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    Hadrian: The Restless Wanderer

    Hadrian (AD 117-138). Orichalcum sestertius (26.76 gm).
    Rome, AD 120-122. IMP CAESAR TRAIAN HADRIA-NVS AVG P M TR P COS II, laureate "heroic" bust of Hadrian right, seen from front, drapery on far shoulder / PIETAS AVGVSTI S C, Pietas standing right, dropping incense into flaming altar. RIC 582b. Hill 251. Exceptionally detailed strike. With a choice glossy black patina. Choice extremely fine.

    From the Rubicon Collection. Ex Tkalec AG 9 (9 May 2005), lot 278.

    The reign of Publius Aelius Hadrianus did much to transform the Roman Empire from a supreme city imposing its will on subject peoples into a true commonwealth of nations. Hadrian's family was of Spanish origin, although he was probably born in Rome in AD 76. He was the son of a distinguished senator and related through his mother to the future Emperor Trajan, who took him into his household when Hadrian was nine years old. He received an excellent education, developing a strong attachment for Greek culture and literature, and served a military apprenticeship on the Danubian frontier. After Trajan's accession, Hadrian held a series of civilian posts, including a consulship in AD 108, and commanded legions during the Dacian and Parthian wars. In AD 100 he married Trajan's niece Sabina, a match probably arranged by the Empress Plotina. As the protégé of the emperor, Hadrian seemed marked out for the succession, but he was not formally adopted until Trajan lay on his deathbed in August, AD 117. The transition proved rough, and four distinguished ex-consuls were summarily executed for plotting a coup. Relations with the Senate remained strained throughout the reign. Hadrian abandoned many of Trajan's over-ambitious conquests and engaged in a policy of peace abroad and reform at home. He never felt comfortable in Rome and spent most of his 21-year reign traveling, eventually visiting every province of the Roman Empire. He honored the unique ethnicity and cultural identify of each place he visited, but also made sure the legions were maintained in a high state of readiness. His building projects were many and long-lasting, including Hadrian's Wall in northern Britain and the Pantheon in Rome. He fostered a new appreciation for the Greek classics and, under his patronage, Roman art and sculpture reached its creative peak. Drama filled his personal life; he and Sabina were frequently at odds and his strong attachment to a beautiful Bithynian boy, Antinous, provoked no end of gossip. The boy's drowning death on a barge trip down the Nile in AD 130 plunged Hadrian into extravagant grief. A serious revolt in Judaea two years later further darkened Hadrian's waning years. His first choice for the succession, Aelius Caesar, died of consumption shortly after being named, but Hadrian rebounded by appointing the respected senator Antoninus Pius as Caesar and, in turn, arranging for him to adopt the young Marcus Aurelius, thus ensuring the Empire would be in good hands for two generations. Further executions were needed to ensure these arrangements and Hadrian died in January, AD 138 "hated by all," according to one biographer. The judgment of history has been far different, ranking him among Rome's greatest rulers.


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    Auction Dates
    September, 2011
    7th-12th Wednesday-Monday
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