Antinoos (or Antinous or Antinoo) was the love of Hadrian, Roman Emperor (117-138 BCE) He
had Antinoos' likeness sculpted and delivered all over the Empire where it was to inspire the
masses. Antinoos died in a tragic drowning in the Nile very young and was deified by Hadrian.
Generations later, his likeness still inspires a small subset of the masses :)
Antinoos & Hadrian's world coincided with the Roman tendency to classicize its artworks in an
attempt to present itself as the archetype. In expressing their personal vision of the emperor, the
great artists of the age were united in their adaptation of classical models to the realities of their
contemporary life. Antinous, was not only a beautiful youth from Bithynia but the beloved
favourite of the Emperor. And after drowning in Egypt in 130, his image inspired artists to follow
in the footsteps of the great Greek sculptors, Calamis, Phidias, and Praxiteles, reverting to the
ancient figurative tradition in order to portray contemporary power in aesthetic, religious and
philosophical terms. Perfect models were to be found in mythology, from which portraits of
Antinous assumed the body and attitudes of heroes and deities, from the edge of India to the
coast of Portugal.
We have links to Antinoos life, his likenesses around the world, the religious cult that is still practiced by a small group of folks and his place in Roman history. If you have additional Antinoos information or links, please feel free to pass them on!
"And such a one is the new God Antinous, that was the
Emperor Hadrian's minion and the slave of his unlawful
pleasure; a wreth, whom that that worshipped in obedience to
the Emperor's command, and for fear of his vengeance, knew
and confessed to be a man, and not a good or deserving man
neither, but a sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's
lust. This shameless and scandalous boy died in Egypt when
the court was there; and forthwith his Imperial Majesty issued
out an order or edict strictly requiring and commanding his
loving subjects to acknowledge his departed page a deity and to
pay him his quota of divine reverences and honours as such: a
resolution and act which did more effectually publish and
testify to the world how entirely the Emperor's unnatural
passion survived the foul object of it; and how much his master
was devoted to memory, than it recorded his own crime and
condemnation, immortalized his infamy and shame, and
The deification of Antinous, his medals, statues, city, oracles,
and constellation, are well known, and still dishonor the
memory of Hadrian. Yet we may remark, that of the first fifteen
emperors, Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was
Faced with such harshly prudish comments, it is of no wonder that many like myself have
become fascinated in the boy whom they address. The majority of references one will see in
modern times to Antinous are either such as the above or take the form of proudly displayed
quips declaring the manes of famous homosexuals throughout history which tell us little other
than the fact that, like most Greek men or his era, Antinous participated in homosexual activities.
In deed, there are few works that even bother mentioning the boy as it has been the tendency of
the majority of historians to sweep Antinous under the rug to avoid what they consider a
defamation of Emperor Hadrian, who has long been considered one of the most successful of the
Emperors of Rome.
The story of Hadrian and Antinous, seen by some as a real life version of the myth of Zeus and
Ganymede, is a romance and a tragedy. That the young Antinous was the lover of the Emperor,
who is known for his Hellenistic ways, is of little true amazement and in itself would not have
caused a scandalous cry to echo through the centuries. However, when the boy who is thought to
have been the only true love in Hadrian's life was found drowned in the Nile it sent the Emperor
into a swell of grief so mighty that it altered the Roman world.
Publius Aeliues Hadrienus was born January of 76 AD, most likely in
Rome but possibly in Italica, near Seville. In his youth, he developed a
fondness for Hellenic culture that was to earn him the nickname,
"Graeculus," or "The Greekling."
In 85 AD, Hadrian's life was changed by the death of his father. The boy
was left in the care of two guardians, his father's dear friend Acilius
Attianus and his father's cousin, Trajan, who became Emperor in 98 AD.
The relationship between Hadrian and Trajan is open to speculation. It
seemed to vary between immense affection to near hatred. Since it is oft
said that the only thing that the two truly had in common was a love of
boys, it is possible though not proven that they were in fact lovers and it
has long been alleged that many of the troubles between the two were
caused by the boys they kept. It has also been alleged, with less evidence,
that Hadrian became the lover of the Empress Plotina. While the two where very close, the relationship seems to have been more similar to that of mentor to student as the Empress was most well known for her learning and love of history. There also seems to have been a maternal aspect to the relationship as in letters, Hadrian refers to Plotina as "my dearest and most honoured mother" and she to him as, "my own dear son."
In the year 100 AD, two years after his guardian became Emperor,
Hadrian was wed to the young great-niece of said guardian. The girl,
Sabina, was approximately 13 and still fairly young even by Roman
terms of marriage. There was never to be much fondness between Sabina
and Hadrian, and indeed there was much hostility, who were married for
purely political reasons as Sabina was the Emperor's closest unmarried
female relative. In retaliation to the lack of emotion given her by her
husband, Sabina apparently took steps to insure that Hadrian would
never have a child by her. To describe his wife, Hadrian used the words,
"moody and difficult," and declared that if he were a private citizen free
to do his own will, he would divorce her. However, despite the hostility
between the couple, Hadrian was very fond of his mother-in-law,
Matidia, who he praised as, "helpful to all, troublesome to no one, ill-
humoured with nobody." It was in her honour that the first temple in
Rome ever to be built in the name of a woman was constructed by order
of her son-in-law.
Although by 117, Hadrian had been given control of the armies of the
east and it had been rumored for many years the he was to be officially
adopted by Trajan as heir, no papers where ever produced to the effect
until the time of Trajan's death. The papers arrived in Rome two days
before the news of the Emperor's death and it was long rumored that the
clever Plotina had forged the documents to aide her protege. It is
arguable that Hadrian would most likely have been able to win the
Empire either way due to his control of the army and his connection to
Trajan by blood and marriage, but formal documents from Trajan could
hardly have hurt his cause..
While Hadrian hastily dealt with the war in Tigris and Euphrates that
Trajan had died before completing and went on to suppress the Jewish
revolts in t he Middle East, Plotina and Attianus, the other guardian of
Hadrian's childhood and current Prefect of the Guard, made swiftly to
Rome with the ashes of Trajan and praise of Hadrian. The case to crown
Hadrian Emperor was defended before the Senate with the help of
Attianus, who managed to bully the Senate into executing four of the
most distinguished consolers of Trajan's rule. These men were powerful
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