania and did not return to Rome until almost two years later. Such a long absence of the princeps in Rome is unusual and everyone expects an imminent war against the Germans. Trajan appointed Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus as his successor at the head of the province of Upper Germania and entrusted Lucius Licinius Sura with Lower Germania, two trusted men who became two pillars of the new regime.

Trajan spent the year 98 in inspection along the Rhine and the Danube. The first two years of his reign served to consolidate peace along the northern borders of the Empire. The border territory was developed with the construction of roads on the right bank of the Rhine allowing the development of these provinces and the enlargement of the defense zones. A road linking Mainz to Baden-Baden and Offenburg on the Rhine was completed, as well as another one linking Mainz, Cologne and Nijmegen.

During the winter of 98

In the fall of 99, Trajan returned to Rome.

Even if his absence of two years served to ensure peace on the northern borders and was not due to a war against the Germans, the return of Trajan is celebrated as for a victory. It takes place however without splendor. It settles in Rome modestly, without demonstration of its power. The senators welcome him simply by a kiss.

In his absence in 99, Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus and Quintus Sosius Senecio were eponymous consuls, the latter being one of Trajan's closest advisors and one of the most prominent public figures during his reign. The emperor placed Sextus Attius Suburanus Aemilianus at the prefecture of the praetorium. For his return, in 100, Trajan granted himself the consulship alongside Sextus Iulius Frontinus, who then attained the consulship for the third time as did the emperor himself.

The reign of Trajan is thought in contrast with the reign of Domitian and is marked by a cooperation and a benevolence towards the senators.

In his first letters addressed to the Senate from Germania, Trajan promises that no senator could be executed without trial before the Curia. One of his first measures was to announce, through the coins minted from the beginning of his reign, that he had received his power from the Senate. He brought back from exile a large number of senators and knights and gave them back their property confiscated under Domitian, a process started by Nerva. Unlike Domitian, Trajan was never accused of enriching himself personally at the expense of citizens, especially senators. It does not use either of lawsuits of lèse-majesté, even against the senators. He entrusted high positions to knights and senators who were opposed to Domitian.

Trajan shows moderation when he declines a first time the title of Pater Patriae offered by the Senate. He finally accepted it only in autumn 98. He also broke with the practice of the Flavians to occupy the consulship many times. During his reign, he was consul only four times, in 100, 101, 103 and 112, including three times at the beginning of his reign. He did not hesitate to grant the eponymous consulship to senators who had already held it several times, such as Sextus Iulius Frontinus, consul for the third time in 100 and Lucius Licinius Sura in 107, and other senators reached the consulship for the second time, as eponymous under his principate.

Thanks to these signs reinforcing the apparent equality with the Senate, Trajan underlines the ideological position in the center of the State of the Senate and reinforces his own position as primus inter pares. Nevertheless, Pliny, although impressed to be able to designate the emperor as "one of us", remains lucid by writing: "the Prince is not subject to the laws, it is the laws that are subordinated to him".

Since Trajan succeeded Nerva without being his son or a biological descendant, the idea of Optimus Princeps appeared. The notion of choosing the best among the candidates to the succession by the principle of adoption after consensus of the Senate is propagated afterwards notably via Pliny the Younger and his Panegyric of Trajan.

In spite of everything, the domination of Trajan on the Senate and his real power remain unchanged. The emperor alone ensured the direction of the Empire, as Pliny the Younger rightly recognized: "everything depended on the will of a single man".

He also pleases the people of Rome, by generous distributions then by the organization of games and magnificent triumphs. Fronton praises the ability of Trajan to gain the favours of the poor as well as the rich Romans by great public spectacles. He also pleases the provincials, passing for one of them. Finally, he revived the philosophers who had long been at odds with the emperors, such as Nero or the Flavians. Dion of Pruse was one of his advisors.

This policy represents a voluntary move away from the reign of Domitian, perceived as tyrannical. Trajan is acclaimed for these new provisions but also for his mastery of the old virtues. Before September 1, 100, Trajan received from the Senate and the Roman people the honorary title of Optimus Princeps, in reference to Jupiter, god Optimus Maximus and wise, whereas Domitian placed himself under the protection of Minerva, goddess of war. Later he was called "the best and noblest of princes", a title that appeared on coins from 103.

The peace signed by Domitian with Decebalus in 89 following the Dacian war of Domitian, with the payment of subsidies and the assistance of Roman engineers, is a humiliating situation for the Empire, just like the recognition of a single king of Dacians, which allows the union of a whole kingdom on the border of the Roman provinces. The emperor Trajan also needs a military success to establish his legitimacy.

The occupation of the Dacian mountains would lead to the disorganization and thus the weakening of the peoples of the Carpathian basin, which would allow a peaceful development of the border provinces of Mesia and Thrace. The rich deposits of gold and various minerals in Dacia are perhaps an additional argument for the conquest of the region. But this aspect should not be overestimated: it seems that it was not the principal objective of Trajan. This last estimates initially like his duty to punish Decébale, king of Daces, that it holds for responsible for the disastrous results of the campaigns of Domitian in 85 and 86.

On March 25, 101, Trajan left Rome at the head of the praetorian guard, accompanied by his prefect of the praetorium Tiberius Claudius Livianus as well as a number of companions among whom Lucius Licinius Sura, Lusius Quietus and Publius Aelius Hadrianus, and headed for the province of Upper Mesa. To support the expedition, Trajan appointed new governors in the bordering provinces: Caius Cilnius Proculus in Upper Mesa, Manius Laberius Maximus in Lower Mesa and Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus in Pannonia. It gathers an army composed of the Danubian legions as well as auxiliary units and vexillations of other legions. In total, they are approximately 150 000 men who are deployed by the Empire, including 75 to 80 000 legionnaires and 70 to 75 000 auxiliaries.

After having crossed the Danube, the Roman army progresses in Dacian territory without meeting a great resistance. The Dacians thus hope to force the Romans to leave their lines of communication and supply and to isolate them in the mountains. Until Tapae, single battle of this first campaign, Decimal avoids any armed confrontation. The Roman army engages then the combat against the army dace in the battle of Tapae. This one, as the reliefs of the column show it, turns in favor of the Romans, after hard fights. It is not for all that a decisive combat, the Dacians being able to still withdraw in the bastions of the mounts of Orastie, thus blocking the road leading to Sarmizegetusa Regia. The arrival of the winter marks the stop of the maneuvers. Trajan makes winter his troops in enemy territory and establishes garrisons around Sarmizegetusa, preventing its provisioning.

As a reward for their services in the first year of the campaign, Lucius Licinius Sura and Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus returned to Rome to become eponymous consuls. Quintus Sosius Senecio replaced Caius Cilnius Proculus in Mesa.

In the winter of 101

Towards March 102, Trajan then resumed the offensive and advanced again towards the kingdom of Dacia, on several fronts. The first column crosses the Danube at the level of the limes Oescus-Novae and continues along the valley of Ost until the sufficiently broad and accessible pass of Turnu Rosu. The two other columns progress according to parallel routes, and the point of junction of the three columns is located at a score of kilometers in the northwest of Sarmizegetusa, taking the capital dace with reverses. Decébale, weakened by its defeat with Adamclisi and destabilized by the simultaneous progression of the Roman army on three fronts in a vast movement of pincer, seeing the Dacian fortresses falling one by one and the enemy approaching the capital, decides to negotiate a first time peace, but it is a failure and the war continues. Decébale, cornered with the peace, capitulates, hoping to avoid the massacre of the population of the capital.

The conditions of peace imposed by Trajan mark the end of the first Dacian war. In spite of the successes gained, it is clear that the great Roman victory awaited did not take place, because of the weakening of the Roman troops which prevented Trajan from pushing his advantage further. In spite of conditions of peace which seem very hard, Decébale preserves its capacity, maintains the unit of its kingdom as well as the major part of its territory. One ignores if the objective of Trajan is then to try to transform the Dacian kingdom into a client state or if he already thinks of a second decisive campaign. On his arrival in Rome at the end of December 102, Trajan celebrated a triumph and took the title of "Dacicus".

Following this first treaty, the Romans fortified their positions in the occupied territories. Another important achievement was the construction of Trajan's bridge over the Danube at Drobeta under the direction of Apollodorus of Damascus, between 103 and 105, a masterpiece of ancient architecture, allowing for an easy connection between Sirmium and the newly annexed Banat. Trajan also works along the middle Danube, on the Panonian border, being wary of the Marcomans, the Quades and the Iazyges which however did not support the Dacians but remain threatening.

The preparations of war of the Romans not having passed unnoticed, Decébale makes raise the destroyed fortresses, rebuilds the fortifications around the capital, forms a new army. It seeks to tie up new alliances.

In 105, the Romans undergo the attack of Daces. Décébale takes again Banat, then under Roman control then attacks Roman Mésie. The fact that Decimalus does not seem to want to respect any condition of the peace treaty makes legitimate a second war. The Senate declares then the war for the second time with the kingdom of Dacia.

Trajan sets out again for Dacia in June 105. It gathers an army more important than at the time of the first war, fourteen legions and many auxiliary units, of which two new legions: II Traiana Fortis and XXX Ulpia Victrix. That represents approximately 175 to 200 000 men who are deployed by the Empire, for half of the legionnaires, for half of the auxiliary troops. It is about half of the military strength of the Empire. Lucius Licinius Sura accompanies again the emperor as adviser, as well as Lusius Quietus and his Moors, and the generals of the emperor are Quintus Sosius Senecio and Caius Iulius Quadratus Bassus.

The emperor, by arriving on the banks of the Danube, undoubtedly faces a difficult situation. The Dacian incursions devastated the province of lower Mésie. According to the reliefs of the Trajanic Column, Decimalus would even have managed to take possession of several auxiliary forts. Many Roman forts in Wallachia were occupied or besieged by the Dacians, just like those built along the Danube. The work of reconquest lasts all the summer of 105, pushing back the invasion of the Dacian territory to the following year. Trajan comes to reinforce the troops of the governor of lower Mésie, Lucius Fabius Iustus, and pushes back the Dacians.

For the year 106, Trajan gathers his army and crosses the Danube on the big bridge of Drobeta. The allies of Décébale, Bures, Roxolans and Bastarnes, with the announcement of the preparations of war of Trajan, abandon the king dace. This one, attacked on several fronts opposes a desperate and fierce resistance which makes many victims. Décébale refuses to capitulate and is forced to leave Sarmizegetusa. Finally, after a long and bloody siege, the capital yields under the blows of the Roman armies which joined together since the end of the summer. All the fortresses of the mounts of Orastie fell. Trajan decides not to grant conditions of peace similar to the previous peace. The final submission of Dacia is necessary and for that, it is necessary to build roads, forts and to isolate the enemy without conceding any advantage to him. Decébale seeks initially to find refuge in north, in the mountains of Carpates, but, once encircled, commits suicide.

It is the end of the war. For several months, the Roman army was still engaged in acts of repression that calmed the agitation of the local population. The currency of the year celebrates the "Dacia capta".

The heart of the Dacian kingdom, Oltenia and Banat, was integrated into a new Roman province, the province of Dacia, which was limited to the edge of the Carpathian arc, Transylvania and the western massifs. The Dacian kingdom did not disappear completely, some regions remained free. The newly founded city of Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Sarmizegetusa Dacica became the capital of the new province. It is very quickly connected to Apulum and Porolissum where important Roman garrisons are stationed. A large part of the plains of Wallachia and Moldavia is integrated into the province of Lower Mesia which is enlarged. The creation of the province of Dacia in 106 is most probably accompanied by the military reorganization of the Danube course. It is on this occasion that the neighboring province of Pannonia is divided into two: on the one hand Pannonia superior and on the other hand Pannonia lower.

Recently, archaeological discoveries have challenged the myth of the extermination, deportation or banishment of the Dacians by the Romans. Nevertheless, one cannot deny the important demographic upheavals that took place. Although a large part of the Dacian population and elite finally abandoned Decimalia in favor of the Roman army, the old aristocracy was eliminated. The populations of the Dacian cities of the heart of the kingdom, mountainous region and difficult to supervise, are moved towards the plains. The cities were destroyed and the Romans founded in their place many smaller colonies, in which Roman settlers from neighboring provinces settled. Similarly, all the royal residences were destroyed. The most impressive phenomenon remains the almost complete disappearance of the ancient Dacian religion. According to Crito, Trajan's physician, nearly 500,000 Dacian prisoners were brought back to Rome to take part in the shows given during the celebration of Trajan's triumph, but this estimate seems to have been exaggerated by a factor of ten and the Romans would have actually taken 50,000 prisoners. A large part of the men able to work and who are not part of the prisoners of war are enlisted in the Roman army, a procedure which makes it possible to decrease the risk of revolt and to increase the manpower of the army.

The annexation of the Dacian kingdom seems precipitated and contrary to the Roman habits which traditionally make it precede by the establishment of a client kingdom. It is perhaps a question of stabilizing the border as quickly as possible in the face of the barbarian threat which weighs on the area of the average Danube but it is perhaps also a question for Trajan of quickly taking the control of the rich mines of gold and money which the territory counts, as well as the treasures of the king. In any case, this new province brings to the emperor important resources which are quickly exhausted in the preparation of the campaigns against the Parthians and in grandiose constructions celebrating the victory of Trajan as the reliefs of the triumphal arches of Benevento and Ancona, those of the forum of Trajan in Rome or as the Tropaeum Traiani erected in Adamclisi in 109.

According to the ancient sources, the conquest of Dacia indeed allowed to gather an impressive booty amounting to nearly 50 000 prisoners of war, 165 tons of gold and 331 tons of silver. Trajan seems to have drawn from his booty approximately 2 700 million sesterces. Having been granted the honor of a great triumph, he used part of the booty to give great gladiatorial shows, nearly 5,000 duels were held, and chariot races in the Circus Maximus. The spectacles are spread out over more than hundred days, between 108 and 109. He also finances e manubiis (literally "thanks to the product of the booty") the construction of a new forum and entrusts the direction of work to the architect Apollodorus of Damascus. It is in this forum that the famous Trajan column is erected, on which appears a frieze two hundred meters long which winds in spiral around the shaft and which tells the military exploits of Trajan and his generals.

Trajan rewards his most loyal lieutenants who played a leading role in the Dacian wars such as Lucius Licinius Sura who is granted the extraordinary honor of a third consulship in 107 and Quintus Sosius Senecio who obtains his second eponymous consulship in 107 and who is granted double military decorations (dona militaria). He also received the triumphal insignia and was honored during his lifetime with a bronze statue in the forum of Augustus. Caius Iulius Quadratus Bassus is also rewarded and receives the triumphal ornaments as well as Lusius Quietus who is raised to the praetorship, thus allowing him to reach the Senate, for his determining action at the head of the Moorish auxiliary cavalry.

The conquest of Dacia profoundly modified the strategic data of the Roman Empire, the strongest concentration of Roman legions passing from the Rhine core to the Danube banks and to Roman Dacia. Indeed, there are only four legions in the provinces of Germania against eight in the first century, while the Danubian provinces now have eleven: three in Upper Pannonia, one in Lower Pannonia, two in each of the provinces of Mesia.

In 106, while campaigning in Dacia, Trajan ordered the imperial governor of Syria, Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus, to annex the Nabataean kingdom of Petra, probably after the death of king Rabbel II. This kingdom was then one of the last territories protected by Rome but not integrated into the Empire, along with the client state of Osroen around Edessa, some territories in the Caucasus and the thorny case of the kingdom of Armenia.

There is apparently no fighting, but the annexation may have followed a military campaign at the head of the Syrian and Egyptian legions begun in 105 which apparently met with no resistance and Ammianus Marcellinus, writing respectively nearly a century and more than two centuries after the fact, indicates that the conquest of the kingdom was made with resistance. However, contemporary coins minted following the annexation speak of an acquisition (Arabia adquisita: "Arabia acquired"), not a military conquest. Moreover, Arabicus was not added to Trajan's imperial title, which seems to indicate that this was a peaceful annexation.

This annexation made it possible to reinforce the eastern frontier of the Empire in view of a campaign against the Parthians, to make the commercial link between Egypt, Judea and Syria safe and to put an end to the monopoly of the Bedouin caravaneers as intermediaries on the Red Sea trade. Trajan made Bosra the capital of the new imperial province of Arabia Petra (provincia Arabia), which was created on March 22, 106 and formed of the conquered kingdom and the already Roman decapolis.

Probably for the annexation of the Nabataean kingdom, Cornelius Palma is honored with triumphal ornaments and, during his lifetime, with a bronze statue in the forum of Augustus, like Quintus Sosius Senecio, for his decisive role in the Dacian wars, and Lucius Publilius Celsus, for unknown reasons.

During six years, from 107 to 113, Trajan remains in Rome. His policy was then marked by his paternalism and was more focused on Italy. Nerva had already given Italy a special place within the Empire, as the coins of the time attest. Trajan continued this policy. Through an edict, Trajan forces the candidates to the senatorial functions to invest at least the third of their goods on the Italian ground.

Like his predecessor, Trajan set about improving the Italian road network: between 108 and 114, the work on the via Traiana, which links Beneventum to Brundisium, was completed, probably under the orders of the curator of the roads, Quintus Pompeius Falco, allowing traffic on the via Appia, which also served Brundisium, to be relieved. The starting point of the via Traiana is marked by a triumphal arch whose reliefs leave no doubt about the program of restoration of Italy that the emperor undertook. This way allows to connect Rome more quickly to the port of Brundisium, place of departure for Greece and the East, and that at the eve of the Parthian wars. In addition, travel times were significantly improved in many regions of Italy, particularly thanks to the development of regions such as eastern Puglia and Calabria.

In the year 103, Trajan had another port built north of Ostia, a hexagonal basin communicating by canals with the port of Claudius, with the Tiber directly, and with the sea. The access of the new port depends less on the climatic conditions to ensure the supply of Rome in wheat, in building materials and in marble.

He also expanded the ports of Ancona, Centumcellae and Terracina. This prominent role given to Italy and the political actions of Trajan in this direction are reflected in the subjects on the coins minted during this period. These coins are stamped with the motto "Restoration of Italy" (Italia rest.

Shortly after the beginning of his reign, Trajan embarked on a vast program of urbanization to beautify the capital, for the benefit of the people and for his own glory and posterity. He devoted much attention to the maintenance and rehabilitation of the civil infrastructure. For example, he had the water supply system renovated and expanded. The Aqua Traiana, an aqueduct completed in 109, is almost 60 km long and leads water from the area of Lake Bracciano in the north of Rome to the district on the right bank of the Tiber in Rome. It brought water to a poor district of the city.

Still in the year 109, he built thermal baths of unequalled dimensions, near the Colosseum, the Ludus Magnus and the Baths of Titus which are four times smaller. These baths are built in great part on the ruins of the Domus Aurea of Nero. Trajan thus restores to the public interest of the private buildings and reinforces by opposition to the "bad" emperor Nero his image of Optimus Princeps. For the inauguration of the baths in 112, one hundred and seventeen days of games are organized during which 8 000 gladiators fight and 10 000 wild animals perform, disproportionate games which recall the naumachies at the time of Augustus. Only the calendar of the Fastes of Ostia tells us that Trajan inaugurated in 109 a naumachia, thus a basin intended for naval fights which lasted from November 19 to 24, 109. This building was found in the 18th century in the Vatican plain. Later excavations allowed us to identify the plan, in the shape of a rectangle oriented north-south, rounded at the corners, 120 meters wide and at least 300 meters long for what was found.

The largest monumental complex of which he undertook the construction remains however the forum of Trajan, built between 107 and 113 under the direction of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus. This forum exceeds all the others by its dimensions: 300 meters long and 185 meters wide. Unlike the other Roman fora, the central square of the forum is not dedicated to a vengeful or protective god. The subjects evoked in the reliefs and statues concern the Senate and the army, considered as the two main pillars of the Empire, as well as the concerns of the people.

The predominance over the barbarian peoples is represented by the Trajan column which, on a frieze of nearly 200 meters, describes through detailed scenes divided into two large sections the two Dacian wars. The forum is linked to the markets of Trajan, an autonomous trading district, which remains the largest Roman civil building still standing.

After a new fire of the Circus Maximus under the reign of Domitian, the emperor Trajan had the building rebuilt and enlarged the stands as well as the imperial box. He increased the number of spectators, thanks to enlargement works and the addition of 5,000 seats.

Trajan recruited a mounted guard attached to the emperor, the Equites Singulares Augusti. Augustus had already created a similar unit, known as the Batavi (or Germani Corporis Custodes), but disbanded it after the Varus disaster in 9. It was reconstituted by Tiberius in 14 and again disbanded by Galba in 68. They were recruited from the auxiliary cavalry of the provinces. They had to serve 27 to 29 years at first. They were organized and equipped as a regular cavalry unit (ala), constituting a numerus of 500 men and were housed in their own camp on the Caelius. Their command is assured by a tribune, himself under the authority of the prefect of the praetorium. The unit is divided into turmes, probably strong of approximately thirty men, each directed by a decurion with a duplicarius and a sesquiplicarius as assistants, the senior decurion is designated decurio princeps.

His social policy is marked by the institution of the "alimenta", a food aid set up shortly after 99 and intended for the children of the poorest Italian citizens. Trajan thus took up an initiative of Nerva and the example already given by rich individuals but on a larger scale. The money for this aid came from the interest, at a maximum of five percent, of perpetual state loans granted to Italian landowners.

This food aid probably benefited hundreds of thousands of girls and boys in the form of monthly monetary support. In Rome, in 100, Trajan granted nearly 5,000 orphans a free distribution of grain. A bronze plaque in Veleia describes the details of this food aid. For this city for example, 300 children benefited from it: 264 boys received sixteen sesterces per month and thirty-six girls received twelve sesterces per month. More than fifty cities were concerned by this imperial measure.

Food aid is part of a global policy of economic crisis management, it is an aid to the poor that allows to establish the reputation of an emperor who shows concern for the welfare of his people, a trait of the prince that continues until the third century.

Moreover, at the beginning of his principate, Trajan cancelled debts to the tax authorities and abolished the inheritance tax for direct heirs, which did not improve the economic situation of the Empire. But the Dacian gold brought back to Rome from 102, as well as the exploitation of the mines of the province, relieves the treasury of Rome.

According to the historian Gérard Minaud, author of a biographical work on twelve Roman empresses, it was under the influence of his wife that Trajan modified the tax system to make it more equitable, took measures to improve education, help the poor, and establish tolerance in Roman society.

The emperor gave greater fiscal autonomy to the provinces: the collection of most indirect taxes, with the exception of customs, was now entrusted to conductores of the provincial administration, i.e. wealthy individuals responsible for the sums due.

The institution of the city curators was created either by Domitian or by Trajan. In any case, they are attested for the first time under the reign of the latter, but remain few in number until the reign of Antoninus the Pious. Under Trajan, the use of this institution seems to remain exceptional. They are especially attested in Italy and then in the senatorial provinces. In the East, Trajan appointed praetorian and consular senators with the mission of putting the situation of the cities in order. The titles they had were quite varied but modern historians usually referred to them as "correctors". They can have with load the management of free cities of a province such as Achaïe or of a subdivision of province like the diocese of Pergamon. The cities concerned are autonomous and therefore outside the direct management of the governor of the province, and the appointments of correctors are made on an exceptional basis, thus without calling into question the privileged status of the cities. The correctors had powers similar to those of the curators of the cities, and at least in certain cases judicial powers which the curators of the cities did not have.

Trajan tried to accelerate the internal development of the Empire by multiplying the number of cities: in fact, since they constituted the smallest administrative unit in the Roman state, their multiplication facilitated the exercise of power. These cities kept a certain autonomy in terms of tax collection and recruitment. Most of those founded under Trajan were located on the borders or in areas recently controlled by Rome, in Lower Germania, in the north of Upper Germania, along the Middle and Lower Danube, in Pannonia, in Mesia, in Dacia, in Thrace and finally in Numidia.

In the Trajan period, there are two types of "Roman colonies". They were founded by deduction (deductio), i.e. by an act of legal and religious creation. The first type is called "settlement". The colony is founded ex nihilo or by adding colonists to a pre-existing city, by settling Roman citizens, often veterans of the military campaign that annexed the region where the colony is located. The second type is the so-called "honorary" colony. This is a city to which the emperor gives the title of colony and the corresponding institutional framework, without actually installing colonists. This constitutes a promotion for the city and its inhabitants. The honorary colonial status spread especially from the Antonines onwards and was attributed to cities that had previously received the status of municipe. "The result of obtaining colonial status is the total identification with the Roman model in the institutions and cults of the city.

Numerous foundations of settlements as well as promotions of cities and towns took place in the Roman West, including the Balkans, until the reign of Trajan. His successors and him also concede the civic dignity, in particular in Germania, which remains rare.

In Roman Africa, the conquest of the country, from the sea to the desert, ended under Trajan, except for the Mauritania. Trajan reinforced the African limes by building forts. Southern Numidia was definitively occupied militarily and the border was established south of the Aures. In Numidia, the governor Lucius Munatius Gallus was in charge of establishing the Colonia Marciana Traiana in Thamugadi by installing the veterans of the legio III Augusta around 115-117. The city quickly becomes one of the most important of North Africa. The emperor established a group of veterans alongside a Numidian community in Tebessa. He was the last emperor to establish colonies in the region.

Under the reign of Trajan and his successors, Leptis Magna, Hadrumetum and perhaps Leptis Minus became Romanized and prospered rapidly. Their status was raised to that of honorary colonies or municipalities. He also promoted the cities of the Cistercian confederation, apart from Cirta, without breaking the link with this city. Trajan's African policy was "bold and dynamic", and one can speak of a "selective and authoritarian Romanization" in order to meet strategic objectives.

The Hispanic provinces were politically and economically stable since the end of the first century BC and lived under a profound peace from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius. Although Trajan's family was established in Betica, it does not seem that the Hispanics were granted many privileges by the emperor.

In Brittany, he organized the already conquered zones, consolidated the border and established fortified camps which prefigured the achievements of Hadrian's wall. Indeed, around the year 100, Roman forces seem to defend the northern border at the level of the future wall. During his principate, the military situation there remained stable but his successor was confronted with troubles from the beginning of his reign.

In lower Germania, Trajan founded the Colonia Ulpia Traiana by deduction of veterans or Ulpia Noviomagus Batavorum which became the capital of the Batavians. In order to ensure the allegiance of the Rhenish tribes, barbarian units were incorporated into the cavalry of the imperial army.

In Upper Germania, the redeployment of forces along the limes gave rise to the civic organization of the province. In the region between the Rhine, the Neckar and the Main, the Civitas Mattiacorum with Aquae Mattiacorum as its capital, the Civitas Ulpia Sueborum Nicrensium with Lopodunum as its main city and the Civitas Taunensium with Nida as its capital were created.

In Pannonia, the soldiers of the legio XIII Gemina, which took part in one of the two Dacian wars, found the Colonia Ulpia Traiana Poetovio. Pannonia is divided into two provinces, undoubtedly in 106 as of the end of the Dacian wars: Carnuntum becomes the capital of the higher province while Aquincum is that of the lower province. Sirmium, until then in Mésie, is attached to the lower Pannonia.

In Dacia, Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Sarmizegetusa Dacica was founded by deduction of veterans. Legions are installed in Berzobis and Apulum and garrisons are placed in the plains of Banat and Wallachia. Trajan established a new organization for the extraction of minerals from the Danube region, granting leases to entrepreneurs. This ensured a very high level of local production for more than a century.

In Mesia, the emperor founded a number of cities ex nihilo. This is the case of Nicopolis ad Istrum, Marcianopolis and Tropaeum Traiani. The latter was founded in 109 as a vicus for veterans near the battlefield of Adamclisi where the Dacians and their allies were defeated in the first Dacian war. The other two cities have directly the status of cities. Nicopolis is founded as of 102 following another victory against Dacians. Oescus, until then a large Roman camp, became a colony, Colonia Ulpia Oescus, after 112. Moreover, it is undoubtedly during the reign of Trajan that the imperial cult was established in Lower Mesa.

On the western coast of the Black Sea, in the province of Lower Mesa, Trajan formed a conventus juridici at Callatis, in an area that had been little controlled by Rome until then. The emperor encouraged colonization, anxious to populate a region deserted at that time and necessary for the development of the Roman garrisons located on the Lower Danube. Tyras, much more in the north on the coast, receives undoubtedly a Roman garrison following the Dacian wars.

In Thrace, Trajan transferred the administration of the province largely to the newly created cities, suppressing the districts inherited from the old kingdom, in the image of the organization of the Hellenistic province of Asia. Among the cities created under Trajan, one can quote Nicopolis ad Nestum, Ulpia Parthicopolis in the low valley of Strymon, Augusta Traiana and Plotinopolis, whose localization is not sure. The emperor undoubtedly promotes the cities of Serdica and Pautalia to the rank of city, these two cities take in any case the epithet "Ulpia", just like Ulpia Anchialos. This is a general reform, since the province changes its status under the emperor, becoming an imperial province under the custody of a legate of Augustus the procurator, whereas it was a province entrusted to a procurator since the annexation of the client kingdom under Claudius. This shows the acceleration of the integration of the province into the Empire.

The creation of the province proprétorienne of Epirus is sometimes placed at the end of the reign of Nero, and more often under the reign of Trajan. It would indeed have been founded shortly after the year 108. In Achaia, Mothone of Messinia becomes a free city on decision of the emperor. The island Astypalea, in the Aegean Sea, recovered its freedom, restoring there a privilege abolished in the first century.

In Cappadocia, it promotes Mélitène with the rank of city while it supports Selinous Traianopolis in Cilicie Trachée. In 114, the Polemonia Bridge as well as the Galatic one, difficult to administer from Ancyra, are detached from Galatia and are attached to Cappadocia. Trajan compensates this loss of maritime outlet by attaching several coastal cities to Galatia, of which Sinope and Amisos. The annexation of Armenia in 114 brings the emperor to attach this area to Cappadocia, a procurator being named in Armenia for the tax administration of the new district.

In the newly conquered Petra Arabia, Trajan had a road traced between 107

In Egypt, he extended the area of cultivable land and restored the supply of taxes to the coffers of Rome. Some historians attribute to Trajan the construction, or at least the enlargement, of the fortress of Babylon in Egypt. In any case, the emperor ordered the construction of a canal linking the Red Sea to the Nile.

In 107, Trajan devalued the Roman currency. He reduced the silver purity of the denarius from 93.5% to 89% - the real weight of the silver going from 3.04 g to 2.88 g. This devaluation, coupled with the huge amount of gold and silver brought back from the Dacian wars, allowed the emperor to produce a larger quantity of denarii than his predecessors. In addition, he also lowered the value of gold by 15% to 25% thanks to the considerable gold loot and new mines, and he restored a more normal exchange rate between silver and gold.

The expenses under his reign were considerable: military campaigns with twelve to fourteen legions and many auxiliary troops, grandiose constructions of monuments, the organization of many games for the people of Rome, the financing of alimenta and the development of roads in provinces. In addition to that, the decrease of certain receipts, because, in particular, of the reduction of the tax on the successions and the suppression of a part of the debts returning to the taxman.

Certainly, the spoils of the war of Dacia is colossal, as well as the income of the new gold mines of this province, but Trajan does not enrich the Treasury by the confiscation of the goods of the exiles and other condemned like his predecessors julio-claudiens or flavians. Moreover, the human balance sheet of the wars of Trajan is heavy, certain areas such as Hispania being partially depopulated of men in the strength of the age; the East suffers from the preparations of the Parthian wars and is devastated by the great revolt judéo-parthe. Thus, at the end of the reign, the economic situation of the Empire is hardly flourishing.

The correspondence between Pliny the Younger and Trajan concerning the Christians is valuable because it is one of the few official sources that is not of Christian origin.

Pliny, addressing the emperor, asks for advice on sensitive problems he encountered in his government of the province. Concerning the Christians, against whom Pliny had received anonymous denunciations, he wondered what attitude to adopt and what should be punished: the fact of being Christian (nomen Christianum) or the crimes associated with it (flagitia cohaerentia nomini). Pliny also seeks to know how far the work of investigation and interrogation should go in providing evidence (quatenus quaeri soleat).

In his reply, the emperor remained ambiguous and did not adopt a clear position. According to him, a Christian could not be sought and prosecuted solely because of his faith (conquirendi non sunt). On the other hand, he considered that they should be punished if they were denounced in a non-anonymous way. On the other hand, if, convinced of their Christianity, they agreed to sacrifice to the emperor's genius, they should be forgiven.

Trajan is already married before his adoption, since 75

The sister of Trajan, Ulpia Marciana, deceased on August 29, 112, is deified shortly after his death by decision of the Senate. At the same time, her daughter, Salonina Matidia, receives in her turn the title of Augusta. Between May 113 and 114, Trajan's father was also deified, making Trajan the son of two deified fathers, a unique case in the history of the Roman Empire.

Salonina Matidia and her daughters Vibia Sabina and Matidia the Younger played an important role in Trajan's dynastic politics. Sabina married Hadrian in 100, making him Trajan's closest male relative, and thus the ideal candidate for succession. Since he was ten years old, Hadrian was placed under the supervision of Trajan and Publius Acilius Attianus. But it is necessary to await the death of Trajan so that this one, directly or via Plotine and Attianus, adopts him. Although it remains doubts on the reality of this adoption, Trajan designated, with the general attention but in an informal way, his grand-nephew as successor.

Hadrian was twice related to Trajan: one of his great-grandmothers was Trajan's aunt, and he therefore married the grand-niece of the emperor in 100. He was made quaestor of the emperor in 101, at the minimum legal age, then he took part in the first Dacian war, where he was decorated; he was then tribune of the plebs in 105 and then praetor before his age, while he was absent from Rome. Trajan then put him at the head of a legion during the second Dacian war and he became consul suffect in 108, once again before his age. After the death of Lucius Licinius Sura that same year, it is he who writes the speeches of the emperor, and he is again at the side of Trajan in the Parthian campaigns, the latter leaving him the command of the powerful army of the East shortly before his death.

For decades, the establishment of a king in Armenia led to serious tensions between Rome and the Parthians. Great Armenia is considered a client kingdom of Rome, although the Parthians claim control of it. Already under Augustus, the first armed conflicts opposed the Romans to the Parthians for the supremacy on Armenia. Following the war of 63, an Armenian king, Tiridate, was confirmed on his throne by Rome.

But Chosroes, Parthian king, tries to extend his influence on Armenia, and in 113 overthrows and replaces the Armenian king Axidares without the consent of Trajan. By doing so, he offers to the Romans an opportunity to declare war, by flouting the treaty of Rhandeia, or rather a pretext, as Dion Cassius says for whom the true motivation of Trajan is none other than the search for glory and the will to imitate Alexander the Great (sogenante Alexander-imitatio).

This critical evaluation of Trajan's expansionist policy shows that the declaration of war was not unanimously accepted in Rome. The fact that Trajan planned the conquest of Armenia and Mesopotamia as early as 111 is not proven, but this hypothesis seems, for many historians, quite reasonable. Among the reasons for this war, one can advance economic reasons (control of the commercial routes which cross Mesopotamia) and military considerations (securing the Eastern borders).

The only ancient sources dealing with this conflict are some summaries and explanations of texts by Dion Cassius and fragments of the work of the historian Arrien. The other sources, coins and inscriptions, provide information that is often uncertain.

Trajan left Rome in the autumn of 113 and reached Antioch, in Syria, in the spring of 114. The new Armenian king Parthamasiris, brother of the deposed king Axidares, came to meet Trajan and asked the emperor to confirm him on the throne of Armenia. But Trajan refuses and announces that Armenia becomes a Roman province at the head of which he places a Roman governor. Shortly after the departure of Trajan, Parthamsiris is assassinated under mysterious circumstances. Trajan takes advantage of the months which follow to ensure the military control of the new province, and succeeds at the end of 114. The State of Osroene makes act of submission to Rome and Trajan takes advantage of it to subject peoples of Caucasus, in particular the Albanians, then it sends Lusius Quietus against Mardes in the east of the lake of Van. For the conquest of Armenia, Trajan is given by the Senate of many honors among which the official handing-over of the title of Optimus.

In the spring of 115, Trajan headed south, leaving Armenia. He took the cities of Nisibe and Batnae. Before the end of 115, Mesopotamia was declared a Roman province. Trajan seems to have won many victories during this period because he was acclaimed four times imperator. It seems however to meet almost no resistance in this first year of campaign. He spent the winter 115

In January 116, the Roman troops seized Seleucia then Ctesiphon, capital of Parthes. Chosroes managed to flee but one of his daughters was captured and sent to Rome. Trajan pushed his expedition further to the Persian Gulf. The State of Characene, however vassal of the Parthians, welcomed the Roman emperor to whom he submitted.

On February 20, 116, the title of Parthicus was added to those of Germanicus and Dacicus in the titulary of Trajan. The coins celebrate the conquest of Armenia and Mesopotamia and the defeat of the Parthians with the motto Parthia capta.

On his way back, it is said, he stopped in Babylon where he visited the house where Alexander the Great died.

In 116, Trajan thus reached the Persian Gulf. No Roman emperor had gone so far east, and none had extended the Empire so much. Already, in 106, Dacia and Arabia Petra had enlarged it. In the following years, Armenia and Mesopotamia were added to the list of provinces. Trajan may have created another province, Assyria. Its existence is attested only in ancient sources, so it is widely questioned by modern research: some identify it with Babylonia or Adiabene, and some simply deny its existence.

With his expansionist policy, Trajan goes against the recommendations of Augustus who had asked that the Empire be left within the borders he had at his death (consilium coercendi intra terminos imperii), for fear that the new conquests would unbalance the economy.

Patrick Le Roux notes that the Empire "seems to have reached its conquering peak, but not its greatest extension", undoubtedly considering that Mesopotamia and Armenia were only temporary occupations of the Roman army and not annexations to the lands of the Empire, even if ephemeral.

While Trajan was still on the banks of the Euphrates, a Jewish revolt broke out in Mesopotamia, Syria, Cyprus, Judea, Egypt and Cyrenaica as early as 115. The context and objectives of the rebellion are not known. However, the emperor did not expect unrest in Egypt and Cyrenaica, having taken with him the legion stationed there.

An army led by a consular is defeated, a defeat that leads to the loss of many Roman garrisons. Thereafter, the Romans are forced to evacuate the south of Mesopotamia. Parthamaspates, self-proclaimed son of the Parthian king, who followed the Roman troops to Ctesiphon, established a front against the rebels. As a reward, Trajan crowned him king of the Parthians at Ctesiphon with the title of Rex Parthiis Datus ("king given to the Parthians"), thereby renouncing his project of complete integration of Mesopotamia into the Empire. The population rejects this vassal king of Rome, but Trajan does not have any more troops to push back a possible counter-offensive of the Parthians, all his manpower being mobilized by the Jewish rebellion. Parthamaspates was overthrown the following year by Chosroes who took back his throne.

Lusius Quietus is charged to repress the insurrection in the north of Mesopotamia, which he makes with a hardness which must singularly mark the spirits of the time however accustomed to the warlike violence. He directs the massacre of the Jews and the Parthians of Babylon and he seizes the important Syrian cities revolted of Nisibe and Edessa, capital of the state client traitor of Osroene, which he makes raze until the foundations and of which he makes put to death the king, Abgar VII. In addition, he carried out brilliant actions at the rear of the army, thus allowing the legions to cross the Euphrates again without risk in 116.

Quintus Marcius Turbo was charged with regaining control of Egypt and Cyrenaica. Major revolts of the Jews broke out there and resulted in the sacking of cities and the massacre of Roman citizens, among them a large number of Greeks. The supply of grain from Egypt was threatened and the local authorities were unable to quell the rebellion. Turbo reduced the Jewish revolt and regained control of Egypt, Cyrenaica and Cyprus, following a long repression which caused a lot of bloodshed on both sides.

The whole of these Jewish revolts of 115-117 is known in history as the war of Kitos, named after Lusius Quietus. Cyprus was definitively deprived of any Jewish presence, as were certain areas of Egypt, but there remained a strong Jewish community in Alexandria after the repression.

In addition to the Jewish revolt, several uprisings appeared in the newly conquered provinces and, in Armenia for example, Trajan had to temporarily cede territory in order to rest his troops. Uprisings are reported as far as Dacia, following the uprising provoked by the repeated attacks of the Sarmatians Roxolans and Iazyges as well as the free Dacians. Trajan sends there some troops with with their head Caius Iulius Quadratus Bassus in summer in 117 to face the Dacian peril, as legate of the legio XIIII Gemina.

Once the Roman troops seem to have the control of all theaters of operations, Trajan resumes his initial strategy. He moved northwards and besieged the fortified city of Hatra. In spite of important efforts, the siege fails because of very unfavourable conditions to the besiegers: desert climate, problem of resupply. Moreover, Trajan's health declined and he was forced to withdraw. As his health continued to deteriorate, he decided to return to Rome. This hasty return made it necessary to organize a second campaign in the East. The control of Mesopotamia was lost.

In this situation, Trajan has no other choice than to put Hadrian in front and appoints him governor of Syria where the troops engaged in the war against the Parthians are stationed.

Trajan died in Selinus, on August 8 or 9, 117, on the way back to Rome, following a serious illness. Considerably weakened by his last campaign, a stroke makes him hemiplegic. He died a few days later as a result of serious respiratory complications. The symptoms of the disease seem to correspond to the consequences of malaria.

It is said that he finally adopted Hadrian on his deathbed. The opaque circumstances of this adoption have led to much speculation and controversy. Dion Cassius claims that Hadrian was never adopted, but that it was a manoeuvre of the empress Plotinus and the prefect of the praetorium Publius Acilius Attianus. The modern historians are themselves divided on the reality of this adoption.

The body of Trajan was transferred by order of Hadrian to Seleucia of Pieria and cremated. His ashes were then brought back to Rome and placed in the base of the Trajan column, although the funeral of an emperor within the city walls, inside the pomœrium, was unusual: Trajan remained, until late antiquity, the only emperor to be buried within the city limits.

Trajan was supposed to be in Rome in January 118, to participate in the ceremonies of his twenty years of reign as Emperor Augustus: but fate decided otherwise, and the celebrations and other ceremonies were cancelled. Initially, the Trajan column was not intended to receive Trajan's ashes: after the decision of the plebs and the senators to transfer Trajan's ashes under the column, work was undertaken to build a niche to receive the golden urn with the emperor's ashes. The burial ceremony took place a few months later, in the presence of Hadrian, the new emperor, and Plotina, Trajan's widow. This one will be buried with her husband around 127

Hadrian receives the news of the death of Trajan on August 9 in Syria. Two days later, he was acclaimed Roman emperor by the troops of Syria.

The transfer of power is not carried out in the greatest serenity and Hadrian feels threatened, it seems, by the ambitions of four former consuls. Publius Acilius Attianus endeavours to establish and consolidate the authority of Hadrian in Rome, by going perhaps until the physical elimination of his opponents. He recommended the death of the prefect of Rome and of several exiles, he is undoubtedly the sponsor of the assassination of Frugi Crassus, an exile who left his island of exile without authorization and perhaps of those of Aulus Cornelius Palma (consul in 99 and 109), Lucius Publilius Celsus (consul in 113), Caius Avidius Nigrinus (consul in 110 and governor of Dacia) and Lusius Quietus (one of the main generals of Trajan and governor of Judea), suspected of having attempted to kill the new emperor. These executions took place on order of the Senate. Hadrian, then in Syria, denied having ordered the executions of these four influential senators of the previous reign.

Back in Rome, he organized the posthumous triumph of his predecessor. The Senate decides the divinization of Trajan, his official name becomes : Divus Traianus Parthicus. He was the first emperor to have the title "divine" added to his title.

At the death of Trajan, Great Armenia was again under Roman control, except for the part ceded by the emperor. In Mesopotamia, Lusius Quietus took over the situation: he controlled the key points and isolated the resistance in small pockets. However, in the south, the vassal king Parthamaspates could not maintain himself on the throne without the support of Roman troops. The last uprisings of the Jews of the East were put down by Quintus Marcius Turbo in Egypt and by the Moorish general Quietus in Judea before he was recalled and put to death. Turbo led a campaign against an uprising in Mauretania which followed this execution, then fought the uprising in Dacia and regained control of the province after the death there of Caius Iulius Quadratus Bassus, sent by Trajan.

At the beginning of his reign, Hadrian did not pursue the expansionist policy of Trajan and renounced all the newly conquered territories between the Tigris and the Euphrates. He prefers to seek to stabilize the situation in the Empire and to propagate the Pax Romana in the zone included between Brittany, where disorders burst, and Syria, between the Balkans and North Africa. Hadrian prefers the armed safety of the borders of the Empire to the great expensive military campaigns. He made peace with the Parthians and the border between the two empires found its layout of 113. It is not known if this decision marks a radical change of policy compared to his predecessor or if Trajan had, shortly before his death, expressed the wish that a peace of compromise be concluded with the Parthians to keep only the recent conquests. The province of Dacia was definitively abandoned in 271, when the emperor Aurelian ordered the evacuation and withdrawal of Roman troops south of the Danube.

Hadrian also reoriented the internal policy. Contrary to his predecessor, it is not Italy which is in the middle of its attentions, but the provinces. His numerous trips gave him a wider knowledge of the local problems of the provincials. This policy is reflected in the subjects on the coins, where the provinces now appear as much as Italy.

Like his two predecessors, he respected the Senate, but his more innovative policies created dissension with the senators. Hadrian governed as an "enlightened autocrat, sometimes dogmatic in his words and provocative in his achievements", whereas Trajan reigned as a "pragmatic traditionalist". After the great expenses of the preceding reign, the financial policy of Hadrian is much stricter than that of his predecessor.

Names and titles

At his death in 117 his title is :

Trajan was deified by the Senate. He is the first emperor who receives the nickname "Parthicus" and, after his death, he is still called "Divus Traianus Parthicus", while all the other emperors lose their nickname of victory after the apotheosis. The posterity "forgot" the final failure.

The available data

The period of almost a century from the reign of Augustus to that of the Flavians is covered by numerous historical works such as the imperial biographies of Suetonius or the Annals and Histories of Tacitus. These accounts are complemented by other works, such as Strabo's Geography or Pliny the Elder's Natural History. On the other hand, for the reign of Trajan, only fragments of the Roman History (books LXVIII and LXIX) of Dion Cassius, a senator of the 3rd century, remain, and a large part of it has only reached us via summaries of the Byzantine period (especially of Xiphilin), which are sometimes obscure and very incomplete. Edward Gibbon lamented this lack of sources, contrary to the reputation of the emperor "When history has wearied us with the account of the crimes and fury of Nero, how much must we regret to have, to know the brilliant actions of Trajan, only the obscure account of an abridgment or the doubtful light of a panegyric!"

The Letters of Pliny the Younger provide us with a lot of information about events during the reign of Trajan and his predecessors, whether it is a real correspondence or a literary fiction. Between 109 and 113, Pliny was appointed governor of the province of Pontus-Bithynia in Asia Minor, perhaps with the task of preparing the offensive against the Parthians. During this period, he exchanged regular correspondence with Trajan, which constitutes a unique source of information on the administration of the Roman provinces and on life in the provinces of Greek culture. Trajan reorganized the Roman army, the constitutio Traiani according to Vegetius. The military treatise De munitionibus castrorum could have been written under Trajan (perhaps even dedicated to him) and would provide an overview of the army under the emperor.

Little information is available in the breviaries of the fourth century, and the biographies of Marius Maximus where Trajan appears are lost. For Maximus, much of his content is known because he is mostly used and quoted in the controversial Augustan History, especially in the early lives, considered the best. However, the History of Augustus claims to be a continuation of Suetonius, sometimes pastiching him, but does not deal with Nerva or Trajan. It is not known whether this is an involuntary loss in the transmission of the text or a facetiousness of the anonymous author to deceive the reader, which he does constantly in the work. These incomplete literary sources are fortunately supplemented by numerous archaeological, epigraphic and numismatic discoveries.

Fragments of the Ostian fastes cover the years 108 to 113, between the victorious end of the Dacian wars and the beginning of the Parthian war, a period of Trajan's reign not covered by ancient literary sources. These fragments were used to complete the fastes, including the consular lists, but also contain a chronicle of the important events of the years 108-109 and 112-113 as well as information on the imperial family and the games and festivals given by Trajan.

Ancient historians

In the conflicts between the emperors and the Senate, the ancient historians place themselves very often on the side of the second, because many of them belong to the senatorial order or under the influence of one of the members of the Senate. The good relations which Trajan maintains with the Senate thus largely influenced what one retains of his reign.

The image of Trajan has long been largely inspired by what Pliny the Younger says about him in his gratiarum actio, i.e. the Panegyric of Trajan, a speech written to thank the emperor for appointing him consul suffect for the end of the year 100. In it, he describes Trajan as an example of the ideal ruler, contrasting him with the reign of Domitian, and putting forward the idea of an Optimus Princeps. It is traditional to thank the princeps in the year in which one is appointed consul; thus, this panegyric, which is not intended to be realistic, is by nature a biased source, and therefore difficult to use by historians.

Among the speeches found by the Greek philosopher and rhetorician Dion of Pruse, four are about royalty and are therefore indirect praises of Trajan.

Suetonius already prophesied a happy era after the death of Domitian and, according to Tacitus, the reigns of Nerva and Trajan marked the beginning of a happy era (beatissimum saeculum). Direct references to Trajan in Tacitus' works are rare. Nevertheless, he insists on the contrast between the reigns of Domitian and Nerva, the latter showing himself capable of reconciling the principate and freedom, and adds that Trajan "increases the happiness of the age every day". For Tacitus, the reigns of Nerva and Trajan marked a return of freedom of expression and thought. However, these two authors, contemporaries of Trajan and Hadrian, blacken the past dynasties to highlight the present one, that of the "Antonines".

The idea that Trajan was the best, the most just and the most accomplished of the princes in the social and warrior fields retains such strength that even his failures against the Parthians at the end of his reign cannot darken his image. Since 114, Trajan bears the title of "Optimus". No emperor has been so close to the ideal ruler as defined by the senators according to the republican ideals, but also by the intellectuals. This ideal gathers virtues (virtutes) such as clementia, justitia and pietas (respect towards the gods). The image that has remained of Trajan is marked by the fact that no Roman emperor before him had gone so far east or added so much new territory to the Empire. Trajan is thus close to the former generals of the Republic who used the efficiency of the Roman army in a deliberately expansionist aim.

Of Dion Cassius, senator of the time of the Severus, it remains us of the abstracts of which one where is drawn up a long laudatory portrait of the emperor:

"He spends a lot for the war, a lot also for works during the peace; but the most numerous and the most necessary expenses have for object the repair of the roads, the ports and the public buildings, without that, for any of these works, he never pours blood. He naturally has so much grandeur in his conceptions and in his thoughts, that having raised the Circus from its ruins, more beautiful and more magnificent, he puts on it an inscription saying that he has rebuilt it in this way so that it can contain the Roman people. He rather wishes to be liked by this behavior than to be made return honors. He puts gentleness in his relations with the people, and dignity in his talks with the Senate; cherished by all, and fearful only to the enemies. He takes part in the hunts of the citizens, in their feasts, in their works and their projects, as well as in their distractions; often he even occupies the fourth place in their litter, and he does not fear to enter without guard in their house. Without having the perfect science of eloquence, he knows its procedures and puts them into practice. There is nothing in which he does not excel. I know that he has a passion for young men and wine: if these inclinations have made him do or suffer anything shameful or bad, he would have been blamed; but he can drink to satiety, without losing any of his reason, and in his amusements he never hurts anyone. If he loves war, he is content to win successes, to slay an implacable enemy and to increase his own states. For, never under him, as it usually happens, in such circumstances, the soldiers let themselves go to pride and insolence, so firm is he in command."

- Dion Cassius, Roman History, book LXVIII, 7, translation by Etienne Gros, published in Paris by Firmin-Didot, from 1845 to 1870.

The direct criticisms against the action of Trajan remain few: Fronton, who lived under the reigns of Trajan to Marc Aurèle, and who praises in addition the skill of Trajan to gain the favours of the people, is one of the only ones to call into question the expansionist policy of Trajan, in his Principia Historiae. He accuses him in particular of having sacrificed a great number of soldiers to satisfy a personal ambition, of having made kill a king customer of Rome instead of being shown lenient and of not having helped two generals in the war against the Parthians. However, these writings, partially found in the 19th century, had no impact on the positive image of Trajan.

Taking up the theses of various historians, Eugen Cizek notes that Tacitus' attitude towards Trajan is in fact nuanced, even if it seems generally favorable. For example, Tacitus criticizes the profligacy and luxury in his works of several emperors, and it is known that Trajan ordered, to celebrate his victory against the Dacians, festivals and games much more sumptuous than his predecessors. He remains very measured on the rise of the Easterners in the senatorial order, which one knows encouraged by the emperor. He criticizes the limitation of the fees of the lawyers to 10 000 sesterces under Claude, measure taken again by Trajan. He seems to approve the policy of conciliation with the Senate, but perhaps reproaches Trajan for having reconciled with men having served under Domitian, and in particular those who played the role of informers, whom he strongly criticizes in his works. Moreover, some authors see in Tacitus' criticisms of characters from the Julio-Claudian reigns similarities with those close to Trajan.

Tacitus' criticisms seem to crystallize around three points of Trajan's policy: an action in Germania too limited for his taste, the growing absolutism of the emperor and his succession. In this regard, Tacitus seems opposed to the adoption of Hadrian. He perhaps reproaches Trajan for choosing a member of his family while the succession by adoption should allow to designate the best of the candidates which seems to be for him Caius Avidius Nigrinus, moreover one of his friends, who will be put to death at the beginning of Hadrian's reign.

From Late Antiquity to the Renaissance

During late antiquity, the reign of Trajan is considered the best that the Roman Empire had known, as shown by this expression of Eutropius: "may you be happier than Augustus and better than Trajan" (felicior Augusto, melior Trajano). Constantine tried to imitate Trajan, especially in the way he represented himself: the portraits with the beardless face and the mottos on the coins (optimo principi).

No emperor before Constantine was so positively portrayed in Christian writings as Trajan, although he had an ambiguous attitude towards them, advocating in some cases the arrest and condemnation of Christians for their faith. Orosius, for example, defends Trajan when he is accused of persecuting Christians, arguing that the emperor is in fact a victim of amalgamation and misunderstanding.

A medieval legend (12th century) tells us how Trajan is venerated for the number of monuments he built and for what he brought to humanity. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), remembering Trajan's acts of justice, is said to have been seized with deep sorrow at the thought that such a virtuous man would be damned. He is said to have wept and prayed for him for a long time, and to have obtained that Trajan should join the paradise of the Christians. This legend had a strong impact in the Middle Ages, both among historians and theologians.

Later, from the Renaissance onwards, Trajan symbolized for artists the just ruler, as in the works of Hans Sebald Beham (Trajans Gerechtigkeit, i.e. Trajan's Justice, 1537), Noël-Nicolas Coypel (Trajan Giving Public Audiences, 1699), Noël Hallé (Trajan's Justice, 1765) and Eugène Delacroix (Trajan's Justice, 1840).

In this same idea, Trajan was chosen to represent "Justice" in the decoration of the entrance hall of the Washington Supreme Court in 1930.

Historians from the 16th to the mid-20th century

Many works still present Trajan as the ideal ruler. Edward Gibbon was inspired by the sight of the ruins of ancient Rome to write his major work, the History of the Decay and Fall of the Roman Empire, published from 1776. He was not convinced that the emergence of Christianity was the main cause of the Empire's downfall. Influenced by the Enlightenment, he described the second century as a succession of "five good emperors," among whom Trajan was prominent. This expression, coined by the political philosopher Nicholas Machiavelli in 1503, refers to those adopted emperors who gained the respect of their entourage through their good government. Edward Gibbon believed that their reign was a time when "the Roman Empire was governed by absolute power, under the immediate guidance of wisdom and virtue". The positive image of Trajan is decisive in Gibbon's judgment when he states that the second century is a happy time. Gibbon's work has a considerable influence on the vision that contemporary historians have of the Roman Empire.

In 1883, Theodor Mommsen, however, made a very different judgment, accusing Trajan of having sought, through the campaign against the Parthians, to satisfy "an unquenchable desire for conquest. In spite of everything, the reign of Trajan is considered, until the end of the XIXth century, as very positive, especially in comparison with that of Domitian.

In the work of Roberto Paribeni of 1927, Trajan becomes a unique figure among all Roman emperors: his reign marks the apogee of the Empire in all areas and the period (saeculum Traiani) the happiest of Roman history. In his works, Paribeni takes up the image of the Optimus Princeps that many researches have been consolidating for decades. Alfred Heuß, in his praise of Trajan in his Roman History, states that he is "one of the great dominant figures", "the perfect human embodiment of the term emperor".

Modern historians

In modern biographical research, relatively few studies on Trajan have been published since Paribeni and his two-volume biography. Themes of imperial life can be found in works by Mary Smallwood (1966), in Die Frauen am Hofe Trajans by Hildegard Temporini-Gräfin Vitzthum (1978) or in Untersuchungen zu den Dakerkriegen Trajans by Karl Strobel (1984). In Eugen Cizek's 1983 work, Paribeni's influence is still felt. Cizek considers the reign of Trajan as unique and as the happiest period for Rome. As for Julian Bennett, his biography of the emperor, Trajan. Optimus Princeps, published in 1997, concludes that Trajan's reign was generally very positive, both in domestic and foreign policy.

In Karl Strobel's 2010 study, Kaiser Traian. Eine Epoche der Weltgeschichte, from 2010, Trajan is no longer the Optimus Princeps as he appears in the ancient tradition, in opposition to the Pessimus Pinceps that Domitian is. For Strobel, Trajan has in fact only continued the policy of Domitian by strengthening the autocratic position of the princeps.

In French works on the High Roman Empire, historians such as Paul Petit (1974) and Patrick Le Roux (1997) underline his great military and administrative qualities, the fact that he knew how to renew skilfully with the Senate, his social policy in particular of food aid, but note an uncontrolled expansionist policy.

A good strategist, Trajan certainly led glorious campaigns, but he did not leave as strong a mark in military matters as emperors like Augustus, Hadrian or Septimius Severus. His wars were costly, with a heavy human toll, and only led to disappointing results: only the annexation, almost peaceful, of Arabia was lasting and advantageous. Dacia poses as many problems as it brings advantages to the Empire, the attempt to conquer the territories of the Parthians seems illusory and the Eastern provinces are devastated by the great Judeo-Parthian revolt of 115-117. His financial policy was laborious, with an Empire living beyond its means thanks to occasional revenues, and the Roman Empire was in a poor economic situation at his death. Paul Petit also recalls "his portraits of a bribe-taker with a low forehead, and his penchant for wine and young boys".

Romanian Anthem

In Romania's national anthem, Deșteaptă-te, române! (Wake up, Romanian!), Trajan is mentioned in the second stanza:

The translation from Romanian to French gives :

We can suppose that the name of this emperor is present as a tribute to the origins of Romania and in particular its language derived from Latin like Italian, Spanish, etc.

In the video game Civilization VI, Trajan is the leader of the Roman Empire.


  1. Trajan
  2. Trajan
  3. L'année de sa naissance est discutée, certains auteurs avancent l'an 56, mais la grande majorité des historiens modernes considère dorénavant que Trajan est né en l'an 53. Voir le chapitre « Lieu et date de naissance ».
  4. Il est lui-même peut-être né à Rome plutôt qu’en Hispanie, puisque son père en est au début de sa carrière sénatoriale en 53, l’année de sa naissance, ce qui exclut probablement un séjour à Italica. Cependant, l'hypothèse d'une naissance en Hispanie, à Italica, reste soutenue. Voir le chapitre « Lieu et date de naissance ».
  5. Consulat éponyme pour leur deuxième ou troisième mandat : Quintus Articuleius Paetus en 101, Lucius Iulius Ursus Servianus en 102, Manius Laberius Maximus en 103, Sextus Attius Suburanus Aemilianus en 104, Tiberius Iulius Candidus et Aulus Iulius Quadratus en 105, Quintus Sosius Senecio en 107, Aulus Cornelius Palma Frontonianus en 109 et Lucius Publilius Celsus en 113. S'ajoutent à cela Lucius Iulius Ursus, deuxième et troisième consulats suffects en 98 et 100, Cnaeus Domitius Tullus et Titus Vestricius Spurinna en 98 et Quintus Glitius Atilius Agricola en 103.
  6. virtus : « vertu, force morale, vaillance, courage », c'est la qualité que doit avoir l'homme, mélange d'énergie, de force morale et de courage.
  7. ^ Sister of Trajan's father: Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  8. ^ Giacosa (1977), p. 8.
  9. ^ a b Levick (2014), p. 161.
  10. ^ Husband of Ulpia Marciana: Levick (2014), p. 161.
  11. ^ a b Giacosa (1977), p. 7.
  12. ^ Strobel 2010, p. 40.
  13. Eutrop 8,2 nennt Italica als Geburtsort. Alle anderen Autoren verweisen nur auf Trajans Herkunft aus Hispania, was eine rechtliche Aussage mit ökonomischen Konsequenzen ist, nicht jedoch eine Aussage zum Geburtsort.
  14. Karl Strobel: Kaiser Traian. Eine Epoche der Weltgeschichte. Regensburg 2010 S. 40.
  15. Sein vollständiger Titel zum Zeitpunkt seines Todes war Imperator Caesar divi Nervae filius Nerva Traianus optimus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus Parthicus, pontifex maximus, tribuniciae potestatis XXI, imperator XIII, proconsul, consul VI, pater patriae.

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