Roman emperor (117-138). At the very beginning of his reign he was called upon to suppress the final outbreaks of Jewish rebellion at Cyrene and Alexandria. According to a late but trustworthy source, he is said to have enticed the Jews of Alexandria into the open country, where about 50,000 of them were killed by his soldiers (Eliyahu R. xxx. 3). Afterward he seems to have avoided conflict with the Jews and to have granted them certain privileges. The Jewish sibyl, in fact, praises him (Sibyllines, v. 248); and Jewish legend says that R. Joshua b. Hananiah was on friendly terms with him, and that Hadrian intended to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem (Gen. R. lxiv.). This agrees with the statement of Epiphanius ("De Mensuris et Ponderibus," § 14) that the emperor commissioned the proselyte Akylas (Aquila)—who, according to the rabbinical legend, was related to him—to supervise the building at Jerusalem, this of course referring to the city and not to the Temple. Other Christian sources, as Chrysostom, Cedrenus, and Nicephorus Callistus, say that the Jews had intended to build the Temple themselves; but a passagein the Epistle of Barnabas (xvi. 4)—though its interpretation is disputed among scholars—seems to indicate that the Jews expected the pagans to rebuild the Temple.
Scholars also differ as to the cause of the rebellion. According to Gregorovius (comp. Schlatter, "Die Tage Trajans und Hadrians," p. 2), "Palestinians instituted the kingdom of Jerusalem as a protection against the oppressions of Hadrian." Other scholars, however, say that the institution of the Messianic kingdom followed upon the rebuilding of the Temple. Even the ancient sources differ on this point. Thus, Spartianus ("Hadrianus," § 14) reports that the Jews rebelled because circumcision was interdicted; while the more reliable Dion Cassius says (lxix. 12) that Hadrian attempted to turn Jerusalem into a pagan city, which the Jews regarded as an abomination, and they therefore rebelled. It is possible that both of these measures were responsible for the rebellion; on the other hand, it is also possible that they were merely the consequences of it. Hadrian, who had a gentle disposition, was lauded throughout the great empire as a benefactor; he indeed so proved himself on his many journeys. Palestinian cities like Cæsarea, Tiberias, Gaza, and Petra owed much to him; and his presence in Judea in 130 is commemorated on coins with the inscription "Adventui Aug[usti] Judææ." He therefore could have had no intention of offending the Jews; but as a true Roman he believed only in the Roman "sacra" (Spartianus, l.c. § 22). It may have happened that in his zeal to rebuild destroyed cities he had disregarded the peculiarities of the Jews. The law against circumcision was founded on earlier Roman laws, and did not affect the Jews only. So long as the emperor was in Syria and Egypt the Jews remained quiet; but after his departure in 132 the rebellion under Bar Kokba broke out.
It seems that Hadrian himself remained in Judea until the rebellion had been put down (Darmesteter, in "R. E. J." i. 49 et seq.), and he may have mentioned the Jews in his autobiography, a point that Dion Cassius dwells upon; but he did not use the customary formula in his report to the Senate, that he and the army were well (Dion Cassius, l.c.), for the Roman army also was suffering. After the dearly bought victory in 135, Hadrian received for the second time the title of "imperator," as inscriptions show. Now only could he resume the building, on the ruins of Jerusalem, of the city Ælia Capitolina, called after him and dedicated to Jupiter Capitolinus. A series of magnificent edifices that Hadrian erected in Jerusalem are enumerated in a source that gathered its information probably from Julianus Africanus ("Chron. Paschale," ed. Dindorf, i. 474; "J. Q. R." xiv. 748). The temple of Jupiter towered on the site of the ancient Temple, with a statue of Hadrian in the interior (Jerome, Comm. on Isaiah ii. 9). The Jews now passed through a period of bitter persecution; Sabbaths, festivals, the study of the Torah, and circumcision were interdicted, and it seemed as if Hadrian desired to annihilate the Jewish people. His anger fell upon all the Jews of his empire, for he imposed upon them an oppressive poll-tax (Appian, "Syrian War," § 50). The persecution, however, did not last long, for Antoninus Pius revoked the cruel edicts.
After this the Jews did not hold Hadrian's memory in high honor; the Talmud and Midrash follow his name with the curse "Crush his bones." His reign is called the time of persecution and danger, and the blood of many martyrs is charged to his account. He is considered the type of a pagan king (Gen. R. lxiii. 7).
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 132-157;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 670-704, 781;
- Rapoport, Erech Millin, p. 17;
- Schlatter, Die Kirche Jerusalems vom Jahre 70-130, Gütersloh, 1898;
- Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, ii. 1, 476 et seq.;
- W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, pp. 320 et seq.;
- Schultze, in Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. 3d ed., vii. 315.