Sample text for Hadrian and the cities of the Roman empire / Mary T. Boatwright.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog

Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.


Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire

Mary T. Boatwright

Chapter 1


The Roman Empire And Hadrian

THE ROMAN EMPIREwas far-flung and disparate during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-38). With the Mediterranean basin as its heart, it stretched north, south, and east to cover almost three thousand miles, from modern England, the Atlantic, and Germany, up the Nile, and to Syria and Armenia. Although climate, an agricultural economy, and a generalized Greco-Roman culture united most of the Mediterranean littoral, these commonalities did not extend far inland. Difficulties of land transport and communications isolated regions from one another.1 Each of the forty-some Roman provinces of the time had its own political, ethnic, religious, and cultural histories, in which figured prominently the date and means of its falling under Roman control.2 Possibly as many as sixty million persons inhabited the Roman empire of Hadrian's day, with only some 20 percent estimated as living above subsistence level. These fortunate few dwelled in the cities scattered along coastlines, rivers, and at land passes, probably more than two thousand in all and most dense in North Africa, Italy, and coastal Asia Minor.3 Beyond the borders were client-kingdoms, tribes allied with Rome, and more hostile tribes and nomads. Yet only some 350 elite officials in Rome, Italy, and the provinces oversaw the imperial government, and perhaps merely 350,000 to 400,000 armed men sufficed to protect the empire from internal and external dangers.4

A fundamental question of the Roman empire concerns its cohesion. Rome's immense domain had been acquired, gradually but seemingly inexorably, through constant warfare during the Roman republic. The first emperor, Augustus, and his successors apparently realized that Rome could no longer sustain its sovereignty simply by continued physical violence. Instead, norms of law, religion, politics, economy, community interest, and cultural values consolidated the Roman empire, at least until the second third of the third century.5 Compliance with these patterns was not uniform or absolute during this lengthy period of the pax Augusta (the Augustan peace), in which Hadrian's reign is a kind of midpoint, but armed uprisings were exceptional after a region's initial incorporation into the empire.6 Rome never neglected its military, and the state retaliated against defiant resistance swiftly and mercilessly. The Third Jewish Revolt of A.D. 132-35, to be discussed in chapter 8, illustrated to all, including Hadrian, the devastating consequences of rejecting Roman norms and taking up arms against the state. Compliance was more practical than coercion, both for Rome and for the provinces. But compliance requires that the subordinate acknowledge, more or less willingly, the norms of the dominant power. The history of the Roman empire is marked by the interplay of persuasion and force in the relationships between Rome, on the one hand, and its cities and provinces, on the other.

The reign of Hadrian offers a particularly good opportunity to assess this interaction, particularly as it was played out at the level of Rome's cities. The ancient writers celebrate Hadrian for his liberality to cities, but as a rule they speak imprecisely. Cassius Dio, Hadrian's biographer, Pausanias, Fronto, and others give pride of place to Hadrian's building projects, in part because these were the most lasting and tangible form of imperial benefaction. They also note engineering projects such as the dredging of harbors, financial measures such as the temporary or permanent remission of taxes, and social changes such as the establishment of games in a city.7 Inscriptions,8 and to a lesser extent coins,9 furnish more detail and more instances of Hadrian's interactions with cities, and supplementary information comes from documentary papyri and recondite treatises such as those of the Roman land surveyors. The available evidence shows that more than 130 cities were affected by the personal attention of Hadrian, a number that helps quantify the ancient acclaim for his civic munificence.

Despite ancient and modern agreement that Hadrian fostered cities throughout the empire to an extent rarely matched in Roman history, so far there has been no analysis of the grounds and meaning of this commonplace. Scholars have examined various facets of his civic work; for example, F. Grelle, J. Gascou, and M. Zahrnt have focused on Hadrian's changes of municipal status, and H. Jouffroy and S. Mitchell cover his public building in North Africa and Italy, and in the eastern provinces, respectively.10 I have investigated Hadrian's activity that influenced life in the capital city of Rome.11 But no one has attempted to compile and interpret all of Hadrian's different interactions with cities throughout the Roman empire. This I now aim to do, because I see Hadrian's personal involvement in Roman cities as intrinsic to the continuance of the Roman empire itself. Even though our evidence tends to report only successful pleas, the collected data let us see that Hadrian's municipal activity was predominantly positive. His benefactions, and their fame, decidedly helped to persuade Rome's provincials to cooperate with the ruling power.

As F. Millar and others have eloquently argued, the roles played by the Roman emperor were essential to the empire. Regardless of the particular merits or faults characterizing any one occupant of the throne, the emperor was the pater patriae (the father of the fatherland), ultimately deemed personally responsible for the welfare of each inhabitant.12 This "beneficial ideology," in the words of V. Nutton,13 was demonstrated daily, in many different guises, throughout the Roman world. Coins carried the imperial image encircled by legends broadcasting the imperial virtues.14 Statues, reliefs, and paintings of the emperor and his family embellished temples and other public buildings and spaces, as well as private houses.15 General oaths were sworn on the ruling emperor's "genius" (procreative spirit) as well as by earlier deified emperors, and at an emperor's accession, citizens of cities swore to protect his safety forever (e.g., ILS 190, OGIS 532).16 Public processions, sacrifices, and games involving the imperial cult periodically enlivened municipal life.17 But these and other symbolic representations of beneficent imperial power could remain forceful only with some factual basis. Something more than symbols was required to induce, generation after generation, those swearing to uphold the Roman emperor and empire actually to contribute energy and property to this cause.

Positive reinforcement came through personal appearances of the emperor and, more lastingly, through manifest imperial favor.18 At times this largesse graced an individual, as can be seen in the numerous inscriptions marking personal commendation by the emperor: for instance, M. Fabius Paulinus, honored by a dedication from his fellow townsmen in Ilerda (modern Lérida in northeast Spain), was "raised to equestrian status by Hadrian" (CIL II 4269). Such individualized attention was instrumental to the system of personal patronage underlying the social structure of the Roman empire.19 It was one way Hadrian and other emperors encouraged the provincial elite to assume liturgies (public duties involving expense and usually personal service) and to contribute to their cities and Rome.20

Again the sources primarily document favorable attention: Hadrian is even said to have dropped earlier animosities upon assuming the throne, content simply to ignore his erstwhile enemies (HA, Hadr. 17.1). But we also hear, for example, that "in the case of some who clashed with him Hadrian thought it sufficient to write to their native cities the bare statement that they did not please him" (Cass. Dio 69.23.2). In a similar but more personalized instance, the sophist Favorinus gave in to Hadrian in a dispute about grammar, despite being in the right, because, as he said to friends, he was unwilling not to yield to the commander of thirty legions (HA, Hadr. 15.13, cf. Philostr. VS 489). The ostensibly nonchalant remark expresses well the tension between persuasion and force that was inherent in all exchanges with the emperor.

Rather than focusing on Hadrian's dealings with select individuals, however, I investigate benefactions affecting whole cities, for these interactions should be understood as systemic. Their existence and repetition reveal that imperial patronage was intrinsic to the endurance of the empire.21 Although Hadrian's benefaction to a city was typically mediated or "brokered" by a member or members of the municipal elite, as documented in various cases treated in this book, the city benefited as a whole, celebrated the benefaction as a whole, and was reaffirmed as a whole. Roman cities were much more than built-up and densely populated areas. They were always considered individual peoples, a fact reflected in their proper nomenclature as ethnic plurals rather than as place names. They combined an urban agglomeration of buildings and services, including administrative and governmental ones, with the land (territorium or chora) furnishing the basic livelihood for inhabitants of "city" and "countryside" alike.22

The obligations cities undertook for the Roman emperor and state were heavy ones, especially the collection of taxes and census registration. Tasks less onerous, because imposed more sporadically, included recruitment of armed men, supply of animals for transport, provision of hospitality and transportation for travelers on official business, and shelter, equipment, and supplies for journeying soldiers and the army. Such duties to the central Roman government were offset by a high degree of local autonomy. Individual cities were left to themselves, as a general rule, to oversee their own public buildings and cults, the maintenance of their water supply and baths, local law and order, and embassies to Roman officials, including the emperor.23 They were also free to negotiate other relationships, with different cities in the area or farther afield (as we see especially in chapter 5), and with powerful individuals who were not serving officially at the time (as indicated in chapters 3 and 4). Despite isolating barriers of travel, transportation, and communications, albeit less severe during the second century of the empire than at other times in ancient history, Roman cities had intricate networks of relationships. In each case the relationship was reciprocal. But rarely, if ever, were the strengths of the involved parties equal, and constant negotiation was needed to manage these relationships advantageously for both sides.

Such negotiation was undertaken for cities by their leading citizens. In addition to making political decisions, a town's magistrates and council were responsible for the fulfillment of that town's duties: they would personally have to make good shortfalls of taxes, for example. Spotty evidence indicates that from the end of the first century A.D., some cities experienced the reluctance, or incapacity, of individuals to take on municipal posts. From this, P. Garnsey, S. Mitchell, and others have argued for a progressive and marked decline of the "urban aristocracy," holding that as early as the beginning of the second century there was a diminution of the voluntary participatory character of the Roman empire as it had evolved since Augustus took power.24

The necessary corollary of this averred trend would be ever greater imperial control and interference as Rome extracted from cities what it needed to provision the armies, to maintain the court, to sustain games, distributions, and construction at Rome and elsewhere, and to ensure other functions deemed essential. Drawing in part on the correspondence between Trajan and Pliny the Younger, whom Hadrian's predecessor appointed as legatus Augusti (delegate of the emperor) to oversee the disorderly province of Bithynia-Pontus around 111,25 some scholars have argued that the central government began to encroach on cities' autonomy by the beginning of the second century A.D.26 Yet the domineering and rapacious Roman governors, soldiers, and officials, so unforgettably depicted in late inscriptions, legal codes, and literature, are rhetorically exaggerated even for the third and fourth centuries, and cannot be sustained generally for the second.27

Although recent research has shown that in Achaea, for example, there were fewer cities in the Roman imperial period than in preceding centuries,28 on the whole their leading citizens apparently evinced little or no reluctance to assume municipal responsibilities through most of the second century. In the second-century empire some famous men, such as Favorinus, Aelius Aristides, and Dio of Prusa, squirmed to get out of their public service29--who among us pays our taxes gladly?--but through that century enough others were honored to serve their cities that Rome and its provinces continued to flourish. Despite both the positivistic nature of most extant evidence and the painful awareness of Rome's abusive potential that Favorinus and some others express,30 indications of functionally negative relations between Rome and the provincial cities begin to accumulate only toward the end of the second century.31

Indeed, R. Duncan-Jones has recently used building inscriptions to argue that the reigns of Hadrian and his successor, Antoninus Pius, generally witnessed a surge of construction in cities of the Roman empire.32 He attributes this rise to the effects of Hadrian's policies, which demonstrate "concern for the fiscal and economic well-being of the empire, as well as exceptional involvement by the emperor in local affairs."33 Noting some of Hadrian's activity I discuss in chapters 5 and 6, Duncan-Jones highlights Hadrian's general remission of unpaid taxes, worth 900 million sesterces, early in his reign.34 Not only was this the largest tax remission up to Hadrian's time, but the general amnesty was to last for fifteen years (ILS 309 5 CIL VI 967, cf. Cass. Dio 69.8.12 and 71.32.2, and BMC, Emp. III, p. 417, a1207).35 Local spending apparently rose as a result of actual money freed up and a concomitant change in economic outlook.36 The increased expenditure on buildings by individuals and by towns (collectively) marks both the general prosperity of the era and its emphasis on urban amenities.

How much of these phenomena can we attribute to Hadrian himself and how much to larger political and social tendencies, such as competition between families, individuals, and even cities?37 Hadrian was famous for his complex and self-contradictory personality (e.g., HA, Hadr. 14.11, Epit. de Caes. 14.6). His biography and Cassius Dio, the two most substantial literary sources, stress his competitiveness, his restlessness, and his brilliance (HA, Hadr. 20.7, 23.1; Cass. Dio 69.3.2-3). He had wide interests and insatiable curiosity (Tert. Apol. 5.7; HA, Hadr. 14.8-10, 15.10-16.11; Cass. Dio 69.3.1, 69.5.1, 69.11.3). Unpleasant when coupled with his pedantic insistence on being the only one hailed as correct (as when he had to best Favorinus, other sophists, or the scholars of Alexandria's Museum),38 such intellectual qualities impelled him to climb Syrian Mt. Casius to see the sun rise, to travel up the Nile, and to devour local lore while traveling outside Italy for more than half of his twenty-one-year reign (HA, Hadr. 14.3, 17.8; Cass. Dio 69.9.1-2). Hadrian was indulgent with friends and acquaintances and met new people easily, although his intense competitiveness made him solitary (HA, Hadr. 15.1-2, 22.4; Cass. Dio 69.5.1-2, 69.6.2-3, 69.7.1-4, 69.17.3-18.1). Letters and speeches remaining from Hadrian's prolific output (see chapter 2) substantiate the literary sources' depiction of a man doggedly thorough in law and governance, meticulous in detail and thought, sensitive to difference, and as attuned to the common man as to the upper classes (HA, Hadr. 17.5-7, 21.1-3, 22.1; Cass Dio 69.6.2-3, 69.16.3).

The ideology of the Roman empire held that good emperors manifest magnanimity by public building in Rome, Italy, and the provinces, and no Roman emperor was oblivious of the importance of cities for the empire (cf. Dio Chrys. Or. 47.13). Moreover, each new emperor had to outdo his predecessors in some way.39 Although the pattern was thus set for Hadrian's benefactions with cities, he seems to have gone further than required. Hadrian's immediate predecessor, Trajan, had contributed lavishly to building in Rome and more modestly to public works elsewhere. In both spheres Hadrian surpassed him in quantity, and the predominantly religious, rather than utilitarian, aspect of Hadrian's imperial work further contrasted with Trajan's.40 Antoninus Pius's building activity consisted largely of roadwork, some restoration, and completion of works begun or promised by Hadrian (for example, the aqueduct at Athens, discussed in chapter 7):41 in sum, much less than what is recorded for Hadrian and evincing much less initiative and imagination.

Indeed, no Roman emperor devoted as much personal attention to cities throughout the empire as did Hadrian, except perhaps Augustus himself.42 Yet the situations in which these two emperors undertook their activity differed greatly. Augustus had to restore urban structures and encourage order after cataclysmic warfare in extensive areas, including Italy and much of the Greek East.43 Elsewhere, as in North Africa, Spain, and parts of Gaul, he had to establish civic organs with which Rome could cooperate.44 In contrast, Hadrian came to the throne of an empire already urbanized, many of whose cities now possessed more or less uniform administrations. Thanks to better communications made possible by the pax Augusta (the imperial peace), the empire of Hadrian's day was relatively familiar with the mores, laws, language, and material culture of Rome itself. Hadrian's avoidance of war and his decisive withdrawal from the untenable borders established by Trajan allowed him to direct Rome's resources toward munificence.45 The evidence for Hadrian's personality, as biased as some of it may be, indicates that the number and variety of Hadrian's benefactions were due to Hadrian himself, their geographical spread was intentional, and their nuances were deliberate.

As we see throughout this book, the actual interaction between Hadrian and many cities was associated with a renewal, preservation, or promotion of the unique history of that place. Again, it cannot be determined conclusively how much of this effect was due to Hadrian and how much to larger trends. Hadrian was famed for almost perversely archaistic predilections (e.g., HA, Hadr. 16.5-6; see chapter 6 on tombs). Yet many cities at this same time were also fascinated with their most remote past, displaying their heroic founders and venerable traditions in sculpture and architecture throughout the Greek East.46 The privileging of the past, evinced by Hadrian and by cities from the end of the first through the second centuries A.D., is also conspicuous in the contemporaneous literary and cultural movement known as the Second Sophistic.47 Many of the most famous exponents of the Second Sophistic, such as Favorinus, Polemo of Smyrna, Aelius Aristides, and Herodes Atticus, are connected with Hadrian in some way, and appear in my text. But we cannot attribute solely or even chiefly to Hadrian the cultural influence they and other such stars exerted. Indeed, given the rocky relations that Cassius Dio and others depict between emperor and sophists, we might expect the reverse.48

But here we are decidedly turning to the wrong set of questions; more important, and more appreciable in the data I have assembled, is the tenor of the past that Hadrian's municipal benefactions evoked. This "past" was inseparable from Hadrian and contemporary Roman might. S. Walker and A. J. Spawforth have brilliantly demonstrated, for instance, how closely tied to Hadrian himself was the Panhellenion, his re-creation of Athens's preeminence in the Greek world.49 In Athens and many other cities, Hadrian's appreciation of local history and his interest in the recondite may have helped define the form his imperial largesse took as the restoration of a monument, the support of a festival, or something else that recalled the city's past. Regardless of its configuration, by his benefaction Hadrian effectively appropiated that past into the ongoing history of the Roman empire.50

My evidence for this process allows us to assess in a more nuanced way the topic of Romanization. The term Romanization traditionally has been used to describe assimilation by provincials, especially provincial elites, of Roman culture in all its variety, from materials and art forms to personal nomenclature and Roman law. Recent work has emphasized, however, that acculturation during the Empire was not simply a transferral of Roman culture to the "uncultured" non-Romans the empire encompassed. Rather, the interaction of Romans and provincials provided a stimulus for continual modification of dominant and subordinate cultures alike.51 This give-and-take is manifested most clearly in Rome's interactions with the provinces in which Greek was the primary language, many of which were around the Aegean Sea, and long before Hadrian's era Rome's elite and not-so-elite had embraced Greek learning and cultural achievements.52 Hadrian himself was derided as a "Graeculus," a little Greekling (HA, Hadr. 1.5, Epit. de Caes. 14.2), because of his deep and abiding interest in Greek literature, history, and learning. But in the Latin West as well as the Greek East Hadrian's work manifested his attentiveness to cities' particular traditions, as when he assumed a city's highest magistracy in absentia, or restored or completed temples begun long before the Romans' arrival.

Through his constant municipal activity, and particularly through his boons affecting religion, Hadrian ensured that the beneficent image of the Roman emperor was inextricably woven into the patterns of daily life in cities of the Roman world. Valorization of urban life and acknowledgment of the emperor's supremacy are the most universal markers of what it meant to be Roman during the Empire, not temples to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, amphitheaters, the use of Latin, or even the diffusion of Roman citizenship.53 Just as important as reinforcing a basis for cohesion of the immense Roman world, however, Hadrian's benefactions encouraged civic munificence, including the assumption of obligatory civic duties (now often termed liturgies), on the part of the municipal elites. His travels, ceaseless correspondence, and reception of embassies, often even his largesse itself, were mediated by cities' grandees, whose social and political standing was concomitantly advanced by their association with the emperor.

Hadrian's general laws affecting cities seem to have promoted civic pride. He introduced a senatus consultum that confirmed legacies could be left to any city in the empire (Ulp. Reg. 24.28).54 He prohibited demolition of houses for the purpose of transferring their materials to another city (HA, Hadr. 18.2), evincing general concern for the physical appearance of cities.55 He issued an edict (CodJ 10.40.7), according to which local citizenship was created by origo (normally descent from a male citizen of a town, e.g., CodJ 10.39.3), manumission by a citizen of the town, adlection, or adoption; status of incolae arose from the establishment of domicilium (place of residence) in a city (cf. Ulp. 1.2 ad ed., Dig. 50.1.1pr.).56 Hadrian thus reaffirmed individuals' legal ties to towns, as he did when promoting a man to citizenship in a second town (chapter 4). Hadrian also gave legal privileges to decurions, which served to reward these town councillors for their service (Dig. 48.19.15).57 Although he cannot be proved responsible for distinguishing Latin rights into "greater" and "lesser" Latin rights (Latium maius and Latium minus, with "greater Latin rights" awarding Roman citizenship to town decurions as well as magistrates),58 his laws concerning legacies to cities and decurions' privileges may have boosted local benefactions by members of municipal elites.59 The laws simultaneously increased the prestige of those who undertook municipal service and made it easier to benefit one's town materially. They facilitated the nexus of public service and public acclaim (often called "euergetism") that was characteristic of the Roman empire and essential to the health of cities and empire alike.60

Much more frequent and impressive than Hadrian's laws affecting all cities, however, were his direct interactions with individual cities outside of Rome: during Hadrian's twenty-one-year reign more than 130 cities received, in all, more than 210 marks of his favor. This book is the examination of those imperial interactions, divided according to general topics. As I show in chapter 2, the presentation of my evidence and methods, my approach has been largely determined by my sources. Romans celebrated Hadrian's municipal benefactions, whatever their guise, with the same words: beneficium, indulgentia, euergesia, and the like. Such undifferentiated terminology has persuaded me to examine comprehensively Hadrian's activities with cities outside Rome, rather than to concentrate exclusively on building donations or some other particular type of benefaction.

Chapter 3 addresses one of the most frequent forms of Hadrian's personal dealings with cities, at least in the Latin West: his changes of civic status. In my investigation I discuss the functions and political life of cities in Italy and the provinces during the empire, the roles of the municipal elite, and the interactions of cities and the central power in Rome. The chapter thus delineates, albeit along broad lines, life in cities throughout Hadrian's empire. In chapter 4 I discuss other local administrative and economic changes Hadrian brought about in various cities by, for example, holding a local magistracy in absentia, appointing a curator aedium sacrarum (supervisor of sacred buildings) or a curator rei publicae (supervisor of a city) to oversee a town's sacred buildings or finances, redistributing land, or adding to citizen lists or town councils. Chapter 5 complements chapter 4 by presenting the evidence for Hadrian's alterations of a city's status vis-à-vis its surrounding region or Rome itself. The material includes Hadrian's modifications of a city's territory, his determination of a city's taxes, revenues, or grain supplies, his promotion or ratification of festivals in a city, and his grants of various civic titles not marking a change of city status.

In chapter 6 I turn to Hadrian's construction or reconstruction of buildings and his engineering projects in various cities. Since my research points to almost one hundred Hadrianic structures in all, in this chapter I discuss only outstanding examples of the various types of construction he supported. In chapter 7 I examine three cities as case studies: Athens, Smyrna, and Italica. These are chosen for the wealth and detail of the data attesting the buildings and other benefactions they received from Hadrian, and their discussion allows me to address issues of planning, material, and technique. In chapter 8 I treat Antinoopolis, Colonia Aelia Capitolina, and other cities Hadrian created completely or largely ex novo. These provide the best opportunity to evaluate questions of urbanization and Romanization. The concluding chapter, chapter 9, brings together the rich evidence for Hadrian's personal interactions with cities throughout the empire, discussing the material chronologically and geographically, and emphasizing its significance for the Roman empire.

The title of my book reflects my ultimate aim, to illuminate the Roman empire of Hadrian's day rather than to focus on Hadrian himself. Hadrian provides the prism for my endeavor, thanks to the frequency, variety, and geographical spread of his municipal activity. His prominence in both title and book, moreover, indicates the difficulty of establishing the relative weights to assign to structure and agency in historical inquiries. Although Rome's structural realities were already in place--its ideology, mentalités, economy, geography, and the like--Hadrian maximized their potential. The evidence I have collected and assessed compels me to believe that Hadrian had a profound effect on the Roman empire, and particularly on its achievements of the second century: consensus, general internal peace, and expansion of urban amenities. Even if these benefited at most 20 percent of the population under Rome's sway, the proportion is greater than in any other preindustrial society. Those benefiting from Rome had a chance at values generally esteemed today: freedom within the law; access to culture; voluntary participation in social and religious ritual; a sense of one's place in society and history; the feeling that one's voice and actions matter and help determine one's fate. I know well that Rome's accomplishments were gained at a heavy price: Hadrian's war against the Jews abhorrently exemplifies Rome's ruthless suppression of nonconformists, and every city bolstered by his attention deprived others of revenues. Nevertheless, in the second century A.D. the benefits of Rome's rule seem to me to have outweighed the disadvantages. Hadrian's attention to the cities of the empire significantly influenced this generally positive effect, and the wealth of evidence amply repays close inquiry.

Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Hadrian, Emperor of Rome, 76-138 Influence, Emperors Rome Biography, Patron and client Rome, Cities and towns Rome Administration, Rome History Empire, 30 B, C, -284 A, D