Hadrian, Roman Emperor

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Reigned 117 to 138; b. Publius Aelius Hadrianus, Italica, southern Spain, a.d. 76; d. Baiae, July 10, 138. On

the death of his father in 85 he became the ward of Marcus Ulpius Traianus (Trajan), the future Emperor, who was himself childless. After serving in the army, Hadrian became governor of Lower Pannonia in 107, suffect consul the following year, and in 114 governor of Syria. Although he had been designated consul for 118, on the death of Trajan he became emperor (Aug. 11, 117), whereupon he abandoned Trajan's conquests beyond the Euphrates as untenable. He enlarged the civil service, making extensive use of the Roman knights in newly created posts. He traveled through the empire to satisfy his highly curious mind, to organize the defenses of the frontiers, e.g., Hadrian's Wall in Britain (122128), and to acquaint himself with the provinces. His able administration was marred by the decision to erect a shrine to Jupiter Capitolinus on the site of the temple of Jerusalem. This precipitated a revolt of the Jews under Bar Kokhba (132135). A rescript that he wrote to Minucius Fundanus on the treatment to be given to Christians in court has been preserved by Eusebius (Historia ecclesiastica 4.9.13), but its interpretation has been disputed. At best it seems to have been an attempt to protect Christians from popular outcries, insisting that proof be advanced to show that they were "acting illegally." A fair number of Christians suffered for the faith during his reign, the most famous being Pope telesphorus, martyred apparently in 136. Hadrian was buried in the Moles Hadriana, preserved as the Castel Sant'Angelo on the right bank of the Tiber.

Bibliography: b. w. henderson, The Life and Principate of the Emperor Hadrian (London 1923). Paulys Realenzyklopädie der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, ed. g. wissowa et al. 1.1 (Stuttgart 1893): 493520. s. perowne, Hadrian (New York 1960). a.r. burley, Hadrian: The Restless Emperor (London 1997). m. t. boatwright, Hadrian and the City of Rome (Princeton 1987).

[m. j. costelloe]