Trajan was one of the greatest Roman emperors. Born within a distinguished Roman family from Hispania, he spent the fi rst years of his public life as a renowned general whose victories spread quickly through the empire. During the last years of the first century c.e.

Nerva— one of the Antonine emperors—decided the destiny of such an extensive territory. Adopted by him in 98 c.e., Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus managed to seize power and hold it until 117. He was a good example of how adoption proved to be extremely fruitful, since its system allowed minimizing the contingencies of heritage.

Under Nerva and Trajan, after almost 100 years of empire, a new understanding commenced between the supreme authority of the princeps, and the community submitted to him, based on a twofold concession: the acceptance that this form of government was indispensable and the recognition by the emperor of the legitimate privileges of the upper class. Thus, the princeps’s power not only became stable and dominant, but also his relationship with the citizens improved.

Trajan was more a good administrator than an innovator, believing in the supremacy of good management over an excessive confidence in reforms. Nonetheless, he reacted militarily when the king of the Dacians, Decebalus, prevented the advance of the army in Germania.

He declared war against Dacia and conducted the army to his territory, where the king was completely beaten. Trajan did not kill his enemy, but despite his mercy, two years later Decebalus organized a new rebellion against the emperor.

This time the traitor was fiercely defeated, and all the gold mines in the area were confiscated. Trajan used the great bounty to finance a huge program of public works. He built a large aqueduct, a new port in Ostia, four new big roads, and the amphitheater in Verona. His most famous construction was the Trajan Forum.

During Trajan’s period Roman culture flourished with masterpieces of Latin literature. Pliny the Younger was one of the prominent advisers of Trajan. He left hundreds of letters in which we can appreciate the emperor’s personality as well as the customs of the time.

Aiming at concluding the work of Caesar and Antony, Trajan tried to expand the limits of the empire as far as the Indian Ocean, which he managed to do by fighting the Parthians. He was also able to conquer Babylon, Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Susa. Unfortunately, several rebellions arose, and he was compelled to return to Rome. He never arrived back to the urbs, as he died on the way. Hadrian succeeded him.