Historia Augusta on Hadrian

I scanned a page of the Censorinus translation for my last post, and rather to my surprise found gossipy material about Hadrian that could have come from Suetonius.  After I posted it here, as from Censorinus, something made me pull down a translation of the Historia Augusta, and sure enough I found it there!  The translator of that English version of Censorinus only translated half the work, and then padded out the book with the biography of Hadrian from the HA.  Quite why anyone would do that I do not know!

Here is the passage, anyway, interesting for what it mentions about Phlegon:

One day he censured an expression of Favorinus, who immediately yielded to his critic. When Favorinus’ friends mocked him for having given way so easily to the emperor, when he was in the right, he had the laugh on them, by saying: “You cannot persuade me, my friends, that one who commands thirty legions, is not the wisest man in the universe.”

XV.—Hadrian was so jealous of his reputation that he gave to some of his freedmen who were lettered, the history of his life written by himself, with directions to publish it under their names; and it is said that the one by Phlegon is by the prince himself. He also composed, after the example of Antimachus, an obscure book entitled Catacrianos. Florus the poet having written to him in verse: “I wish I were Caesar, to saunter in the fields of distant Britain and support the cold of Scythia,” Hadrian replied in the same metre: “I wish I were not Florus, to ramble in the taverns, to grovel in the cook-shops and suffer from mosquitos.” He loved the ancient ways of talking and declaimed in controversies. He preferred Cato to Cicero, Ennius to Virgil, Caelius to Sallust. He judged with the same freedom, Homer and Plato. His knowledge of astrology was so profound that he wrote down on the eve of the calends of January everything that was to happen to him during the coming year: so that he had written for the year in which he died, all that was to happen to him down to the hour of his death. Although he took pleasure in criticising the musicians, the tragic and comic authors, the rhetoricians, grammarians and orators, he nevertheless enriched and honoured those who taught, loading them nevertheless with difficult questions. He dismissed a great number of petitioners without satisfying them. This did not prevent him, however, from saying that “he never saw a discontented face without feeling sorrow.” 13 He lived in great familiarity with the philosophers Epictetus and Heliodorus and in general with the grammarians, rhetoricians, musicians, geometricians, painters and astrologers; but Favorinus seems to have been his favourite. After enriching and treating them honourably, Hadrian made those renounce their profession who seemed to lack talent.

XVI.—Those who had been his enemies before mounting the throne, he contented himself with forgetting when he became emperor, and that same day he said to one of those who had treated him the worst, “You have escaped.” To those whom he called to the colours, he gave horses, mules, clothing, money, in a word, all the necessary outfit. …

13 A similar saying is attributed to Titus. Suet., in vita, 8.

Leave a Reply