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Antinous (also Antinoüs or Antinoös; Ancient Greek: Ἀντίνοος; 27 November, c. 111 – before 30 October 130[1]) was a Bithynian Greek youth and a favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian.[2] He was divinized after his death, being worshiped in both the Greek East and Latin West, sometimes as a god (theos) and sometimes merely as a divinized mortal (heros).[3]

Little is known of Antinous' life, although it is known that he was born in Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia. He likely was introduced to Hadrian in 123, before being taken to Italy for a higher education. He had become the favourite of Hadrian by 128, when he was taken on a tour of the Empire as part of Hadrian's personal retinue.


The historian Thorsten Opper noted that "Hardly anything is known of Antinous' life, and the fact that our sources get more detailed the later they are does not inspire confidence."[4] Antinous' biographer Royston Lambert echoed this view, commenting that information on him was "tainted always by distance, sometimes by prejudice and by the alarming and bizarre ways in which the principal sources have been transmitted to us."[5]


Antinous bust of the Prado museum, Royal collection, Madrid

It is known that Antinous was born to a Greek family in the city of Claudiopolis, which was located in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is now north-west Turkey.[6] The year of Antinous' birth is not recorded, although it is estimated that it was probably between 110 and 112 CE.[7] Early sources record that his birthday was in November, and although the exact date is not known, Lambert asserted that it was probably on 27 November.[8] Given the location of his birth and his physical appearance, it is likely that part of his ancestry was not Greek.[9]

There are various possible origins for the name "Antinous"; it is possible that he was named after the character of Antinous, who is one of Penelope's suitors in Homer's epic poem, the Odyssey. Another possibility is that he was given the male equivalent of Antinoë, a woman who was one of the founding figures of Mantineia, a city which probably had close relations with Bithynia.[7] Although many historians from the Renaissance onward asserted that Antinous had been a slave, only one of around 50 early sources claim this, and it remains unlikely, as it would have proved heavily controversial to divinise a former slave in Roman society.[10] There is no surviving reliable evidence attesting to Antinous' family background, although Lambert believed it most likely that he came from a background in peasant farming or small businessmen, thereby being socially undistinguished yet not from the poorest sectors of society.[11] He also considered it likely that Antinous would have had a basic education as a child, having been taught how to read and write.[12]

Life with Hadrian[edit]

Emperor Hadrian spent much time during his regime touring his Empire, and arrived in Claudiopolis in June 123, which is the likely time that he first encountered Antinous.[13] Given Hadrian's personality, Lambert thought it unlikely that they had become lovers at this point, instead suggesting it probable that Antinous had been selected to be sent to Italy, where he was probably schooled at the imperial paedagogium at Caelian Hill.[14] Hadrian meanwhile had continued to tour the Empire, only returning to Italy in September 125, when he settled into his villa at Tibur.[15] It was at some point over the following three years that Antinous became his personal favourite, for by the time he left for Greece three years later, he brought Antinous with him in his personal retinue.[15]

Lambert described Antinous as "the one person who seems to have connected most profoundly with Hadrian" throughout the latter's life.[16] Hadrian's marriage to Sabina was unhappy,[17] and there is no reliable evidence that he ever expressed a sexual attraction for women, in contrast to much reliable early evidence that he was sexually attracted to boys and young men.[18] For centuries, pederasty had played an accepted societal role among Greece's leisured and citizen classes, with an older erastes (aged between 20 and 40) undertaking a caring sexual relationship with an eromenos (aged between 12 and 18) and taking a key role in their education.[19] Such a societal institution of pederasty was not indigenous to Roman culture, although bisexuality was the norm in the upper echelons of Roman society by the early 2nd century.[20]

"The way that Hadrian took the boy on his travels, kept close to him at moments of spiritual, moral or physical exaltation, and, after his death, surrounded himself with his images, shows an obsessive craving for his presence, a mystical-religious need for his companionship."

—Royston Lambert, 1984[21]

It is known that Hadrian believed Antinous to be intelligent and wise, which might explain part of the attraction.[15] Another factor was potentially a shared love of hunting, which was seen as a particularly manly pursuit in Roman culture.[22] Although none survive, it is known that Hadrian wrote both an autobiography and erotic poetry about his boy favourites; it is therefore likely that he wrote about Antinous.[5] Early sources are explicit that the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous was sexual.[23] During their relationship, there is no evidence that Antinous ever used his influence over Hadrian for personal or political gain.[24]

In March 127, Hadrian – likely accompanied by Antinous – traveled through the Sabine area of Italy, Picenum, and Campania.[25] From 127 to 129 the Emperor was then afflicted with an illness that doctors were unable to explain.[25] In April 128 he laid the foundation stone for a temple of Venus and Rome in the city of Rome, during a ritual where he may well have been accompanied by Antinous.[25] From there, Hadrian went on a tour of North Africa, during which he was accompanied by Antinous.[26] In late 128 Hadrian and Antinous landed in Corinth, proceeding to Athens, where they remained until May 129, accompanied by Sabina, the Caeserii brothers, and Pedanius Fuscus the Younger.[27] It was in Athens in September 128 that they attended the annual celebrations of the Great Mysteries of Eleusis, where Hadrian was initiated into the position of epoptes in the Telesterion. It is generally agreed, although not proven, that Antinous was also intitiated at that time.[28]

From there they headed to Asia Minor, settling in Antioch in June 129, where they were based for a year, visiting Syria, Arabia, and Palestine. From there, Hadrian became increasingly critical of Jewish culture, which he feared opposed Romanisation, and so introduced policies banning circumcision and replacing the Jewish Temple with a Temple of Zeus-Jupiter. From there, they headed to Egypt.[29]


Antinous drowned in the Nile in October 130. The death was presented as an accident, "but it was believed at the time that Antinous had been sacrificed or had sacrificed himself," and Hadrian "wept for him like a woman."[2] Hadrian went through the process of deifying him soon afterwards, a process previously exclusively reserved for imperial family members rather than friends or lovers of non-Roman origin.

Commemoration: the cult of Antinous[edit]

The grief of the emperor knew no bounds, causing the most extravagant veneration to be paid to Antinous' memory. Cities were founded in his name, medals struck with his likeness, and cities throughout the east commissioned godlike images of the dead youth for their shrines and sanctuaries.[30] Following the example of Alexander (who sought divine honours for his beloved general, Hephaestion, when he died) Hadrian had Antinous proclaimed a god. Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens, festivals celebrated in his honour and oracles delivered in his name. The city of Antinopolis or Antinoe was founded on the site of Hir-wer where he died (Dio Cassius lix.11; Spartianus, "Hadrian"). One of Hadrian's attempts at extravagant remembrance failed, when the proposal to create a constellation of Antinous being lifted to heaven by an eagle (the constellation Aquila) failed of adoption.

After deification, Antinous was associated with and depicted as the Ancient Egyptian god Osiris, associated with the rebirth of the Nile. Antinous was also depicted as the Roman Bacchus, a god related to fertility, cutting vine leaves. Antinous's was the only non-imperial head ever to appear on the coinage.[31]

The "Lansdowne Antinous" was found at Hadrian's Villa in 1769 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)

Worship, or at least acknowledgment, of the idealized Antinous was widespread, although mainly outside the city of Rome. As a result, Antinous is one of the best-preserved faces from the ancient world. Many busts, gems and coins represent Antinous as the ideal type of youthful beauty, often with the attributes of some special god. They include a colossal bust in the Vatican,[32] a bust in the Louvre (the Antinous Mondragone), a bas-relief from the Villa Albani,[33] a statue in the Capitoline museum (the so-called Capitoline Antinous, now accepted to be a portrayal of Hermes), another in Berlin, another in the Lateran and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum; and many more may be seen in museums across Europe.

There are also statues in many archaeological museums in Greece including the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the archaeological museums of Patras, Chalkis and Delphi. Although these may well be idealised images, they demonstrate what all contemporary writers described as Antinous's extraordinary beauty. Although many of the sculptures are instantly recognizable, some offer significant variation in terms of the suppleness and sensuality of the pose and features versus the rigidity and typical masculinity. In 1998 monumental remains were discovered at Hadrian's Villa that archaeologists claimed were from the tomb of Antinous, or a temple to him,[34] though this has been challenged both because of the inconclusive nature of the archaeological remains and the overlooking of patristic sources (Epiphanius, Clement of Alexandria) indicating that Antinous was buried at his temple in Antinopolis, the Egyptian city founded in his honor.[35]

Obelisk of Antinous on the Pincio Hill in Rome[edit]

(Obelisco Pinciano, Piazzale del Pincio, Roma) Made of Aswan pink granite 9.24 m. high, mounted on a modern plinth and surmounted by an ornamental star: overall height 17.26 m. Commissioned by Hadrian and probably erected at the Antinoeion of his villa in Tivoli. Moved to Rome by Elagabalus (218-222) to decorate the spina of the Circus Varianus. Broken into three pieces, probably in the 6th century, it was found in the 16th century near the Porta Maggiore. Moved to the Palazzo Barberini, then moved to the Vatican by Pope Clement XIV; finally erected on the Pincian by Pope Pius VII in 1822. The four sides of the obelisk are covered with reliefs and with hieroglyphs which, it cannot be doubted, Hadrian composed. The reference to Hadrian’s wife Sabina being alive shows that it dates from between Antinous’ death in 130 and Sabina’s in 136/7.

English paraphrase translation of the text, lightly glossed, based on the German translation of the hieroglyphic texts in Hugo Meyer: Der Obelisk des Antinoos (1994), pp. 84–88. [...] indicates where the original inscription is defaced.

  • [East face] Salvation plea, put forward by Osiris-Antinous, whose heart is in very great jubilation, since he has recognised his own form after being raised again to life and he has seen his father Re-Harachte [God of the Rising Sun]. His heart speaks: “Oh! Re-Harachte, highest of the gods, who hears the calling of gods and men, of the glorified ones and of the dead. Hear also the cry of one who approaches thee [Hadrian]! Grant him reward for what he did for me, thy beloved son, the King of Upper- and Lower-Egypt, who has set a precept of worship inside the temple sanctuaries for all men, to the satisfaction of the gods. He that is beloved by Hapi [God of the Nile Inundation, representing fertility & abundance] and all the gods, the Lord of the Crowns [Hadrian Caesar], may he live safe and sound, may he live forever, like Re, with a prosperous and newly risen [rejuvenated] old age. He is the Lord of Prosperity, the Sovereign of every land, the Pre-Eminent [Augustus]. The great of Egypt and the Nine Arches [foreign lands] bow themselves and unite under his feet as Master of Both Lands [Pharaoh of Egypt]. They come into being every day through his word. His might extends to the boundary of this whole land, even to the four corners of the world. The bulls and their cows breed lustily and produce their offspring for him [Hadrian], to gladden his heart and that of his great and beloved royal consort, the Lady of Both Lands [Queen of Egypt] and the cities, Sabina, who lives, is safe and in health, ‘Sebaste who lives forever’ [Augusta]. Hapi, father of the gods, makes the fields fruitful for them and arranges the inundation at its time, the flooding of the Two Lands [the annual flooding of the Nile valley from July to October, irrigating the Egyptian farmland.]
  • [West face] The god Osiris-Antinous, the justified – he grew into a youth with a beautiful countenance and magnificently adorned eyes [...] strength, whose heart rejoices like a demi-god’s after he has received a command of the gods at the time of his death. For him is repeated every ritual of the Hours [funerary cult] of Osiris [god of the underworld, regeneration & rebirth], together with each of his ceremonies as a Mystery. He will spread his doctrine in the whole land, benevolent in the instruction and effective in declaration. Nothing comparable has been done for the ancestors until now. And similarly for his altars, his temple and his titles because he breathed the air of life and his esteem arises in the hearts of mankind. Lord of Hermopolis, Thoth! [ibis-headed moon-god], Lord of the Word of God [hieroglyphics], rejuvenate his spirit, as everything in its time, in the night and day, at all times and in every moment! Love of him [Antinous] is in the hearts of his followers and awe of him by all [...] and his praise by all acolytes when they worship him. He takes his seat in the Halls of the Righteous, the Glorified and the Excellent Ones, who are in the company of Osiris in the Realm of the Dead, while the Lord of Eternity gives him absolution. They perpetuate his word on earth, having gladdened their hearts because of him. He goes to every place, as he wishes. The Gatekeepers of the Underworld say to him “Praise to you!” They loosen their bolts and open their gates before him, daily for millions and millions of years. The duration of his life never elapsing in eternity.
  • [North face] The god Osiris-Antinous, the justified, whose place this is; he makes a sports arena in his place in Egypt, which is named after him [Antinoöpolis], for the strong ones [athletes] that are in this land, and for the rowing-teams and the runners of the whole land and for all men who belong to the place of the sacred writings where Thoth is present. They receive the prizes awarded and crowns [garlands of flowers (?)] on their heads, while they are repaid with all sorts of good things. There are daily sacrifices on his [Antinous] altars, as the sacrifices were offered every day in the olden days. He will be praised as the artisans of Thoth respond to his glory. He goes out from his place to the numerous temples of the entire land; he grants the requests of those who call on him and he heals the sickness of those in need, sending them dreams. When his work is completed among the living, he takes every form to his heart, because the seed of the gods came into being in his body [...] the healing body of his mother. He was elevated from his birthplace through [...]
  • [South face] The god, who is there [the Hereafter], rests in this place [the Antinoeion at Tivoli], which is situated in the estate of the Lord of Prosperity of Rome [Hadrian]. He is known as a god in the sacred places of Egypt. Temples were erected for him and he is worshipped like a god by the prophets and priests of Upper- and Lower-Egypt, as well as by the Egyptians inhabitants. A city was named after him [Antinoöpolis]. Participants in his Grecian cult in Both Lands [of Egypt] and those who are in the temples of Egypt came here from their own districts and are given cultivated land to make their life good beyond measure. A temple of this god is there [Antinoöpolis], he is called Osiris-Antinous, the justified; it is constructed of good white stone, surrounded by statues of the gods [sphinxes (?)] and statues, also by numerous columns, made as our forefathers did, and also as the Greeks made them. All the gods and goddesses will give him the breath of life, so that he breathes, eternally rejuvenated.

References in Pagan sources[edit]

Cassius Dio (c.164-post 229) (The section of his Roman History covering Hadrian's reign is known only from the 11th century epitome by Xiphilinus) 69.11.2-4:

"Antinous was from Bithynium, a Bithynian city which we also call Claudiopolis, and he had become Hadrian's boy-favourite (paidika); and he died in Egypt, either by falling into the Nile, as Hadrian writes [lost], or, as the truth is, having been offered in sacrifice (hierourgethesis). For Hadrian was in any case, as I have said, very keen on the curious arts, and made use of divinations and incantations of all kinds. Thus Hadrian honoured Antinous - either on account of his love for him, or because the youth had voluntarily undertaken to die for him (ethelontes ethanatothe) (for there was need for a life to be surrendered willingly, to achieve what Hadrian intended), by founding a city on the spot where he suffered this fate and naming it after him [Antinoöpolis; modern El Sheik'ibada]. He also set up statues of him, or rather sacred images, practically all over the world. Finally he declared that he had seen a star, which he took to be that of Antinous, and gladly listened to the fictitious tales spun by his companions, to the effect that the star had really come into being from the soul of Antinous and had then appeared for the first time. As a result of this, indeed, he was ridiculed, especially because when his sister Paulina died he had not immediately accorded her any honours."

As in the soteriological Greek myth (recorded by Appollodorus, et al.) of Alcestis, wife of Admetus, king of Thrace, who was prepared to die in place of her husband, but was returned to earth by Persephone.

Aurelius Victor (fl. 361-389) De Caesaribus (c.360) 14.5-7:

"As a result of Hadrian's devotion to luxury and lasciviousness (luxus lasciviaeque), hostile rumours arose about his debauching of young men (stupra puberibus) and his burning passion for his notorious attendant Antinous (Antinoi flagravisse famoso ministerio); and that it was for no other reason that a city was founded named after Antinous, or that Hadrian set up statues of the ephebe. Some indeed maintain that this was done because of piety or religion (pia reliogiosaque): the reason being, they say, that Hadrian wanted to extend his own life-span by any means, and when the magicians demanded a volunteer to substitute for him, everyone declined, but Antinous offered himself - hence the aforementioned honours done to him. We will leave the matter undecided although, in the case of an indulgent nature (remissum ingenium), we regard as suspicious (suspectum) the association between persons of disparate age (aestimantes societatem aevi longe imparilis)."

(Scriptores) Historia Augusta (SHA) (c.395 based on earlier sources) Hadr. 14.5-7:

"While sailing on the Nile he [Hadrian] lost his Antinous, for whom he wept like a woman. (Antinoum suum, dum per Nilum navigat, quem muliebriter flevit) There are various rumours about this person, some asserting that he offered himself as a sacrifice on behalf of Hadrian, others - what both his beauty and Hadrian's excessive pleasure-seeking suggest. (de quo varia fama est, aliis eum devotum pro Hadriano adserentibus, aliis quod et forma eius ostentat et nimia voluptas Hadriani) At any rate, the Greeks, at Hadrian's wish, consecrated him as a god, claiming that oracles were given through him, which Hadrian is supposed to have composed himself."

References in the early Christian Church Fathers[edit]

Justin Martyr (c.100-c.165):

Apologia (c.150) I:XXIX - CONTINENCE OF CHRISTIANS "And it is not out of place, we think, to mention here Antinous, who was alive but lately, and whom all were prompt, through fear, to worship as a god, though they knew both who he was and what was his origin." The aforementioned statement forms the closing statement in paragraph XXIX CONTINENCE OF CHRISTIANS which deals with Justin's argument that Christians were able to refrain from sexual intercourse, stating a few sentences prior that "...promiscuous intercourse is not one of our [Christian] mysteries...": Hereby placing Antinous's reputation in contrast with the continence of Christians.

Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.211):

Protrepticus (Exhortation to the Greeks) (c.190) IV - "Another new deity was added to the number with great religious pomp in Egypt, and was near being so in Greece by the king of the Romans [Hadrian], who deified Antinous [in 130AD], whom he loved as Zeus loved Ganymede, and whose beauty was of a very rare order: for lust is not easily restrained, destitute as it is of fear; and men now observe the sacred nights of Antinous, the shameful character of which the lover who spent them with him knew well. Why reckon him among the gods, who is honoured on account of uncleanness? And why do you command him to be lamented as a son? And why should you enlarge on his beauty? Beauty blighted by vice is loathsome. Do not play the tyrant, O man, over beauty, nor offer foul insult to youth in its bloom. Keep beauty pure, that it may be truly fair. Be king over beauty, not its tyrant. Remain free, and then I shall acknowledge thy beauty, because thou hast kept its image pure: then will I worship that true beauty which is the archetype of all who are beautiful. There is a tomb of the beloved boy (eromenos). A temple of this Antinous and a city [Antinoöpolis]. For just as temples are held in reverence, so also are sepulchres, and pyramids, and mausoleums, and labyrinths, which are temples of the dead, as the others are sepulchres of the gods. As teacher on this point, I shall produce to you the Sibyl prophetess:- 'Not the oracular lie of Phoebus, Whom silly men called God, and falsely termed Prophet; But the oracles of the great God, who was not made by men's hands, Like dumb idols of Sculptured stone.' "

Tertullian of Carthage (c.160-c.240):

Mentions Antinous in four different books written between 197 & 207.

Ad Marc.Bk I, ch. 18 - (trl. Holmes) "As for the rest, if man shall be thus able to devise a god,--as Romulus did Consus, and Tatius Cloacina, and Hostilius Fear, and Metellus Alburnus, and a certain authority [sc. Hadrian] some time since Antinous,--the same accomplishment may be allowed to others."

Apologeticus (c.197) ch. 13 - (trl. Thelwall) "When you make an infamous court page (de paedagogiis aulicis) a god of the sacred synod."

De Corona Militis ch. 13 - "Will there be any dispute as to the cause of crown-wearing, which contests in the games in their turn supply, and which, both as sacred to the gods and in honour of the dead, their own reason at once condemns? It only remains, that the Olympian Jupiter, and the Nemean Hercules, and the wretched little Archemorus, and the hapless (infelix) Antinous, should be crowned in a Christian, that he himself may become a spectacle disgusting to behold."

Ad Nationes (c.217) Bk II, ch. 10 - "After so many examples and eminent names among you, who might not have been declared divine? Who, in fact, ever raised a question as to his divinity against Antinous? Was even Ganymede more grateful and dear than he to (the supreme god) who loved him? According to you, heaven is open to the dead. You prepare a way from Hades to the stars. Prostitutes mount it in all directions, so that you must not suppose that you are conferring a great distinction upon your kings."

Origen (c.184-c.254):

Five attacks on Antinous in Contra Celsum (c.249) III.36-8; V.63; VIII.9.

Bk III, ch. 36-38.

  • Ch. 36 - "But as he next introduces the case of the boy-favourite (paidika) of Hadrian (I refer to the accounts regarding the youth (meirakion) Antinous, and the honours paid him by the inhabitants of the city of Antinous in Egypt), and imagines that the honour paid to him falls little short of that which we render to Jesus, let us show in what a spirit of hostility this statement is made. For what is there in common between a life lived among the favourites of Hadrian, by one who did not abstain even from unnatural lusts, and that of the venerable Jesus, against whom even they who brought countless other charges, and who told so many falsehoods, were not able to allege that He manifested, even in the slightest degree, any tendency to what was licentious? Nay, further, if one were to investigate, in a spirit of truth and impartiality, the stories relating to Antinous, he would find that it was due to the magical arts and rites of the Egyptians that there was even the appearance of his performing anything (marvellous) in the city which bears his name, and that too only after his decease,--an effect which is said to have been produced in other temples by the Egyptians, and those who are skilled in the arts which they practise. For they set up in certain places demons claiming prophetic or healing power, and which frequently torture those who seem to have committed any mistake about ordinary kinds of food, or about touching the dead body of a man, that they may have the appearance of alarming the uneducated multitude. Of this nature is the being that is considered to be a god in Antinoöpolis in Egypt, whose (reputed) virtues are the lying inventions of some who live by the gain derived therefrom; while others, deceived by the demon placed there, and others again convicted by a weak conscience, actually think that they are paying a divine penalty inflicted by Antinous. Of such a nature also are the mysteries which they perform, and the seeming predictions which they utter."
  • Ch. 37 - "The Egyptians, then, having been taught to worship Antinous, will, if you compare him with Apollo or Zeus, endure such a comparison, Antinous being magnified in their estimation through being classed with these deities; for Celsus is clearly convicted of falsehood when he says, 'that they will not endure his being compared with Apollo or Zeus.' Whereas Christians (who have learned that their eternal life consists in knowing the only true God, who is over all, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent; and who have learned also that all the gods of the heathen are greedy demons, which flit around sacrifices and blood, and other sacrificial accompaniments, in order to deceive those who have not taken refuge with the God who is over all, but that the divine and holy angels of God are of a different nature and will from all the demons on earth, and that they are known to those exceedingly few persons who have carefully and intelligently investigated these matters) will not endure a comparison to be made between them and Apollo or Zeus, or any being worshipped with odour and blood and sacrifices; some of them, so acting from their extreme simplicity, not being able to give a reason for their conduct, but sincerely observing the precepts which they have received; others, again, for reasons not to be lightly regarded, nay, even of a profound description, and (as a Greek would say) drawn from the inner nature of things; and amongst the latter of these God is a frequent subject of conversation, and those who are honoured by God, through His only-begotten Word, with participation in His divinity, and therefore also in His name. They speak much, too, both regarding the angels of God and those who are opposed to the truth, but have been deceived; and who, in consequence of being deceived, call them gods or angels of God, or good demons, or heroes who have become such by the transference into them of a good human soul. And such Christians will also show, that as in philosophy there are many who appear to be in possession of the truth, who have yet either deceived themselves by plausible arguments, or by rashly assenting to what was brought forward and discovered by others; so also, among those souls which exist apart from bodies, both angels and demons, there are some which have been induced by plausible reasons to declare themselves gods. And because it was impossible that the reasons of such things could be discovered by men with perfect exactness, it was deemed safe that no mortal should entrust himself to any being as to God, with the exception of Jesus Christ, who is, as it were, the Ruler over all things, and who both beheld these weighty secrets, and made them known to a few."
  • Ch. 38 - "The belief, then, in Antinous, or any other such person, whether among the Egyptians or the Greeks, is, so to speak, unfortunate; while the belief in Jesus would seem to be either a fortunate one, or the result of thorough investigation, having the appearance of the former to the multitude, and of the latter to exceedingly few. And when I speak of a certain belief being, as the multitude would call it, unfortunate, I in such a case refer the cause to God, who knows the reasons of the various fates allotted to each one who enters human life. The Greeks, moreover, will admit that even amongst those who are considered to be most largely endowed with wisdom, good fortune has had much to do, as in the choice of teachers of one kind rather than another, and in meeting with a better class of instructors (there being teachers who taught the most opposite doctrines), and in being brought up in better circumstances; for the bringing up of many has been amid surroundings of such a kind, that they were prevented from ever receiving any idea of better things, but constantly passed their life, from their earliest youth, either as the favourites of licentious men or of tyrants, or in some other wretched condition which forbade the soul to look upwards. And the causes of these varied fortunes, according to all probability, are to be found in the reasons of providence, though it is not easy for men to ascertain these; but I have said what I have done by way of digression from the main body of my subject, on account of the proverb, that 'such is the power of faith, because it seizes that which first presents itself.' For it was necessary, owing to the different methods of education, to speak of the differences of belief among men, some of whom are more, others less fortunate in their belief; and from this to proceed to show that what is termed good or bad fortune would appear to contribute even in the case of the most talented, to their appearing to be more fully endowed with reason and to give their assent on grounds of reason to the majority of human opinions. But enough on these points."

Bk V, ch. 63 - "In the next place, that he may have the appearance of knowing still more than he has yet mentioned, he says, agreeably to his usual custom, that 'there are others who have wickedly invented some being as their teacher and demon, and who wallow about in a great darkness, more unholy and accursed than that of the companions of the Egyptian Antinous.'[¶] And he seems to me, indeed, in touching on these matters, to say with a certain degree of truth, that there are certain others who have wickedly invented another demon, and who have found him to be their lord, as they wallow about in the great darkness of their ignorance. With respect, however, to Antinous, who is compared with our Jesus, we shall not repeat what we have already said in the preceding pages. 'Moreover,' he continues, 'these persons utter against one another dreadful blasphemies, saying all manner of things shameful to be spoken; nor will they yield in the slightest point for the sake of harmony, hating each other with a perfect hatred.' Now, in answer to this, we have already said that in philosophy and medicine sects are to be found warring against sects. We, however, who are followers of the word of Jesus, and have exercised ourselves in thinking, and saying, and doing what is in harmony with His words, 'when reviled, bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we entreat;' and we would not utter 'all manner of things shameful to be spoken' against those who have adopted different opinions from ours, but, if possible, use every exertion to raise them to a better condition through adherence to the Creator alone, and lead them to perform every act as those who will (one day) be judged. And if those who hold different opinions will not be convinced, we observe the injunction laid down for the treatment of such: 'A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.' Moreover, we who know the maxim, 'Blessed are the peacemakers,' and this also, 'Blessed are the meek,' would not regard with hatred the corrupters of Christianity, nor term those who had fallen into error Circes and flattering deceivers."

¶ alternative translation of V.63: ". . . go astray in evil ways and wander around in greater darkness, more iniquitous and impure than that of the revellers of Antinous in Egypt."

Bk VIII, ch. 9 - "You said a little ago, O Celsus, that Antinous, the favourite of Hadrian, is honoured; but surely you will not say that the right to be worshipped as a god was given to him by the God of the universe?"

Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (c.295-c.373):

Contra Gentes (c.350) Part I, ch. 9 - ". . . and in our own time Antinous, favourite of Hadrian, Emperor of the Romans, whom, although men know he was a mere man, and not a respectable man, but on the contrary, full of licentiousness, yet they worship for fear of him that enjoined it. For Hadrian having come to sojourn in the land of Egypt, when Antinous the minister of his pleasure died, ordered him to be worshipped; being indeed himself in love with the youth even after his death, but for all that offering a convincing exposure of himself, and a proof against all idolatry, that it was discovered among men for no other reason than by reason of the lust of them that imagined it."

Apologia Contra Arianos Part III, ch. 5, §230 - (trl. Parker, 1713; quoted in Lambert p. 7 ¶) "And such a one is the new God Antinous, that was the Emperor Hadrian's minion and the slave of his unlawful pleasures; a wretch, whom those 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 his memory, than it recorded his own crime and condemnation, immortalised his infamy and shame, and bequeathed to mankind a lasting and notorious specimen of the true origin and extraction of all idolatry."

¶ Lambert p. 7 n.10 (quoting Apol. Contra Arianos but attributing it to Contra Gentes I.9)

Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (263-339):

History of the Church [Hist. Eccl.] (c.310) Bk 4, ch.8 - §2 quoting Hegesippus (Memoirs c.180 - lost): "Among whom [sc. idols] is also Antinoüs, a slave (doulos) of the Emperor Hadrian, in whose honor are celebrated also the Antinoian games, which were instituted in our day. For he [Hadrian] also founded a city named after Antinoüs, and appointed prophets." §3: "At the same time also Justin, a genuine lover of the true philosophy, was still continuing to busy himself with Greek literature. He indicates this time in the Apology which he addressed to Antonine, where he writes as follows: 'We do not think it out of place to mention here Antinoüs also, who lived in our day, and whom all were driven by fear to worship as a god, although they knew who he was and whence he came'."

Socrates Scholasticus, Church Historian (born c. 380):

Church History (c. 439) Bk 3, ch. 23: "The inhabitants of Cyzicus declared Hadrian to be the thirteenth god; and Adrian himself deified his own catamite Antinoüs."[36]

(St) Epiphanius, Bishop of Constantia (Salamis) (c.315-403) attacks Antinous in three separate books.

(St) Jerome (c.347-419/420) attacks Antinous in four separate books, usually referring to him in Latin as in deliciis (= Gk paidika) (darling, favourite; alluring or delightful boy).

Interpr. Chronicon Eusebius (c.380/1) (based on ed. Roger Pearse):

  • CCXXIV Olympias Romanorum XII, Hadrianus, regnavit annis XXI - in 224th Olympiad [under regnal year 2 (= 118CE)] "Hadrian was most erudite in both languages, but also he was not self-controlled enough in his desire for boys" (Hadrianus eruditissimus fuit in utraque lingua, sed in puerorum amore parum continens fuit.);
  • CCXXVII Olympias - in 227th Olympiad [under regnal year 13 (= 129CE, recte 130)] "Antinous, a boy of surpassingly exceptional beauty, dies in Egypt. After Hadrian attentively carries out his funeral rites (diligenter sepeliens) [variant vehementer deperiens i.e., grieved vehemently] - for the boy had been a favourite of his [literally, had been treated as a darling] -, he declares him to be among the gods; a city was also named after him." (Antinous puer egregius eximiae pulchritudinis, in Aegypto moritur, quem Hadrianus diligenter sepeliens, --nam in deliciis habuerat-- in deos refert, ex cujus nomine etiam urbs appellata est.)

Adversus Jovinianum (393) Bk II, ch. 7 - "And to make us understand what sort of gods Egypt always welcomed, one of their cities was recently called Antinous after the love of Hadrian's heart."

De Viris Illustribus ch. 22 - "Hegesippus [d.180 - see above under Eusebius] who lived at a period not far from the Apostolic age, writing a History of all ecclesiastical events, from the passion of our Lord down to his own period. [. . .] arguing against idols, he wrote [. . .] showing from what error they had first arisen, and this work indicates in what age he flourished. He says, 'They built monuments and temples to their dead as we see up to the present day, such as the one to Antinous, servant to the Emperor Hadrian, in whose honour also games were celebrated, and a city founded bearing his name, and a temple with priests established.' It is written moreover that the Emperor Hadrian was enamoured of Antinous." (Tumulos mortuis templaque fecerunt, sicut usque hodie videmus: e quibus est et Antinous servus Hadriani Caesaris, cui et gymnicus agon exercetur apud Antinoum civitatem, quam ex ejus nomine condidit, et statuit prophetas in templo. Antinoum autem in deliciis habuisse Caesar Hadrianus scribitur.)

Comm. Isaiah 2 - equates Antinous with a public concubine (Lambert p. 193).

Prudentius (348-post 405):Contra Symmachum (c.384) I.267-277:

Lambert on p. 7 n.8 writes: "Who would not be struck by Prudentius' scathing image of Antinous nestling in Hadrian's 'purple clad bosom' and 'being robbed of his manhood' (illum purporeo in gremio spoliatum sorte virili) or lolling on a couch 'listening to the prayers in the temples with his husband'?" (I.273-7) Lambert comments ( p. 67 n.33): that the above passage is "more a euphemism for seduction than castration" .

Suidas Lexicon (c.1000) (ed. Bernhardy 1853) gives Antinous as example of paidika, defined as "an agreeable boy but usually one of lascivious and foul affections".

Antinous in Roman sculpture[edit]

Hadrian "turned to [Greek sculptors] to perpetuate the melancholy beauty, diffident manner, and lithe and sensuous frame of his boyfriend Antinous,"[37] creating in the process what has been described as "the last independent creation of Greco-Roman art".[38] It is traditionally assumed that they were all produced between Antinous' death in 130 and that of Hadrian in 138, on the grounds that no-one else would be interested in commissioning them.[39] The assumption is that official models were sent out to provincial workshops all over the empire to be copied, with local variations permitted.[40]

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."[41]

Cultural references[edit]

In Oscar Wilde's story "The Young King", a reference is made to the king kissing a statue of 'the Bithynian slave of Hadrian' in a passage describing the young king's aesthetic sensibilities and his "...strange passion for beauty...". Images of other classical paragons of male beauty, Adonis and Endymion, are also mentioned in the same context. Additionally, in Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, the artist Basil Hallward describes the appearance of Dorian Gray as an event as important to his art as "the face of Antinous was to late Greek sculpture." Furthermore, in a novel attributed to Oscar Wilde, Teleny, or The Reverse of the Medal, Des Grieux makes a passing reference to Antinous as he describes how he felt during a musical performance. "...I now began to understand things hitherto so strange, the love the mighty monarch felt for his fair Grecian slave, Antinous, who-- like unto Christ-- died for his master's sake."

In "Les Miserables," the character Enjolras is likened to Antinous. "He was angelically handsome. He was a savage Antinous."

In "Klage Um Antinous," Der Neuen Gedichte, Anderer Teil (1908) Rainer Maria Rilke,[42] Hadrian scolds the gods for Antinous's deification. "Lament for Antinoüs," translation by Stephen Cohn,[43]

In 1915 Fernando Pessoa wrote a long poem entitled Antinous, but he only published it in 1918, close to the end of WWI, in a slim volume of English verse. In 1921 he published a new version of this poem in English Poems, a book published by his own publishing house, Olisipo.

In Marguerite Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien (1951), the love relationship between Antinous and Hadrian is one of the main themes of the book.

"...the skull of Antinous," from one of the stories in "Seven Gothic Tales," by Isak Dinesen.

A "sexually ambivalent" young man ('Murugan Mailendra') in Aldous Huxley's Island (1962) is likened to Antinous, and his lover Colonel Dipa (an older man) to Hadrian, after the narrator discovers the two are having a secret affair.

The story of Antinous' death was recently dramatized in the radio play "The Glass Ball Game", Episode Two of the second series of the BBC radio drama CAESAR, written by Mike Walker, directed by Jeremy Mortimer and starring Jonathan Coy as "Suetonius", Jonathan Hyde as "Hadrian" and Andrew Garfield as "Antinous". In this story, Suetonius is a witness to the events before and after Antinous's death by suicide, but learns that he himself was used as an instrument to trick Antinous into killing himself willingly to fulfill a pact made by Hadrian with Egyptian priests to give Hadrian more time to live so that Marcus Aurelius may grow up to become the next Emperor.

Antinous is seen walking with the other gods to war in Neil Gaiman's novel, "American Gods".

In Tipping the Velvet (novel by Sarah Waters and its television adaptation), the lesbian protagonist Nan Astley dresses as Antinous for a costume party held by her abusive partner.

Nerva–Antonine family tree[edit]

  • (1) = 1st spouse
  • (2) = 2nd spouse (not shown)
  • (3) = 3rd spouse
  • Darker purple indicates Emperor of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty; lighter purple indicates designated imperial heir of said dynasty who never reigned
  • dashed lines indicate adoption; dotted lines indicate love affairs/unmarried relationships
  • small caps = posthumously deified (Augusti, Augustae, or other)

Q. Marcius Barea Soranus
Q. Marcius Barea Sura
Antonia Furnilla
M. Cocceius Nerva
Sergia Plautilla
P. Aelius Hadrianus
(r. 79-81)
Marcia Furnilla
Trajanus Pater
(r. 96–98)
Aelius Hadrianus Marullinus
Julia Flavia
G. Salonius Matidius
(r. 98–117)
P. Acilius Attianus
P. Aelius Afer
Paulina Major
L. Julius Ursus Servianus
Lucius Mindius
Libo Rupilius Frugi
L. Vibius Sabinus
Hadrian (r. 117–138)
Matidia Minor
Annius Verus
G. Fuscus Salinator I
Julia Serviana Paulina
Rupilia Faustina
Boionia Procilla
G. Arrius Antoninus
L. Caesennius Paetus
L. Ceionius Commodus
Appia Severa
G. Fuscus Salinator II
Arria Antonia
Arria Fadilla
T. Aurelius Fulvus
L. Caesennius Antoninus
Fundania Plautia
Ignota Plautia
G. Avidius
Antoninus Pius
(r. 138–161)
M. Annius Verus
Domitia Lucilla
M. Annius Libo
Lucius Aelius
Avidia Plautia
(r. 161–180)
G. Avidius Cassius
Aurelia Fadilla
(r. 161–169)
Ceionia Fabia
Plautius Quintillus
Q. Servilius Pudens
Ceionia Plautia
Cornificia Minor
M. Petronius Sura
(r. 177–192)
M. Annius Verus Caesar
T. Claudius Pompeianus (2)
M. Plautius Quintillus
Junius Licinius Balbus
Servilia Ceionia
Petronius Antoninus
L. Aurelius Agaclytus
Aurelia Sabina
L. Antistius Burrus
Plautius Quintillus
Plautia Servilla
G. Furius Sabinus Timesitheus
Antonia Gordiana
Junius Licinius Balbus
Furia Sabina Tranquillina
(r. 238-244)



  1. ^ The day and month of his birth come from an inscription on a tablet from Lanuvium dated 136 AD; the year is uncertain, but Antinous must have been about 18 when he drowned, the exact date of which event is itself not clear: certainly a few days before 30 Oct. 130 AD when Hadrian founded the city of Antinoöpolis, possibly on the 22nd (the Nile festival) or more likely the 24th (anniversary of the death of Osiris). See Lambert, p. 19, and elsewhere.
  2. ^ a b Birley, p. 144
  3. ^ Renberg, Gil H.: Hadrian and the Oracles of Antinous (SHA, Hadr. 14.7); with an appendix on the so-called Antinoeion at Hadrian’s Villa and Rome’s Monte Pincio Obelisk, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 55 (2010) [2011], 159-198; Jones, Christopher P., New Heroes in Antiquity: From Achilles to Antinoos (Cambridge, Mass. & London, 2010), 75-83; Bendlin, Andreas: Associations, Funerals, Sociality, and Roman Law: The collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium (CIL 14.2112) Reconsidered, in M. Öhler (ed.), Aposteldekret und antikes Vereinswesen: Gemeinschaft und ihre Ordnung (WUNT 280; Tübingen, 2011), 207-296.
  4. ^ Opper 1996, p. 170.
  5. ^ a b Lambert 1984, p. 48.
  6. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 15.
  7. ^ a b Lambert 1984, p. 19.
  8. ^ Lambert 1994, p. 19.
  9. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 20.
  10. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 20–21.
  11. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 21–22.
  12. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 22.
  13. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 60.
  14. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 61–62.
  15. ^ a b c Lambert 1984, p. 63.
  16. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 30.
  17. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 39.
  18. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 90–93.
  19. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 78.
  20. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 81–83.
  21. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 97.
  22. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 65.
  23. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 94.
  24. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 73–74.
  25. ^ a b c Lambert 1984, p. 71.
  26. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 71–72.
  27. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 100–106.
  28. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 101–106.
  29. ^ Lambert 1984, pp. 110–114.
  30. ^ Vermeule, p. 95
  31. ^ Lambert, p. 147
  32. ^ Antinoo ai Musei vaticani (picture)
  33. ^ Antinous bas-relief of the Villa Albani (picture)
  34. ^ Mari, Zaccaria and Sgalambro, Sergio: "The Antinoeion of Hadrian's Villa: Interpretation and Architectural Reconstruction", American Journal of Archaeology, Vol 111, No 1, Jan. 2007,
  35. ^ Renberg, pp. 181-191.
  36. ^ Socrates Scholasticus, Church History. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two. Vol. 2: Socrates and Sozomenus Ecclesiastical Histories. 3.23. This may be found online at
  37. ^ Wilson, p. 440
  38. ^ Vout, p. 72
  39. ^ Vout, p. 87
  40. ^ Vout, pp. 77–78
  41. ^ Lambert 1984, p. 80.
  42. ^
  43. ^


Lambert, Royston (1984). Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. George Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 
Opper, Thorsten (1996). Hadrian: Empire and Conflict. Harvard University Press. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Birley, A.R (2000). "Hadrian to the Antonines". In Alan K. Bowman, Peter Garnsey, Dominic Rathbone. The Cambridge ancient history: The High Empire, A.D. 70-192. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Vermeule, Cornelius Clarkson (1979). Roman art: early Republic to late Empire. Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 
  • Vout, Caroline (2007). Power and eroticism in Imperial Rome. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Wilson, R.J.A (1998). "Roman art and architecture". In John Boardman. The Oxford history of the Roman world. Oxford University Press. 
  • Grenier, L'Osiris Antinoos (2008) (online).
  • John Addington Symonds, 'Antinous', in J. A. Symonds, Sketches And Studies In Italy (1879), p. 47-90

Ancient literary sources[edit]

External links[edit]