The Emperor Trajan (1/2)
For most of the first century Anno Domini, the city of Rome and the Empire were ruled by Emperors of the Julio-Claudian and Flavian dynasties. Some of these, notably Caligula, Nero, Titus and Domitian, were labled as despots, or tyrants by historians writing in the times of their successors, but the Empire was growing throughout the first century AD and the economy needed support from increased taxation.
The Emperor Domitian and his General Cornelius Fuscus attacked the Dacian King Duras in the year 87. Six Roman legions crossed the Danube on an improvised bridge of ships, but were ambushed and suffered an ignominious defeat, their General Fuscus being killed in the fighting.
The following year the Romans attacked again, they won the first battles but Rome and Dacia agreed upon an uneasy truce in 89 when the Dacian King Decebalus became a subject of Rome and Dacia a client state.
In the year 98 Marcus Ulpius Trajanus succeeded the Emperor Nerva as his adopted son.† A Spaniard by birth he would become the first non-Italian Emperor of Rome. He was a successful general and popular with the military leadership. After an initial tour of his legions along the Danube and Rhine borders, Trajan famously entered Rome on foot, walking amongst the citizens and greeting each senator personally. No previous Emperor had ever displayed such modesty.
Trajan was a great general, he personally inspired confidence and popularity in his troops. He began a new series of campaigns to subdue Dacia, modern day Romania. The Romans laid siege to the Dacian capital Sarmisegetusa, and cut the water pipes to the city. The city was captured and was burned to the ground, finally causing their King Decebalus to commit suicide and leading to the destruction of Dacia as a nation.
The Romans located the Dacian treasure buried under the bed of the river Sargesia, an estimated 165 metric tonnes of gold, and more than twice that weight of silver. Daciaís rich gold mines were then operated by Roman miners. Two legions were permanently stationed in Dacia, and the soldiers allowed to marry Dacian women.
More than one hundred thousand Dacian slaves were sent back to Rome.
This triumph is still recorded today on Trajanís column in Rome. The huge wealth funded a massive public building program in Rome and the regeneration of roads, walls and aqueducts. The captured wealth also paid for further campaigns throughout the Empire.
In the time of the Emperor Trajan the Roman Empire reached its furthest boundaries, and the city itís greatest population, estimated at about one and a half million people.
In the view of the 18th century English historian Edward Gibbon, this was the time of the greatest happiness and prosperity, for the greatest Empire in human history.
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