Hadria'nus, P. Ae'lius
the fourteenth in the series of Roman emperors, reigned from the 11th of August, A. D. 117, till the 10th of July, A. D. 138.
He was born at Rome on the 24th of January, A. D. 76; and not as Eutropius (8.6
) and Eusebius (Chron.
no. 2155, p. 166, ed. Scaliger) state, at Italica.
This mistake arose from the fact, that Hadrian was descended, according to his own account, from a family of Hadria in Picenum, which, in the time of P. Scipio, had settled at Italica in Spain. His father, Aelius Hadrianus Afer, was married to an aunt of the emperor Trajan; he had been praetor, and lived as a senator at Rome. Hadrian lost his father at the age of ten, and received his kinsman Ulpius Trajanus (afterwards the emperor Trajan) and Caelins Attianus as his guardians.
He was from his earliest age very fond of the Greek language and literature, which he appears to have studied with zeal, while he neglected his mother tongue.
At the age of fifteen he left Rome and went to Spain, where he entered upon his military career; but he was soon called back, and obtained the office of decemvir stlitibus; and about A. D. 95 that of military tribune, in which capacity he served in Lower Moesia. When Trajan was adopted by Nerva, A. D. 97, Hadrian hastened from Moesia to Lower Germany, to be the first to congratulate Trajan; and in the year following he again travelled on foot from Upper to Lower Germany, to inform Trajan of the demise of Nerva ; and this he did with such rapidity, that he arrived even before the express messengers sent by Servianus, who was married to his sister Paulina. Trajan now became more and more attached to Hadrian, though the attachment did not continue undisturbed, until Trajan's wife, Plotina, who was fond of Hadrian, contrived to confirm the connexion by bringing about a marriage between her favourite and Julia Sabina, a grand-daughter of Trajan's sister Marciana. Henceforth Hadrian rose every day in the emperor's favour, for the preservation of which he did not always adopt the most honourable means.
He was successively invested with various offices at Rome, such as the quaestorship in A. D. 101.
In this capacity he delivered his first speech in the senate, but was laughed at on account of the rudeness and want of refinement in its delivery.
This induced him to study more carefully his mother tongue and Latin oratory, which he had hitherto neglected. Soon after the expiration of his quaestorship he appears to have joined Trajan, who was then carrying on the war against the Dacians. In A. D. 105 he obtained the tribuneship of the people, and two years later the praetorship. In Trajan's second expedition against the Dacians, he entrusted to Hadrian the command of a legion, and took him with him. Hadrian distinguished himself so much by his bravery, that Trajan rewarded him with a diamond which he himself had received from Nerva, and which was looked upon as a token that Trajan designated him as his successor. In A. D. 108 Hadrian was sent as legatus praetorius into Lower Pannonia; and he not only distinguished himself in the administration of the province, and by the strict discipline he maintained among the troops, but he also fought with great success against the Sarmatians.
The favourable opinion which the emperor entertained of Hadrian on this account was increased through the influence of Plotina and Licinius Sura, a favourite friend of Trajan; and Hadrian was made consul suffectus for the year 109; nay, a report was even spread that Trajan entertained the thought of adopting Hadrian, and of thus securing to him the succession.
After the death of Licinius Sura, Hadrian became the private secretary of Trajan; and the deference paid to him by the courtiers now increased in the same proportion as the intimacy between him and the emperor. Through the influence of Plotina, he obtained in A. D. 114 the office of legate during the war against the Parthians; and in 117 he became consul designatus for the year following.
It is said that at the same time he was promised to be adopted by the emperor; but Dio Cassius expressly denies it; and the further remark, that he was designated only consul suffectus, seems to show that lrajan, at least at that time, had not yet made up his mind as to his adoption.
While Trajan was carrying on the war against the Parthians, in which he was accompanied by Hadrian, and while he was besieging the town of Hatra, he was taken severely ill.
He placed Hadrian at the head of the army and the province of Syria, and returned to Rome; but on his way thither he died, at Selinus, in Cilicia. Now it is said, that on the 9th of August, 117, Hadrian received intelligence of his adoption by Trajan, and on the 11th the news of his death; but this statement is contradicted by Dio Cassius, who renders it highly probable that Plotina and Attianus fabricated the adoption after the death of the emperor, and that for this purpose Trajan's death was for a few days kept secret.
It is even said that Trajan intended to make Neratius Priscus his successor. Thus much, however, seems certain, that the fact of Trajan leaving Hadrian at the head of affairs in the east, when his illness compelled him to leave, was a sufficient proof that he placed the highest confidence in him. Hadrian was at the time at Antioch, and on the 11th of August, 117, he was proclaimed emperor.
He immediately sent a letter to the senate at Rome, in which he apologised for not having been able to wait for its decision, and solicited its sanction, which was readily granted.
The Roman empire at this period was in a perilous condition: the Parthians, over whom Trajan had gained brilliant victories, had revolted, and been successful in several engagements; the provinces of Mauritania and Moesia were invaded by barbarians; and other provinces, such as Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, were in a state of insurrection. Hadrian, with a wise policy, endeavoured, above all things, to establish peace in the east.
He purchased it with a great but necessary sacrifice: it was surely wise to give up what could not be maintained.
He therefore renounced all the conquests which his predecessor had made east of the Euphrates; he restored Mesopotamia and Assyria to the Parthians, and recognised Cosrhoes, whom Trajan had deposed, as their king; while he indemnified Parthamaspater, whom Trajan had made king of the Parthians, by assigning to him a small neighbouring kingdom. Armenia, moreover, was raised to the rank of an independent kingdom. While engaged in making these arrangements, he is said to have been advised by Attianus to put to death Baebius Macer, praefect of the city, Laberius Maximus, and Frugi Crassus, either because they opposed his accession, or because they were otherwise hostile towards him; but it is added that Hadrian rejected this advice, though Frugi Crassus was afterwards killed, but without the emperor's command. Lusius Quietus, who at the time had the command in Mauritania, but was suspected of an attempt to place himself at the head of the Roman world, was deprived of his post, which was given to Marcius Turbo, who, under Trajan, had reduced the rebellious Jews, and was a personal friend of Hadrian.
After having settled thus the most urgent affairs of the empire, he went from Antioch to Cilicia, to see the body of Trajan, which was to be conveyed to Rome by Plotina, Attianus, and Matidia. Soon after his return to Antioch he appointed Catilius Severus governor of Syria, and travelled to Rome in A. D. 118.
A triumph was celebrated to commemorate the victories of Trajan in the east, and the late emperor's image was placed in the triumphal car.
The solemnity was scarcely over when Hadrian received the news that the Sarmatae and Roxolani had invaded the province of Moesia.
He forthwith sent out his armies, and immediately after he himself followed them.
The king of the Roxolani complained of the tribute, which he had to receive from the Romans, not being fully paid; but Hadrian concluded a peace with him, for which he had probably to pay a heavy sum.
After this was settled, it appears that Hadrian intended marching into Dacia to attack the Sarmatians, when he was informed of a conspiracy against his life; it had been formed by the consular, Nigrinus, in conjunction with others of high rank, among whom are mentioned Palma, Celsus, and Lusius Quietus. Hadrian escaped from the hands of the conspirators, and all of them were put to death, as Hadrian himself said, by the command of the senate, and against his own will, though it was believed at the time, and is also maintained by Dio Cassius, that Hadrian himself had given orders for their execution.
In consequence of this act of severity, popular feeling was very strong against him, especially as it was rumoured, that the conspiracy was a mere pretence, devised for the purpose of getting rid of those men who had been opposed to him during the reign of Trajan. As Hadrian had to fear the consequences of this state of public feeling, he entrusted the provinces of Pannonia and Dacia to Marcius Turbo, who had just pacified Mauritania, and returned to Rcme. His first object was to refute the opinion that he had any share in the execution of the four consulars, and he soothed the minds of the people by games, gladiatorial exhibitions, and large donations in money. Another act, which must have won for him the favour of thousands, both in Italy and the provinces, was that he cancelled an enormous sum due to the state as taxes, viz. all the arrears of the last 15 years, and to remove all fears from the minds of the people, he had the documents publicly burnt in the forum of Trajan.
He further endeavoured to secure his government by winning the good will of the senate; he not only denied the charge brought against him respecting the four consulars, but swore that he would never punish a senator except with the sanction of the senate; and the senate was, in fact, made to believe that it had never been in the enjoyment of such extensive and unlimited powers as now.
At the same time, however, he found it necessary to remove his former friends Attianus and Similis from their office of praefects of the praetorians, and to appoint Marcius Turbo and Septicius Clarus their successors.
The war against the Sarmatians was continued in the meantime by Hadrian's legates, and lasted for several years, if we may believe the chronicle of Eusebius, which mentions it as still going on in A. D. 120.
In the year A. D. 119 Hadrian began his memorable journey through the provinces of his empire, many portions of which he traversed on foot. His desire to promote the good of the empire by convincing himself every where personally of the state of affairs, and by applying the necessary remedies wherever mismanagement was discovered, was unquestionably one of the motives that led him to this singular undertaking; but there can be little doubt that the restlessness of his mind and the extraordinary curiosity which stimulated him to go and see himself every thing of which he had heard or read, had as great a share in determining him thus to travel through his vast empire, as his desire to do good.
These travels occupy the greater part of his reign; but the scanty accounts we have of them do not enable us to follow them step by step, or even to arrange them in a satisfactory chronological order. In A. D. 119 he left Rome and first went to Gaul, where he displayed great liberality in satisfying the wants of the provincials. Front Gaul he proceeded to Germany, where he devoted most of his attention to the armies on the frontier. Although he was more desirous to maintain peace than to carry on war, he trained the soldiers always as though a great war had been near at hand; and the excellent condition of his troops, combined with the justice he displayed in his foreign policy, and the sums of money he paid to barbarian chiefs, were the principal means of keeping the enemies away from the Roman provinces. The limes
in Germany was fortified, and several towns and colonies were greatly benefited by him. From Germany he crossed over into Britain, where he introduced many improvements in the administration, and constructed the famous wall dividing the Roman province from and protecting it against the barbarous tribes of the north; it extended from the Solway to the month of the river Tyne, a distance of 80,000 feet, and traces of it are to be seen even at the present day. From Britain Hadrian returned to Gaul, and constructed a magnificent basilica at Nemausus (Nismes), in honour of his wife, Sabina, although during his absence in Britain, her conduct was such that he is reported to have said he would divorce her if he lived in a private station.
After this he went to Spain, where he spent the winter, probably of A. D. 121 and 122, and held a convents of all the Romans residing in Spain.
In the spring of 122 he crossed over to Africa, where he suppressed an insurrection in Mauritania, and then travelled through Egypt into Asia.
A war with the Parthians was on the eve of breaking out, but Hadrian averted it by an interview which he had with their king.
He next travelled through the provinces of Western Asia, probably during the early part of A. D. 123, visited the islands of the Aegean, and then went to Achaia, where he took up his residence at Athens.
It would seem that he stayed there for three years, till A. D. 126. Athens was his favourite place, and was honoured by him above all the other cities of the empire: he gave to the people of Athens new laws, and showed his reverence for their institutions by being initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries, by acting the part of agonothetes at their public games, and by allowing himself to be made archon eponymus. From Athens he returned to Rome by way of Sicily, either in A.
D. 126 or 127.
He was saluted at Rome as pater patriae,
and his wife distinguished by the title of Augusta.
The next few years he remained at Rome, with only one interruption, during which lie visited Africa.
He seems to have chiefly employed his time at Rome in endeavouring to introduce the Greek institutions and modes of worship, for which he had conceived a great admiration at Athens.
It seems to have been about A. D. 129 that Hadrian set out on his second journey to the east.
He travelled by way of Athens, where he stayed for some time to see the completion of the numerous buildings which he had commenced during his previous visit, especially to dedicate the temple of the Olympian Zeus, and an altar to himself. In Asia he conciliated the various princes in the most amicable and liberal manner, so that those who did not accept his invitation had afterwards themselves most reason to regret it.
He sent back to Cosrhoes a daughter who had been taken prisoner by Trajan; and the governors and procuratores in the provinces were punished severely wherever they were found unjust or wanting in the discharge of their duties. From Asia Minor he proceeded through Syria and Arabia into Egypt, where he restored the tomb of Pompey with great splendour. During an excursion on the Nile he lost his favourite, Antinous [ANTINOUS
], for whom he entertained an unnatural affection, and whose death was to him the cause of deep and lasting grief. From Egypt, Hadrian returned, through Syria, to Rome, where he must have spent the latter part of the year A. D. 131, and the first of 132, for in the former year he built the temple of Venus and Roma, and i the latter he promulgated the edictum perpetuum.
Not long after his return to Rome the Jewish war broke out, the only one that disturbed the peace of his long reign.
The causes of this war were the establishment of a colony under the name of Aelia Capitolina on the site of Jerusalem, and an order issued by Hadrian forbidding the Jews the rite of circumcision.
The war was carried on by the Jews as a national struggle with the most desperate fury; it lasted for several years, and it was not till the general Julius Severus came over from Britain, that the Romans gradually succeeded in paralysing or annihilating the Jews; and the country was nearly reduced to a wilderness when peace was restored. The Jews were henceforth not allowed to reside at Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity; and from this time they were dispersed through the world.
After the close of the Jewish war another threatened to break out with the Albanians, who had been instigated by Pharasmanes, king of the Iberians.
But the rich presents which Hadrian made to the Albanians and Iberians averted the outbreak, and Pharasmanes even paid a visit to Hadrian at Rome.
In the meantime, probably in the autumn of A. D. 132, Hadrian had again gone to Athens, where he stayed during the whole of the year following. From a letter of Hadrian, addressed to his brother-in-law, Servianus, and preserved by Vopiscus (Suturnin.
8), we must infer that in 134 the emperor again visited Alexandria in Egypt, and, on his return through Syria, where he attended the sale of the Jews who had been made prisoners in the war, superintended the building of the colony at Jerusalem, and regulated its constitution.
After his return to Rome, Hadrian spent the remainiig years of his life partly in the city and partly at Tibur, where he built or completed his magnificent villa, the ruins of which occupy even now a space equal to that of a considerable town.
The many fatigues and hardships to which he had been exposed during his travels had impaired his health, and he sank into a dangerous illness, which led him to think of fixing upon a successor, as he had himself no children.
After some hesitation, he adopted L. Ceionius Commodus, under the name of L. Aelius Verus, and raised him to the rank of Caesar, probably for no other reason than his beauty; for Ceionius Commodus had formerly been connected with Hadrian in the same manner that Antinous was afterwards connected with him.
The adoption had been made contrary to the advice of all his friends, and those who had most strongly opposed it appeared to Hadrian in no other light than that of personal enemies. Servianus, who was then in his 90th year, and his grandson Fuscas, were the principal objects of his suspicions, and both were put to death by his command. Aelius Verus, however, who was entrusted with the administration of Pannonia, did not afford Hadrian the assistance and support he had expected, for he was a person of a weakly constitution, and died on the 1st of January, A. D. 138. Hadrian now adopted Arrius Antoninus, afterwards surnamed Pius, and presented him to the senators assembled around his bed as his successor. But Hadrian, mindful of the more distant future, made it the condition with Antoninus that he should at once adopt the son of Aelius Verus and M. Annius Verus (afterwards the emperor M. Aurelius).
These arrangements, however, did not restore peace to Hadrian's mind : as his illness grew worse his suspicious and bitter feelings increased, and prompted him to many an act of cruelty; many persons of distinction were put to death, and many others would have been sacrificed in the same manner had they not been saved by the precautions of Antoninus Pius.
The illness of which Hadrian suffered was of a consumptive nature, which was aggravated by dropsy; and when ne found that he could not be saved, he requested a slave to run him through with a sword; but this was prevented by Antoninus. Several more attempts were made at suicide, but in vain.
At last he was conveyed to Baiae, where he hoped to find at least some relief, and Antoninus remained behind at Rome as his vicegerent.
But his health did not improve; and soon after the arrival of Antoninus at Baiae, whom he had sent for, he died on the 10th of July, 138, at the age of 63, and after a reign of nearly twenty years.
He was buried in the villa of Cicero, near Puteoli.
The senate, indignant at the many acts of cruelty of which he had been guilty during the last period of his life, wanted to annul his enactments, and refused him the title of Divus, but Antoninus prevailed upon the senate to be lenient towards the deceased, who during the latter part of his life had not been in the full possession of his mind.
A temple was then erected as a monument on his tomb, and various institutions were made to commemorate his memory. Antoninus is said by some to owe his surname of Pius to these exertions of filial love towards his adoptive father.
The above is a brief sketch of the events of the life and reign of Hadrian; and it now remains to offer a few observations on his policy, the principles of his government, his personal character, his influence upon art and literature, and his own literary productions, so far as they are known to us.
The reign of Hadrian was one of peace, and may be regarded as one of the happiest periods in Roman history. His policy, in reference to foreign nations, was to preserve peace as much as possible, not to extend the boundaries of the empire, but to secure the old provinces, and promote their welfare, by a wise and just administration. For this reason he gave up the eastern conquests of Trajan, and would have given up Dacia also, had it not been for the numerous Roman citizens who had taken up their residence there.
This general peace of the reign of Hadrian, however, was not the result of cowardice, or of jealousy of his predecessor, as some of the ancients asserted, but the fruit of a wise political system. Hadrian's presents and kindness to the barbarians would not have been sufficient to ward off their attacks, but the frontiers of the empire were guarded by armies which were in the most excellent condition, for the military system and discipline introduced by Hadrian were so well devised, that his regulations remained in force for a long time afterwards, and were regarded as law.
With regard to the internal administration of the empire, Hadrian was the first emperor that understood his real position, and looked upon himself as the sovereign of the Roman world; for his attention was engaged no less by the provinces than by Rome and Italy, and thus it happened that the monarchical system became more consolidated under him than under any of his predecessors.
He gained the favour of the people by his great liberality, and that of the senate by treating it with the utmost deference, so far as form was concerned, for, in reality, the senate was no more than the organ of the imperial will.
An institution which gradually deprived the senate of its jurisdiction, and its share in the government, was that of the consilium,
or consistorium principis, which had indeed existed before, but received its stability and organisation from Hadrian.
The political offices and those of the court were regulated by Hadrian in a manner which, with a few exceptions, remained unaltered till the time of the great Constantine.
The praefectus praetorio henceforth was the president of the state-council (consilium principis), and always a jurisconsult, so that we may henceforth regard him as a kind of minister of justice. Hadrian himself paid particular attention to the proper exercise of jurisdiction in the provinces as well as in Italy: his reign forms an epoch in the history of Roman jurisprudence.
It was at Hadrian's command that the jurist Salvius Julianus drew up the edictum perpetuum,
which formed a fixed code of laws. Some of the laws promulgated by Hadrian are of a truly humane character, and aimed at improving the public morality of the time.
He divided Italy into four regions, placing each under a consular, who had the administration of justice.
The fact of his taking the titles of the highest magistracies in several towns in Italy and the provinces may indeed have been little more than a form, but it shows, at any rate, that he took a considerable interest in the internal affairs of those towns.
The proceedings of those persons who were connected with the administration of provinces were watched with the strictest care, and any violation of justice was severely punished. While he thus on the one hand benefited the provinces by punishing and preventing oppression and injustice, he won the hearts of the provincials by his liberality during his travels.
There is scarcely one of the places he visited which did not receive some mark of his favour or liberality; in many places he built aquaeducts, in others harbors or other public buildings, either for use or ornament; and the people received large donations of grain or money, or were honoured with distinctions and privileges.
But what has rendered his name more illustrious than any thing else are the numerous and magnificent architectural works which he planned and commenced during his travels, especially at Athens, in the southwest of which he built an entirely new city, Adrianopolis. We cannot here enter into an account of the numerous buildings he erected, or of the towns which he built or restored: suffice it to direct attention to his villa at Tibur, which has been a real mine of treasures of art, and his mausoleum at Rome, which forms the groundwork of the present castle St. Angelo. His taste in architecture, however, appears to have been very capricious, and very different from the grandeur and simplicity of earlier times; in addition to this, he was tenacious of the plans he had once formed, and unable to bear any opposition or contradiction.
The great architect, Apollodorus, had to pay with his life for the presumption with which he ventured to censure one of Hadrian's works; for the emperor's ambition was to be thought a great architect, painter, and musician.
Hadrian was not only a patron and practical lover of the arts, but poetry and learning also were nurtured and patronised by him.
He was fond of the society of poets, scholars, rhetoricians, and philosophers, but, as in architecture, his taste was of an inferior kind. Thus he preferred Antimachus to Homer, and imitated the former in a poem entitled Catacriani.
The philosophers and sophists who enjoyed his friendship had, on the other hand, to suffer much from his petty jealousy and vanity, which led him to overrate his own powers and depreciate those of others.
He founded at Rome a scientific institution under the name of Athenaeum, which continued to flourish for a long time after him. We possess few specimens of Hadrian's literary productions, although he was the author of many works both in prose and in verse.
In his earlier years he had devoted himself with much zeal to the study of eloquence, but, in accordance with the prevailing taste of the age, he preferred the earlier Roman orators and poets to Cicero and his contemporaries. Some of Hadrian's own declamations were extant down to a very late period.
He further wrote the history of his own life, from which some statements are quoted by his biographer Spartianus, and which was edited by his freedman Phlegon. The Latin Anthology (Ep.
206-211, ed. Meyer) contains six epigrams by Hadrian, and six others in Greek are preserved in the Greek Anthology, but none of them display any real poetical genius; they are cold and far-fetched.
Our sources of information respecting the life and reign of Hadrian are very poor and scanty, for the two main authorities, Hadrian's own work, and another by Marius Maximus, are lost, and, on the whole, we are confined to Spartianus's Life of Hadrian and the abridgement of the 69th book of Dio Cassius, by Xiphilinus. (Comp. Eutrop. viii, 3; Aurel. Vict. de Caesar.
14; Zonar. 11.23
, &c.; Tillemont, Hist. des Emp.
vol. ii. p. 219, &c.; J. M. Flemmner, de Itineribus et rebus gestis Hadriani secundum numorum et scriptorum Testimonia,
Havniae, 1836; C. Ch. Woog, de Eruditone Hadriani,
Lipsiae, 1769; Meyer, Fragm. Orat. Rom.
p. 607, &100.2nd edit.; Niebuhr, Lect. on Rom. Hist.
vol. ii. p. 265, &c. ed. Schmitz.)