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From Life of the Emperor Hadrian by Aelianus Spartianus (Circ. A.D. 300), translated into English by William Maude, New York: The Cambridge Encyclopedia Co., 1900; pp. 1 to 24.


Life of


I. —  Originally from the province of Picenum, Hadrian’s family afterward went to Spain. Indeed, his ancestors, born in Hadria,1 established themselves in Italica in the time of the Scipios, as he himself recalls in his autobiography. His father, Ælius Hadrian, surnamed Africanus, was by his mother the first cousin of the emperor Trajan. His mother, Domitia Paulina, was from Cadiz. His sister Paulina married Servian, and he himself married Sabina. His grandfather, Marullinus, was the first of this family to become a senator of the Roman people. Hadrian was born in Rome the ninth of the calends of February, in the seventh consulate of Vespasian and the fifth of Titus, (A.U.C. 829.) Having lost his father when ten years of age, he had for tutors his first cousin Ulpius Trajan, who had been prætor and who afterward attained the throne, and Cælius Tatian, a Roman knight. He was carefully taught the Greek literature, for which he had such a pronounced liking that many people called him the little Greek.

II. —  At the age of fifteen he returned to his own country and immediately afterward entered the military service. But he incurred may reproaches on account of his passion for hunting and he was recalled by Trajan, who took care of him as if he were his son. A short time afterward he had him received as one of the number of decemvirs authorized to judge. He was afterwards created tribune of the Second Legion, adjutrix.2 Toward the end of Domitian’s reign, he was sent to Lower Mœsia, where some pretend that an astrologer confirmed the prediction of his great uncle, on his father’s side, Ælius Hadrian, who was versed in such science, that he would attain to the throne. When Nerva adopted Trajan, Hadrian, who was charged with the felicitations of the army to the old emperor, was transferred to Upper Germany, from whence he left almost immediately, the first to announce to Trajan the death of Nerva. Servian, 6 his brother-in-law, who had set Trajan against him by telling of his expenses and his debts, tried to detain him as long as he could on his journey and caused his carriage to be injured on the way, hoping to retard him. Hadrian walked the rest of the journey and arrived even before the courier sent by Servian. He enjoyed for some time the favour of Trajan. But at the instigation of Gallus, a minion of the prince, who had great influence over him, Trajan was made jealous of his new favourite. It was then that Hadrian, disquieted as to the emperor’s sentiments toward him, consulted the sage Virgilianus, and received this answer: “Who is this old man who appears in the distance, with the crown of olives and the sacred symbols of religion? I know him by his hair and his white beard; it is a king; it is the first who will establish in the laws the growing greatness of Rome; from his small town of Cures and the humble field of his fathers, he will be called to the government of a great empire.”3 Others pretend that his destiny was revealed to him by the Sibylline books. That which is certain is that he entertained the hope of becoming emperor after he had received a response in the temple of Jupiter Victorius. This is mentioned in the work of the Platonic philosopher Apollonius of Syria. At last, through the good offices of Sura, he again came into the favour of Trajan, and at the solicitation of his wife Plotina, (for Marius Maximus says that Trajan was not favourable to it,) he consented that Hadrian should marry his niece, his sister’s daughter.4

III. —  Hadrian took the quæstorship in the fourth consulate of Trajan and the first of Arunculeius. The accent, a little provincial, in which he read the speech of the emperor in the Senate, having made many in that assembly smile, he studied Latin with ardour and finished by acquiring as much knowledge as eloquence. After his quæstorship he was charged with the compilation of the records of the Senate, and having become a great favourite of Trajan, he followed him to the wars against the Dacians, during which he avowed that to flatter the tastes of the prince, he pretended to share them and addicted himself to wine; a complacency which brought him many rich presents. He was made Tribune of the People under the second consulate of Candidus and Quaratus, and he tells us that he received, during this magistracy, the presage of a perpetual tribuneship. He lost the peculiar mantle that the tribunes wore on rainy days, but which emperors never wore. In our days they are still distinguished 7 in that way from their courtiers.5 Trajan took Hadrian with him in his second expedition against the Dacians and put him at the head of the first Minervine legion. Hadrian made himself remarkable in this war by many brilliant actions, and the emperor rewarded him by giving him the diamond which he himself had received from Nerva. This present made him hope to succeed the prince. He was made prætor under the second consulate of Sura and Servian, and he received from Trajan forty thousand pieces of gold for games.6 Sent afterwards to Lower Pannonia as Legate of the Emperor, he repulsed the Sarmatians, kept good discipline in the army and repressed the pretensions and presumptions of the imperial administrators. For this conduct he obtained the consulship. It was then he learnt from Sura that the Emperor thought of adopting him, and from this moment the friends of the Prince ceased to neglect him. Sura’s death only augmented Hadrian’s credit with the Emperor, to whom he made himself necessary by composing his speeches.

IV. —  Hadrian also used Plotina’s favour for his own advancement. It was by his own zeal that he was made Legate of the Prince in the war against the Parthians. He had then for friends among the senators Sosius Pappus and Pletorius, and among the knights Tatian, formerly his tutor, and Livianus Turbonis. The hope that he had conceived of being adopted by Trajan was more than ever confirmed by the disgrace of Palma and Celsus, who had always been his enemies and whom he persecuted later, in his turn, when they were suspected of aspiring to the throne. His second consulship he obtained through the patronage of Plotina, and this made him regard his adoption as certain. Many reasons make one think that he profited by his admission to the court to gain further advancement through the unworthy means of employing the favour of Trajan’s minions.

The fifth day of the ides of August, he received, while in Syria, where he was serving as Legate, the letters of his adoption, and he desired that that day should always be celebrated as the anniversary of this elevation. In the third day of the same ides,7 which by his further orders were henceforth celebrated as the anniversary of his accession to the throne, the news of the Emperor’s death was brought to him. It is the common opinion that Trajan had the intention, 8 and that it was formally approved by most of his friends, of having as his successor, not Hadrian, but Neratius Priscus, and that he had even said to him one day: “If any misfortune should happen to me, I commend the provinces to you.” Many writers say that, after the example of Alexander the Macedon, Trajan wished to die without designating a successor; others that he proposed to address a message to the Senate, in which he would request that assembly to elect as his successor the most worthy among the names he would send them. There are also those who pretend that Hadrian’s adoption was the work of Plotina’s faction, who immediately after Trajan’s death substituted an imposter, who murmured in a dying voice the name of Hadrian.

V. —  Having attained to the throne, faithful to the ancient ways, Hadrian at once occupied himself in preserving the peace of the Roman world. Besides the nations that had been subjugated by Trajan and had revolted against us, the Moors never ceased to disquiet us, the Sarmatians made open war against us, Brittany8 had thrown off the yoke, Egypt was troubled by riots and Lycia and Palestine were in revolt. Therefore the new Emperor abandoned all our possessions beyond the Euphrates and the Tigris. He said that in so doing he imitated Cato, who freely accorded independence to the Macedonians when he found he could not readily keep them under Roman dominion. Seeing that Psamatossirim, to whom Trajan had given the Parthian throne, had not sufficient authority, Hadrian made him king of the neighbouring nations. Hadrian at first showed so much clemency that although Tatian advised him to order the execution of the præfect of Rome, Bebius Mercer, if he refused to acknowledge him, and of Laberius Maximus, then exiled, as suspected of aspiring to the throne, he took no rigorous measures against either of them. But Crassus having later on left the island where he was exiled, the governor of the province had him put to death, without the order of the Prince, as having meditated a revolution in the Empire. Hadrian doubled the gratuity which it is usual to give the soldiers at the commencement of a reign. Lucius Quietus having become suspected, he took from him the command of the Moorish tribes. He charged Martius Turbone, who had but just conquered the Jews, to quell the troubles in Mauritania. After that he left Antioch and walked before the ashes of Trajan, which were carried by Tatian, Plotina and Mattidia. After having received them from 9 their hands and placed them on the vessel that was to transport them to Rome, he went to Antioch, entrusted the government of Syria to Catilius Severus and returned to Rome by way of Illyria.

VI. —  In urgent letters to the Senate, Hadrian demanded divine honours for Trajan. It was what all wished; so the senators even decided to accord to Trajan many distinctions that Hadrian had not asked for. He excused himself in these letters for not having waited for their vote before taking power in his hands, because he had been immediately saluted as emperor by the soldiers, who had thought the republic should not remain without a chief. He was offered for himself the triumph which was decreed by the Senate to Trajan; but refused it; and he had the image of the great emperor carried in a chariot, so that even death should not rob him of the honour of the triumph. Upon the commencement of his reign and later on he was offered the title of Father of his Country, but he declined to accept it, because even Augustus had not thought he merited it until in his old age. Having learnt of the incursions of the Sarmatians and Roxolani9 he led the vanguard of his army into Mœsia. To Martius Turbone he gave provisionally, after his præfecture in Mauritania, the præfecture of Pannonia and Dacia, together with the ensigns of this new dignity. The king of the Roxolans having complained that his pension had been diminished, Hadrian made peace with him.

VII. —  Hadrian had the good fortune to escape a snare that was to have been sprung upon him during a sacrifice and which was plotted by Nigrinus, whom Hadrian had destined to succeed him to the throne, also the conspirator Lucius and a number of others. Palma was put to death at Terracina, Celsus at Baies, Nigrinus at Faventia and Lucius while en route, all by order of the Senate and against the will of Hadrian; at least so he says in his own memoirs. Wishing to destroy the bad opinion which was conceived of him because he had allowed four consuls to be put to death, he hastened to Rome, after confiding Dacia to Turbone, with the title of Præfect of Egypt, so as to give him more authority. To efface bad impressions he ordered and saw distributed a double congiary to the people, who had already been paid before his return, three pieces of gold each. When he had justified himself before the Senate concerning what had passed, he swore he would never again punish a senator before having the warrant of the Senate. From the commencement of his reign he established public posts, to save the magistrates the expense of forwarding letters. He neglected nothing that would assure him the affection of the people. 10 He discharged all private persons in Rome and Italy of their debts to the fisc.10 As to the provinces, he also discharged those who owed large sums; and to assure the debtors of his good faith, he had their obligations burnt in the forum of the divine Trajan. He prohibited the confiscation to the fisc of the fortunes of condemned persons and ordered that they should be paid into the public treasury (ærarium). In the distribution of wheat he augmented the amount assigned by Trajan for youths of both sexes. Some senators, through no fault of their own, had lost part of their patrimony; Hadrian, treating them as his own children, restored to them the means to support their senatorial dignity. Indeed while he lived most of them enjoyed the benefit of his prompt liberality. His generosity opened the door to honour not only to his friends, but to the citizens of the lowest condition. Many women received from him enough to keep them comfortably. He gave during six consecutive days the spectacle of a combat of gladiators and for his birthday he ordered to appear in the arena a thousand wild beasts.

VII. —  He allowed the most distinguished of the senators to share with him the burdens of imperial government. Of the various game of the Circus which were decreed to him, he accepted none but those that were designed to celebrate his birthday; and he declared more than once in public, and in the presence of the senators, “that he governed the republic in a manner to prove that he considered it as belonging to the people and not to him.” He made a number of citizens three times consul, because he himself had been consul three times: and he conferred the honour upon many others of being consul twice. He was consul the third time for only four months, during which time he often administered justice in person. Whenever he was in Rome or the vicinity he always took part in the proceedings of the Senate. He enhanced the dignity of this body, by the rarity of his nominations; thus, having clothed Tatian with the consular ornaments after his præfecture of the præfatorium (palace), he afterwards made him senator, to signify that he had no higher dignity to give him. He did not permit Roman knights to pass judgement upon a senator, either with or without his concurrence. It had been the custom, in affairs brought before the Council, for the prince to call the senators and knights together and be guided by their united advice. He showed great indignation for those emperors who had had such little regard for the Senate. His brother-in-law Servian, to whom he 11 showed such deference that he left his apartment to meet him when he came to see him, he elevated, without his having asked for it, to a third consulate, which, however, he did not share with Hadrian, the latter not wishing to have Servian, who had previously been twice consul, to speak before him in the Senate.

Everything went along thus: Hadrian abandoned a number of provinces, which had been acquired by Trajan: he destroyed the theatre which that prince had built on the Campus Martius. This conduct excited much comment; yet in doing that which he knew would displease the people, he feigned to be only acting after the express wish of Trajan. Not wishing to support any longer the power of Tatian, his præfect and formerly his tutor, he decided to do away with him; but he changed his mind when he remembered the hatred which was raised against himself after the four consuls had been put to death, although he attributed their deaths to Tatian’s counsels. As he could not name a successor to him, until he had asked for one, he forced him to ask, and then so soon as he had done so, he transmitted his power to Turbone. He replaced the other præfect, Similis, by Septicius Clarus. After having banished the two men to whom he owed the empire, he went to Campania, where he assisted all the towns by his kindness and bounty and where he sought for the friendship of all distinguished men. In Rome he did much for the præfects and consuls and assisted at his friends’ feasts; he visited the sick ones two or three times a day, many knights and even certain freedmen; consoling them, aiding them with his counsels and admitting them to his banquets; he was always to them like a private friend. He lavished honours on his mother-in-law, giving gladiator-shows in her honour and other public marks of deference.

IX. —  He next went to Gaul, where all those who were in need, received marks of his liberality. From Gaul he went to Germany, and although he preferred peace to war, he drilled the solders as though a war was imminent. He taught them how to support fatigue and himself lived like a soldier among them, taking his meals with them and living like them on bacon, cheese and common wine; thus following the example of Scipio Emilius, of Metellus, as well as of Trajan, the author of his fortunes. He accorded to some, compensation, and to others, distinction: in order to encourage them in doing duty that was toilsome or painful. Since the time of Augustus, it was him (Hadrian) of all the emperors who maintained the best discipline in the army. He introduced better regulations in the posts and the imperial store-houses; he dispensed justice, not favour, to the soldiers, presiding 12 as tribune; it was prohibited for anyone to leave the army without good reason. His example was a strong incentive to them; he marched under arms four thousand paces; he destroyed the banquet-halls in camps and the porticoes, the artificial grottoes, and the pleasure gardens. Ordinarily he dressed very simply, without gold on his shoulder-belt, or precious stones to fasten his cloak, and he carried a heavy sword, the handle of which was merely ivory. He visited the sick soldiers; he himself designated the site of the camps, and awarded the centurion’s staff only to soldiers who were robust and of good repute, and he only created as tribune those men who were matured and fitted by their experience and wisdom to uphold the honour of the tribuneship. He would not allow a tribune to receive anything from the soldiers. He discouraged all effeminacy amongst them; he changed their arms and equipments of war. He also constituted himself judge concerning the infraction of an ancient rule to prohibit men from entering the army who were either too young or too old for the service. He made himself known to the soldiers and kept a careful account of their numbers.

X. —  He also examined the store-houses of the army (war department) and had rendered to him an exact account of the contributions from the provinces, so that what was still owing to the army should be paid. He prohibited the acquisition of anything but what was useful. Having thoroughly drilled his troops after his own ideas, he entered Britain, where he reformed many abuses and constructed the Great Wall, eighty thousand paces in length, which separated the Romans from the Barbarians.

Although he often complained of his wife Sabina’s difficult and cross-grained humour and said if he had been a private person he would have divorced her, he dismissed Septicius Clarus, præfect of the palace, and Suetonius Tranquillus, his secretary, also several others, who had behaved towards her with less ceremony than was required by court etiquette. He not only occupied himself with his own domestic cares, but also with those of his friends; he discovered, by means of spies their most secret affairs, those of which they imagined that emperor knew nothing, until he told them. I mention the following in order to illustrate the curiosity of the emperor: A wife having written a letter to her husband, in which she reproached him for his love of pleasure and the baths, because they prevented him from being with her: Hadrian learnt this from one of his agents and when this man asked for leave of absence, he reproached him in the same manner and terms as his wife had done. “Ah,” said the man, “my 13 wife has then written to you, the same as she did to me!” Many blame Hadrian for this curiosity, but more for his love of young men and his adulteries with married women. He is also accused of having in this respect betrayed his most intimate friends.

XI. —  When he had settled all he wished in Britain, he went to Gaul, where he received word that there was trouble in Alexandria, on account of the sacred bull Apis, that had at last appeared after many years,11 and all the towns of Egypt disputed the keeping of it with a stubbornness that degenerated into riots. It was at this time that Hadrian constructed at Nimes a magnificent basilicus in honour of Plotina. He then went to Spain and passed the winter at Terracona, where he restored, at his own expense, the temple of Augustus. He convoked a General Assembly of delegates from all the towns of Spain and conducted himself with as much shrewdness as prudence towards the inhabitants of this country, some of whom, originally from Italy, endeavoured by vain excuses, says Marius Maximus, to be relieved from enlisting in the army, while others of whom, riotously refused. At this time Hadrian escaped a great danger which became for him an occasion for a glorious action. As he was walking in a park near Terracona, one of his host’s slaves madly threw himself upon the emperor, sword in hand. Hadrian stopped him, turning him over to the officers who ran to his aid; and being convinced that this unfortunate was a madman, he charged the doctors to care for him, without taking further notice of the affair. In many places where there 14 were no rivers, but simply landmarks, that served as boundary limits to the Barbarians, Hadrian erected, to separate the territories, a sort of Wall made of great stakes sunk into the ground to a certain depth and strongly fastened together; his usual system of demarcation. He erected Germany into a kingdom, curbed the intrigues of the Moors, and procured from the Senate a pompous resolution of thanks. A war was about to burst forth among the Parthians: he only needed to call a conference, to prevent it.

XII. —  After that he sailed towards Asia and as far as the isles of Achaia, and after the example of Hercules and of Philip he was initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis. He accorded many privileges to the Athenians and considered it an honour to preside at their games. It was remarked during his stay in Achaia that notwithstanding the custom which authorizes a great many people to carry knives during religious ceremonies, no one in Hadrian’s suite was armed. He then went to Sicily, where he climbed to the top of Mont Etna to (sacrifice and) see the rising of the Sun, which shows itself there, it is said, under the colours of a rainbow. From there he returned to Rome and then went to Africa, where he conferred great benefits upon that province. No prince had ever before traversed so many countries with such despatch. At last having returned to Rome from Africa he left immediately for the Orient and, stopping at Athens, he dedicated a number of monuments that had been commenced there, such as a temple to Jupiter Olympus and an altar dedicated to himself.

During his progress in Asia he consecrated a number of temples dedicated to himself. He took from the Cappadocians a multitude of slaves, destined for service in camp. He offered his alliance to the princes and kings of these countries. He also offered it to Cosdroes,12 king of the Parthians, and even sent back his daughter, who had fallen into Trajan’s power, and promised to return him the Throne of Gold that had been captured from him. A number of kings came to him and he treated them in such a manner that those who had not come, regretted it, especially the proud Pharasmanes, who had scorned his advances. In visiting the provinces he inflicted such severe punishment on the intendants and governors, who were found guilty of misdemeanors, that it seemed as if he himself had become their accuser.

XIII. —  He conceived such a great hatred towards the inhabitants of Antioch that he wished to separate Syria from Phœnicia, so that 15 Antioch should not longer be called the metropolis of so many provinces. About this time the Jews revolted against the Romans, because they were not allowed to practice the rite of circumcision.

Hadrian climbed one night to the top of Mount Casius to see the rising of the Sun. While he was sacrificing a storm arose and a thunderbolt fell on the victim and the (officer employed as) sacrificer.

After having travelled through Arabia, Hadrian stopped at Pelusia, where he erected in honour of Pompey a splendid tomb. While sailing on the Nile he lost his beloved Antinous and wept for him like a woman. There are different opinions of this Antinous; some pretending that he killed himself for the emperor, whilst others say that the emperor was passionately fond of him on account of his beauty. The Greeks, obeying Hadrian’s orders, ranked Antinous among the gods, asserting that he gave forth those oracles which were adopted by Hadrian. Hadrian had great taste for poetry and belles-lettres and besides had great knowledge of arithmetic, geometry and painting. He was familiar with the arts of dancing and singing. He composed for his minions many verses and we have also from him, a number of erotic poems. He was skillful in the handling of arms and apt in things pertaining to war. He sometimes devoted himself to gladiatorial exercises. Severe and joyous, humorous and grave, prudish and licentious, miserly and liberal, dissembling, merciful, and cruel, he was always and in everything dissimilar to himself.

XIV. —  Hadrian conferred wealth upon all his friends, even on those who did not ask it, whilst he never refused them anything. Nevertheless he listened to accusations that were brought against them and treated some of them as enemies, such as Tatian, Nepos and Septicius Clarus, nearly all of whom had been his dearest friends, or those whom he had elevated to the highest dignities. Thus he reduced Eudæmon to great misery, who once had had his whole confidence; he forced Polyænus and Marcellus to kill themselves; he defamed Heliodorus in his writings; he permitted Tatian to be accused and proscribed, as guilty of aspiring to the throne; he doggedly pursued Numilius Quadratus, Catilius Severus and Turbone. Fearing that Servian, his brother-in-law, who was ninety years of age, would survive him, he forced him to die. He also persecuted certain of his freedmen and soldiers. He wrote with great facility both in prose and in verse and had great talent in the fine arts; but he considered himself more skillful than those who taught these arts, and often made fun of them, and humiliated or persecuted them. He sometimes entered the arena with these professors and philosophers; and such contests often gave 16 birth to treatises and poems. One day he censured an expression of Favorinus, who immediately yielded to his critic. When Favorinus’ friends mocked him for having given way so easily to the emperor, when he was in the right, he had the laugh on them, by saying: “You cannot persuade me, my friends, that one who commands thirty legions, is not the wisest man in the universe.”

XV. —  Hadrian was so jealous of his reputation that he gave to some of his freedmen who were lettered, the history of his life written by himself, with directions to publish it under their names; and it is said that the one by Phlegon is by the prince himself. He also composed, after the example of Antimachus, an obscure book entitled Catacrianos. Florus the poet having written to him in verse: “I wish I were Cæsar, to saunter in the fields of distant Britain and support the cold of Scythia,” Hadrian replied in the same metre: “I wish I were not Florus, to ramble in taverns, to grovel in the cook-shops and suffer from mosquitos.” He loved the ancient ways of talking and declaimed in controversies. He preferred Cato to Cicero, Ennius to Virgil, Cælius to Sallust. He judged with the same freedom, Homer and Plato. His knowledge of astrology was so profound that he wrote down on the eve of the calends of January everything that was to happen to him during the coming year: so that he had written for the year in which he died, all that was to happen to him down to the hour of his death. Although he took pleasure in criticising the musicians, the tragic and comic authors, the rhetoricians, grammarians and orators, he nevertheless enriched and honoured those who taught, loading them nevertheless with difficult questions. He dismissed a great number of petitioners without satisfying them. This did not prevent him, however, from saying that “he never saw a discontented face without feeling sorrow.”13 He lived in great familiarity with the philosophers Epictetus and Heliodorus and in general with the grammarians, rhetoricians, musicians, geometricians, painters and astrologers; but Favorino seems to have been his favourite. After enriching and treating them honourably, Hadrian made those renounce their profession who seemed to lack talent.

XVI. —  Those who had been his enemies before mounting the throne, he contented himself with forgetting when he became emperor, and that same day he said to one of those who had treated him the worst, “You have escaped.” To those whom he called to the colours, he gave horses, mules, clothing, money, in a word, all the necessary outfit. On the Saturnalia and the Sigillaria, he often sent presents to his 17 friends without their expecting them and he received with pleasure presents from them and in return sent others. To discover the frauds of purveyors, when he gave great banquets, he had brought to him food from the other tables and even tasted that from the lowest tables. He won the affection of all the vassal kings by his generosity. He often bathed in public, no matter with whom, a habit which gave occasion for a jest which is still made use of in the baths. Seeing a veteran whom he had formerly known in the army, scratching his back and the rest of his body against the marble, he asked him why he rubbed himself in that manner and upon hearing the veteran’s reply, that he had no slaves to do it for him, he gave him both slaves and money. The next day a number of old men were seen rubbing their backs against the marble so as to attract the attention of the prince: whereupon he bade them to approach him, when he commanded them to do each other this service.

He made great show of his affection for the people. He was so fond of travelling that he wished to see all the places he had read about. He patiently endured with bare head the cold and heat. He showed great deference for some of his subject kings. He bought peace from many of them, was defied by others, yet sent them splendid gifts. But none were treated so liberally as the king of the Iberians, who received from him, without counting other rich presents, an elephant and a cohort of five hundred men. Pharasmanes, having in his turn sent to Hadrian certain superb presents, among others some chlamys (tunics) adorned with gold; Hadrian, in order to twit the messengers, had the same kind of chlamys put upon three hundred criminals whom he then exposed to their view in the arena.

XVII. —  When he administered justice he called to his aid not only his friends and the persons of his suite, but also the leading jurisconsults, such as Julius Celsus, Salvius Julian, Neratius Priscus and others, after first having asked for the approbation of the Senate. He decreed among other things, that no one should demolish a building in any city, for the purpose of transporting the materials to another city. He accorded to the children of proscribed persons a twelfth part of their father’s wealth (which before, was entirely confiscated). He did not permit prosecutions for high treason (læsa majestatis). He never accepted a heritage from citizens whom he had not known, nor from those whom he had known, in case the latter had children of their own. He decided that the person who should find treasure on his own land (treasure-trove) should remain its possessor; that of such as he might find on another’s land, he should give the half of it to the proprietor; 18 and lastly, should the treasure be found on land belonging to the State, half of it should go (to the ærarium and half) to the fisc. He took from masters the right of putting their slaves to death, preferring, if they merited such punishment, that they should be condemned by the law of the land. He prohibited the selling of slaves or servants to slave-merchants, or to masters of gladiators, without giving good reasons for such sale. Those persons who being of age, had dissipated their fortune, he condemned to be scoffed and routed in the theatre. He suppressed the prison for slaves and freedmen. He caused men’s baths to be separated from those of the women. When a master was killed in his own house, the rack was not awarded to all his slaves, as before, but only to those who had been near enough to witness the murder (without attempting to prevent it).

XVIII. —  While he was emperor he exercised the Prætorship in Etruria. He was named Dictator, Ædile and Duumvir, in many of the towns of Italy; Demarcus, equal to Tribune of the People, at Naples; and Quinquennalis (quinquennial magistrate) in his own province (of Latium). He received the same title in Hadria, which he also considered as his own province. Lastly, he was Archon at Athens. He constructed buildings and celebrated games in nearly all the cities of the empire. He gave in the stadium of Athens the spectacle of a chase of a thousand wild beasts. He banished from Rome neither valets of the chase, nor comedians. After great fêtes, given in Rome, he had aromatics distributed to the people in honour of his mother-in-law. In memory of Trajan, he had the steps of the amphitheatre sprinkled with a spray of essences and saffron. There was represented on the scene, after the ancient manner, pieces of all description; he also permitted the court-players to act before the public. He himself killed in the circus a great number of fallow-deer and often as many as a hundred lions. He had many dances executed before the people, military dances called pyrrhics and he frequently assisted at the gladiatorial combats. Although he everywhere erected monuments he put his name only to the temple of Trajan, his father. In Rome he restored the Pantheon,14 the Septa, the temple of Neptune, 19 numbers of other temples, the forum of Augustus and the baths of Agrippa. He consecrated all these edifices under the founders’ names and only put his own to a bridge, his own work. He had his tomb constructed near the Tiber,15 and he caused to be transported to another place the temple of the Holy Mother. The Colossus, upright and suspended, was transported, by the architect Detrianus, from the place where now stands the city temple. To transport it, this enormous mass needed eighty elephants. He consecrated to the Sun this Colossus, which was formerly dedicated to Nero, of whom it was the image, and he ordered the architect Apollodorus to make a copy of it, which he dedicated to the Moon.

XIX. —  He was extremely affable, even with persons of the lowest condition. He could not forbear the pleasure of urbanity because of the necessity of maintaining the majesty of the throne. During his stay in Alexandria, he proposed to the professors in the Museum, a number of questions, which he was obliged to himself determine. Marius Maximus says he was naturally cruel, and the fear of having the same ending as Domitian was the only motive for his good actions. Although he did not like to put his name on the monuments, he gave the name Hadrianople (or Adrianople) to a number of cities, even to Carthage and to a portion of Athens. He also gave his name to a number of aqueducts. He first instituted the Counsellors (advocates) of the Fisc (or Solicitors of the Treasury). He had a splendid memory and great faculties; he wrote his own discourses and replied to all interpellations.

Many of his jokes are remembered; for he loved to joke. This is one of his best: A solicitor, whose hair was turning white and to whom he had refused a favour, returned again but with his hair dyed, and again demanded Hadrian’s favour, to whom Hadrian for response said: “I have already refused this favour to your father.” He called by their names a great many people whose names he had heard but once and that without anyone prompting him. He often corrected the errors of the nomenclators. He knew by their names all the veterans whom he had dismissed. The books he read and even those which he did not understand, he would recite to friends, from memory. He could at the same time write, dictate, listen and converse with his friends. He knew more of the public business than any father of a family would know of his domestic affairs. He was so fond of horses and dogs that he erected tombs to them. He built a town 20 called Hadrianotheras,16 on a spot where he had some fine hunting and had killed a bear.

XX. —  He left no repose to the judges, until he had got from them all he could, to throw light on the truth. He did not wish that his freedmen should influence the public in his favour, a kind of vice which he imputed to all the princes who had preceded him. He punished all who boasted of his favour. From this is cited his trait of being at the same time kind and severe. One day, seeing a slave walking between two senators, he sent some to give him a box on the ears and to say to him: “You should not walk with those to whom one day you may be the slave.” Of all dishes he preferred the tetrapharmacum. It was composed of the flesh of the pheasant, the udder of a sow, some ham, and a crisp paste. Famine and the plague signalized his reign. He endeavoured to avert these evils by sacrifices; and he helped a great many cities that had suffered from them. During this prince’s reign the Tiber overflowed its banks. He gave to a number of cites the Right of Latium, whilst upon others he remitted the taxes. Under him there were no great expeditions; and of his wars it is hardly worth speaking. His liberality to the soldiers and the great care he took of them made him very much beloved by them. He lived in peace with the Parthians, because he recalled the king whom Trajan had given them. He allowed the Armenians, who under Trajan had only a legate, to have a king. He did not exact the tribute which Trajan had imposed upon Mesopotamia. He always kept the friendship of the Albanians and the Iberians, and he gave a great many presents to them, although they had scorned to come to him. The kings of Bactria sent ambassadors to solicit his favour and aid.

XXI. —  He often gave tutors to pupils, and he maintained the civil order with as much care as military discipline. He wished the senators and knights to always wear the toga in public, except when coming home from a supper. Whilst in Italy he himself never appeared in public without the toga. He received standing the senators whom he invited to a repast and at table he wore either the great toga or a turned-down toga. He regulated the expenses of the judges and reduced them to the ancient level. He prohibited from entering Rome wagons heavily laden and into other towns no persons were allowed to enter on horseback. He only permitted the sick to bathe before the eighth hour.17 He was the first who had Roman knights for secretaries and Masters of Requests. He enriched those whose poverty 21 was honourable and only showed inimicality to those whose wealth was acquired by fraud. He diligently enforced the observances of the Roman religion and forbade the practice of all strange or foreign rites. He himself filled the office of Chief-Pontiff. He often presided over cases in Rome and in the provinces, admitting to his counsel the consuls, the prætors and the most distinguished members of the Senate. He constructed an outlet to the waters of the lake of Fucinum. He made four consuls to be judges, whose jurisdiction should extend over all Italy. When he went to Africa it rained for the first time for four years, and this circumstance made the people of the country revere him.

XXII. — The habit he had of travelling bare-headed even in the heaviest rain and during the greatest cold, gave him a malady, which forced him to keep to his bed. Occupied with the thought of naming a successor, he at first thought of Servian, whom later on he compelled to commit suicide. He disliked Fuscus, who from presages and portents thought he might attain the throne. Pletorius Nepos, for whom he had once had such an affection that he patiently supported the affront he gave him by not admitting him near him when the emperor went to see him during his illness, he now suspected. He repulsed Terenthius Gentianus with great animosity, although he was beloved of all the Senate. All those who seemed likely to be called to the throne, he hated as future emperors. He, however, repressed his natural cruelty until the day when a flux of blood caused him the utmost distress. Then he restrained himself no longer and forced Servian to die, as guilty of having aspired to the throne. The charges were that he sent the remains of a meal to the slaves of a king; that at table he sat on a royal chair next to the emperor’s; and lastly, that he, an old man of ninety years, had assumed, with an assured air, some military commands. Hadrian also ordered a number of other citizens to die; this was done either openly or in secret. He is also suspected of having killed his wife Sabina, by giving her poison. It was during this illness that he resolved to adopt Cejonius Commodus, whose beauty had so pleased him, and who was related to Nigrinus, whom he feared so much. He therefore adopted, in spite of everyone, Cejonius Commodus Verus and named him Ælius Verus Cæsar. To celebrate this adoption the emperor ordered games in the circus and distributed money to the people and the soldiers. He gave the new Cæsar the post of prætor and the government of Pannonia, made him consul, gave him money for the expenses of his new office and lastly destined him to a second consulship. But when this prince 22 took sick, he said more than once: “We have leaned upon a tottering wall and lost 400,000,000 sesterces,” the sum which he had given to the people and the soldiers on the adoption of Commodus. On account of his ill health the latter could not even thank Hadrian in the Senate for the favour he had conferred upon him. The malady of Commodus became worse and taking too strong a dose of a certain remedy, he died in sleep, on the calends of January. Hadrian remembering (on other accounts) the solemnity of the day, prohibited the people from mourning for him. After Cæsar Ælius Verus’s death, the emperor, whose own malady was making rapid progress, adopted Arrius Antoninus, who was later on called the Pious; but he imposed the condition that he, in his turn, should adopt Annius Verus and Marcus Antoninus. These were afterwards the first to jointly govern the state as Augusti. Antoninus was, it is said, called the Pious, for having one day offered his hand to his aged father-in-law. Others pretend that he merited this title for having protected a number of senators from Hadrian’s wrath; still others say it was for having done great honour to this prince after his death. Antoninus’s adoption disconcerted many of the candidates, especially Catilius Severus, the præfect of the City, who had chalked out for himself a road to the throne. His schemes were discovered and he was removed from office. Then Hadrian, greatly disgusted with life, ordered one of his slaves to stab him with a sword. This news coming to Antoninus, he hastened with the præfects to the emperor and conjured him to courageously bear his pains. The prince, irated, commanded that he who had betrayed him should be put to death, but Antoninus shielded him and told Hadrian, that as he had adopted him he would become a parricide if he allowed him to take his own life. Hadrian then made his will and continued to occupy himself with the affairs of State. He again tried to kill himself, but the dagger was taken from his hands, an act that made him furious. He demanded poison from his physician, but the latter killed himself rather than obey him.

XXIII. —  At this time there appeared a woman who said she had been warned in a dream to counsel Hadrian not to kill himself, because he would get well, and for not having warned him, she was blinded; but she still had another dream which promised that she should regain her sight should she go and kiss the knees of the prince and give him this advice. She obeyed the dream and recovered the use of her eyes, after bathing them in the holy water that was in the temple she had come from. There also arrived a blind man from Pannonia, one who had been blind from birth; he touched the emperor 23 who was then a prey to fever, and immediately recovered his sight; whereupon the fever left the emperor. I must say that Marius Maximus attributed these prodigies to imposture. Hadrian then went to Baies, leaving Antoninus in Rome to govern. But this sojourn did him no good, so he bade this prince come to him; and he died in his arms, on the sixth of the ides of July. Hadrian, hated by all, was buried at Puteola, (Puzzuolo,) in Cicero’s villa. Fearing, when death was near, that the aged Servian would survive him and occupy the throne, he forced him to die, as we have already mentioned. He also ordered that for some slight fault, several other citizens should die; but Antoninus saved them. It is said that when dying Hadrian composed the following verses:

Animula vagula, blandula,
Hospes, comesque corporis,
Quæ nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec ut soles, dabis jocos.

He also wrote verses in Greek, but they were not much better than these.

XXIV. —  Hadrian lived seventy-two years, five months and seventeen days. He reigned for twenty-one years and eleven months. He was tall and well made, his hair was arranged with art and he had a full beard that covered a few scars (some say warts) on his face; for the rest he was very vigorous. He rode and walked a great deal. He frequently exercised with the javelin and other arms. He was often seen, at the chase, to kill a lion with his own hand, but one day he broke his collar-bone and a rib. He always divided his hunt with his friends. He never gave banquets without having, according to circumstances, tragedians, comedians, harpists, lecturers, or poets. He adorned his villa of Tibur with admirable buildings. These had the names of the provinces and of the most celebrated edifices, such as Lyceum, Academy, Prytaneum, Canopus, Pœcilen and Tempe. Not wishing to omit anything, he even had represented the sojourn of spirits.

The following were the signs of his coming death: On his last birthday, whilst he was making solemn vows for Antoninus, his pretextus unfastened itself and left him bareheaded. The ring upon which was engraved his name, fell from his finger. The day before this birthday, some one came screaming into the Senate. Hadrian was frightened at this voice, which no one understood, as announcing his death. Wishing to say in the Senate, “After my son’s death,” he said, “After 24 my death.” He dreamed also that his father gave him a soporific drink and, at another time, that a lion was strangling him.

XXV. —  After his death many people spoke ill of him. The Senate wished to annul his acts, and only upon the express request of his successor, did they accord him the name of Divus. Antoninus built in Hadrian’s honour a temple at Puteola, instead of a tomb. He instituted quinquennial games in his memory, appointed flamines and a college of priests for his worship; in a word, he made those appointments which were suitable to his deification and which, according to most authors, conferred upon Antoninus the surname of Pious.


 1  Hadria, now Atri, in the province of Naples.

 2  Adjutrix: the honorary title of certain legions.

 3  Æneid, VI, 808.

 4  Trajan’s niece, Sabina, was his next of kin.

 5  This was considered a presage of the empire because, like the emperors, he had the tribunitian power without the mantle!

 6  A “piece” of gold was an aureus or solidus of the weight of about half a sovereign of the present day, but of far greater purchasing power.

 7  The eleventh of August.

 8  The original, says “Britanni.”

 9  The Roxolani inhabited the province now called Kiev, or Kiow.

10  The fisc was the treasury of the Emperor, or Privy Purse, as distinguished from the ærarium or treasury of the State.

11  The bull Apis symbolized Osiris, the Redeemer, who was incarnated under this form. It had to be born black, with a white square on the forehead, and spread-eagle on its back, a white cross on its right flank, a scrabæus under the tongue and some other birth-marks, these being the principal symbols of the Buddhic, Osirian and Bacchic religions. As this combination of marks would hardly be found among many millions of animals, there is little doubt that the priests of Egypt simulated them, whenever the period recurred for the appearance of their Redeemer. The occasion mentioned by Ælius Spartianus may either have been the 110th year (Ludi Sæculares of the Egyptians) counting from A.D. 14, which is the “shifted date of the second Augustan æra,” (See “Worship of Augustus,” chapter on “Æras,”) or the 658th year counting the apotheosis of Darius Hystaspes B.C. 521. (Ibid.) The first conjecture derives some corroboration from Ammianus Marcellinus, (XXXII, 14-15.) who says that Apis again appeared in the reign of Julian, which by our calendar was A.D. 360-3. The second Apis appears to be confirmed by Censorinus XXI, who says that the Annus Magnus (the great year, as that of the Incarnation was called) occurred in the consulate of Ant. Pius and Brut. Præsena, which in our calendar is attributed to A.D. 138. This is exactly 660 years, the Nodical cycle rounded, or six Ludi Sæculares from Darius, who ruled both in Persia and Egypt. Dio. Sic., XI, 3 and the work above cited. The exact cycle would bring the year of Apis to A.D. 136, years before the death of Hadrian.

12  Probably Arsaces XXVI, whose reign is assigned to this date: but owing to Augustus’ alterations of the calendar, all dates of this period are treacherous.

13  A similar saying is attributed to Titus. Suet., in vita, 8.

14  In his report of 1894 to the French Academy of Fine Arts relating to the restoration of the Pantheon, M. Chedanne stated that his examination of the structure conclusively established the following facts: First, that the builder of the edifice was also its decorator; Second, that the tiles of the main vault were “stamped with dies known to be of the time of Hadrian and of the probable date of A.D. 123;” Third, that “the whole of the rotunda was built by Hadrian,” not merely “restored” as stated by Spartianus; and Fourth, that the portico ascribed by Dion Cassius to Agrippa was in fact constructed long after the Augustan age. London Times, January 15, 1895.

15  The bridge and tomb alluded to in the text are still standing and both bear the name of St. Angelo.

16  Hadrianotheras, or Hadrian’s Chase.

17  Eighth hour, or 2 P.M.

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