The Good Trajan
The wicked Domitian was succeeded by Nerva, a good, wise, and generous old man, who did all he could to repair the wrong which Domitian had done, and to induce the Romans to lead better lives.
Unfortunately, however, Nerva was too old to reign long, and after two years he felt that his death was near. As he knew that the Romans would be happier in the hands of a good man, he chose Trajan to be his successor.
This Trajan was the Roman general who was in command of the troops in Germany. He had recently become the adopted son of Nerva, but he had staid at his post, and was still in Germany when he heard that Nerva was dead, and that he was now emperor in his turn.
The Romans were very eager to have Trajan return, that they might welcome him; but the new emperor knew that duty comes before pleasure, so he remained on the frontier until the barbarians were all reduced to obedience.
Then, only, did he march southward. He entered Rome, on foot, not as a conqueror, but as a father returning to his waiting children. The people cheered him wildly, and all approved when they heard him say, as he handed a sword to the chief of the pretorian guard, "Use this for me if I do my duty; against me if I do not."
Trajan was so gentle and affable that he won the hearts of all the people. This kindness never changed as long as he lived; and it won for him the title "Father of his Country," which has never been given to any except the very best of men.
Ever ready to make his people happy and comfortable, Trajan built large granaries in which wheat could be stored in great quantities. This grain was sold to the poor, in good honest measures, at the lowest possible rate; for the emperor had said that they should never again be at the mercy of the rich, who had sometimes starved the people in their eagerness to get more money for their grain.
Trajan's wife, Plotina, was as good and charitable as he, and seconded him in all his generous plans. She was dearly loved by all the Romans, and during the emperor's absence she always looked after the welfare of his people.