The Life of Antinous

Antinous was born in a town called Claudiopolis, also known as Bithynion, in the northwest corner of the country that we now call Turkey, in the year 111 A.D. He was very likely not from a wealthy family, and is even said to have been a slave...Antinous came from nothing, and from nowhere, but by the end of his short life, he was a Prince, known all over the Empire. His name has overcome the trials of history because of the mysterious love that occurred between this strange, exotic boy, and the ruler of the Roman world at its height. The details of Antinous's life are mostly unknown. The exact year of his birth is unknown but the date is recorded as November 27th.
His image however is certain, based on so many surviving sculptures. He was extraordinarily beautiful, a living angel, a visible manifestation of divine perfection. He has been compared to Ganymede, Adonis, or one of many beautiful boys whose beauty attracted the attention of the Gods. So it was that a living God found Antinous and swept him up to the heavens.
The Emperor Hadrian passed through Bithynia in the year 123 A.D. and it is believed that on this trip he encountered Antinous for the first time and fell completely in love. Antinous was admitted into the Imperial court and either he was sent to Rome to be educated at the finest schools for boys, where he learned Latin, poetry, history and the arts, or he remained close to Hadrian and was educated in private. He also began to train his body in the gymnasium, and over time sculpted it, under the guidance of Hadrian's trainers, into what would become the finest example of Classical male beauty.
Antinous was an excellent hunter, which was Hadrian's favorite past time...they are known to have spent much of their free time hunting wild animals, including a man-eating lion in the Libyan desert. Antinous surely felt deep affection for Hadrian's hunting hounds, the finest dogs in the world at that time and in many ways Antinous can be compared to one of them, because of his loyalty and devotion, his beauty and youth, his athletic strength, and the expression in his eyes...all of which conveys deep canine familiarity. And Antinous spent approximately seven years with Hadrian which is about the life-span of a strong hunting dog.
In his short life, Antinous affected the course of human history in that he became the first historical person to be declared a god because of his homosexuality, for whom a religion was declared and implemented, which lasted for several hundred years. The effect of his religion prompted Christianity to react against homosexuality in ways that continue to affect us to this day. Antinous was the last god of the ancient Roman religion...though the cult of the emperors continued for several generations, the divinized Emperors were never as widely received as the Religion of Antinous.
The beauty of Antinous is timeless. He is as perfect to our modern eyes as he was 1900 years ago. He has captivated lovers of male beauty ever since. Antinous was the first and the longest lasting Male supermodel.
 

The Imperial Tour of the East

Hadrian is the only emperor to have traveled throughout the whole of Roman Empire, having visited every province from Brittania to Israel, and from the Danube to North Africa, several times. He enjoyed personally overseeing the administration of his government, and he was deeply interested in improving the lives of his subjects by tangible means. Hadrian was in love with the Greek ideal of civilization, and was devoted to carrying his vision of a perfect world to every corner of the Empire.
So it was that in the late summer of the year 128, the Imperial Court embarked on a grand tour of the East. The Empress Sabina, Hadrian's wife, and her attendants were members of the entourage, but on this particular voyage, Antinous was the most favored of Hadrian's companions. There relationship was openly, and gracefully displayed before the eyes of the world. This journey through the East, what we call the Sacred Peregrination, is the only part of the short life of Antinous that history has conveyed to us. For this reason it takes on the importance of a sacred epic. Antinous was in the very flower of his beauty and vigor, he was a shinning star held in the wings of the Imperial Eagle, and it is no coincidence that this court of demigods should travel through the lands of Ganymede, Attis, Adonis, Jesus and Osiris, who were all beautiful souls taken from life before their time.
The court stayed in Athens for five or even six months, they arrived in time for the celebration of the Mysteries of Eleusis, which symbolically portrayed the rape of Proserpina by Hades, the mourning of her mother Demeter, and the return of Spring. Hadrian maintained a deep interest in religion, theology and spiritual mysteries. It is believed that Antinous underwent the secret initiations provided by the priests of Eleusis. Through them he received the consecration of the dark goddess of the underworld Proserpina, which prepared him for his own death and resurrection.
After Greece the entourage passed through Asia Minor and visited Bithynia the homeland of Antinous. They proceeded south to Antioch, and then East as far as Armenia, making their way south through Arabia, where they crossed the Jordan and entered Jerusalem. Here Hadrian met with the Rabbis and engaged them in theological debate. He enacted sweeping reforms upon the Jewish faith, not understanding the consequences that would later haunt him when the Jews, led by Bar Kochba, rebelled.
In the summer of 130, the Imperial Court left Israel for Egypt, where Hadrian was not only Emperor, but Pharaoh...a living God. The great city of Alexandria with its learned scholars did not however receive Hadrian as a divine being. Filled with religious controversy, they were opposed to many of his reforms. The large Christian faction was especially disturbed by the presence of Antinous and his obvious relationship to the Emperor.
After several difficult weeks, the close companions of Hadrian, a group of young men, poets and philosophers, escaped to Libya where a great man-eating lion had been disturbing the countryside. They hunted the beast and Hadrian and Antinous moved forward, positioning themselves for the kill. Antinous charged ahead and attacked, but lost his weapon in the fight. The wounded lion attacked Antinous and would have killed him had Hadrian not intervened at the crucial moment and brought down the ferocious animal. A poet named Pancrates wrote of the event and said that red lotus flowers miraculously sprang from the blood of the lion. These flowers were presented to Antinous, and soon became his emblem.
When they returned to Alexandria, the entourage swelled to many hundreds, including the High Priests of the many cults of Egyptian gods. As the waters annual inundation subsided, Hadrian with religious solemnity gave the command to board the fleet of elegant, gilded barges and thus Antinous on his sacred ship began the slow journey up the Nile, a holy journey against the current from which he would not return.
 


The Death of Antinous

The Imperial Fleet arrived in the ancient city of Hermopolis just in time for the celebration of the death and resurrection of Osiris. These ceremonies coincided with the end of the flooding of the Nile that was so important to the fertility of the river valley. For two years the Nile had failed to flood properly, and the threat of starvation was looming. The entire Empire was in danger because Egypt provided food for the great cities everywhere. If the Nile failed to flood again, world-wide famine would result, which would then lead to death, disease and to civil unrest.
The atmosphere of the festival of Osiris was unusually serious. The ancient story told how the evil god Set and his seventy-two accomplices had murdered Osiris by drowning him in the river, and then they dismembered him, scattering his limbs up and down the valley. His sacrifice caused the annual floods that brought life to the rainless valley. Osiris arose from the dead, but needed the constant supplication of his devoted followers to strengthen his return. The priests first mourned his death, then prayed for his return, and at the moment of his resurrection, celebrated with dancing, singing, and feasting. It is said that in ancient times, young boys, chosen for their exceptional beauty were thrown into the Nile to drown, just as Osiris had drowned, as a sacrifice to the God of the Nile for the benefit of the living. Those who drowned in the Nile were considered to have become gods, especially if the water responded the following year with a deep inundation.
Something occurred at Hermopolis, Antinous underwent a transformation the likes of which we can only wonder, because from this point onward, the history of Antinous takes on mythical proportions.
After the festival of Osiris, the fleet continued up the river until it reached a place called Hir-wer, where a small, ancient Temple of Rameses II stood. Here on October 28th in the year 130 AD, Antinous fell into the Nile. There is no way to know if he was pushed, if he committed suicide, if he gave himself as a human sacrifice, or if he slipped and drowned by accident. No explanation was given, perhaps even then it was a mystery. Hadrian wept like a woman, we are told, in front of the entire court. This shameless display of emotion became a scandal that for so many centuries discredited the achievements of Hadrian. It made plain that their relationship had transcended what was usual and what tradition held to be manly and appropriate for an Emperor of the warrior Rome nation.
The High Priests of Osiris and those of Hermopolis, came privately to Hadrian that Night and revealed what they believed had taken place. Antinous had joined the river god, and had become the river god. They showed Hadrian that the local people had already taken up the lamentation and exaltation of Antinous, proclaiming that he had become a God, after their custom. Hadrian took these sentiments to heart. The following day he consulted with his advisers and with the Roman pontiffs of the court, and revealed his astonishing plan.
On October 30th of the year 130 AD, Hadrian founded the Holy City of Antinoopolis on the bank of the river where Antinous had drowned, tracing out the major streets with his own rod in the sand. He then proceeded to do the unthinkable, as Pontifex Maximus, High Priest of the Roman Religion, he declared that Antinous was a God, that he had conquered death, and risen up to dwell among the never-ending stars. Proclamations were sent out to ever corner of the world, inaugurating the religion of the New God Antinous.

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