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Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus, 18 September 53 – 9 August 117) was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD.

Early life

Trajan was born into a non-patrician family -with Italian roots- in the province of Hispania Baetica.[1] He rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian.

Serving as a general in the Roman army along the German frontier, Trajan successfully put down the revolt of Antonius Saturninus in 89 AD.

In September 96 AD, Domitian was succeeded by 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 27 January 98 AD, and was succeeded by Trajan without incident.

Trajan as Emperor

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.

The Trajan Campaign in Mesopotamia and Parthia (116-117 AD)

Early in his reign he annexed Nabataea (between the Arabian and Sinai peninsulas), creating the province of Arabia Petraea. His conquest of Dacia enriched the empire greatly because the new province possessed many valuable gold mines.[2] The territory he conquered and later populated with roman colonists (actually called Romania) is the only one still romance speaking in our days in eastern Europe.

His war against the Parthian Empire ended with the sack of its capital Ctesiphon and the annexation of Armenia and Mesopotamia. His campaigns expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest territorial extent. He also created in 116 AD a "client state" in Parthia (actual Iran). After these conquests Trajan sailed on the Persian Gulf complaining that he was too much old to invade India, as did Alexander the Great.

In late 117 AD, while sailing back to Rome from the conquered Mesopotamia, Trajan fell ill and died of a stroke in the city of Selinus. He was deified by the Senate, and succeeded by his adopted son Hadrian.

As an emperor, Trajan's reputation has endured — he is one of the few rulers whose reputation has survived nineteen centuries. 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.[3]


  1. Julian Bennett, Trajan: Optimus Princeps, 2nd Edition, Routledge 2000, 12.
  2. "De Imperatoribus Romanis". An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Battle of Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetuza), A.D. 105. During Trajan's reign one of the most important Roman successes was the victory over the Dacians." 
  3. Nelson, Eric (2002). Idiots guide to the Roman Empire.. Alpha Books. pp. 207–209. ISBN 0-02-864151-5 .