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The Emperor Hadrian

Hadrian was a bit before my lifetime but I was introduced to him while walking the wall and visiting fortresses in the Northumberland of my childhood. The wall is widely depicted as a means of keeping out the violent , uncontrollable Picts while The Roman Empire battled to keep its land. Since the Roman descent into Northern Europe met with little opposition, it is now believed that the wall was built to mark the end of the Empire. In other words, the Romans didn’t want to go any farther and it was their idea of immigration control.

Hadrian maintained his Empire by overseeing it and visiting its boundaries on horse and by foot. He was undoubtedly a fierce warrior and military man who dispensed with his enemies quite mercilessly - but these were difficult times and you had to struggle to stay on top. He also had a reputation for being affable and doing things by the rule-book.

Although married to Sabina, Hadrian showed little interest in her. Like the Greek Alexander, it seems he preferred the Hellenic tradition where pure love was between man and boy, whilst relations between the opposite sexes were reserved for the purpose of procreation. Indeed it has been said that of the Roman Emperors, only Claudius could be described as altogether ‘heterosexual’.

Hadrian had Antinous brought in as a ‘house-boy’. His age at the time is a matter of some conjecture but he was probably below the legal age of consent that exists today. Hadrian and Antinous remained together until the latter’s death in his mid-twenties. What sets them apart is the love and affection they showed for each other. Antinous was said to be a hunter, artist and a master of wit.

Antinous drowned mysteriously in or around AD123. Hadrian was said to cry rivers with grief. He had a statue built to commemorate Antinous and declared him a deity.

Antony, Northumberland

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