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By Rider, 26 July 2006; Revised
Category: Classical Mediterranean and Europe: Roman Figures
Publius Aelius Hadrianus lived from 76 to 138 Anno Domini. He was crowned Emperor of Rome on the 11th August of 117, the fourteenth Emperor. After him fifty three Emperors ruled until Theodosius the Great and the dividing of the Empire. He is considered as one of the Five Good Emperors; the other four are Marcus Cocceius Nerva, Marcus Ulpianus Traianus, and Arrius Antonius Pius, and Antonius Pius’ adopted grandson Marcus Antonius.
Hadrian was born in the province of Baetica (today’s Andalusia), on the 24th January, 76 AD, in the colony of Colonia Victrix Italicenses (the city was built for the veterans of the Second Punic War). His ancestors had participated in the Punic Wars. His grandfather, Marullinus, predicted by the stars that Hadrian would become the Ruler of World. His father was a praetor (judge). His father was also nicknamed Afer (African), during a campaign to Africa. His father died when Hadrian was ten years old.
Marcus Ulpius Traianus (still leading a Legion in Judaea, during the rule of Vespasianus) was married to the sister of Hadrian’s father. Traianus was soon elected consul (93 AD) and then the governor in the province of Asia.
In 96 the Emperor Domitianus was murdered and old honest Nerva succeeded him and, adopted Traianus, who was already a Governor and a commander in the province of Germania. Soon Nerva died too, and Traian became the Emperor. Hadrianus greeted the Imperial ambassador who came to tell of the Death of Nerva, and in a fit of emotion beat him. This act of loyalty was to make him a favourite of Traianus. Traianus had expected to become Emperor and he adopted a conquering policy he had planned, making war in Thrace and conquering Dacia and Mesopotamia. Hadrian was the governor of Syria during this period and reciding in Antioch and he supported Traianus with every possible way. He was also a legatus legionis- Commander of a Legion. On the same year, Egyptians, Parthians and Jews rebelled, and refused to support another campaign by Traianus. Traianus destroyed a few cities, and Hadrian fought with Jews.
Hadrian had many enemies before he became Emperor such as Halfarab Lucius Quietus, Governor of Numidia; Avidius Nigrinus, Governor of Dacia; Corneius Palma, Governor of Syria and Publius Celsus. When Traianus died, Hadrian wanted all of these out of Rome because he feared a civil war. To avoid one, an ally from Rome, Acilius Attianus was charged with removing them from the city but instead killed them. Supposedly, Hadrian said after becoming an Emperor: „People would rebel against me if I didn’t have thirty legions!“
2. Who was Hadrian?
As a young man, Hadrianus was sent to Rome to obtain education, in the five years he developed a passion for the Greek language and culture. This led him to the understanding that ’what is said well, is said in Greek’. Hadrian became even the Archont of Athens. The Archont was the ruler of Athens. Although Hadrian liked to learn new things, he wasn’t a friend of books. But to even that up, he liked all sorts of music, poetry, painting, architecture and sculpture; all arts where he could test himself. He learned philosophy and mathematics, was a dedicated swimmer, hunter and a rider; still, even as the Emperor, during marches he marched in full equipment with other soldiers. He liked to travel and he had no stationary house for twelve years of twenty one when he ruled.
He let a villa be built at Tibur, and it was named Hadrian’s Villa where he collected his books, sculptures, paintings and poems (especially from Greece) there.
In Athens, he was awarded with such names as Olympian, a name that had belonged to Zeus; Euergetes, benefactor; Epiphanos, famous; Ionian meaning Greek and Philhellen meaning Greek lover.
Hadrian is remembered as a builder. Leaving many great works across the empire. Most famous of all Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, which not only was a great work but symbolised the new philosophy of a defensive Rome he was to put in place. To the last psrt of the wall, he build a temple. All together, there were 17 forts and 80 gates in the wall.
Hadrian also built walls and roads, forts and temples in Germania. He repaired temples in Athens, including the Temple of Olympion. He founded four cities: Antinoupolise, Hadrianotherae to Moesia, Adrianopolise to Thrace (today’s Edinise) and Plotinopolise to Thrace. In honour of Hadrian, a sanctuary was erected to the capital of Parthians, Vologaesia. The Mausoleom of Hadrian was built in 139. It was named Moles Hadriani. It is known as Castel Sant’ Angelo now.
3. Religion and Greece
About in the same time period, Quadratus, a Bishop of Christians, sent Hadrian an apology of his faith. Hadrian’s principal idea was to be strictly neutral towards that religion as Traianus had acted during his Golden Age. Hadrianus had decreed to the Governors that the protection of laws will now defend all citizens and that the aspersers of Christianity will be punished when there is no fault. The Christian fanatics however believed that Hadrianus was a great sympathiser for their cause although he was not. He didn’t believe that Quadratus had wanted to make him into Christian, but anyways, Quadratus, tried to prove the innocence of his doctrine and harmlessness to the Empire. Hadrian read his writing and went even that far, that he ordered for data be collected of Jesus.
On that year, Hadrian finished making amendments to the constitution of Athens a project he had been working on for many years. He restored to a certain limit, the democratic laws of Kleisthenes. He decreased the number of officials and that reduced taxes; he stopped the renting of taxes, although this system was used even after the law. Local academies, that were created about in that era, allowed Athens to grow into an important educational centre.
One of his great legacies to Athens was that he started annual meetings, in which the people discussed Greek things. The old city rose again to the status of metropolis. His plan was finalized only after difficult negotiations with cities who envied Athens or those that hated Athens. But eventually wise ness and enthusiasm won.
Hadrian was irritated by all failures in politics, like he was irritated by the slightest curve on the floor in his Villa, every line of wax on marble, every little scratch on things that should be scratch less. The Capadocian governor Arrianos had warned Hadrian of the Pharasmenes’ (the dynasty of the Kings of Georgia) were playing the same double-game that had lost the Romans so much during Traian’s reign. That king pushed Alan tribes to the borders of the Empire, and his disputes with Armenia shook the peace in East. To the call to come Rome he always refused like he had refused to come to the Council at Samosata. Instead of apologies, he sent three hundred golden robes as a gift to Hadrian and the Emperor gave them to the criminals at amphitheatres.
Hadrian had a secretary, a mediocre fellow who Hadrian still kept at his position because the fellow knew the routine of the office to the depths but he was also contentious and one day he pissed Hadrian off so much that Hadrian hit him into the face. The Emperor held a stilus in his hand and so he pierced his eye off. Hadrian never forgot his scream of horror, his terrible face, his hand that tried to defend himself. The secretary was immediately sent to the eye-doctor Capito but he couldn’t save the eye, the doctor covered the eye with cloth. The eye was lost but the Emperor called the man to himself and asked how much money he wanted. The person replied, Hadrian’s eye. In the end he agreed to take the pension and he was left in the service of the Emperor: for warning and maybe for punishment.
Few years before staying to his Villa, a new rebellion broke out in Judaea. The year was 131. The troops of the Second legion, Legio Deiotarna were crushed by troops ten times their size. Two legions came to help, one of them was the Twelfth Fulminata and the Sixth Ferrata; a few months later, Julius Severus became the leader of these armies. Severus brought a few manipules with him and those had experience of fighting on rough ground. The rebellion became a furious war. Simon, the leader of Jews, divided his troops into little groups that hid in caves and deserted mines. Jerusalem was taken only in the third year of the war. Hadrian lived and ate in the camp as any other soldier.
5. Later years
He planned to adopt Lucius, but Lucius died shortly before the plan could be completed. He felt the power fall inside him and every moment was important. Ha devised a new plan. He had noticed Antonius Pius, a fifty-years old man. He had been honest on all occupations and now was blameless official. He had small mistakes, like he looked more into the present than the future but Hadrian adopted Antonius. He also applied in the Senate that Marcus Antonius would be adopted by Antonius Pius and the Senate agreed, it was an unanimous vote.
Getting older, his hearing got worse and he had to ask for many times what someone had done. He fainted several times and his servants believed he would die. He started to plan his own suicide, like a murderer would plan a murder. He thought first of his hunting-chief Mastor, a Sarmatian, who followed Hadrian everywhere and had served him loyally. The Emperor called Mastor to himself and explained what he expected from him. When Hadrian had finished, Mastor’s face convulsed. The servant thought that Hadrian was immortal. He grabbed his sword from the Emperor and ran away. Later on he was found blabbering in his barbaric language in a park. It was tried to calm him and this incident was never mentioned. For the morning, the sharp stilus was replaced with a wooden stick.
For a time, it seemed that the curse that Hadrian was placed under by his uncle Servianus had fulfilled, Hadrian wanted to die although he couldn’t. Mastor couldn’t kill him; Hadrian met a doctor that had discovered a new poison from Egypt and the doctor refused to give Hadrian the poison because he was obliged by the Oath of Hippokrates. The doctor committed suicide and his body was found in a laboratory, with a glass can in his hand. The Emperor tried to stab himself, but the Guards who outnumbered the Emperor beat Hadrian and he still survived. He yelled that he should have the ability to kill others but not himself. Antonius told him that he better calm down and accept his destiny, and so Hadrian did. Summer had come meanwhile and being in Tibur was terrible. Hadrian travelled to Baiae, a resort town near the Gulf of Napoli. There Hadrian died on the 10th of July, 138.
*Note: All sources are in Estonian, excluding the internet sites because the original of the article was written by me in Estonian.
Antiigileksikon 1983 s.v. Hadrianus
Antiigileksikon 1983 s.v. Hadrianuse mausoleum
Yourcenar, M. 1974. Hadrianuse mälestused. Paris: Editions Gallimard
[www] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/hadrian (13.05.2004)
[www] http://www.androphile.org/preview/Library/Biographies/Hadrian/Hadrian.htm (13.05.2004)
[www] http://www.roman-emperors.org/ (13.05.2004)
1. Hadrian’s career until becoming the Emperor
decemvir stlitibus iudicandis
sevir turmae equitum Romanorum
praefectus urbi feriarum Latinarum
trib. militum legionis II Adiutricis Piae Fidelis /military tribune (95, in Pannonia)
trib. militum legionis V Macedonicae /military tribune (96, in Moesia)
trib. militum legionis XXII Primigeniae Piae Fidelis /military tribune (97, in Germania)
ab actis senatus /senator
tribunus plebis /public tribune (105)
praetor / judge (106)
legatus legionis I Minerviae Piae Fidelis /legate of the I Legion (106, in Germania)
legatus Augusti pro praetore Pannoniae inferioris legate of Pannonia (107)
consul suffectus /consul (108)
septemvir epulonum (before 112)
sodalis Augustalis (before 112)
archon Athenis /archont of Athens (112/13)
legatus Syriae /legate of Syria (117)
2. Hadrian's Book
The only part that still exists of the book (books) written by Hadrian:
animula vagula blandula
hospes comesque corporis
quae nunc abibis in loca
pallidula rigida nudula
nec ut soles dabis iocos...
Vagrant soul, you tender one,
guest and fellow of the body,
Now you have to descend into places
pallid and rigid and nude,
Nor will you be playful as you used to be.