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First Century
1-100 AD
Second Century
101 - 200 AD
Third Century
301 - 400

The Second Century AD, dated between the years 101-200 continued the previous century's theme of Roman domination in Europe, with the Imperial system coming to full fruitation under the reign of Trajan, where the Empire reached its greatest extent, conquering Dacia, Nabataea, all of Hibernia, and (for a short period) Mesopotamia. Rome then became primarily defensive, but the Five Good Emperors stewarded it well for the lion's share of the century. After 180, the fifth Good Emperor, Marcus Aurelius died, leaving his insane and inept son, Commodus, who claimed to be the reincarnation of Hercules, as Emperor. After several years of chaos, Septimius Severus ascended to emperorhood in 193 and strengthened the Empire yet again through military campaigns.

Outside Rome, Han China expanded west across Central Asia before becoming corrupt and stagnant by the end of the century. Paper, however, was invented during this timeframe in China and it was a major time for scientific advancement in the Far East.

Reign of Trajan (98-117) (Continued)

Dacian War (Continued)

In 101 AD, with permission from the Roman Senate, Trajan launched his invasion of Dacia, crossing into the region at Viminacium. The Roman advance was spearheaded by two columns of legions, who marched straight into the heart of Dacia, burning towns and villages as they advanced. The Dacians retaliated and met Trajan on the same spot they had met Domitian, but at the Second Battle of Tapae the Romans would win an overwhelmingly decisive victory. Trajan decided to wait until the spring to besiege the Dacian capital at Sarmizegetusa, allowing Decebalus to take advantage of Trajan's hesitation and attack Moesia. The Dacian army, supported by the Basternae and the Roxolani, crossed the frozen Danube river, but the ice broke and many died in the freezing water.

Moving away from the mountains, Trajan followed the Dacians, encountering them near the town of Nicopolis. The battle was inconclusive, but upon receiving additional reinforcements, Trajan was able to corner the Dacian army. At Adamcilsi the Dacians would be decisively defeated, and Trajan marched on Sarmizegetusa. Decebalus requested a truce, and in the ensuing peace Rome received a much more favorable agreement. All the territory occupied by the Roman army was ceded from Dacia, and all war equipment received since 89 AD was returned to the Romans. Decebalus accepted the peace terms for a time, but in 105 began inciting unrest once more. Roman colonies across the Danube were pillaged, prompting Trajan to raise his forces once more.

The Romans faced a large coalition of enemy tribes, and suffered from frequent skirmishes across the Danube. A second temporary peace was created, following the lack of decisive victory. Antagonized by Decebalus, the Romans returned once more in 105 AD and gradually fought to capture the mountain fortress system that surrounded the Dacian capital of Sarmizegetusa. In the summer of 106 the final battle took place outside the city walls, with the participation of the legions II Adiutrix and IV Flavia Felix and a detachment from VI Ferrata. The Dacians managed to resist the Romans at first, but aided by a treacherous local nobleman, the Romans found and destroyed the city's water supply. The city finally fell and was razed. Decebalus fled, but was followed by Roman cavalry and forced to commit suicide. Over the course of the next year skirmishes would continue to pacify the region, with the Roman's discovering Decebalus' extensive fortune in the river of Sargesia, estimated to be 165,500 kilograms of gold and 331,000 kilograms of silver.

The complete subjugation of Dacia was a major victory for Trajan and the Roman Empire, and a celebration lasting 123 days was declared by the emperor. The rich gold mines of Dacia that Trajan secured would provide an estimated 700 million denarii annually to the Roman economy, allowing financing for Rome's future campaigns, and for the expansion of Roman settlements across Europe. One hundred thousand slaves were taken from Dacia back to Rome, and two legions, XIII Gemina and V Macedonica, were permanently posted in the Dacia region to prevent future revolts. Overall these wars of expansion gained Trajan large scale admiration and support, and marked a period of sustained growth and relative peace.

Campaign in Hibernia

Since Agricola's campaign, a section of Ireland, known to the Romans as Hibernia, was ruled directly by the Roman governor of Britannia. His power on the island was consolidated around Eblana, and supported by a legionary station outside the city at Drumanagh. Under Trajan's orders the Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix was moved to Hibernia following the Dacian campaign, where it remained for much of its existence. In 103 AD one of Trajan's generals during the early Dacian campaign, Manius Laberius Maximus, was appointed governor of Britannia. Maximus used the empire's new found wealth after the war to finance large financial projects in Hibernia, which ultimately rebuild Eblana as a Romanized city. Inadvertently Maximus' favoring of Hibernia would lead to the separating of the two regions later in the empire's history.

At this time the Roman Empire owned the entire island in name only, as their client king Túathal Techtmar was high king of all of Ireland. Roman knowledge of much of the region remained minimal, however works such as Ptolemy's Geography included descriptions of much of the island's domestic affairs. During Maximus' governorship Túathal Techtmar began a war against Leinster, burning the stronghold of Aillen and imposing a heavy tribute of cattle on the province. Soon after he also made war on Mal mac Rochride, king of Ulster, and died in battle at Mag Line. Mal mac Rochride took the high kingship for himself, and soon after through off all association with the Romans.

In 108 AD Trajan ordered Maximus to retaliate against the high king, and that year war was declared against Meath and Ulster. Mal mac Rochride was soon joined by Leinster and other major tribes who opposed Túathal Techtmar and his family. The Romans supported Fedlimid Rechtmar, Túathal Techtmar's son. A number of skirmishes in the west of Roman territory were repulsed, although with large casualties for the Romans. These attacks instigated Maximus to lead the Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix after the skirmishers, who fled into the mountains south of Eblana. At the Battle of Mons Lugnaquilla, the Irish forces of Leinster would be routed by Maximus, fleeing as far as the ringfort at Dún Ailinne.

At the same time, a secondary force, primarily of auxiliaries and Irish soldiers under Fedlimid against the Ulaid, defeating and killing Mal mac Rochride at Tara. As a result Fedlimid Rechtmar would be crowned high king over Ireland. Supported by the Romans, Fedlimid did not halt his attacks, instead leading an attack far into Ulster. The Romans eventually turned west, marching as far as the ring fort at Cruachan before returning east. Later that year the Romans, with reinforcements from Britannia, launched an attack on the Navan Fort, the capital of the Ulaid. It is reported by Roman accounts that the Ulaid king, who they called Tipraitius, submitted to Roman rule, allowing the Romans to focus their attacks on the south.

Skirmishers from central Ireland and Munster successfully captured the Irish fort at the Hill of Ward, and launched a partially successful ambush on Roman forces returning to Meath from Ulster. That winter the fort would reportedly be besieged by a larger Roman force and recaptured. Numerous hill forts in Ireland would seemingly weaken the Roman advance significantly, delaying their advance and also serving as a base for raids and ambushes. In early 109 the Romans received the surrender of the defenders at Dún Ailinne, and subsequently slaughtered its garrison. Throughout the next year Roman general Maximus reportedly spent the year campaigning into the south of Ireland, although the extent of his campaign is unclear. It is known however that by the end of the year much of the island of Hibernia was firmly under Roman control, or its client kings.

Trajan's war in Hibernia would be a huge success for the Romans, and would lead to renewed Roman influence across the island. A naval expedition ordered by Maximus in 109 would scout out much of the eastern and southern coasts, and would only be elapsed by the later expedition confirming Ireland to be an island. Fedlimid Rechtmar reportedly remained strongly loyal to the Romans, permitting them to build roads and fortifications across Meath, which were largely constructed by the Legio XXX Ulpia Victrix. In the next decade Fedlimid Rechtmar's seat at Tara would also be expanded into a city, with examples of Roman influence springing up around it. Maximus was appointed the first governor of the newly created province of Hibernia, while Marcus Appius Bradua was made governor of Britannia.

Period of Peace

After Trajan's conquest of Dacia and a small campaign in Ireland, he spent much of his reign stabilizing the empire and building a number of public works. Rome would not expand again until the annexation of Nabataea, upon the death of Rabbel II Soter, one of Rome's client kings. The manner in which the annexation was carried out is unclear, with Roman legions stationed in Petra and Bostra around this time, and garrisoned as far south as Hegra, some 300 km south-west of Petra. The area became known as the province of Arabia Petaea. As the last client kingdom f Rome in Asia on the western side of the Euphrates river, the annexation pf Nabataea marked the final act in converting the Roman East into provinces, which he begun under the Flavian dynasty.

Trajan became a civil emperor, investing in numerous projects across the empire. Several new roads, monuments, and buildings were constructed in Italia and Hispania. A massive complex commemorating the victory in Dacia was the center piece of this renovation, which featured a forum, a triumphal column known as Trajan's column, and a market. Several triumphal arches were also completed, as well as two major roads; Via Traiana and Via Traiana Nova. A three month long festival of gladiatorial combat was held in the Colosseum during Trajan's reign, combining chariot racing, beast fights, and close-quarters gladiatorial combat. The festival reportedly left 11,000 people, mostly slaves and criminals, and thousands of beasts dead, and attracted some five million people throughout the course of the event. Trajan's extensive entertainment program led him to be praised by many, with the orator Fronto stating that Trajan paid equal attention to entertainments as he did serious matters. It was also during this time that the emperor led correspondence with Pliny the Younger in regards to the Christians of Pontus.

In 107 AD Trajan devalued the Roman currency, by decreasing the silver purity of the denarius from 93.5% to 89%, with the actual silver weight dropping from 3.04 grams to 2.88 grams. This devaluation, coupled with the massive amount of gold and silver carried off after Trajan's Dacian Wars, allowed the emperor to mint a larger quantity of denarii. He also withdrew from circulation silver denarii minted before the previous devaluation by Nero, allowing him to increase civil and military spending. This devaluation of the currency would help Trajan finance his numerous civil engineering projects, as well pay for future military campaigns, such as the campaign in Hibernia in the following two years.

Under Trajan a welfare program known as the Alimenta was created, seeking the alleviate the suffering of orphans and poor children throughout the Italian peninsula. Funds from the Dacian war, and later a combination of estate taxes and philanthropy, were used to finance the program. The scheme worked by creating mortgages on Italian farms, through which registered landowners received a sum of money from the imperial treasury. These landowners were then engaged to pay yearly a proportion of the loan to maintain the welfare program. It is believed that Trajan was hoping to bolster the number of citizens in Italy, which had been increasing slowly since the provisions of the Lex Julia, a moral legislation passed by Augustus, which favored procreation on moral grounds. Trajan's welfare program favored a Roman hegemony over the rest of the empire, relying on a base for manpower among Italian citizens. The fact that the program was only available in Italy likewise points to a form of political privilege. The measure is also seen as a means toward economic recovery in Italy, which required all senators to have at least a third of their landed estates in Italian territory.

The scheme was however largely restricted, shown by the fact that is was only backed by loans to large landowners, who were assumed to be more reliable debtors, and by its lack of potential welfare recipients. This points to the possibility that the scheme was largely an effort to make local nobles in the empire participate in imperial benevolence in a lesser extent. In some ways the scheme was a forced load, which tied unwilling landowners to the imperial system in order to make them supply funds that would alleviate civic expenses. At the same time senators such as Pliny endowed upon his city of Comum a perpetual right to charge thirty thousand sestertii annually from one of his estates, allowing for the maintenance of private charitable foundations. Overall the scheme was purely charitable, as it gave two distributions of money following the conclusion of the Dacian wars, from which it was developed.

War Against Parthia

In 113 AD the Parthian Empire selected a king for the throne of Armenia that the Romans deemed unacceptable, breaking fifty years of shared hegemony over the kingdom since the reign of Nero. Ultimately some predict that the decision to go to war against Parthia was also motivated by economics, as after the annexation of Arabia the sole remaining Western-held terminus on the Indian trade route outside Roman control was Charax. At the time imports had to arrive through the Red Sea, at the city of Aila, which Trajan had connected to the Roman trade network at Bostra through the Via Traiana Nova. In order to keep import prices low and to limit the train of precious metals created by a deficit in Roman trade with the Far East, Trajan sought to capture these last remaining ports, controlling the trade completely.

At the time of the war the city of Charax traded with the Romans, as shown by the introduction of merchants from Palmyra into offices in Charax. Charax's rulers were also believed to have owned the Bahrain islands, which if taken would place a Roman presence in the Persin Gulf itself. As Trajan described, Roman required the Semitic cities under Parthian control in order to break down a system of Far Eastern trade undesirable to the Roman Empire. In preparation for the war Trajan employed a large number of Syrian auxiliary units, veterans, and traders, who had already played an important part in the conquest of Dacia nearly a decade earlier. Palmyra supported the Romans, even providing a camel unit to its army, supporting the ultimate goal of annexing Charax. Ultimately the goal would be to annex Armenia and the entirety of Mesopotamia, in order to prevent the Parthians from interrupting Roman trade from the Persian Gulf, or even sow dissident in the Danube region.

Despite these reasons, for the most part the Parthians did little to overpower maritime trade from the Far East, and this rationale was largely conjured. Over land Parthian authorities did little to hinder trade, and was left solely to the devices of private enterprise and business. As some theorize, the rationale behind the war with Parthia and Rome's concern with the Far Eastern luxuries trade, not including the tariffs and other taxes Rome enforced, was embedded in morality. Alternatively, the war can be viewed as an attempt by Trajan to capture additional territory and increase his prestige. Trajan could have been motivated economically, in the sense that additional territory in the rich Mesopotamian region enabled greater taxation, and greater control over trade with levied a twenty-five percent tax. Furthermore the war with Parthia was to be symbolic for the conquests of Alexander the Great and other rulers before Trajan. At the time Plutarch wrote that only 70,000 Roman soldiers would be necessary to conquer India, which only sparked greater speculation in the prospect of recreating Macedon's extensive eastern conquests. Trajan's expansionist policies were also also fueled by a circle of conservative senators from Trajan's native Hispania, such as Licinius Sura. According to these conservatives, the Roman Empire was infinite, and it was only a matter of the emperor leading Rome to take advantage of such an opportunity.

At the very least a campaign in the east by Trajan would ensure a strong defensible eastern border for the empire, crossing across northern Mesopotamia along the course of the Khabur River, which would offer protection to a potential Roman Armenia. In order to prepare for such an invasion, careful preparations were made. Ten legions were mobilized for the east, with provincial authorities such as Pliny detailing how intermediary provinces had to organize supplies for the passing forces, and had to shoulder part of the expenses necessary for supplying the military invasion. From these accounts it is clear that the campaign would be immensely expensive, from its inception.

In 113 Trajan marched against Armenia, deposing the king appointed by Parthia, who was subsequently murdered while in captivity for unknown reasons, and annexing the region to Rome. Armenia was deemed a province of Rome, and at that time Trajan departed to receive acknowledgements of Roman hegemony from various Caucasian tribes along the eastern coast of the Black Sea. While Trajan toured the region into 114, a Roman column under the command of legate Lusius Quietus, a renown cavalry commander in the Roman army famous for his actions in the Dacian war, was led across the Araxes river from Armenia into Media Atropatene, controlled by the Mardians. Quietus perhaps was seeking to extend the Roman border towards the Caspian Sea, and north to the foothills of the Caucasus.

In 115 Trajan launched a Mesopotamian campaign against Parthia, marching to the Taurus Mountains to secure the region between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The territory was secured by garrisons placed by Trajan along the way, while Trajan and the main army moved from west to east. At the same time Lusius Quietus moved from the Caspian Sea west, together preforming a pincer movement, which would establish a Roman presence throughout the core of Parthian territory. Trajan captured the cities of Nisibis and Batnae, where he organized the province of Mesopotamia, and then received the submission of King Abgaros VII of Osrhoene, who submitted publicly to Trajan's army as a Roman protectorate. By 116 coins had been issued signifying Roman possession of Armenia and Mesopotamia. The area from the Khabur River and the mountains surrounding Singara became the new front against Parthia, and received a road running along this length, with fortresses spread throughout.

From the winter of 115 into 116 Trajan wintered in the city of Antioch, where a violent earthquake nearly destroyed his army, claiming the life of consul M. Pedo Virgilianus. That year Trajan marched east once more, with the ambitious goal of conquering the entirety of Mesopotamia. Roman manpower was low by this point, with two new legions already being created by Trajan, perhaps due to the sources of new citizen recruited already being exploited. One Roman division split off from Trajan and crossed the Tigris river into Adiabene, capturing the city of Adenystrae to the south. A second division followed the path of the river, capturing the city of Babylon. The main force under Trajan sailed down the Euphrates after embarking from Dura-Euopos, through Ozogardana. When Trajan came to the narrow strip of land between the Tigris and the Euphrates, he brought his fleet overland into the Tigris, where he captured Seleucia and finally the Parthian capital at Ctesiphon.

Trajan marched from the Parthian capital toward the Persina Gulf, where he received the submission of the Charax ruler, Athambelus. Babylon was declared a new province of Rome, and from there Trajan sent a letter to the Senate, announcing his victory but stating he was too old to continue and replicate Alexander's conquests. That year the Parthian summer capital of Susa was allegedly also captured. In the recently conquered territory new measures were put in place regarding the payment of customs for Indian trade along the Euphrates and Tigris, and this streamlining of administrative processes may have contributed to later resistance to Roman rule in the region. While Trajan was on the Persian Gulf, it is possible that raids on the Parthian coast were also planned, as well as expanding Roman influence to the tribes holding the passes across the Zagros Mountains into the Iranian Plateau. With relatively weak cavalry, no attempt was made by the Romans to enter the plateau, however.

While Trajan was preparing to leave the Persian Gulf for the spot of Alexander's death in Babylon, a sudden outburst of Parthian resistance broke out across newly annexed territory. Led by Sanatrukes, the nephew of the Parthian king, his force of Parthian cavalry and Saka archers threatened Roman positions along the Mesopotamia region and in Armenia. An army was sent under the command of Lusius Quietus, which recovered the cities of Nisibis and Edessa, with king Abgarus likely killed. A second army under Appius Maximus Santra was also sent against the Parthians, but was defeated and Santra killed. Later that year Trajan, with the support of legates Marcus Erucius Clarus and Tiberius Julius Alexander Julianus, defeated the Parthians and killed Sanatrukes. Seleucia was retaken and burned, and Parthian king Osroes I was deposed and replaced by a Roman puppet named Parthamaspates. With Parthia partially subdued, Trajan returned north to Armenia, to retake what he could of the new province. An armistice was concluded which surrendered part of the territory to Sanatrukes' son Vologeses. Trajan's health began to fall rapidly, and at the siege of the fortress city of Hatra on the Tigris river, he is believed to have suffered from heat stroke.

Concurrently, Jews in Egypt, Cyprus, and Cyrene rose up in religious rebellion against local pagan rulers, beginning the so called Kitos War. Rebellion among Jewish communities also flared up in northern Mesopotamia, which was fueled by hatred of Roman occupation. Trajan left Parthia in order to combat these revolts, seeing them as a temporary setback. Lusius Quietus was placed in command of the eastern armies, who at this time was now governor of Judea. Quietus violently cracked down on the revolt with great success, so much so that the war would be named after a corruption of his name. For his victories Quietus was promised a consulate in the following year, but would be killed before this could occur. The subsequent commander in Judea, an equestrian named Quintus Marcius Turbo continued the war against the rebel leader in Cyrene named Loukuas, before eventually rising to the position of Praetorian Prefect.

Death and Succession

Trajan's health continued to deteriorate, and in early 117 he attempted to sail back to Italy. When Trajan reached Selinus in Cilicia he suddenly died. It is said that Trajan adopted his successor Hadrian on his deathbed, or perhaps his wife Pompeia Plotina arranged it, as she was a supported or Hadrian. Hadrian had commanded the Legio I Minervia during the Dacian Wars, where he was sent to govern the new province of Pannonia Inferior. At the time of Trajan's death Hadrian was entrusted with the governorship of Syria, where he was stationed during Trajan's trip to Italy, and was married to Trajan's grandniece. Hadrian was also born in Hispania, which gave him connections to powerful families and senatorial influences present in Trajan's court.

Reign of Hadrian

Upon his ascension to the throne as emperor, Hadrian secured the support of the military, and also dismissed potential rivals, including Lusius Quietus. Despite rumors that Trajan's adoption of Hadrian had been fabricated by Trajan's wife Plotina, Hadrian's endorsement from the Senate and the army soon quieted suspicions. While Hadrian remained in the east, ending hostilities with Parthia and suppressing the Jewish revolt, he appointed his former guardian, Attianus, as his representative in Rome. It was Attianus who revealed a conspiracy involving Lusius Quietus, and other rivals of Hadrian, and demanded of the Senate their execution. These men were hunted down without trial and swiftly killed. In addition to being candidates for the office of emperor themselves, these rivals of Hadrian were also chief members of the jingoistic party that had motivated Trajan to pursue expansionist policies, which Hadrian sought to change.

For his work securing Hadrian's reign, Attianus was made a senator and promoted to the rank of consul. Later in Hadrian's reign Attianus would be discarded, possibly executed or dead by this time. Hadrian's involvement in the senate in this manner would weaken his relations with the institution for the duration of his reign. Despite this rivalry, Hadrian avoided direct clashes and confrontation with the Senate, which prevented rampant conflict. During his reign Hadrian eclipsed the power of the Senate, however his frequent trips away from Rome helped to manage this relationship. Hadrian further infuriated the Senate by enforcing laws through imperial decree, unapproved by the Senate, and by celebrating the anniversary of his ascension by the day he was proclaimed emperor by the army, rather than by the Senate.

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