On Hadrian and Chutzpah


Hadrian had a beard.

Looking through history, that probably shouldn’t come as a shock. Some of history’s greatest movers and shakers wore beards. Sigmund Freud’s beard ought to be in the Louvre. John Muir’s beard should be the fifth feature of Mount Rushmore.

Hadrian’s beard, though, was definitely not normal. Romans didn’t wear beards. They just didn’t. They saw it as an utterly Greek thing to do and, while Rome took a lot of its ideas from Greece, when it came to being naked all the time and growing beards, they just let Greece keep those. The Greeks were the butt of the collective Roman joke. Greece was Rome’s Canada, basically. And Hadrian loved the Greeks. He was enamored with Greek culture, food, art, and government.

So when Hadrian became emperor, and showed up wearing a beard (history doesn’t talk about where he landed on the whole ‘being naked all the time’ thing…) everyone, from senators to plebeians, mocked him unmercifully. They nicknamed him ‘Graeculus’. It basically means Greek-Boy. As in “Check out Greek-Boy’s fancy little beard!” It’s a little hard to tell if it was good-natured, or if they were just being ancient douchebags, but they laughed at him.

And Hadrian kept it. Being the emperor helped; being able to have people killed just for giggles is sort of carte blanche to do what you want. But by most accounts uber-man Hadrian was a pretty excellent Emperor. Except his dealings with the Jews. You can look that up.

The point is this:

Hadrian was man enough, and was in touch with his own spirit enough to know He loved Greece, and he thought beards looked cool. So he grew one. And everyone laughed at him. But he did it anyway, and didn’t really do much in the way of defending his choice. He just went everywhere with a beard, basically being the most powerful man in the world.

Are you man enough to do that? Are you man enough to love what you love, and block out those who tell you it’s ridiculous? Are you man enough to start a business, train for a marathon, or ask out that woman who’s “out of your league”?

People will spend your whole life telling you why things won’t work, why it’s a bad idea, why it’s silly, how it makes you look.

Grow a beard. A real one, and a metaphorical one. Pursue your passion, throw yourself into what you love, and don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t look good on you.


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