The fictional name Lucius Modestus is rather interesting. The praenomen Lucius is derived from Lux (light), and Modestus means moderate or restrained. The hero of the funny and delightful Thermae Romae is this restrained guy who brought the light of Japanese bath culture to Rome across time. His end is the insinuation that he became the new (and perhaps last) lover of the Emperor Hadrian as he took him to Judea (Jerusalem) nearing the end of his reign and life.
It is interesting to note that Hadrian died in 138 at age 62, and his beloved Antinous died in 130 – right about when Lucius Modestus was beginning his run as the Roman Genius of Baths. He left for Judea to suppress the Jews in a bloody, bitter conflict that lasted 3 years: 580,000 Jews were killed, 50 fortified towns and 985 villages razed, while the entire Legio XXII Deitoriana had so many losses it had to be disbanded.
What the hell was our Lucius Modestus doing the whole time Hadrian was playing Hitler?
The fuck would I know, but the interesting thing is that there are two significant people named Lucius in the life of our happy Emperor Hadrian:
Lucius Aelius (Caesar) was his adopted son and chosen successor! This guy was just a little over half Hadrian’s age. While adopted, he is from a consular family (pretty damn elite). It is a practice to adopt successors, especially how Hadrian and the emperors who immediately preceded him were similarly adopted and succeeded their predecessors. Unfortunately for this Lucius, he never ascended the throne because he died in January 138, before even Hadrian kicked the bucket.
Why? It’s said he was always in poor health, while maintaining an opulent and luxurious lifestyle. He’s said to have invented this complicated and expensive dish in Roman cuisine. Hadrian liked it, maybe eating that did them both in.
He did have a son, Lucius Verus, whom Hadrian had his backup successor Antoninus Pius adopt. Lucius Verus would ascend to emperor after Antoninus, along with Marcus Aurelius, but would be pretty much overshadowed by Marcus. Antoninus, before becoming emperor, was actually Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus… the Pius (pious) sobriquet was earned after he made the Roman Senate call Hadrian a God of Rome (as did Octavian/Augustus with Gaius Julius Ceasar).
Now all that haphazard Wikipedia link-jumping tells me is that there’s now way Lucius Modestus would be or should be conflated with either Lucius. There are also no documented improvements on the Roman Thermae since Agrippa was said to have introduced the Laconium over 100 years prior.
That aside, it’s rather sad to imagine Lucius Modestus’ new expressions of Classic Roman ripping off other cultures go to waste in Judea, where he probably built makeshift (LOL Japanese) baths for Hadrian while so much carnage happened around them. In the end it’s just another sad, wistful note in the transient nature of all enjoyable anime.
I never saw Thermae Romae coming, nor how much I would enjoy it.