Today in History: The death of Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Relatively early in the complex state that was the Roman Empire, a man named Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus), became the fourteenth Emperor of Rome. He inherited a healthy empire from his predecessor Trajan, and built on Rome’s success as a capable administrator in his own right, in all aspects of order and good governance.

To achieve this, one of the first things he did was abandon Trajan’s conquests of Mesopotamia and Assyria, which he considered far too expensive to maintain. With one eye on the treasury, and the other on overseeing the maintenance of the vast empire, he is remembered as the first emperor to extensively travel the empire. But his building projects are arguably his greatest enduring legacy. Apart from his affection for the Greek east of the empire, where he dedicated many sites to his tragic young lover Antinous, Hadrian is best remembered for building his long continuous defensive land wall in the north of Britain, simply known as Hadrian’s Wall. However, possibly his greatest achievement was the Pantheon, in Rome.

For some twenty years, Hadrian successfully ruled the empire in a state of relative peace, but by 10th July 138 CE, one of the best of emperors to rule Rome, died of natural causes in Baiae, Italy. To his credit, he left the empire in the safe hands of Antoninus Pius, who continued Hadrian’s peaceful foreign policy.


The temple of all the Gods, also better known as the Pantheon.

Photo credit: The header image is a marble statue of Hadrian in armour originally located in Crete, now in the Lourve, Paris. The image of the Pantheon, in Rome, is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license.

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