Hadrian, in Pictures

Meet Emperor Hadrian


He was Emperor of the Roman Empire in the 2nd Century AD, about 50 years and several emperors after Nero. He got to be Emperor thanks to the machinations of the previous Emperor’s wife, who said that her husband Trajan named Hadrian his heir and made it stick.

He was the first Emperor to sport a beard. The style stuck, and soon lots of Emperors would wear beards, and nobles looking to copy the Emperor, too.

If you know the name Hadrian, its probably “Hadrian’s Wall”, in Northern England. He was the builder sort of person, interested in architecture, building, culture rather than war.

This is Sabina, Hadrian’s Wife.


Poor Sabina’s bed was pretty cold at nights. You see, Hadrian wasn’t big on women. Instead, he fell in love with a young man named Antinous


Hadrian loved to travel, and took Antinous throughout the Empire with him. Hadrian visited every province of the Empire from England to Syria. However, tragically, in Egypt, Antinous died, drowned. Why? We don’t know. Lover’s quarrel? Suicide? Human sacrifice? We just don’t know. We do know Hadrian didn’t take it well, and got real reclusive in his later years. He didn’t go cuckoo for cocoa puffs like Caligula or Nero, thankfully. But he did have lots of statues to Antinous made, and made him a god, too. In fact, except for Emperor Augustus (you know, the first Emperor), we have more busts and statues of Antinous than anyone else in the Roman world. As I said, Hadrian took his lover’s death real hard.

But even when he wasn’t traveling, Hadrian mostly stayed out of Rome. In fact, he had a big palace built outside of Rome, and made people come to *him*. Hadrian’s Villa, in Tivoli:



Besides his Villa, and the Wall, Hadrian is most famous for the most intact building of the Ancient World—the Pantheon. It was designed to be a temple to *all* the gods of the Roman world. It’s a domed structure, and the secret of just how the Romans built it got lost in the Dark Ages. No one really attempted something like this for a thousand years.

Inside is spectacular. It became a church in the 4th Century AD, which is why it survived. It’s still a working church.


As all men must do, Hadrian eventually died. They built a quite large tomb for him right in Rome. That tomb didn’t remain a tomb, however, as Popes took it over and made it into a fortress, and renamed it the Castel San Angelo.


There isn’t much about Hadrian in the tomb itself, but the views from the Fortress over the city of Rome are pretty spectacular. I think Hadrian, the building Emperor, would have been pleased. That’s the dome of St. Peter’s church in the Vatican you can see, there.

Tune in next time for more from Rome.