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13. Hadrian—Builder and Traveler

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HadrianJudaeaCoin HadrianSabina AntinousEgypt MAPHadriansWall Hadrian SabinaAntinous

Publius Aelius Hadrianus was Trajan’s second cousin, and the emperor became one of his guardians when Hadrian’s father died. Hadrian later married Trajan’s grandniece Vibia Sabina (coin above) daughter of Matidia, but their union was not a happy one.

To a great extent, Sabina (bust right) could not compete with her husband's preference for boys, and the marriage remained barren. Although Sabina traveled extensively wherever Hadrian went, between 125 and 130 it was in company with Antinoüs (right), the beautiful Bithynian youth who captured Hadrian's heart and became his constant companion. After Antinoüs died of drowning in the Nile under mysterious circumstances while the imperial entourage was visiting Egypt, Hadrian had the boy deified and later turned his vast villa at Tibur (Tivoli, near Rome) into a stage for numerous classical statues of his dead lover.

Deified on death:

On Hadrian's orders Antinoüs entered the pantheon of Egyptian gods, and later on

that of the Romans

too. Coins of him

were minted and his cult lasted for two centuries.

A coin issued on occasion of Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem, shows a Jewish mother with her children making a peace offering to the emperor. His actions there, however, led to a bloody uprising.

Hadrian was one of Rome's greatest builders, raising monuments, basilicas, and temples wherever he went. Among the most famous in Rome are the gigantic temple of Venus et Roma and the Pantheon, the last still intact today. He was also a busy fortifier of the empire's frontiers, never more so than in the north of England where the wall that bears his name is still partly visible.

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Illustrations © Oliver Frey; Maps © Roger M. Kean    © 2010–2016 Reckless Books, England