Animula vagula blandula… Hadrian’s farewell to life

Naples: where Hadrian died, pizza was invented and people say “don’t go’! because of its mafioso side

FOLLOWING HADRIAN

On this day ante diem VI idus quinctilias (July, 10th) in 138 A.D., Hadrian died after a heart failure at Baiae on the Bay of Naples.

He lived 62 years, 5 months, 17 days. He reigned for 20 years, 11 months.

Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian's Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome © Carole Raddato Marble bust of Hadrian, from Hadrian’s Mausoleum, National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome
© Carole Raddato

Hadrian spent the last moments of his life dictating verses addressed to his soul. According to the Historia Augusta, Hadrian composed the following poem shortly before his death:

“Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos.”

—P. Aelius Hadrianus Imp. (138)

These five lines defied translation. Nobody knows what they really mean, yet there have been forty three translations from the best English-speaking poets. Anthony R. Birley writes: “Few short poems can have generated so many verse translations and such copious academic debate as these five lines—a…

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