Trajan Was the Roman Emperor Marcus Ulpius Traianus

Soldier and Emperor Who Was Known For Building Projects

Sestertius of Trajan, minted in Rome, bearing image of emperor, recto, Roman coins, 1st century AD
Sestertius of Trajan, minted in Rome, bearing the image of the emperor, recto. Roman coins, 1st century AD. De Agostini / G. Dagli Orti/ De Agostini Picture Library/ Getty Images

Trajan was a soldier who spent most of his life involved in campaigns. When delivered the news that he was adopted by Roman Emperor Nerva, and even after Nerva died, Trajan remained in Germany until he had completed his campaign. His major campaigns as emperor were against the Dacians, in 106, which vastly increased the Roman imperial coffers, and against the Parthians, beginning in 113, which was not a clear and decisive victory.

Trajan also built an artificial harbor at Ostia.


Birth: Marcus Ulpius Traianus; Imperial: Imperator Caesar Divi Nervae filius Nerva Traianus Optimus Augustus Germanicus Dacicus Parthicus

Dates: ​

September 18, 53 - August 9, 117; Ruled: 98 - 117



Birth and Death:

Future Roman emperor, Marcus Ulpius Traianus or Trajan was born at Italica, in Spain, on September 18, A.D. 53. After having appointed Hadrian his successor, Trajan died while returning to Italy from the east. Trajan died on 9 August A.D. 117, after suffering a stroke, in the Cilician town of Selinus.

Family of Origin:

His family came from Italica, in Spanish Baetica. His father was Ulpius Trajanaus and his mother was named Marcia. Trajan had a 5 year older sister named Ulpia Marciana. Trajan was adopted by the Roman Emperor Nerva and made his heir, which entitled him to call himself the son of Nerva: CAESARI DIVI NERVAE F, literally, 'the son of the divine Caesar Nerva.'


Literary sources on Trajan include Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Dio of Prusa, Aurelius Victor and Eutropius. Despite their number, there is little reliable written information about Trajan's reign. Since Trajan sponsored building projects, there is archaeological and epigraphical (from inscriptions) testimony.


Although we don't know the details, Trajan set up cash subsidies to help raise poor children. He is well known for his building projects.

Years as Emperor:

He reigned as Roman emperor from A.D. 98-117.

Titles and Honors:

Trajan was officially designated optimus 'best' or optimus princeps 'best chief' in 114. He provided 123 days of public celebration for his Dacian triumph and had his Dacian and Germanic successes recorded in his official title. He was posthumously made divine (divus) as had his predecessor (Caesar Divus Nerva). Tacitus refers to the beginning of Trajan's reign as a 'most blessed age' (beatissimum saeculum). He was also made Pontifex Maximus.

Modern Print Biography:

Trajan Optimus Princeps - A Life and Times, by Julian Bennett. Indiana University Press, 1997. ISBN 0253332168. 318 Pages.