History for the Rest of Us

Trajan

Trajan

Sep 19, 2012

On September 18, 53 AD, Marcus Ulpius Traianus was born at Italica near Seville. He would become the Emperor Trajan, the first roman emperor of non-Italian origin. His father had both a distinguished military career and civil career, commanding the Tenth Legion during the Jewish War in 67 and 68 AD, and serving as consul around 70 AD. Trajan followed in the footsteps of his father. He served as military tribune under his father in the 70s and became commander of the Seventh Legion by the late 80s. After marching to the aid of Domitian in early 89 he found favor with the Emperor and was selected as praetor in 85 AD and consul in 91 AD. When Nerva became emperor in 96 AD, Trajan was appointed governor of Upper Germany. A mutiny by the Praetorian Guard under Casperius Aelianus in October of 97 forced the ailing Nerva to adopt an heir. After some deliberation, and according to some, the non-passive activities of Trajan’s friends at Rome, Nerva adopted Trajan as his successor. When Nerva died on January 28, 98 AD, Trajan first secured his affairs on the Rhine and Danube frontiers and then returned to Rome. It was more than a year after he became emperor, in the late summer of 99 AD, when he arrived at Rome. The citizens showed up in large numbers to welcome him. He made his entrance modestly on foot, mingling with the commoners and embracing the senators along the way. Trajan clearly had the support of the senate as is evident from Pliny’s Panegyric, a speech of praise delivered to the senate on September 1, 100 AD. The expanded published version of the speech would have taken approximately six hours to deliver. Trajan excelled at warfare and was renowned for his military exploits. He was very popular with the troops, probably due to his willingness to endure hardship and danger along with those under his command. He was also recognized as a great builder. Trajan’s Forum, the largest of the imperial fora, was viewed as one of the architectural wonders of the world during his time. He also built Trajan’s market, the world’s first multi-level shopping mall;...