Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

Between Augustus and Antinous

Tradition and Innovation in the Image of Emperor Hadrian

Prof. Dr. Ulrich Gotter, Christian Seebacher


The thesis on the emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) will concentrate completely on the outer appearance of his regime, the image (imago) of the ruler, focussing on the contents and topics which constituted his persona. The government of Hadrian marks an important twofold watershed – the opposition to his predecessor Trajan on the one hand and to the monarchy of the 2nd century AD in general on the other hand. Hence, the position of the image of the emperor will be examined in the discursive field of tradition and innovation. As an innovative aspect emerges Hadrian's performance drawing on Greek patterns (e.g. divinisation and cult of Antinous), while his obvious reference to Augustus (Augustus-imitatio), being explicit or implicit, has to be interpreted as traditional.

More specifically, the question poses itself, which aspects of Hadrian's image were taken up by which status group and in which manner. Furthermore, one has to ask, whether new status groups were additionally included in the imperial interaction or whether some of the traditional groups were excluded. Put another way: Which addressees responded to the Hadrianic style of Augustus-imitatio and which addressees did not? And is it possible to interpret Hadrian's travels and his retreat from Rome into his villa at Tivoli as a refusal to interact with specific groups? Or did he rather open spaces for interaction with other circles, e.g. in the new formation of an imperial court.

This research proposal will combine political and constitutional history with a discursive approach, assuming that this allows a better insight in the self-fashioning of the monarch than the dominating biographical paradigm.

Working outline:

  1. Hadrian's reception in ancient historiography
  2. The image of Hadrian I: 'Greek' aspects

    • a) What was considered to be 'Greek' in the Roman Empire during the 2nd century AD?
    • b) Travels and interaction with provincial elites
    • c) The villa of Hadrian and the aula Caesaris (the imperial court)
    • d) Art and the cult of the Emperor

  3. The image of Hadrian II: Augustus-imitatio

    • a) Augustus-imitatio by Hadrian's predecessors
    • b) Performative self-fashioning as 'restitutor'
    • c) Performative construction of a golden age
    • d) Performative self-fashioning as new founder of the Roman Empire

  4. Conclusion: Hadrian's creation of his persona by interaction