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138CE

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§Roman Empire

January 1 - Lucius Ceionius Commodus, adopted heir of Hadrian dies of poor health.

February 25 — Roman emperor Hadrian adopts Antoninus Pius. Hadrian required Antoninus to adopt both Lucius Ceionius Commodus (son of the deceased Aelius Caesar) and Marcus Annius Verus (who was the grandson of an influential senator of the same name who had been Hadrian’s close friend; Annius was already betrothed to Aelius Caesar’s daughter Ceionia Fabia). Hadrian’s precise intentions in this arrangement are debatable. Though the consensus is that he wanted Annius Verus (who would later become the Emperor Marcus Aurelius) to succeed Antoninus, it has also been argued that he actually intended Ceionius Commodus, the son of his own adopted son, to succeed, but was constrained to show favour simultaneously to Annius Verus because of his strong connections to the Hispano-Narbonensian nexus of senatorial families of which Hadrian himself was a part. It may well not have been Hadrian, but rather Antoninus Pius — who was Annius Verus’s uncle – who advanced the latter to the principal position. The fact that Annius would divorce Ceionia Fabia and re-marry to Antoninus' daughter Annia Faustina points in the same direction. When he eventually became Emperor, Marcus Aurelius would co-opt Ceionius Commodus as his co-Emperor (under the name of Lucius Verus) on his own initiative.

The ancient sources present Hadrian's last few years as marked by conflict and unhappiness. The adoption of Aelius Caesar proved unpopular, not least with Hadrian's brother-in-law Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus and Servianus' grandson Gnaeus Pedanius Fuscus Salinator. Servianus, though now far too old, had stood in line of succession at the beginning of the reign; Fuscus is said to have had designs on the imperial power for himself, and in 137 he may have attempted a coup in which his grandfather was implicated. Whatever the truth, Hadrian ordered that both be put to death. Servianus is reported to have prayed before his execution that Hadrian would "long for death but be unable to die". The prayer was fulfilled; as Hadrian suffered from his final, protracted illness, he had to be prevented from suicide on several occasions.

Hadrian died on the tenth day of July, in his villa at Baiae at age 62. The cause of death is believed to have been heart failure. Dio Cassius and the Historia Augusta record details of his failing health, and a study published in 1980 drew attention to classical sculptures of Hadrian that show he had diagonal earlobe creases – a characteristic associated with coronary heart disease.

On Hadrian's death, the Senate, which had been stripped of power during his reign, refuses to deify him. Some speak of declaring him a tyrant, cancelling his acts.

July 10 — Antoninus Pius succeeds Hadrian as Roman emperor. His reign is notable for the peaceful state of the Empire, with no major revolts or military incursions during this time, and for his governing without ever leaving Italy. A successful military campaign in southern Scotland early in his reign resulted in the construction of the Antonine Wall. Antoninus was an effective administrator, leaving his successors a large surplus in the treasury, expanding free access to drinking water throughout the Empire, encouraging legal conformity, and facilitating the enfranchisement of freed slaves

Construction begins on the Theater of Philadelphia (Amman).

§Births

  • Han Zhidi, emperor of the Han Dynasty (d. 146)

§Deaths

  • January 1 - Lucius Ceionius Commodus
  • July 10 — Hadrian, Roman emperor (at Baiae)
  • Zenobius, Greek sophist who taught rhetoric at Rome

§Sources

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Page last modified on February 24, 2018, at 12:23 PM