Hadrianus, P Aemilius
Hadrianus, P. Aemilius the 14th Roman emperor (from A.D. 117-138), was a relative and the ward of Trajan, and married Julia Sabina, the granddaughter of Marciana sister of that emperor. In regard to the place of his birth, the statement of Spartianus (De vita Hadricani, 1) that he was born at Rome Jan. 24, A.D. 76, is generally regarded as the more reliable, though others name Italica in Spain, where his ancestors had settled in the time of Scipio (see Eutropius, 8:6, and Eusebius, Chronicon, No. 2155, p. 166, ed. Scaliger). Aided by the preference of Trajan's wife, Plotina, and showing himself capable in the positions entrusted to him, he rose rapidly, and on the death of Trajan succeeded to the empire, having been either really adopted as his successor by that emperor, or palmed off as such by Plotina and her party. For a statement of the conflicting opinions on this point, see Spartianus (De vita Hadriani, 4) and Dion Cassius (69, 1). When Hadrian assumed the reins of government (A.D. 117), he found the quiet of the empire threatened at several points, but, adopting a general policy of peace, he succeeded in preventing outbreaks and invasions in nearly every instance. In furtherance of this peaceful policy, he withdrew the legions from the conquests of his predecessor beyond the Tigris and Euphrates, and would have also abandoned Dacia had not populous Roman colonies existed there.
Impelled by curiosity, or, more probably, by a desire to see for himself the condition of the empire, he journeyed extensively through it, leaving everywhere monuments of his munificence in temples, aqueducts, and other useful or ornamental works. He made many improvements in the laws, and the Edictumperpetuum Hadriani (a codification of praetorial edicts made by his orders) marked an era in the historical development of the Roman law. Hadrian, though a voluptuary in private life, was a patron of the arts and of learning; was fond of the society of artists, poets, scholars, philosophers, etc., and even aspired to rank among them; but his inferior taste, his jealousy, his overweening vanity, and his impatience of rivalry and contradiction led him often to acts of cruel injustice towards the leaned men he gathered about him.
His conduct towards the Christians was marked by a sense of justice. The proconsul of Asia Minor having complained to Hadrian that the people at their festivals demanded the execution of Christians, he issued a rescript forbidding such executions, and requiring that all complaints against the Christians should be made in legal form. Though this edict failed to secure immunity to Christians from persecution, since the fourth persecution occurred during his reign, Hadrian was not classed by Melito, Tertullian, or Eusebius among their persecutors, and his reign is regarded as in general favorable to the progress of Christianity. Aelius Lampridius (Alexander Serverus, 43), indeed, mentions a report that Hadrian purposed to erect temples to Christ, as one of the gods, but was deterred by the priests, who declared that all would become Christians if he did so. This story is, however, generally regarded as unworthy of credit. The tolerant spirit or indifference of Hadrian towards religious opinions and practices disapproved of and even ridiculed by him is shown by his letter to Servianus, preserved in Vopiscus (Severus, 8), and by the fact that though a zealous worshipper of the Sacra of his native country, he also adopted the Egyptian Cultus.
The peace of his reign was broken by one serious war. Among the Jews a spirit of discontent had been kept alive ever since the capture of Jerusalem by Titus. Wishing to eradicate this spirit by the destruction of the Jewish nationality, Hadrian issued an edict forbidding the practice of circumcision, and determined to erect on the ruins of Jerusalem a new Roman city, to be called after himself, Aelia Capitolina. Consequently a furious revolt of the Jews broke out under the lead of Bar Cochba, a pretended messiah, and it was only after having suffered great losses, and having almost exterminated the Jewish nation (500,000 Jews were said to have perished), that the imperial armies succeeded in crushing the revolt, although the able general, Julius Serverus, had been called from the distant shores of Britian to lead them. Aelia Capitolina rose over the ruins of the Holy City, but the Jew was forbidden, on the pain of death, to enter it, and from that time the race was dispersed through the world. Antoninus Pius annulled the prohibition of circumcision. Hadrian died at Baiae July 10, 138; but his last days had been marked by such outrageous cruelties that Antoninus, his successor, with difficulty secured the customary honors to his memory. — Spartianus, de vita Hadriani (in Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Teubner's edit.); Smith, Dict. of Greek and Roman Biog. and Mythol. 2, 319 sq.; Hoefer. Nouv. Biog. Géneralé 1, 301 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 5, 446; Sharpe, History of Egypt, 15, 14-31. (J.W.M.)