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Sura – faithful friend of Trajan

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bust of Emperor Trajan
Bust of Emperor Trajan

One of the greatest Roman emperors, Trajan, owed his military and administrative success not only to his skills but also to the people, who advised him. One of the important figures in his life was certainly Lucius Licinius Sura, comrade-in-arms, faithful friend, and trusted member of consilium – the emperor’s advisory council.

Sura, like Trajan, was from Spain. The joint military service brought the two Romans who respected each other closer. It was probably due to Sura, after the death of Domitian, that the newly elected emperor Nerva decided to adopt Trajan in the face of mounting tension within the state. In 97 CE Trajan had a reputation as an effective and experienced leader, whose attitude aroused respect both in the army and the Senate. In 98 CE, when Nerva died, Trajan could count on Sura, who, as governor of Germania Inferior, had three legions under his command and secured the seizure of power.

After assuming the throne, Sura immediately found himself among the emperor’s closest advisers. He was part of his consilium during the Dacian wars; for his political and military activities, he was finally honoured for the third time with the office of consul in 107 CE. Sura enjoyed the unlimited confidence of Trajan. Cassius Dio reports that many senators were to be jealous of Sura’s influence at the imperial court, and therefore Trajan began to hear accusations about the loyalty of the emperor’s friend. In order to refute the charges once and for all, Trajan went unannounced and without protection in the evening to Sura’s house. There, in addition to dinner and a bath, he used the services of a hairdresser and a medic, exposing himself to a real threat, if indeed Sura had evil plans for him. In this way, Trajan proved that the accusations were unfounded and that Sura enjoyed his unlimited trus.

In 108 CE Sura unexpectedly died, which was a big blow for Trajan. To honour his friend, the emperor organized a state funeral and had a statue erected in his honour and a bathhouse on the Aventine Hill, the so-called Thermae Suranae.

  • Nicholas Jackson, Trajan: Rome's Last Conqueror

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