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date: 14 October 2019

Hadrian [Publius Aelius Hadrianus], Emperorlocked

(b Italica, Spain, 24 Jan ad 76; reg 117–38; d Baiae, 10 July ad 138).
  • J. M. C. Bowsher

Extract

(b Italica, Spain, 24 Jan ad 76; reg 117–38; d Baiae, 10 July ad 138).

Roman emperor and patron. After the death in Spain of his father, he was taken to Rome to be brought up by his grandfather’s cousin, the future emperor Trajan, under whose patronage his career prospered. He gained his first military experience in ad 95 under Domitian, and during Trajan’s second Dacian campaign (ad 105–6) he commanded a legion. To strengthen his ties to the imperial family, he was married in ad 100 to Vibia Sabina, a niece of Trajan’s wife, Plotina. He became consul for the first time in ad 108, was governor of Syria c.ad 114 and accompanied Trajan on his Parthian expedition (ad 113–17). The story that Hadrian had been adopted by Trajan on his deathbed was said to have been invented by Plotina, but on his succession Hadrian swiftly consolidated his position by executing four of his most resolute opponents, putting on magnificent displays, distributing largesse and cancelling debts. He skilfully overhauled the imperial bureaucracy, creating a new civil service staffed by Roman knights to implement legal and financial reforms. Throughout his reign he travelled widely, reorganizing the administration of the provinces on the basis of first-hand experience. On his accession, the Roman Empire was at its greatest extent, but to create a safer frontier he abandoned the recently annexed territories beyond the Tigris and Euphrates and redefined the boundaries of other provinces, establishing strong lines of fortifications in Germany, Africa and northern Britain....

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