We The Italians | Great Italians of the past: Emperor Adriano

Great Italians of the past: Emperor Adriano

Great Italians of the past: Emperor Adriano

  • WTI Magazine #93 Jul 14, 2017
  • 168

Although probably born in present-day Spain (but soon of Roman citizenship, according to the law of that time), Publius Elio Traiano Adriano, historically known with the only name of Adriano, is considered an absolute symbol of the grandeur of Rome.

Witness and protagonist of one of the most eminent ages of the Roman Empire, Adriano is still remembered in the whole world as a leader blessed with tolerance, openness, great consideration for art and philosophy.

Born in 76 AD, Adriano lost his parents at the age of nine. It was Trajan, the future emperor, to take care of him as if he were his own son.

When then Emperor Nerva chose Trajan as his successor, the doors of the Empire opened to Adriano, who saw his career cast for successes and roles of great importance.

There are several theories on the appointment of Adriano as Emperor. One of this indicates in Plotina, Trajan's wife, the one behind a nomination that was not supported by the Senate. However, it seems difficult, according to many scholars, that Plotina alone could have orchestrated the appointment of her adoptive son without the consent of the other Emperor's offices. Anyway, the matter was resolved with the acclamation of Emperor Adriano by the army in 117 AD.

The character of Adriano's policy was a profound tolerance. The Emperor promoted legislative reform to ease the position of slaves, who were in inhumane situations when there was a crime against their master. Even Christians had policies of greater tolerance than Adriano's predecessors.

In 122 AD, the Emperor responded to a request from a consul on how to behave towards Christians, emphasizing the need to take them to trial only when dealing with actual judicial proceedings and not on the basis of general accusations.

Adriano also ruled for the reform of the Editorial Praxis, an exposition of general legal principles that each magistrate would enunciate at the time of his settlement. With the reform, entrusted to a great jurist of the time, Salvio Giuliano, the edict was codified and made perpetual.

But the biggest internal reform was that regarding the public administration. Adriano was able to carry out a profound and radical intervention on the administrative structures of the empire, a result of a new overall vision of the public dimension.

The power went largely to the class of the knights, assigned to administrative branches divided into subjects: finance, justice, financial heritage, general accounting and so on. Even more important is that Adriano made public administration more stable and less dependent on the changes associated with the emperors' changeover.

Adriano also thought he would best protect the interests of the state with the establishment of the "advocatus fisci", a kind of state law advocacy that would defend the interests of public finances.

As soon as his power was sufficiently consolidated, unlike other emperors who had never left Rome, Adriano undertook a series of trips throughout the Empire, through which he did not only deal with border-bound issues but also Administrative requirements, public buildings and, more generally, improvements in the standard of living of the provinces.

A great witness to the importance of culture and the promotion of the arts, Adriano himself was an intellectual: he was a true admirer of painting, poetry and literature.

During his time, Adriano obviously witnessed the construction of his beautiful Villa in Tivoli, but also the reconstruction of the Pantheon after the 80 AD fire that destroyed it. He also wanted the building of the Temple of Venus, in the Roman Forum, the largest known temple of ancient Rome.

Adriano died of natural death at the age of 62. Even today his travels, his politics and his intellectual passions make him one of the most loved Roman emperors.