When Hadrian Ruled the World


ENIGMA: Hadrian deified his lover Antinous in exquisite sculptures but as a ruler he was capable of great brutality

When the Roman emperor Hadrian ascended to power in A.D. 117, he inherited a state in crisis. Trajan, his predecessor, had stretched the Roman Empire to its furthest reaches through aggressive military campaigns, sparking rebellions from Britain to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Once installed as ruler, Hadrian reversed the expansionist trend and withdrew troops from what is now Iraq. Thorsten Opper, a curator of Greek and Roman antiquities at the British Museum, says Hadrian realized then what coalition forces realize now: that it's easier to control territory through a friendly, well-functioning government than through occupation.


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