RGZM Publishing House
Monographien des RGZM
Michael P. Speidel
Emperor Hadrian's speeches to the African Army – a new Text
Monographien des Römisch-Germanischen Zentralmuseums, Band 65
V, 114 Seiten, 91 Abbildungen
Seeking peace through strength, emperor Hadrian (117–138) went to Numidia in summer 128 to reviewthe fighting skills of Rome’s African army. In speeches to the troops, he reviewed the maneuvers he witnessed. Afterwards the army recorded the speeches in an inscription on the parade ground at Lambaesis. Though shortened and broken by gaps, these are the only surviving speeches of an ancientemperor to his soldiers. As our liveliest, richest, and most authentic source for understanding the trainingand fighting skills of the Roman army, they offer unparalleled insight.
Hadrian, accomplished expert on military matters, spoke from experience: he had seen and evaluated countless maneuvers. Coins show him greeting the armies of nearly all frontier provinces, and a passage by Fronto, written not long afterwards, implies that he made the round of the troops to inspect their maneuvers and address them with a critique thereof.
Among military classics, Hadrian’s speeches lack Sun Tzu’s intricacy and Clausewitz’ wealth of detail. But these authors wrote for generals, while Hadrian spoke to soldiers. In the wanted way of mixing critique with praise, his words show leadership in action: they build morale while driving home advice and criticism; they acknowledge skill and eagerness, rewarding them with honor as well as material goods;they deftly retell and praise great deeds. Not theoretical reflections, they are the words spoken to his soldiers by the emperor of three continents.
To recover as much of Hadrian’s speeches as possible from the wreck and ruin of time is the purpose of this book. It is for the reader to judge its success in restoring the structure of the inscription and in recreating a coherent text. The effort itself has been breathtaking: nothing compares with hearing Hadrian’s words ring again, down through the millennia.