Antinous was a Bithynian Greek youth and a favourite, or lover, of the Roman emperor Hadrian. He was deified after his death, being worshiped in both the Greek East and Latin West, sometimes as a god (theos) and sometimes merely as a hero. 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. 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. In October 130, as they were part of a flotilla going along the Nile, Antinous died amid mysterious circumstances. Various suggestions have been put forward for how he died, ranging from an accidental drowning to an intentional human sacrifice. Following his death, Hadrian deified Antinous and founded an organised cult devoted to his worship that spread throughout the Empire. Hadrian founded the city of Antinopolis close to Antinous’s place of death, which became a cultic centre for the worship of Osiris-Antinous. Hadrian also founded games in commemoration of Antinous to take place in both Antinopolis and Athens, with Antinous becoming a symbol of Hadrian’s dreams of pan-Hellenism. X
Antinous. Roman, 2nd century CE. Marble. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Height: 16.1 inches/41 cm
This bust of Antinous was discovered at the site of Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli in 1769.
Today, the modern cult of Antinous celebrates the Megala Antinoeia, the establishment of the annual games held to honor the god at Antinopolis, the city which was built by Hadrian. Antinous is welcomed in his aspect of the Lover, because he is known as a loving god, as well as one who delights in bringing lovers together.
Antinopolis (Antinoopolis) was a city founded at an older Egyptian village by the Roman emperorHadrian to commemorate his deified young beloved, Antinous, on the east bank of the Nile, not far from the site in Upper Egypt where Antinous drowned in 130 AD.
Archaeologists have found tones of broken pottery and also thousands of papyri, so many that it is going to take generations of scholars to decipher and publish them all.