Saturday, August 11, 2012

THE ACCESSION OF HADRIAN

WE ALL KNOW the anguish of worry. 

But few of us have to worry about being mur­dered by rivals — Hadri­an spent years in exact­ly this sort of anguish. 

On August 11th, the Reli­gion of Anti­nous com­mem­o­rates the acces­sion of Hadri­an to the throne as Emper­or of Rome, suc­ceed­ing Tra­jan. 

Hadri­an had to wait many years in a very dead­ly sort of legal­is­tic limbo before he became emper­or. Tra­jan was in no hurry to name him offi­cial­ly as his heir, fear­ing Hadri­an might then bump him off. While they shared many affec­tions — and even shared some young men — they shared lit­tle trust in each other. 

And so Hadri­an was left wait­ing and won­der­ing and wor­ry­ing year after year. Won­der­ing when or if he would become Emper­or. Wor­ry­ing what would hap­pen if Tra­jan were to die sud­den­ly and some rival con­tender became Emper­or — and per­haps mur­dered Hadri­an. 

We all know this sort of worry-and-wait sit­u­a­tion, albeit on a less history-changing scale. We apply for a job, or we await a loan approval or we await a buyer's final offer on the house or we await con­fir­ma­tion that our lover in Afghanistan is safe and sound — and there is noth­ing we can do but worry and wait. Hadri­an sought out sooth­say­ers, astrologers and magi­cians to assuage his fears.