• Imagining History

Emperor Hadrian - Who was he?



Emperor Hadrian is most famous for building his wall; he was a pretty unoriginal chap, and rather than calling it ‘The Wall of Doom’ or ‘The Wall to end all Walls’, he instead opted to egotistically name it after himself. So, ‘Hadrian’s Wall’ then. He didn’t actually build the wall himself however, that would be silly. Instead he had an army of thousands of legionaries construct it for him. It took them some six years to do so, the wall eventually being completed - probably - in 128 AD. We say probably as historians and archaeologist are still debating the exact date.


So who was Emperor Hadrian? He was born in 76 AD and became Roman Emperor in 117 AD and reigned for a fairly lengthy 11 years. He is considered one of the five ‘good emperors’. When you take into account that there were hundreds of Roman Emperors; only having five decent ones isn’t anything to crow about. Also, when the comparison is sociopaths and psychopaths like Emperor Nero, Caligula and Commodus, surely anyone looks good?


Hadrian loved to travel and spent much of his time as Emperor touring his Empire. He was popular with the people; he cut taxes, put on gladiatorial games, donated money, led the construction of ambitious building projects, and made many improvements to the way things were run.


Though being a Roman, Hadrian didn't hesitate to get stuck into warfare and wiping out rebellions. Over half a million Jews were said to have been killed in the Jewish Revolt. The reason the revolt occurred? Historians opinions vary, but it could have been because Hadrian wanted to build a shrine to honour Jupiter on the site of an important Jewish temple. The resulting war lasted for three years.


Hadrian, like all Roman Emperors, was capable of great acts of kindness and foresight as well as ruling with a brutal iron fist when necessary.



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