Whether he was born in Rome, Italy or near the present-day location of Seville, Spain the 14th emperor of the Roman Empire came from Roman aristocracy, his forefathers among the first settlers of Hispania Baetica after its founding by Scipio Africanus, while more immediately a father who held the rank of a praetorian senator and cousin of the future thirteenth emperor Trajan who would take a ten year old Hadrian in as a ward after his parents death in 86 CE. Once of age he like many of his countrymen joined the legions and even served for two years as an archon in Athens managing in that short time to be elected an Athenian citizen. Interestingly while Hadrian may have been the obvious choice as successor, then Emperor Trajan would wait until his deathbed before adopting him as his heir. During his reign (117 – 138 CE) Emperor Hadrian managed to travel to nearly all of the empire’s provinces but most admired Greece having long revered the Greeks and their culture earning the nickname “Greekling” as a boy for his love of Greek literature, sought to restore Athens still extensively damaged by the sacking it had endured two hundred years earlier and become the cultural capital of the Roman Empire.
Ordering a massive public works program the city underwent eight years of construction while the Parthenon and the Olympieion were rebuilt. In response to his generosity the Arch of Hadrian was erected over an ancient road that stretched from the centre of the city to the eastern side of Athens bearing an inscription naming the emperor a founder of Athens.