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This webpage reproduces a Book of
Roman History

Cassius Dio

published in Vol. VIII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1925

The text is in the public domain.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book LXX

Cassius Dio
Roman History

Thayer's Note: Before e-mailing me with questions, comments, or corrections involving the numbering of Books, chapters, and sections in this text, please read the orientation page.

Epitome of Book LXIX

11 Hadrian had not been adopted by Trajan; he was merely a compatriot and former ward of his, was of near kin to him and had married his niece, — in short, he was a companion of his, sharing his daily life, 2 and had been assigned to Syria for the Parthian War. Yet he had received no distinguishing mark of favour from Trajan, such as being one of the first to be appointed consul. He became Caesar and emperor owing to the fact that when Trajan died childless, Attianus, a compatriot and former guardian of his, together with Plotina, who was in love with him, secured him the appointment, their efforts being facilitated by his proximity and by his possession of a large military force. 3 My father, Apronianus, who was governor of Cilicia, had ascertained accurately the whole story about him, and he used to relate the various incidents, in particular stating that the death of Trajan was concealed for several days in order that Hadrian's adoption might be announced first. 4 This was shown also by Trajan's letters to the senate, for they were signed, not by him, but by Plotina, although she had not done this in any previous instance.

2 At the time that he was declared emperor, Hadrian was in Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, of which he was governor. He had dreamed before the day in  p427 question that a fire descended out of heaven, the day being perfectly clear and bright, and fell first upon the left side of his throat, passing then to the right side, though it neither frightened nor injured him. 2 And he wrote to the senate asking that body to confirm the sovereignty to him and forbidding the passing either then or later of any measure (as was so often done) that contained any special honour for him, unless he should ask for it at some time.

3 The bones of Trajan were deposited in his Column, and the Parthian Games, as they were called, continued for a number of years; but at a later date even this observance, like many others, was abolished.

4 In a certain letter that Hadrian wrote, in which were many high-minded sentiments, he swore that he would neither do anything contrary to the public interest nor put to death any senator, and he invoked destruction upon himself if he should violate these promises in any wise.

5 Hadrian,º though he ruled with the greatest mildness, was nevertheless severely criticized for slaying several of the best men in the beginning of his reign and again near the end of his life, and for this reason he came near failing to be enrolled among the demigods. Those who were slain at the beginning were Palma and Celsus, Nigrinus and Lusius, the first two for the alleged reason that they had conspired against him during a hunt, and the others on certain complaints, but in reality because they had great influence and enjoyed wealth and fame. 6 Nevertheless, Hadrian felt so keenly the comments that this  p429 action occasioned, that he made a defence and declared upon oath that he had not ordered their deaths. Those who perished at the end of his reign were Servianus and his grandson Fuscus.

62 Hadrian was a pleasant man to meet and he possessed a certain charm.

3 As regards birth Hadrian was the son of a man of senatorial rank, an ex-praetor, Hadrianus Afer by name. By nature he was fond of literary study in both the Greek and Latin languages, and has left behind a variety of prose writings as well as compositions in verse. 2 For his ambition was insatiable, and hence he practised all conceivable pursuits, even the most trivial; for example, he modelled and painted, and declared that there was nothing pertaining to peace or war, to imperial or private life, of which he was not cognizant. 3 All this, of course, did people no harm; but his jealousy of all who excelled in any respect was most terrible and caused the downfall of many, besides utterly destroying several. For, inasmuch as he wished to surpass everybody in everything, he hated those who attained eminence in any direction. 4 It was this feeling that led him to undertake to overthrow two sophists, Favorinus the Gaul, and Dionysius of Miletus, by various methods, but chiefly by elevating their antagonists, who were of little or no worth at all. 5 Dionysius is said to have remarked then to Avidius Heliodorus, who had had charge of the  p431 emperor's correspondence: "Caesar can give you money and honour, but he cannot make you an orator." 6 And Favorinus, who was about to plead a case before the emperor in regard to exemption from taxes, a privilege which he desired to secure to his native land, suspected that he should be unsuccessful and receive insults besides, and so merely entered the court-room and made this brief statement: "My teacher stood beside me last night in a dream and bade me serve my country, as having been born for her."

4 Now Hadrian spared these men, displeased as he was with them, for he could find no plausible pretext to use against them for their destruction. But he first banished and later put to death Apollodorus, the architect, who had built the various creations of Trajan in Rome — the forum, the odeum and the gymnasium. 2 The reason assigned was that he had been guilty of some misdemeanour; but the true reason was that once when Trajan was consulting him on some point about the buildings he had said to Hadrian, who had interrupted with some remark: "Be off, and draw your gourds. You don't understand any of these matters." (It chanced that Hadrian at the time was pluming himself upon some such drawing.) 3 When he became emperor, therefore, he remembered this slight and would not endure the man's freedom of speech. He sent him the plan of the temple of Venus and Roma by way of showing him that a great work could be accomplished without his aid, and asked Apollodorus whether the proposed structure was satisfactory. 4 The architect in his reply stated, first, in regard to the temple, that it ought to have been built on  p433 high ground and that the earth should have been excavated beneath it, so that it might have stood out more conspicuously on the Sacred Way from its higher position, and might also have accommodated the machines in its basement, so that they could be put together unobserved and brought into the theatre without anyone's being aware of them beforehand. Secondly, in regard to the statues, he said that they had been made too tall for the height of the cella. 5 "For now," he said, "if the goddesses wish to get up and go out, they will be unable to do so." When he wrote this so bluntly to Hadrian, the emperor was both vexed and exceedingly grieved because he had fallen into a mistake that could not be righted, and he restrained neither his anger nor his grief, but slew the man. 6 Indeed, his nature was such that he was jealous not only of the living, but also of the dead; at any rate he abolished Homer and introduced in his stead Antimachus, whose very name had previously been unknown to many.

5 Other traits for which people found fault with him were his great strictness, his curiosity and his meddlesomeness. Yet he balanced and atoned for these defects by his careful oversight, his prudence, his munificence and his skill; furthermore, he did not stir up any war, and he terminated those already in progress; and he deprived no one of money unjustly, while upon many — communities and private citizens,  p435 senators and knights — he bestowed large sums. 2 Indeed, he did not even wait to be asked, but acted in absolutely every case according to the individual needs. He subjected the legions to the strictest discipline, so that, though strong, they were neither insubordinate nor insolent; and he aided the allied and subject cities most munificently. 3 He had seen many of them, — more, in fact, than any other emperor, — and he assisted practically all of them, giving to some a water supply, to others harbours, food, public works, money and various honours, differing the different cities.

6 He led the Roman people rather by dignity than by flattery. Once at a gladiatorial contest, when the crowd was demanding something very urgently, he not only would not grant it but further bade the herald proclaim Domitian's command, "Silence." 2 The word was not uttered, however, for the herald raised his hand and by that very gesture quieted the people, as heralds are accustomed to do (for crowds are never silenced by proclamation), and then, when they had become quiet, he said: "That is what he wishes." And Hadrian was not in the least angry with the herald, but actually honoured him for not uttering the rude order. 3 For he could bear such things, and was not displeased if he received aid either in an unexpected way or from ordinary men. At any rate, once, when a woman made a request of him as he passed by on a journey, he at first said to her, "I haven't time," but afterwards, when she  p437 cried out, "Cease, then, being emperor," he turned about and granted her a hearing.a

7 He transacted with the aid of the senate all the important and most urgent business and he held court with the assistance of the foremost men, now in the palace, now in the Forum or the Pantheon or various other places, always being seated on a tribunal, so that whatever was done was made public. Sometimes he would join the consuls when they were trying cases and he showed them honour at the horse-races. 2 When he returned home he was wont to be carried in a litter, in order not to trouble anyone to accompany him. On the days that were neither sacred nor suitable for public business he remained at home, and admitted no one, even so much as just to greet him, unless it were on some urgent matter; this was in order to spare people a troublesome duty. 3 Both in Rome and abroad he always kept the noblest men about him, and he used to join them at banquets and for this reason often took three others into his carriage. He went hunting as often as possible, and he breakfasted without wine; he used to eat a good deal, and often in the midst of trying a case he would partake of food; later he would dine in the company of all the foremost and best men, and their meal together was the occasion for all kinds of discussions. 4 When his friends were very ill, he would visit them, and he would attend their festivals, and was glad to stay at their country seats and their town houses. Hence he also placed in the Forum images of many when they were dead and of many while they were still alive. No one of  p439 his associates, moreover, displayed insolence or took money for divulging anything that Hadrian either said or did, as the freedmen and other attendants in the suite of emperors are accustomed to do.

8  1 This is a kind of preface, of a summary nature, that I have been giving in regard to his character. I shall also relate in detail all the events that require mention.

1a The Alexandrians had been rioting, and nothing would make them stop until they received a letter from Hadrian rebuking them. So true is it that an emperor's word will have more force than arms.

12 On coming to Rome he cancelled the debts that were owing to the imperial treasury and to the public treasury of the Romans, fixing a period of fifteen years from the first to the last of which this remission was to apply. 2 On his birthday he gave the usual spectacle free to the people and slew many wild beasts, so that one hundred lions, for example, and a like number of lionesses fell on this single occasion. He also distributed gifts by means of little balls which he threw broadcast both in the theatres and in the Circus, for the men and for the women separately. And further, he also commanded them to bathe separately. 3 Besides these events of  p441 that year, Euphrates, the philosopher, died a death of his own choosing, since Hadrian permitted him to drink hemlock in consideration of his extreme age and his malady.

9 Hadrian travelled through one province after another, visiting the various regions and cities and inspecting all the garrisons and forts. Some of these he removed to more desirable places, some he abolished, and he also established some new ones. 2 He personally viewed and investigated absolutely everything, not merely the usual appurtenances of camps, such as weapons, engines, trenches, ramparts and palisades, but also the private affairs of every one, but of the men serving in the ranks and of the officers themselves, — their lives, their quarters and their habits, — and he reformed and corrected in many cases practices and arrangements for living that had become too luxurious. 3 He drilled the men for every kind of battle, honouring some and reproving others, and he taught them all what should be done. And in order that they should be benefited by observing him, he everywhere led a rigorous life and either walked or rode on horseback on all occasions, never once at this period setting foot in either a chariot or a four-wheeled vehicle. 4 He covered his head neither in hot weather nor in cold, but alike amid German snows and under scorching Egyptian suns he went about with his head bare. In fine, both by his example and by his precepts he so trained and disciplined the whole military force throughout the entire empire that even  p443 to‑day the methods then introduced by him are the soldiers' law of campaigning. 5 This best explains why he lived for the most part at peace with foreign nations; for as they saw his state of preparation and were themselves not only free from aggression but received money besides, they made no uprising. 6 So excellently, indeed, had his soldiery been trained that the cavalry of the Batavians, as they were called, swam the Ister with their arms. Seeing all this, the barbarians stood in terror of the Romans, they employed Hadrian as an arbitrator of their differences.

10 1 He also constructed theatres and held games as he travelled about from city to city, dispensing, however, with the imperial trappings; for he never used these outside Rome. And yet he did not see his native land, though he showed it great honour and bestowed many splendid gifts upon it. 2 He is said to have been enthusiastic about hunting. Indeed, he broke his collar-bone at this pursuit and came near getting his leg maimed; and to a city that he founded in Mysia he gave the name of Hadrianotherae. However, he did not neglect any of the duties of his office because of this pastime. Some light is thrown upon his passion for hunting by what he did for his steed Borysthenes, which was his favourite horse for the chase; when the animal died, he prepared a tomb for him, set up a slab and placed an inscription upon it. 31 It is not strange, then, that upon the death of Plotina, the woman through whom he had secured  p445 the imperial office because of her love for him, he honoured her exceedingly, wearing black for nine days, erecting a temple to her and composing some hymns in her memory.

3a When Plotina died, Hadrian praised her, saying: "Though she asked much of me, she was never refused anything." By this he simply meant to say: "Her requests were of such a character that they neither burdened me nor afforded me any justification for opposing them."

32 He was so skilful in the chase that he once brought down a huge boar with a single blow.

11 1 On coming to Greece he was admitted to the highest grade at the Mysteries.

After this he passed through Judaea into Egypt and offered sacrifice to Pompey, concerning whom he is said to have uttered this verse:

"Strange lack of tomb for one with shrines o'erwhelmed!"

[image ALT: The marble bust of a handsome young man. It is a portrait-bust of Antinous in the Vatican Museums in Rome.]

a bust in the Vatican Museums.

And he restored his monument, which had fallen in ruin. 2 In Egypt also he rebuilt the city named henceforth for Antinous. Antinous was from Bithynium, a city of Bithynia, which we also call Claudiopolis; he had been a favourite of the emperor and had died in Egypt, either by falling into the Nile, as Hadrian writes, or, as the truth is, by being offered in sacrifice. 3 For Hadrian, as I have stated, was always very curious and employed divinations and incantations of all kinds. Accordingly, he honoured  p447 Antinous, either because of his love for him or because the youth had voluntarily undertaken to die (it being necessary that a life should be surrendered freely for the accomplishment of the ends Hadrian had in view), by building a city on the spot where he had suffered this fate and naming it after him; 4 and he also set up statues, or rather sacred images, of him, practically all over the world. Finally, he declared that he had seen a star which he took to be that of Antinous, and gladly lent an ear to the fictitious tales woven by his associates to the effect that the star had really come into being from the spirit of Antinous and had then appeared for the first time. On this account, then, he became the object of some ridicule, and also because at the death of his sister Paulina he had not immediately paid her any honour . . .

12 1 At Jerusalem he founded a city in place of the one which had been razed to the ground, naming it Aelia Capitolina, and on the site of the temple of the god he raised a new temple to Jupiter. This brought on a war of no slight importance nor of brief duration, 2 for the Jews deemed it intolerable that foreign races should be settled in their city and foreign religious rites planted there. So long, indeed, as Hadrian was close by in Egypt and again in Syria, they remained quiet, save in so far as they purposely made of poor quality such weapons as they were called upon to furnish, in order that the Romans might reject them and they themselves might thus have the use of them; but when he went farther away, they openly revolted. 3 To be sure, they did not dare try conclusions with the  p449 Romans in the open field, but they occupied the advantageous positions in the country and strengthened them with mines and walls, in order that they might have places of refuge whenever they should be hard pressed, and might meet together unobserved under ground; and they pierced these subterranean passages from above at intervals to let in air and light.

13 1 At first the Romans took no account of them. Soon, however, all Judaea had been stirred up, and the Jews everywhere were showing signs of disturbance, were gathering together, and giving evidence of great hostility to the Romans, partly by secret and partly by overt acts; 2 many outside nations, too, were joining them through eagerness for gain, and the whole earth, one might almost say, was being stirred up over the matter. Then, indeed, Hadrian sent against them his best generals. First of these was Julius Severus, who was dispatched from Britain, where he was governor, against the Jews. 3 Severus did not venture to attack his opponents in the open at any one point, in view of their numbers and their desperation, but by intercepting small groups, thanks to the number of his soldiers and his under-officers, and by depriving them of food and shutting them up, he was able, rather slowly, to be sure, but with comparatively little danger, to crush, exhaust and exterminate them. Very few of them in fact survived. 14 1 Fifty of their most important outposts and nine hundred and eighty-five of their most famous villages were  p451 razed to the ground. Five hundred and eighty thousand men were slain in the various raids and battles, and the number of those that perished by famine, disease and fire was past finding out. 2 Thus nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, a result of which the people had had forewarning before the war. For the tomb of Solomon, which the Jews regard as an object of veneration, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed, and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities. 3 Many Romans, moreover, perished in this war. Therefore Hadrian in writing to the senate did not employ the opening phrase commonly affected by the emperors, "If you and our children are in health, it is well; I and the legions are in health."

4 He sent Severus into Bithynia, which needed no armed force but a governor and leader who was just and prudent and a man of rank. All this qualifications Severus possessed. And he managed and administer both their private and their public affairs in such a manner that we are still, even to‑day, wont to remember him. Pamphylia, in place Bithynia, was given to the senate and made assignable by lot.

15 1 This, then, was the end of the war with the Jews. A second war was begun by the Alani (they are Massagetae) at the instigation of Pharasmanes. It  p453 caused dire injury to the Albanian territory and Media, and then involved Armenia and Cappadocia; after which, as the Alani were not only persuaded by gifts from Vologaesus but also stood in dread of Flavius Arrianus, the governor of Cappadocia, it came to a stop.

2 Envoys were sent from Vologaesus and from the Iazyges; the former made some charges against Pharasmanes and the latter wished to confirm the peace. He introduced them to the senate and was empowered by that body to return appropriate answers; and these he accordingly prepared and read to them.

16 1 Hadrian completed the Olympieum at Athens, in which his own statue also stands, and dedicated there a serpent, which had been brought from India. He also presided at the Dionysia, first assuming the highest office among the Athenians, and arrayed in the local costume, carried it through brilliantly. 2 He allowed the Greeks to build in his honour the shrine which was named the Panhellenium, and instituted a series of games in connection with it; and he granted to the Athenians large sums of money, an annual dole of grain, and the whole of Cephallenia. Among numerous laws that he enacted was one to the effect that no senator, either personally or through the agency of another, should  p455 have any tax farmed out to him. 3 After he had returned to Rome the crowd at a spectacle shouted their request for the emancipation of a certain charioteer; but he replied in writing on a bulletin-board: "It is not right for you either to ask me to free another's slave or to force his master to do so."

17 1 He now began to be sick; for he had been subject even before this to a flow of blood from the nostrils, and at this time it became distinctly more copious. He therefore despaired of his life, and on this account appointed Lucius Commodus to be Caesar for the Romans, although this man frequently vomited blood. Servianus and his grandson Fuscus, the former a nonagenarian and the latter eighteen years of age, were put to death on the ground that they were displeased at this action. 2 Servianus before being executed asked for fire, and as he offered incense he exclaimed: "That I am guilty of no wrong, ye, O Gods, are well aware; as for Hadrian, this is my only prayer, that he may long for death but be unable to die." And, indeed, Hadrian did linger on a long time in his illness, and often prayed that he might expire, and often desired to kill himself. 3 There is, indeed, a letter of his in existence which gives proof of precisely this — how dreadful it is to long for death and yet be unable to die. This Servianus had been regarded by Hadrian as capable of filling even the imperial office. For instance, Hadrian had once at a banquet told his friends to name him ten men who were competent to be sole ruler, and then, after a  p457 moment's pause, had added: "nine only I want to know; for one I have already — Servianus."

18 1 Other excellent men, also, came to light during that period, of whom the most distinguished were Turbo and Similis, who, indeed, were honoured with statues. Turbo was a man of the greatest generalship and had become prefect, or commander of the Praetorians. He displayed neither effeminacy nor haughtiness in anything that he did, but lived like one of the multitude; 2 among other things, he spent the entire day near the palace and often he would go there even before midnight, when some of the others were just beginning to sleep. 3 In this connexion the following anecdote is related of Cornelius Fronto, who was the foremost Roman of the time in pleading before the courts. One night he was returning home from dinner very late, and ascertained from a man whose counsel he had promised to be that Turbo was already holding court. Accordingly, just as he was, in his dinner dress, he went into Turbo's court-room and greeted him, not with the morning salutation, Salve, but with the one appropriate to the evening, Vale. 4 Turbo was never seen at home in the day-time, even when he was sick; and to Hadrian, who advised him to remain quiet, he replied: "The prefect ought to die on his feet."

19 1 Similis was of more advanced years and rank than Turbo, and in character was second to none of the great men, in my opinion. This may be inferred  p459 even from incidents that are very trivial. For instance when Trajan of course summoned him, while he was still a centurion, to enter his presence ahead of the prefects, he said: "It is a shame, Caesar, that you should be talking with a centurion while the prefects stand outside." 2 Moreover, he assumed the command of the Praetorians reluctantly, and after assuming it resigned it. Having with difficulty secured his release, he spent the rest of his life, seven years, quietly in the country, and upon his tomb he caused this inscription to be placed: "Here lies Similis, who existed so-and‑so many years, and lived seven."

23 4 Julius Fabius, not being able to endure his son's effeminacy, desired to throw himself into the river.

20 1 Hadrian became consumptive as a result of his great loss of blood, and this led to dropsy. And as it happened that Lucius Commodus was suddenly carried off by a severe haemorrhage, the emperor convened at his house the most prominent and most respected of the senators; and lying there upon his couch, he spoke to them as follows: 2 "I, my friends, have not been permitted by nature to have a son, but you have made it possible by legal enactment. Now there is this difference between the two methods — that a begotten son turns out to be whatever sort of person Heaven pleases, whereas one that is adopted a man takes to himself as the result of a deliberate selection. 3 Thus by the process of nature a maimed and witless child is often given to a parent, but by  p461 process of selection one of sound body and sound mind is certain to be chosen. For this reason I formerly selected Lucius before all others — a person such as I could never have expected a child of my own to become. 4 But since Heaven has bereft us of them, I have found as emperor for you in his place the man whom I now give you, one who is noble, mild, tractable, prudent, neither young enough to do anything reckless nor old enough to neglect aught, one who has been brought up according to the laws and one who has exercised authority in accordance with our traditions, so that he is not ignorant of any matters pertaining to the imperial office, but could handle them all effectively. 5 I refer to our Antoninus here. Although I know him to be the least inclined of men to become involved in affairs and to be far from desiring any such power still I do not think that he will deliberately disregard either me or you, but will accept the office even against his will."

21 1 So it was that Antoninus became emperor. And since he had no male offspring, Hadrian adopted for him Commodus' son Commodus, and, in addition to him, Marcus Annius Verus; for he wished to appoint those who were afterwards to be emperors for as long a time ahead as possible. This Marcus Annius, earlier named Catilius, was a grandson of Annius Verus who had been consul thrice and prefect of the city. 2 And though had kept urging Antoninus to adopt them both, yet he preferred Verus on account of his kinship and his age and because he was already giving indication of exceptional strength of character.  p463 This led Hadrian to apply to the young man the name Verissimus, thus playing upon the meaning of the Latin word.

22 1 By certain charms and magic rites Hadrian would be relieved for a time of his dropsy, but would soon be filled with water again. Since, therefore, he was constantly growing worse and might be said to be dying day by day, he began to long for death; and often he would ask for poison or a sword, but no one would give them to him. 2 As no one would listen to him, although he promised money and immunity, he sent for Mastor, one of the barbarian Iazyges, who had become a captive and had been employed by Hadrian in his hunting because of his strength and daring; and partly by threatening him and partly by making promises, he compelled the man to promise to kill him. 3 He drew a coloured line about a spot beneath the nipple that had been shown him by Hermogenes, his physician, in order that he might there be struck a fatal blow and perish painlessly. But even this plan did not succeed, for Mastor became afraid of the business and drew back in terror. The emperor lamented bitterly the plight to which his malady and his helplessness had brought him, 4 in that he was not able to make away with himself, though he still had the power, even when so near death, to destroy anybody else. Finally he abandoned his careful regimen and by indulging in unsuitable foods and drinks met his death, shouting aloud the popular saying: "Many physicians have slain a king."

 p465  23 1 He had lived sixty-two years, five months and nineteen days, and had been emperor twenty years and eleven months. He was buried near the river itself, close to the Aelian bridge; for it was there that he had prepared his tomb, since the tomb of Augustus was full, and from this time no body was deposited in it.

2 Hadrian was hated by the people, in spite of his generally excellent reign, on account of the murders committed by him at the beginning and end of his reign, since they had been unjustly and impiously brought about. Yet he was so far from being of a bloodthirsty disposition that even in the case of some who clashed with him he thought it sufficient to write to their native places the bare statement that they did not please him. 3 And if it was absolutely necessary to punish any man who had children, yet in proportion to the number of children he would lighten the penalty imposed. Nevertheless, the senate persisted for a long time in its refusal to vote him the usual honours and in its stricture upon some of those who had committed excesses during his reign and had been honoured therefor, when they ought to have been punished.

 p467  Fragment

After Hadrian's death there was erected to him a huge equestrian statue representing him with a four-horse chariot. It was so large that the bulkiest man could walk through the eye of each horse, yet because of the extreme height of the foundation persons passing along on the ground below believe that the horses themselves as well as Hadrian are very small.

Thayer's Note:

a This seems to be the origin of the well-known medieval legend of Trajan — transferred to that emperor from Hadrian on the principle "To them that have, more shall be added"; see Gaston Paris, La Légende de Trajan and especially p288 and the notes.

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