HADRIAN'S Early life

HADRIAN'S Early life

Hadrian's biography in Augustan History states that Hadrian was born in Rome on 24 January 76 of a family originally Italian, but Hispanian for many generations. However, this may be made up so Hadrian would look like a pure-bred Roman instead of being from the provinces. His father was the Hispano-Roman Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, who as a senator of praetorian rank would spend much of his time in Rome.

Hadrian’s forefathers came from Hadria, modern Atri, an ancient town of Picenum in Italy, but the family had settled in Italica in Hispania Baetica soon after its founding by Scipio Africanus. Afer was a paternal cousin of the future Emperor Trajan. His mother was Domitia Paulina who came from Gades (Cádiz).

Paulina was a daughter of a distinguished Hispano-Roman Senatorial family.
Hadrian’s elder sister and only sibling was Aelia Domitia Paulina, married with the triple consul Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus, his niece was Julia Serviana Paulina and his great-nephew was Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator, from Barcino. His parents died in 86 when Hadrian was ten, and the boy then became a ward of both Trajan and Publius Acilius Attianus (who was later Trajan’s Praetorian Prefect). Hadrian was schooled in various subjects particular to young aristocrats of the day, and was so fond of learning Greek literature that he was nicknamed Graeculus.
Hadrian visited Italica when he was 14, when he was recalled by Trajan who thereafter looked after his development. He never returned to Italica although it was later made a colonia in his honour. His first military service was as a tribune of the Legio II Adiutrix. Later, he was to be transferred to the Legio I Minervia in Germany. When Nerva died in 98, Hadrian rushed to inform Trajan personally. He later became legate of a legion in Upper Pannonia and eventually governor of said province. He was also archon in Athens for a brief time, and was elected an Athenian citizen.

Hadrian's career before becoming emperor follows:
- decemvir stlitibus iudicandis
- sevir turmae equitum Romanorum
- praefectus Urbi feriarum Latinarum
- tribunus militum legionis II Adiutricis Piae Fidelis
- tribunus militum legionis V Macedonicae (96, in Moesia Inferior)
- tribunus militum legionis XXII Primigeniae Piae Fidelis (97, in Germania Superior)
- quaestor (101)
- ab actis senatus
- tribunus plebis (105) - praetor (106)
- legatus legionis I Minerviae Piae Fidelis (106, in Germania Inferior)
- legatus Augusti pro praetore Pannoniae Inferioris (107)
- consul suffectus (108)
- septemvir epulonum (before 112)
- sodalis Augustalis (before 112)
- archon Athenis (112/13)
- legatus Syriae (117).

Hadrian was active in the wars against the Dacians (as legate of the V Macedonica) and reputedly won awards from Trajan for his successes. Due to an absence of military action in his reign, Hadrian's military skill is not well attested; however, his keen interest and knowledge of the army and his demonstrated skill of administration show possible strategic talent.

Hadrian joined Trajan's expedition against Parthia as a legate on Trajan’s staff. Neither during the initial victorious phase, nor during the second phase of the war when rebellion swept Mesopotamia did Hadrian do anything of note. However when the governor of Syria had to be sent to sort out renewed troubles in Dacia, Hadrian was appointed as a replacement, giving him an independent command. Trajan, seriously ill by that time, decided to return to Rome while Hadrian remained in Syria to guard the Roman rear. Trajan only got as far as Selinus before he became too ill to go further. While Hadrian may have been the obvious choice as successor, he had never been adopted as Trajan's heir. As Trajan lay dying, nursed by his wife, Plotina (a supporter of Hadrian), he at last adopted Hadrian as heir. Since the document was signed by Plotina, it has been suggested that Trajan may have already been dead.


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