Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli

Of all the Roman Emperors who visited Britannia - Claudius, Hadrian, Septimus Severus and his co Augustii sons Caracalla and Geta, Constantine Chlorus and Constantine the Great - in popular perception Hadrian stands out because of his limes, Hadrian’s Wall. If in the historical long run the accession of Constantine the Great is the most significant event in the history of Roman Britain, and arguably the most significant world event to have happened in Britain, the creation by Hadrian of his Wall has proved crucial to our  awareness both of Britannia’s place within the Empire and of its physical reality. The Wall snaking its way across the landscape of Cumberland and Northumberland is guaranteed to excite the imagination of anyone with a glimmer of interest in the past.

Bronze head of Hadrian found in the Thames in London. Now in the British Museum 
Image: Wikipedia 

If we remember Hadrian as a builder of military works then his complex at the Villa Adriana at Tivoli is a reminder of the splendid, indeed spectacular, way in which a Roman Emperor lived when not on campaign. It is well enough known from photographs of the arcade overlooking the Canopus Pool but an article on the Mail Online website - strange that they should have an eye for luxurious domestic living - reports on the latest archaeological discoveries and outlines the scale of the series of public and private, cultic and administrative buildings that comprised Hadrianic Tivoli. Today its like might be met in miniature in southern California or in various plutocracies, but it can rarely have been rivalled. Indeed not until the late middle ages did anything comparable begin to appear again in Western Europe - although Charlemagne’s Aachen may indicate an awareness of it.

The article with photographs, reconstruction models and plans can be seen at Room found where Roman emperor Hadrian held power breakfasts

There is an online account of the Emperor at Hadrian

No comments: