Dan Snow takes us on a journey around Hadrian’s vast empire.Immortalised in the UK after building a Wall on the edge of his Empire, which bears his name to this day. Hadrian’s Wall, as it is known, is just a tiny portion of a massive structure Hadrian had built to protect the Roman Empire, with similar, sister walls running through northern Europe and still more in north Africa. His legacy also includes the Pantheon in Rome.
Hadrian brought the Empire to an unparalleled period of peace and prosperity. At the heart of this great Empire, however, lay a mystery – Hadrian’s relationship with a young man, Antinous. The friendship led to Antinous being deified by Hadrian following his death, in strange circumstances, on the Nile.
Dan Snow uncovers the genius and the dark side of Hadrian: peace-maker, frontier-builder, star-crossed lover, architect – and ruthless oppressor of the jews. But still, Dan concludes, Hadrian was one of the greatest Roman emperors.
Hadrian (24 January 76 – 10 July 138) was Roman emperor from 117 to 138. He was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, probably at Italica, near Santiponce (in modern-day Spain), into a Hispano-Roman family with centuries-old roots in Hispania. His father was a maternal cousin of the emperor Trajan. Some years before Hadrian’s accession, he married Trajan’s grand-niece, Vibia Sabina. Trajan’s wife and Empress, Pompeia Plotina, and his close friend and adviser Licinius Sura, were well disposed towards Hadrian. When Trajan died, his widow claimed that immediately before his death, he had nominated Hadrian as emperor.
Rome’s military and Senate approved Hadrian’s succession, but soon after, four leading senators who had opposed Hadrian, or seemed to threaten his succession, were unlawfully put to death; the senate held Hadrian responsible for this, and never forgave him. He earned further disapproval among the elite by abandoning Trajan’s expansionist policies and recent territorial gains in Mesopotamia, Assyria and Armenia, and parts of Dacia. Hadrian preferred to invest in the development of stable, defensible borders, and the unification, under his overall leadership, of the empire’s disparate peoples. He is known for building Hadrian’s Wall, which marked the northern limit of Britannia. Late in his reign he suppressed the Bar Kokhba revolt in Judaea; with this major exception, Hadrian’s reign was generally peaceful.