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The Life of Emperor Hadrian by Aelius Spartianus

Aelius Spartianus

The Life of Hadrian

Under Hadrian (r. 117-138 CE.) the Roman Empire reached its acme of prosperity. The Emperor, himself a man of remarkable and varied genius, although not always of just and even temperament, seemed anxious to conceal the real despotism of his government by the enlightened use of his power. No new conquests were made, but many internal reforms were executed. Hadrian also was a great traveler, and spent much of his reign going up and down his vast empire, heaping benefits upon the communities with which he sojourned.

In many places where he visited the frontiers, which were not separated from the Barbarians by rivers, Hadrian raised a kind of wall, by driving into the ground great piles. He set up a king over the Germans, and he quenched the seditious movements of the Moors, for which deed the Senate ordered thanksgivings to the Gods. A single interview was sufficient for Hadrian to stop a war with the Parthians that seemed to threaten. Then he sailed by way of Asia and the Islands to Achaia; and after the example of Hercules and Philip he was admitted to the Eleusinian mysteries. He bestowed many benefits upon the Athenians and presided at their games. It was noticed in Achaia, that though many persons with swords assisted at the religious ceremonies, nevertheless none of the suite of Hadrian came armed. He passed next into Sicily, where he ascended Mt. Aetna to see the sun rise, which seems there to form a bow of variegated colors. Next he went to Rome, and thence to Africa, where he heaped benefactions upon the province. Never did a Prince traverse over the Empire with such celerity!

After that, returning from Africa to Rome, he went quickly again to the East, and passing by way of Athens, he dedicated the public works which he had formerly commenced there; such as a temple to Jupiter the Olympian, and an altar upon which he bestowed his own name. In Cappadocia he took some slaves which he intended for camp service. He proffered his friendship to the princes and kings of the region, and he did the same to Chosroes, king of Parthia, to whom he returned the latter's daughter, who had been made captive by Trajan.

While traversing the provinces he punished according to their crimes the various governors and procurators; and did so with such severity that he seemed to actually stimulate their accusers. After having crossed Arabia, the Emperor came to Pelusium, where he erected a splendid monument to Pompey. While sailing on the Nile he lost his beloved favorite Antino, whom he mourned as over a woman. There are various stories about this young man. Some say he sacrificed himself to save Hadrian's life; others give widely differing accounts as to the Emperor's liking for him. The Greeks, with their sovereign's consent accorded the memory of Antino divine honors.

This ruler loved poetry, and cultivated carefully all branches of literature. He understood likewise arithmetic, geometry, and painting. He danced and sang extremely well, his bent for sensuous pleasure being extreme. He made many verses for his favorites, and wrote love poems. He handled weapons with much skill, and was a master of the military art. He also devoted some little time to the exercises of gladiators. Now severe, now merry, now voluptuous, now self-contained, now cruel, now merciful, this Emperor seemed never the same. He enriched his friends liberally, but finally growing suspicious of some put them to death or ruined them.

He enjoyed literary and philosophical discussions, but it was not safe to defeat him in them. Favorinus (a famous philosopher and orator), when his friends blamed him for surrendering to Hadrian's criticism as to his use of a word when he had good authority on his side, laughed and replied, "You can never persuade me, good friends, that the commander of thirty legions is not the best-qualified critic in the world!"

When he sat as judge he was aided not merely by his friends and his courtiers, but by many famous Jurisconsulti, all approved by the Senate. He enacted among other things that no one should destroy houses in one city to transport the materials to another city. He awarded to children of proscribed persons, a twelfth part of their father's estate. He did not admit accusations tor the crime of lese-majest He refused the bequests of persons whom he had not known, and did not accept those of personal acquaintances, if they had children. He enacted that whoever found a treasure on his own land should keep it. If one found treasure on the property of some one else, he could keep half---the rest went to the proprietor.

He took away the right of masters to kill their slaves, requiring that if the slaves deserved it, they should be condemned to death by the regular judges. He abolished the special dungeons for slaves and freedmen. Also, hereafter, not all the slaves of a master who was murdered in his home by a slave were to suffer death as formerly, but only those within reach of his outcries.

Hadrian had also a most agreeable style of conversation, even towards persons of decidedly humble rank. He hated those who seemed to envy him this natural pleasure, under pretext of causing "the Majesty of the Throne" to be respected. At the Museum of Alexandria he proposed many questions to the professors there, and satisfied himself as to the facts. He had a remarkable memory, and great talents (for oratory), preparing his own orations and responses without aid of a secretary. He had a great faculty for remembering names without prompting; it was enough to have met persons once, he could then even aid the nomenclators if they made a mistake. He remembered all the old veterans whom he had pensioned off. He wrote, dictated, heard others, and conversed with his friends; and all at the same time!


From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West, pp.??

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.

Emperor Hadrian

I. The original home of the family of the Emperor Hadrian was Picenum, the later, Spain; for Hadrian himself relates in his autobiography that his forefathers came from Hadria, but settled in Italica in the time of the Scipios. The father of Hadrian was Aelius Hadrianus, surnamed Afer, a cousin of the Emperor Trajan; his mother was Domitia Paulina, a native of Cadiz; his sister was Paulina, the wife of Servianus, his wife was Sabina, and his great-grandfather's grandfather was Marullinus, the first of his family to be a Roman senator.

Hadrian was born on the ninth day before the Kalends of February in the seventh consulship of Vespasian and the fifth of Titus. Bereft of his father at the age of ten, he became the ward of Ulpius Trajanus, his cousin, then of praetorian rank, but afterwards emperor, and of Caelius Attianus, a knight. He then grew rather deeply devoted to Greek studies, to which his natural tastes inclined so much that some called him "Greekling."

II. He returned to his native city in his fifteenth year and at once entered military service, but was so fond of hunting that he incurred criticism for it, and for this reason Trajan recalled him from Italica. Thenceforth he was treated by Trajan as his own son, and not long afterwards was made one of the ten judges of the inheritance-court, and, later, tribune of the Second Legion, the Adjutrix. After this, when Domitian's principate was drawing to a close, he was transferred to the province of Lower Moesia. There, it is said, he heard from an astrologer the same prediction of his future power which had been made, as he already knew, by his great-uncle, Aelius Hadrianus, a master of astrology. When Trajan was adopted by Nerva, Hadrian was sent to convey to him the army's congratulations and was at once transferred to Upper Germany. When Nerva died, he wished to be the first to bring the news to Trajan, but as he was hastening to meet him he was detained by his brother-in-law, Servianus, the same man who had revealed Hadrian's extravagance and indebtedness and thus stirred Trajan's anger against him. He was further delayed by the fact that his travelling-carriage had been designedly broken, but he nevertheless proceeded on foot and anticipated Servianus' personal messenger. And now he became a favourite of Trajan's, and yet, owing to the activity of the guardians of certain boys whom Trajan loved ardently, he was not free from . . . which Gallus fostered. Indeed, at this time he was even anxious about the Emperor's attitude towards him, and consulted the Vergilian oracle. This was the lot given out:

But who is yonder man, by olive wreath / Distinguished, who the sacred vessel bears? / I see a hoary head and beard. Behold / The Roman King whose laws shall establish Rome / Anew, from tiny Cures' humble land / Called to a mighty realm. Then shall arise ...

Others, however, declare that this prophecy came to him from the Sybilline Verses. Moreover, he received a further intimation of his subsequent power, in a response which issued from the temple of Jupiter at Nicephorium and has been quoted by Apollonius of Syria, the Platonist. Finally, through the good offices of Sura, he was instantly restored to a friendship with Trajan that was closer than ever, and he took to wife the daughter of the Emperor's sister -- a marriage advocated by Plotina, but, according to Marius Maximus, little desired by Trajan himself.

III. He held the quaestorship in the fourth consulship of Trajan and in the first of Articuleius, and while holding this office he read a speech of the Emperor's to the senate and provoked a laugh by his somewhat provincial accent. He thereupon gave attention to the study of Latin until he attained the utmost proficiency and fluency. After his quaestorship he served as curator of the acts of the senate, and later accompanied Trajan in the Dacian war on terms of considerable intimacy, seeing, indeed, that falling in with Trajan's habits, as he says himself, he partook freely of wine, and for this was very richly rewarded by the Emperor. He was made tribune of the plebs in the second consulship of Candidus and Quadratus, and he claimed that he received an omen of continuous tribunician power during this magistracy, because he lost the heavy cloak which is worn by the tribunes of the plebs in rainy weather, but never by the emperors. And down to this day the emperors do not wear cloaks when they appear in public before civilians. In the second Dacian war, Trajan appointed him to the command of the First Legion, the Minervia, and took him with him to the war; and in this campaign his many remarkable deeds won great renown. Because of this he was presented with a diamond which Trajan himself had received from Nerva, and by this gift he was encouraged in his hopes of succeeding to the throne. He held the praetorship in the second consulship of Suburanus and Servianus, and again received from Trajan two million sesterces with which to give games. Next he was sent as praetorian legate to Lower Pannonia, where he held the Samartians in check, maintained discipline among the soldiers, and restrained the procurators, who were overstepping too freely the bounds of their power. In return for these services he was made consul. While he was holding this office he learned from Sura that he was to be adopted by Trajan, and thereupon he ceased to be an object of contempt and neglect to Trajan's friends. Indeed, after Sura's death Trajan's friendship for him increased, principally on account of the speeches which he composed for the Emperor.

IV. He enjoyed, too, the favour of Plotina, and it was due to her interest that later, at the time of the campaign against Parthia, he was appointed legate to the Emperor. At this same time he enjoyed, besides, the friendship of Sosius Papus and Platorius Nepos, both of the senatorial order, and also of Attianus, his former guardian, of Livianus, and of Turbo, all of equestrian rank. And when Palma and Celsus, always his enemies, on whom he later took vengeance, fell under suspicion of aspiring to the throne, his adoption seemed assured; and it was taken wholly for granted when, through Plotina's favour, he was appointed consul for the second time. That he was bribing Trajan's freedmen and courting his favourites all the while that he was in close attendance at court, was told and generally believed.

On the fifth day before the Ides of August, while he was governor of Syria, he learned of his adoption by Trajan, and he later gave orders to celebrate this day as the anniversary of his adoption. On the third day before the Ides of August he received the news of Trajan's death, and this day he appointed as the anniversary of his accession.

There was, to be sure, a widely prevailing belief that Trajan, with the approval of many of his friends, had planned to appoint as his successor not Hadrian but Neratius Priscus, even to the extent of once saying to Priscus: "I entrust the provinces to your care in case anything happens to me." And, indeed, many aver that Trajan had purposed to follow the example of Alexander of Macedonia and die without naming a successor. Again, many others declare that he had meant to send an address to the senate, requesting this body, in case aught befell him, to appoint a ruler for the Roman Empire, and merely appending the names of some from among whom the senate might choose the best. And the statement has even been made that it was not until Trajan's death that Hadrian was declared adopted, and then only by means of a trick of Plotina's; for she smuggled in someone who impersonated the Emperor and spoke in a feeble voice.

V. On taking possession of the imperial power Hadrian at once resumed the policy of the early emperors, and devoted his attention to maintaining peace throughout the world. For the nations which Trajan had conquered began to revolt; the Moors, moreover, began to make attacks, and the Sarmatians to wage war, the Britons could not be kept under Roman sway, Egypt was thrown into disorder by riots, and finally Libya and Palestine showed the spirit of rebellion. Whereupon he relinquished all the conquests east of the Euphrates and the Tigris, following, as he used to say, the example of Cato, who urged that the Macedonians, because they could not be held as subjects, should be declared free and independent. And Parthamasiris, appointed king of the Parthians by Trajan, he assigned as ruler to the neighbouring tribes, because he saw that the man was held in little esteem by the Parthians.

Moreover, he showed at the outset such a wish to be lenient, that although Attianus advised him by letter in the first few days of his rule to put to death Baebius Macer, the prefect of the city, in case he opposed his elevation to power, also Laberius Maximus, then in exile on an island under suspicion of designs on the throne, and likewise Crassus Frugi, he nevertheless refused to harm them. Later on, however, his procurator, though without an order from Hadrian, had Crassus killed when he tried to leave the island, on the ground that he was planning a revolt. He gave a double donative to the soldiers in order to ensure a favourable beginning to his principate. He deprived Lusius Quietus of the command of the Moorish tribesmen, who were serving under him, and then dismissed him from the army, because he had fallen under the suspicion of having designs on the throne; and he appointed Marcius Turbo, after his reduction of Judaea, to quell the insurrection in Mauretania.

After taking these measures he set out from Antioch to view the remains of Trajan, which were being escorted by Attianus, Plotina, and Matidia. He received them formally and sent them on to Rome by ship, and at once returned to Antioch; he then appointed Catilius Severus governor of Syria, and proceeded to Rome by way of Illyricum.

VI. Despatching to the senate a carefully worded letter, he asked for divine honours for Trajan. This request he obtained by a unanimous vote; indeed, the senate voluntarily voted Trajan many more honours than Hadrian had requested. In this letter to the senate he apologized because he had not left it the right to decide regarding his accession, explaining that the unseemly haste of the troops in acclaiming him emperor was due to the belief that the state could not be left without an emperor. Later, when the senate offered him the triumph which was to have been Trajan's, he refused it for himself, and caused the effigy of the dead Emperor to be carried in a triumphal chariot, in order that the best of emperors might not lose even after death the honour of a triumph. Also he refused for the present the title of Father of his Country, offered to him at the time of his accession and again later on, giving as his reason the fact that Augustus had not won it until late in life. Of the crown-money for his triumph he remitted Italy's contribution, and lessened that of the provinces, all the while setting forth grandiloquently and in great detail the straits of the public treasury.

Then, on hearing of the incursions of the Sarmatians and Roxolani, he sent the troops ahead and set out for Moesia. He conferred the insignia of a prefect on Marcius Turbo after his Mauretanian campaign and appointed him to the temporary command of Pannonia and Dacia. When the king of the Roxolani complained of the diminution of his subsidy, he investigated his case and made peace with him.

VII. A plot to murder him while sacrificing was made by Nigrinus, with Lusius and a number of others as accomplices, even though Hadrian had destined Nigrinus for the succession; but Hadrian successfully evaded this plot. Because of this conspiracy Palma was put to death at Tarracina, Celsus at Baiae, Nigrinus at Faventia, and Lusius on his journey homeward, all by order of the senate, but contrary to the wish of Hadrian, as he says himself in his autobiography. Whereupon Hadrian entrusted the command in Dacia to Turbo, whom he dignified, in order to increase his authority, with a rank analagous to that of the prefect of Egypt. He then hastened to Rome in order to win over public opinion, which was hostile to him because of the belief that on one single occasion he had suffered four men of consular rank to be put to death. In order to check the rumours about himself, he gave in person a double largess to the people, although in his absence three aurei had already been given to each of the citizens. In the senate, too, he cleared himself of blame for what had happened, and pledged himself never to inflict punishment on a senator until after a vote of the senate. He established a regular imperial post, in order to relieve the local officials of such a burden. Moreover, he used every means of gaining popularity. He remitted to private debtors in Rome and in Italy immense sums of money owed to the privy-purse, and in the provinces he remitted large amounts of arrears; and he ordered the promissory notes to be burned in the Forum of the Deified Trajan, in order that the general sense of security might thereby be increased. He gave orders that the property of condemned persons should not accrue to the privy-purse, and in each case deposited the whole amount in the public treasury. He made additional appropriations for the children to whom Trajan had allotted grants of money. He supplemented the property of senators impoverished through no fault of their own, making the allowance in each case proportionate to the number of children, so that it might be enough for a senatorial career; to many, indeed, he paid punctually on the date the amount allotted for their living. Sums of money sufficient to enable men to hold office he bestowed, not on his friends alone, but also on many far and wide, and by his donations he helped a number of women to sustain life. He gave gladiatorial combats for six days in succession, and on his birthday he put into the arena a thousand wild beasts.

VIII. The foremost members of the senate he admitted to close intimacy with the emperor's majesty. All circus-games decreed in his honour he refused, except those held to celebrate his birthday. Both in meetings of the people and in the senate he used to say that he would so administer the commonwealth that men would know that it was not his own but the people's. Having himself been consul three times, he reappointed many to the consulship for the third time and men without number to a second term; his own third consulship he held for only four months, and during his term he often administered justice. He always attended regular meetings of the senate if he was present in Rome or even in the neighbourhood. In the appointment of senators he showed the utmost caution and thereby greatly increased the dignity of the senate, and when he removed Attianus from the post of prefect of the guard and created him a senator with consular honours, he made it clear that he had no greater honour which he could bestow upon him. Nor did he allow knights to try cases involving senators whether he was present at the trial or not. For at that time it was customary for the emperor, when he tried cases, to call to his council both senators and knights and give a verdict based on their joint decision. Finally, he denounced those emperors who had not shown this deference to the senators. On his brother-in-law Servianus, to whom he showed such respect that he would advance to meet him as he came from his chamber, he bestowed a third consulship, and that without any request or entreaty on Servianus' part; but nevertheless he did not appoint him as his own colleague, since Servianus had been consul twice before Hadrian, and the Emperor did not wish to have second place.

IX. And yet, at the same time, Hadrian abandoned many provinces won by Trajan, and also destroyed, contrary to the entreaties of all, the theatre which Trajan had built in the Campus Martius. These measures, unpopular enough in themselves, were still more displeasing to the public because of his pretence that all acts which he thought would be offensive had been secretly enjoined upon him by Trajan. Unable to endure the power of Attianus, his prefect and formerly his guardian, he was eager to murder him. He was restrained, however, by the knowledge that he already laboured under the odium of murdering four men of consular rank, although, as a matter of fact, he always attributed their execution to the designs of Attianus. And as he could not appoint a successor for Attianus except at the latter's request, he contrived to make him request it, and at once transferred the power to Turbo; at the same time Similis also, the other prefect, received a successor, namely Septicius Clarus.

After Hadrian had removed from the prefecture the very men to whom he owed the imperial power, he departed for Campania, where he aided all the towns of the region by gifts and benefactions and attached all the foremost men to his train of friends. But when at Rome, he frequently attended the official functions of the praetors and consuls, appeared at the banquets of his friends, visited them twice or thrice a day when they were sick, even those who were merely knights and freedmen, cheered them by words of comfort, encouraged them by words of advice, and very often invited them to his own banquets. In short, everything that he did was in the manner of a private citizen. On his mother-in-law he bestowed especial honour by means of gladiatorial games and other ceremonies.

X. After this he travelled to the provinces of Gaul, and came to the relief of all the communities with various acts of generosity; and from there he went over into Germany. Though more desirous of peace than of war, he kept the soldiers in training just as if war were imminent, inspired them by proofs of his own powers of endurance, actually led a soldier's life among the maniples, and, after the example of Scipio Aemilianus, Metellus, and his own adoptive father Trajan, cheerfully ate out of doors such camp-fare as bacon, cheese and vinegar. And that the troops might submit more willingly to the increased harshness of his orders, he bestowed gifts on many and honours on a few. For he re-established the discipline of the camp, which since the time of Octavian had been growing slack through the laxity of his predecessors. He regulated, too, both the duties and the expenses of the soldiers, and now no one could get a leave of absence from camp by unfair means, for it was not popularity with the troops but just deserts that recommended a man for appointment as tribune. He incited others by the example of his own soldierly spirit; he would walk as much as twenty miles fully armed; he cleared the camp of banqueting-rooms, porticoes, grottos, and bowers, generally wore the commonest clothing, would have no gold ornaments on his sword-belt or jewels on the clasp, would scarcely consent to have his sword furnished with an ivory hilt, visited the sick soldiers in their quarters, selected the sites for camps, conferred the centurion's wand on those only who were hardy and of good repute, appointed as tribunes only men with full beards or of an age to give to the authority of the tribuneship the full measure of prudence and maturity, permitted no tribune to accept a present from a soldier, banished luxuries on every hand, and, lastly, improved the soldiers' arms and equipment. Furthermore, with regard to length of military service he issued an order that no one should violate ancient usage by being in the service at an earlier age than his strength warranted, or at a more advanced one than common humanity permitted. He made it a point to be acquainted with the soldiers and to know their numbers.

XI. Besides this, he strove to have an accurate knowledge of the military stores, and the receipts from the provinces he examined with care in order to make good any deficit that might occur in any particular instance. But more than any other emperor he made it a point not to purchase or maintain anything that was not serviceable.

And so, having reformed the army quite in the manner of a monarch, he set out for Britain, and there he corrected many abuses and was the first to construct a wall, eighty miles in length, which was to separate the barbarians from the Romans.

He removed from office Septicius Clarus, the prefect of the guard, and Suetonius Tranquillus, the imperial secretary, and many others besides, because without his consent they had been conducting themselves toward his wife, Sabina, in a more informal fashion than the etiquette of the court demanded. And, as he was himself wont to say, he would have sent away his wife too, on the ground of ill-temper and irritability, had he been merely a private citizen. Moreover, his vigilance was not confined to his own household but extended to those of his friends, and by means of his private agents he even pried into all their secrets, and so skilfully that they were never aware that the Emperor was acquainted with their private lives until he revealed it himself. In this connection, the insertion of an incident will not be unwelcome, showing that he found out much about his friends. The wife of a certain man wrote to her husband, complaining that he was so preoccupied by pleasures and baths that he would not return home to her, and Hadrian found this out through his private agents. And so, when the husband asked for a furlough, Hadrian reproached him with his fondness for his baths and his pleasures. Whereupon the man exclaimed: "What, did my wife write you just what she wrote to me?" And, indeed, as for this habit of Hadrian's, men regard it as a most grievous fault, and add to their criticism the statements which are current regarding the passion for males and the adulteries with married women to which he is said to have been addicted, adding also the charges that he did not even keep faith with his friends.

XII. After arranging matters in Britain he crossed over to Gaul, for he was rendered anxious by the news of a riot in Alexandria, which arose on account of Apis; for Apis had been discovered again after an interval of many years, and was causing great dissension among the communities, each one earnestly asserting its claim as the place best fitted to be the seat of his worship. During this same time he reared a basilica of marvellous workmanship at Nimes in honour of Plotina. After this he travelled to Spain and spent the winter at Tarragona, and here he restored at his own expense the temple of Augustus. To this place, too, he called all the inhabitants of Spain for a general meeting, and when they refused to submit to a levy, the Italian settlers jestingly, to use the very words of Marius Maximus, and the others very vigorously, he took measures characterized by skill and discretion. At this same time he incurred grave danger and won great glory; for while he was walking about in a garden at Tarragona one of the slaves of the household rushed at him madly with a sword. But he merely laid hold on the man, and when the servants ran to the rescue handed him over to them. Afterwards, when it was found that the man was mad, he turned him over to the physicians for treatment, and all this time showed not the slightest sign of alarm.

During this period and on many other occasions also, in many regions where the barbarians are held back not by rivers but by artificial barriers, Hadrian shut them off by means of high stakes planted deep in the ground and fastened together in the manner of a palisade. He appointed a king for the Germans, suppressed revolts among the Moors, and won from the senate the usual ceremonies of thanksgiving. The war with the Parthians had not at that time advanced beyond the preparatory stage, and Hadrian checked it by a personal conference.

XIII. After this Hadrian travelled by way of Asia and the islands to Greece, and, following the example of Hercules and Philip, had himself initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. He bestowed many favours on the Athenians and sat as president of the public games. And during this stay in Greece care was taken, they say, that when Hadrian was present, none should come to a sacrifice armed, whereas, as a rule, many carried knives. Afterwards he sailed to Sicily, and there he climbed Mount Aetna to see the sunrise, which is many-hued, they say, like a rainbow. Thence he returned to Rome, and from there he crossed over to Africa, where he showed many acts of kindness to the provinces. Hardly any emperor ever travelled with such speed over so much territory.

Finally, after his return to Rome from Africa, he immediately set out for the East, journeying by way of Athens. Here he dedicated the public works which he had begun in the city of the Athenians, such as the temple to Olympian Jupiter and an altar to himself; and in the same way, while travelling through Asia, he consecrated the temples called by his name. Next, he received slaves from the Cappadocians for service in the camps. To petty rulers and kings he made offers of friendship, and even to Osdroes, king of the Parthians. To him he also restored his daughter, who had been captured by Trajan, and promised to return the throne captured at the same time. And when some of the kings came to him, he treated them in such a way that those who had refused to come regretted it. He took this course especially on account of Pharasmanes, who had haughtily scorned his invitation. Furthermore, as he went about the provinces he punished procurators and governors as their actions demanded, and indeed with such severity that it was believed that he incited those who brought the accusations.

XIV. In the course of these travels he conceived such a hatred for the people of Antioch that he wished to separate Syria from Phoenicia, in order that Antioch might not be called the chief city of so many communities. At this time also the Jews began war, because they were forbidden to practise circumcision. As he was sacrificing on Mount Casius, which he had ascended by night in order to see the sunrise, a storm arose, and a flash of lightning descended and struck both the victim and the attendant. He then travelled through Arabia and finally came to Pelusium, where he rebuilt Pompey's tomb on a more magnificent scale. During a journey on the Nile he lost Antinous, his favourite, and for this youth he wept like a woman. Concerning this incident there are varying rumours; for some claim that he had devoted himself to death for Hadrian, and others -- what both his beauty and Hadrian's sensuality suggest. But however this may be, the Greeks deified him at Hadrian's request, and declared that oracles were given through his agency, but these, it is commonly asserted, were composed by Hadrian himself.

In poetry and in letters Hadrian was greatly interested. In arithmetic, geometry, and painting he was very expert. Of his knowledge of flute-playing and singing he even boasted openly. He ran to excess in the gratification of his desires, and wrote much verse about the subjects of his passion. He composed love-poems too. He was also a connoisseur of arms, had a thorough knowledge of warfare, and knew how to use gladiatorial weapons. He was, in the same person, austere and genial, dignified and playful, dilatory and quick to act, niggardly and generous, deceitful and straightforward, cruel and merciful, and always in all things changeable.

XV. His friends he enriched greatly, even though they did not ask it, while to those who did ask, he refused nothing. And yet he was always ready to listen to whispers about his friends, and in the end he treated almost all of them as enemies, even the closest and even those whom he had raised to the highest of honours, such as Attianus and Nepos and Septicius Clarus. Eudaemon, for example, who had been his accomplice in obtaining the imperial power, he reduced to poverty; Polaenus and Marcellus he drove to suicide; Heliodorus he assailed in a most slanderous pamphlet; Titianus he allowed to be accused as an accomplice in an attempt to seize the empire and even to be outlawed; Ummidius Quadratus, Catilius Severus, and Turbo he persecuted vigorously; and in order to prevent Servianus, his brother-in-law, from surviving him, he compelled him to commit suicide, although the man was then in his ninetieth year. And he even took vengeance on freedmen and sometimes on soldiers. And although he was very deft at prose and at verse and very accomplished in all the arts, yet he used to subject the teachers of these arts, as though more learned than they, to ridicule, scorn, and humiliation. With these very professors and philosophers he often debated by means of pamphlets or poems issued by both sides in turn. And once Favorinus, when he had yielded to Hadrian's criticism of a word which he had used, raised a merry laugh among his friends. For when they reproached him for having done wrong in yielding to Hadrian in the matter of a word used by reputable authors, he replied: "You are urging a wrong course, my friends, when you do not suffer me to regard as the most learned of men the one who has thirty legions."

XVI. So desirous of a wide-spread reputation was Hadrian that he even wrote his own biography; this he gave to his educated freedmen, with instructions to publish it under their own names. For indeed, Phlegon's writings, it is said, are Hadrian's in reality. He wrote Catachannae, a very obscure work in imitation of Antimachus. And when the poet Florus wrote to him:

I don't want to be a Caesar,
Stroll about among the Britons,
Lurk about among the . . . .
And endure the Scythian winters,

he wrote back:

I don't want to be a Florus,
Stroll about among the taverns,
Lurk about among the cook-shops,
And endure the round fat insects.

Furthermore, he loved the archaic style of writing, and he used to take part in debates. He preferred Cato to Cicero, Ennius to Vergil, Caelius to Sallust; and with the same self-assurance he expressed opinions about Homer and Plato. In astrology he considered himself so proficient that on the Kalends of January he would actually write down all that might happen to him in the whole ensuing year, and in the year in which he died, indeed, he wrote down everything that he was going to do, down to the very hour of his death.

However ready Hadrian might have been to criticize musicians, tragedians, comedians, grammarians, and rhetoricians, he nevertheless bestowed both honours and riches upon all who professed these arts, though he always tormented them with his questions. And although he was himself responsible for the fact that many of them left his presence with their feelings hurt, to see anyone with hurt feelings, he used to say, he could hardly endure. He treated with the greatest friendship the philosophers Epictetus and Heliodorus, and various grammarians, rhetoricians, musicians, geometricians -- not to mention all by name -- painters and astrologers; and among them Favorinus, many claim, was conspicuous above all the rest. Teachers who seemed unfit for their profession he presented with riches and honours and then dismissed from the practice of their profession.

XVII. Many whom he had regarded as enemies when a private citizen, when emperor he merely ignored; for example, on becoming emperor, he said to one man whom he had regarded as a mortal foe, "You have escaped." When he himself called any to military service, he always supplied them with horses, mules, clothing, cost of maintenance, and indeed their whole equipment. At the Saturnalia and Sigillaria he often surprised his friends with presents, and he gladly received gifts from them and again gave others in return. In order to detect dishonesty in his caterers, when he gave banquets with several tables he gave orders that platters from the other tables, even the lowest, should be set before himself. He surpassed all monarchs in his gifts. He often bathed in the public baths, even with the common crowd. And a jest of his made in the bath became famous. For on a certain occasion, seeing a veteran, whom he had known in the service, rubbing his back and the rest of his body against the wall, he asked him why he had the marble rub him, and when the man replied that it was because he did not own a slave, he presented him with some slaves and the cost of their maintenance. But another time, when he saw a number of old men rubbing themselves against the wall for the purpose of arousing the generosity of the Emperor, he ordered them to be called out and then to rub one another in turn. His love for the common people he loudly expressed. So fond was he of travel, that he wished to inform himself in person about all that he had read concerning all parts of the world. Cold and bad weather he could bear with such endurance that he never covered his head. He showed a multitude of favours to many kings, but from a number he even purchased peace, and by some he was treated with scorn; to many he gave huge gifts, but none greater than to the king of the Hiberi, for to him he gave an elephant and a band of fifty men, in addition to magnificent presents. And having himself received huge gifts from Pharasmanes, including some cloaks embroidered with gold, he sent into the arena three hundred condemned criminals dressed in gold-embroidered cloaks for the purpose of ridiculing the gifts of the king.

XVIII. When he tried cases, he had in his council not only his friends and the members of his staff, but also jurists, in particular Juventius Celsus, Salvius Julianus, Neratius Priscus, and others, only those, however, whom the senate had in every instance approved. Among other decisions he ruled that in no community should any house be demolished for the purpose of transporting any building-materials to another city. To the child of an outlawed person he granted a twelfth of the property. Accusations for lese majeste he did not admit. Legacies from persons unknown to him he refused, and even those left to him by acquaintances he would not accept if they had any children. In regard to treasure-trove, he ruled that if anyone made a find on his own property he might keep it, if on another's land, he should turn over half to the proprietor thereof, if on the state's, he should share the find equally with the privy-purse. He forbade masters to kill their slaves, and ordered that any who deserved it should be sentenced by the courts. He forbade anyone to sell a slave or a maid-servant to a procurer or trainer of gladiators without giving a reason therefor. He ordered that those who had wasted their property, if legally responsible, should be flogged in the amphitheatre and then let go. Houses of hard labour for slaves and free he abolished. He provided separate baths for the sexes. He issued an order that, if a slave-owner were murdered in his house, no slaves should be examined save those who were near enough to have had a knowledge of the murder.

XIX. In Etruria he held a praetorship while emperor. In the Latin towns he was dictator and aedile and duumvir, in Naples demarch, in his native city duumvir with the powers of censor. This office he held at Hadria, too, his second native city, as it were, and at Athens he was archon.

In almost every city he built some building and gave public games. At Athens he exhibited in the stadium a hunt of a thousand wild beasts, but he never called away from Rome a single wild-beast-hunter or actor. In Rome, in addition to popular entertainments of unbounded extravagance, he gave spices to the people in honour of his mother-in-law, and in honour of Trajan he caused essences of balsam and saffron to be poured over the seats of the theatre. And in the theatre he presented plays of all kinds in the ancient manner and had the court-players appear before the public. In the Circus he had many wild beasts killed and often a whole hundred of lions. He often gave the people exhibitions of military Pyrrhic dances, and he frequently attended gladiatorial shows. He built public buildings in all places and without number, but he inscribed his own name on none of them except the temple of his father Trajan. At Rome he restored the Pantheon, the Voting-enclosure, the Basilica of Neptune, very many temples, the Forum of Augustus, the Baths of Agrippa, and dedicated all of them in the names of their original builders. Also he constructed the bridge named after himself, a tomb on the bank of the Tiber, and the temple of the Bona Dea. With the aid of the architect Decrianus he raised the Colossus and, keeping it in an upright position, moved it away from the place in which the Temple of Rome is now, though its weight was so vast that he had to furnish for the work as many as twenty-four elephants. This statue he then consecrated to the Sun, after removing the features of Nero, to whom it had previously been dedicated, and he also planned, with the assistance of the architect Apollodorus, to make a similar one for the Moon.

XX. Most democratic in his conversations, even with the very humble, he denounced all who, in the belief that they were thereby maintaining the imperial dignity, begrudged him the pleasure of such friendliness. In the Museum at Alexandria he propounded many questions to the teachers and answered himself what he had propounded. Marius Maximus says that he was naturally cruel and performed so many kindnesses only because he feared that he might meet the fate which had befallen Domitian.

Though he cared nothing for inscriptions on his public works, he gave the name of Hadrianopolis to many cities, as, for example, even to Carthage and a section of Athens; and he also gave his name to aqueducts without number. He was the first to appoint a pleader for the privy-purse.

Hadrian's memory was vast and his ability was unlimited; for instance, he personally dictated his speeches and gave opinions on all questions. He was also very witty, and of his jests many still survive. The following one has even become famous: When he had refused a request to a certain grey-haired man, and the man repeated the request but this time with dyed hair, Hadrian replied, "I have already refused this to your father." Even without the aid of a nomenclator he could call by name a great many people, whose names he had heard but once and then all in a crowd; indeed, he could correct the nomenclators when they made mistakes, as they not infrequently did, and he even knew the names of the veterans whom he had discharged at various times. He could repeat from memory, after a rapid reading, books which to most men were not known at all. He wrote, dictated, listened, and, incredible as it seems, conversed with his friends, all at one and the same time. He had as complete a knowledge of the state-budget in all its details as any careful householder has of his own household. His horses and dogs he loved so much that he provided burial-places for them, and in one locality he founded a town called Hadrianotherae, because once he had hunted successfully there and killed a bear.

XXI. He always inquired into the actions of all his judges, and persisted in his inquiries until he satisfied himself of the truth about them. He would not allow his freedmen to be prominent in public affairs or to have any influence over himself, and he declared that all his predecessors were to blame for the faults of their freedmen; he also punished all his freedmen who boasted of their influence over him. With regard to his treatment of his slaves, the following incident, stern but almost humorous, is still related. Once when he saw one of his slaves walk away from his presence between two senators, he sent someone to give him a box on the ear and say to him: "Do not walk between those whose slave you may some day be." As an article of food he was singularly fond of tetrapharmacum, which consisted of pheasant, sow's udders, ham, and pastry.

During his reign there were famines, pestilence, and earthquakes. The distress caused by all these calamities he relieved to the best of his ability, and also he aided many communities which had been devastated by them. There was also an overflow of the Tiber. To many communities he gave Latin citizenship, and to many others he remitted their tribute.

There were no campaigns of importance during his reign, and the wars that he did wage were brought to a close almost without arousing comment. The soldiers loved him much on account of his very great interest in the army and for his great liberality to them besides. The Parthians always regarded him as a friend because he took away the king whom Trajan had set over them. The Armenians were permitted to have their own king, whereas under Trajan they had had a governor, and the Mesopotamians were relieved of the tribute which Trajan had imposed. The Albanians and Hiberians he made his friends by lavishing gifts upon their kings, even though they had scorned to come to him. The kings of the Bactrians sent envoys to him to beg humbly for his friendship.

XXII. He very often assigned guardians. Discipline in civil life he maintained as rigorously as he did in military. He ordered senators and knights to wear the toga whenever they appeared in public except when they were returning from a banquet, and he himself, when in Italy, always appeared thus clad. At banquets, when senators came, he received them standing, and he always reclined at table dressed either in a Greek cloak or in a toga. The cost of a banquet he determined on each occasion, all with the utmost care, and he reduced the sums that might be expended to the amounts prescribed by the ancient laws. He forbade entry into Rome of heavily laden waggons, and he did not permit riding on horseback in cities. None but invalids were allowed to bathe in the public baths before the eighth hour of the day. He was the first to put knights in charge of the imperial correspondence and of the petitions addressed to the emperor. Those men whom he saw to be poor and innocent he enriched of his own accord, but those who had become rich through sharp practice he actually regarded with hatred. He despised foreign cults, but native Roman ones he observed most scrupulously; moreover, he always performed the duties of pontifex maximus. He tried a great number of lawsuits himself both in Rome and in the provinces, and to his council he called consuls and praetors and the foremost of the senators. He drained the Fucine Lake. He appointed four men of consular rank as judges for all Italy. When he went to Africa it rained on his arrival for the first time in the space of five years, and for this he was beloved by the Africans.

XXIII. After traversing, as he did, all parts of the world with bare head and often in severe storms and frosts, he contracted an illness which confined him to his bed. And becoming anxious about a successor he thought first of Servianus. Afterwards, however, as I have said, he forced him to commit suicide; and Fuscus, too, he put to death on the ground that, being spurred on by prophecies and omens, he was hoping for the imperial power. Carried away by suspicion, he held in the greatest abhorrence Platorius Nepos, whom he had formerly so loved that, once, when he went to see him while ill and was refused admission, he nevertheless let him go unpunished. Also he hated Terentius Gentianus, but even more vehemently, because he saw that he was then beloved by the senate. At last, he came to hate all those of whom he had thought in connection with the imperial power, as though they were really about to be emperors. However, he controlled all the force of his innate cruelty down to the time when in his Tiburtine Villa he almost met his death through a hemorrhage. Then he threw aside all restraint and compelled Servianus to kill himself, on the ground that he aspired to the empire, merely because he gave a feast to the royal slaves, sat in a royal chair placed close to his bed, and, though an old man of ninety, used to arise and go forward to meet the guard of soldiers. He put many others to death, either openly or by treachery, and indeed, when his wife Sabina died, the rumour arose that the Emperor had given her poison.

Hadrian then determined to adopt Ceionius Commodus, son-in-law of Nigrinus, the former conspirator, and this in spite of the fact that his sole recommendation was his beauty. Accordingly, despite the opposition of all, he adopted Ceionius Commodus Verus and called him Aelius Verus Caesar. On the occasion of the adoption he gave games in the Circus and bestowed largess upon the populace and the soldiers. He dignified Commodus with the office of praetor and immediately placed him in command of the Pannonian provinces, and also conferred on him the consulship together with money enough to meet the expenses of the office. He also appointed Commodus to a second consulship. And when he saw that the man was diseased, he used often to say: "We have leaned against a tottering wall and have wasted the four hundred million sesterces which we gave to the populace and the soldiers on the adoption of Commodus." Moreover, because of his ill-health, Commodus could not even make a speech in the senate thanking Hadrian for his adoption. Finally, too large a quantity of medicine was administered to him, and thereupon his illness increased, and he died in his sleep on the very Kalends of January. Because of the date Hadrian forbade public mourning for him, in order that the vows for the state might be assumed as usual.

XXIV. After the death of Aelius Verus Caesar, Hadrian was attacked by a very severe illness, and thereupon he adopted Arrius Antoninus (who was afterwards called Pius), imposing on him the condition that he adopt two sons, Annius Verus and Marcus Antoninus. These were the two who afterwards ruled the empire together, the first joint Augusti. And as for Antoninus, he was called Pius, it is said, because he used to give his arm to his father-in-law when weakened by old age. However, others assert that this surname was given to him because, as Hadrian grew more cruel, he rescued many senators from the Emperor; others, again, that it was because he bestowed great honours upon Hadrian after his death. The adoption of Antoninus was lamented by many at that time, particularly by Catilius Severus, the prefect of the city, who was making plans to secure the throne for himself. When this fact became known, a successor was appointed for him and he was deprived of his office.

But Hadrian was now seized with the utmost disgust of life and ordered a servant to stab him with a sword. When this was disclosed and reached the ears of Antoninus, he came to the Emperor, together with the prefects, and begged him to endure with fortitude the hard necessity of illness, declaring furthermore that he himself would be no better than a parricide, were he, an adopted son, to permit Hadrian to be killed. The Emperor then became angry and ordered the betrayer of the secret to be put to death; however, the man was saved by Antoninus. Then Hadrian immediately drew up his will, though he did not lay aside the administration of the empire. Once more, however, after making his will, he attempted to kill himself, but the dagger was taken from him. He then became more violent, and he even demanded poison from his physician, who thereupon killed himself in order that he might not have to administer it.

XXV. About this time there came a certain woman, who said that she had been warned in a dream to coax Hadrian to refrain from killing himself, for he was destined to recover entirely, but that she had failed to do this and had become blind; she had nevertheless been ordered a second time to give the same message to Hadrian and to kiss his knees, and was assured of the recovery of her sight if she did so. The woman then carried out the command of the dream, and reeived her sight after she had bathed her eyes with the water in the temple from which she had come. Also a blind old man from Pannonia came to Hadrian when he was ill with fever, and touched him; whereupon the man received his sight, and the fever left Hadrian. All these things, however, Marius Maximus declares were done as a hoax.

After this Hadrian departed for Baiae, leaving Antoninus at Rome to carry on the government. But he received no benefit there, and he thereupon sent for Antoninus, and in his presence he died there at Baiae on the sixth day before the Ides of July. Hated by all, he was buried at Puteoli on an estate that had belonged to Cicero.

Just before his death, he compelled Servianus, then ninety years old, to kill himself, as has been said before, in order that Servianus might not outlive him, and, as he thought, become emperor. He likewise gave orders that very many others who were guilty of slight offences should be put to death; these, however, were spared by Antoninus. And he is said, as he lay dying, to have composed the following lines:

O blithe little soul, thou, flitting away,
Guest and comrade of this my clay,
Whither now goest thou, to what place
Bare and ghastly and without grace?
Nor, as thy wont was, joke and play.

Such verses as these did he compose, and not many that were better, and also some in Greek.

He lived 62 years, 5 months, 17 days. He ruled 20 years, 11 months.

XXVI. He was tall of stature and elegant in appearance; his hair was curled on a comb, and he wore a full beard to cover up the natural blemishes on his face; and he was very strongly built. He rode and walked a great deal and always kept himself in training by the use of arms and the javelin. He also hunted, and he used often to kill a lion with his own hand, but once in a hunt he broke his collar-bone and a rib; these hunts of his he always shared with his friends. At his banquets he always furnished, according to the occasion, tragedies, comedies, Atellan farces, players on the sambuca, readers, or poets. His villa at Tibur was marvellously constructed, and he actually gave to parts of it the names of provinces and places of the greatest renown, calling them, for instance, Lyceum, Academia, Prytaneum, Canopus, Poecile and Tempe. And in order not to omit anything, he even made a Hades.

The premonitions of his death were as follows: On his last birthday, when he was commending Antoninus to the gods, his bordered toga fell down without apparent cause and bared his head. His ring, on which his portrait was carved, slipped of its own accord from his finger. On the day before his birthday some one came into the senate wailing; by his presence Hadrian was as disturbed as if he were speaking about his own death, for no one could understand what he was saying. Again, in the senate, when he meant to say, "after my son's death," he said, "after mine." Besides, he dreamed that he had asked his father for a soporific; he also dreamed that he had been overcome by a lion.

XXVII. Much was said against him after his death, and by many persons. The senate wished to annul his acts, and would have refrained from naming him "the Deified" had not Antoninus requested it. Antoninus, moreover, finally built a temple for him at Puteoli to take the place of a tomb, and he also established a quinquennial contest and flamens and sodales and many other institutions which appertain to the honour of one regarded as a god. It is for this reason, as has been said before, that many think that Antoninus received the surname Pius.


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