Project Description

Hadrian and Antinous

Hadrian was born in Rome in 76 AD as the fourteenth Emperor. His justly reign lasted from 10 August 117 till 10 July 138 and he is today known as the third of the Five Good Emperors. Even though he was officially married, Hadrian became enamored with a young Greek boy called Antinous. Born in Bythnion around the year 105 AD, Antinous was stunningly beautiful, commonly compared to Ganymede because he could enchant even gods with his heavenly appearance. The love between the two lasted for almost a decade; through it Antinous bloomed from a young boy into a strong man. Their love was so obvious that Hadrian didn’t even pretend to keep appearances with his wife, and he never had any offspring. On his visit to Egypt in AD 130, Hadrian and Antinous traveled on the River Nile when an unforeseen accident occurred – on 24 October Antinous drowned in the river, the same day the locals were commemorating the death of god Osiris. It was a long held belief that people who died in the Nile underwent the same journey as Osiris and were eventually resurrected. Antinous’ death, most commonly regarded as an accident, was gossiped to be a murder, sacrifice or anything other than a misfortune. Hadrian was said to have “wept like a woman”, and was largely ridiculed for his inconsolable mourning. Nevertheless, Antinous was deified and declared a god. Hadrian founded Antinoopolis on the bank of the river where Antinous had drowned. A large temple was built and a festival made in Antinous’ memory. Hadrian spent the last eight years of his life mourning for Antinous. Other Greek cities began to establish their own cults and festivals in honor of Antinous, wishing to express their loyalty to Rome and to Hadrian. The Antinous cult became popular among the common people, and represented a big competition to Christianity that started it’s spreading at that time. The city was abandoned around the 10th century, and unfortunately, not much of it remains today.