Traja'nus, M. U'lpius
Roman emperor A. D. 98-117, was born at Italica (Alcalà del Rio), near Seville, the 18th of September, A. D. 52, according to some authorities. His father, also named Trajanus, had attained, it is said, the dignity of consul, and been elevated to the rank of patrician; but his name does not occur in the Fasti.
The son was trained to arms, and served as tribunus militum.
It appears that he was employed near the Euphrates, probably about A. D. 80, when he checked the progress of the Parthians ; and it is not unlikely that he was at this time serving under his father.
He was raised to the praetorship some time before A. D. 86, and was consul in A. D. 91 with M' Acilius Glabrio.
He afterwards returned to Spain, whence he was summoned by Domitian to command the troops in Lower Germany, and he had his head-quarters at Cologne.
At the close of A. D. 97, he was adopted by the emperor Nerva, who gave him the rank of Caesar, and the names of Nerva and Germanicus, and shortly after the title of imperator, and the tribunitia potestas. His style and title after his elevation to the imperial dignity were Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus.
He was the first emperor who was born out of Italy.
Trajan was a man adapted to command.
He was strong and healthy, of a majestic appearance, laborious, and inured to fatigue. Though not a man of letters, he had good sense, a knowledge of the world, and a sound judgment. His mode of living was very simple, and in his campaigns he shared all the sufferings and privations of the soldiers, by whom he was both loved and feared.
He was a friend to justice, and he had a sincere desire for the happiness of the people. Yet it is said that he sometimes indulged in wine to excess, and during intoxication was subject to fits of passion.
A strong nature, like that of Trajan, may sometimes have required excitement, notwithstanding his habitual temperance.
It is difficult to decide between the testimony of his panegyrist Plinius, who commends the chastity of Trajan, and the testimony of Dio Cassius, the universal calumniator, who says that he was addicted to shameful vices. Julian, a severe judge, has not spared him on this point.
Nerva died in January A. D. 98, and was succeeded by Trajan, who was then at Cologne.
He did not come to Rome for some months, being employed in settling the frontiers on the Rhine and the Danube.
It was apparently about this time that the Chamavi and Angrivarii drove the Bructeri from their lands on the Rhine, and destroyed the greater part of them, the Romans being witnesses of the bloody combat, and seeing with indifference, or even pleasure, the mutual slaughter of their enemies.
In A. D. 99 Trajan did not take the consulship, though it was usual for an emperor to hold this office in the year which followed his elevation. One of the consuls of this year was C. Sosius Senecio, whom Plutarch addresses in the beginning of his life of Romulus, and in several of his moral essays. Trajan entered Rome on foot, amidst the rejoicings of the Romans, accompanied by his wife Pompeia Plotina.
This lady is highly commended by Plinius the younger for her modest virtues, and her affection to Marciana, the sister of Trajan.
The title of Pater Patriae was accepted by the emperor after his arrival at Rome, and the new designation of Optimus.
It seems probable that his wife and sister also had the title of Augustae.
It was usual for a new emperor to bestow a gift of money on each of his soldiers, and it appears from the medals that Trajan made his congiarium in this year.
He also showed the same liberality to the Roman citizens, and extended it to children under eleven years of age, who had not been allowed to share in former donations of this kind.
The emperor made allowances for the bringing up of the children of poor free persons at Rome, the direct object being to encourage the procreation, or rather the preservation of children, who otherwise would have been allowed to perish. " It is," says Plinius (Panegyr.
100.27), "a great inducement to bring up children, to raise them with the hope of receiving sustenance (alimenta), of receiving donations (congiaria)." Plinius commends the emperor for being liberal out of his own means, that is, out of the imperial revenue; but this money came either from taxes, or from the produce of lands which belonged to the fiscus. So long as a bounty is paid for the procreation of children, the state may rest secure that it will not want citizens.
This system was extended to other towns of Italy, where provision was made for supporting the children of the poor.
This was the mode in which the Roman policy attempted to meet an evil, which grows up in all large towns, a population without the means of subsistence (see the Tabula Alimentaria
of Velleia). Trajan also occupied himself with provisioning Rome, a part of Roman policy which had been long established.
There are only two ways of feeding a people; one way is to let them feed themselves by removing all obstacles to freedom of trade and freedom of communication; the other is by taking from one to give to another, a system which is more agreeable to him who gains than to him who loses. Trajan punished the odious class of informers, a measure that will always be popular.
There was at Rome a tax of five per cent. (vicesima) on successions, that is, on property which came to a man by the death of another.
This mode of raising a revenue contains the principle of the state assuming that a man's title to property ceases with his life, for if the amount of the tax is carried high enough, the whole will go to the state.
It is not like a tax annually paid upon the annual produce or value of land, which is only a contribution of a portion of the fruits. Trajan (Plin. Paneg.
100.37, &c.) released from this tax on successions those heredes who were not extranei, and also those who succeeded to a small hereditas. Many of the public buildings at Rome were repaired by the emperor in the early part of his reign, and he added accommodation to the Circus for five thousand persons.
In the year A. D. 100, various persons enjoyed for a time the honour of the consulship; Sex. Julius Frontinus, the author of a work on the aqueducts of Rome, Tertullus Cornutus, and C. Caecilius Plinius Secundus.
In this year Marius Priscus, proconsul of Africa, was tried by the senate for peculation in his province. Plinius and Cornelius Tacitus, the historian, were appointed by the senate to prosecute. Priscus made no defence, and submitted to be convicted.
He was banished, but he still enjoyed himself in his exile (Juv. Sat.
8.120). Caecilius Classicus, proconsul of Baetica, was accused about the same time of pillaging the people whom he had been sent to govern.
He died or killed himself before judgment was given (Plin. Ep. 3.9
); but the matter was still prosecuted : the property which Classicus had before he was governor was given to his daughter, and the rest was distributed among those whom he had robbed. Some of the accomplices of Classicus were also punished. The Panegyricus on Trajan, which is our authority for many of Trajan's acts up to this time, was pronounced by Plinius in A. D. 100, the year in which he received the consular honour. Some additions were made to the Panegyricus after it was pronounced (Plin. Ep. 3.13
It was perhaps about this time that Hadrian, afterwards emperor, married Sabina, the grand-niece of Trajan; and to this date or somewhere about this time we may refer a letter of Plinius (Ep.
3.20), in which he says that all the senators on the day of electing the magistrates demanded the vote by ballot (tabellas postulaverunt).
In his fourth cousulship, A. D. 101, Trajan left Rome for his campaign against the Daci. Decebalus, king of the Daci, had compelled Domitian to purchase peace by an annual payment of money; and Trajan, either being tired of paying this shameful tribute, or having other grounds of complaint, determined on hostilities. Decebalus was defeated, and one of his sisters was taken prisoner, and many of his strong posts were captured. Trajan advanced as far as Zermizegethusa, probably the chief town of the Dacian king, and Decebalus at last sued for peace at the feet of the Roman emperor; but Trajan required him to send ambassadors to Rome to pray for the ratification of the treaty.
The conqueror assumed the name of Dacicus, and entered Rome in triumph.
4.22) records a curious decision at Rome in the emperor's consilium. Trebonius Rufinus, duumvir of Vienna, had put an end to certain games in that town, which had been established by a testamentary bequest; the ground of not allowing their celebration was, that the games were injurious to the morals of the people of Vienna.
The case was carried by appeal to Rome, and the judgment of Rufinus was confirmed. When the members of the consilium were asked their opinion Junius Mauricus said that he wished such exhibitions could be stopped at Rome also.
This was the same man who gave Nerva a rebuke [NERVA, p. 1167]. (Plin. Ep. 4.22
It was probably some time in A. D. 103, that Trajan made an artificial harbour at Centum Cellae (Cività Vecchia), the form of which is recorded on a medal : the operations of constructing the port are described by Plinius (Ep.
The port was called Trajanus Portus, but the old name of Centum Cellae afterwards prevailed.
In this year or the following Plinius was sent by Trajan as governor of Pontus and Bithynia, with the title of Legatus and Propraetor, and with Consularis Potestas.
It was during his residence of about eighteen months in this province that part of his correspondence with Trajan took place, which is preserved in the tenth book of the letters of Plinius.
He was particularly commissioned by the emperor to examine the state of the revenue and expenditure of the towns, and to cut off all useless cost.
The correspondence of Trajan with his governor shows the good sense and moderation of the Roman emperor, his attention to business, his honest straightforward purpose.
As to the treatment of the Christians in Bithynia, see PLINIUS, C. CAECILIUS SECUNDUS.
An embassy from a Sarmatian king (A. D. 104) passed through Nicaea in Bithynia on their way to Trajan (Plin. Ep. 10.14
In this year the remains of Nero's golden palace were burnt, and Orosius adds (7.12) that it was a visitation upon Trajan for his persecution of the Christians; but as it is not proved to the satisfaction of all persons that Trajan was a persecutor, perhaps the historian may be mistaken in his opinion. Besides, the burning of Nero's palace, who set the first example of persecution, does not seem to have been an appropriate punishment for Trajan, even if he deserved punishment.
In this year Trajan commenced his second Dacian war against Decebalus, who, it is said, had broken the treaty; and when Trajan required him to surrender himself, he refused, and prepared for resistance.
The senate declared Decebalus an enemy, and Trajan conducted the campaign in person. The Dacian attempted to rid himself of his formidable enemy by sending two pretended deserters to assassinate him when he was in Maesia. Longinus, one of the generals of Trajan was surprised by Decebalus in an ambuscade, and the Dacian king offered to restore him, if Trajan would grant peace, restore the country as far as the Danube, and pay the expenses of the war. Trajan, who could not accept such terms as these, gave an evasive answer, and in the mean time Longinus relieved the emperor from his difficulty by poisoning himself.
In order to effect a communication with the country north of the Danube, Apollodorus the architect constructed, by Trajan's command, a bridge over the river, which is described by Dio Cassius (68.13, and the valuable note of Reimarus), though his description is inaccurate, and his measurements exaggerated. " When the water is very low, some of the piles stand two or three feet above it." (Wilkinson's Wallachia and Moldavia,
The bridge was built at a place called Szernecz.
The piers were of enormous size, but the arches were constructed of wood. Trajan crossed the Danube on his new bridge, and entered Dacia.
He found great obstacles in this country, where there were no roads, and every thing was almost in a state of nature. Hadrian commanded a legion under the emperor, and greatly distinguished himself in this Dacian campaign. Decebalus being defeated on every side, killed himself, and his head was carried to Rome. Dacia was reduced to the form of a Roman province; strong forts were built in various places, and Roman colonies were planted.
It is generally supposed that the column at Rome called the Column of Trajan was erected to commemorate his Dacian victories. On his return Trajan had a triumph, and he exhibited games to the people for one hundred and twenty-three days, a time long enough to satisfy the avidity of the Romans for these spectacles. Eleven thousand animals were slaughtered during these amusements; and an army of gladiators, ten thousand men, gratified the Romans by killing one another. We must assume that there was at least another army as large to prevent the outbreak of so many desperate men. Probably many of these gladiators were prisoners. (A. D. 105.)
About this time Arabia Petraea was subjected to the empire by A. Cornelius Palma, the governor of Syria; and an Indian embassy came to Rome.
Trajan constructed a road across the Pomptine marshes, and built magnificent bridges across the streams. Buildings, probably mansiones, were constructed by the side of this road.
He also called in all the old money, and issued a new coinage.
In the autumn of B. C. 106 Trajan left Rome to make war on the Armenians and the Parthians.
The pretext for the war was that Exedares, the king of Armenia, had received the diadem from the Parthian king, and he ought to have received it from the Roman emperor, as Tiridates had received it from Nero. When Chosroes, the Parthian king, knew that Trajan was seriously bent on war, he sent ambassadors, who found Trajan at Athens, and, in the name of Chosroes, offered him presents, and informed him that Chosroes had deposed Exedares, and begged him to confer the crown on Parthamasiris. Trajan refused his presents, and said that when he arrived in Syria he would do what was proper.
He reached Seleucia in Syria in the month of December, and entered Antioch early in the following January.
The evidence for the interview at Antioch between the emperor and Ignatius, which ended in the condemnation of Ignatius, is stated elsewhere [IGNATIUS].
The circumstances, as told, are exceedingly improbable, and sound criticism would lead us to reject the genuineness of the narrative contained in the Martyrdom of Ignatius on the internal evidence alone.
From Antioch Trajan marched to Armenia, by way of Samosata, on the Euphrates, which he took.
He thence advanced to Satala, and Elegia, a town in Armenia, where he granted Parthamasiris an interview. Parthamasiris had already written to Trajan, and in his letter he assumed the title of king. Trajan sent no answer, and he wrote again, dropping the title of king, and prayed that M. Junius, governor of Cappadocia, might be sent to him : Trajan sent to him the son of Junius. The Armenian king took the diadem from his head. and placed it at the feet of Trajan, who sat on his tribunal within the Roman camp.
He expected that Trajan would give it back to him, but he was told that Armenia was now a Roman province, and he was sent away escorted by some horsemen.
The kings of the countries bordering on Armenia made a form of submission to the Roman emperor ; the king of the Iberi, of the Sauromatae, of Colchis, and others.
Trajan returned by way of Edessa, where he was well received by the cautious Abgarus, king of Osrhoene, who now made his apology for not having paid the emperor a visit at Antioch, and through the interest of his son Arbandes, whom Trajan had seen and liked, the king of Osrhoene was excused for his former want of respect.
The transactions with some of the petty chieftains of Mesopotamia hardly merit a notice, but military operations in this country are dangerous enough even without a formidable enemy, and the emperor set his soldiers an example of endurance, which may have been an act of prudence as of hardihood.
The town of Singar (Sinjar) is one of those which are mentioned as having been taken by the Romans.
The history of this campaign of Trajan is lost, and the few scattered notices that remain of it do not enable us to construct even a probable narrative.
In fact the period from A. D. 108 to A. D. 115 is nearly a blank; it is even doubful whether Trajan ever returned to Rome.
The year A. D. 112 was the sixth and last consulship of Trajan, and there is some slight evidence which renders it probable that he was at Rome in this year.
In the spring of A. D. 115 he left Syria on his Parthian expedition.
He had constructed boats of the timber which the forests near Nisibis supplied, and they were conveyed on waggons to the Tigris, for the formation of a bridge of boats.
He crossed the river and advanced into the country of Adiabene, an event which is recorded by an extant medal.
The whole of this country, in which were situated Gaugamela and Arbela, places memorable in the history of Alexander
, was subdued. From Adiabene he marched to Babylon, according to Dio Cassius (68.26), and he must therefore have recrossed the Tigris. His course was through the desert to the Euphrates, and past the site of Hit (Is), where he saw the springs of bitumen, which was used for cement at Babylon, and which Herodotus has described. Trajan meditated (Dio Cass.) the formation of a canal from the Euphrates to the Tigris, in order that he might convey his boats along it, and construct a bridge over the lower course of the Tigris. We must suppose that the bridge of boats over the upper Tigris in Adiabene was intended to remain; and that Trajan had also sent boats down the Euphrates, which Dio Cassius has not mentioned. Dio Cassius's narrative, which exists only in the epitome of Xiphilinus, is very confused.
There were already canals existing, which joined the Euphrates and Tigris, and we must therefore suppose that they required clearing out, and were not in a fit condition for the transit of boats'.
According to Dio Cassius, Trajan did not cut the intended canal, for fear that the Euphrates might be drained by it of its waters. Accordingly, the boats were taken across by land, the Tigris was bridged, and the Roman emperor entered the Parthian capital of Ctesiphon.
This event was commemorated by his assuming the name of Parthicus, though it seems that he had assumed it before. (See the medal at the close of this article.)
Tillemont supposes that Trajan returned to Antioch in the winter of A. D. 115, during which happened the great earthquake, which nearly destroyed Antioch and many other cities; but Dio Cassius places the earthquake before the capture of Ctesiphon.
This terrible calamity, which was as awful in its circumstances as the great earthquake of Lisbon in the last century, destroyed a great number of buildings and many people : Pedo the consul perished, and Trajan escaped through a window, with a slight injury, being led forth by a man of supernatural size.
In the following year Trajan descended the Tigris and entered the Erythraean Sea (the Persian Gulf).
The king of the district called Mesene, between the lower course of the Tigris and the Euphrates, submitted to the emperor. Dio Cassius adds that Trajan sailed as far as the Ocean, and seeing a vessel bound for India, said that he would have gone thither, if he were younger.
In the mean time he was losing his Eastern conquests as quick as he had gained them; some of his governor were slaughtered, and others expelled.
He sent his generals Lusius and Maximus to restore obedience. Maximus lost his life; but Lusius was successful, for he recovered Nisibis, and took Edessa by storm and burnt it. Seleucia on the Tigris, near Ctesiphon, was taken and burnt by Erycius Clarus and Julius Alexander.
It appears that the whole country east of the Tigris from north to south, had risen against the Romans. Returning to Ctesiphon. Trajan determined to give the Parthians a king.
He assembled the Romans and Parthians in a great plain near the city, and ascending a lofty tribunal, he commemorated his own exploits, and concluded by declaring Parthamaspates king of the Parthians, and placing the diadem on his head.
The conquest of Arabia is recorded by several medals among the exploits of Trajan, but it is impossible to say which of the several parts of Asia included under that name, was conquered by him. Dio Cassius says : "after this he went into Arabia and attacked the Atreni, who had revolted; and their city is neither large nor rich." By Arabia he here means northern Mesopotamia, for Atra is Al Hadhr. (London Geog. Journal,
vol. xi. p. 17.) Trajan was obliged to raise the siege of this town. Tillemont supposes that Trajan entered the Indian Ocean, and penetrated " even to the extremities of Arabia Felix," but it is impossible to adopt his conclusions from the evidence that he produces.
Trajan fell ill after the siege of Atra, and as his complaint grew worse, he set out for Italy, leaving Hadrian in Syria, and Parthia again hostile, for the Parthians had ejected the king whom Trajan gave them.
The emperor seems to have had a variety of complaints, both dropsy and paralysis.
He lived to reach Selinus in Cilicia, afterwards called Trajanopolis, where he died in the early part of August, A. D. 117, after a reign of nineteen years six months and fifteen days. His ashes were taken to Rome in a golden urn, carried in triumphal procession, and deposited under the column which bears his name.
He left no children, and he was succeeded by Hadrian.
Trajan constructed several great roads in the empire; he built libraries at Rome, one of which, called the Ulpia Bibliotheca,
is often mentioned ; and a theatre in the Campus Martius. His great work was the Forum Trajanum, the site of which was an elevation which was removed, and the ground was levelled to a plain, in the centre of which was placed the column of Trajan, the height of which marked the height of the earth which had been removed.
The inscription on the column fixes the date at the year A. D. 11 2, the sixth consulship of Trajan. Apollodorus was Trajan's architect. Trajan constructed the port of Ancona, on the ancient mole of which there still stands a triumphal arch, dedicated to Trajan, his wife, and his sister.
The inscription on the bridge of Alcantara over the Tagus belonged to the year A. D. 106, but though the inscription was in honour of Trajan, it states that the bridge was made at the common expense of the several towns which are there mentioned.
Under the reign of Trajan lived Sextus Julius Frontinus, C. Cornelius Tacitus, the Younger Plinius, and various others of less note. Plutarch, Suetonius, Epictetus, survived Trajan.
The jurists Juventius Celsus, and Neratius Priscus, were living under Trajan.
The authorities for part of the reign of Trajan are very defective. Tillemont, with all his industry, has not been able to construct a narrative of the latter years of his reign, which we can fully accept, and his chronology is open to several objections. Still the life of Trajan in the Histoire des Empereurs
(vol. ii.) contains all the materials that exist for the reign of this distinguished man, and, with the notes of Reimarus on the sixty-eighth book of Dio Cassius, must be the foundation of any future attempts to give a satisfactory history of this period.
There is an essay by H. Francke, Zur Geschichte Trajans und seiner Zeitgenossen, &c.,
1837, which is well spoken of