Hadrian And Nero Essay

1082 words - 5 pages

The rule of Roman emperors was defined by their imperial image which is cultivated as a reflection of the time in which they ruled. Nero is perceived typically as a very poor emperor who brought ruin to Rome while Hadrian is portrayed as a successful emperor who ensured imperial and Roman continuity. Both emperors, however, shared similar traits and activities outside of their imperial duties which were at once similar in their oddity and uniquely different in their portrayal. While both emperors were interested in Greek culture Nero's excesses and patronage of the arts were viewed as emblematic of the decline of the Roman state, while Hadrian's “philhellenism” was viewed as positive adaption of provincial practices. This difference in imperial perception is attributable to both the military and administrative success, or lack thereof, of each emperor but also relative to the time and under what conditions each emperor ruled. Imperial behavior outside of what was considered appropriate, therefore, only became a problem if the emperor proved to be incompetent.
Nero's patronage of Greek art was viewed as indicative of his imperial excesses and derelictions of duty rather than a cultural appropriation. Nero spent recklessly both in the building of public works but also in the building of his personal palace.1 He relied on the resources of the empire to fund his extravagance, insofar that following the great fire in 64CE he was forced to debase the currency in order to fund rebuilding.2 Nero most likely was simply devoid of any financial and administrative sense, as it was believed that the only pleasure he derived from possessing riches was spending it, and those who kept account of their expenditures were miserly.3 He moreover was said to hold reverence for his uncle Gaius based simply on his ability to squander money, and therefore put no limits on his own donation or expenditures4, presumably acting under the belief that an emperors job was to build and provide. Nero's spending and building programs, moreover, emulated those of his predecessors albeit at a time when the money was simply not there, due in no small part to his own abolition of taxes5 to spend on works, leading to a debasement of the currency and financial instability. His spending habits, therefore equate with his general public image of self aggrandizement through art and singing, using the imperial treasury to fund performance trips to Greece for the sole reason of being in the company of an appreciative audience.6 His reckless spending in building and travel is therefore emblematic of the perception of his self aggrandizement through the glorification of himself through the misappropriation of funds at a time when there really was not any to spend.
Hadrian's travels, however, are shown as decidedly more administrative and imperial in nature and therefore a prudent use of imperial funds. Hadrian spent many years outside of Rome on military inspections and reordering of...

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