Empire and Conflict

24 July – 27 October 2008

Exhibition closed

This special exhibition explores the life, love and legacy of Rome’s most enigmatic emperor, Hadrian (reigned AD 117–138).

Ruling an empire that comprised much of Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, Hadrian was a capable and, at times, ruthless military leader. He realigned borders and quashed revolt, stabilising a territory critically overstretched by his predecessor, Trajan.

Hadrian had a great passion for architecture and Greek culture. His extensive building programme included the Pantheon in Rome, his villa in Tivoli and the city of Antinoopolis, which he founded and named after his male lover Antinous.

This unprecedented exhibition provides fresh insight into the sharp contradictions of Hadrian’s character and challenges faced during his reign.

Objects from 28 museums worldwide and finds from recent excavations are shown together for the first time to reassess his legacy, which remains strikingly relevant today.

Read the full press release 

Highlights from the exhibition

Hadrian: Building the wall

More video

Watch Hadrian: The power of image on YouTube 

See items related to this exhibition in the British Museum shop online