Hadrian Criticism - Essay

Bernard W. Henderson (essay date 1923)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Henderson, Bernard W. “‘Rest after Toil’.” In The Life and Principate of the Emperor Hadrian A.D. 76-138, pp. 235-46. London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1923.

[In the following excerpt, Henderson examines Hadrian's leisure activities and evaluates his contribution to literature.]


So the day drew towards evening.

Hadrian had returned from Egypt to Rome in a.d. 131. The Jewish rebellion had called him again to the East for a brief time two years later. Except for this interlude he quitted home no more during his last seven years of life.

His Imperial work, other than the routine of...

(The entire section is 5123 words.)

Paul J. Alexander (essay date 1938)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Alexander, Paul J. “Letters and Speeches of the Emperor Hadrian.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 49 (1938): 141-77.

[In the following excerpt, Alexander presents Hadrian's major concerns as an emperor based on an examination of his extant official documents and speeches.]

The Emperor Hadrian is generally credited with having been the best of the “Five Good Emperors.” The literary sources at our disposal for his reign, however, are particularly scanty; of the sixty-ninth book of Cassius Dio only an epitome is preserved, and the Emperor's biography by the writers of the Historia Augusta, though much more reliable than those of the later...

(The entire section is 11673 words.)

Moses Hadas (essay date 1952)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hadas, Moses. “The Age of Hadrian.” In A History of Latin Literature, pp. 334-52. N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 1952.

[In the following essay, Hadas surveys Latin literature during the reign of Hadrian.]

Hadrian was the first of the Roman emperors to wear a beard, and the neatly trimmed archaism is a sign manifest of the first full-blown classicizing renascence in European literature, which Hadrian introduced. The sculptors of his age produced the pretty copies of Greek classics which fill our museums, and the pretty productions of the littérateurs are their exact counterpart. Silver Latin was enslaved to rhetorical embellishment and point, as we have...

(The entire section is 7708 words.)

W. den Boer (essay date 1955)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: den Boer, W. “Religion and Literature in Hadrian's Policy.” Mnemosyne 8, no. 2 (1955): 123-44.

[In the following essay, den Boer describes some of the difficulties in determining and reconciling Hadrian's views on religion, tracing them to three distinct phases in the emperor's development.]

More than twenty years ago Rostovtzeff stated that the emperor Hadrian's reign, in spite of all that had been written about it, fully deserved a fresh monograph1. The remark still holds good, notwithstanding the many studies, even extensive works, which have been devoted to this ruler since. Whenever Rostovtzeff's suggestion is followed Hadrian's religious...

(The entire section is 8177 words.)

Wynne Williams (essay date 1976)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Williams, Wynne. “Individuality in the Imperial Constitutions: Hadrian and the Antonines.” Journal of Roman Studies 66 (1976): 67-83.

[In the following excerpt, Williams examines edicts and letters of Hadrian as documentary evidence that sheds light on the emperor's personal traits.]


A considerable number of texts of official pronouncements of Roman emperors (which will be referred to, rather inaccurately,1 as constitutions, for the sake of brevity) have been preserved on inscriptions, in papyri and in the writings of the classical jurists and the imperial...

(The entire section is 6218 words.)

George C. Schoolfield (essay date 1978)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Schoolfield, George C. “Hadrian, Antinous, and a Rilke Poem.” In Creative Encounter: Festschrift for Herman Salinger, edited by Leland R. Phelps and A. Tilo Alt, pp. 145-70. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

[In the following essay, Schoolfield surveys assorted nineteenth and twentieth century poetic interpretations of Hadrian's relationship with the youth Antinous.]


The Emperor Hadrian, who is the speaker of Rilke's “Klage um Antinous,” has enjoyed considerable popularity among poets, not least because he belongs to their guild: “Fuit enim poematum et litterarum nimium studiosissimus.” One of his...

(The entire section is 12525 words.)

J. Gwyn Griffiths (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Griffiths, J. Gwyn. “Hadrian's Egyptianizing Animula.Maia 36, no. 3 (September-December 1984): 263-66.

[In the following essay, Griffiths sets forth the argument that Hadrian may have been influenced by the Egyptian concept of the ba, a bird with a human head, when he describes the soul in his most celebrated poem.]

In Maia 23 (1971) pp., 297-302 Carlo Gallavotti presents an able defence of Hadrian's famous lyric as found in a text of the Historia Augusta:

Animula vagula blandula,
hospes comesque corporis,
quo nunc abibis? In loca
pallidula rigida nudula,
nec ut soles dabis iocos.


(The entire section is 1960 words.)

Anthony R. Birley (essay date 1997)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Birley, Anthony R. “Epilogue: Animula vagula blandula.” In Hadrian: The Restless Emperor, pp. 301-07. London: Routledge, 1997.

[In the following essay, Birley summarizes Hadrian's accomplishments and reviews his reputation.]

animula vagula blandula,
hospes comesque corporis,
quo nunc abibis? in loca
pallidula rigida nubila—
nec ut soles dabis iocos.

Few short poems can have generated so many verse translations and such copious academic debate as these five lines—a mere nineteen words—of the dying Hadrian, quoted in the Historia Augusta. Even their authenticity has been questioned. But that, at least, seems to have been...

(The entire section is 5426 words.)