The 3 Reasons Why Emperor Hadrian Abandoned Mesopotamia

Date117 AD
Further ReadingEmperor Hadrian: 3 Ways He Changed Roman Culture Forever

Emperor Trajan would pass away in 117 AD after having successfully established the Roman province of Mesopotamia. Trajan’s successor Hadrian would begin to evacuate and abandon the province of Mesopotamia later that same year. Here are the 3 reasons why Emperor Hadrian made the decision to abandon the province of Mesopotamia.

Hadrian decided to abandon the province of Mesopotamia for 3 reasons. First, the province held little economic value to Rome. Second, defending the province would prove to be extremely costly. Third, Hadrian preferred to build up defensive fortifications and have buffer client kingdoms to protect Roman territory.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 reasons why Emperor Hadrian decided to abandon the province of Mesopotamia.

Reason 1.) The Province Of Mesopotamia Held Little Economic Value To Rome

One of the main reasons that Hadrian evacuated and abandoned the province of Mesopotamia was because it provided little economic value to Rome.

Historians have theorized that one of the main reasons that Trajan invaded the Parthian empire to take Mesopotamia was to create a road to control trade between the far east and Rome.

However, Trajan would die before he could finish his campaign. While the road was finished there was no way of protecting it from raids. As such there was no economic reason for Hadrian to control the province of Mesopotamia.

Trade between Parthia, India, and Rome was poorly documented. Modern historians theorize that perhaps there was no direct control over the trade routes. Trajan here could have been attempting to obtain direct control over this valuable trade by creating the province of Mesopotamia.

However, since Trajan would die before fully completing his military campaign it’s doubtful that Mesopotamia would have been a province worth keeping for Hadrian. It simply did not have enough resources, population, or trade to warrant its protection.

As such one of the main reasons why Emperor Hadrian abandoned Mesopotamia was because it provided little economic value to Rome.

Reason 2.) Mesopotamia Was Too Costly To Defend

Another reason why Emperor Hadrian abandoned the province of Mesopotamia was because it was simply too costly to defend.

At its peak the province of Mesopotamia would extend for thousands of miles and have little defense fortifications. This would mean that in order to defend such a large expanse of land it would take multiple legions.

Normally these legions would be drawn up from Auxiliaries around the Roman Empire and sent to Mesopotamia. These legions would then be cared for by the local population who would give food and other essentials.

This provided a problem. There was not a large enough population in Mesopotamia to support the necessary amount of legions it would take to adequately defend it.

Further, because Trajan failed to completely conquer the Parthian Empire there was still an active conflict in the region. This would have made Hadrian have to commit substantial amounts of resources to both fight for and defend Mesopotamia.

As such one of the main reasons that Hadrian abandoned the province of Mesopotamia was because it simply was too costly to defend.

Reason 3.) Hadrian Preferred To Use Client Kingdoms And Build Up Defensive Fortifications

The third reason why Hadrian decided to abandon the province of Mesopotamia was because he believed in using a combination of client kingdoms and defense fortifications to protect Rome.

Emperor Trajan believed that the best form of defense for Rome was to attack her enemies. Hadrian on the other hand believed that a slow war of attrition and defense was the proper way to go.

During the reign of Hadrian several large scale fortifications would be built around the Roman Empire. The most famous of these that survives is Hadrian’s Wall in modern Britain. This defensive wall still stands and is 73 miles long! It served to protect the Roman lands to the south.

Back in Mesopotamia such a defensive structure could not be built easily. This was because Mesopotamia was essentially a river valley that could be attacked on 2 of the 4 sides. Unless Hadrian controlled everything around Mesopotamia it would be almost impossible to defend it.

So, Hadrian would abandon Mesopotamia. Trajan installed a client ruler named Parthamaspates of Parthia. This ruler would take over the province of Mesopotamia and attempt to defend it. However, this would prove disastrous and it took less than a year for the Parthian empire to retake the land.

Hadrian would take Parthamaspates who just lost Mesopotamia and install him as a co-ruler of Osroene. This was another buffer kingdom between the Parthian Empire and Roman territory.

As such one of the main reasons that Hadrian abandoned the province of Mesopetamia was because he favored building heavily fortified defenses to protect Roman land and use client kingdoms as buffer states.

Conclusion

There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 3 reasons why Emperor Hadrian abandoned Mesopotamia.

The Roman east remains a fascinating subject of research. To this day we are constantly discovering several new primary sources that help shed light on the events between the years of 200 BC to 500 AD.

Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the internet.

Further, you can check out some of the other articles below.

Sincerely,

Nick