Lucius Aelius Caesar (January 13, 101 – January 1, 138) became the adopted son and intended successor, of Roman Emperor Hadrian (January 24, 76 – July 10, 138), but never attained the throne.
Aelius was born with the name Lucius Ceionius Commodus, and later called Lucius Aelius Caesar. He was of the gens Ceionia. His father Lucius Ceionius Commodus (the author of the Augustan History adds the cognomen Verus) was consul in 106 and his paternal grandfather of the same name was consul in 78. His paternal ancestors were from Etruria and were of consular rank. His mother was a Roman woman called Aelia or Fundania Plautia. Augustan History states that his maternal grandfather and his maternal ancestors were of consular rank. He is often mistakenly referred to as Lucius Aelius Verus, though this name is not attested outside the Augustan History and probably arose as a manuscript error.
Before 130, Aelius married Avidia Plautia, a well-connected Roman Noblewoman who was the daughter of the Roman Senator Gaius Avidius Nigrinus. Plautia bore Aelius, two sons and two daughters, who were:
- Lucius Verus – born as Lucius Ceionius Commodus. He would rule as co-Roman Emperor with Marcus Aurelius from 161 until his death in 169. Lucius Verus would marry Lucilla, the second daughter of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger.
- Gaius Avidius Ceionius Commodus – he is known from an inscription found in Rome.
- Ceionia Fabia – she was in 136 engaged to Marcus Aurelius. In 138, when Marcus Aurelius was adopted by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius, Aurelius ended his engagement to Fabia. Aurelius became engaged to Antoninus Pius’ daughter Faustina the Younger, whom he later married.
- Ceionia Plautia
Aelius was adopted by an aging and ailing Hadrian in 136 and named successor to the throne, although he had no military experience; he had served as a senator. He had powerful political connections, but was in poor health. His tastes were luxurious and his life extravagant. He is said to have had Ovid's erotic poetry and "a book about Apicius" (presumably Apion's On the Luxury of Apicius) as bedside reading, and to have personally invented the luxury dish tetrapharmacum.
Aelius himself was never to become emperor, dying shortly before Hadrian. After Aelius' death, Hadrian adopted Antoninus Pius (September 19, 86 – March 7, 161) on the condition that Antoninus Pius adopt the younger Lucius Verus (properly called Lucius Ceionius Commodus the Younger; he did not take the cognomen Verus until his accession after the death of Pius) and Hadrian's great-nephew by marriage, Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121 – March 17, 180). Marcus Aurelius later co-ruled with Lucius Verus as joint Roman Emperors, until Lucius Verus died in 169. After Marcus Aurelius was sole ruler until his own death in 180. Aelius is a major character in Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian.
Read more about Lucius Aelius: Nerva–Antonine Family Tree
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