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The Story of the Romans by  H. A. Guerber

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TRAJAN'S COLUMN

YOU remember, do you not, how the cowardly Domitian bought peace from the Dacians, and then came back to Rome, saying that he had conquered them? Well, this peace did not last very long, and during the reign of Trajan the Dacians again began to make raids into the Roman territory.

To repulse them, the emperor himself led an army into their country, and won so many victories that they begged for peace. Then, on his return to Rome, he received the honors of a triumph, and the surname of "The Dacian."

In the very next year, however, the war broke out again. This time Trajan kept on fighting until the Dacians were completely conquered, and their king had [241] killed himself in despair. Then all Dacia became a Roman province, and the emperor received a second and much more magnificent triumph.

Shortly after this, Trajan was forced to fight the Parthians, descendants of the Persians who had once invaded Greece. He won great victories over them also, and added a large province called Mesopotamia to the Roman Empire. During this campaign, he visited Babylon, which was rapidly falling into ruins, and saw the palace where Alexander the Great had died more than four hundred years before.

To commemorate the victories of Trajan, a column was erected in Rome. It still stands there perfectly preserved, and still bears the name of the good emperor.


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Trajan's Column.

[242] While Trajan was in Asia, he was taken ill, and he died before he could reach Rome, although his dearest wish had been to breathe his last among his own people. In memory of him, the city where he died was named Trajanopolis ("City of Trajan").

You will doubtless be surprised to hear that this emperor, who was so good and charitable as a rule, persecuted the Christians sorely. Many of them even suffered martyrdom by his order; but this was because he believed that they were wicked and perverse.

Trajan, it is said, had been taught by Plutarch, a well-known writer, who related the lives of prominent men in a very fascinating way. In his book of Lives, which has been translated into English, you will find many of the stories which you have read here, for Plutarch wrote about all the greatest men in Roman history. He also compared them with the great men of Greece, whose lives he told in the same volume.

During this reign, also, lived Tacitus, the great Roman historian, Juvenal, the poet, and Pliny the Younger, who wrote a famous oration in praise of the emperor. This speech has been preserved, and when you have learned Latin, you will read it with great interest.

Such was the respect that the Romans felt for Trajan that during the next two hundred years the senators always addressed a new emperor by saying: "Reign fortunately as Augustus, virtuously as Trajan!" Thus, you see, the memory of a man's good deeds is very lasting; even now Trajan's name is honored, and people still praise him for the good he did while he was emperor of Rome.


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