Hadrian : The Restless Emperor

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Hadrian's reign (AD 117-138) was a watershed in the history of the Roman Empire. Hadrian abandoned his predecessor Trajan's eastern conquests - Mesopotamia and Armenia - trimmed down the lands beyond the lower Danube, and constructed new demarcation lines in Germany, North Africa, and most famously Hadrian's Wall in Britain, to delimit the empire. The emperor Hadrian, a strange and baffling figure to his contemporaries, had a many-sided personality. Insatiably ambitious, and a passionate Philhellene, he promoted the 'Greek Renaissance' extravagantly. But his attempt to Hellenize the Jews, including the outlawing of circumcision, had disastrous consequences, and his 'Greek' love of the beautiful Bithynian boy Antinous ended in tragedy. No comprehensive account of Hadrian's life and reign has been attempted for over seventy years. In Hadrian: The Restless Emperor, Anthony Birley brings together the new evidence from inscriptions and papyri, and up-to-date and in-depth examination of the work of other scholars on aspects of Hadrian's reign and policies such as the Jewish war, the coinage, Hadrian's building programme in Rome, Athens and Tivoli, and his relationship with his favourite, Antinous, to provide a thorough and fascinating account of the private and public life of a man who, though hated when he died, left an indelible mark on the Roman Empire.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 420 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 33.02mm | 725.74g
  • Taylor & Francis Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 8 line figures, 38 b&w photographs
  • 041516544X
  • 9780415165440

Review quote

"Birley has...produced a volume rich in detail, imaginative in interpretation, sane and sensible in judgment."-"TheClassical Outlook "Birley has written the best biography of Hadrian to appear in English in 75 years and one likely to remain the standard treatment in any language for the foreseeable future.[This] is a clearly presented, judiciously argued, and interesting story of a man who saw himself as a second Augustus and Olympian Zeus.."-"Choice, May 1998 "Hadrian is a thorough and fascinating account of the life of a man who, though hated when he died, left an indelible mark on the Roman empire."-"Book Watch "An excellent, and long overdue, biography of one of the greatest and most accomplished of the Roman emperors."-"Kirkus Reviews "With meticulous scholarship, this balanced biography portrays a cultured tyrant who used his secret police to spy on friends and family as well as a restless traveler who spent half his reign touring his farflung provinces . . . will appeal to history buffs."-"Publishers Weeklyshow more

About Anthony R. Birley

Anthony R. Birley is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Dusseldorf. He was previously Professor of Ancient History at Manchester University. His previous books include three on Roman Britain as well as biographies of Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus.show more

Review Text

In the first scholarly biography of Hadrian (76-138 A.D.) since Bernard Henderson's 1923 work, German historian Birley examines the personal life and cultural and state achievements of the emperor who Hellenized and consolidated the Roman Empire. Drawing on the Historia Agusta and other Latin sources, Birley traces the life of Hadrian, a Roman of senatorial rank and Spanish origin whose career rose with that of his uncle Trajan. Trajan spent much of his time with his legions at the frontier, and Hadrian himself headed several legions. After Trajan became emperor, Hadrian assisted his uncle in the conquest of the Dacians, after which the Roman Empire expanded to its greatest breadth, and married Trajan's granddaughter, Vibia Sabina. Significantly for his future role as a promoter of Greek culture, Hadrian served as archon of Athens and was put in command of the army of Syria and adopted as Trajan's heir shortly before the emperor's death. Birley shows that Hadrian himself was both peripatetic and vigorous as ruler in consolidating his position around the empire, developing his eponymous wall in Britain, negotiating a peace with the Parthians, and putting down rebellions in Judaea (occasioned by his own unsuccessful attempt to Hellenize the Jews). Deeply interested in Greek architecture and culture, he became personally involved in massive building projects and wrote poetry, some of which has survived. Birley also traces Hadrian's celebrated homosexual relationship with the youth Antinous: When the boy died after falling into the Nile in 130 A.D., Hadrian became disconsolate. A person of mercurial character, he died after a long illness, hated by many but having left a remarkable stamp on the culture and character of the empire. An excellent, and long overdue, biography of one of the greatest and most accomplished of the Roman emperors. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Preface. List of illustrations. List of maps. Introduction: The Emperor Hadrian. 1. A Childhood in Flavian Rome 2. The Old Dominion 3. The Military Tribune 4. Principatus et Libertas 5. The Young General 6. Archon at Athens 7. The Parthian War 8. The New Ruler 9. Return to Rome 10. To the German Frontier 11. Hadrian's Wall 12. A New Augustus 13. Return to the East 14. A Summer in Asia 15. A Year in Greece 16. Pater Patriae 17. Africa 18. Hadrianus Olympius 19. Death in the Nile 20. Athens and Jerusalem 21. The Bitter End Epilogue: Animula Vagula Blandula Stemma. Abbreviations and Notes. Bibliography. Index: (Persons; Peoples & Places; Subject)show more