A HISTORY OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE FROM ITS FOUNDATION TO THE DEATH OF MARCUS AURELIUS

CHAPTER XXIII.

NERVA AND TRAJAN. THE CONQUEST OF DACIA.

Sect. I.

Nerva.

 

With the death of Domitian the second imperial dynasty came to an end. But no disturbances took place like those which had followed the death of Nero. The new Princeps, M. Cocceius Nerva, who acceded Oct. 1, AD 96, was not, like Galba, set up in the provinces or chosen by the soldiers. He was the elect of the senate. He had no claim to the Principate either by lineage or by preeminent personal qualities. He was a clever jurist, an accomplished writer, and had been twice consul; but he owed his elevation to the fact that he was colourless. The senators, most of whom were doubtless privy to the conspiracy which overthrew the Flavian house, wanted an Emperor who would be ready to concede a due share of government to themselves, but who at the same time would not be obnoxious to the army. Such an one they round in the inoffensive Nerva. He had never stood in the ranks of the senatorial opposition. On the contrary, he had taken part in suppressing the conspiracy of Piso, and had kept in favor with the Flavian Emperors. Over sixty years of age, he was self-indulgent, tolerant, and mild; and the senate expected to find him subservient to their guidance. His reign was greeted by the aristocrats as a new epoch; coins were issued with the inscriptions Libertas publica and Roma renascens. At length, it seemed to the most bitter adversaries of Caesarism, that liberty and the Principate, things formerly irreconcilable, had been happily blended. If Cato himself were restored to life, says an epigrammatist, he would be a Caesarian. It is to be observed that Nerva, like Vespasian, adopted, as a matter of course, the name Caesar, which by this time had become as necessary a part of the imperial nomenclature as Imperator itself.

From Nerva the senate obtained the guarantee which they had sought in vain from the Flavians. The new Princeps took a solemn oath that he would put no member of that order to death. The senate had good reason to be satisfied with his administration, for he consulted it on every matter.

The measures taken against the instruments of Domitian's cruelty were mild, owing to the moderate character of Nerva, who would not satisfy the general outcry for revenge. The exiles, including the philosophers, were recalled; and the sufferers and their friends were eager to punish the delators who had been the cause of their wrongs. C. Plinius Secundus—the younger Pliny, as he is generally called—thought it a good opportunity "to assail the guilty, avenge the unfortunate, and advance himself". Accordingly he attacked Certus, one of Domitian's ministers, in the senate. Certus had laid hands on Helvidius Priscus in the curia, and Helvidius was a friend of Pliny. But Nerva did not permit a process to be instituted against Certus, though he went so far as to refuse him the consulship and supersede him in the praetorship. The suits which the injured were bringing against the delators were stopped at the instance of a senator named Pronto, who proposed a general act of pardon. He is said to have used words which epigrammatically expressed the weakness of Nerva: "It is bad to have a Princeps under whom no one may do anything; it is worse to have one under whom everyone may do anything."

The oath of security which Nerva gave to the senate, implied the abolition of processes for maiestas. Moreover, slaves were forbidden to accuse their masters of "impiety", or of "leading a Jewish life", which seems to have been a frequent charge in the reign of Domitian. But though the senate had condemned the memory of Domitian, Nerva did not allow all his acts to be abolished. That, for example, against mutilation, was confirmed, and the marriage of uncles and nieces was forbidden—a principle acknowledged by Domitian when he refused to marry Julia. Moreover, the beneficia granted by him were confirmed.

In the public finances Nerva, like Vespasian, had difficulties to contend with. The tyranny of Domitian's later years was, as we have seen, partly due to the needs of an exhausted treasury. Nerva was obliged to suspend temporarily the celebration of games and the distributions of corn in Rome. A senatorial commission was appointed for considering the question of ways and means, and the best manner of economizing. The Emperor sacrificed a large amount of imperial property, and the crisis was at length tided over. Then Nerva set himself to relieve his subjects of some of the most unpopular taxes. He abolished the tax which Vespasian had levied on the Jews, and which had called forth bitter discontent. He relieved Italy of the cost of supporting the imperial post—the cursus publicus—within her own borders, and transferred the burden to the fiscus. This tax was called vehiculatio, and it continued to remain in force for the provinces. He also reduced the five per cent. duty on inheritances.

From an economical point of view, the short reign of Nerva was retrogressive. It was characterized by an exclusive and narrow attention to the interests of Italy. This was to be expected from a government which was so much under the influence of the senate. The ideal of the senate was to maintain the supremacy of Rome and Italy and to keep the provinces in a subordinate place; whereas, one of the chief tendencies of imperial policy—the policy inaugurated by Caesar himself—was to raise the provinces to the position of importance which they had a right to claim. But Italy, perhaps, had been too much neglected by previous rulers; and it was only fair that she should have her turn now. The decline of Italian agriculture was a serious disaster which had attracted the attention of Domitian, and he had sought to remedy it by forbidding land to be drawn from the cultivation of corn and appropriated to the produce of wine. Nerva's plan was to send out colonies of agriculturists, but he had not enough money at his disposal to make this remedy really effective. He bought up large lots of land, and appointed a commission of senators to divide it. It is important to observe that the Agrarian Law of Nerva was a true Law, passed at a comitia of the people. Nerva, like Claudius, revived the old republican form, for the last time.

More effectual and important for the welfare of Italy than his attempt to heal the irremediable agrarian evil, was Nerva's system of alimentary institutions. These were designed to help the education of the children of poor parents. For each town which received the benefit of this endowment, a certain sum of money was set aside at once, and lent to landed proprietors, and the annual interest which it produced formed the support of the alimentary institution. As the investment rested on land, it was secure, and the state on its part undertook not to withdraw the loan. The control of the administration of this charity was probably placed in the hands of men of senatorial rank, the curatores viarum. Nerva's successors carried out the organization of the institution more thoroughly.

The brevity of Nerva's reign gave him little time for executing public works. But he completed the forum transitorium which Domitian had left unfinished, connecting the Templum Pacis with the Forum of Augustus. This new forum was marked by the temple of Minerva and was called the Forum of Nerva.

The policy of Nerva was marked by mildness, even by weakness. He boasted that he had done no act which could prevent him from resigning the Principate, if he chose, with perfect security. His clemency, however, was the one feature which did not satisfy the senatorial party, a story is told that Mauricus, who had returned from exile, was supping one evening with Nerva, and "the prudent Veiento", a notorious creature of Domitian, wan also present, reclining in a place of honor next the Emperor. The conversation chanced to turn on the blind delator Catullus, who had lately died. "If he were still living", said Nerva, "what would his fate be?". "He would be supping with us," replied Mauricus, glancing at Veiento. But though Nerva was mild, perhaps because he was so mild, conspiracies were formed against him. That of Calpurnius Crassus, a descendant of the triumvir, was easily put down, and Crassus was banished not to an island, but to the pleasant city of Tarentum. A more dangerous movement originated in the praetorian camp. Casperius Aelianus, one of the praetorian prefects under Domitian, and retained in the post by Nerva, excited the soldiers to demand the execution of the murderers of Domitian, especially the freedman Parthenius and the other prefect, Petronius Secundus, although more than a year had passed since the event. Nerva, indeed, bared his own neck, and offered to die himself instead of the victims, but he was forced to comply (about Oct., 97 AD).

This experience decided Nerva, who was weak in health and felt himself unable to cope with the difficulties of government or manage the soldiers, to follow the example of Augustus, Galba, and Vespasian, and choose a consort, who should also be his presumptive successor. He had kinsfolk of his own, but he passed them over, and regarded the interests of the state, not those of his own family. His choice, guided by his adviser, L. Licinius Sura, fell on M. Ulpius Trajanus, the legatus of Upper Germany, and the result proved that it could not have fallen upon any one better fitted for the post. Trajan was a Spaniard of Italica, a municipium close to Hispalis in Baetica. His father had served with distinction in the Jewish war, and held the proconsulate of Asia. The son, born 18th Sept., 52 AD, had been brought up as a soldier, and seen ten years' active service as a military tribune. He then went through the cursus honorum, and obtained the praetorship in 85AD. We next meet him in Spain, where, on the outbreak of the revolt of Antonius Saturninus, he was ordered by Domitian to lead one of the Spanish legions, I. Adiutrix, of which he was clearly legatus, to Upper Germany, but the rising was suppressed before his arrival. His promptitude was rewarded by an eponymous or ordinary consulship in 91 AD, a great honor coming from Domitian, who was usually first consul of the year himself. He was afterwards appointed legatus of Upper Germany. He was probably at Vindonissa when Nerva addressed a letter to him, offering him a share in the imperium, explaining his own difficulties, and calling upon him to take vengeance on those who had tormented him, with the Homeric line, "May the Danai pay for my tears beneath thy shafts". But without waiting for the consent of Trajan, Nerva proceeded without delay to perform the ceremony of adoption in his absence. The Pannonian legions had gained a victory over the Suevians who were still hostile, and to celebrate it the citizens had assembled on the summit of the Capitol, in front of the temple of Jove. There Nerva declared the adoption of his son and consort in these words: "I adopt M. Ulpius Nerva Trajanus; may it prove fortunate to the senate, the Roman people and myself." Thus Trajan became the son of Nerva, and, like Nerva himself, Caesar; it remained to confer upon him the proconsular power, and this was done in due form by a decree of the senate. But he was not only made Imperator; he also, like Titus, received the tribunician power at the same time. This probably means that the tribunician lex was proposed in the senate at the same time, and then, after the due interval, brought before the comitia. The elevation of Trajan to the second place in the empire took place on the 27th October, 97 AD, and from this day Trajan dated his tribunician years. In consequence of the Pannonian victory mentioned above, both Nerva arid Trajan assumed the name Germanicus. They were designated as colleagues in the consulship for the following year. Nerva died January 27th, 98 AD. His acts were confirmed and he was enrolled among the gods, as a matter of course; and Trajan, "son of the Divine Nerva", was elected Princeps and Augustus.

 

Sect. II.

Trajan on the Rhine.

 

A new epoch in imperial history may be said to begin with the accession of Trajan. Hitherto all the Emperors had been of Roman or Italian origin. The elevation of the first Italian—the Sabine, Vespasian—had been a novelty; but this was a small innovation compared with the raising of a provincial to be head of the Roman world,—master of Rome herself. Not a murmur was heard at the election of Trajan, the Spaniard, though his birthplace, Italica by the Baetis, was not even a colonia. How far Roman opinion had progressed during the past century in regard to the provinces may be estimated, if we recollect that Augustus had hesitated to admit inhabitants of trans-Padane Italy into the praetorian guards.

Trajan was not required to return to Rome on his adoption by Nerva. He seems to have continued to hold the post of legatus of Upper Germany, combining it, as Titus combined the praetorian prefecture, with his imperial position. But it is probable that by virtue of his proconsular power, perhaps by the special ordinance of Nerva, he exercised beyond his own province a control over Lower Germany as well. He would thus have held a position somewhat similar to that held by Drusus, Tiberius, and Germanicus. This will explain the fact that the news of Nerva's death reached him not in the Upper, but in the Lower province, at Colonia Agrippenensis. The new Emperor did not immediately return to Rome. He saw that there was work to be done on the Rhine, and he stayed to do it. Sometime before, intestine quarrels had broken out among the Bructeri; a chieftain was expelled from their land and had returned with the help of neighboring tribes. The governor of Lower Germany, Vestricius Spurinna, also assisted in the restoration of the Bructeran king, who after his victory settled a large number of the Chamavi and Angrivarii in Bructeran territory, in order to maintain his position with their help against his own countrymen. Trajan seized the opportunity of these domestic dissensions to strengthen the fortifications of the Rhine, to complete and improve the work begun by the Flavians. Some ascribe to him the erection of the rampart and forts in the Agri Dectimates, which in the foregoing chapter was described as the work of the Flavians. In any case Trajan went on with work which was begun by them. It is certain that a road on the right bank of the Rhine leading from Moguntiacum southward, crossing the Nicer (near the present Heidelberg) and passing Aquae, in the direction of Offenberg, was constructed under the auspices of Trajan in 100 AD. To him also Aquae (Baden) may attribute the beginning of her prosperity, as well as other towns in the same region, such as Sumelocenna (Rottenburg) on the Nicer, and Lopodunum (Ladenburg). On the Moenus not far from Moguntiacum he constructed a castellum, called after himself, but its site cannot be identified. About a mile lower than the old Vetera he founded a new fortress, which was afterwards called Colonia Trajana. Having spent the summer of 98 in the German provinces, Trajan proceeded to the Danube and spent the ensuing winter in making preparations for a Dacian war, which, as he foresaw, was inevitable. At this time a road on the right bank of the Danube was made in the neighborhood of Tierna (near the present Orsova). Public interest at Rome was awakened in the operations of Trajan by the timely appearance of the Germania of Tacitus, giving a picturesque account of the manners and customs of the Teutonic peoples with which Rome had been brought in contact. Tacitus personally had some local knowledge of the subject, as he had been either legatus of a legion in Germany or governor of Belgica from 90 to 94. His interest in Germany was stimulated by an instinctive perception that Rome's greatest danger lay in that quarter; "the liberty of the Germans is more active than the kingdom of the Antacids". Reviewing the past history of the relations between Roman and Teuton, he makes use of that pregnant expression "so long is Germany in the process of being conquered."

The Germania contains an account of the Teutons in general, and also notices of the particular tribes. The Germans have now reached a more advanced stage of civilization than that which Caesar described a hundred and twenty years before. The communities no longer migrate from one part of the territory to another, but each community of the tribe has a permanent village settlement and a certain area of arable land, although their wealth still consists chiefly in cattle; and there is a considerable advance in local organization. Agriculture has become general, and each man has a fixed home. The love of hunting has declined, perhaps owing to the decrease of beasts of chase, and the warriors during times of peace devote themselves to the wine-bowl and to gambling.

The arrangement which formerly held for the communities or families now holds for the individual freeman. Each freeman receives an allotment of land from the community, and his allotment is changed every year. As there is a large quantity of waste land available, the arable area is changed annually, and nothing is grown on it but corn. But though the freeman has no permanent landed property, he has a permanent right to a share in the land of the community, and he has complete ownership of his homestead. He has also a right to a share in the common pasturage. But though these facts testify to a considerable development since the days of Caesar and Ariovistus, there are many social features which still survive. They are still without cities, and their buildings are very rudely put together. They are still chaste, they are still plain and simple in dress, and they are still indifferent to merchandise.

Differences in social rank and dignity seem to have been of three kinds. (1) Some were morn wealthy, that is, possessed more cattle than others. And those who were more wealthy must have had a larger share of pasture and arable land. It is true that all the allotments of land were equal, but then one man may have held more than one allotment. (2) Some were noble by race, or descendants of kings, or gods, or great chieftains; and others were not. Those tribes which adopted monarchy chose their kings on account of nobility. This distinction of nobiles and ingenui probably involved no inequality in political rights. (3) Besides the freeborn, including the nobles, who possessed political rights were the freedmen and servi. There were two kinds of servi, (a) the slaves consisting of those who lost their freedom by gambling, and perhaps prisoners of war, and (6) the cultivators of the land, corresponding to the Roman coloni. This second class was far the more important, and probably consisted of the original occupiers of the land who had been subdued by the German tribe, when it took possession. The German colon—as we may call the slave of this class—possessed a home of his own, and was personally free except in relation to his lord, whom he could not desert, and his land, which, like the medieval serf, he could not forsake. He paid to his lord a fixed quantity of corn, or cattle, or clothing. His lot was not hard, but his lord might kill him with impunity.

The administration of the tribe resided in the tribe or civitas itself, whether the tribe adopted monarchy or not. The national assembly, which met at the new or full moon, wielded the power. All the free-born members of the community attended it in arms, without distinction of seat. In their assemblies questions of war and peace were determined; the magistrates who administered justice were elected; and it acted as a court of justice itself. The magistrates (or principes, as Tacitus calls them) had the right of keeping a comitatus. This characteristic German institudon was a body of warriors attached to a chieftain, who provided them with their equipment and entertained them. They fought for him in war, and were bound to defend him and attribute to him their own brave deeds. Their chief employment was war; and the dignity and fame of the chieftain depended largely on the number and efficiency of his "companions". The principes acted independently of each other, each in his district, in time of peace, but in war all obeyed a leader chosen by the common council. Royalty, in those tribes where it existed, was of a very limited nature, and involved rather honorary privileges than political power.

The host or military force of the tribe consisted of both cavalry and infantry. The cavalry was composed of the comitatus of the principes. The infantry was of two kinds. Each district (pagus) sent a hundred chosen champions or fighting-men, who fought in front in battle; and besides these there was the mass of the free­men, who were arranged in families.

At the beginning of 99 AD Trajan returned from the Danube to Rome, where he was received with warm and unfeigned enthusiasm, and became consul for the third time. He renewed the pledge, which he had already given to the senate in writing, that he would not condemn a senaior to death, and this oath he always respected. He had received from the Fathers the title of pater patriae. He avenged the tears of Nerva by punishing the mutineers of the praetorian guard, and he was so confident in his own military authority that he reduced by one half the usual donative to the soldiers, and no murmur was heard. In handing to the praetorian prefect the dagger, which was the sign of his office, Trajan employed the celebrated words, "Use this for me, if I do well; against me, if I do ill." His moderate demeanor conciliated the senators, and his wile Plotina conducted herself with the same modesty. As she entered the palace, she is reported to have turned to the multitude, and said that she entered it with as perfect equanimity as she should wish to leave it, if fate required. General satisfaction was felt when Trajan punished the delators whom Nerva had spared. Some were executed, others banished.

Trajan only remained two years at Rome, and then proceeded to deal with the Dacian question, which Domitian had not settled. Of his work in administration and legislation during those two years, some account will be given in the following chapter.

 

Sect. III.

First Dacian War (101, 102 AD).

 

In making war against the Dacian king Decebalus, Trajan had no thought of extending the limits of the Empire. Its natural border in that quarter was the Danube, just as its natural border in the east was the Euphrates. His object was to prevent the consolidation of a great rival power on the Roman frontier, by reducing the Dacian state to a position of dependence on Rome, somewhat like that of Armenia. Formally, indeed, Domitian had been acknowledged overlord by Decebalus, when he set the diadem on the brow of Diegis. But the gifts, which he had consented to send to the Dacian king at certain times, were too much like a tribute, and seemed dishonorable to the mistress of the world. Trojan was determined to "war down the proud," and teach the Dacian his place.

On the 25th March, 101 AD, sacrifices were offered at Rome for the success of Trajan's expedition, and perhaps on that very day, certainly soon after, he set out from the city for the Danube.

Besides the eight legions stationed in the Illyric provinces—three in Pannonia and five in Moesia,—the Emperor brought XXI. Rapax from Lower Germany to take part in the war. It has been supposed that the forces which he led into Dacia amounted to about 60,000 men. The German and Mauretanian cavalry—the latter led by Lusius Quietus—played a conspicuous part in the campaign. Tiberius Claudius Livianus, the praetorian prefect, and Laberius Maximus, governor of Moesia, were the most prominent among the officers, but Trajan directed all the operations himself. The future Emperor, Hadrian, who had married Trajan's niece Julia Sabina, was among the imperial comites,

The object of the invading army was Sarmizegethusa, the chief city of Dacia. It seems probable that Decebalus first made this place the capital, and that previously Porolissum, in the north­west of the country, held that position. The policy of Burebistas had tended rather towards the west, whereas that of Decebalus looked southwards. It is possible that the complete occupation of Pannonia by the Romans may have had something to do with this shifting in Dacia. The choice of Decebalus was a hanpy one. Sarmizegethusa—now called Várhely by the Hungarians, Gredistye by the Slavs—is easy to get at from other parts of the land, and at the same time easy to defend. It is connected with the northern regions of the river Marisus (Maros) by the Sztrigy valley; while westward the pass of the Iron Gate leads to the valleys of a river, whose ancient name is unknown but which is now called the Bisztra, and of the Tibiscus (Temes). The plains of the Lower Danube can be reached either through the Vulkan Pass or by the defile of the Red Tower. Thus three routes were open to Trajan. (1) He might cross the Danube at Viminacium, opposite to which, on the left bank, was the Dacian fortress of Lederata. From Lederata a road led northwards, across the Bersava, to the valley of the Tibiscus, ascended this valley, and then, turning eastward led up the valley of its tributary the Bisztra, and so reached the Iron Gate. (2) Lower down the river the Roman fort of Saliatis was confronted by Tierna on the Dacian bank, from which a road led past Ad Mediam (Mehadia) to the confluence of the Temes and the Bisztra. (3) A third road led from Drobetae—opposite to Egeta, near the modern Turnu Severin—and proceeded by the valley of the Alutus and by the pass of the Red Tower. The first of these routes was chosen by Trajan. Viminacium (Knstolats) had two evident advantages as a starting-point. Being equally distant from Pannonia, and Moesia, it was a convenient centre for gathering the troops together, and its strong fortifications made it a good base in the rear of the advancing army. It was also nearer Italy than the other possible starling-points.

Transport-vessels were actively engaged in bringing corn, wine, vinegar, and other provisions to the place of assembling. The boats coming from Moesia had to pass through the Iron Gate of the Danube. Here the river, close to Orsova, is enclosed between two walls of rock rising directly from the water and of immense height. In the narrowest part, where the stream can hardly win its passage, there is an inscription of Trajan cut in the rock and recording how he made a path on the side of the steep mountain of stone. This path was for the purpose of towing the boats of provisions.

At Viminacium then a bridge of boats was thrown across the Danube, for the transit of the army, and on the other side Trajan performed the due sacrifices. Their march lay by Bersovia, (on the river now called Bersava), and Aixis on a more northerly river. As the Romans approached the Tibiscus an embassy arrived from the Buri, a Suevian tribe, who dwelled north of the Jazyges in the neighborhood of the Quadi. Their errand, which, it is said, was in some manner inscribed on an enormous mushroom, was to counsel the Emperor to abandon his project, and make peace with the Dacians. This incident can hardly be regarded as anything but a piece of insolence. The Buri fought in the army of Decebalus. In his advance Trajan neglected no precautions, in fortifying camps and sending forward scouts. But the enemy had retreated into the recesses of the country, and left the road free. At length when the Romans reached Tapae (Tapia), on the Tibiscus, a place which commands the entrance to the Bisztra valley, they found the Dacians drawn up in a strong position between the river and wooded hills. This place had been the scene of Julian's great victory thirteen years before, and it proved auspicious again to the arms of Trajan. The Romans were assisted by a thunderstorm, which threw the ranks of the enemy into disorder. In this, the first battle, the infantry on both sides seem to have been chiefly engaged. Though the legions conquered, the victory cost them dear. It is probable that one legion, XXI. Rapax, perished almost entirely in the battle. It is related that the Emperor gave his own clothes for bandages to bind up the wounds of the injured. He built an altar to the Manes of those who had fallen, and instituted a yearly sacrifice in their memory. Not far from Tapae was the town of Tibiscum, which was taken and set on fire, and then the legions advanced up the Bisztra valley. A deputation from Decebalus, suing for peace, soon arrived. It consisted of three men on horses without saddles, followed by a number of men on foot, all of inferior rank, not belonging to the nobility (whom the Romans called pileati, or "men of the cap"). Trajan refused to listen to such envoys. The war, however, was soon suspended, owing to the approach of winter, when the invaders had only penetrated half way up the Bisztra valley. Trajan returned to winter in Pannonia, with the greater part of his army, but left all the fortresses he had occupied strongly garrisoned.

In the following spring (102 AD) Trajan and his legions descended by boat to Viminacium, the Emperor himself rowing or steering along with the men; and retraced the road which they had traversed the year before. They found all their posts safe. Two small encounters took place now, and resulted in Roman victories, which were followed by the submission of one of the Dacian tribes. Then Trajan continued his advance on the capital. The way was difficult. The soldiers had to hew their way through forests with the axe, and they were constantly hindered by ditches and precipices. The defence of the Dacians now became more active as the enemy was approaching the heart of their country. Their belief in immortality aided their bravery, and made them unsparing of their lives. They were now assisted by reinforcements of Sarmatian mounted archers, whose steeds, as well as the riders, are represented on Trajan's column as clad completely in mail. The fury of the struggle may be measured by the horrible tortures which the Dacian women inflicted on Roman prisoners by burning parts of their bodies with lighted brands. At length the last fortress defending the approach to Saimizegethusa fell before the attack of Trajan, while his general Laberius Maximus at the same time captured the sister of Decebalus in another town. Some high mountain fastnesses were also taken, and the Roman eagle was recovered which had been lost by Domitian's general, Cornelius Fuscus. After these successes Decebalus once more sued for peace, but this time his messengers were pileati. Their supplication was humbler, they bent the knee to Trajan and implored pardon. They asked him to consent to meet their king, professing that he was ready to submit to any conditions; and if he would not agree to this, at least to send deputies to Decebalus. Licinius Sura, Trajan's friend, and Livianus the prefect were sent, but the negotiations came to nothing, and the struggle was resumed. A tract of forest still separated the Romans from the Dacian capital. The Mauretanian cavalry, with Lusius Quietus at their head, attacked several detachments of the enemy and drove them into the recesses of the woods, where they barricaded themselves by trees, and their position had to be stormed like a regular fortress. The way was thus prepared for the main body of the Roman army, and on emerging on the other side of the forest, they found themselves in front of Sarmizegethusa. The Dacians did not wait to endure the slow course of a siege. They came forth to fight and were conquered. Then, in order to save his capital from destruction, Decebalus submitted to whatever terms the victor deemed fitting to impose, and came himself along with two of his chief officers into the presence of the Roman Emperor, to implore mercy. He was required to surrender all his military engines, all Roman deserters, and the workmen who had been placed at his disposal by Domitian. He undertook either to destroy or to hand over to the conquerors all his fortresses. Dacia became a dependent state, and the king was bound neither to make war nor to conclude peace without the consent of Rome.

Having left garrisons in some of the Dacian fortresses, and especially in Sarmizegethusa itself, Trajan returned to Rome, accompanied by Dacian deputies, who went through the form of submitting themselves to the senate, and the peace was not regarded as finally concluded until the senate ratified the terms which the Emperor had imposed. Trajan had been proclaimed Imperator three times during this war—once in the first campaign after the battle of Tapae, and twice in the second campaign. The senate decreed him the title of Dacicus, and he was designated consul for the following year. Out of the large booty a congiarium was distributed to the people.

 

Shot. IV.

Second Dacian War (105, 106 AD)

 

It soon became evident that Decebalus did not intend to carry on the terms which his conqueror had imposed upon him. He had accepted them in order to gain a respite and make preparations for another struggle for the liberty of Dacia. But in attempting to shake off the lesser yoke of "federation" he was destined only to bring upon his country the heavier yoke of direct subjection to Rome. When the Emperor learned that his vassal was playing false, was receiving deserters, building and renovating fortresses, collecting the instruments of warfare, and carrying on suspicious negotiations with the neighbouring tribes, he determined to overthrow Decebalus altogether, and convert Dacia into a Roman province. In taking this resolve he departed from the recognized policy of the Roman government, to abstain from extending the borders of the Empire. He transgressed the precept of Augustus, as Claudius had already done in the case of Britain. He has been accused of unwisdom in taking this step, of sacrificing the interest of the Empire to the ambition of military conquest. But we do not know the full circumstances of the case, and it would be rash to say that the continuance of the dependent Dacian kingdom would have been less dangerous to the Empire than the creation of the Dacian province. If merely military ambition prompted Trajan in the second war, why did it not prompt him to the same policy in the first?

In 104 AD Decebalus was decreed by the senate to be an enemy of the Roman people, and Trajan set out for Moesia, to superintend the preparations for invading Dacia in the following year. He chose a different route from that which he had followed in the former war. Instead of starting from Viminacium he started from Egeta, at which place he caused a permanent stone bridge to be built across the Danube. The architect was Apollodorus of Damascus, and bricks used in the construction of the pillars hare been found, which show that soldiers of the XIIIth legion were employed in the work. The construction of this solid bridge—a wonderful work of engineering—was a sign of Trajan's resolve to make Dacia a province of the Empire. For the second war more troops were mustered than for the first. To the eight Illyric legions, four were added from the two German provinces. Decebalus on his side had also made great preparations, especially in building fortresses, which seem to have played a greater part in the second than in the first war. But perhaps he did not fully believe in his own powers ultimately to resist the invader; for we find him, while Trajan was still in Moesia, suborning two deserters to take the life of the Emperor by poison. One of the traitors was arrested on suspicion, and revealed under torture the name of his accomplice. This episode casts a slur on the career of the Dacian hero.

From Drobetae, Trajan might follow either of two routes to reach the Dacian capital. The shortest was by the pass of Vulkan, but shortness was not Trajan's aim, otherwise he would have gone as before by Viminacium and the Bisztra valley. His object seems to have been to cut off the retreat of the enemy towards the eastern parts of Dacia, and therefore he took the other route by the Red Tower. Marching eastward from Drobetae, he reached the river Alutus at Pons Aluti, but without crossing the river moved up the valley on the right bank. During his march several Dacian and Jazygic tribes sent messages of submission. Of the details of the march, of the points at which the Dacians offered resistance, of the length of time which elapsed before Sarmizegethusa was reached we know nothing certain. The pass of the Red Tower was, doubtless, staunchly defended. One instance of noble self-sacrifice has been preserved. A valuable officer of Trajan, Cassius Longinus, a camp-prefect, had somehow been enticed into the power of Decebalus, who kept him a prisoner, and sent a message to Trajan that he would not release his captive unless Dacia were evacuated and the expenses of the war paid. The Emperor, unwilling to seal the doom of Longinus, did not flatly refuse, but the prisoner freed his Imperator from the dilemma by swallowing poison.

The movements of the Romans were slow but sure. At length (probably in 106 AD) they approached the capital of Decebalus from the eastern side, and laid siege to it. A battle was fought, in which the Dacians were worsted, and then Decebalus caused his followers to set fire to their city. A number of Dacian nobles, thinking further resistance useless, and not wishing to fall alive into the hands of the victor, assembled for a last banquet and drank a poisoned cup. Most of the common people submitted to the Romans. Decebalus himself, with a few devoted followers, fled, but was followed by Roman troops, and, after a combat, despatched himself with his sword. His head was brought to Trajan, and sent to Rome. His followers resisted to the last, and were not taken until the Romans set fire to the fortress in which they had shut themselves up. Trajan was saluted Imperator for the sixth time.

Having arranged the organization of the new province, Trajan returned to Rome (end of 107), and celebrated his triumph by a feast which lasted 123 days. Ten thousand gladiators fought in the spectacles. The people received a congiarium, and the Emperor, as one who had extended the boundaries of the Roman territory, extended also the pomoerium of the city.

The great memorial of these Dacian wars is the Column of Trajan, erected by the senate in the new Forum Trajani, where it stands to this day. This column, one hundred feet high, is decorated by sculptures, in low relief, of scenes from both the wars. It is a picture-book of the Dacian campaigns, but, unluckily, to most of the pictures we have no text. The Caesar who conquered Dacia, like the Caesar who conquered Gaul, wrote an account of his conquest, but the Commentaries of Trajan have not survived, and this is, perhaps, one of the greatest losses that history has to deplore. Nor have we in its place any other full account of the wars—nothing but a late and meagre epitome. In these circumstances, the pillar of Trajan is of the greatest value. It is possible, from the vivid illustrations, whose meaning is generally clear, to supplement in many important particulars the one very deficient written record which we possess. Just as the Bayeux Tapestry helps the historian to understand the story of the Norman conquest of England, so the Pillar of Trajan helps him to follow the Roman conquest of Dacia. It does not, indeed, throw light on the chronology and geography of the campaigns, as to which we are almost hopelessly in the dark; and it does not give a complete view of the war, for only those episodes are represented in which Trajan himself took part. Its value, perhaps, is ethnographical rather than strictly historical. It teaches us what the bearded Dacians were like, with their long hair, loose drawers, and long-sleeved jerkins; we see them fighting under their dragons—the Dacian standard. We see the Sarmatian archers on horseback, clad in complete mail. The various events of the march, as well as battle-scenes and sieges pass before us. We see the Roman soldiers following their standard-bearer across the bridge of boats at Viminacium, and the river-god, the Danube, rising from his bed to behold them. Then we see the Emperor performing sacrifices in front of the camp. The cutting down of trees, the construction of camps, the making of bridges, the Emperor addressing the troops, are all represented. We see Dacian spies dragged by the hair into Trajan's presence; soldiers displaying to the Emperor the bloody heads of enemies they have slain; the Dacians carrying their wounded into a wood. A village built on stakes in a lake is set on fire, the women and children implore mercy. The houses of the barbarians are round, with pointed roofs. Here is portrayed the distribution of distinctions to brave soldiers; there the tortures which Dacian women inflict on Roman captives. In the sculptures of the second war we have a view of the capital city of Decebalus, his palace, and probably the temple of Zalmoxis. We see the Dacian chiefs sitting in a circle and emptying the bowl of poison in front of the burning town. Then we see the head of Decebalus presented to Trajan on a dish. The sculptures are ranged in a spiral band round the column, which supported a colossal statue of the Imperator.

 

Sect. V.

Organization of Dacia.

 

Dacia differed, in one important respect, from the other provinces of the Empire. It was bounded on three sides by territory that was not Roman, and thus resembled a peninsula of civilization jutting out into a barbarian sea. The land between the Danube and the Theiss was left to the Jazyges, and never formed part of the Empire, so that Dacia was thus separated from Pannonia. In fact, Dacia was an "eccentric position" thrown out from the natural Danube frontier. It is generally thought that Trajan was guilty of a political error in occupying it; but perhaps the error rather consisted in not going further. Certainly the annexation of Jazygia seemed called for, in order to complete a continuous line of frontier from the Rhine to the Pruth or Dniester. It is to be observed that the Dacian province did not extend as far east as the Pruth. It included Transylvania, the Banat, and western Wallachia. In eastern Wallachia and Moldavia there are no remains of Roman civilization, and while they were included in the Roman sphere of influence, they can hardly have belonged to the province. The remains of fortifications between the Pruth and the Dniester in modern Bessarabia have been discovered, but do not necessarily imply that the Dacian province extended so far.

The native population of Dacia was exhausted by the wars, and the greater part of what remained was driven out by Trajan, probably into the eastern regions beyond the Alutus. One of the scenes on the pillar represents the fugitives going forth from their homes. A few were allowed to remain in Transylvania, but they were isolated and gradually disappeared. The land was repopulated by colonists from all parts of the Roman world, especially from Asia Minor, and thus the province of Dacia never represented a nationality. Dalmatians, skilled in mining operations, were settled in the northern districts in order to work the valuable gold-mines, which were probably a considerable motive in inducing Trajan to conquer the country. They not only rendered Dacin self-supporting, but were a source of additional wealth to the fiscus. The province was placed under a legatus Augusti pro paetore. The first governor, D. Terentius Scaurianus, was remembered as the founder of the colony of Sarmizegethusa (under the name Ulpia Trajana). Apulum, however, further north, (corresponding to the present Karlsburg,) was more important than the capital of Decebalus. It was the centre of the road-system of the province. Besides these two cities, Napoca in the north and Tierna on the Danube received ius Italicum.

It is probable that Trajan left two legions, as the garrison of his new province. Both Moesia and Pannonia were guarded more strongly than ever, eight legions being distributed between them.

One of the great consequences of the Dacian war was the shifting of the military centre of gravity in Europe from the Rhine to the Danube. The legions which were taken from the German provinces were not sent back (except I. Minervia), but were kept in the Illyric provinces. Here Trajan made a new administrative arrangement. As Domitian had divided Moesia, so he broke up Pannonia into an upper and lower province, each under a legatus. In Lower Pannonia he established a military station at Acumincum, close to the confluence of the Theiss and the Danube, in order to be a check on the Jazyges. In connection with Trajan's reorganization of these provinces some new towns were founded, for example Marcianopolis, called after his sister Marciana, and Nicopolis on the Danube; many old towns were enlarged or improved, such as Poetovio in Pannonia, Ratiaria (near Widdin), Serdica (Sofia), Oescus. The stations of the army of Lower Moesia were now fixed at Novae and Durostorurn (Silistria). The Dobrudza district at the mouth of the Danube seems to have been excluded by Trajan from the province, though it was included in the following reign. The remains of a threefold system of ramparts of earth and stone running eastward from the Danube below Durostorum to the sea near Tomi have been discovered, and there are reasons for attributing the fortification to Trajan.

One of the most distinct results of the Dacian Conquest was that it stifled all thoughts of insurrection among the Thracians, whose restless spirits were no longer fomented by free kinsmen in the north. Trajan made Thrace, hitherto a procuratorial province dependent on Moesia, a province of the first rank under a legatus Augusti pro praetore.

 

Sect. VI.

Province of Arabia.

 

While the Emperor was himself reducing the newly conquered client-state of Dacia into the form of a province, the governor of Syria, Cornelius Palma, was also bringing under the direct rule of Rome the elder client-state of the Nabateans. Malchus, king of the Nabateans, had supported Vespasian in the Jewish war, and was succeeded by his son Dabel, who was destined to be the last of the line. The change introduced (doubtless for commercial reasons) by Trajan was really administrative, but was not accomplished without resistance on the part of the Arabs, and Palma was considered a conqueror of Arabia. Some outlying regions possessed by the Nabatean king were abandoned; Damascus was annexed to the province of Syria: and the rest of the kingdom was organized as an imperial province, under a legatus Augusti pr.pr. who commanded a legion which was stationed at Bostra. The province is often called Arabia Petraea, from the important city of Petra. The country was protected by military stations. A line of fortresses protected the road from Damascus to Palmyra. Under direct Roman rule, which by its permanent military strength ensured peace, Greek civilization began to penetrate into these regions on the border of the desert. Hitherto Hellenism, opposed by Jewish influences, had made little way here; Trajan's innovations made a new epoch.

It is significant that no Greek monument dating from the time before Trajan has been found within the limits of the Nabatean kingdom, while on the other hand there are no inscriptions in the native tongue after Trajan. The commercial importance of Bostra, the new Bostra of Trajan, as it was called, dates from the time when it became the centre of the Roman province. Its good position made it the great market for the Syrian desert, the Arabian high­lands, and Persia; it became the rival of Damascus. Buildings sprang up rapidly in this land under Roman rule. New towns arose, symmetrically built, adorned with palaces and temples, theatres and baths, aqueducts and triumphal arches. The architecture, owing to want of wood, developed some peculiar features, especially in the treatment of the stone arch and the dome, which give the buildings of this region a place of their own among Greek buildings of the imperial period.

Another client-state had ceased to exist a few years before. On the death of Agrippa II in 100 AD., the last remnant of the kingdom of Herod was annexed to the province of Syria. In consequence of this enlargement and the subsequent addition of Damascus, Syria reached under Trajan its widest limits as a province; and, as the legatus exercised control over the secondary province of Judea, his sphere of government was a very large one.