The future emperor Trajan was born on September 18th in the year 56 AD. He was the son of Marcus Ulpius Traianius and Maria. Trajan was born in Spain and he would be the first non Italian emperor to come into the office. Of his mother, very little is known but it is known that his father was a very important and highly respected man being that he was the first senator in his family.
Trajan gained his first major political office in 71 AD when he was made Tribune at the age of 15. He later advanced to the post of Legate over the VII Gemini Legion in Hispania Tarraconesis. In the year 89 AD, the general Antonius Saturninus revolted against Domitan. Domitan immediately sent for Trajan to silence the revolt but he arrived too late and the revolt was already put down. Domitan was still grateful to Trajan for his efforts and ,as a result, he was made consul two years later. Trajan was later made governor of Germania Superior in 96 AD, shortly before the fall of Domitan.
Under Nerva, Trajan's career advanced. By this stage of his career, Trajan had showed himself to be a capable and just general which brought him to the eyes of Nerva as possible successor. Since the mutiny of the Praetorian Guard and his resulting humiliation, Nerva was looking for a strong and able successor, an image which Trajan had built for himself through his great military victories. Trajan was given powers that were almost equal to those that Nerva held in September 97 AD (the emperor died only four months later, in January 98 AD).
The succession was quick and undisputed and Trajan became emperor of Rome. Upon his entrance into Rome, Trajan immediately arranged for Nerva to be deified by the senate. Also, Trajan got revenge on the soldiers who had mutinied on Nerva and caused him a great humiliation. Trajan also instituted a new type of personal body guard that was made up of provincials, the equites singulares.
During his reign, Trajan completed a number of civil works and improvements and made many political reforms. He continued ,and increased, Nerva's policies of helping the destitute citizens of Italy. With this alimenta Trajan made sure that the poor of Italy, mainly the children, would not starve. This program made sure the children of Italy would also be educated as well.
Trajan also instituted new programs that would help cities and provinces whose finances were strained. To administer this new program, Trajan sent a group of administrators, the correctores, to examine the problems that the cities and provinces were facing and to enforce a new system in which the financial situation of the city ,or province, could be restored. As well, Trajan abolished the ascension gifts which were given to previous emperors ,by the people, upon ascension and he reduced taxation.
As well, Trajan had many great building projects in Rome and the empire as a whole .He created a new forum named the "Forum of Trajan". Trajan also built a new market and new baths which were the largest yet seen by the Romans. Trajan also built a massive aqueduct, the Aqua Trajana, which would be the last aqueduct built for Rome. He constructed a great road system at his own expense and he also improved the ports of Ostia, Ancona and Centumcellae and spent large sums of money improving the Circus Maximus.
Trajan 's reign is most noted for it's great military campaigns and Trajan accomplished a number of great victories for Rome. Most notable of these expeditions are Trajan's campaigns in Dacia. In 100 AD, Trajan launched a campaign against the Dacians because they were becoming a threat to the Roman empire and taking much of Rome's wealth. After a long fight, the Dacian leader, Decebalus, was defeated by Trajan and Dacia was brought under Roman control with it's wealth being used to fund his civil improvements and future campaigns. Dacia was annexed and made into a Roman province. The conquest of Dacia was the last great conquest of Rome but the first of Trajan's as he went on to conquer numerous more countries.
Trajan's next great conquest was the annexation of Arabia. Arabia was a very rich nation and was looked upon as a prize to the Romans who had launched numerous failed attempts to capture it and so left it independent. The Arabians were aware of the disastrous defeat of the Dacians and were worried that Trajan might have a similar fate planned for them. To solve this threat, the Arabians voluntarily became a type of Roman province where they had the outward appearance of a client kingdom but were actually ruled by Rome.
Near the end of his reign, in 113 AD, Trajan's army fought in two more great battles. These battles were against the Roman client state of Armenia and Rome's greatest enemy, and threat, Parthia.
Trajan wanted Armenia because it was growing too close to Parthia. He also wanted it because it allowed him easy entrance into Parthia. This conquest was bloodless on Trajan's part and showed how determined an emperor he was. Because of his victory in Armenia, Trajan was given the title Optimus or best.
After the annexation of Armenia, Trajan then looked toward Parthia as his next prize. Parthia had always been Rome's greatest rival and it boasted an empire that almost matched the size of the Romans, from Mesopotamia to the border of China. Also, Parthia was just as advanced as Rome.
For the first half of Trajan's reign, Parthia was ruled by a peaceful and generous ruler but ,unfortunately, he died and two men fought for the throne, Vologases III and Osroes I. Osroes wanted to get the support of the Armenians so he tried to put king on the Armenian throne, an act which angered the Romans. What followed was a sweeping victory in which Trajan swept through Parthia and took Babylon and the Parthian capital, Ktesiphon. Because of his ruthlessness, Trajan had gained the same reputation that Alexandar the Great did years before and had small kingdoms that Rome had never heard of asking to be puppet states of Rome.
This good fortune did not last forever and revolts soon broke out in the newly conquered territories. Three of the newly formed puppet states revolted and ,as punishment, were raised by Trajan. Because of these rebellions, Trajan feared that Parthia would revolt so he put a pilot king on the Parthian throne, which angered the Parthians. It was at this time that Vologases reappeared on the scene and tried to reclaim Parthia. After weeks of fighting, Trajan and Vologases reached a peace but at the cost of losing some Parthian and Armenian territory. To make matters worse, Trajan became ill and ,around the same time, the jews of the empire had organized a massive revolt which spanned from Greece to the newly conquered Parthia.
Trajan died on August 18 in the year 117 AD of congestive heart failure in Cilicia. Hadrian ,Trajan's ward, succeeded with no questions asked and immediately deified the dead Trajan. Under Trajan, the Roman empire reached it's greatest extent and he his considered by many to be the greatest of the Caesar's.