Ailius Verus

Ailius Verus

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adgravaretur, praefecto suo Hadrianus, qui rem prodiderat, successorem dedit, volens videri quod verba 6 tristia temperasset. sed nihil profuit nam, ut diximus, Lucius Ceionius Commodus Verus Helius Caesar (nam his omnibus nominibus appellatus est) periit sepultusque est imperatorio funere, neque quicquam 7 de regia ni mortis habuit dignitatem. doluit ergo illius mortem ut bonus pater, non ut bonus princeps. nam cum amici solliciti quaererent, qui adoptari posset, Hadrianus dixisse fertur iis: “Etiam 8 vivente adhuc Vero decreveram”. ex quo ostendit 9 aut iudicium suum aut scientiam futurorum. post hunc denique Hadrianus diu anceps quid faceret, Antoninum adoptavit Pium cognomine appellatum. cui condicionem addidit, ut ipse sibi Marcum et Verum Antoninus adoptaret filiamque suam Vero, non Marco 10 daret. nec diutius vixit gravatus languore ac diverso genere morborum, saepe dicens sanum principem mori debere non debilem.

VII. Statuas sane Helio Vero per totum orbem colossas poni iussit, templa etiam in nonnullis urbibus 2 fieri. denique illius merito filium eius Verum, nepotem utpote suum, qui pereunte Helio in familia ipsius Hadriani remanserat, adoptandum Antonino Pio cum Marco, ut iam diximus, dedit, saepe dicens: “Habeat

Historia Augusta, Volume I: Hadrian. Aelius. Antoninus Pius. Marcus Aurelius. L. Verus. Avidius Cassius. Commodus. Pertinax. Didius Julianus. Septimius Severus. Pescennius Niger. Clodius Albinus

The Scriptores Historiae Augustae, or Historia Augusta, is a collection of biographies of Roman emperors, heirs, and claimants from Hadrian to Numerianus (117– 284 CE ). The work, which is modeled on Suetonius, purports to be written by six different authors and quotes documents and public records extensively. Since we possess no continuous account of the emperors of the second and third centuries, the Historia Augusta has naturally attracted keen attention. In the last century it has also generated the gravest suspicions. Present opinion holds that the whole is the work of a single author (who lived in the time of Theodosius) and contains much that is plagiarism and even downright forgery.

The Loeb Classical Library edition of the Historia Augusta is in three volumes.


Verus, 1 adopted by Hadrian 2 after his journey through the world, when he was burdened by old age and weakened by cruel disease, contains nothing worthy of note except that he was the first to receive only the name of Caesar. This was conferred, not by last will and testament, as was previously the custom, 3 nor yet in the fashion in which Trajan was adopted, 4 but well nigh in the same manner as in our own time your Clemency conferred the name of Caesar on Maximianus and on Constantius, as on true sons of the imperial house and heirs apparent of your August Majesty.

Now whereas I must needs tell something of the name of the Caesars, particularly in a life of the man who received this name alone of the imperial titles, men of the greatest learning and scholarship aver that he who first received the name of Caesar was called by this name, either because he slew in battle an elephant, 5 which in the Moorish tongue is called caesai , or because he was brought into the world after his mother’s death and by an incision in her abdomen, 6 or because he had a thick head of hair 7 when he came forth from his mother’s womb, or, finally, because he had bright grey eyes 8 and was vigorous beyond the wont of human beings. At any rate, whatever be the truth, it was a happy fate which ordained the growth of a name so illustrious, destined to last as long as the universe endures.

This man, then, of whom I shall write, was at first called Lucius Aurelius Verus, 9 but on his adoption by Hadrian he passed into the family of the Aelii, that


fashion of Cupids, and often giving them the names of the winds, calling one Boreas, another Notus, others Aquilo, or Circius, or some other like name, and forcing them to bear messages without respite or mercy. And when his wife complained about his amours with others, he said to her, it is reported: “Let me indulge my desires with others for wife is a term of honour, not of pleasure”.

His son was Antoninus Verus, who was adopted by Marcus, 1 or rather, with Marcus, 2 and received an equal share with him in the imperial power. For these are the men who first received the name of Augustus conjointly, and whose names are inscribed in the lists of the consuls, not as two Antonini but as two Augusti. And such was the impression created by the novelty and the dignity of this fact that in some of the lists the order of the consuls begins with the names of these emperors.

VI. On the occasion of the adoption of Verus, Hadrian bestowed a vast sum of money on the populace and the soldiery. 3 But, being a rather sagacious man, when he saw that Verus was in such utterly wretched health that he could riot brandish a shield of any considerable weight, he remarked, it is said: 4 “We have lost the three hundred million sesterces which we paid out to the army and to the people, for we have indeed leaned against a tottering wall, and one which can hardly bear even our weight, much less that of the Empire”. This remark, indeed, Hadrian made to his prefect, but the man repeated it, and as a result Aelius Cæsar grew worse every day from anxiety, as a man does who has

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1 To cite only two fairly recent articles, Carcopino , J. , ‘ L'héredité dynastique chez les Antonins ’, RÉA LI ( 1949 ), 262 ff.Google Scholar , esp. 285–321 = Passion et politique chez les Césars (1958), 143 ff., esp. 173–222 and H.-G. Pflaum, ‘Le Réglement successoral d'Hadrien’, Historia-Augusta-Colloquium Bonn 1963 (1964), 95 ff.

2 And still is : e.g. Birley 312 ‘the so-called “minor lives”—those of “Helius Verus”, L. Verus … are virtually worthless as independent sources’.

3 Mommsen , Th. , Hermes xxv ( 1890 ), 246 Google Scholar = Ges. Schr. VII, 319.

4 O. Th. Schulz, Das Kaiserhaus der Antonine und der letzte Historiker Roms (1907), 3 (the passage quoted), 56 ff. (on the Vita Veri).

6 This, the standard objection to Schulz, was first formulated by K. Hönn, Deutsche Literaturzeitung 1908, 1002 ff. and by W. Weber, Gött. Gel. Anz. 170. Jhrg. (1908), 945 ff.

7 Op. cit. 57, 224 Leben des Kaisers Hadrian (1904), 125 ff., 142. That one did not exist is a certain deduction from Aelius 2, 9 f. and the Historia Augusta's ignorance of Aelius' birthday (known to Philocalus (CIL 1 2 , p. 255) and perhaps appearing in the Feriale Duranum (col. i, 11/12) see The Excavations at Dura-Europus, Final Report V. 1, The Parchments and Papyri (1959), 205 f.).

List of Roman Emperors (2)

On these pages, you will find the names, regnal dates, and portraits of the emperors of the Roman Empire, with links to more information.

  • 18 September 53: Marcus Ulpius Trajanus Crinitus
  • October 97: Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus
  • 28 January 98:Imperator Caesar Nerva Trajanus Augustus
  • Germanicus (97), Dacicus (102), Optimus (114), Parthicus (116)
  • 7 August 117: natural death
  • 24 January 76: Publius Aelius Hadrianus
  • 11 August 117: Imperator Caesar Trajanus Hadrianus Augustus
  • Other titles (only in Greece): Olympios (128), Panhellenios (132), Panionios (132)
  • Refused titles: Optimus, Germanicus, Dacicus, Parthicus
  • 10 July 138: natural death
  • 13 January 101: Lucius Ceionius Commodus
  • Summer 136: Lucius Aelius Caesar
  • 1 January 138: natural death

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 19 September 86: Titus Aurelius Fulvus Boionius (Arrius?) Antoninus
  • 25 January 138: Imperator Titus Aelius Caesar Hadrianus Antoninus
  • 10 July 138: Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus
  • Pius (138), Germanicus (157), Dacicus (157)
  • 7 March 161: natural death

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 26 April 121: Marcus Annius Catilius Severus
  • 17 March 136: Marcus Annius Verus
  • 25 February 138: Marcus Aelius Aurelius Verus
  • 139: Aurelius Caesar
  • 7 March 161: Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus
    Armeniacus (164), Medicus (166), Parthicus (166), Germanicus (172), Sarmaticus (175)
  • 17 March 180: natural death

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 15 December 130: Lucius Ceionius Commodus
  • 25 February 318: Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus
  • 7 March 161: Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Verus
  • Armeniacus (164), Medicus (166), Parthicus(166)
  • January (?) 169: natural death

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • c.120/130: Gaius Avidius Heliodorus
  • April 175: Imperator Caesar Gaius Avidius Cassius Augustus
  • July 175: murdered by officers

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 31 Augustus 161: Lucius Aurelius Commodus
  • 12 October 166: Lucius Aurelius Commodus Caesar
  • June 177: Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Augustus
  • 17 March 180: Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus
  • Germanicus (172), Sarmaticus (175), Germanicus maximus (182), Britannicus (184)
  • 191: Imperator Caesar Lucius Aurelius Commodus Aurelius
  • 31 December 192: murdered by courtiers

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 1 August 126: Publius Helvius Pertinax
  • 1 January 193: Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus
  • 28 March 193: lynched by soldiers

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 30 January 133: Marcus Didius Severus Julianus
  • 28 March 193: Imperator Caesar Marcus Didius Severus Julianus Augustus
  • 1 June 193: deposed
  • 2 June 193: murdered by soldiers

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 11 April 145: Lucius Septimius Severus
  • 9 April 193: Imperator Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pertinax Augustus
  • Arabicus (195), Adiabenicus (195), Pius (195), Parthicus (198), Britannicus (210)
  • 4 February 211: natural death

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • c.140: Lucius Pescennius Niger
  • 19 (?) April 193: Imperator Caesar Gaius Pescennius Niger Justus Augustus
  • April 194: executed

Biography from the Historia Augusta

  • 25 November 147: full name unknown
  • April 193: Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Caesar
  • Winter 195/196: Imperator Caesar Decimus Clodius Septimius Albinus Augustus
  • 19 February 197: killed in action

Biography from the Historia Augusta


Dietmar Kienast, Römische Kaisertabelle. Grundzüge einer römischen Kaiserchronologie (1990 Darmstadt)


The known details of the life of Antoninus Pius are found in the Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ (ed PETER), and in AURELIUS VICTOR, Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, and the sources usually found in all histories of the period, e.g. GIBBON, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (an overdrawn, but eloquent picture of the contemporary civil prosperity of Rome) ALLARD, Histoire des Persécutions (Paris, 1890) NEUMANN, (unfinished) Account of the Relations between the Imperial State and Christianity (Leipzig, 1890) RENAN, Marc-Aurèle (Paris, 1890) LACOUR-GAYET, Antonin le Pieux et son temps (Paris, 1886) SMITH, Dict. Of Greek and Roman Biogr. (London, 1890), I, 210-212 RAMSEY, The Church and the Roman Empire before A.D. 170 (New York, 1893) DILL, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius (New York, 1905).

“Hadrian's connection with astrological knowledge cannot be separated from the women in his life and how for them, astrology opened a space for both assertion and restriction.”

The selection of Hadrian’s heir is linked both with astrological readings as well as to his wife. While Sabina herself has no direct link to horoscopes or astrology in general, she is intimately related to Hadrian’s need to rely on astrology in his private decision making and helps to further explain and complicate the situation of heir-selection. Even though Verus’s horoscope is an interesting component of Hadrian’s selection of heir, it would never have mattered were it not for Sabina’s role in the story, so it is one that should not be told without her.

Hadrian’s life seems tied to astrological knowledge, from grandiose public-facing displays to difficult choices in the makeup of his court. Yet each of these uses has its own association with women, whose role in astrology is often left out. While the association between Hadrian, astrology, and women may not be direct, it seems apparent that these complex interactions were ubiquitous. Uncovering how women used and were affected by Roman astrology gives essential context to Hadrian's, and other elite men's, interaction with the subject. Hadrian's connection with astrological knowledge cannot be separated from the women in his life and how for them, astrology opened a space for both assertion and restriction.

Identifying the role that women played in Hadrian’s use of astrology crucially fights back against their deletion from his narrative and restores some agency to these women. But it also has problems—it ties the history of women and astrology with one powerful man, which is neither necessary nor indicative of their overall role. The goal, afterall, should not be to remember to tell the story of women when discussing Hadrian’s astrology, but to remember Sabina, Julia, and Paulina themselves and let them tell their own stories.

Further Reading

Tamsyn Barton,. Ancient Astrology (London: Routledge, 2002).

Patricia Rosenmeyer, "Greek Verse Inscriptions in Roman Egypt: Julia Balbilla's Sapphic Voice," Classical Antiquity 27, no. 2 (2008): 334-358.

Watch the video: Jan Jans Wacky Tale (July 2022).


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