While not as accomplished in warfare or propaganda as previous emperors, Hadrian was more focused on securing the existing empire rather than expanding it. He constructed Hadrian’s Wall, rebuilt the Pantheon, established many cities, and spread Greek culture.
Publius Aelius Hadrianus, or Hadrian as he is known, was born in 76 AD. Hadrian's birthplace is disputed, but many believe he was born in Hispania, where he received a good education before heading to Rome around the age of fourteen.
Hadrian started the traditional path of a Roman senator when Trajan was consul in 91. After Emperor Nerva died, Trajan became emperor - thanks to a man named Lucius Licinius Sura. Sura, as well as Trajan's wife, seemed to favor Hadrian, and this relationship helped protect Hadrian from his brother-in-law Julius Servianus.
Hadrian served as quaestor and was Trajan's companion during the emperor's first war. His political career advanced rapidly. Hadrian became the tribune of the Plebs, advancing to the office of praetor shortly after. Within two years, he served as the governor of Lower Pannonia and then became a consul. During a lull in his career, Hadrian was archon in Athens. He spent this time devoted to the Greeks, a people and culture he loved.
Hadrian was left in command of the army in Syria during the Parthian wars while Trajan headed westward. Trajan had adopted him, signaling that he was the heir to the throne. He took the throne after Trajan's death and a few years later left Rome for a tour of the empire and to inspect troops and border defenses. During this time, he calmed an uprising in Mauretania and negotiated with the Parthians. He soon considered his reign a new Augustan age, taking the name Hadrianus Augustus and proclaiming his rule as a golden age on coinage.
Hadrian traveled to Athens several times and explored the Nile, as well as many other parts of the empire. He had rebuilt the city of Jerusalem according to his own plans and renamed it Aelia Capitolina Jupiter Capitolinus. His travels included some of his most famous accomplishments, including the construction of Hadrian's Wall in northern Britain. At Athens, he redrafted their laws as requested and completed the temple of Olympian Zeus that had been started more than five centuries earlier. Hadrian was creative and loved art, which can be seen in his poems and his architecture. In fact, he designed a villa for himself at Tivoli, which demonstrates his artistic achievement. He had the Pantheon rebuilt, which had been destroyed in a fire during his predecessor's reign.
After executing one heir and having a second one die, Hadrian chose an 18-year-old boy named Annius Verus to be his heir. Verus would later become the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Hadrian died slowly and painfully in 138 AD. He was not widely mourned. While Hadrian did not accomplish near the same level of greatness that Augustus had, whom he tried to emulate in many ways, he was a good administrator who oversaw his armies - even eating alongside them - and is best known for his building projects and his love of Greece.
“You don’t win battles with hate. Anger and hate can make you brave, make you strong, but they also make you stupid. You end up tripping over your own two feet.”
“The memory of most men is an abandoned cemetery where lie, unsung and unhonored, the dead whom they have ceased to cherish. Any lasting grief is reproof to their neglect.”
“Nothing is slower than the true birth of a man.”
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