Publius Aelius Hadrianus
(as emperor Imperator
Caesar Divi Traiani filius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus
after his apotheosis
, known as Hadrian
; 24 January 76 – 10 July
138) was emperor
from AD 117 to 138, as well as a Stoic
philosopher. A member of the gens
, Hadrian was the third of the
so-called Five Good
was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus in Italica or, less
probably, in Rome, from a
well-established family which had originated in Picenum in Italy and had
subsequently settled in Italica, Hispania Baetica (the republican Hispania Ulterior), near the present day location
of Seville, Spain.
His predecessor Trajan
was a maternal cousin of Hadrian's father.
Trajan never officially designated a successor, but, according to
his wife, Pompeia Plotina
named Hadrian emperor immediately before his death. Trajan's wife
was well-disposed toward Hadrian: Hadrian may well have owed his
succession to her.
Hadrian's presumed indebtedness to Plotina was widely regarded as
the reason for Hadrian's succession. However, there is evidence
that he accomplished his succession on his own governing and
leadership merits while Trajan was still alive. For example,
between the years AD 100–108 Trajan gave several public examples of
his personal favour towards Hadrian, such as betrothing him to his
grandniece, Vibia Sabina
him quaestor Imperatoris
, comes Augusti
him Nerva's diamond "as hope of succession", proposing him for
, and other gifts and distinctions. The
young Hadrian was Trajan's only direct male
family/marriage/bloodline. The support of Plotina and of L. Licinius Sura
(died in AD 108) were
nonetheless extremely important for Hadrian, already in this early
it was an accepted part of Hadrian's personal history that Hadrian
was born in Italica located in
the province called Hispania
Baetica (the southernmost Roman province in the Iberian
modern Spain and Portugal), his
biography in Augustan History
states that he was born in Rome on 24 January 76 of a family
originally Italian, but Hispanian for many generations.
However, this may be a ruse to make Hadrian look like a person from
Rome instead of a person hailing from the provinces. His father was
the Hispano-Roman Publius
Aelius Hadrianus Afer
, who as a senator
rank would spend much of his time in Rome. Hadrian’s forefathers
came from Hadria, modern Atri, an ancient
town of Picenum in Italy, but the family had settled in Italica in Hispania
Baetica soon after its founding by Scipio Africanus.
Afer was a paternal
cousin of the future Emperor Trajan
was Domitia Paulina who came from Gades
Paulina was a daughter of a distinguished Hispano-Roman Senatorial
family. Hadrian’s elder sister and only sibling was Aelia Domitia
, married with the triple consul
Lucius Julius Ursus
, his niece was Julia Serviana Paulina
and his great-nephew was Gnaeus Pedanius
Fuscus Salinator, from Barcino
. His parents
died in 86 when Hadrian was ten, and the boy then became a ward of
both Trajan and Publius Acilius
(who was later Trajan’s Praetorian Prefect).
was schooled in various subjects particular to young aristocrat of the day, and was so fond
of learning Greek literature
that he was nicknamed Graeculus
visited Italica when (or
never left it until) he was 14, when he was recalled by Trajan who
thereafter looked after his development.
He never returned
to Italica although it was later made a colonia
in his honour. His first military
service was as a tribune
of the Legio II Adiutrix
. Later, he was to be
transferred to the Legio I
Minervia in Germany.
died in 98, Hadrian rushed to inform
Trajan personally. He later became legate
in Upper Pannonia
and eventually governor of said province.
also archon in Athens for a brief
time, and was elected an Athenian citizen.
His career before becoming emperor follows:decemvir stlitibus
-sevir turmae equitum Romanorum
-praefectus Urbi feriarum Latinarum
legionis II Adiutricis Piae Fidelis
(95, in Pannonia Inferior)
-tribunus militum legionis V Macedonicae
(96, in Moesia
Inferior) -tribunus militum legionis XXII Primigeniae Piae
(97, in Germania Superior) -quaestor
-ab actis senatus
(106) -legatus legionis I Minerviae Piae
(106, in Germania Inferior) -legatus Augusti pro
praetore Pannoniae Inferioris
(107) -consul suffectus
(108) -septemvir epulonum
(before 112) -sodalis
(before 112) -archon Athenis
Hadrian was active in the wars against the Dacians
(as legate of the V Macedonica
) and reputedly won
awards from Trajan for his successes. Due to an absence of military
action in his reign, Hadrian's military skill is not well attested;
however, his keen interest and knowledge of the army and his
demonstrated skill of administration show possible strategic
Hadrian joined Trajan's expedition against Parthia as a legate on
Trajan’s staff. Neither during the initial victorious phase, nor
during the second phase of the war when rebellion swept Mesopotamia
did Hadrian do anything of note. However when the governor of
had to be sent to sort
out renewed troubles in Dacia, Hadrian was appointed as a
replacement, giving him an independent command. Trajan, seriously
ill by that time, decided to return to Rome while Hadrian remained
to guard the Roman
rear. Trajan only got as far as Selinus before he
became too ill to go further.
While Hadrian may have been
the obvious choice as successor, he had never been adopted as
Trajan's heir. As Trajan lay dying, nursed by his wife, Plotina (a
supporter of Hadrian), he at last adopted Hadrian as heir. Since
the document was signed by Plotina, it has been suggested that
Trajan may have already been dead.
The Roman empire in 125 AD, under the
rule of Hadrian.
Hadrian quickly secured the support of the legions — one potential
opponent, Lusius Quietus
instantly dismissed. The Senate's endorsement followed when
possibly falsified papers of adoption from Trajan were presented
(although he had been the ward of Trajan
The rumour of a falsified document of adoption carried little
weight — Hadrian's legitimacy arose from the endorsement of the
Senate and the Syrian armies.
Marble statue of Hadrian (Istanbul
Hadrian did not at first go to Rome — he was busy sorting out the
East and suppressing the Jewish revolt that had broken out under
Trajan, then moving on to sort out the Danube
frontier. Instead, Attianus, Hadrian's former guardian, was put in
charge in Rome. There he "discovered" a plot involving four leading
Senators including Lusius Quietus and demanded of the Senate their
deaths. There was no question of a trial — they were hunted down
and killed out of hand. Because Hadrian was not in Rome at the
time, he was able to claim that Attianus had acted on his own
initiative. According to Elizabeth Speller the real reason for
their deaths was that they were Trajan's men.
Hadrian and the military
Despite his own great stature as a military administrator,
Hadrian's reign was marked by a general lack of major military
conflicts, apart from the Second Roman-Jewish War. He surrendered
Trajan's conquests in Mesopotamia
considering them to be indefensible. There was almost a war with
around 121, but the threat was
averted when Hadrian succeeded in negotiating a peace.
The peace policy was strengthened by the erection of permanent
fortifications along the empire's borders (limites
). The most famous of
these is the massive Hadrian's Wall in Great
Britain, and the Danube and Rhine borders were
strengthened with a series of mostly wooden fortifications, forts, outposts and watchtowers, the latter
specifically improving communications and local area
To maintain morale and keep the troops from
getting restive, Hadrian established intensive drill routines, and
personally inspected the armies. Although his coins showed military
images almost as often as peaceful ones, Hadrian's policy was peace
through strength, even threat.
Cultural pursuits and patronage
Hadrian has been described, by Ronald Syme among others, as the
most versatile of all the Roman Emperors. He also liked to display
a knowledge of all intellectual and artistic fields. Above all, Hadrian
patronized the arts: Hadrian's Villa at Tibur (Tivoli) was the
greatest Roman example of an Alexandrian garden, recreating a sacred landscape, lost in
large part to the despoliation of the ruins by the Cardinal d'Este who had much of the
marble removed to build Villa d'Este. In Rome, the
Pantheon, originally built by Agrippa but destroyed by fire in
80, was rebuilt under Hadrian in the domed form it retains to this
It is among the best preserved of Rome's ancient
buildings and was highly influential to many of the great
architects of the Italian
From well before his reign, Hadrian displayed a keen interest in
architecture, but it seems that his eagerness was not always well
received. For example, Apollodorus of Damascus, famed
architect of the Forum of
Trajan, dismissed his designs.
, predecessor to Hadrian, consulted Apollodorus
about an architectural problem, Hadrian interrupted to give advice,
to which Apollodorus replied, "Go away and draw your pumpkins. You
know nothing about these problems." "Pumpkins" refers to Hadrian's
drawings of domes like the Serapeum in his Villa. It is rumoured
that once Hadrian succeeded Trajan to become emperor, he had
Apollodorus exiled and later put to death. It is very possible that
this later story was a later attempt to defame his character, as
Hadrian, though popular among a great many across the empire, was
not universally admired, either in his lifetime or afterward.
Hadrian wrote poetry in both Latin and Greek; one of the few
surviving examples is a Latin poem he reportedly composed on his
deathbed (see below
). He also wrote
an autobiography – not, apparently, a work of great length or
revelation, but designed to scotch various rumours or explain his
various actions. The work is lost but was apparently used by the
writer — whether Marius Maximus
someone else – on whom the Historia Augusta
relied for its vita
of Hadrian: at least, a number of
statements in the vita
have been identified (by Ronald Syme
and others) as probably ultimately
stemming from the autobiography.
Hadrian was a passionate hunter, already from the time of his youth
according to one source. In northwest Asia, he founded and
dedicated a city to commemorate a she-bear he killed. It is
documented that in Egypt he and his beloved Antinous
killed a lion. In Rome, eight reliefs
featuring Hadrian in different stages of hunting decorate a
building that began as a monument celebrating a kill.
Another of Hadrian's contributions to "popular" culture was the
beard, which symbolised his philhellenism. Except for Nero
(also a great lover of Greek culture), all Roman
emperors before Hadrian were clean shaven. Most of the emperors
after Hadrian would be portrayed with beards. Their beards,
however, were not worn out of an appreciation for Greek culture but
because the beard had, thanks to Hadrian, become fashionable.
Hadrian had a face covered in warts and scars, and this may have
partially motivated Hadrian's beard growth.
Hadrian was a humanist
and deeply Hellenophile
in all his tastes. He
favoured the doctrines of the philosophers Epictetus
, Heliodorus and Favorinus
, but was generally considered an
, as were some of his friends
such as Caius Bruttius
. At home he attended to social needs. Hadrian
mitigated but did not abolish slavery, had the legal code humanized
and forbade torture. He built libraries, aqueducts
, baths and theaters. Hadrian is
considered by many historians to have been wise and just: Schiller
called him "the Empire's first servant", and British historian
admired his "vast and
active genius", as well as his "equity and moderation". In 1776, he
stated that Hadrian's epoch was part of the "happiest era of human
visiting Greece in 126, Hadrian attempted to create a kind of
provincial parliament to bind all the
semi-autonomous former city states across all Greece and Ionia (in Asia
This parliament, known as the Panhellenion
, failed despite spirited efforts
to instill cooperation among the Hellenes.
Hadrian had a close relationship, widely reported to have been
romantic, with a Greek youth, Antinous
whom he met in Bithynia
in 124 when the boy
was thirteen or fourteen. While touring Egypt
in 130, Antinous mysteriously
drowned in the Nile
. Deeply saddened,
Hadrian founded the Egyptian city of Antinopolis, and had Antinous deified - an unprecedented honour
for one not of the ruling family.
died at his villa in Baiae.
buried in a mausoleum on the western bank
of the Tiber, in Rome, a building
later transformed into a papal fortress, Castel
Sant'Angelo. The dimensions of his mausoleum, in its
original form, were deliberately designed to be slightly larger
than the earlier Mausoleum of Augustus.
According to Cassius Dio a gigantic equestrian statue was erected
to Hadrian after his death. "It was so large that the bulkiest man
could walk through the eye of each horse, yet because of the
extreme height of the foundation persons passing along on the
ground below believe that the horses themselves as well as Hadrian
are very small."
The Stoic-Epicurean Emperor traveled broadly, inspecting and
correcting the legions in the field. Even prior to becoming
emperor, he had traveled abroad with the Roman military, giving him
much experience in the matter. More than half his reign was spent
outside of Italy. Other emperors often left Rome to simply go to
war, returning soon after conflicts concluded. A previous emperor,
, once traveled through Greece and was
condemned for his self indulgence. Hadrian, by contrast, traveled
as a fundamental part of his governing, and made this clear to the
Roman senate and the people. He was able to do this because at Rome
he possessed a loyal supporter within the upper echelons of Roman
society, a military veteran by the name of Marcius Turbo
. Also, there are hints within
certain sources that he also employed a secret police
force, the frumentarii
, to exert control and influence in
case anything should go wrong while he journeyed abroad.
Hadrian's visits were marked by handouts which often contained
instructions for the construction of new public buildings. Hadrian
was willful of strengthening the Empire from within through
improved infrastructure, as opposed to conquering or annexing
perceived enemies. This was often the purpose of his journeys;
commissioning new structures, projects and settlements. His almost
evangelical belief in Greek culture strengthened his views: like
many emperors before him, Hadrian's will was almost always obeyed.
His traveling court was large, including administrators and likely
. The burden on the areas he
passed through were sometimes great. While his arrival usually
brought some benefits it is possible that those who had to carry
the burden were of different class to those who reaped the
benefits. For example, huge amounts of provisions were
requisitioned during his visit to Egypt, this
suggests that the burden on the mainly subsistence farmers must have been
intolerable, causing some measure of starvation and hardship.
At the same time,
as in later times all the way through the European Renaissance,
kings were welcomed into their cities or lands, and the financial
burden was completely on them, and only indirectly on the poorer
Hadrian's first tour came in 121 and was initially aimed at
covering his back to allow himself the freedom to concern himself
with his general cultural aims. He traveled north, towards Germania
and inspected the Rhine-Danube frontier,
allocating funds to improve the defences. However it was a voyage
to the Empire's very frontiers that represented his perhaps most
significant visit; upon hearing of a recent revolt, he journeyed to
Prior to Hadrian's arrival on Great Britain there had been a major
rebellion in Britannia
roughly two years (119–121). It was here where in 122 he initiated the
building of Hadrian's
Wall (the exact Latin name of which is unknown).
The purpose of the wall is academically debated. In 1893, Haverfield
stated categorically that the Wall was
a means of military defence. This prevailing, early 20th century
view was challenged by Collingwood
1922. Since then, other points of view have been
put forwards; the wall has been seen as a marker to the limits of
Romanitas, as a monument to Hadrian to gain glory in lieu
of military campaigns, as work to keep the Army busy and prevent
mutiny and waste through boredom, or to safeguard the frontier
province of Britannia, by preventing future small scale invasions
and unwanted immigration from the northern country of Caledonia (now modern day Scotland).
Caledonia was inhabited by tribes known to
the Romans as Caledonians
realized that the Caledonians would refuse to cohabitate with the
Romans. He also was aware that although Caledonia was valuable, the
harsh terrain and highlands made its conquest costly and
unprofitable for the Empire at large. Thus, he decided instead on
building a wall. Unlike the Germanic
, built of wood palisades, the lack of suitable wood in
the area required a stone construction; nevertheless, the Western
third of the wall, from modern-day Carlisle to the River Irthing,
was built of turf because of the lack of suitable building stone.
This problem also led to the narrowing of the width of the wall,
from the original 12 feet to 7, saving masonry. Hadrian is
perhaps most famous for the construction of this wall whose ruins
still span many miles and to date bear his name. In many ways it
represents Hadrian's will to improve and develop within the
, rather than waging wars and
him, a shrine was erected in York to Britain
as a Goddess, and coins were struck which introduced a female
figure as the personification of Britain, labeled BRITANNIA.
By the end of 122 he had
concluded his visit to Britannia, and from there headed south by
sea to Mauretania
Parthia and Anatolia
In 123, he arrived in Mauretania
personally led a campaign against local rebels. However this visit
was to be short, as reports came through that the Eastern nation of
was again preparing for war, as a
result Hadrian quickly headed eastwards. On his journey east
it is known that at some point he visited Cyrene during which
he personally made available funds for the training of the young
men of well bred families for the Roman military.
well have been a stop off during his journey East. Cyrene had
already benefited from his generosity when he in 119 had provided
funds for the rebuilding of public buildings destroyed in the
recent Jewish revolt.
When Hadrian arrived on the Euphrates
characteristically solved the problem through a negotiated
settlement with the Parthian king Osroes I
proceeded to check the Roman defences before setting off West along
the coast of the Black
Sea. He probably spent the winter in Nicomedia, the main city of Bithynia.
As Nicomedia had been hit by an
earthquake only shortly prior to his stay, Hadrian was generous in
providing funds for rebuilding. Thanks to his generosity he was
acclaimed as the chief restorer of the province as a whole. It is
more than possible that Hadrian visited Claudiopolis
and there espied the beautiful
, a young boy who was destined to
become the emperor's beloved
Sources say nothing about when Hadrian met Antinous, however, there
are depictions of Antinous that shows him as a young man of 20 or
so. As this was shortly before Antinous's drowning in 130 Antinous
would more likely have been a youth of 13 or 14. It is possible
that Antinous may have been sent to Rome to be trained as page
to serve the emperor and only gradually
did he rise to the status of imperial favourite.
meeting Antinous, Hadrian traveled through Anatolia.
The route he took is uncertain. Various
incidents are described such as his founding of a city within
Mysia, Hadrianutherae, after a successful boar hunt. (The building
of the city was probably more than a mere whim — lowly populated
wooded areas such as the location of the new city were already ripe
for development). Some historians dispute whether Hadrian did in
fact commission the city's construction at all. At about this time,
plans to build a temple in Asia Minor were written up. The new
temple would be dedicated to Trajan and Hadrian and built with
dazzling white marble.
Temple of Zeus in Athens.
The climax of this tour was the destination that the hellenophile
Hadrian must all along have had in mind, Greece. He arrived in the
autumn of 124 in time to participate in the Eleusinian Mysteries
. By tradition at
one stage in the ceremony the initiates were supposed to carry arms
but this was waived to avoid any risk to the emperor among them. At
the Athenians' request he conducted a revision of their
constitution — among other things a new phyle
(tribe) was added bearing his name.
the winter he toured the Peloponnese. His exact route is uncertain, however
Pausanias reports of
tell-tale signs, such as temples built by Hadrian and the statue of
the emperor built by the grateful citizens of Epidaurus in thanks to their "restorer". He was especially
generous to Mantinea which supports the theory that Antinous was in fact
already Hadrian's lover because of the strong link between Mantinea
and Antinous's home in Bithynia.
125, Hadrian had reached Athens presiding
over the festival of Dionysia.
building program that Hadrian initiated was substantial. Various
rulers had done work on building the Temple of Olympian Zeus
— it was
Hadrian who ensured that the job would be finished. He also
initiated the construction of several public buildings on his own
whim and even organized the building of an aqueduct.
Return to Italy
On his return to Italy, Hadrian made a detour to Sicily
. Coins celebrate him as the restorer of the
island though there is no record of what he did to earn this
Rome he was able to see for himself the completed work of
rebuilding the Pantheon. Also completed by then was Hadrian's villa
nearby at Tibur a pleasant
retreat by the Sabine Hills for
whenever Rome became too much for him.
At the beginning of
March 127 Hadrian set off for a tour of Italy. Once again,
historians are able to reconstruct his route by evidence of his
hand-outs rather than the historical records. For instance, in that
year he restored the Picentine earth goddess Cupra
in the town of Cupra
. At some unspecified time he improved the
drainage of the Fucine
Less welcome than such largesse was his
decision to divide Italy into 4 regions under imperial legates with
consular rank. Being effectively reduced to the status of mere
provinces did not go down well and this innovation did not long
Hadrian fell ill around this time, though the nature of his
sickness is not known. Whatever the illness was, it did not stop
him from setting off in the spring of 128 to visit Africa
. His arrival began with the good omen of rain
ending a drought
. Along with his usual role
as benefactor and restorer he found time to inspect the troops and
his speech to the troops survives to this day. Hadrian returned to
Italy in the summer of 128 but his stay was brief before setting
off on another tour that would last three years.
Greece, Asia and Egypt
In September 128 Hadrian again attended the Eleusinian mysteries.
This time his visit to Greece seems to have concentrated on Athens
and Sparta — the two ancient rivals for dominance of Greece.
Hadrian had played with the idea of focusing his Greek revival
round Amphictyonic League
in Delphi but he by now had decided on something far grander. His
new Panhellenion was going to be a council that would bring
together Greek cities wherever they might be found. The meeting
place was to be the new temple to Zeus in Athens. Having set in motion
the preparations — deciding whose claim to be a Greek city was
genuine would in itself take time — Hadrian set off for Ephesus.
In October 130, while Hadrian and his entourage were sailing on the
for unknown reasons, though accident, suicide, murder or religious
sacrifice have all been postulated. The emperor was grief stricken.
He ordered Antinous
deified, and cities
were named after the boy, medals struck with his effigy, and
statues erected to him in all parts of the empire. Temples were
built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and
Athens, festivals celebrated in his honour and oracles delivered in
his name. The city of Antinopolis or Antinoe was founded on the ruins of Besa where he died (Cassius Dio, LIX.11; Historia
Greece, Judaea, Illyricum
movements subsequent to the founding of Antinopolis on October 30, 130 are obscure.
not he returned to Rome, he spent the winter of 131–32 in Athens
and probably remained in Greece or further East because of the
Jewish rebellion which broke out in Judaea in 132 (see below).
Inscriptions make it clear that he took the field in person against
the rebels with his army in 133; he then returned to Rome, probably
in that year and almost certainly (judging again from inscriptions)
Second Roman-Jewish War
Hadrian visited the ruins of Jerusalem, in Judaea, left after the
First Roman-Jewish War of
He rebuilt the city, renaming it Aelia Capitolina
after himself and Jupiter Capitolinus
, the chief Roman
deity. A new temple dedicated to the worship of Jupiter
was built on the ruins of the old
Jewish Second Temple
, which had been
destroyed in 70. In addition, Hadrian abolished
, which was considered by Romans and Greeks as a
form of bodily mutilation
"barbaric". These anti-Jewish policies of Hadrian triggered in
Judaea a massive Jewish uprising, led by Simon bar Kokhba
and Akiba ben Joseph
. Following the outbreak of
the revolt, Hadrian called his general Sextus Julius Severus
, and troops were brought from as far
as the Danube
. Roman losses were very heavy,
and it is believed that an entire legion, the XXII Deiotariana
Indeed, Roman losses were so heavy that Hadrian's report to the
omitted the customary
salutation "I and the legions are well". However, Hadrian's army
eventually put down the rebellion in 135, after three years of
fighting. According to Cassius Dio
during the war 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985
villages razed. The final battle took place in Beitar
, a fortified city 10 km.
southwest of Jerusalem. The city only fell after a lengthy siege,
and Hadrian only allowed the Jews to bury their dead after a period
of six days. According to the Babylonian Talmud
, after the war Hadrian continued the
persecution of Jews. He attempted to root out Judaism
, which he saw as the cause of continuous
rebellions, prohibited the Torah
and executed Judaic
scholars (see Ten Martyrs
). The sacred scroll was
ceremonially burned on the Temple Mount.
In an attempt to erase the memory of
Judaea, he renamed the province Syria
(after the Philistines
and Jews were forbidden from entering its rededicated capital. When
Jewish sources mention Hadrian it is always with the epitaph "may
his bones be crushed" (שחיק עצמות or שחיק טמיא, the Aramaic
equivalent), an expression never used even with respect to Vespasian
destroyed the Second Temple
[[Image:Adriano5.jpg|thumb|right|100px|Bust of Hadrian, National
Archaeological Museum of Athens]]Hadrian spent the final years of
his life at Rome. In 134, he took an Imperial salutation
or the end of the Second Jewish War
(which was not actually concluded until the following year).
he dedicated a new Temple of Venus and Roma on the former site of Nero's
About this time, suffering from poor health, he turned to the
problem of the succession. In 136 he adopted one of the ordinary
of that year, Lucius Ceionius
Commodus, who took the name Lucius Aelius
. He was both the stepson and son-in-law of Gaius Avidius
Nigrinus, one of the "four consulars" executed in 118, but was
himself in delicate health. Granted tribunician power and the
governorship of Pannonia
, Aelius Caesar
held a further consulship in 137, but died on January 1, 138.
Following the death of Aelius Caesar, Hadrian next adopted Titus
Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus (the future emperor
), who had served as
one of the four imperial legates of Italy (a post created by
Hadrian) and as proconsul
. On 25 February 138 Antoninus
received tribunician power and imperium
Moreover, to ensure the future of the dynasty, Hadrian required
Antoninus to adopt both Lucius Ceionius Commodus (son of the
deceased Aelius Caesar) and Marcus Annius Verus (who was the
grandson of an influential senator of the same name
who had been Hadrian’s
close friend; Annius was already betrothed to Aelius Caesar’s
daughter Ceionia Fabia). Hadrian’s precise intentions in this
arrangement are debatable. Though the consensus is that he wanted
Annius Verus (who would later become the Emperor Marcus Aurelius
) to succeed Antoninus, it
has also been argued that he actually intended Ceionius Commodus,
the son of his own adopted son, to succeed, but was constrained to
show favour simultaneously to Annius Verus because of his strong
connections to the Hispano-Narbonensian nexus of senatorial
families of which Hadrian himself was a part. It may well not have
been Hadrian, but rather Antoninus Pius — who was Annius Verus’s
uncle – who advanced the latter to the principal position. The fact
that Annius would divorce Ceionia Fabia and re-marry to Antoninus'
daughter Annia Faustina points in the same direction. When he
eventually became Emperor, Marcus Aurelius would co-opt Ceionius
Commodus as his co-Emperor (under the name of Lucius Verus
) on his own initiative.
The ancient sources present Hadrian's last few years as marked by
conflict and unhappiness. The adoption of Aelius Caesar proved
unpopular, not least with Hadrian's brother-in-law Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus
and Servianus' grandson Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator.
Servianus, though now far too old, had stood in line of succession
at the beginning of the reign; Fuscus is said to have had designs
on the imperial power for himself, and in 137 he may have attempted
in which his grandfather was
implicated. Whatever the truth, Hadrian ordered that both be put to
death. Servianus is reported to have prayed before his execution
that Hadrian would "long for death but be unable to die". The
prayer was fulfilled; as Hadrian suffered from his final,
protracted illness, he had to be prevented from suicide
on several occasions.
died in 138 on the tenth day of July, in his villa at Baiae at age
The cause of death is believed to have been heart
failure. Dio Cassius
and the Historia Augusta
record details of his
failing health, and a study published in 1980 drew attention to
classical sculptures of Hadrian that show he had diagonal earlobe
creases – a characteristic associated with coronary heart disease
Hadrian was buried first at Puteoli
Baiae, on an estate which had once belonged to Cicero
. Soon after, his remains were transferred to
Rome and buried in the Gardens of Domitia, close by the
almost-complete mausoleum. Upon the completion of the Tomb of
Hadrian in Rome in 139 by
his successor Antoninus Pius, his
body was cremated, and his ashes were placed there together with
those of his wife Vibia Sabina and his
first adopted son, Lucius Aelius, who
also died in 138. Antoninus also had him deified in 139 and
given a temple on the Campus
Poem by Hadrian
According to the Historia Augusta
Hadrian composed shortly before his death the following poem:
- Animula, vagula, blandula
- Hospes comesque corporis
- Quae nunc abibis in loca
- Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
- Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos...
- ::P. Aelius Hadrianus Imp.
- Little soul, roamer and charmer
- Body's guest and companion
- Into what places will you now depart
- Pale, stiff, and nude
- An end to all your jokes...
- Inscription in Athens, year 112 AD: CIL III, 550 = InscrAtt 3 =
IG II, 3286 = Dessau 308 = IDRE 2, 365: P(ublio) Aelio P(ubli)
f(ilio) Serg(ia) Hadriano / co(n)s(uli) VIIviro epulonum sodali
Augustali leg(ato) pro pr(aetore) Imp(eratoris) Nervae Traiani /
Caesaris Aug(usti) Germanici Dacici Pannoniae inferioris praetori
eodemque / tempore leg(ato) leg(ionis) I Minerviae P(iae) F(idelis)
bello Dacico item trib(uno) pleb(is) quaestori Imperatoris /
Traiani et comiti expeditionis Dacicae donis militaribus ab eo
donato bis trib(uno) leg(ionis) II / Adiutricis P(iae) F(idelis)
item legionis V Macedonicae item legionis XXII Primigeniae P(iae)
F(idelis) seviro / turmae eq(uitum) R(omanorum) praef(ecto)
feriarum Latinarum Xviro s(tlitibus) i(udicandis) //...(text
- Alicia M. Canto, "Itálica, patria y ciudad natal de
Adriano (31 textos históricos y argumentos contra Vita
Hadr. 1, 3", Athenaeum vol. 92.2, 2004, pp. 367–408
- As Canto states, it exists only one ancient quote of Hadrian's
birth in Rome (SHA, Vita Hadr 2,4, probably interpolated),
opposite to 25 ancient authors who affirm that he was born in
Italica. Among these ancient sources is included his own imperial
horoscope, which remained in the famous Antigonus of Nicaea's
collection (end of the 2nd. century A.D.). This horoscope was well
studied by prominent authors as F. H. Cramer, Astrology in
Roman Law and Politics, Mem.Amer.Philos.Soc. nr. 37 ,
Philadelphia, 1954 (repr. 1996), see for Hadrian p. 162–178, fn. 121b and 122, etc.:
"...Hadrian -whose horoscope is absolutely certain- surely was
born in southern Spain... (in) SHA, Hadrian, 2, 4, the birth was
erroneusly assigned to Rome instead of Italica, the actual
birth-place of Hadrian...", or O. Neugebauer and H. B. Van
Hoesen in their magisterial compilation Greek Horoscopes,
Mem.Amer.Philos.Soc. nr. 48, Philadelphia, 1959, nr. L76, see now
here, ed. 1987 pp. 80, 90-91 and his footnote 19. They
came also to the conclusion that the astronomic parallel of the
Hadrian’s birth is situated in the Baetica, today Andalusia:
“...L40 agrees exactly with the geographical latitude of
southern Spain, the place of origin of Hadrian and his
family...”.. "since Hadrian was born in Italica (southern
Spain, near Seville, latitude about 37° 30)...".
- Eutr. VIII. 6: "...nam eum (Hadrianum)
Traianus, quamquam consobrinae suae filium..." and SHA, Vita Hadr. I, 2: ...pater
Aelius Hadrianus cognomento Afer fuit, consobrinus Traiani
- After A.M. Canto, in , specifically pp. 322, 328, 341 and
footnote 124, where she stands out SHA, Vita Hadr. 1.2:
pro filio habitus (years 93); 3.2: ad bellum Dacicum
Traianum familiarius prosecutus est (year 101) or,
principally, 3.7: quare adamante gemma quam Traianus a Nerva
acceperat donatus ad spem successionis erectus est (year
- But see footnotes 4 and 5.
- Historia Augusta, 'Hadrian', I-II, here explicitly
citing the autobiography. This is one of the passages in the
Historia Augusta where there is no reason to suspect invention. But
see now the Canto's 31 contrary arguments in the op.cit.
supra; among them, in the same Historia Augusta and, from the
same author, Aelius Spartianus, Vita Sev. 21: Falsus
est etiam ipse Traianus in 'suo municipe ac nepote
diligendo, see also , and, characterizing him as a man of
provinces (Canto, ibid.): Vita Hadr. 1,3:
Quaesturam gessit Traiano quater et Articuleio consulibus, in qua
cum orationem imperatoris in senatu agrestius pronuntians
risus esset, usque ad summam peritiam et facundiam Latinis
- On the numerous senatorial families from Hispania residing at
Rome and its vicinity around the time of Hadrian’s birth see
R.Syme, 'Spaniards at Tivoli', in Roman Papers IV (Oxford,
1988), pp.96-114. Tivoli (Tibur) was of course the site of
Hadrian’s own imperial villa.
- Royston Lambert, Beloved And God, pp.31–32.
- Aul.Gell., Noct.Att. XVI, 13, 4, and some inscriptions
in the city with C(olonia) A(elia) A(ugusta)
- The inscription in footnote 1
- H. W. Benario in 
- Anthony Birley, Hadrian the Restless Emperor, p.
- Anthony Birley, p. 75
- Elizabeth Speller, p. 26
- Royston Lambert
- Elizabeth Speller.
- Elizabeth Speller, p. 69
- Historia Augusta, Hadrian 2.1.
- Fox, Robin The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer
to Hadrian Basic Books. 2006 pg 574
- Elizabeth Speller, pp. 74–81.
- The Historia Augusta notes that 'the Britons could not be kept
under Roman control; Pompeius Falco was sent to Britain to restore
order (Birley 123) and coins of 119-120 refer to this.
- Johnson, Hadrian's Wall (English Heritage
- Birley 131-133
- Breeze and Dobson (2000) pp. 15-17.
- Royston Lambert, pp. 41–42.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 151–152.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 153 – 155
- Anthony Birley, pp. 157–158.
- Royston Lambert, pp. 60–61.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 164–167.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 175-177.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 177 – 180
- Anthony Birley, pp. 182–184.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 189–190.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 191–200.
- Royston Lambert, pp. 71–72.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 213–214.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 215–220.
- Ronald Syme, "Journeys of Hadrian" (1988), pp. 164-169.
- Cassius Dio, Roman history 69.12.1
- Historia Augusta, Hadrian 14.2.
- livius.org account(Legio XXII Deiotariana)
- Cassius Dio 69, 14.3
- Gittin 57a-58b; Lamentations Rabbah 2.2 §4;
- The Aramaic version, "שחיק טמיא", is used, e.g., in Genesis Rabbah 78:1. This is referenced by
Rashi in his comment on the
phrase, "טמא לנפש", in his commentary on Numbers 5:2. The other two
locations in Genesis Rabbah referenced in Rashi's comment,
10:3 and 28:3, use the Hebrew version, "שחיק עצמות"
- Anthony Birley, pp. 289-292.
- The adoptions: Anthony Birley, pp. 294-295; T.D. Barnes,
'Hadrian and Lucius Verus', Journal of Roman Studies
(1967), Ronald Syme, Tacitus, p. 601. Antoninus as a
legate of Italy: Anthony Birley, p. 199.
- Anthony Birley, pp. 291-292.
- Dio 69.17.2
- Anthony Birley, p. 297.
- Diagonal Earlobe Creases, Type A Behavior and the Death of
Emperor Hadrian ; Nicholas L. Petrakis, MD, West J Med. 1980
January; 132(1): 87–91.
- Historia Augusta, Hadrian 25.9; Antony Birley, p. 301.
- Smallwood, E.M., Documents Illustrating the Principates of
Nerva Trajan and Hadrian, Cambridge, 1966.
- Bernard W. Henderson, Life and Principate of the Emperor
- Historia Augusta: Life of Hadrian
- Hadrian, in: De Imperatoribus Romanis, An Online
Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
- Hadrian coinage
- Temple of Hadrian Quicktime VR, Rome
- Catholic Encyclopedia article
- A Bibliography
- Major scultoric find at Sagalassos (Turkey),
August 2, 2007 (between 13 and 16 feet in height, four to five
meters), with some splendid photos courtesy of the Sagalassos
Archaeological Research Project
- Next exhibition on Hadrian in the British
Museum, 24 July – 26 October 2008: "Hadrian, Empire and
Conflict". Curator: Thorsten Opper
- "Emperor Hadrian, YouTube hero": a review by
Tom Holland of the Hadrian Exhibition at the British Museum,