Trajan aureus obverse

Emperor Trajan depicted on a gold coin

Emperor Trajan ruled from 98 – 117 CE.  He was born in 53 CE in what is now Spain.  Part of an important Roman family and possessing a very promising political and military career, Trajan was adopted as the emperor's Nerva's heir shortly before his death in 98 CE.  During his reign, Trajan went on two highly successful campaigns in Dacia (101-102 and 105-106), located in the area that is now Romania.  Using the spoils from these wars, he undertook massive building projects, the most significant of which was his imperial forum.  Trajan’s Forum was the largest of the imperial fora and involved leveling a large hill to make room for it.  The forum itself featured an impressive bronze statue of Trajan and an enormous basilica, which was used for business and legal purposes.  Behind the basilica was a small courtyard which contained Trajan’s column. 

Trajan was a well-liked emperor, earning the title of Optimus Princeps, or best leading citizen in 103 and 114.  Trajan died in August 117, and was succeeded by Emperor Hadrian just a few days after his death.  Trajan’s funeral and Hadrian’s succession took place abroad since they were both on a campaign.  Hadrian wrote to the Senate to inform them of his succession and to request recognition of Trajan’s deification.  The Senate granted the deification, along with additional honors.  One of the honors the Senate granted was to allow Trajan’s ashes to be buried in the city, which was unprecedented.


Amanda Claridge, “Hadrian's Succession and the Monuments of Trajan,” in Hadrian: Art Politics and Economy, ed. Thorsten Opper (London: British Museum, 2013), 5-18.

"The Emperor Trajan And His Forum" The McMaster Trajan Project on Stoa: