Page 28. " Asleep, Caius Caligula and Aristides the Just are alike "

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCaligula - Credit: Ed Uthman
Gaius (or Caius) Caligula (12-41 AD) is regarded as having been one of the worst of all Roman Emperors, accused, among many other crimes, of incest with his sisters and turning the palace into a brothel.

Aristides the Just (530-468 BC) was an Athenian statesman, described by Herodotus as "the best and most honourable man in Athens."

Page 31. " As to self-observation "

Yourcenar, unlike Hadrian, has read Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations"


and, by having Hadrian engage in this lengthy passage of introspection in the context of his letter to Marcus Aurelius, is able to set him up as the progenitor of some of the younger man's ideas. Self-examination is at the heart of the "Meditations," originally prepared as a series of notes, "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to himself," for his own self-improvement.

"If thou art pained by any external thing," Marcus Aurelius reminds himself, "it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it." Marcus Aurelius even forsees his mentor's slide into oblivion:

"Words that everyone once used are obsolete, and so are the men whose names were once on everyone's lips...even Augustus, Hadrian and Antoninus are less spoken of now than they were in their own days."


Yourcenar's Latin phrase can be translated as "Various, Complex, Manifold," although the three Latin words are, in some contexts, interchangeable. 

Page 37. " Marullinus, my grandfather, believed in the stars "

Publius Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus (c31-c91 AD), a Roman senator from Italica in southern Spain, was Hadrian's grandfather. His son, Publius Aelius Hadrianus Afer, married a noblewoman, Domitia Paulina, and had two children, Hadrian and his sister Paulina. The Historia Augusta records his interest in astrology, and his prediction of his grandson's rise to power. 

Page 37. " that same mixture of narrow prejudice and ancient wisdom which characterised the elder Cato "

Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC), known as "Cato the Censor" was a Roman statesman and general known for his eloquence, strict morality and frugality.

Page 38. " At home, in our Spanish township of Italica "
The Theatre at Italica
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Theatre at Italica - Credit: Acolubi

 Italica is on the site of the modern village of Santiponce, 9 kilometres north-west of Seville. Much of the Roman town that Hadrian would have known as a boy is covered by the modern village (the buildings of which remains can be seen today were, for the most part, built rather later, during Hadrian's reign as Emperor), but he would have been familiar with the theatre, and with at least one of the surviving bath complexes.


Page 44. " my cousin Trajan "
GNU Free Documentation LicenseTrajan - Credit: Lutz Langer
Trajan's Column in Rome, the monument containing his ashes
GNU Free Documentation LicenseTrajan's Column in Rome, the monument containing his ashes - Credit: Matthias Kabel

Marcus Ulpius Nerva Traianus (53-117 AD), who reigned as Emperor from 98 AD until his death was, like Hadrian, a native of Italica, and was another of the "Five Good Emperors." It was Hadrian who brought Trajan news of his adoption by Nerva, thereby ensuring his succession.

For a modern biography, see J. Bennett, Trajan, Optimus Princeps.

Page 45. " I witnessed the last thrusts in a duel to the death between Domitian and Rome "

The Emperor Domitian (51-96 AD) was the last in the Flavian Dynasty (reigned 81-96), after his father, Vespasian, and elder brother, Titus. Prominent among Yourcenar's sources, Suetonius and Tacitus both present him as a paranoid tyrant, continuously at war with the Senate. More recently Brian Jones, in his biography, The Emperor Domitian, argues that his difficulties were more with the court than with the Senate, and his assassination was certainly the result of a court conspiracy. The Senate did, however, vote the Damnatio to him, rather than the deification accorded to his father and brother. 


GNU Free Documentation LicenseDomitian
Page 45. " Wisely counselled by Attianus "

Publius Acilius Attianus was, like Hadrian, born in Italica. When Hadrian's father died, Attianus, along with Trajan, became the young boy's guardian. Attianus was also present, in 117 AD, at Trajan's death-bed, and helped the Empress Plotina to secure Hadrian's succession, either by persuading Trajan or, as some have suggested, by forging his will. Hadrian later turned against him, forcing him to step down from his role as Praetorian Prefect.