Emperor Hadrian withdrew troops from Iraq

This video is about Emperor Hadrian, and the wall he built in the north of England.

From British weekly Socialist Worker:

Hadrian and the limits of empire

The brutality of the Roman Empire led ordinary people to fight back. Neil Faulkner looks at how resistance to the empire shaped Hadrian’s rule

Insurrection in the cities of Iraq. Mass resistance across Palestine. Foreign troops bogged down and facing defeat. A crisis for western imperialism in the Middle East.

This may sound like a description of the world today. But the date was 117 AD and the policies of bull-headed Roman emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) had set the region alight.

Trajan had first brought carnage and chaos to Dacia (ancient Romania), when he crushed the independent kingdom on Rome’s northern border, plundered its bullion reserves, took half a million slaves and replaced native farmers with colonial settlers.

Romania is “the land of the Romans” and Romanian is a form of Latin because Trajan’s policy of ethnic cleansing 2,000 years ago was so thorough.

Dizzy with success, he then went for Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), which was the main tax base of the sprawling Parthian Empire at the time. Mesopotamia was among the oldest, richest and most heavily populated centres of civilisation in the world.

But the Parthians were stunned by the Roman blitzkrieg and melted away. Within three years Trajan’s 130,000 strong army had reached the Persian Gulf and he appeared to be a world-conquering colossus – a new Alexander the Great.

Then the Middle East exploded. The people of the occupied cities turned on their Roman garrisons and massacred them. The Parthian Army swept down from the eastern uplands and cut the long Roman supply line to Syria.

Deep in the rear – in Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, and Palestine – the Jewish peasantry rose in revolt against Greek landlords, Roman tax-collectors, and local puppet-rulers.

As news of the debacle spread, the European heartlands of the empire came under attack and Trajan hurried home. He died en route and the succession passed to his second in command – Hadrian.

Hadrian was a highly intelligent and far-sighted member of the Roman ruling class. The revolt in Iraq taught him three lessons that he never forgot.

First, the Roman army could be defeated. Second, the empire was over-extended and risked further defeats if it failed to retrench. Third, such defeats could spark a tidal wave of resistance that might bring down the entire system.

It is surely not a coincidence that the British Museum has chosen Hadrian as the subject of its major exhibition this year. His achievement was to manage the greatest U-turn in Roman history and end a centuries-old policy of aggressive, predatory, expansionary imperialism. And defeat in Iraq was the catalyst.

Persian king Cambyses’ lost army in Egypt: here. And here.

5 thoughts on “Emperor Hadrian withdrew troops from Iraq

  1. 2009-05-08 16:50
    Tivoli fetes its ancient past
    Show in Hadrian’s villa gathers new archaeological finds
    (ANSA) – Rome, May 8 – A new exhibition celebrates the Ancient Roman incarnation of the modern town of Tivoli, through a host of archaeological finds on public display for the first time.

    Staged in the archaeological complex of the Villa Adriana – the 2nd-century palace built by the Emperor Hadrian – the exhibition spotlights the town’s rise to prominence in the Roman Empire, with a particular focus on the palace. Hundreds of finds have been unearthed in Tivoli, once Tibur, over decades of excavations but a large number of these have been kept in storage or shipped to museums around the country. The new exhibition offers visitors to the complex the first opportunity to admire many of these artefacts in context. On show in the artificial grotto of Conopus, the event boasts an array of items reflecting different aspects of Ancient Roman life. ”No one piece stands out among the finds on show,” explained Lazio Archaeological Superintendent Marina Sapelli Ragni.

    ”Instead we have tried to select a range of pieces that convey an overall sense of the wealth and magnificence of Hadrian’s Villa”.

    Architectural decorations from the palace point to its original elegance and luxury. Three exquisitely detailed sculptures of Hercules on display, relatively recent finds from one of the shrines on the site, are thought to be Roman copies of Greek originals. A section of a large-scale relief provides visitors with an image of Hadrian but there are also epigraphs and marble sculptures of other Roman emperors. Located about 30 kilometres outside Rome, the town played a key role in diplomatic and trade relations between the peoples of Latium and the Italic tribe of the Sabines. Once the two sides reached peace in 338 BC, Tibur became part of the Roman world.

    It fared well for the next 300 years but only came truly into its own towards the end of the Roman Republic.

    As the Empire flourished, Tibur’s political weight and economic importance grew, and scores of Roman nobles began settling in the area. According to Sapelli Ragni, aristocrats built at least 300 houses in the town, ranging from rustic villas to sumptuous palaces. The Emperor Hadrian’s decision to build his own palace in Tibur was the culmination of this trend.

    Work began there in 118 AD and continued for many years, eventually producing a sprawling complex of 30 buildings stretching for over a kilometre. Hadrian reportedly had a low opinion of the traditional imperial palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome and although the Tibur villa was originally designed as an occasional retreat, the emperor eventually lived there permanently. The Imperial court transferred to Tibur, from where Hadrian governed the empire, connected by a postal service to Rome. Although some of Hadrian’s successors used the villa, it eventually fell into disuse.

    Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este sealed the fate of the complex in the 16th century, when he scavenged much of the marble and statues to decorate his own luxurious villa, today famous for its fountains.


  2. Lighting the way

    Sunday 14 March 2010

    Hadrian’s Wall was lit from end to end at the weekend by a team of 500 volunteers holding flaming torches.

    The “line of light” followed an 84-mile national walking trail that shadows the route of the Roman wall spanning northern England.

    Volunteers with gas-powered beacons stood 820ft a part, with the line of light lasting for about 30 minutes.

    The spectacle marked British Tourism Week.

    The first torch was lit at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend, North Tyneside, and the final beacon was ignited at Bowness-on-Solway, on Cumbria’s west coast.



  3. Pingback: Industrial revolution in Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Glass in antiquity. Exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Ancient Mesopotamia, video | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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