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Hadrian Set to Conquer London, Again

Author: mpressman  |  Category: Destinations
Published: September 6, 2008

Roman Emperor Hadrian was a complex character. He once agonised at length whether grass felt pain when it was cut, but on the other hand he was quite happy to order the slaughter of men, women and children in their thousands without a second thought.

Totally ruthless, yet paradoxically incredibly cultured, Hadrian ruled the Roman Empire from AD117 to AD138, and is most famous in Britain for the wall, built in his name, that separated ancient Scotland from England and marked the northern boundary of the Empire. After succeeding Emperor Trajan, Spanish-born Hadrian went on to galvanise and stabilise a fractured Empire and spent many years of his reign engaged in travels; quashing rebellion throughout his Kingdom.

Now, some fascinating aspects of and artefacts from Hadrian’s life can be examined at close quarters at the British Museum’s exhibition entitled ‘Hadrian: Empire and Conflict’. Exhibits on display include statues and busts featuring Hadrian and Trajan, amongst others and tablets from the ancient Roman settlement of Vindolanda, which was located in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England.

The height of Hadrian’s extravagance was the construction of his ostentatious Adriana villa at Tivoli, which when complete was almost two-thirds the size of the city of Rome. Exhibits are also on display from the villa and include a fabulously preserved marble bust in which the Emperor is depicted wearing his commander-in-chief uniform. Such is the detail on this bust that it clearly shows deep creases in each of Hadrian’s earlobes, which are now thought to be a clear indication of coronary heart disease. Although, there is no evidence that Hadrian’s demise was indeed related to heart disease, it is an interesting insight into the man and also into the level of detail that Roman craftsmen went to accurately portray their subjects.

Other artefacts on display include a gold coin featuring the head of Hadrian which was minted in AD 138 after his death by his successor Antonius Pious. Despite initial opposition from the senate, who had come to despise Hadrian, Pius managed to persuade them to make the dead emperor a god and the coin celebrates that deification. However, one of Hadrian’s finest accomplishments will not be coming to the exhibition. The remarkable Pantheon in Rome, which still stands today was commissioned by Hadrian and is his enduring legacy in a city over which he once ruled.

Such is the interest in the exhibition that hotels in London – especially those in the vicinity of the British Museum – are expecting to welcome many guests specifically in town for this exhibition.

Indeed, some London hotels are offering special weekend breaks with tickets to the exhibition included. But, whether staying in accommodation, or just popping into London for a day, a visit to the Hadrian exhibition should not be missed by anyone who professes to have a keen interest in ancient Roman culture.

Disclaimer: Matthew Pressman writes for a wide variety of commercial clients. This article is intended for information purposes only and readers should seek additional information before taking any actions based on its content.

Author: mpressman

Matthew Pressman writes for a wide variety of commercial clients. This article is intended for information purposes only and readers should seek additional information before taking any actions based on its content.

This author has published 47 articles so far.

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