Hadrian (76-138 CE) was the fourteenth Emperor of Rome (10 August 117 to 10 July 138 CE) and is known as the third of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius) who ruled justly. Born Publius Aelius Hadrianus, probably in Hispania, Hadrian is best known for his substantial building projects throughout the Roman Empire and, especially, Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain.

Early Life[edit | edit source]

As a young man, Hadrian was well educated in his hometown of Italica Hispania (modern day Seville, Spain) and left for Rome around the age of 14. His first military service was as Tribune under Emperor Nerva. When Nerva died, Trajan ascended to the throne. Emperor Trajan was the first Roman ruler of provincial origin. Later biographers would attempt to place the birth of both Trajan and Hadrian in the city of Rome but both were of Hispanic ethnicity and this commonality has been assumed by some to be the reason for Trajan’s adoption of Hadrian as his successor (though most scholars dispute this). Trajan died on campaign in Cilicia in 117 CE, with Hadrian in command of his rear guard, and is not believed to have named a successor. Trajan’s wife, Plotina (who was fond of Hadrian) signed the papers of succession and it is thought that she, not the emperor, was responsible for Hadrian’s adoption as heir. However that may be, it is known that Trajan respected Hadrian and had considered him as his successor even if he did not officially name him as such. Hadrian’s service to Trajan is well documented through the various important positions he held prior to becoming emperor of Rome.

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