10 August 117 - 10 July 138
Adrian (Hadrian), who was nephew to Trajan, was adopted to succeed him in the empire, and elected by all orders of the state, though absent from Rome, being then at Antioch, as general of the forces in the East. After his election, Adrian began to pursue a course quite opposite to that of his predecessor, taking every method of declining war, and promoting the arts of peace. He was quite satisfied with preserving the ancient limits of the empire, and seemed no way ambitious of extensive conquest.
Adrian was scarce settled on the throne, when several of the northern barbarians began to make devastations in the provinces. These hardy nations, who now found the way to conquer, by issuing from their forests, and then retiring upon the approach of a superior force, began to be truly formidable to Rome.
Adrian had thought of contracting the limits of the empire by giving up some of the most remote and least defensible provinces; but in this he was overruled by his friends. But though he complied with their remonstrances, he broke down the bridge over the Danube, sensible that the same passage which was open to him, was equally so to his barbarian neighbors.
Having stayed a short time at Rome, he prepared to visit his whole empire. It was one of his maxims, that an emperor ought to imitate the sun, which diffused warmth and vigor over all parts of the earth. He took with him a splendid court, and entered the province of Gaul where he numbered all the inhabitants.
From Gaul he went into Germany, Holland and Britain, reforming many abuses, and reconciling the natives to the Romans. He built a wall of wood and earth, extending from the river Eden in Cumberland, to the Tyne in North umberland, to prevent the incursions of the Picts, and other barbarous nations of the north.
From Britain, returning through Gaul, he directed his journey into Spain: from Spain he returned to Rome to prepare for his journey into the East, which was hastened by a new invasion of the Parthians.
His approach compelling the enemy to peace, he pursued his travels without molestation. Arriving in Asia Minor, he visited Athens. There he was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries, which were accounted most sacred in the mythology, and took upon him the office of archon, or chief magistrate of the place. Here he remitted the severity of the Christian persecution at the representation of Granianus the proconsul of Asia, who represented the people of that persuasion as no way culpable.
He was so far reconciled to them as to think of receiving Christ among the number of the gods.
After a winter's continuance at Athens, he went over into Sicily, and visited AEtna and other curiosities. Returning to Rome, he prepared ships, and crossed over into Africa. There he spent much time in regulating abuses, and reforming the government; in deciding controversies, and erecting magnificent buildings.
Among the rest, he ordered Carthage to be rebuilt, calling it after his own name, Adrianople. Again returning to Rome, where he staid but a short time, he travelled again into Greece, passed over into Asia Minor; from thence he went into Syria, gave laws and instructions to all the neighboring kings, whom he invited to come and consult with him; he then entered Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt, where he caused Pompey's tomb, that had been long neglected, and almost covered with sand, to be renewed and beautified.
Adrian gave orders for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which was performed with great expedition by the assistance of the Jews, who now began to conceive hopes of being restored to their long lost kingdom. But these expectations served only to aggravate their calamities; for being incensed at the privileges which were granted to the Pagan worshippers in their new city, they fell upon the Romans and Christians that were dispersed throughout Judea, and unmercifully put them all to the sword.
Adrian was at Alhens when this dangerous insurrection began. Sending a powerful body of men, under the command of Julius Severus, against them, this general obtained many signal, though bloody victories over the insurgents. The war was concluded, in two years, by the demolition of above a thousand of their best towns, and the destruction of near 600000 men in battle. He then banished all who remained, out of Judea; and by a public decree, forbade any to come within view of their native soil.
This insurrection was soon after followed by a dangerous irruption of the barbarous nations in the north; who, entering Media with great fury, and passing through Armenia, carried their devastations as far as Cappadocia. Adrian, preferring peace, upon any terms, to an unprofitable war, bought them off for large sums of money; so that they returned peaceably into their native wilds, to enjoy their plunder, and meditate fresh invasions.
Adrian, having spent thirteen years in travelling through his dominions, and reforming the abuses of the empire, resolved to return, and end all his fatigues at Rome. But at last, finding the duties of his station daily increasing, and his own strength proportionably upon the decline, he determined to adopt a successor. Marcus Antoninus, afterwards surnamed the Pious, was the one selected; but he was obliged to adopt two others, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, all of whom afterwards succeeded in the empire. Adrian died in the 62d year of his age, after a prosperous reign of nearly 22 years.
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