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History of the Christian Church, Volume II: Ante-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 100-325.
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§ 18. Hadrian. a.d. 117–138.



Hadrian, of Spanish descent, a relative of Trajan, and adopted by him on his death-bed, was a man of brilliant talents and careful education, a scholar an artist, a legislator and administrator, and altogether one of the ablest among the Roman emperors, but of very doubtful morality, governed by changing moods, attracted in opposite directions, and at last lost in self-contradictions and utter disgust of life. His mausoleum (Moles Hadriani) still adorns, as the castle of Sant’ Angelo, the bridge of the Tiber in Rome. He is represented both as a friend and foe of the church. He was devoted to the religion of the state, bitterly opposed to Judaism, indifferent to Christianity, from ignorance of it. He insulted the Jews and the Christians alike by erecting temples of Jupiter and Venus over the site of the temple and the supposed spot of the crucifixion. He is said to have directed the Asiatic proconsul to check the popular fury against the Christians, and to punish only those who should be, by an orderly judicial process, convicted of transgression of the laws.3232    The rescript of Hadrian to Minucius Fundanus (124 or 128), preserved by Eusebius in a Greek translation, (H. H. E., IV. V. 8, 9), is almost an edict of toleration, and hence doubted by Baur, Keim, Aubé, but defended as genuine by Neander (I. 101, Engl. ed.), Wieseler, Funk, Renan (l.c. p. 32 sqq). Renan represents Hadrian as a rieur spirituel, un Lucian couronné prenat le monde comme un jeu frivole (p. 6), and therefore more favorable to religious liberty than the serious Trajan and the pious Antoninius and Marcus Aurelius. But Friedländer (III. 492) accepts the report of Pausanias that Hadrian was zealously devoted to the worship of the gods. Keim regards him as a visionary and hostile to Christianity as well as to Judaism.1 But no doubt he regarded, like Trajan, the mere profession of Christianity itself such a transgression.

The Christian apologies, which took their rise under this emperor, indicate a very bitter public sentiment against the Christians, and a critical condition of the church. The least encouragement from Hadrian would have brought on a bloody persecution. Quadratus and Aristides addressed their pleas for their fellow-Christians to him, we do not know with what effect.

Later tradition assigns to his reign the martyrdom of St. Eustachius, St. Symphorosa and her seven sons, of the Roman bishops Alexander and Telesphorus, and others whose names are scarcely known, and whose chronology is more than doubtful.



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