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Sergia Hadrianus (Hadrian) ( 76 - 138 )  Category ( Royalty ) [suggest a correction]

HadrianHadrian, or Sergia Hadrianus, was emperor of Rome from 117 to 138 CE. He also was a Stoic and Epicurean philosopher. Hadrian was the third of a group known as the Five Good Emperors. He was born into a prominent family and was a first cousin once removed of his immediate predecessor, Trajan. Indeed, Trajan summoned him to Rome when he was a young boy, in order for the emperor to be in charge of his intellectual, social, and political development. He served in the military as a tribune and was later transferred to Germany. Eventually he became governor of Upper Pannonia, served as an archon in Athens and was even elected an Athenian citizen. Upon the death of Trajan, Hadrian quickly gained the support of the legions, which provided protection from his enemies (which were then few). Shortly afterward the Senate endorsed his rule, though Hadrian did not immediately go to Rome, but stayed to deal with troubles on the frontiers.

Hadrian is best known not for his military exploits. but for his cultural contributions. Above all, he valued the arts and was very interested in architecture. He built Hadrian's Villa and rebuilt the Pantheon (which had been destroyed by fire). The new Pantheon 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 Baroque periods. His design ideas were not always well received by architects. One famous architect dismissed Hadrian's domes as "pumpkins." Hadrian wrote poetry in Latin and Greek. He also wrote an autobiography, mostly as an attempt to dismiss rumors about his character and political actions.

Hadrian helped to popularize the beard. Up until his rule, Roman emperors were clean-shaven. Subsequent emperors would be portrayed with beards for more than a century. Hadrian was a humanist and his taste was firmly entrenched in the Hellenistic. He favored the teachings of philosophers Epictetus, Heliodorus, and Favorinus, but was considered by most to be an Epicurean. As a politician, he worked to improve social conditions, built libraries, aqueducts, baths, and theaters. He is considered by many historians to have been wise and just. His personal life is the subject of a famous story involving a Greek youth named Antinous. While touring Egypt with Hadrian, Antinous mysteriously drowned in the Nile. Hadrian drew the whole Empire into his mourning, making Antinous the last new god of antiquity. Hadrian's name lives on not only in Roman history but also in the history of England. A wall, built in 122 C.E. at the border of what is now Scotland and England to help prevent invasions from the north, was named in honor of the Roman emperor. The wall spans many miles and even to this date still bear the name of Hadrian.

Hadrian spent his final years at Rome. He began to suffer from poor health in the mid-130s and began to consider the succession. His choice of adopting Aelius Caesar to succeed him as Emperor was unpopular, and much controversy brewed, making his last years unhappy and difficult. Hadrian died in 138 at the age of 62. The next year he was deified and given a temple on the Campus Martius.

Image: Bust of Emperor Hadrian in armor. Marble, Hadrian Era (117-138 CE).

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