Roman emperor from 98 to 117. Like Vespasian, Titus, and Hadrian, he is frequently mentioned by Jewish writers; and he exercised a profound influence upon the history of the Jews throughout the Babylonia, Palestine, and Hellenistic Diaspora. His ambition led him to the farthest eastern boundaries of the Roman empire, where he warred against the Parthians, although in the meantime the Jews arose in Egypt and in Cyrene "as though carried away by some wild and riotous spirit" Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iv. 2). The insurrection at Alexandria is mentioned in a papyrus fragment in the Louvre, which refers to a suit brought before the emperor by an Alexandrian and a Jew, although the ruler there designated may be Hadrian, Trajan's successor (see T. Reinach in "R. E. J." xxxvii. 218).
The task of subduing the Jews in Egypt and Cyrene was entrusted by Trajan to Marcius Turbo, with whom the emperor is confused in rabbinical sources, which frequently write the name Trajan "Tarkinos" (Krauss, in "R. E. J." xxx. 206, xxxi. 47; idem, "Lehnwörter," ii. 273). Cyprus also was the scene of a violent Jewish uprising, which seems likewise to have been quelled by Turbo. In the same year (116), or possibly a year later, when Trajan thought the Parthians subdued, the Jews of Mesopotamia, mindful of the treatment which their Palestinian brethren had received at the hands of the Romans, and of their own sufferings, especially at Nisibis and Adiabene, during the four years of Trajan's campaign, arose in rebellion, determined to expel the Romans from their country. Trajan thereupon ordered the Mauritanian prince Lusius Quietus to proceed against the Jews, and gave him strict orders to purge the provinces of them, his rigid obedience to this order winning for the legate the governorship of Palestine (Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iv. 2; idem, "Chronikon," ed. Schoene, ii. 164; Orosius, vii. 12; Dion Cassius, lxviii. 32).
In the meantime, however, rebellion had again broken out in Judea; and it is highly probable that the Palestinian Jews also rendered assistance to their oppressed brethren elsewhere, especially in Egypt, this fact possibly furnishing an explanation of Trajan's expedition to Egypt (Esther R. proem, § 3). The rabbinical legend gives the following reason for the revolution: The emperor's wife (the governor's wife is probably meant) bore a child on the 9th of Ab, when the Jews were lamenting, and it died on the Feast of Ḥanukkah, when the Jews illuminated their houses; and in revenge for these fancied insults the wife urged her husband to punish the Jews (ib.). No such legend, however, is needed to explain the Jewish rebellion against the Roman government, for during the reign of Trajan the Christian descendants of David, who were relatives of Jesus, were persecuted; and Schlatter rightly infers that the patriarchal family likewise died for its faith, since it was supposed to be Davidic. The Palestinian revolt appears to have been organized by two brothers, Pappus and Luliani, and rabbinical sources expressly allude to Trajan's proceedings against the pair (Sifra, Emor, viii. 9, and parallels; see also Kohut, "Aruch Completum," iv. 74), whom he is said to have sentenced to death in Laodicea, although he afterward ordered them taken to Rome, where they were executed. Here again the rabbinical sources confuse Trajan with his governor, Lusius Quietus, who was later deposed and executed by Hadrian. The marvelous escape of Pappus and Luliani was celebrated by a semifestival called "Trajan's Day," which fell, according to the Meg. Ta'an., on the 12th of Adar (see Ratner in Sokolow," Sefer ha-Yobel," p. 507), although it is more probable that this day really commemorated the success of the Jewish forces against the Roman army. Denarii of Trajan are mentioned in the Talmud ('Ab. Zarah 52b); and it is also noteworthy that, according to the inscriptions of this emperor, he constructed a road from the Syrian border to the Red Sea. The unrest which marked the end of his reign was not allayed until his successor Hadrian became emperor.
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 112-117;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 661-668;
- Schlatter, Die Tage Trajans und Hadrians, p. 88, Gütersloh, 1897.