Bearded Emperor Hadrian
Roman Emperor Hadrian, the subject of yesterday’s post, lost his father when he was just 10 years old, becoming the ward of a relative, Trajan, who eventually adopted him (Trajan was a cousin of Hadrian’s father). Trajan went on to become Emperor of Rome, beginning his reign in the year 98, when Hadrian was 22 years old. Both Trajan and Hadrian were included in the set known as the Five Good Emperors, numbers two and three respectively. Trajan’s campaigns expanded the Roman Empire to its greatest ever territorial extent, and Hadrian traveled from one end of his adoptive father’s empire to the other.
One of the most beloved of Roman emperors, Trajan (who was also adopted) was also well known for his homosexuality and fondness for young males. Both Trajan and Hadrian kept harems of boys who were in their early teens, and many of the troubles between the two were caused by the boys they kept. Both men were exclusively homosexual. They maintained marriages "blanc" (sexless, childless unions), but for formal purposes they each married.
Trajan’s love of young male flesh was once used to advantage by the king of Edessa, Abgar VII, who had angered Trajan for some misdeed; to obtain a pardon, Abgar sent his handsome young son to make his apologies to Trajan. Worked like a charm, if you get my drift. Nothing like pimping out your own son to set things right with the emperor.
While is was not the norm for men of that era to be exclusively homosexual, homosexual behavior was accepted and not questioned, particularly between older men and adolescent boys. From the time of Plato to the beginning of the Christian Era, some eight hundred years, wives were thought of only as a means for procreation. In 385 B.C. Plato’s Symposium was published. He argued that love between males was the highest form of love, and that sex with women was lustful and only for means of reproduction. Only with men, he argued, could the Greek male reach his full intellectual potential.
Fifty years later the sacred Band of Thebes, an army of male lovers (couples), represented the ideal of military strength and might. Twelve years later Alexander the Great converted millions of his conquered people to the gay-ideals of the Hellenistic Age.
The Roman Empire began with the reign of Augustus in 27 B.C. The first recorded same sex marriages occurred during this time, and art and literature depicted homosexual love in a positive light. Romans, like the Greeks, celebrated love and sex among men. Two Roman Emperors publicly married men, some had gay lovers themselves, and homosexual prostitution was so established that it was taxed. It was into this world view that homosexual rulers Trajan and Hadrian held sway over vast empires.
Some eighty years later, in 218 A.D., the Roman emperor Elagabalus began his reign. He married a man named Zoticus, an athlete from Smyrna, in a lavish public ceremony in Rome, amid public rejoicing. But details of that union will have to wait for a later post.
To my blog readers:
I just received a comment by Australian author George Gardiner. You may be interested in his book.
Readers of your Antinous/Hadrian materials may be also be interested in the recently-published novel about this historic relationship in "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA: A Forbidden History". It is available in 500-page paperback and Kindle ebook formats at Amazon USA, UK, & Australia.
THE HADRIAN ENIGMA
Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.