Using titles as Dating Tools

Trajan, as a general and a conqueror, added several official titles to his name as his reign progressed in addition to the traditional imperial honorifics. These titles were based on the lands that he conquered and make it easy to identify the period of Trajan’s rule from which a particular inscription comes:

Germanicus: Conqueror of Germany. Trajan served as a general along the Rhine River before his ascension as emperor. The title of Germanicus therefore can be found on his earliest imperial inscriptions.

Dacicus: Conqueror of Dacia. Trajan adopted this title after the conclusion of his first successful campaign against the Dacians in 101-102 A.D.

Optimus: The best. This title was officially adopted in 114 A.D., but it was informally used before this date as well, making it a slightly less effective tool for dating.

Parthicus: Conqueror of Parthia. Given to Trajan near the very end of his reign after his successful invasion of Mesopotamia from 115-116 A.D.

For example, an inscription from Rome honoring Julius Ferox, curator of the Tiber riverbanks, reads:

Ex auctoritate
Imp(eratoris) Caesaris dìvi{i}
Nervae filì Nervae
Traiani Aug(usti) German(ici),
 pontificis maximi, tribun(icia)
potestat(e) V̅, co(n)s(ulis) I̅I̅I̅I̅, p(atris) [p(atriae)],
Ti(berius) Iulius Ferox, curator
alveì et riparum Tiberis et
cloạcar[u]ṃ urbis terminav(it)
 ripaṃ; [r(igore)] r(ecto) proximo cippo
p(edes) CCLXXI.

[Emphasis Added]

EDR 073201

From the inscription above we know that by this point Trajan had been given tribune power five times, dating this inscription to 101 A.D. If this information had been excluded or lost, however, we still would have been able to place the inscription within a few years of its making based on the fact that it only gives Trajan the title Germanicus, meaning that it occurred before the completion of his first Dacian campaign in 102 A.D.

A second inscription shows the other end of the spectrum:

[Imp(erator) Caes(ar) divi Nervae f(ilius) Nerva Traianus],
[O]ptimus [Aug(ustus) Germanicus Dacicus Parthicus?],
pontif[ex maximus —]

EDR 092932

Although it does not contain the conventional dating tool of Tribunica Potesta, this inscriptions inclusion of all of Trajan’s titles, including Optimus and Parthicus indicates that it was made sometime after 116 A.D., near the very end of Trajan’s rule.