Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Hadrian (HAY-dree-uhn), formally known as Publius Aelius Hadrianus, the Roman emperor. Knowing that his death is fast approaching, Hadrian sets down in the most truthful manner possible the important events of his sixty years, along with his meditations on politics, the arts, and the world. Beginning with his Roman schooling, he sees the beauty of philosophy, grammar, and poetry, and their applicability to human affairs. In Rome, he learns Greek and is thus opened to another world and what he sees as an almost perfect mode of thinking and being. He climbs the judicial and military ladder, always learning from even the most mediocre tasks and duties the reasons why and the manner in which people act and behave, as well as developing his own commanding and governing style. The diversity of his aptitudes, an intuitive touch during difficult negotiations, his battlefield skill, personal self-discipline, and interest in barbarian cultures and religions all bring him to the attention of his cousin, Emperor Trajan. Hadrian supremely believes in life and, therefore, in change and movement; open to all situations and human possibilities, he is always ready to react. Following Trajan’s death and his accession to the throne at the age of forty, he desires to establish or maintain the Roman order in the world by means of a mix of intelligent compromises, commercial treaties and nonaggression pacts, all-out war, and negotiated peace. His only passion has been for Antinous, a handsome Greco-Asian youth who makes him completely happy, perhaps for the first time. Feeling constricted in this relationship, however, he seeks ways to leave Antinous. When the young man commits suicide, the emperor creates an almost megalomaniacal cult by building cities, temples, and...

(The entire section is 737 words.)

Characters / Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Resigned to the prospect of his impending death, Hadrian is presented in the novel as a character in search of self. Determined to explore...

(The entire section is 255 words.)