Trajan

TRAJAN (trā'jăn). Trajan, Marcus Ulpius Traianus, was emperor from a.d. 98 to 117. Born in Spain in 53, Trajan was adopted by the emperor Nerva as his heir in 97, after a distinguished military career. The choice of the able and popular soldier was a wise one. Trajan began his rule by dealing firmly with the growing menace of the Roman garrison, the Praetorian Guard; and he succeeded in conciliating the senatorial class, whose loyalty and regard are recorded in Pliny’s excessive Panegyric. Trajan proved an able financial organizer and a vigorous builder. A large program of public works was financed largely from the loot of the Dacian War. The principate was marked by wide military activity on the Danube, the Parthian, and the African frontiers. During Trajan’s reign, in fact, the Empire reached its widest extent and held its frontiers more firmly than ever before or after that time. Provincial administration was economical, strict, humane, and progressive. A volume of correspondence survives between Trajan and Pliny, who was governor of Bithynia just before his death. An interesting reply on the problem of the Christians in the province illustrates strikingly the desire of the emperor to combine firmness with humanity in his legislation (Pliny, Ep. 10.79). Conscious of an imperial mission Trajan sought, as few other emperors did so urgently and sincerely, to found a rule of “Felicitas, Securitas, Aequitas, Justitia.” He bore, no doubt, too heavy a personal burden, and decided too much from Rome; but the tradition he endeavored to found was a noble one and shows the Empire at its best, not unconscious of a duty to mankind.——EMB


TRAJAN Trā’ jən (M. Ulpius Traianus). Emperor of Rome (a.d. 98-117).

Trajan was born in Spain in the year 53, and after serving in various military and civil capacities was made governor of Germany in 97. While there he learned of his adoption by the then emperor, Nerva, an act which according to the custom of the time assured him of the succession to the throne. Nirva’s action was prompted by a revolt of the praetorian guard, which made him realize the need of a firmer hand upon affairs of state.

Upon Nerva’s death in 98, Trajan lingered in Germany on some unfinished business, and did not come to Rome until 99. His first act was to punish the mutinous praetorians, and then to show his displeasure he gave to the people only half the usual donation. He won the favor of the Senate by confirming all their privileges. A natural leader, he soon became popular with both army and people.

The general administration of Trajan was paternalistic. He took upon himself the burden of ruling and manifested an unusual capacity to deal with the complex problems of the huge empire. His policy, however, discouraged initiative on the part of the provinces which soon learned to look to Rome for the solution of all their problems. By continuing the free distribution of grain and the provision of money for feeding the poor children of the municipalities, and esp. by choosing good governors, he maintained the well-being of the provinces. He greatly expanded the program of public works, building new baths for the city of Rome, as well as a magnificent forum, and by constructing new roads throughout his domain. The combined firmness and humanity of his character is illustrated by his attitude toward the Christians (see Pliny, Epistulae, X. 96, 97).

His reign was marked by two great military ventures. In two campaigns (101-102 and 105-106) he subjugated Dacia, the region N of the Danube, and made it into a Rom. province. Here gold and salt mines were successfully operated. The second endeavor was against the Parthians (q.v.) in 113-117. He made at best a precarious conquest, and died in Cilicia while on the way back to Rome.

Bibliography

Oxford Classical Dictionary.