Hadrian: The Restless Emperor

Anthony R. Birley, Author Routledge $120 (424p) ISBN 978-0-415-16544-0
Roman emperor Hadrian (76-138) reveled in his role as reviver of Hellenism, fancying himself a new Pericles. But his obsession with Greek culture, suggests Birley, a professor of ancient history in Dusseldorf, blinded him to reality, as in his elaborate program to make Athens a second imperial capital. Furthermore, his heavy-handed attempts to hellenize the Jews led to a revolt directed by the charismatic Bar Kochba in which the rebels won control of much of Judaea for three years until they were savagely crushed by Romans in 135. With meticulous scholarship, this balanced biography portrays a cultured tyrant who used his secret police to spy on friends and family as well as a restless traveler who spent half his reign touring his far-flung provinces. Hadrian's love affair with Antinous, a Bithnyian boy whom he kept in his entourage, ended when the youth drowned in the Nile; Hadrian consecrated him as a god and founded a cult in his honor. In Birley's intriguing if not wholly convincing interpretation, the famed stone Wall that Hadrian built across Britain was a symbol that the age of expansion had ended. Elegantly decked out with coin portraits, photographs, sculptures and maps, this readable bio will appeal to history buffs. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 11/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 424 pages - 978-0-415-22812-1
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