S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.
[Marcus Ulpius Nerva Trajanus, Roman emperor, born near Seville, Spain, about 52 A.D.; adopted by Nerva, he became emperor, 98; defeated the Dacians and Parthians; descended the Tigris to the Persian Gulf 116, and died the next year in Cilicia.]
If I fulfil my duties, use it for me; if I fail, against me.
Dion Cassius and Aurelius Victor relate that one day as Trajan was putting a captain of the guards (or a prætorian prefect) in possession of his post, he gave him a drawn sword, according to the custom, saying, “Use it for me, or, if I deserve it, against me” (Tibi istum ad munimentum mei committo, si recte agam; sin aliter, in me magis). This is more credible than the theatrical version that Trajan, when first entering Rome as emperor, on foot and without pomp, used the words to the prefect who met him. Every year the day of his accession was kept with public festivities; and Eutropius says that long afterward the senate used to offer acclamations to each new emperor with the augury that he might be more fortunate than Augustus and more virtuous than Trajan (felicior Augusto, melior Trajano).The legend that Pope Gregory the Great, while walking through the Forum of Trajan, thought of the justice of that emperor towards a poor widow deprived of her only son by a violent death, and entering St. Peter’s prayed that the soul of so virtuous an emperor might not be forever lost, and received intimation that his prayer was granted, was first recorded by Warnefried, a Longobard, who was known as Paulus Diaconus, and flourished in the eighth century. It was repeated by John of Salisbury (died 1182), and by St. Thomas Aquinas, and is mentioned by Dante (“Purgatorio,” x. 73).