Roman Empire, Trajan - His Second Triumph

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The reverse of this coin depicts Trajan’s second triumph in AD 106, which he celebrated for his great victory earlier that year in the Second Dacian War.

Trajan had in 101-102 launched an offensive against the powerful Dacian king Decebalus with whom Domitian had signed an unfavourable (and some would argue shameful) treaty some twenty years before, the price of which was the payment of an annual ‘subsidy’ of eight million sestertii and the presentation of a diadem from Domitian to Decebalus. In that war, Trajan succeeded in defeating the Dacians in a series of pitched battles, and reduced Decebalus to the status of client king. The victory was celebrated with a triumph (Trajan’s first), and later by the construction of the Tropaeum Traiani.

Although this victory had greatly eroded Decebalus’ power, he nonetheless began to rearm straight away, to harbour Roman runaways and to pressure the neighbouring barbarian tribes to ally themselves with him. In 104 he organised a failed attempt on Trajan’s life by means of some Roman deserters, as well as capturing Trajan’s legate Longinus who he tried to use as a bargaining chip; Longinus however took poison to avoid compromising his country and emperor. Then finally in 105 Decebalus launched an invasion of the Roman-held territories north of the Danube.

Trajan was not unprepared; by 105 the concentration of Roman troops assembled in the middle and lower Danube regions amounted to fourteen legions – half of the entire Roman army. Trajan ordered the construction of a massive bridge over the Danube designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, which for over 1,000 years was the longest arch bridge ever built both in terms of total and span length. The counter-offensive consisted mostly of the reduction of the Dacian fortress network which the Romans systematically stormed while denying the Dacians the ability to manoeuvre in the open. At last Decebalus’ main stronghold of Sarmizegetusa was taken by storm and razed to the ground. Decebalus himself escaped, but soon after committed suicide as a Roman cavalry scout named Tiberius Claudius Maximus was closing on him. Maximus delivered the head and right hand of the enemy king to his emperor, by whom he was decorated and immortalised in a relief on Trajan’s column.

Trajan’s second triumph was understandably a grand affair, which was accompanied by spectacular games that the emperor held in celebration: ten thousand gladiators fought in these games, and ten thousand animals were sacrificed in thanks to the gods. The riches of Dacia (estimated recently at 165 tons of gold and 331 tons of silver) were invested in a series of important public works, the jewels of which were the forum and great market in Rome which bore his name, and the magnificent celebratory column depicting the glorious achievements of the campaign.

Trajan AV Aureus. Rome, AD 106. IMP TRAIANO AVG GER DAC P M TR P COS V P P, laureate, draped and cuirassed bust right / SPQR OPTIMO PRINCIPI, Trajan as triumphator in slow quadriga to left, holding branch and sceptre; car ornamented with Victory bearing wreath. Calicó -; RIC -; BMC -; Woytek 195n. 7.29g, 20mm, 6h.

Good Extremely Fine. Extremely Rare, possibly only the second known example.