Emperor Hadrian

Early Life

Born ‘Publius Aelius Hadrianus Buccellanus’ on 24 January 76AD.

He was well educated at home and was very fond of Greek. At ten years old his parents died and he became the ward of both Trajan and Publius Acilius Attianus.

He first visited Rome when he was fourteen years old.

Trajan instigated a military career for Hadrian and he became Tribune to emperor Nerva at a young age.

In 100AD he married Trajan’s grand niece Vibia Sabine. This was a marriage of convenience made by empress Plotina. Trajan was not so keen on this marriage.

Emperor Nerva died in 101AD, to be succeeded by Trajan and this was the start of Hadrian’s political career. He would read Trajan’s speeches to the senate, and is believed to have written them as well.

Hadrian became tribune of the Plebians in 105AD and consul in 108AD.

He also served with Trajan in both the first and second Dacian wars, and also in many other governmental positions.

While on campaign with Trajan in 117AD, Trajan became ill and set out to return to Rome. Hadrian was left behind in charge of Syria.

Trajan only made it as far as Selinus in Greece. He adopted Hadrian as his son and heir while on his deathbed.

Speculation has been made as to empress Plotina sending letters to Rome claiming that Hadrian was the new heir. These letters were signed by Plotina, not by Trajan. It is believed that Trajan had died without making Hadrian his heir but due to empress Plotina, Hadrian’s rule was secured.

Emperor 117AD – 138AD

When named emperor, Hadrian did not immediately return to Rome. During this time, four high ranking senators were murdered in Rome for plotting against him. When he did return to Rome he had a strained relationship with the senate.

He visited Gaul in 121AD and continued to visit further provinces including Spain, Turkey and Britain. He did not return to Rome until 134AD.

Hadrian was to spend nearly half of his reign away from Rome. He implemented a huge rebuilding project across all of his provinces. This included rebuilding temples and complete cities.

He rebuilt the Pantheon after it had been destroyed a second time by fire in 110AD. This is now the most well preserved building of ancient Rome and can be visited today. He also built the Temple of Venus and Roma.

In northern Britain he built Hadrian’s wall which was approximately eighty miles in length and can still be walked today.

Hadrian had a huge love of Greek culture and philosophy and spent much of his time in Greece. He did however return to Rome in his final years.

Hadrian fell very ill and retired to his villa at Baiae on the Bay of Naples. He died soon afterwards on 10 July 138AD, probably of a heart attack or heart failure.

He had named Antoninus Pius as his successor.

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