Hadrian – the rise to power
Publius Aelius Hadrianus (AD 76 – 138), or Hadrian as we know him, inherited control of the Roman Empire in AD 117. He was 41 and had been named as the successor to the previous emperor, Trajan who had been his guardian.
The families of both men were from Italica in Roman Spain. This city had been founded in 209 BC by the Roman general Scipio Africanus as a settlement for wounded or retired Roman soldiers. Hadrian’s and Trajan’s ancestors were probably among them.
In Hadrian’s time, much of the olive oil supplied to the city of Rome came from this part of Spain. It was a key commodity in the Roman world and the empire could not function without it. The landowning elites of this region grew rich from the export of oil and other produce. With this great wealth came political influence in Rome itself, and these families had formed a close-knit, new elite. Hadrian’s family was part of this new elite.
When Hadrian was nine years old, in AD 85, his father died and Trajan, his father’s cousin, became one Hadrian’s guardians. Hadrian’s life was transformed when Trajan became emperor in AD 98. He married Trajan’s great-niece Sabina in AD 100 and became even more closely linked to the emperor’s family.
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