Hadrian (in Latin, Publius Aelius Hadrianus) was emperor of Rome from 117-138 AD. He declared and end to the expansion of the empire and drew back to the limits established by Augusts. One of the most cultured of the emperors, he was a patron of virtually all arts. He surrounded himself with poets, philosophers, and scholars. Passionately interested in architect, he erected Rome in such magnificent buildings as the Athenaeum, the Temple of Venus and Roma, the Pantheon (rebuilt), and his massive Mausoleum (Castel Sant?Angelo). Hadrian?s villa was actually an entire town, with splendid buildings recalling the best he had seen in his travels and some of the finest statuary of the ancient times.
Hadrian was born January 24, 76 AD, either in Silica, near Seville, Spain, or in Rome. When his father died in 85, he became the ward of a relative, the future emperor of Trajan. Educated in Rome, Hadrian held various civil and military posts until Trajan became emperor in 98. He then served with distinctions in military campaigns with Trajan on the Danube frontier and was made consul several times. As achron of Athens (112), he immersed himself in Greek culture, for which he demonstrated an abiding attachment. When Trajan died in 117, Hadrian was declared emperor by the army, and the Roman Senate then ratified his appointment.
The Roman Empire at the time was repeatedly threatened by the revolts of subjects peoples and by barbarian invasions. Recognizing the need for consolidation, Hadrian resolved to abandon the outlying provinces. He established a series of defense fortifications, including the famous Hadrian?s Wall, which historically marked the end of Roman territorial expansion. In Rome, he strengthened his position by liberalism towards the people, by support of poor children, and by a considerate attitude toward the Senate. In several extended tours he visited nearly every Roman province, setting local political, military, and economic affairs in order and strengthening loyalty towards Rome. His favorite, Antinous, traveled with him; when the youth drowned, Hadrian deified him. In 134-135 the emperor revisited Judea, where he put down a lengthy insurrection of the Jews at a reported cost to them of half a million lives. Hadrian spent the closing years of his life partly in Rome and partly in his palatial villa at Tibur (modern Baia) on July 10, 138, and was succeeded as emperor by Antonious Pius.
The story of Hadrian and Antonious, seen by some as a real life version of the myth of Zeus and Ganymede, is a romance and tradegy. That the young Antonious was the lover of the emperor, who is known for his Hellenistic ways, is of little true amazement and in itself would not have caused a scandalous cry to echo through the centuries. However, when the boy who is thought to have been the only true love in Hadrian?s life was drowned in the Nile, it sent the Emperor into a swell of grief so mighty that it altered the Roman world.
Constructed in 122 AD, Hadrian?s Wall extended 117 km (73.5 miles). It was built specifically for protection on the northern boundary of Roman Britain against hostile troops. The wall stretched from Solway Firth to the mouth of the Tyne River and was about meters (about 20 feet) high and about 2.4 meters (about 8 feet) wide. A military road ran along the south side of the wall, and a series of heavily garrisoned forts and sentry posts were built along its length. The wall also marked the frontier of Roman civil jurisdiction. A few sections remain standing in Great Britain.