When did the Roman Empire reach the peak of its power?

At the end of the 1st century. AD the elderly senator Mark Coccei Nerva became emperor in Rome. His reign lasted only 16 months, but he managed to do a lot of useful things: he put in order the finances of the Roman Empire, started several social programs, including the distribution of land to the poorest Roman citizens, and also founded a fund to support children from disadvantaged families. But his most important business, which the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Younger called a product of divine inspiration, concerned the continuity of power.

It was Nerva who came up with and implemented the order according to which the emperor had to appoint a successor and co-ruler during his lifetime. Moreover, the choice of this successor, called Caesar (the emperor himself officially bore the title of August), was not supposed to depend on the degree of kinship with the emperor, who in any case officially adopted his co-ruler. Nerva himself thus adopted the future emperor, under whom Rome will reach the pinnacle of power – Mark Ulpius Nerva Trajan.

In 98, when Trajan became emperor after the death of Nerva, he was 45 years old. Throughout his adult life, he continuously fought or served as governor in such troubled provinces as Lower Moesia and Upper Germany. Having received the news that Nerva had appointed him Caesar, he did not immediately go to Rome, but first completed the creation of a powerful line of fortifications between the upper Rhine and the Danube. And even after becoming emperor, Trajan spent his whole life in military campaigns.

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Subsequently, this time will be called the “golden age” of the Roman Empire. All subsequent rulers of Rome, the Senate will wish to rule “happier than Augustus and better than Trajan.” Roman historian of the 4th century AD Sextus Aurelius Victor will describe the activities of this emperor in such words: “Hardly anyone was found more glorious than him both in peacetime and in war. In fact, he was the first and even the only one who led the Roman troops across Istria and subdued the people wearing hats in the land of the Dacians, and the Sakas with their kings Decebalus and Sardonius, and made Dacia a province; in addition, he stunned with war all the peoples in the East between the famous rivers Euphrates and Indus, demanded hostages from the king of the Persians named Kosdroy and at the same time paved a path through the region of wild tribes, along which it was easy to pass from the Pontic Sea to Gaul.

Fortresses were built in dangerous and necessary places, a bridge was thrown across the Danube, many colonies were withdrawn. In Rome itself, he more than splendidly maintained and adorned the squares planned by Domitian, showed amazing concern for the uninterrupted supply of [the capital] food by forming and strengthening the college of bakers; in addition, in order to find out more quickly where what is happening outside the state, public means of communication have been made available [to all]. ”

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The last point of this panegyric needs clarification. The postal service in the Roman Empire was founded by Octavian Augustus. But, although it was officially called the Cursus publicus (public route), couriers only delivered messages sent by government officials or military officials. Under Trajan, the post became available to those Roman citizens who had money to pay for its services. In the city of Rome itself, during his reign were built: Trajan’s column about 40 meters high, a forum with a market, Trajan’s aqueduct, Ulpia Basilica, Baths of Trajan, etc.

Most of all, the Romans liked the fact that the funds for this grandiose construction were taken not from taxes, but from the richest trophies that the Roman army gained during the wars in the East. Trajan annexed the Nabataean kingdom, occupied the capital of Arabia, the city of Petra, thereby creating a new Roman province, Stony Arabia. In 114, he occupied the Armenian Highlands, and this country was also declared a Roman province. Then he went with the army to the Persian Gulf, without encountering serious resistance.

The Romans under Trajan also conquered Mesopotamia, Babylon, Seleucia, the Mezen kingdom. Ctesiphon, the capital of Parthia, was taken. For the first and last time, the Roman Empire ruled over virtually the entire Middle East. Alas, soon a large-scale partisan movement will unfold in the conquered Parthia, and Rome will forever lose the territories that were briefly annexed by the victorious Trajan.

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