One thousand nine hundred years ago, the city of Tomis, a Greek colony on the west coast of the Euxine (Black Sea), honoured Hadrian with a large bilingual inscription, carved on what was probably the pedestal of a statue carrying the Emperor's effigy. The inscription (CIL III, 7539), found in two fragments in Constanța (Romania), begins… Continue reading AD 120 – The city of Tomis honours Hadrian with a bilingual inscription (#Hadrian1900)
Today (April 21) is the traditional date given for the founding of Rome. According to Roman mythology, the founders were Romulus and Remus, twin brothers and sons of the god Mars and Rhea Silvia. The twins were then abandoned by their parents as babies (because of a prophecy that they would overthrow their great-uncle Amulius)… Continue reading Happy birthday, Roma!
The spectacular Pergamon Panorama exhibition, currently being hosted by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, is a journey to the ancient Greek city of Pergamon in Asia Minor as it existed in AD 129. It depicts the Roman era under Hadrian, who spent some time in the city. The Panorama was developed in 2011 by the… Continue reading Exhibition: Pergamon 360° Panorama, the ancient city as it looked during the time of Hadrian
Happy 1944th birthday, Hadrian! This year, I decided to bake a honey cake as Hadrian’s birthday cake. Ingredients: 3 eggs 200 grams liquid honey 50 grams spelt flour Instructions: Whip eggs with an electric mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat them until they are stiff and form peaks. Slowly pour… Continue reading Felix dies natalis, Hadriane!
As was the custom at the beginning of every year, annual public vows were made by all magistrates and all priestly colleges for the welfare and safety (salus) of the Emperor. Amongst the collegia inaugurating the new year with oaths were the Arval Brethren (fratres arvales), a highly exclusive priesthood revived by Augustus and centered around… Continue reading The Acts of the Arval Brethren of AD 120 (#Hadrian1900)
In December of the year 119, Hadrian suffered a heavy personal blow. He said farewell to his beloved mother-in-law, Salonia Matidia, who had died in her early 50s. Immediately after her death, Hadrian granted upon her extravagant honours. He arranged for her deification, delivered a speech of praise, turned the commemoration of her death into… Continue reading 23 December AD 119 – Hadrian commemorates his mother-in-law, Salonia Matidia (#Hadrian1900)
Did I make a great discovery in the Ludovisi collection of Roman antiquities?
While in Rome at the beginning of November, Corey Brennan (Associate Professor of Classics at Rutgers University), who generously invited me to stay at the American Academy of Rome, brought me to the Casino of the Villa Ludovisi (also known as Villa Aurora) for a private tour of the property, established in the 16th century by Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte and later bought by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. I was very excited to hear about the great work Brennan had done in the Villa with the collaboration of Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi who resides there. I was also of course very excited to get to see the only Caravaggio ceiling ever painted.
Never would have I imagined that I was about to make the discovery (still to be confirmed by experts) of an unnoticed sculptural head of Hadrian’s intended successor Lucius Aelius Caesar. The bust had been universally identified as “Marcus Aurelius” since 1880 (or maybe even 1633). But immediately after entering the Villa, I noticed the bust and thought, “wow, it’s Aelius Caesar!” Then Brennan told me that the bust was supposed to be Marcus Aurelius, and I immediately replied “It’s not Marcus Aurelius”, “I think it’s Lucius Aelius Caesar”.
However, this discovery now requires much study from experts to secure the identification of this Boncompagni Ludovisi bust as that of Lucius Aelius Caesar.
The Sala Aurora of the Casino Aurora, with frescoes by Guercino and Agostino Tassi (1621). The bust in question is in the niche at far left. Photo: David Neal Brennan
By ADBL editor Corey Brennan with Carole Raddato
Picture this. On a bright November 2019 morning, ancient history enthusiast Carole Raddato made her first visit to Rome’s Casino Aurora, to meet with HSH Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Raddato was on the lookout for new items to add to her ambitious Following Hadriantravel and photography project, as well as to see the Casino Aurora’s famed Caravaggio ceiling painting ‘Giove, Nettuno e Plutone‘.
No sooner had Raddato entered the vestibule of the Casino Aurora that she spotted, 10 meters away in an oval niche above the principal door of the main sala, a fine bust of a bearded Roman.
“Lucius Aelius Caesar”, she immediately thought.
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Lebanon is famously known for the presence of a very special kind of tree, the legendary cedar tree (cedrus libani). It is emblazoned on the national flag and is, due to its long history, one of the most defining features of Lebanon's culture. The country is the most densely wooded in the Middle East, and… Continue reading The forest inscriptions of Hadrian in Mount Lebanon
One thousand nine hundred years ago on this day, a copy of a letter written by Hadrian and addressed to Quintus Rammius Martialis, the prefect of Egypt (AD 117-19), was published in Alexandria. In his letter, Hadrian granted illegitimate children of soldiers conceived during their fathers' military service the right to inherit. The text was… Continue reading 4 August AD 119 – A letter from Hadrian conferring new rights to illegitimate children of soldiers is published in Alexandria (#Hadrian1900)
After less than a year spent in Rome since his arrival in the capital as the new emperor, Hadrian made a journey into Campania, the southern region of Italy where Greek civilization had once flourished. A passage in the Historia Augusta gives a chronological order of the events and states that the journey came after… Continue reading AD 119 – Hadrian visits Campania to aid the towns by gifts and benefactions (#Hadrian1900)