Considered one of the five ‘good emperors,’ Trajan was praised for his active building programs and successful leadership. In this lesson, learn about Trajan’s background and accomplishments as emperor of Rome.
Pax Romana Emperors
The Roman Empire had its fair share of corrupt rulers. However, during the period labeled ‘Pax Romana’ or Roman Peace, five good emperors ushered in an era of peace and stability. Trajan was one of the five emperors credited with maintaining peace by cooperating with the senate and the ruling classes, starting policies aimed at supporting the welfare of the citizens, and engaging in massive building projects that benefited the masses. Although Trajan was considered an absolute ruler, he was not a tyrant.
He was referred to as ‘Optimus Princeps’, or the ‘best ruler.’
Trajan’s Early Life
The first of the good emperors was Nerva. Since he had no sons, he adopted Trajan as his successor. Born Marcus Ulpius Traianus on September 18, 53 A.D.
, Trajan was the son of a well-respected general and senator. He became a career soldier and served on many distant Roman frontiers during his youth. He was elected consul, or head of the senate, in 98 A.D.
, which brought him to the capital city. Shortly thereafter, he married a woman named Pompeia Plotina, but the couple never had any children.
Trajan As Emperor
Emperor Nerva formally adopted Trajan in 97 A.D. Upon Nerva’s death in January of 98 A.D.
, Trajan assumed the title of emperor. His successful military career ensured that he was well received by the citizens of Rome. One of his first acts as emperor was to free those unjustly imprisoned during Emperor Domitian’s reign.
Always a military man, Trajan launched many successful campaigns and enlarged the empire into modern-day Romania (called Dacia at the time), Mesopotamia, and the Sinai Peninsula. Recognizing the need to defend this vast territory, Trajan also increased the number of army legions from 28 to 30. Trajan died on August 9, 117 A.D. at the age of 63. His named successor was Hadrian.