Publius Acilius Attianus

Publius Acilius Attianus
Allegiance Roman Empire
Years of service ??119
Rank Praetorian prefect
Commands held Praetorian Guard

Publius Acilius Attianus (1st 2nd century AD) was a powerful Roman official who played a significant, though obscured, role in the transfer of power from Trajan to Hadrian.


He was born in Italica, Hispania Baetica, which was also the birthplace of Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, the emperor Hadrian’s father. When Afer died about 86, Attianus and the future Emperor Trajan (another native of Italica) became the ten-year-old Hadrian’s guardians. Otherwise nothing is known of Attianus’s early career, but towards the end of Trajan’s reign he was joint Praetorian Prefect with Servius Sulpicius Similis for colleague. While Similis remained at Rome, Attianus accompanied the Emperor on campaign in the East.

On the death of Trajan

It is rumoured that Attianus and the Empress Plotina had been lovers, with both being mutually fond of Hadrian their ward, and that this was part of how Hadrian became Emperor: Attianus and Plotina were both present at Trajan’s deathbed at Selinus in Cilicia in August 117, and the two helped secure Hadrian's succession by forging Trajan’s will.[1] Along with Plotina and Matidia, Attianus accompanied Trajan’s body to Seleucia and his ashes to Rome.

During Hadrian's reign

Early in Hadrian's reign, Attianus counselled the emperor on his accession against various possible opponents, and, according to Hadrian’s lost autobiography, was responsible for the murder of the ‘four consulars’ whose deaths were an early stain on his reign. However, the new emperor resented Attianus’s power, and, in 119, induced him to request to be relieved of the post of Praetorian Prefect. Attianus was given senatorial rank and the ornamenta consularia on his retirement, but nothing more is heard of him past that point.

Nerva–Antonine family tree


  1. Simon Hornblower and Anthony Spawforth-E.A. (edd.), Oxford Classical Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2003, p. 1214.

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