ROME-FROM NERVA TO ANTONINUS.
prudence, and devotion to the interests of the state. His liberality and
generous conduct well deserved the fame which was accorded to him by his
own and after times, and his title of the Best was a not undeserved
recognition of his great merits as a ruler.
The Empire passed peaceably to Publius Aelius Hadrianus, commonly called
Hadrian. He was a son of the late Emperor's cousin, and the favorite of the
Empress Plotina, through whose influence he was preferred as the heir and
successor of her husband. People and Senate readily accepted the choice,
though there had been much expectancy that the lot would fall on Lusius
Quietus, the ablest of Trajan's generals. In the mean time the body of the
dead Emperor was brought home from the East and deposited under the
beautiful column, bearing his name.
At the time of his election to the throne Hadrian was with the army in
Asia. Less ambitious and perhaps more wise than his predecessor, he
determined to withdraw his forces from the fields of recent conquest and
revive the policy of Augustus. For some time he was occupied in the
settlement of affairs according to his notions of what was demanded by the
interests of the state, and then in 117 repaired to Rome, where he was
received with great enthusiasm.
The beginning of the new reign was auspicious. The popularity of the
monarch was enhanced by a remission of tribute, and by the modesty of the
pretensions of the prince. He had on the whole greater abilities and
acquirements than any of his predecessors since Julius Caesar. His activity
was tireless and wisely directed. He traversed all parts of the Empire, and
left behind him the tokens of his good will in the shape of public
buildings and improvements. Meanwhile the conquests of the late Emperor
began to bear their legitimate fruits in the hostility of the barbarians.
On the frontiers of the Dacian province, so lately wrested from savagery,
the nomads of Sarmatia made daring incursions, which were stayed rather by
gifts and subsidies than by the terror of the Roman arms. In order to
repress these dangerous movements Hadrian began an expedition into the
disturbed region, but hardly had he left the capital when a conspiracy was
formed against him by some disaffected senators and he was obliged to
suppress the plot by force. The legions were soon afterwards recalled, and
the wave of barbarism rolled hitherward again to the banks of the Danube.
Even the bridge of Severin was broken down lest the hordes beyond should
precipitate themselves into the Empire.
As soon as tranquillity was restored at the capital the Emperor set out for
Britain. In the north of that island the Caledonians were making havoc
along the frontier established by Agricola. To plant a barrier against the
encroachments of this warlike people Hadrian built a wall across the
country from the Tyne to the Solway firth. The seat of government was
transferred to Eburacum, the modern York, and additional fortresses were
built for the protection of the border. Having accomplished these works in
Britain the Emperor next proceeded into Gaul and Spain. He then visited
Africa, and finally repaired to Asia. There he compelled Chosroes in a
personal interview to pledge himself that his acts of hostility and
intriguing schemes should end forever. Hadrian then returned to Athens,
which even yet was in some sense the mistress of the human mind. Afterwards
we find him at the capital, enjoying for a season the applause of the
Senate and people. Again he made a tour of the East, going by way of Athens
to Antioch and Alexandria, where he arrived in A. D. 131.
At this epoch a revolt of the Jews broke out with great violence. One might