Hadrian’s Farewell to Life – Philippe de Felice

The final days of the Emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE) were memorably described by Marguerite Yourcenar’s brilliant novel Memoirs of Hadrian (1951), in which the terminally ill Caesar looks back on his life. We are fortunate in having a wealth of literary and historical sources for Hadrian’s reign (including his own famous valedictory poem “Animula, vagula, blandula”) and a particularly revealing series of official statues hinting at his medical condition. Recent research indicates that Hadrian’s deteriorating health was accurately portrayed by his sculptors and Philippe De Felice’s essay brings together all these strands to give us a moving picture of the Emperor’s last days.

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Philippe de Felice Bio

Philippe de Felice is of Swiss origins and was born in Zurich in 1954. He received a cosmopolitan education in Swiss, French and English schools, and then studied at Florence University and Oriel College Oxford (where he graduated with First Class Honours in History and French in 1976). He later qualified as a Barrister and followed a career in international law, working on aid projects for the United Nations, on EU affairs for the Commission and the UK government, and most recently in private practice.

He has travelled widely in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

He now lives in London with his wife and three children. Entertaining Mona Lisa is his first collection of stories. He is currently working on a novel and a series of studies on how humans have chosen to express themselves throughout the ages, from prehistoric caves to the internet era.

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