Sunday, March 15, 2020

Challenging Gender Roles: the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Epit. de. Caes. XIV.

TRIGGER WARNING: homophobic slur

Aelius Adrianus, stirpis Italae, Aelio Adriano, Traiani principis consobrino, Adriae orto genitus, quod oppidum agri Piceni etiam mari Adriatico nomen dedit, imperavit annis viginti duobus. Hic Graecis litteris impensius eruditus a plerisque Graeculus appellatus est. Atheniensium studia moresque hausit potitus non sermone tantum, sed et ceteris disciplinis, canendi psallendi medendique scientia, musicus geometra pictor fictorque ex aere vel marmore proxime Polycletus et Euphranoras.Proinde omnino ad ista et facetus, ut elegantius umquam raro quicquam humanae res expertae videantur. Memor supra quam cuiquam credibile est, locos negotia milites, absentes quoque, nominibus recensare. Immnesi laboris, quippe qui provincias omnes passibus circumierit agmen comitantium praevertens, cum oppida universa restitueret, auget ordinibus. Namque ad specimen legionum militarium fabros perpendiculatores architectos genusque cunctum exsturendorum moenium seu decorandorum in cohortes centuriaverat. Varius multiplex multiformis; ad vitia atque virtutes quasi arbiter genitus, impetum mentis quodam artificio regens, ingenium invidum triste lascivum et ad ostentationem sui insolens calide tegebat; continentiam facilitatem clementiam simulans contraque dissimulans ardorem gloriae, quo flagrabat. Acer nimis ad lacessendum pariter et respondendum seriis ioco maledictis; referre carmen carmini, dictum dictui, prorsus ut meditatum crederes adversus omnia. Huius uxor Sabina, dum prope servilibus iniuriis afficitur, ad mortem voluntaria compulsa. Quae palam iactabat se, quod immane ingenium probavisse,t elaborasse, ne ex eo ad humani generis perniciem gravidaretur. Hic morbo subcutaneo, quem diu placide pertulerat, victus, dolore ardens impatiensque plures e senatu exstinxit. A regibus multis pace occultius muneribus impetrata, iactabat palam plus se otio adeptum quam armis ceteros. Officia sane publica et palatina nec non militae in eam formam statuit, quae paucis per Constantinum immutatis hodie perseverat. Vixit annos sexaginta duos; dehinc miserabili exitu consumptus est, cruciatu membrorum fere omnium confectus, in tantum, ut crebro sese interficiendum ministrorum fidissimis precans offeret, ac ne in semetipsum saeviret, custodia carissimorum servaretur.

--Epitome de Caesaribus XIV.1-12

The Emperor Hadrian, the son of Aelius Adrianus, a member of an Italian family and the cousin of the Emperor Trajan, was born in a town Adria (in the Picenum region, a town that gives the Adriatic Sea its name). He ruled for twenty-two years.
Hadrian was called "the Little Greek" because he was very passionate about Greek literature and culture. He was quite enamoured with Athenian culture; not only their language, but also their other disciplines as well: he excelled in singing, playing the lyre, the art of medicine, music, geometry, painting, and even sculpting in marble and bronze! His artistic style resembled Polycletus' and Euphranoras'. He was also very refined, to such an extent that it seems that the human race could scarcely find one more elegant. He had a photographic memory, and could remember the names of locations, transactions, and soldiers, even those that were absent. He was incredibly energetic, travelling throughout the provinces on foot, surpassing them in his speedy gait. He renovated each town he visited, and increased their social classes.  For example, on the military legions, he recruited carpenters, stone masons, architects of all kinds, to build and amplify the city walls. He was diverse, complicated, and deep; born with an almost innate balance of virtue and vice; he cleverly covered his own pride with a rare sense of self-awareness; he presented himself as having mercy, and downplayed his own desire for fame that burned in his breast. He was very witty in both banter and insults, he could reply "tit for tat" whether in spoken word or verse, to the extent that you would think he had prepared them ahead of time. His wife Sabina was driven to suicide by servile taunts. She often boasted that, since she was the best judge of his character, she had seen to it that being pregnant by him would bring disaster to the human race. After enduring a subcutaneous disease for a long time, he could no longer put on a brave face and, being overcome by pain, he took it out on many senators by killing them.
Having obtained peace from many kings through gifts and tributes, he often boasted that he had accomplished more for the empire with leisure than others had done with warfare. With the exception of a handful of changes made by Constantine, Hadrian's organization of infrastructure, both imperial and public [not including military infrastructure], remain untouched even to this day. He lived sixty-two years, then, consumed by a utterly pitiful end, being overcome by pain in all of his limbs to the point that he begged his friends for death, lest in his pain he order those around him to be killed. 

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