The Grail Code 
Hadrian was fifteen feet tall and looked like a hippie

They’ve found a great big statue of Hadrian, the Roman emperor who tried to solve the barbarian problem in Britain once and for all. He simply built a great wall right across the island to keep the nasty Picts from pouring southward the way they tended to do whenever they felt the need for a bit of plunder.

It worked pretty well as long as the Empire poured enormous resources into keeping the wall liberally coated with soldiers. But walls don’t keep barbarians out forever, as even the Chinese—who built the biggest and best anti-barbarian wall in the world—could tell you. If you build a wall, eventually the barbarians will come at you by sea and demand that you buy their opium.

The mere fact that Hadrian and his successors were willing to put so much effort into defending the province shows how valuable they considered Britain. It also created the conditions under which Britain grew civilized, prosperous, and dependent. Without those Roman soldiers keeping the Picts on the other side of the wall, how could the Britons defend themselves?

The answer, of course, was to hire somebody else to do it, which brought in the seaborne English barbarians and led to the English conquest of most of the island.

Meanwhile, we have a new portrait of Hadrian to admire. The statue would have been about fifteen or sixteen feet tall, to judge by the size of the foot, and it shows Hadrian with his trademark beard. Most emperors shaved, but Hadrian wanted to look like a Greek philosopher. In other words, he was a hippie emperor.

History has generally judged him well. He didn’t persecute the Christians for their religion, as long as they complied with the laws of the Empire (which they couldn’t always do, of course, but you can’t have everything). He improved the imperial administration, and in general the empire was governed well during his reign. Although he had to face an especially bloody Jewish revolt, that all took place in the east and didn’t affect Britain much at all. As far as Britain was concerned, Hadrian was just about the ideal emperor, and things would have been just fine if every emperor after him had been just like him.

One Response to “Hadrian was fifteen feet tall and looked like a hippie”

  1. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

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(C) 2006 Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey