Today, in 76 CE, was the birth of Publius Aelius Hadrianus, better known to us as Hadrian, the Divus Augustus without whom none of the present blog, the Ekklesía Antínoou, and the cultus of Antinous–or, indeed a great deal in the world and the course of history most likely–would have been possible. It would be a vast understatement to say that, even though Antinous is the recipient of the majority of the cultus and divine honor given in my own practices, Hadrian is by far the more important individual figure in terms of its existence, propagation, and flourishing. If Antinous had not been Hadrian’s eromenos, he never would have gone with him to the Eastern Empire, and he probably wouldn’t have been initiated at Eleusis, and he most certainly wouldn’t have hunted the Mauretanian lion near Alexandria, and he most certainly wouldn’t have drowned in the Nile. And, if at least the latter had happened, it is certain that Antinous would have received minor cultus in Egypt as all Nile-drowned individuals did; but, because he was so importantly and emotionally attached to the Emperor Hadrian, he would not have received the Empire-wide honors that he did, even in his hometown of Bithynion-Claudiopolis.
Indeed, without Hadrian, there would be no cultus of Antinous; and, I would suggest, without the Divine Antinous, Hadrian would not have been as good an emperor as he was, nor would he have achieved apotheosis himself.
The photo above, and the one at the beginning of this entry, shows Hadrian in a somewhat less familiar aspect to many people, when he was young. The first photo in this entry is a bronze head from Britain, once part of a larger-than-life-size statue, that was found in the Thames river. I have seen that head in-person several times, and have also seen several replicas of it in museums along Hadrian’s Wall. The second photo is one that shows Hadrian in a possibly pre-principate phase of his life.
I have been trying to think of something to post here texts-wise that could be read out or contemplated on this day. The surviving texts from the ancient world on Hadrian are not always flattering, and are rarely written in a way that was specifically intended to praise him. A great many inscriptions and other documents written by Hadrian have survived, but it doesn’t really seem fitting to post those either–as interesting as Hadrian’s Oil Law, or an advice letter to an imperial procurator on how to deal with overzealous tax collectors in Asia Minor, happen to be, they’re not exactly his “greatest hits,” as it were. He wrote a few poems, but the ones that have been preserved with certainty are also not things that seem adequate to the task for today.
Last night, before going to bed, I looked over some of the poetic texts and hymns that I’ve developed and written over the years to honor Hadrian, including one that I included in both Devotio Antinoo and The Phillupic Hymns, called “Dies Julii Hadriani.” That hymn was originally written in 2004, specifically for some of the festivals that are dedicated to Hadrian in July on an annual basis. The final verse of it is where the phrase Ignis Corporis Infirmat, Ignis sed Animae Perstat comes from, in fact–which some of you may recognize from a certain practice that until a few days ago inundated the majority of the entries in this blog for the past few months. And, while I think it is a fine hymn, and one that I have used for the Natalis Divi Hadriani on many occasions since, I am now finding it not adequate to the task, since it specifically speaks of Hadrian’s death, and it is his birth and his life that we are celebrating, remembering, and for which we are thankful on this day.
So, what to do about that?
Well, the obvious answer is: make something new. I have barely slept, and I have a bit of a long work day ahead of me in terms of the job that actually doesn’t put food on my table; but, I will also have some time after that in the afternoon and evening to perhaps work on something better and more fitting for this occasion. Or, at least I hope so…
(It never fails: I publish the “definitive” collection of ancient and modern texts to honor Antinous, Hadrian, and some of the other Divi and Sancti last month, and then also publish my own “Doctor’s Edition” of the text for my own use, and already it seems obsolete–I’ve written a further long text, Adorationis Antinoi CXXXIII, and now perhaps another one honoring Hadrian will be coming about soon…Truly, it never fails!)
I have also, meanwhile, been making progress on All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology, in which Hadrian is involved, but not as strongly as Antinous. I had planned to work on that today as well, and I very likely still will; but I may have to postpone doing so in order to write something more for Hadrian. So be it!
In the meantime, the best I can offer that I have written myself is this–it’s the second one!
So, with any luck, I shall have some results for you on this matter later today. But in the meantime, I’m praying, carrying all of my Hadrian coins, and trying to keep my mind on him as much as possible until the time comes to put pen to paper and write something new…
And this one will NOT be in Latin!
Ave Dive Hadriane Auguste!