Hadrian, or Publius Aelius Hadrianus, was the Emperor of Rome from 117 to 138. He was a member of an aristocratic Roman family from Italica, Hispania. He was raised by Emperor Trajan of Rome, who was his father’s cousin, when his father died. He began his administrative career as a minor magistrate before serving in the army for three years to gather military experience. He then became a member of the Emperor’s personal entourage after being elected to the senate. He was close to Empress Plotina and married her granddaughter, making him the rightful successor to Trajan following his death. He did not expand the Roman Empire like his predecessors, but instead consolidated his realm and brought peace and prosperity. He created monuments as well as art and culture. Hadrian’s autobiography and the Hadrian Wall, which secured his kingdom from barbarians, are remarkable. He had no children of his own and was openly gay, thus his successor had to be adopted. Despite the fact that his reign was marked by scandals, he is remembered as one of Rome’s good Emperors.
Childhood and Adolescence
Hadrian was born at Italica, Hispania, on January 24, 76, into the ‘Nervan-Antonine’ dynasty, a well-established Roman family with roots in Italica, Hispania, Baetica, near modern-day Seville, Spain. (Some historians believe he was born in Rome.)
Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer Trajan’s father, Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer Trajan, was Emperor Trajan’s cousin and a senator of ‘Praetorian’ rank who spent most of his time in Rome. Domitia Paulina, his mother, was a member of a prestigious Hispano-Roman senator family from Gades, Spain. His sole sibling was Aelia Domitia Paulina, his older sister.
When his parents died when he was ten years old, he became Emperor Trajan’s ward as well as Publius Acilius Attianus, Trajan’s ‘Praetorian Perfect.’ At the age of 14, Hadrian travelled to Rome, where he received an aristocratic education and was taught a variety of disciplines. He was known as ‘Graeculus’ because of his love of Greek literature.
Career of Hadrian
He began his legal career as a ‘Vigintivirate,’ a petty judge in the inheritance court. He began his military career as a tribune on the Roman army’s ‘Legio II Adiutrix’ when he was 19 years old. Later, he was assigned to the ‘Legio V Macedonica.’ He served in the tribunate of ‘Legio XXII Primigenia’ for a second time, earning him the distinction of having remarkable military experience.
Hadrian began his career in the Senate when he was chosen as a ‘Quaestor’ in the year 101. His initial responsibility was to read the Emperor’s words. Later, he was named ‘ab actis senatus,’ which meant he was in charge of preserving a record of the Senate’s proceedings.
During the First Dacian War, Hadrian was a member of Trajan’s personal entourage. He was elected as a ‘Praetor’ after the war and given command of an army. During the Second Dacian War, he attained to the rank of Legate of ‘Legion – Legio I Minervia,’ which was the equivalent of a General.
He was appointed governor of the province of Lower Pannonia after the war, which was a high-ranking position for someone his age. During this time, Trajan is said to have given Hadrian a ring that had been presented to him by his predecessor as a token of succession.
Trajan became critically ill and was forced to return to Rome. Hadrian remained in Syria to protect the Roman rear. As a result, he became the de-facto commander of the army of the Eastern Romans. In Selinus, Trajan died, and Empress Plotina signed the decree handing power to Hadrian.
Administration & Accession
Hadrian’s ascension to the throne was hampered by the fact that Trajan had failed to personally sign any document transferring power to him. He was a junior senator compared to other senators who aspired to the crown. However, he had the army’s assistance, and his opponents were defeated as he consolidated control in the East.
As Emperor, Hadrian did not pursue an expansionist policy. He was a firm believer in peace and the expansion of his empire. To protect his realm, he gave up Mesopotamia in the east and built the famous Hadrian Wall in Britannia.
He spent a lot of time and effort in his kingdom revitalizing art and architecture. He constructed his mansion with groomed gardens and began restoring monuments that had been devastated by battle or natural disasters. He also authored Latin and Greek poetry, as well as an autobiography called ‘Phlegon of Tralles.’
Hadrian’s rule was notable for the fact that he spent a significant amount of time traveling around his empire. He visited his subjects and worked to establish peace and prosperity, unlike most Emperors before him who only left Rome to conquer land.
Architects accompanied him on his journeys, offering advise on building new structures or repairing ruins. He also worked to bring peace to his realm and its neighbors. The peace treaty with Osroes, the Parthian King, when he came to see the Euphrates, is a good example.
In the years 124-125, he travelled Greece and took part in the ‘Eleusinian Mysteries’ religious rights. He rewrote Athens’ constitution and began the construction of numerous monuments.
Hadrian established a reputation as a capable administrator and a humanist during his reign, which lasted from 117 to 138. He initiated legal reforms to specify the law rather than allowing senators to interpret it.
Hadrian wrote poetry and the ‘Phlegon of Tralles’ biography.
His mansion and mausoleum were among the many structures he constructed. The Hadrian Wall is one of the first defensive structures of its sort.
Personal History and Legacy
After Emperor Trajan’s death, he married Vibia Sabina, Emperor Trajan’s grand-niece, at Empress Plotina’s request. Plotina and Hadrian were philosophically compatible and got along swimmingly. Trajan, on the other hand, was not enthusiastic about the marriage, which had been arranged for the sake of convenience because Hadrian and Sabina did not get along and had no children of their own.
Hadrian was the first Roman Emperor to publicly declare his homosexuality. Antinous, his companion, accompanied him on all of his journeys and is mentioned in Hadrian’s poetry. When he drowned and died young, he was even honored by having a Greek city named after him.
He adopted Aellius Caesar because he had no children of his own, but he died, then he adopted Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus, who became Emperor after Hadrian died on July 10, 138 AD, at the age of 62.
Hadrian was interested in astrology and divination, and his grand uncle had informed him of his succession to the throne.
When Hadrian had a falling out with Emperor Trajan, he sought to make peace by drinking heavily with him.
He was a renowned hunter who reignited the beard’s popularity in Rome.
He is credited for setting the foundations for the Byzantine Empire and changing Judea’s name to Palestine.
Estimated Net Worth
Hadrian net worth is unknown.