24 July - 26 October 2008

Hadrian: Exhibition overview

This special exhibition explores the life, love and legacy
of Rome’s most enigmatic emperor, Hadrian (reigned
AD 117–138).

Ruling an empire that comprised much of Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, Hadrian was a capable and, at times, ruthless military leader. He realigned borders and quashed revolt, stabilising a territory critically overstretched by his predecessor, Trajan.

Hadrian had a great passion for architecture and Greek culture. His extensive building programme included the Pantheon in Rome, his villa in Tivoli and the city of Antinoopolis, which he founded and named after his male lover Antinous.

This unprecedented exhibition provides fresh insight into the sharp contradictions of Hadrian’s character and challenges faced during his reign.

Objects from 28 museums worldwide and finds from recent excavations are shown together for the first time to reassess his legacy, which remains strikingly relevant today.

Loan objects

The objects borrowed for the exhibition Hadrian: Empire and Conflict (Until 26 October 2008) will be recommended for protection under Part 6 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (protection of cultural objects on loan). 

Marble bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian wearing military dress. From Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, c. AD 118–130 © Trustees of the British Museum

Marble bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian wearing military dress. From Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli, Lazio, Italy, c. AD 118–130
© Trustees of the British Museum