He’s a widely admired Roman emperor, but somewhere between antiquity and 2009, he shed his H.
Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting the Name of the Day: Hadrian.
Hadrian is the ancient equivalent of Brooklyn – a place name. The Roman Hadrianus referred to the Etruscan port city of Atria. Dig a little deeper, and the city’s name comes from either the Latin adjective atra – black, dark – or the Illyrian adur – water. Atria, in turn, gave its name to the Adriatic sea.
Publius Aelius Hadrianus became Roman Emperor in the second century. While the imperial line was often handed from father to son, Hadrian was the third of the “Five Good Emperors” – a succession of men of aristocratic birth, but chosen for their leadership qualities.
The British Museum recently mounted an exhibit about his accomplishments. An adept military strategist, Hadrian preferred to avoid conflict. You can still see the remains of Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England. Not only did wall-building help control the empire’s vast borders, it allowed the Romans to collect tax.
Hadrian was a Renaissance man – centuries before the concept existed. He wrote poetry, studied architecture and even set style trends – he brought beards into vogue.
Given his success, it isn’t surprising that his name survived. But early on, Hadrian dropped his H – and became Adrian. As Adrian, he was in use through the Middle Ages. Six Popes have worn the name.
In fact, Adrian is currently at his most popular worldwide. In the US, he comes in at #61. Internationally, Adrian is a Top Ten pick in Spain, Top Twenty in Norway and Top 100 in Sweden. He’s also a traditional favorite in Romania.
Hadrian has never cracked the US Top 1000. Combing the historical record for Hadrians turns up very few bearers of the name. James I of England tapped theologian Hadrian Saravia to edit the King James Version of the Bible.
However, some Hadrians have become Adrians over time. A Catholic saint from the 300s is recorded as both – though he’s officially Adrian in the church records.
Proving that even manufacturers of the mundane have a sense of humor, the Hadrian corporation produces partition walls for public restrooms.
On balance, Hadrian seems like an appealing choice for a child’s name. The only hazard is that you may find yourself correcting others constantly. With more than 7,500 Adrians born in the US alone last year, odds are that you’ll have to insist on the H.
But with Adriana, Adrianna and Adrienne all in the Top 1000 for girls, Hadrian sounds a smidge more distinctive. Plus, it’s easy to imagine a girl called Adrian – along with her sisters Ryan and Dylan. Hadrian is clearly a name for a boy.