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Born in Italica, in the Roman province of Baetica, now in southern Spain, in 53 AD, Marcus Ulpius Traianus, (commonly known as Trajan) was to become the first emperor of Rome to originate outside Italy.

Trajans upbringing was heavily influenced by his father, also called Marcus Ulpius Traianus, who was the first member of his family to pursue an Imperial career, with considerable success. He started out as a provincial governer, and by 70AD the Emperor Vespasian awarded him a consulship, which was followed swiftly by his promotion into the ranks of the patricians, and the governship of Syria. The peak of his career was when he was awarded the rank of Proconsul of Asia, and in 113, after his son was made Emperor, he was deified and given a titulature of divus Traianus pater.

During his fathers career, Trajan started to make a name for himself. He started as a legionary legate under his father in Syria, before becoming a quaestor and soon after being promoted to praetor qualifiying him to command the VII Gemini Legion based at Legio in Hispania Tarraconensis. About this time that Trajan and his wife, Pompeia Plotina became the guardians of a child called Hadrian, who went on to follow his adoptive father into the role of Emperor.

Soon after this, the VII Gemini Legion were called to fight near the Rhine River, as part of a campaign to quell an attempted uprising against the Emperor Domitian, instigated by the then governor of Upper Germany, Saturninus. Trajan's swift actions on the emperor's behalf won him the goodwill of Domitian, and led to him gaining a place as a consul in 91 AD. This was soon followed by the governorship of Moesia Inferior and then that of Germania Superior, where he was headquartered at Moguntiacum

It was not all plain sailing though. Trajans sponsor, the Emperor Domitian, was widely reviled by the aristocracy in Rome, apparently due to his alleged cruelty and ostentatious lifestyle, and in 96 AD he was assasinated as part of a palace conspiracy, to be replaced by the elderly and innocuous Nerva. The new Emperor was largely ineffective, and was soon out of favour with the frontier commanders. The praetorian cohorts forced the him to execute the assassins who had secured the throne for him, claiming they were a potential threat, but in doing so, the emperor reduced his number of supporters. In 97 AD, in a quite obvious political move made to try to boost his flagging popularity, Emperor Nerva adopted Trajan as his successor, banking on using Trajan's military popularity in an attempt to appease the disgruntled generals.

Six months later, Emeror Nerva died, leaving Trajan to take his place. Rather than dashing back to Rome to celebrate though, the new Emperor chose to tour the Rhine and the Danube provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, boosting the morale of the troops stationed there, who had been repeatedly attacked in a series of cross-border raids, before returning to his capital in 99 AD.

In 101 AD, Trajan decided to deal with the troublesome King of Dacia, Decebalus, who had been harassing the borders of the Empire for over a decade. The Roman Emperor moved swiftly and thrust into Dacian territory with two columns, until, in 102, Decebalus chose to surrender. He prostrated himself before Trajan and swore obedience, and was kept in place as a puppet king. It was not long however before he returned to his old ways and began launching cross border raids, and attempting to stir up revolt in some of the other border tribes against Rome.

Trajan decided to finish the Dacians off for this trangression. In 106 AD he crossed the Dacian border with 11 legions of troops and drove Decebalus from his capital, Sarmizegethusa, which led to him commiting suicide rather than suffer the ignomy of a public execution in Rome. Dacia then became a province of Rome as its indiginous peoples were massacred and replaced with Roman settlers, and the riches of its mines led to a spate of building and transport improvements throughout the Empire

This massive victory didn't manage to appease Trajan's passion for military life. In AD 114 he was at war again, this time with the Parthian empire to the east.He managed to annexe Arabia Petraea, and in three campaigns he conquered the greater part of the Parthian empire, including Armenia and Upper Mesopotamia, but the exertions had drained him and he suffered a stroke which partially paralyzed him, and his death came shortly after in Cilicia on 9 August AD 117, after which he was suceeded by Emperor Hadrian. His ashes are interred in the base of Trajan's Column.

Trajan had the support of the military, the Senate and of the majority of the populace, and had initiated many new building schemes including the Forum and its column, mostly out of the riches plundered from Dacia. He also dropped taxes and is widely credited with starting the alimenta, a public fund for the support of poor children in the Italian cities. Trajan seems to be regarded by history as one of the best rulers Rome ever had, to the point that a traditional prayer for all other Emperors was that they were 'happier than Augustus and better than Trajan'

Sources include:
http://www.britannica.com
http://www.roman-emperors.org
http://www.roman-empire.net/decline/trajan.html

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