Except Augustus of course. Nobody beats Augustus. Augustus is God.
If you took a street poll asking people to list names of Roman politicians/ rulers they know, you’re likely to come up with something like
- Julius Caesar
- Mark Anthony
Most recall these names either thanks to Shakespeare and a lot of people know of Hadrian because of the wall he built to mark the limits of Roman Britian.
Very few people would recognise the name of Emperor Trajan and even fewer would know of his remarkable achievements. After a visit to one of Rome’s most impressive monuments built during the reign of Trajan I have become an unabashed fan of the 13th Emperor of Rome.
Here are a few notable facts about Trajan
- Trajan (born Marcus Ulpius Trajanus) was the first Emperor of Rome who came from a province and not from a senatorial family from Rome itself. Trajan was born in Italica near modern day Sevilla in Spain
- Trajan was the 13th Emperor of Rome, preceded by Nerva and succeeded by Hadrian. Trajan ruled for nearly 20 years from 98 CE to 117CE
- Trajan was an active soldier-emperor, who came into power when he was 45 years old. He undertook extensive military campaigns and one of the most famous campaigns was that against the Dacians (modern day Romania).
- The Roman empire reached its maximum limits under the reign of Trajan. No emperor after his time extended the limits any further. This reason alone should put Trajan in the top spot.
- Trajan undertook a programme of extensive public building in Rome following in the line of such illustrious ancestors as Augustus and Vespasian. Public sentiment had been massively against private palatial building as undertaken by emperors such as Nero and Domitian.
- In Rome, Trajan repaired the Julian forum and the temple of Venus Genetrix that had been originally commissioned by Julius Caesar.
- As his own legacy to Rome, Trajan commissioned an imperial bath complex, a massive forum and best of all in my opinion (and one that will get its own post one day) the market building. Trajan’s forum was the last forum to be built in Rome in the imperial fora complex. It was also almost larger than all the other imperial fora (Julian, Augustan, Nervan)
- In his day, Rome was a true melting pot with people gathering from the far reaches of the Empire. True, Trajan alone can’t take credit for this as it had been happening for a long time before him. But as an example of how diverse his own associates were, Trajan’s main architect who built the massive forum in Rome was a man called Apollodorus of Damascus (from modern day Syria).
- Apollodorus removed 125 feet of the quirinal hill to construct Trajan’s forum.
- Trajan was named “Optimus Princeps”- the best ruler, by the Roman Senate.
A real cool exhibition about Trajan on his role as the true creator of the Empire and the European identity is on until September 2018 at the Museum of Imperial Fora at Trajan’s markets. I fully recommend it.