Emperor, philhellene, globe-trotter and superstar, a fan of the arts who nonetheless liked to live modestly, spending a lot of time with his soldiers, Hadrian (AD 76-138) was without doubt a restless spirit and a multifaceted personality who is seen as an instrumental factor in the osmosis between the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations.
Marking 1,900 years since the beginning of Hadrian’s Principate in AD 117, the National Archaeological Museum (NAM) and the Italian Archaeological School at Athens present “Hadrian and Athens: Conversing with an Ideal World,” an exhibition dedicated to the Roman emperor and his contribution in shaping a common Western cultural heritage.
Running through November 2018, the exhibition comprises 40 pieces from the museum’s collection that have been arranged in the Athenian Kosmetai gallery so that they appear to be in an imaginary philosophical dialogue with the likes of Metrodorus, Antonius Polemon and Herodes Atticus.
According to the curators, “portraits of Plato and Aristotle, standing as symbols of Greek philosophical thought, observe the imagined conservation, along with the Kosmetai at the back of the hall (the officials who were responsible for the intellectual and physical education of the ephebes in the Athenian gymnasia of the imperial period). Through this enriched exhibition narrative, the guardians of the traditional education (paideia) of ancient Athens are approached with new interpretative media that highlight the deep spiritual affinity between Hellenic and Roman culture.”
One of the highlights is a splendid bust of Antinous, the emperor’s beloved companion, who was deified after his premature death and venerated in the gymnasia as a model of youthful beauty and vigor.