This sculpture of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (born AD 76, died AD 138), was probably inspired by an original antique bust now in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. From AD 117 to his death, Hadrian ruled an empire that stretched from Scotland to the Sahara. The presence of a full beard on this bust makes it easier to identify as Hadrian. He was the first Roman Emperor to wear a full beard. It is thought that this was a mark of his devotion to Greek art and culture. The breastplate that he wears has lions heads on the shoulders. Lions are often used as a symbol of strength.
Hadrian married Vibia Sabina in about AD 100. However, we know from ancient sources that he also had several relationships with other men. Hadrian spent much of the early years as Emperor touring his vast empire. It was during these travels that he met the beautiful youth, Antinous and became enamored with him. Antinous became his beloved and accompanied him on his travels. Hadrian visited Egypt in AD 130, along with both his wife and Antinous, and embarked on a voyage up the River Nile. On 24 October Antinous drowned in the river. It lead to a public outpouring of grief on the part of Hadrian.