The Hadrian Enigma: A Forbidden History
GMP Editions (2010)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (05/10)
“The Hadrian Enigma” could be definitely classified as an age-old love story with a twist.
“He” is the Roman Emperor Hadrian, a strong and powerful figure. “She” is not really a she, but rather another male, the young and winsome Antinous of Bithynia. The two develop an intense and powerful attachment, based on the erastes-eromenos relationship. This premise alone would make for an interesting story, but things get really interesting when Antinous is found dead one morning, having obviously drowned in the river Nile. A renowned lawyer, Gaius Suetonious Tranquillus, is hired by Hadrian himself to investigate the death of the unfortunate youth. Was it an accident, suicide, murder, or possibly religious sacrifice? Gaius Suetonious Tranquillus proceeds to interrogate anybody with possible knowledge of the deceased as well as of the intricate relationships within the imperial court; finally reaching a conclusion and unraveling the tangled web of deceit surrounding Antinous’ death. How will Hadrian react to this revelation?
“The Hadrian Enigma” by George Gardiner was an unexpected delight in many ways. While I definitely enjoyed it greatly as a mystery, based on the historical facts, it also opened my eyes to the erastes-eromenos relationships, which were common and accepted in the Classical Greece and in the Roman Empire. It prompted me to do quite a bit more reading and research on that topic, which was so far unknown and definitely very exotic to me. As somebody who appreciates having her mind stimulated and who loves to learn about new things, this was a welcome challenge to me. I’ve also greatly enjoyed Mr. Gardiner’s attention to detail, vivid descriptions of people, customs and rituals as well as intricate political games depicted in his book. His characters were well defined and believable. His storyline hooked me quickly, and even the many excursions into the tangled past did not confuse me. He truly brought the ancient world to life for me, and I am thankful that I dared to venture outside of my usual comfort zone. This book would definitely appeal to open-minded people who are curious about “alternative” lifestyles as well as those who simply enjoy well written historical fiction, based on real events. Regardless of the reasons prompting a reader to pick up this book, I am certain that everybody will appreciate Mr. Gardiner’s lessons on love and human relationships.