Matriculation #: 090003153AN2002prowess as a key Roman virtue. This is expressed by Aelius Spartianus whodescribes Hadrian’s tactic as a spiritless abandonment of land Romans hadfought long and hard to conquer.
Hadrian is often portrayed in sources as anadmirer of the arts, not a military man, engaged in all sorts of ‘trivial pursuits’.
We know however through an inscription found in Athens from the year 112 BCdescribing his
, that Hadrian had a long military career behindhim, having been stationed at different levels of command on the Eastern andDanubian frontier, and as such his decisions were driven by a pragmaticapproach to the existing problems rather than the cowardice or lack of militaryinterests attributed to him.
Hadrian’s goal was, as Appian would write, ‘to preserve’ the Empire ‘byprudence rather than extend the Empire indefinitely among wild tribes who arepoverty-stricken and unprofitable’.
This strategy of strengthening the Empirefrom within was continued during his first major tour of the Empire when hevisited the Western provinces. These were not merely touristic visits for Hadrian;he had a distinct goal, namely the consolidation of the Western
and theinspection of the army. Between 121 and 123 AD he set out to strengthen thefrontier systems: creating a wooden palisade of stakes at the Rhine in Germany,building a monumental stone wall and a series of forts along the Tyne-Solwayisthmus in Northern-Britain, as well as putting down a rebellion in Mauretania (anarea later reinforced by the
begun in his 128 AD visit). Thesegreat military structures were not merely defence systems from which the armycould guard the terrain against potential enemies, they also functioned ascontrol posts for traffic and trade and to symbolize the extent of Roman power tothose within and outside the Empire. Thus he unified the peoples within theEmpire by deliberately setting them apart from the foreigners just beyond theEmpire’s limits. This retreat from a policy of conquest to one of defence andsecurity could also be seen as a means for harking back to the first Principate. Thus Hadrian was able to legitimize his rule, the dubious conditions of which stillleft some members of the upper class unconvinced, by promoting himself as asecond Augustus.
Historia Augusta Hadrian 9
Cassius Dio Roman History 3.2
CIL III, 550 = InscrAtt 3 = IG II, 3286 = Dessau 308 = IDRE 2, 365
Le Glay, Voisin & Le Bohec (1996): 330