Trajan was born 18 September 53 AD in Hispania Baetica, which is now Andalucia in Spain. His father was a Roman politician and general and his mother was the sister-in-law of Emperor Titus.
Trajan’s full name was Marcus Ulpius Traianus. We don’t know much about Trajan’s childhood, but we can assume that he moved around a lot because his father was a politician.
Trajan started his career by serving in the Roman army. He quickly rose through the army ranks, stopped revolutions in Gaul and served in Syria, receiving many accolades and support from those in the senate.
This helped him to be elected praetor (a Roman judge) and then become consul at the early age of 32. After this, he served as governor of Upper and Lower Germany and held the post of general in the full Roman army.
While Trajan was governing Germany, the current emperor Nerva named Trajan his heir. This was because Nerva was a very unpopular ruler.
The army disliked Nerva because he had executed the soldiers who had killed Domitian, the tyrant emperor who was Nerva’s predecessor. Nerva therefore needed to win the support of the army back and so named the well-liked Trajan his heir.
By becoming emperor, Trajan showed society that anyone who was educated and wealthy could succeed in politics, not just aristocrats. He ruled for 19 years until his death at 63 years old.
Trajan married a woman called Pompeia Plotina but did not have any children. He adopted Hadrian, who became emperor after him.
Trajan’s reign as emperor was focused on expanding Rome’s borders. During his time, the Roman Empire was the biggest it would ever be. He conquered Dacia (now Romania), which brought a lot of wealth to the Empire because it had lots of gold mines.
He also went to war with Parthia (now part of Iran), Rome’s oldest enemy. Using his military background, he captured the Parthian capital and brought the area into the Empire.
In Rome, Trajan elected honest officials to the senate and the provinces to get rid of corruption. He built lots of new forums and markets to help business and things like baths and roads for the people.
On the way back from fighting in the Middle East in 117 AD, Trajan became ill and died of a stroke. He was praised by the senate. When a new emperor was elected, the senate would say the prayer “may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan”.