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Hadrian: the Emperor who loved peace.

[Video] From Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, Italy

Dear Classical Wisdom Kids,

We seem to be a bit on a Hadrian kick of late… Indeed, we left Hadrian’s Villa for Hadrian’s Gate (more to come on that!) just this week. And it won’t be our last ‘Hadrian’ destination on this trip either.

But who WAS Hadrian? Was he a good emperor? A bad one? Or a complex character that has forever left his mark in history?

Either way, his name is written on great monuments all over the region and for that alone, he is well worth our attention… so please enjoy today’s article (with printables and activities for members below - including a fun geography project) on the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

PLUS: A great go-further section outlining all the works Hadrian built, restored or was named after…


All the best,
Anya Leonard

Founder and Director
Classical Wisdom and Classical Wisdom Kids

Enjoy bringing the next level of Classics dedication to the kiddos. We have games, activities, printables and more to show just how AWESOME the Classics are!

Hadrian: the great Emperor who loved peace

By Ed Whelan

Hadrian is regarded as one of the greatest Roman Emperors. He ruled from 117 to 138 AD. He is considered to be great because he helped to bring peace and order to his lands. 

Though Hadrian was born in Rome, his wealthy family were from Spain.  His parents died when he was twelve. One of Hadrian’s guardians was his cousin Trajan, who sent him to Rome to study. Hadrian was a great student and loved poetry and the arts, but many thought he spent too much time hunting. Like other rich young men, Hadrian served in the legions after finishing school.

Hadrian (source)

The previous emperor Trajan was a great general and conquered many new lands in Dacia (Romania), and the Middle East. When Trajan died, he adopted Hadrian and made him the new ruler. As Emperor, Hadrian was faced with many problems. 

Trajan had conquered too many lands and the legions could not control them all. There were rebellions everywhere and people became poor. Hadrian decided that the Empire needed peace. He was aware that the Empire had too many enemies. Rome would no longer seek new lands but hold on to what it had. 

Therefore, he ended the war with the Parthian King as well as the Jewish Revolt. He then stopped the rebellion in Britain

Next, Hadrian built forts and walls to defend the Roman provinces. He ordered a long wall to be built to keep the tribes from what is now Scotland out of Roman lands. Hadrian’s Wall can still be seen in Northern England. 

Hadrian's Wall. (2023, June 8). In Wikipedia.

Hadrian was very concerned with the provinces and spent 12 years of his 18-year reign traveling through his Empire. He visited most of the Empire and made sure that the government was working. Hadrian was unlike other rulers because he wanted to see how people lived outside the great city of Rome. 

Because of his hard work, Hadrian brought peace to the Empire. The people were happy that there was no more war. Even so, Hadrian did not get along with the Senate, and many saw him as a tyrant

Hadrian was a lover of the arts and wrote poetry. Hadrian not only built walls and forts. He would make the plans for buildings he built in Rome and other cities. In Rome itself, he rebuilt the Pantheon and constructed the vast Temple of Venus and Roma. In Egypt, he may have rebuilt the Serapeum of Alexandria

He loved Greece and its ways of life and wore his hair in the Greek style. He loved Athens and visited it three times as Emperor. He finished the great Temple of Zeus in the city that had been started many centuries earlier. People gave him a nickname because of his love of Greece and he was known as the ‘Greekling’. 

The emperor helped poets, writers, and others and this led to a flowering of art and writing. 

Ruins of temple built by Hadrian (source)

He ruled a world where slavery was not seen as something bad, but Hadrian tried to protect slaves from their cruel masters.

The emperor knew he had to be followed by another great ruler, but he had no children. He decided that Antoninus Pius was a good man to rule after him. This was because he would follow Hadrian’s plan for peace. Hadrian made Pius adopt a member of his family, a boy called Marcus Aurelius. He too would be a great ruler. In this way, Hadrian  provided for the future peace of Rome, which was what he always wanted.

Hadrian was not popular in Rome and in his last years he was very sick. He passed away in Italy (138 AD). 

Hadrian, unlike others, loved peace above war and because of this, he is considered one of the “Five Good Emperors.”


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