120 A.D. Roman Empire Silver Denarius, Emperor Hadrian (r. 117-138 A.D.). Light wear and a strong strike. Well-centered obverse, slightly off-center reverse. Dark, glossy toning on obverse and light pastel toning on reverse. 18mm diameter, 3.4g weight, silver.
Considered by many historians one of the “Five Good Emperors,” Hadrian was a military leader and politician during the reign of his predecessor Trajan. While on his deathbed Trajan adopted Hadrian as his heir, possibly due to the interceding of his wife, a close friend of Hadrian’s.
Hadrian’s reign was largely marked by peace throughout the Empire. He abandoned some of Trajan’s more indefensible military conquests, and built a notable wall along the northern border of the Empire in Britain. Hadrian was the first emperor to spend most of his time outside of Rome, traveling through the Empire. He brought a large team of architects and builders with him and initiated significant infrastructural improvements in many of the places he visited, along with large investments and patronage of the arts and academics.
Hadrian had a particular passion for Greek culture (and Greek men), and his thick beard broke with the Roman tradition of clean-shaven men. He was openly homosexual, which was less of an objection for his subjects than was his beard. Shortly before he died of heart failure, Hadrian adopted future emperor Antoninus Pius on the condition that Pius adopt (i.e. make heir) future emperors Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius. He thus ensured a stable succession and relative peace for 50 more years, until the reign of Commodus.
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