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Hadrian, The imperial palace, Tivoli

Hadrian built himself a vast palace in the countryside, the villa Adriana in Tivoli about 30 kilometres east of Rome. It was a huge complex, designed to accommodate thousands of people. It was his administrative capital and represents his empire in miniature. British Museum Director Neil MacGregor visits. © Trustees of the British Museum. Created by British Museum.

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Video transcript

Almost immediately after becoming emperor Hadrian made plans for an imperial villa in the countryside about thirty kilometres east of Rome The scale of the villa is staggering the grounds accessible today cover some ninety acres but the estate was probably three times that We are sitting in one of the most beautiful spots of the villa Adriannna in Tivoli but the word villa doesn't really give a proper impression of what Tivoli is because it's really the summer administration centre for the whole of the Empire It's a huge complex designed to accommodate thousands of people not juts the emperor and his court but all the officials, the administrators, the army and of course the servants and the slaves needed to keep this whole town going And it gives us a sense of how Hadrian thought of himself as the emperor He's building the great centre here in Rome In fact he was of course very little in Rome he's travelling the frontiers of the Empire he's in north of England supervising the building of the wall he's in Syria, he's in Africa, he's on the Danube, he's on the Nile but unlike Trajan who was constantly expanding, Hadrian is consolidating And one of the ways to consolidate is by making this great administrative capital the villa Adrianna, here in Tivoli He brings elements of the Empire back to the villa here in Tivoli creating not only an alternative seat of government but also the empire in miniature When this pool was excavated there were statues found of the Tiber and the Nile and of the crocodile but also statues of Greek gods and goddeses Greece and Egypt, the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean brought together here in Tivoli into this landcsape It is one of Hadrian's great achievements, both as a ruler, as a propagandist for empire and also as an organiser of spaces which are very very pleasing to be in