Following Hadrian

Published by Headline Review on 7th April 2003

Hadrian, the great, but flawed, Roman Emperor, was an inveterate traveller, intellectual and patron of the arts. He was determined to make his mark on posterity and left an unparalleled legacy of beautiful new cities and buildings throughout his vast empire and, of course, in Rome. Much of his inspiring architecture remains for today’s travellers to marvel at, although some has disappeared without trace and is now the stuff of legend.

But Hadrian was also melancholy, volatile and utterly ruthless. He treated his wife with contempt and devoted himself to a beautiful boy whose sinister death, while they travelled in Egypt, plunged Hadrian into despair; it changed his personality forever and affected his ability to rule. Within two years, the man who had been one of the most peace-loving of emperors plunged his empire into a terrible, ill-judged three-year was against Judea.

Classicist Elizabeth Speller tells the story of the most powerful man on earth in the early second century against a background of his travels and intrigues. This was a man who had commissioned a dazzling construction programme, from Hadrian’s Wall in Britain and the extraordinary Pantheon in Rome to his nine hundred room villa at Tivoli, works which represented the central themes of his rule; military domination, religious tolerance and an extravagent lifestyle.

Soundly based on original sources and archaeology, this compelling book throws new light on Hadrian and the Roman Empire of the second century.