Monday, December 15, 2008

Hadrian & Antinous: Voyage to the Sun Part Six

Hadrian's original entourage had grown in size from the original group of intimates which had toured the Near East, much larger in fact. As the imperial group began to cruise up the Nile there was a flotilla of barges to accompany and accomodate them. From Royston Lambert's, Beloved and God: "Hadrian himself was surrounded by officials, the Prefect, army and naval commanders, the head (epistrategos) of each of three divisions of the country and others. Round him also gathered a literary and scholarly band. The epistrategos of Thebaid, Gallus, Marianus, wrote Homeric epigrams more fluent than those of Balbilla herself. Perhaps the ubiquitous Polemo was present and certainly a poet called Arius from the Museion. Whether the Caesarnii and Pedianus Fuscus were still in the party is not known: probably they were." Lucius Ceionus Commodus, the up and coming, good looking aristocrat may have joined the imperial party by now. The evidence for his presence is scanty but there are no pieces of evidence or objections to his being there. Commodus was 29 and soon to be named praetor and was the recommended candidate of Hadrian. If the handsome and hedonistic young man was there, his presence may not have been entirely welcomed by Antinous. Commodus, whose rank and lineage made him able to succeed Hadrian was sensed to be in the ascendant. Antinous, whose background was perceived to be inferior and could not in any way succeed Hadrian was sensed to be declining in both status and power, although he was still the imperial favorite.
During previous visits to foreign lands Hadrian had thoughtfully made arrangements for he and his entourage not to have to be supported by the local people. However, in Egypt it was taken for granted that the Pharaoh-Zeus-god and his party would be supplied by the already overburdened and over-taxed peasants. The food, drink, pack animals, fish, fowl and many other items like torches and lamps were gathered at stops along the Nile river. Some of these were items of necessity, however many were items of luxury to be consumed by the ravenous imperial party. In all likelihood the locals were not to thrilled about this as you can imagine. Although the USA and its fellow 'industrial democracies' are not quite to this stage of burden and being over-taxed by a lying and vicious elite in my humble opinion (as one of the peasants)-we are getting there quickly-Ike, JFK, Emma, Eugene,MLK-we could use your help! Sorry-a little off-topic rant. Another problem that presented itself with the imperial cruise was that it was seen as impious, even for the Pharaoh to cruise on the Nile in full flood. Hadrian did seek to avoid retribution for this, he was a man who very much believed in omens, and only sailed upon it when its waters were receding. On this journey, however, this did not seem to be helping matters very much at all.
We turn once again to Beloved and God, a book without having read and taken such delight in I could not have possibly done this series: "The problem which turned Hadrian's voyage miserable from the beginning was that in the autumn of 130 there was not much of a flood on the Nile to sail on. Already the inundation of the autumn of 129 had fallen far short of the fourteen to sixteen cubits which produced a good crop of grain, and scarcity had been the result. The usual festive Nile coins had not been produced. Now, a year later, when the flood waters had reached their height in the September of 130 they were more seriously deficient. Again in despondency no Nile coins were issued. The imperial visitors should have sailed past plains covered with water, the towns standing on their hillocks like islands of the Aegean, but this autumn there was more land visible than water." There was anxiety and fears among the local populace about the coming harvest, we wonder if there were premonitions and forebodings among the imperial entourage.
Note to any readers I might have-I have tried 3 times now to space paragraphs for easier reading-if it doesn't work this time I will have to leave it until I figure out what I did wrong-sorry for the inconvenience.


wise woman said...

Hi Devin
Most interesting - I really wasn't at all familiar with the goings on of this time period - my mind is expanding, thanks.

Your writing reminds me of when I used to watch Dr Who as a child & having to wait each week for the next exciting instalment :)

Do you got to edit HTML when you write - it's easier to fix up problems there - Aferrismoon once gave me a tutorial!

Devin said...

wise, I may need that tutorial-I have unbelievably awful computer skills:-) I am glad some people are enjoying this series-I am also learning as I go along. Like I said in the post I couldnt have done this without the inspiriation from the Lambert book. As always very happy to see you here-love your new post!