Meet Hadrian…

Posted on January 14th, 2008 by

from an article on a new exhibition:

After being made emperor AD117, he inherited a Roman Empire in its prime, which had thrived on a policy of endless expansion and conquest.

His first move, within hours of coronation, was to withdraw his troops from Mesopotamia, now Iraq, and fortify the empire’s boundaries by building his eponymous wall in northern England and others in the Danube and the Rhine valleys, ushering in a new era of peace. The reign that followed can be traced through 200 ancient treasures, many of which have never been display in Britain.

The emperor’s sexuality was by no means the only unusual aspect of his reign. The decision to pull his troops out of Mesopotamia might have been frowned upon in an empire that had built its might on a bellicose foreign policy, but Hadrian’s charisma won over the masses.

Mr Opper said there were similarities between second-century Mesopotamia and present-day Iraq, with the Roman occupiers finding themselves in a hotbed of violence and resistance.

“We must not mistake [Hadrian’s] motives for pulling his troops out of Mesopotamia,” Mr Opper said. “He didn’t really have a choice. It had just been conquered by his predecessor and there was a lot of guerrilla warfare, which is eerily just like modern times. What he did was give the empire breathing space and while he was a very experienced military leader, we also get the impression he was very cultured and he fostered Greek identity and made them partners in leadership.”

For anyone interested in reading up further on Hadrian’s life and reign, Marguerite Yourcenar’s *Memoirs of Hadrian* is highly recommended.

(Thanks, Mark!)

 

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