Ancient statues and busts are the only surviving testimony to how people looked like in ancient times. Let us meet another great Roman figure – Emperor Trajan. The statue on the photo below was discovered in Rome in the XVIth century and was acquired by the Elector of Brandenburg in the XVIIth century. It has been in the collection of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin since 1907.

Trajan statue in Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

Trajan was a Roman emperor who ruled from 98 to 117 AD. He was born Marcus Ulpius Traianus in Spain in 53 AD and came from a family of modest means. However, he rose through the ranks of the Roman military and eventually became the first non-Italian to be appointed emperor.

Trajan is often considered one of Rome’s greatest emperors due to his successful military campaigns, his extensive public building programs, and his reputation for fairness and administrative efficiency. During his reign, he expanded the Roman Empire to its largest territorial extent, conquering territories in Dacia (modern-day Romania) and Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq), as well as undertaking significant building projects in Rome and throughout the empire. Trajan was also known for his social welfare policies, such as providing free grain to the poor in Rome and undertaking major public works projects to provide employment for the masses. He was also a patron of the arts, commissioning numerous public monuments and buildings, including Trajan’s Column in Rome and the Forum of Trajan.

Visiting Rome you can see a well preserved buiilding complex called the Markets of Trajan located adjacent to Trajan’s Forum. It was constructed by the architect Apollodorus of Damascus during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The complex consists of a series of multi-level buildings built into the hillside of the Quirinal Hill, with over 150 shops and offices located on several different levels. It was designed to serve as a center for commerce and trade in Rome and was likely also used for administrative and governmental purposes. The Markets of Trajan are considered to be one of the earliest examples of a modern shopping mall, with their multi-level design and numerous shops and services catering to a wide range of customers. The complex also featured a large public space, likely used for public gatherings and social events. Today, the Markets of Trajan are part of the larger Trajan’s Forum archaeological site. The buildings are home to the Museum of the Imperial Fora, which displays artifacts and exhibits related to ancient Rome and the city’s imperial history.

Markets of Trajan as of today (I made the photo in 2015)

Trajan died in 117 AD and was succeeded by his adopted son, Hadrian.

Hadrian’s adoption by Trajan is an important event in Roman history. Trajan, who did not have a biological heir, had been grooming his grandnephew Gaius Vibius Sabinus as his successor. However, Sabinus died unexpectedly while still young, and Trajan was left without a clear successor. At this point, Trajan turned to Hadrian, who was a prominent military commander and political figure in Rome. Trajan saw in Hadrian the qualities necessary to lead the Roman Empire, including military experience, administrative skills, and political savvy. While on his deathbed, Trajan officially adopted Hadrian as his son and heir, making him the new emperor. The adoption was later confirmed by the Roman Senate, and Hadrian became one of Rome’s most successful and influential emperors.