Hadrian’s Vanity

By chance, I came across this passage five minutes before my Latin III/IV AP class today, and on a whim turned it into a fun exercise in sight reading which my students seemed to enjoy, in particular because I took them down the old byways of Roman imperial history to explain it. I had planned to read more Caesar with them, but they seemed glad to catch a break from that snoozefest!

Historia Augusta, Hadrian:

“Hadrian was so eager for widespread fame that he gave books about his own life, which he wrote himself, to his freedmen who had literary inclinations, and he ordered them to publish them under their own names. Indeed, even the books of Phlegon are said to be written by Hadrian. He wrote some extremely obscure parodic books in imitation of Antimachus. He responded to Florus’ poem, which went

‘I don’t want to be Caesar

strolling through Britain

lurking in…

and suffering the Scythian frosts.’

by writing back

‘I don’t want to be Florus

walking through the taverns,

lurking in the brothels,

and suffering fat mosquitoes.’

He was, further, extremely fond of the ancient mode of speech. He preferred Cato to Cicero, Ennius to Vergil, Caelius to Sallust, and formed his judgments about Plato and Homer with the same affectation.”

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Famae celebris Hadrianus tam cupidus fuit ut libros vitae suae scriptos a se libertis suis litteratis dederit, iubens ut eos suis nominibus publicarent. nam et Phlegontis libri Hadriani esse dicuntur. Catachannas libros obscurissimos Antimachum imitando scripsit. Floro poetae scribenti ad se:

Ego nolo Caesar esse,

ambulare per Britannos,

latitare per . . .

Scythicas pati pruinas,


Ego nolo Florus esse,

ambulare per tabernas,

latitare per popinas

culices pati rotundos.

amavit praeterea genus vetustum dicendi. controversias declamavit. Ciceroni Catonem, Vergilio Ennium, Sallustio Caelium praetulit eademque iactatione de Homero ac Platone iudicavit.

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