Hadrians Last Verse

After the assassination of Domitian in a.d. 96, Rome enjoyed a succession of rulers who both maintained the Empire and allowed much greater freedom for the individual than had been known in the previous one hundred years. The third of these emperors was Hadrian, who ruled from a.d. 117 to 138.

A scholar and poet as well as a competent general and administrator, he spent much of his tirrie as emperor on expeditions to expand arid consolidate Roman rule, as is attested by the wall that he constructed in northern England that bears his name. Of the few surviving scraps of his poetry, the most movingare the lines he is said to have composed on his deathbed:

Animula vagula blandula, hospes comesque corporis, quae nunc abibis in loca, pallidula rigida nudula, necut soles dabis iocos?

â– The Fragmentary Latin Poets (ed. E. Courtney), page 382 Poor, wandering sweet soul, guest and companion of the body, to what places will you now depart, pale, stiff, naked, and not jest (lit., give jokes) as you arc accustomed [to do]?

Ihe diminutives in the first and . fourth lines are used for pathetic effect, not to indicate size (cf. Catullus 3.i6ff., page 36);: there are no English equivalents for these words,

For another example of Hadrians poetry, seepage 112.

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