Hadrian - Roman Emperor: 117-138 A.D. -
Silver Denarius 18mm (2.99 grams) Rome mint: 134-138 A.D.
Reference: RIC 268, BMC 726, C 1329
HADRIANVSAVGCOSIIIPP - Laureate head right.
SALVSAVG - Salus standing left, sacrificing over altar and holding
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Salus (Health) a Goddess of the Romans, the same that was worshipped under
the name of Hygiea by the Greeks, who feigned her to be the daughter of
Asclepius and of Minerva. On a denarius of the Acilia family appears the head
of the goddess and on the reverse a female standing with a serpent in her hand.
The types of this divinity on imperial coins most frequently present to view a
woman clothed in the stola; sometimes
she is sitting, at others standing; in others in a recumbent posture, with a
serpent either on her right or her left arm in a quiescent state, rising in
folds or entwined round an altar before her, and receiving food from a patera,
which she holds in her extended hand. It is in this form (which was doubtless
that of her statues and with these symbols) that she is exhibited on most coins
on the imperial series from Galba to Maximianus. She had a celebrated temple at
Rome, painted, it was said, by Q. Fabius, who thence was surnamed Pictor (the
painter) . - There appears to be some affinity between this personification of
Salus, when offering food in a patella to a serpent, and the Lanuvian virgin
represented in the same act on coins bearing the head of Juno Sospita. - The
opinion also has the probability on the face of it, which refers the serpent on
coins, where mention is made of Salus Augusti, or Augustorum, to Aesculapius and
his daughter Hygaeia (or Salus) as deities of Health. - Certain it is that when
those sanitary divinities, and especially when Dea Salus, occur on coins of
Emperors, they indicate that those princes were labouring at the time under some
diseases; on which account, it would seem, sacred rites had been performed for
them and the memorial of the event recorded on public monuments
Publius Aelius Hadrianus
(as emperor Imperator Caesar Divi Traiani filius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus,
and Divus Hadrianus after his
known as Hadrian in
English; 24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was
from AD 117 to 138, as well as a
Epicurean philosopher. A member of the
Hadrian was the third of the so-called
Five Good Emperors.
Hadrian was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus in
or, less probably, in
from a well-established family which had originated in
Italy and had
subsequently settled in
Hispania Baetica (the republican
Ulterior), near the present day location of Seville, Spain. His predecessor
Trajan was a
maternal cousin of Hadrian's father.
Trajan never officially designated a successor, but, according to his wife,
Pompeia Plotina, Trajan named Hadrian emperor immediately before his death.
Trajan's wife was well-disposed toward Hadrian: Hadrian may well have owed his
succession to her.
Hadrian's presumed indebtedness to Plotina was widely regarded as the reason
for Hadrian's succession. However, there is evidence that he accomplished his
succession on his own governing and leadership merits while Trajan was still
alive. For example, between the years AD 100–108 Trajan gave several public
examples of his personal favour towards Hadrian, such as betrothing him to his
Sabina, designating him quaestor Imperatoris, comes Augusti,
giving him Nerva's diamond "as hope of succession", proposing him for consul
suffectus, and other gifts and distinctions. The young Hadrian was Trajan's
only direct male family/marriage/bloodline. The support of Plotina and of
L. Licinius Sura (died in AD 108) were nonetheless extremely important for
Hadrian, already in this early epoch.
Although it was an accepted part of Hadrian's personal history that Hadrian
was born in
Italica located in the province called
Hispania Baetica (the southernmost Roman province in the
Iberian Peninsula, comprising modern
his biography in
Augustan History states that he was born in Rome on 24 January 76 of a
family originally Italian,
but Hispanian for many generations. However, this may be a ruse to make Hadrian
look like a person from Rome instead of a person hailing from the provinces.
His father was the Hispano-Roman
Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, who as a
rank would spend much of his time in Rome.
Hadrian’s forefathers came from Hadria, modern
an ancient town of Picenum in Italy, but the family had settled in
Hispania Baetica soon after its founding by
Scipio Africanus. Afer was a paternal cousin of the future Emperor
mother was Domitia
came from Gades (Cádiz).
Paulina was a daughter of a distinguished Hispano-Roman Senatorial family.
Hadrian’s elder sister and only sibling was Aelia Domitia
married with the triple consul
Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus, his niece was Julia Serviana
his great-nephew was Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator, from
parents died in 86 when Hadrian was ten, and the boy then became a ward of both
Publius Acilius Attianus (who was later Trajan’s Praetorian Prefect).
Hadrian was schooled in various subjects particular to young
aristocrats of the day, and was so fond of learning
literature that he was nicknamed Graeculus ("Greekling").
(or never left it until) he was 14, when he was recalled by Trajan who
thereafter looked after his development. He never returned to Italica although
it was later made a
colonia in his honour.
His first military service was as a
Legio II Adiutrix. Later, he was to be transferred to the
Legio I Minervia in
Nerva died in 98,
Hadrian rushed to inform Trajan personally. He later became
legate of a
Pannonia and eventually governor of said province. He was also
Athens for a
brief time, and was elected an Athenian citizen.
His career before becoming emperor follows: decemvir stlitibus iudicandis
- sevir turmae equitum Romanorum - praefectus Urbi feriarum Latinarum
- tribunus militum legionis II Adiutricis Piae Fidelis (95, in Pannonia
Inferior) - tribunus militum legionis V Macedonicae (96, in Moesia
Inferior) - tribunus militum legionis XXII Primigeniae Piae Fidelis (97,
in Germania Superior) - quaestor (101) - ab actis senatus -
tribunus plebis (105) - praetor (106) - legatus legionis I
Minerviae Piae Fidelis (106, in Germania Inferior) - legatus Augusti pro
praetore Pannoniae Inferioris (107) - consul suffectus (108) -
septemvir epulonum (before 112) - sodalis Augustalis (before 112) -
archon Athenis (112/13) - legatus Syriae (117).
Hadrian was active in the wars against the
legate of the
V Macedonica) and reputedly won awards from Trajan for his successes.
Due to an absence of military action in his reign, Hadrian's military skill is
not well attested; however, his keen interest and knowledge of the army and his
demonstrated skill of administration show possible strategic talent.
Hadrian joined Trajan's expedition against Parthia as a legate on Trajan’s
Neither during the initial victorious phase, nor during the second phase of the
war when rebellion swept Mesopotamia did Hadrian do anything of note. However
when the governor of
Syria had to be sent to sort out renewed troubles in Dacia, Hadrian was
appointed as a replacement, giving him an independent command.
Trajan, seriously ill by that time, decided to return to Rome while Hadrian
Syria to guard the Roman rear. Trajan only got as far as
Selinus before he became too ill to go further. While Hadrian may have been
the obvious choice as successor, he had never been adopted as Trajan's heir. As
Trajan lay dying, nursed by his wife, Plotina (a supporter of Hadrian), he at
last adopted Hadrian as heir. Since the document was signed by Plotina, it has
been suggested that Trajan may have already been dead.
The Roman empire in 125 AD, under the rule of Hadrian.
This famous statue of Hadrian in Greek dress was revealed in 2008 to
have been forged in the
Victorian era by cobbling together a head of Hadrian and an
unknown body. For years the statue had been used by historians as
proof of Hadrian's love of Hellenic culture.
Hadrian quickly secured the support of the legions — one potential opponent,
Lusius Quietus, was instantly dismissed.
The Senate's endorsement followed when possibly falsified papers of adoption
from Trajan were presented (although he had been the ward of
rumor of a falsified document of adoption carried little weight — Hadrian's
legitimacy arose from the endorsement of the Senate and the Syrian armies.
Hadrian did not at first go to Rome — he was busy sorting out the East and
suppressing the Jewish revolt that had broken out under Trajan, then moving on
to sort out the
Danube frontier. Instead, Attianus, Hadrian's former guardian, was put in
charge in Rome. There he "discovered" a plot involving four leading Senators
including Lusius Quietus and demanded of the Senate their deaths. There was no
question of a trial — they were hunted down and killed out of hand. Because
Hadrian was not in Rome at the time, he was able to claim that Attianus had
acted on his own initiative. According to Elizabeth Speller the real reason for
their deaths was that they were Trajan's men.
and the military
Despite his own great stature as a military administrator, Hadrian's reign
was marked by a general lack of major military conflicts, apart from the Second
Roman-Jewish War. He surrendered Trajan's conquests in
Mesopotamia, considering them to be indefensible. There was almost a war
around 121, but the threat was averted when Hadrian succeeded in negotiating a
The peace policy was strengthened by the erection of permanent fortifications
along the empire's borders (limites,
sl. limes). The most famous of these is the massive
Hadrian's Wall in
Britain, and the
were strengthened with a series of mostly wooden
watchtowers, the latter specifically improving communications and local area
security. To maintain morale and keep the troops from getting restive, Hadrian
established intensive drill routines, and personally inspected the armies.
Although his coins showed military images almost as often as peaceful ones,
Hadrian's policy was peace through strength, even threat.
pursuits and patronage
Hadrian has been described, by Ronald Syme among others, as the most
versatile of all the Roman Emperors. He also liked to display a knowledge of all
intellectual and artistic fields. Above all, Hadrian patronized the arts:
Hadrian's Villa at Tibur (Tivoli)
was the greatest Roman example of an
garden, recreating a sacred landscape, lost in large part to the despoliation of
the ruins by the
Cardinal d'Este who had much of the marble removed to build
Pantheon, originally built by
Agrippa but destroyed by fire in 80, was rebuilt under Hadrian in the domed
form it retains to this day. It is among the best preserved of Rome's ancient
buildings and was highly influential to many of the great architects of the
Italian Renaissance and
From well before his reign, Hadrian displayed a keen interest in
architecture, but it seems that his eagerness was not always well received. For
Apollodorus of Damascus, famed architect of the
Forum of Trajan, dismissed his designs. When
predecessor to Hadrian, consulted Apollodorus about an architectural problem,
Hadrian interrupted to give advice, to which Apollodorus replied, "Go away and
draw your pumpkins. You know nothing about these problems." "Pumpkins" refers to
Hadrian's drawings of domes like the Serapeum in his Villa. It is rumored that
once Hadrian succeeded Trajan to become emperor, he had Apollodorus exiled and
later put to death. It is very possible that this later story was a later
attempt to defame his character, as Hadrian, though popular among a great many
across the empire, was not universally admired, either in his lifetime or
Hadrian wrote poetry in both Latin and Greek; one of the few surviving
examples is a Latin poem he reportedly composed on his deathbed (see
also wrote an autobiography – not, apparently, a work of great length or
revelation, but designed to scotch various rumours or explain his various
actions. The work is lost but was apparently used by the writer — whether
Marius Maximus or someone else – on whom the Historia Augusta
principally relied for its vita of Hadrian: at least, a number of
statements in the vita have been identified (by
Syme and others) as probably ultimately stemming from the autobiography.
Hadrian was a passionate hunter, already from the time of his youth according
to one source.
In northwest Asia, he founded and dedicated a city to commemorate a she-bear he
It is documented that in Egypt he and his beloved
killed a lion.
In Rome, eight reliefs featuring Hadrian in different stages of hunting on a
building that began as a monument celebrating a kill.
Another of Hadrian's contributions to "popular" culture was the beard, which
symbolised his philhellenism. Except for
Nero (also a great
lover of Greek culture), all Roman emperors before Hadrian were clean shaven.
Most of the emperors after Hadrian would be portrayed with beards. Their beards,
however, were not worn out of an appreciation for Greek culture but because the
beard had, thanks to Hadrian, become fashionable. Hadrian had a face covered in
warts and scars, and this may have partially motivated Hadrian's beard growth.
Hadrian was a
Hellenophile in all his tastes. He favoured the doctrines of the
Epictetus, Heliodorus and
but was generally considered an
Epicurean, as were some of his friends such as
Caius Bruttius Praesens. At home he attended to social needs. Hadrian
mitigated but did not abolish slavery, had the legal code humanized and forbade
torture. He built libraries,
aqueducts, baths and theaters. Hadrian is considered by many historians to
have been wise and just: Schiller called him "the Empire's first servant", and
Edward Gibbon admired his "vast and active genius", as well as his "equity
and moderation". In 1776, he stated that Hadrian's epoch was part of the
"happiest era of human history".
While visiting Greece in 126, Hadrian attempted to create a kind of
parliament to bind all the semi-autonomous former city states across all
Asia Minor). This parliament, known as the
Panhellenion, failed despite spirited efforts to instill cooperation among
Hadrian had a close relationship, widely reported to have been romantic, with
a Greek youth,
Antinous, whom he met in
124 when the boy was thirteen or fourteen. While touring
Egypt in 130, Antinous mysteriously drowned in the
saddened, Hadrian founded the Egyptian city of
Antinopolis, and had Antinous deified - an unprecedented honour for one not
of the ruling family.
Hadrian died at his villa in
Baiae. He was
buried in a
mausoleum on the western bank of the
Rome, a building
later transformed into a papal fortress,
Castel Sant'Angelo. The dimensions of his mausoleum, in its original form,
were deliberately designed to be slightly larger than the earlier
Mausoleum of Augustus.
According to Cassius Dio a gigantic equestrian statue was erected to Hadrian
after his death. "It was so large that the bulkiest man could walk through the
eye of each horse, yet because of the extreme height of the foundation persons
passing along on the ground below believe that the horses themselves as well as
Hadrian are very small."
The Stoic-Epicurean Emperor traveled broadly, inspecting and correcting the
legions in the field. Even prior to becoming emperor, he had traveled abroad
with the Roman military, giving him much experience in the matter. More than
half his reign was spent outside of Italy. Other emperors often left Rome to
simply go to war, returning soon after conflicts concluded. A previous emperor,
Nero, once traveled
through Greece and was condemned for his self indulgence. Hadrian, by contrast,
traveled as a fundamental part of his governing, and made this clear to the
Roman senate and the people. He was able to do this because at Rome he possessed
a loyal supporter within the upper echelons of Roman society, a military veteran
by the name of
Marcius Turbo. Also, there are hints within certain sources that he also
secret police force, the
frumentarii, to exert control and influence in case anything should go wrong
while he journeyed abroad.
Hadrian's visits were marked by handouts which often contained instructions
for the construction of new public buildings. Hadrian was willful of
strengthening the Empire from within through improved infrastructure, as opposed
to conquering or annexing perceived enemies. This was often the purpose of his
journeys; commissioning new structures, projects and settlements. His almost
evangelical belief in Greek culture strengthened his views: like many emperors
before him, Hadrian's will was almost always obeyed. His traveling court was
large, including administrators and likely
builders. The burden on the areas he passed through were sometimes great.
While his arrival usually brought some benefits it is possible that those who
had to carry the burden were of different class to those who reaped the
benefits. For example, huge amounts of provisions were requisitioned during his
this suggests that the burden on the mainly
subsistence farmers must have been intolerable, causing some measure of
At the same time, as in later times all the way through the European
Renaissance, kings were welcomed into their cities or lands, and the financial
burden was completely on them, and only indirectly on the poorer class.
Hadrian's first tour came in 121 and was initially aimed at covering his back
to allow himself the freedom to concern himself with his general cultural aims.
He traveled north, towards
and inspected the Rhine-Danube frontier, allocating funds to improve the
defenses. However it was a voyage to the Empire's very frontiers that
represented his perhaps most significant visit; upon hearing of a recent revolt,
he journeyed to Britannia.
Hadrian's Gate, in Antalya, southern Turkey was built to honour
Hadrian who visited the city in 130 CE.
Prior to Hadrian's arrival on Great Britain there had been a major rebellion
Britannia, spanning roughly two years (119–121).
It was here where in 122 he initiated the building of
Hadrian's Wall (the exact Latin name of which is unknown). The purpose of
the wall is academically debated. In 1893,
Haverfield stated categorically that the Wall was a means of military
defence. This prevailing, early 20th century view was challenged by
Collingwood in 1922. Since then, other points of view have been put
forwards; the wall has been seen as a marker to the limits of Romanitas,
as a monument to Hadrian to gain glory in lieu of military campaigns, as work to
keep the Army busy and prevent mutiny and waste through boredom, or to safeguard
the frontier province of Britannia, by preventing future small scale invasions
and unwanted immigration from the northern country of
(now modern day
Scotland). Caledonia was inhabited by tribes known to the Romans as
Caledonians. Hadrian realized that the Caledonians would refuse to
cohabitate with the Romans. He also was aware that although Caledonia was
valuable, the harsh terrain and highlands made its conquest costly and
unprofitable for the Empire at large. Thus, he decided instead on building a
wall. Unlike the
Germanic limes, built of wood palisades, the lack of suitable wood in the
area required a stone construction;
nevertheless, the Western third of the wall, from modern-day Carlisle to the
River Irthing, was built of turf because of the lack of suitable building stone.
This problem also led to the narrowing of the width of the wall, from the
original 12 feet to 7, saving masonry.
Hadrian is perhaps most famous for the construction of this wall whose ruins
still span many miles and to date bear his name. In many ways it represents
Hadrian's will to improve and develop within the
rather than waging wars and conquering.
Under him, a shrine was erected in
York to Britain as
a Goddess, and coins were struck which introduced a female figure as the
personification of Britain, labeled
By the end of 122 he had concluded his visit to Britannia, and from there headed
south by sea to
In 123, he arrived in
where he personally led a campaign against local rebels.
However this visit was to be short, as reports came through that the Eastern
was again preparing for war, as a result Hadrian quickly headed eastwards. On
his journey east it is known that at some point he visited
Cyrene during which he personally made available funds for the training of
the young men of well bred families for the Roman military. This might well have
been a stop off during his journey East. Cyrene had already benefited from his
generosity when he in 119 had provided funds for the rebuilding of public
buildings destroyed in the recent Jewish revolt.
When Hadrian arrived on the
he characteristically solved the problem through a negotiated settlement with
the Parthian king
Osroes I. He then proceeded to check the Roman defenses before setting off
West along the coast of the
He probably spent the winter in
the main city of
As Nicomedia had been hit by an earthquake only shortly prior to his stay,
Hadrian was generous in providing funds for rebuilding. Thanks to his generosity
he was acclaimed as the chief restorer of the province as a whole. It is more
than possible that Hadrian visited
Claudiopolis and there espied the beautiful
young boy who was destined to become the emperor's
beloved. Sources say nothing about when Hadrian met Antinous, however, there
are depictions of Antinous that shows him as a young man of 20 or so. As this
was shortly before Antinous's drowning in 130 Antinous would more likely have
been a youth of 13 or 14.
It is possible that Antinous may have been sent to Rome to be trained as
page to serve the emperor and only gradually did he rise to the status of
After meeting Antinous, Hadrian traveled through
The route he took is uncertain. Various incidents are described such as his
founding of a city within Mysia, Hadrianutherae, after a successful boar hunt.
(The building of the city was probably more than a mere whim — lowly populated
wooded areas such as the location of the new city were already ripe for
development). Some historians dispute whether Hadrian did in fact commission the
city's construction at all. At about this time, plans to build a temple in Asia
minor were written up. The new temple would be dedicated to Trajan and Hadrian
and built with dazzling white marble.
Temple of Zeus in Athens.
The climax of this tour was the destination that the hellenophile Hadrian
must all along have had in mind, Greece. He arrived in the autumn of 124 in time
to participate in the
Eleusinian Mysteries. By tradition at one stage in the ceremony the
initiates were supposed to carry arms but this was waived to avoid any risk to
the emperor among them. At the Athenians' request he conducted a revision of
their constitution — among other things a new
phyle (tribe) was
added bearing his name.
During the winter he toured the
Peloponnese. His exact route is uncertain, however
Pausanias reports of tell-tale signs, such as temples built by Hadrian and
the statue of the emperor built by the grateful citizens of
in thanks to their "restorer". He was especially generous to
Mantinea which supports the theory that Antinous was in fact already
Hadrian's lover because of the strong link between Mantinea and Antinous's home
By March 125, Hadrian had reached
presiding over the festival of
The building program that Hadrian initiated was substantial. Various rulers had
done work on building the
Temple of Olympian Zeus — it was Hadrian who ensured that the job would be
finished. He also initiated the construction of several public buildings on his
own whim and even organized the building of an aqueduct.
On his return to Italy, Hadrian made a detour to
celebrate him as the restorer of the island though there is no record of what he
did to earn this accolade.
Back in Rome he was able to see for himself the completed work of rebuilding
Pantheon. Also completed by then was Hadrian's villa nearby at
Tibur a pleasant retreat by the
Sabine Hills for whenever Rome became too much for him. At the beginning of
March 127 Hadrian set off for a tour of Italy. Once again, historians are able
to reconstruct his route by evidence of his hand-outs rather than the historical
records. For instance, in that year he restored the Picentine earth goddess
Cupra in the town
Cupra Maritima. At some unspecified time he improved the drainage of the
Fucine lake. Less welcome than such largesse was his decision to divide
Italy into 4 regions under imperial legates with consular rank. Being
effectively reduced to the status of mere provinces did not go down well and
this innovation did not long outlive Hadrian.
Hadrian fell ill around this time, though the nature of his sickness is not
known. Whatever the illness was, it did not stop him from setting off in the
spring of 128 to visit
arrival began with the good omen of rain ending a
Along with his usual role as benefactor and restorer he found time to inspect
the troops and his speech to the troops survives to this day.
Hadrian returned to Italy in the summer of 128 but his stay was brief before
setting off on another tour that would last three years.
Asia and Egypt
In September 128 Hadrian again attended the Eleusinian mysteries. This time
his visit to Greece seems to have concentrated on Athens and Sparta — the two
ancient rivals for dominance of Greece. Hadrian had played with the idea of
focusing his Greek revival round
Amphictyonic League based in Delphi but he by now had decided on something
far grander. His new Panhellenion was going to be a council that would bring
together Greek cities wherever they might be found. The meeting place was to be
the new temple to Zeus in Athens. Having set in motion the preparations —
deciding whose claim to be a Greek city was genuine would in itself take time —
Hadrian set off for
In October 130, while Hadrian and his entourage were sailing on the
drowned, for unknown reasons, though accident, suicide, murder or religious
sacrifice have all been postulated. The emperor was grief stricken. He ordered
deified, and cities were named after the boy, medals struck with his effigy, and
statues erected to him in all parts of the empire. Temples were built for his
worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens, festivals celebrated in
his honour and oracles delivered in his name. The city of
Antinopolis or Antinoe was founded on the ruins of
Besa where he died (Cassius Dio, LIX.11; Historia Augusta, Hadrian).
Hadrian’s movements subsequent to the founding of
Antinopolis on October 30, 130 are obscure. Whether or not he returned to
Rome, he spent the winter of 131–32 in Athens and probably remained in Greece or
further East because of the Jewish rebellion which broke out in Judaea in 132
(see below). Inscriptions make it clear that he took the field in person against
the rebels with his army in 133; he then returned to Rome, probably in that year
and almost certainly (judging again from inscriptions) via
In 130, Hadrian visited the ruins of
First Roman-Jewish War of 66–73. He rebuilt the city, renaming it
Aelia Capitolina after himself and
Jupiter Capitolinus, the chief Roman deity. A new temple dedicated to the
Jupiter was built on the ruins of the old Jewish
Second Temple, which had been destroyed in 70.
In addition, Hadrian abolished
circumcision, which was considered by Romans and Greeks as a form of bodily
and hence "barbaric".
These anti-Jewish policies of Hadrian triggered in Judaea a massive Jewish
uprising, led by
Simon bar Kokhba and
Akiba ben Joseph. Following the outbreak of the revolt, Hadrian called his
Sextus Julius Severus from
Britain, and troops were brought from as far as the
losses were very heavy, and it is believed that an entire legion, the
XXII Deiotariana was destroyed.
Indeed, Roman losses were so heavy that Hadrian's report to the
Senate omitted the customary salutation "I and the legions are well".
However, Hadrian's army eventually put down the rebellion in 135, after three
years of fighting. According to
Dio, during the war 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985
villages razed. The final battle took place in
Beitar, a fortified city 10 km. southwest of Jerusalem. The city only fell
after a lengthy siege, and Hadrian only allowed the Jews to bury their dead
after a period of six days. According to the Babylonian
after the war Hadrian continued the persecution of Jews. He attempted to root
which he saw as the cause of continuous rebellions, prohibited the
Torah law, the
Hebrew calendar and executed Judaic scholars (see
Martyrs). The sacred scroll was ceremonially burned on the
Mount. In an attempt to erase the memory of Judaea, he renamed the province
Syria Palaestina (after the
Philistines), and Jews were forbidden from entering its rededicated capital.
When Jewish sources mention Hadrian it is always with the epitaph "may his bones
be crushed" (שחיק עצמות or שחיק טמיא, the Aramaic equivalent),
an expression never used even with respect to
Hadrian spent the final years of his life at Rome. In 134, he took an
salutation or the end of the Second Jewish War (which was not actually
concluded until the following year). In 136, he dedicated a new
Temple of Venus and Roma on the former site of
About this time, suffering from poor health, he turned to the problem of the
succession. In 136 he adopted one of the ordinary
of that year, Lucius Ceionius Commodus, who took the name
Lucius Aelius Caesar. He was both the stepson and son-in-law of Gaius
Avidius Nigrinus, one of the "four consulars" executed in 118, but was himself
in delicate health. Granted tribunician power and the governorship of
Aelius Caesar held a further consulship in 137, but died on January 1, 138.
Following the death of Aelius Caesar, Hadrian next adopted Titus Aurelius
Fulvus Boionius Arrius Antoninus (the future emperor
Antoninus Pius), who had served as one of the four imperial legates of Italy
(a post created by Hadrian) and as
Asia. On 25 February 138 Antoninus received tribunician power and
Moreover, to ensure the future of the dynasty, Hadrian required Antoninus to
adopt both Lucius Ceionius Commodus (son of the deceased Aelius Caesar) and
Marcus Annius Verus (who was the grandson of an influential senator
of the same name who had been Hadrian’s close friend; Annius was already
betrothed to Aelius Caesar’s daughter Ceionia Fabia). Hadrian’s precise
intentions in this arrangement are debatable. Though the consensus is that he
wanted Annius Verus (who would later become the Emperor
Marcus Aurelius) to succeed Antoninus, it has also been argued that he
actually intended Ceionius Commodus, the son of his own adopted son, to succeed,
but was constrained to show favour simultaneously to Annius Verus because of his
strong connections to the Hispano-Narbonensian nexus of senatorial families of
which Hadrian himself was a part. It may well not have been Hadrian, but rather
Antoninus Pius — who was Annius Verus’s uncle – who advanced the latter to the
principal position. The fact that Annius would divorce Ceionia Fabia and
re-marry to Antoninus' daughter Annia Faustina points in the same direction.
When he eventually became Emperor, Marcus Aurelius would co-opt Ceionius
Commodus as his co-Emperor (under the name of
Verus) on his own initiative.
The ancient sources present Hadrian's last few years as marked by conflict
and unhappiness. The adoption of Aelius Caesar proved unpopular, not least with
Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus and Servianus' grandson Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus
Salinator. Servianus, though now far too old, had stood in line of succession at
the beginning of the reign; Fuscus is said to have had designs on the imperial
power for himself, and in 137 he may have attempted a
in which his grandfather was implicated. Whatever the truth, Hadrian ordered
that both be put to death.
Servianus is reported to have prayed before his execution that Hadrian would
"long for death but be unable to die".
The prayer was fulfilled; as Hadrian suffered from his final, protracted
illness, he had to be prevented from
Hadrian died in 138 on the tenth day of July, in his
Baiae at age
62. The cause of death is believed to have been heart failure.
Dio Cassius and the
Historia Augusta record details of his failing health, and a study published
in 1980 drew attention to classical sculptures of Hadrian that show he had
diagonal earlobe creases – a characteristic associated with
coronary heart disease.
Hadrian was buried first at
Puteoli, near Baiae, on an estate which had once belonged to
after, his remains were transferred to Rome and buried in the Gardens of Domitia,
close by the almost-complete mausoleum. Upon the completion of the
Tomb of Hadrian in
Rome in 139 by his successor
Antoninus Pius, his body was cremated, and his ashes were placed there
together with those of his wife
Sabina and his first adopted son,
Lucius Aelius, who also died in 138. Antoninus also had him deified in 139
and given a
temple on the
According to the
Historia Augusta Hadrian composed shortly before his death the following
Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos...
P. Aelius Hadrianus Imp.
Little soul, roamer and charmerr
Body's guest and companion
Into what places will you now depart
Pale, stiff, and nude
An end to all your jokes...