Optimus Princeps
White bust
Marble bust, Glyptothek, Munich
Roman emperor
Reign28 January 98 – 11 August 117
BornMarcus Ulpius Traianus
18 September 53
Italica, Hispania Baetica
(now Santiponce, Spain)
Died9/11 August 117 (aged 63)
Selinus, Cilicia
(now Gazipaşa, Turkey)
Rome (ashes of Trajan's Column, now lost), now known as Trajan's Forum
SpousePompeia Plotina
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Nerva Traianus Augustus[1]

Trajan (/ˈtrən/ TRAY-jən; Latin: Caesar Nerva Traianus; 18 September 53 – 9/11 August 117) was Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Officially declared by the senate optimus princeps ("best ruler"), Trajan is remembered as a successful soldier-emperor who presided over one of the greatest military expansions in Roman history and led the empire to attain the greatest territorial extent in history by the time of his death. He is also known for his philanthropic rule, overseeing extensive public building programs and implementing social welfare policies, which earned him his enduring reputation as the second of the Five Good Emperors who presided over an era of peace within the Empire and prosperity in the Mediterranean world.

Trajan was born in Italica, close to modern Seville in present-day Spain, a Roman city in the province of Hispania Baetica. His Ulpia gens came from Umbria and was established in the south of Hispania centuries before the birth of Trajan.[2][3][4] His father Marcus Ulpius Traianus, also born in Hispania, was a senator, and therefore Trajan was born into a senatorial family.[5][6] Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in 89 Trajan supported Domitian against a revolt on the Rhine led by Antonius Saturninus. In September 96, Domitian was succeeded by the old and childless Nerva, who proved to be unpopular with the army. After a brief and tumultuous year in power, culminating in a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard, he decided to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. Nerva died in 98 and was succeeded by his adopted son without incident.

As a civilian administrator, Trajan is best known for his extensive public building program, which reshaped the city of Rome and left numerous enduring landmarks such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column. Early in his reign, he annexed the Nabataean Kingdom, creating the province of Arabia Petraea. His conquest of Dacia enriched the empire greatly, as the new province possessed many valuable gold mines. Trajan's war against the Parthian Empire ended with the sack of the capital Ctesiphon and the annexation of Armenia, Mesopotamia and (possibly) Assyria. In late 117, while sailing back to Rome, Trajan fell ill and died of a stroke in the city of Selinus. He was deified by the Senate and his ashes were entombed beneath Trajan's Column. He was succeeded by his cousin Hadrian, whom Trajan supposedly adopted on his deathbed.

  1. ^ Cooley, Alison E. (2012). The Cambridge Manual of Latin Epigraphy. Cambridge University Press. p. 492. ISBN 978-0-521-84026-2.
  2. ^ Cassius Dio, lxviii. 4, lxix. 1, 3.
  3. ^ Aelius Spartianus, "The Life of Hadrian", 1.
  4. ^ Syme, Tacitus, p. 792 ff.
  5. ^ Arnold Blumberg, Great Leaders, Great Tyrants? Contemporary Views of World Rulers who Made History, 1995, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 315: "Trajan is frequently but misleadingly designated the first provincial emperor, because the Ulpii were from Baetica (southern Spain). The family, resident in Spain for some time, originated in Italian Tuder, not far from the Flavian home of Reate. The emperor's father, M. Ulpius Trajanus, was an early adherent of Vespasian and perhaps the old family friend. This Trajan evidently married a Marcia (her name is inferred from that of their daughter Marciana) whose family owned brickyards in the vicinity of Ameria, near both Reate and Tuder. She was possibly an older sister of Marcia Furnilla, second wife of Vespasian's son Titus. Further, Ulpia, sister of the senior Trajan, was a grandmother of Hadrian. In other words, the emperor Trajan was succeeded in 117 by his cousin, member of another Italian family resident in Baetica."
  6. ^ Strobel 2010, p. 40.