Born Marcus Ulpius Traianus on 18 September 53AD, Trajan’s father was a successful general and senator and Trajan followed in his father’s footsteps. At a young age he served in the Roman army and rose through the ranks. 
In 76AD – 77AD Trajan served as ‘tribunis legionis’ (military tribune) in Syria. 
Around 86AD Trajan became co-guardian of future emperor Hadrian following the death of Hadrian’s father, and Hadrian learnt a lot under Trajan’s parentage. 
Circa 91AD Trajan was nominated for consul. At around the same time he married Pompeia Plotina, who was to outlive him; however, the marriage did not produce any children. 
Trajan fought alongside the current emperor Nerva in the Domitian wars, and he was himself adopted by Nerva as his son, becoming emperor following Nerva’s death in 98AD. 
Emperor 98AD – 117AD 
Trajan was not in Rome when he was declared emperor and this declaration did not hasten his return; he chose instead to tour the Rhine and Danube frontiers. He did not return to Rome until 99AD. Entering the city on foot, he embraced senators and walked and talked amongst his people. 
Trajan had a good relationship with the senate and early in his rule he embarked on a major public works project. New buildings were erected, roads, bridges and aqueducts were built. He also set up funds to help the children of Rome. 
Cassius Dio wrote ‘Trajan was most conspicuous for his justice, for his bravery and for the simplicity of his habits’. He is known as one of the ‘Five Good Emperors’. 
Trajan’s passion was war and he spent much of his reign away on battle. In 101AD he fought a campaign in the Dacian kingdom, defeating them at Tapae. The war continued until 102AD whereby the Dacian king Decebalus, defeated, agreed to keep the peace. Trajan held a three-month series of gladiatorial games to celebrate this success. 
Trajan fought Decebalus again in 105AD. Decebalus had spent the intervening years rebuilding his armies, yet he was defeated again and following defeat he committed suicide. Trajan then returned to Rome in 106AD. 
In 114AD Trajan left Rome for the final time to wage war on the Parthians. 
He died on 9 August 117AD in Selinus (Turkey), on his deathbed he adopted Hadrian as his successor, although there is speculation that Trajan’s wife Pompeia Plotina forged documents to secure the succession for Hadrian and Trajan had actually died without naming a successor.. 
Tagged as: Junior Ancient Rome
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