The Adoptive Emperors : Trajan

Imperator Caesar Divi Nervae Filius Nervae Traianus 98 Ė 117 AD

Born: 18th September 53 AD at Italica (Spain)
Date of Accession: 28th January 98 AD
Died: 7th August 117 AD at Selinus

Governors of Britannia during his reign:

  • Tiberius Avidius Quietus 98 - 101 AD
  • Lucius Neratius Marcellus 101 Ė 103 AD
  • Unknown 103 Ė 115 AD
  • Marcus Appius Bradua (perhaps) 115 Ė 117 AD

Trajan, born in Spain, was something of an ancient Roman equivalent of the modern all-American superstar, and indeed few seem to be able to say anything bad about the man.

Trajan was Nervaís adopted successor, and to classicists his reign is seen as the apogee of the Empire, having been expanded to its ďgreatest extentĒ.

Trajan was something of a military adventurer. First on his hit-list were the Dacians of modern Romania, a powerful people with whom Trajan went to war on two occasions; 101 and 105 AD. He finally over-ran their Transylvanian highland strongholds around 106 AD and subsequently glorified the event in a sculptural frieze on Trajanís famous column in Rome.


However the fact remains - if rarely remarked upon - that during these heady days of Roman expansion that Scotland (an area which belonged to the earlier Flavian era of expansion) remained neglected.
Indeed the dangerous precedence of Domitian and Nerva may have been taken to excess under Trajan as the British garrison appears to have sent considerable detachments of troops for service on the continent.

It was in Trajanís reign therefore that the last tentative footholds in southern Scotland were lost, and the pax Romana, if this existed in any meaningful way in these years must have been bought with cash subsidies, perhaps the only response possible following Aviragusís devastation of the remaining Roman posts in southern Scotland along with much of the Stanegate line in the north of England.

And Trajan must have been fully aware of any such cash subsidies to the tribes of Scotland, such decisions were the Emperors prerogative. Indeed no sooner had he died in August 117 AD than war broke out with the tribes of southern Scotland, probably as such largesse had been withheld pending the directive of the new Emperor.

Trajanís fine memory therefore is the result in many ways of his own successful PR, immortalised in stone on his column. The situation therefore must have arisen that in these years the Governor and British garrison may have misguidedly started believing the Emperorís PR.

In effect - by concentrating so avidly on conquest in Dacia and the Parthia - Romeís now tentative footholds on Scotland were squandered. Trouble indeed was brewing, trouble that Trajan either failed to foresee or chose to ignore.

Indeed the calamitous war that broke out in southern Scotland on Trajanís death (and Hadrianís accession to power) in 117 AD was the spur for the subsequent creation of that most spectacular of monuments to Roman failure in Scotland during Trajanís long rein: Hadrianís Wall.


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©2009 Roman Scotland. All Rights Reserved
First Published October 2009