Marcus Ulpius Trajanus was born on 18 September at Italica near Seville, most likely in the year AD 52.
His Spanish origin made him the first emperor not to come from Italy. Although he was from an old Umbrian family from Tuder in northern Italy which had chosen to settle in Spain. So his family was not a purely provincial one.
Trajan served in Syria as a military tribune during the governorship of his father. He enjoyed a thriving career, gaining the office of praetorship in AD 85. Soon after he won command of the Seventh Legion 'Gemina' based at Legio (Leon) in northern Spain. It was in AD 88/89 that he marched this legion into Upper Germany help in suppressing the rebellion of Saturninus against Domitian. Trajan's army arrived too late to play any part in crushing the revolt. Though Trajan's swift actions on the emperor's behalf won him the goodwill of Domitian and so he was elected as consul in AD 91. Such close ties to Domitian naturally became a source of some embarassment after the loathed Domitian's murder.
Domitian's successor Nerva though was not a man to hold a grudge and in AD 96 Trajan was made governor of Upper Germany. Then, late in the year AD 97 Trajan received a handwritten note from Nerva, informing him of his adoption.
Nerva died on 28 January AD 98. But Trajan once more felt no need for hasty, potentially undignified, action. Far more he went on a tour of inspection to see the legions long the Rhine and Danube frontiers.With Domitian's memory still held dear by the legions it was a wise move by Trajan to bolster his support among the soldiers with a personal visit to their frontier strongholds.
Trajan's eventual entry at Rome in AD 99 was a triumph. Jubilant crowds rejoiced at his arrival.
Such humility and respect for the senate as well as for the simple people showed when Trajan promised that he would always keep the senate informed about the affairs of government and when he declared that the emperor's right to rule was to be compatible with the freedom of the people who were ruled.
Trajan was an educated but not an especially learned man, who no doubt was a powerful, very masculine figure. He loved hunting, ranging through forests and even climbing mountains. Further he possessed a true sense of dignity and humility which in the eyes of the Romans made him an emperor of true virtue.
Under Trajan the programme of public works was enlarged substantially.
But with all his virtues, emperor Trajan was not perfect. He tended to overindulge on wine and had a liking for young boys. More still he seemed to truly enjoy war.
Much of his passion for war came from the simple fact that he was very good at it. He was a brilliant general, as shown by his military achievements. Quite naturally he was very popular with the troops, especially due to his willingness to share in the hardships of his soldiers.
Trajan's most famous campaign is undoubtedly that against Dacia, a powerful kingdom north of the Danube in modern Romania.
Much of the great treasure conquered in Dacia was used to build public works, including a new harbour at Ostia, and Trajan's Forum.
But Trajan's passion for military life and warfare would grant him no rest. In AD 114 he was at war again. And he should spend the rest of his life campaigning in ths east against the Parthian empire.
But Trajan's star then began to fade. Revolts among the Jews in the middle east and the recently conquered Mesopotamians weakened his position to continue the war and military setbacks tarnished his air of invincibility. Trajan withdrew his troops to Syria and set out back to Rome. But he should not see his capital again.
Trajan's fame as the near perfect Roman ruler was remembered for time to come. His example was what later emperors at least aspired to live up to. And during the fourth century the senate still prayed for any new emperor to be 'More fortunate than Augustus and better than Trajan' ('felicior Augusto, melior Traiano').