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Following Hadrian

A Second-Century Journey through the Roman Empire

Elizabeth Speller

Publication Date - October 2004

ISBN: 9780195176131

361 pages
5-5/16 x 8 inches

In Stock

A vividly written, profoundly insightful biography of one of the most brilliant of Roman emperors, and the most flawed of human beings


One of the greatest--and most enigmatic--Roman emperors, Hadrian stabilized the imperial borders, established peace throughout the empire, patronized the arts, and built an architectural legacy that lasts to this day: the great villa at Tivoli, the domed wonder of the Pantheon, and the eponymous wall that stretches across Britain. Yet the story of his reign is also a tale of intrigue, domestic discord, and murder.
In Following Hadrian, Elizabeth Speller captures the fascinating life of Hadrian, ruler of the most powerful empire on earth at the peak of its glory. Speller displays a superb gift for narrative as she traces the intrigue of Hadrian's rise: his calculated marriage to Emperor Trajan's closest female relative, a woman he privately tormented; Trajan's suspicious deathbed adoption of Hadrian as his heir, a stroke some thought to be a post-mortem forgery; and the ensuing slaughter of potential rivals by an ally of Hadrian's. Speller makes brilliant use of her sources, vividly depicting Hadrian's bouts of melancholy, his intellectual passions, his love for a beautiful boy (whose death sent him into a spiral), and the paradox of his general policies of peace and religious tolerance even as he conducted a bitter, three-year war with Judea.
Most important, the author captures the emperor as both a builder and an inveterate traveler, guiding readers on a grand tour of the Roman Empire at the moment of its greatest extent and accomplishment, from the barren, windswept frontiers of Britain to the teeming streets of Antioch, from the dangers of the German forest to the urban splendor of Rome itself.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Speller is a freelance writer and lecturer. Long fascinated with the ancient world, she has pursued this interest in both undergraduate and graduate work in the classics at Cambridge University as well as in independent research. She wrote the libretto to "Farewell," which was commissioned by Paul McCartney to commemorate his late wife Linda. She lives in the U.K.


"Wonderful and entrancing...Anyone interested in the ancient world will want to read this book."--Literary Review

"A clear-headed and accessible narrative of Hadrian's wandering reign, informed and enlivened by some of the best modern work on the politics of the Roman Empire--which she manages to cast much more elegantly than most professional ancient historians themselves."--Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement

"A pleasing introduction to the ancient world."--Publishers Weekly

"Cambridge-educated classicist Speller's first book, which is part biography and part travelog, examines the many facets of Hadrian's personality. What results is a fascinating and learned account of both his life and the ancient world during his supremacy. Hadrian was a 'passionate and incessant traveler' who, amazingly, spent half his reign abroad. Naturally, the book focuses on his travels, with particular emphasis on his sojourn in Egypt. The most famous attributes of his personality are also explored, such as his love of all things Greek, his tragic homosexual relationship with the young Antonius, his alleged anti-Semitism, and his architectural achievements...Lively and interesting."--Library Journal

"An engaging, thoughtful, knowledgeable and fascinating essay on Roman history, as well as a perceptive exploration of the Roman empire of the second century CE...Speller has chosen a subject that well repays the kind of personal, psychological investigation she undertakes...She skillfully synthesizes the appropriate scholarship and ancient sources to weave together an enthralling and informative narrative."--Mary T. Boatwright, author of Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire and Hadrian and the City of Rome

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