44 Facts About Antinous


Little is known of Antinous's life, although it is known that he was born in Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia et Pontus.


Antinous was probably introduced to Hadrian in 123, before being taken to Italy for a higher education.


Antinous had become the favourite of Hadrian by 128, when he was taken on a tour of the Roman Empire as part of Hadrian's personal retinue.


Antinous accompanied Hadrian during his attendance of the annual Eleusinian Mysteries in Athens, and was with him when he killed the Marousian lion in Libya, an event highly publicised by the Emperor.


Hadrian founded games in commemoration of Antinous to take place in both Antinoopolis and Athens, with Antinous becoming a symbol of Hadrian's dreams of pan-Hellenism.


The worship of Antinous proved to be one of the most enduring and popular of cults of deified humans in the Roman empire, and events continued to be founded in his honour long after Hadrian's death.


Antinous became a symbol of male homosexuality in Western culture, appearing in the work of Oscar Wilde, Fernando Pessoa and Marguerite Yourcenar.

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Oscar Wilde

Antinous was born to a Greek family near the city of Claudiopolis, which was located in the Roman province of Bithynia, in what is north-west Turkey.


Antinous was born in the territory to the east of the city called Mantineion, a rural locality:.


The year of Antinous's birth is not recorded, although it is estimated that it was probably between 110 and 112 CE.


Lambert considered it likely that Antinous would have had a basic education as a child, having been taught how to read and write.


On this tondo it was clear that Antinous was no longer a youth, having become more muscular and hairy, perceptibly more able to resist his master; and thus it is likely that his relationship with Hadrian was changing as a result.


The first mention of Antinous is from Pancrates and his Lion Hunt poem from 130 CE.


Possibly joining them was Lucius Ceionius Commodus, a young aristocrat whom Antinous might have deemed a rival to Hadrian's affections.


Hadrian publicly announced his death, with gossip soon spreading throughout the Empire that Antinous had been intentionally killed.


The nature of Antinous's death remains a mystery to this day; however, various hypotheses have been put forward.


In keeping with Egyptian custom, Antinous's body was probably embalmed and mummified by priests, a lengthy process which might explain why Hadrian remained in Egypt until spring 131.


Hadrian identified a star in the sky between the Eagle and the Zodiac to be Antinous, and came to associate the rosy lotus that grew on the banks of the Nile as being the flower of Antinous.


However, a surviving obelisk contains an inscription strongly suggesting that Antinous's body was interred at Hadrian's country estate, the Villa Adriana at Tibur in Italy.


Antinous would have had political motives for creating the organised cult, for it enshrined political and personal loyalties specifically to him.


Antinous was understood differently by his various worshippers, in part due to regional and cultural variation.


Inscriptions indicate that Antinous was seen primarily as a benevolent deity, who could be turned to aid his worshipers and cure them of ailments.


Antinous was seen as a conqueror of death, with his name and image often being included in coffins.


Antinous encouraged Greeks from elsewhere to settle in the new city, using various incentives to do so.


Antinous focused on its spread within the Greek lands, and in Summer 131 travelled these areas promoting it by presenting Antinous in a syncretised form with the more familiar deity Hermes.

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Oscar Wilde

The cult of Antinous was never as large as those of well established deities such as Zeus, Dionysus, Demeter, or Asclepios, or even as large as those of cults which were growing in popularity at that time, such as Isis or Serapis, and was smaller than the official imperial cult of Hadrian himself.


Artefacts in honour of Antinous have been found in an area that spans from Britain to the Danube.


Archaeological finds point that Antinous was worshipped in both public and private settings.


Part of the appeal was that Antinous had once been an ordinary human himself, and thus was more relatable than many other deities.


Priests devoted to Antinous would have overseen this worship, with the names of some of these individuals having survived in inscriptions.


Sculptures of Antinous became widespread, with Hadrian probably having approved a basic model of Antinous's likeness for other sculptors to follow.


Games held in honour of Antinous were held in at least 9 cities, and included both athletic and artistic components.


The cult of Antinous was criticised by various individuals, both pagan and Christian.


Many sculptures of Antinous were destroyed by Christians, as well as by invading barbarian tribes, although in some instances were then re-erected; the Antinous statue at Delphi had been toppled and had its forearms broken off, before being re-erected in a chapel elsewhere.


Many of the images of Antinous remained in public places until the official prohibition of pagan religions under the reign of Emperor Theodosius in 391.


Antinous was not just the last pagan god; he was the inspiration of the last glorious fluorescence of classical art.


Hadrian "turned to Greek sculptors to perpetuate the melancholy beauty, diffident manner, and lithe and sensuous frame of his boyfriend Antinous," creating in the process what has been described as "the last independent creation of Greco-Roman art".


About a hundred statues of Antinous have been preserved for modernity, a remarkable fact considering that his cult was the target of intense hostility by Christian apologists, many of whom vandalized and destroyed artefacts and temples built in honour of the youth.


Antinous asserted that the Classical study of these Antinous images was particularly important because of his "rare mix" of "biographical mystery and overwhelming physical presence".


Lambert believed that the sculptures of Antinous "remain without doubt one of the most elevated and ideal monuments to pederastic love of the whole ancient world", describing them as "the final great creation of classical art".


The common image of Antinous is of an ephebic teenager which would be of the age of 18 or 19 years old.


An ephebe of eighteen or nineteen would be depicted with full pubic hair, whereas the statues of Antinous depict him as prepubescent "without pubic hair and with carefully represented soft groin tissue".


Antinous has attracted attention from the homosexual subculture since the 18th century, the most illustrious examples for this being Prince Eugene of Savoy and Frederick the Great of Prussia.


At the time, Antinous's fame was increased by the work of fiction and writers and scholars, many of whom were not homosexuals.