Hadrian "was the third of the Five Good Emperors." He was the first Roman Emperor to publicly say that he was gay. Imagine an American president saying he was gay today, or any Western leader, or an Iranian president, or any Muslim leader. The outgoing Iranian president said gays don't even exist in Iran.
There are rumours that President Obama is gay, in which case he should come out and say so and take the shame away. Isn't that what leaders are for? It would be big if he turned out to be both the first black and the first gay American president.
An excerpt from the article, "Hadrian the gay emperor," by Arifa Akbar (The Independent, Jan 11, 2008):
The bust is classically Roman, the face imperious. But this is no ordinary emperor. As a major new exhibition at the British Museum makes clear, Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus was not only a peacemaker who pulled his soldiers out of modern-day Iraq. He was also the first leader of Rome to make it clear that he was gay.
Hadrian: Empire and Conflict will see the bust make pilgrimages to both ends of Hadrian's Wall, the first time it has left the British Museum since being found in the Thames 200 years ago. But it is the singular life-story of the gay emperor that is likely to capture the interest of most visitors.
After being made emperor AD117, he inherited a Roman Empire in its prime, which had thrived on a policy of endless expansion and conquest.
His first move, within hours of coronation, was to withdraw his troops from Mesopotamia, now Iraq, and fortify the empire's boundaries by building his eponymous wall in northern England and others in the Danube and the Rhine valleys, ushering in a new era of peace. The reign that followed can be traced through 200 ancient treasures, many of which have never been display in Britain.
The emperor's sexuality was by no means the only unusual aspect of his reign. The decision to pull his troops out of Mesopotamia might have been frowned upon in an empire that had built its might on a bellicose foreign policy, but Hadrian's charisma won over the masses.
Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said: "The exhibition will provide an opportunity to assess the important legacy of the emperor Hadrian, a classical figure whose reign has telling relevance to our lives today."
Mr Opper said there were similarities between second-century Mesopotamia and present-day Iraq, with the Roman occupiers finding themselves in a hotbed of violence and resistance.
"We must not mistake [Hadrian's] motives for pulling his troops out of Mesopotamia," Mr Opper said. "He didn't really have a choice. It had just been conquered by his predecessor and there was a lot of guerrilla warfare, which is eerily just like modern times. What he did was give the empire breathing space and while he was a very experienced military leader, we also get the impression he was very cultured and he fostered Greek identity and made them partners in leadership."
As the "people's king" – he travelled with his troops and ate the same rations – he laid the foundations of the Byzantine Empire and changed the name of Judea to create Palestine, among other legacies.
At times, however, even Hadrian's Rome played the role of violent occupier. During a suppression of a Jewish rebellion in Judea, Roman warriors were dispatched to take control of the region, leading to the death of 580,000 Jews. "It was probably as a punishment that he changed the name of Judea to Palestine," said Mr Opper.Emperors of Rome: Hadrian. Source: Adrian Murdoch.
Hadrian - A new emperor.
Hadrian: an emperor's love. Source: British Museum.
Hadrian: the power of image. Source: British Museum.
Hadrian in Judea. Source: BBC.
The story of Hadrian in Jerusalem. Source: BBC.