Hadrian - Early Life

Early Life

Hadrian was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus in Italica, or in Rome, from a well-established family which had originated in Picenum in Italy and had subsequently settled in Italica, Hispania Baetica (the republican Hispania Ulterior), near the present-day location of Seville, Spain.

Although it was an accepted part of Hadrian's personal history that he was born in Spain, his biography in Augustan History states that he was born in Rome on 24 January AD 76, of a family originally Italian, but which had lived in Spain for many generations. However, this may be a ruse to make Hadrian look like a person from Rome instead of a person hailing from the provinces. His father was Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, who as a senator of praetorian rank would spend much of his time in Rome.

Hadrian's forefathers came from Hadria, modern Atri, an ancient town of Picenum in Italy, but the family had settled in Italica in Hispania Baetica soon after its founding by Scipio Africanus. Afer was a paternal cousin of the future Emperor Trajan. His mother was Domitia Paulina who came from Gades (Cádiz). Paulina was a daughter of a distinguished Spanish-Roman Senatorial family.

Hadrian’s elder sister and only sibling was Aelia Domitia Paulina, married with the triple consul Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus, his niece was Julia Serviana Paulina and his great-nephew was Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator, from Barcino (Barcelona). His parents died in 86 when Hadrian was ten, and the boy then became a ward of both Trajan and Publius Acilius Attianus (who was later Trajan’s Praetorian Prefect). Hadrian was schooled in various subjects particular to young aristocrats of the day, and was so fond of learning Greek literature that he was nicknamed Graeculus ("Greekling").

Hadrian visited Italica when (or never left it until) he was 14 years old, when he was recalled by Trajan, who thereafter looked after his development. He never returned to Italica although it was later made a colonia in his honour.

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