Wednesday, September 18, 2013

TRAJAN ~ September 18, 53 CE ~ August 8, 117 CE

Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, commonly known as Trajan (18 September 53 – 8 August 117), was a Roman Emperor who reigned from A. D. 98 until his death in A. D. 117. Born Marcus Ulpius Traianus into a nonpatrician family in the Hispania Baetica province (modern day Spain), Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian, serving as a general in the Roman army along the German frontier, and successfully crushing the revolt of Antonius Saturninus in 89. On September 18, 96, Domitian was succeeded by Marcus Cocceius Nerva, an old and childless senator who proved to be unpopular with the army. After a brief and tumultuous year in power, a revolt by members of the Praetorian Guard compelled him to adopt the more popular Trajan as his heir and successor. Nerva died on January 27, 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 multiple enduring landmarks such as Trajan's Forum, Trajan's Market and Trajan's Column. It was as a military commander however that Trajan celebrated his greatest triumphs. In 101, he launched a punitive expedition into the kingdom of Dacia against king Decebalus, defeating the Dacian army near Tapae in 102, and finally conquering Dacia completely in 106. In 107, Trajan pushed further east and annexed the Nabataean kingdom, establishing the province of Arabia Petraea. After a period of relative peace within the Empire, he launched his final campaign in 113 against Parthia, advancing as far as the city of Susa in 116, and expanding the Roman Empire to its greatest extent. During this campaign Trajan was struck by illness, and late in 117, while sailing back to Rome, he died of a stroke on August 9, in the city of Selinus. He was deified by the Senate and his ashes were laid to rest under Trajan's Column. He was succeeded by his adopted son (not having a biological heir) Publius Aelius Hadrianus—commonly known as Hadrian.

As an emperor, Trajan's reputation has endured - he is one of the few rulers whose reputation has survived the scrutiny of nineteen centuries of history. Every new emperor after him was honoured by the Senate with the prayer felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, meaning "may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan". Among medieval Christian theologians, Trajan was considered a virtuous pagan, while the 18th century historian Edward Gibbon popularized the notion of the Five Good Emperors, of which Trajan was the second.

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Titian in the Frari (Venezia)