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Hadriānus, Publius Aelius


A Roman emperor, born at Rome A.D. 76. He lost his father when ten years of age, and had for his guardians Trajan, who was his relation, and Cornelius Tatianus, a Roman knight. His father's name was Aelius Hadrianus Afer. It is conjectured that the surname of Afer was given the latter because he had been governor of Africa, and that he is the same Hadrianus who put the martyr Leontius to death at Tripolis in the reign of Vespasian. Hadrian's father was Trajan's first cousin; for he was the son of Ulpia, the sister of Marcus Ulpius Trajanus, the emperor Trajan's father. Hadrian began very early to serve in the army, and was tri

Coin of Hadrian.

bune of a legion before Domitian's death. The forces in Lower Moesia chose him to congratulate Trajan upon his being adopted by Nerva , and it was he that acquainted Trajan with the first news of Nerva 's death. He regained the emperor's favour, which he had almost entirely lost by his extravagant expenses and the debts which he had in consequence incurred, and finally married Trajan's grandniece, Sabina, chiefly through the aid of Plotina the empress. His subsequent rise was rapid, and he was the companion of Trajan in most of his expeditions. He particularly distinguished himself in the war against the Dacians, and was successively appointed praetor, governor of Pannonia, and consul. The orations he composed for Trajan increased his fame ( Spart. Hadr.). After the siege of Atra, in Arabia, Trajan left him in command of his army, and when he found his death approaching, adopted him, although the reality of this adoption is disputed by some authorities, who attribute his elevation to the intrigues of Plotina.

On the death of Trajan he assumed the reins of government (A.D. 117), with the concurrence of the Syrian army. The Senate readily ratified the act. The first care of Hadrian was to make a peace with the Persians, and to restore all the provinces just taken from them, making the Euphrates the boundary of the Roman Empire. He had then to turn his attention to certain revolts and insurrections in Egypt, Libya, and Palestine; and, after quickly concluding a peace with the Parthians, returned to Rome, A.D. 118. The Senate decreed him a triumph, and honoured him with the title of Pater Patriae; but he refused

Map of Hadrian's Wall, with the chief Stations. (After Collingwood Bruce.)

both, and required that Trajan's image should triumph. He sought popularity by a repeal of fifteen years accumulation of arrears of public debt, by a vast reduction of taxation generally and by immense largesses to the people. He was less generous to certain senators accused of a plot against him, four of whom, although of consular rank and intimates of Trajan, he caused to be put to death.

A year after his return to Rome, Hadrian marched against the Alani, the Sarmatians, and the Dacians, but showed a greater desire to make peace with the barbarians than to extend the prowess of the Roman arms. This policy has been attributed to envy of the fame of his warlike predecessor; but a due consideration of the subsequent history of the Empire will amply justify him against the imputation; for it had reached an extent which rendered all increase to its limits a source of weakness rather than of strength. Hadrian was an active and incessant traveller, visiting every province in the Empire, not simply to indulge his curiosity, but to inspect the administration of government, repress abuses, erect and repair public edifices, and exercise all the vigilance of personal examination. (See Dürr, Die Reisen des Kaisers Hadrian [Vienna, 1881]). In A.D. 120, he passed over from Gaul to Britain, where he caused a wall to be built from the mouth of the Tyne to Solway Frith, in order to secure the Roman provinces from the incursions of the Caledonians.

Like Trajan, he lived familiarly with his friends, but was much more suspicious, and would not repose in them the same confidence. When at Rome he cultivated all kinds of literature, conversing with learned men, and giving and receiving information in their society. Hadrian had once again to visit the East to repress the Parthians, who paid little regard to treaties. On his return he passed the winter at Athens, and was initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries. He published no edict against the Christians, yet they nevertheless suffered considerable persecution, until, upon the remonstrance of Quadratus, bishop of Athens, and Aristides, an eminent Christian, he ordered the persecution to cease; but no credit is due to the unauthorized assertion of Lampridius that he thought of building a temple to the Saviour. His treatment of the Jews, on the other hand, was extremely severe, though ample provocation had been given by that turbulent people, for they had raised disturbances towards the end of Trajan's reign, which were not completely quelled until the second year of Hadrian. But now a more formidable insurrection broke out under Barcochebas (“Son of a Star”), who, though a robber by profession, had given himself out as the Messiah. It required a war of three years to reduce the revolted Jews to complete subjection, and after this was accomplished, there was scarcely any indignity that was not inflicted on the conquered nation. Jerusalem was rebuilt under the new title of Aelia Capitolina, uniting the family name of the emperor with

Hadrian. (British Museum.)

the Roman surname of Iupiter; and in the execution of his plan Hadrian studiously profaned all the places which had been most revered by both Jews and Christians, whom he seems to have confounded together. He built a temple in honour of Iupiter Capitolinus upon the mountain where had stood that of the true God; placed a marble hog upon that gate of the city which looked towards Bethlehem; erected in the place where Jesus was crucified a statue of Venus; and in that where he rose from the dead, an image of Iupiter. In the grotto of Bethlehem, where the Saviour was born, he established the worship of Adonis. The Jews were also forbidden the very sight of Jerusalem, which they were not permitted to enter save on one day in the year—the anniversary of the destruction of the city. After the conclusion of the Jewish War Hadrian returned to Italy, where a lingering illness put a stop to his unsettled mode of life, and eventually terminated his existence. Having no children of his own, Hadrian first adopted for his successor L. Ceionius Commodus, more generally known by the name of Verus, to which last he prefixed that of Aelius after his adoption by the emperor. Verus, however, who was remarkable for nothing but his excessive effeminacy and debauched mode of life, died soon after, and Hadrian made a very excellent selection in the person of Antoninus. (See Antoninus Pius.) Hadrian died not long after at Baiae, A.D. 138, in the sixtythird year of his age and the twenty-second of his reign. His disorder was the dropsy, from which disease his sufferings were so great as apparently to affect his reason.

Hadrian was, in general, a just and able ruler, yet there were times when he showed himself revengeful, suspicious, and cruel. His treatment of his wife Sabina does no honour to his memory, his passion for Antinoüs (q.v.) taints it; while his excessive superstition, to which even that favourite fell a victim, entitles him to a large measure of contempt. He was, in fact, a peculiar character, full of paradoxes—witty, pedantic, droll, dull, impulsive, sociable, suspicious, morbidly self-conscious, and persevering in nothing. The greater portion of the Romans appear to have formed a just estimate of his character long before his death, and it was with difficulty that Antoninus could obtain from the Senate the usual compliment of having him ranked among the gods. Their dread of the soldiery, by whom Hadrian was greatly beloved, appears to have conquered their reluctance.

Hadrian did much towards restoring and improving the city of Rome. He also erected a splendid temple to Trajan, a temple to Venus and Roma, and the great Mausoleum in the district beyond the Tiber, now known as the Castle of St. Angelo. In this, he and a number of his successors were buried. For an illustration of it see the article Mausoleum.

Hadrian wrote several works. He was fond of entering the lists against the poets, philosophers, and orators of the day, and Photius mentions several declamations of the emperor's, written for such occasions, as still existing in his time, and not devoid of elegance. Hadrian composed a history of his own times, which he published under the name of his freedman Phlegon; and Doritheus the grammarian made at a subsequent period a collection of his decisions and rescripts. All that we have of his productions at the present day are some speeches, decrees, and (Greek) epigrams, and an epigrammatic address to his soul, written a

Ruins of the Temple of Venus and Roma, built by Hadrian.

short time before his death, and remarkable for its beauty. It suggested to Pope his “Vital spark of heavenly flame,” and runs as follows:
“Animula, vagula, blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis,
Quae nunc abibis in loca.
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis jocos?”

(Spart. Hadr. 25.) See Gregorovius, Geschichte des Kaisers Hadrianus (1851).


A philosopher of Tyre, who studied under Herodes, and taught rhetoric after him at Athens. He was also secretary to the emperor Commodus (ἀντιγραφεὺς τῶν ἐπιστολῶν). He died at Rome after having attained the age of eighty years. There are only fragments remaining of the works of this writer.

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