Trajan, who is even today regarded by many as the optimus princeps (the best of emperors), died after a lengthy illness that started while he was travelling back to Rome early 117. He died in Selinus, Cilicia, leaving the succession in doubt.
Trajan had been a warrior emperor during his reign conquering the fierce Dacian people (AD 107) that had caused Caesar and Domitian trouble during their reigns. This was one of the last annexationist conquests of Rome and is commemorated on Trajan’s Column which still stands in Rome today. After his successes in Dacia the emperor launched a massive war against Parthia in 113 which witnessed some notable successes but many also argue that he stretched the Roman military further than it was capable of maintaining.
As emperor he restored much of the Senate’s prestige and power and stabilised the Empire which had only a few years earlier been on the verge of another civil war. Trajan implemented grand building works and welfare programs largely funded by his conquests.
He has become known as one of what is termed the five good emperors. Trajan was the first emperor to receive the title optimus princeps (the best of emperors) and has the honour of being the only pagan emperor to have had a pope pray for his soul, further demonstrating the high regard his reign was held in.
Trajan unfortunately had not properly prepared for his own demise leaving the issue of succession in doubt, although his wife announced that on his death bed Trajan had proclaimed that Hadrian should succeed him, there is doubt of the truth of these claims.