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Queen's University
Classical Studies
CLST 201

Five Good Emperors: 96­180 Sources • Cassius Dio • Pliny the Younger • Historia Augusta (4 c.) Second Century Roman Empire • Second century represents the peak of the empire (accomplishments, geographically, economic) • Conditions for success: o Control armies, need good rapport o Control finances o Have guaranteed, popular successor o Control senate, respect it • M. Cocceius Nerva, 96-98 o Chosen by the senate o Was not an army man – did not have background with army, but he gave soldiers a bonus and therefore bought their loyalty o Lacked an heir  Adopted Marcus Ulpius Trajanus  Some say this was his most important deed as emperor • Trajan (98-117) o From Spain: first emperor to come from one of the provinces o Distinguished career: army in East, etc., consul in 91, governor o Army happy: campaigned even as emperor o His reign marked the last great expansion of the Roman empire  Was highly interested in conquering parts of Dacia  Invaded Dacia: this began under Domitian (when King Decebalus of Dacia had invaded Moesia)  So invasion of Dacia was important to restore peace (end rebellions)  Control of minerals in this area  To keep the armies busy  101-102, 105 campaigns: great success • 50,000 new slaves, huge wealth meant great building program in Rome and provinces  Dacia is a province by 107 o Built great bath houses of Trajan for public (essentially community club) over the golden palace of Nero o Trajan’s Forum was built – massive, included first shopping mall o Trajan’s Column also built with images of what the Roman army has been doing, has staircase inside that went all the way to the top – originally had statue of himself on top but now it is a statue of St. Peter o King of Parthia invaded Armenia; so Trajan conquered Parthia by 114 and surrounding reguion (Armenia, Arabia, Mesopotamia, Babylon)  Captured rest of East, but didn’t have enough troops to control whole area so revolts meant loss of most of the East (army was being stretched too thin) o Senate different: old nobility dead, more provincials (40%), equestrians, etc.  Senate named Trajan “Optimus Princeps” = “the best leader” o Trajan was a great emperor – had many enlightened economic, social programs  Realized to improve the empire, you needed to put money into it, his expenses included: • Army campaigns • Public shows, handouts • Social programs, especially alimenta (begun perhaps by Nerva) = financial assistance for poor children in Italy • Emergency relief, building programs throughout entire Empire  Revenues: • Provincial taxes: imperial curators in charge of municipalities financial affairs, kept books – accountants basically • Minerals from Dacia (gold, silver) o Trajan dies of natural causes without an heir • Publius Aelius Hadrianus (Hadrian), 117-138 o Proclaimed by army in East, senate agreed – so luckily was a smooth transition o Was possibly adopted by Trajan as his successor, makes sense since he was related to Trajan from same area o He had a normal senatorial career: army, politics, was a governor in Europe and also in the East o Was a great lover of Greek art, philosophy – refined taste, was a real intellectual o There were no serious plots against him even though he spent half of his reign away from Rome in the provinces, was very popular o Improved administration, more professional, well paid, fewer freedmen and more equestrians used o Consolidated empire – walls along the Rhine, Danube, Hadrian’s Wall (N. England)  He had realized that they could not conquer any more so needed to protect what they had from barbarians o Bureaucracy huge, costly – in past, administrators had normally had army career but now this was no longer required – created disconnect between them and army  This was dangerous for the future: top officials lacked military experience and control over army o Too many expenses! Not frivolous things, but led to financial
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