The love of Hadrian & Antinous and Gay Love City!
So I’ve been indulging my gay history fetish again this time looking into various Roman emperors and I read a pretty amazing story about one named Hadrian.
Hadrian is considered one of Rome’s most brilliant rulers. He was an expert in math, music, painting, poetry, military affairs, and debate. He ruled Rome at one of its most happy and prosperous periods. He was a lavish builder, an avid traveler, and a big homo.
He wrote poetry about the love of boys and it was his devotion to this love that inspired the construction of the greatest monument to love ever built, Antinoopolis.
Antinous was an astonishingly handsome young man from Bithynia who joined Hadrian’s entourage during one of his many travels.
If you look at the existing portraits and sculptures of Antinous it’s easy to see why he would be the emperor’s fave. He has thick curly hair and is often crowned like a prince.
He has that sexy thick torso thing going on, combined with a gorgeous face that sometimes looks boyish, naive, innocent, and other times brooding, sensitive, and sensual. His ass also appears to be “from the gods”.
Not much is known about their relationship. There are some reliefs of the couple hunting. Including one that shows a lion hunt in Libya. Of this episode the Alexandrian poet Panacrates wrote an account. Apparently an especially mean lion had been terrorizing people and Hadrian went to slay it. He threw his spear but deliberately only wounded the animal to let Antinous deal the death blow but the lion attacked before the young man had a chance and the emperor killed the lion saving his lover’s life. But it was a life sadly destined to be short lived.
There is a debate around the death of Antinous. All we know for sure is Antinous “fell” into the Nile. But the word “fell” can be translated as an accident or a sacrifice.
It is possible that the young man accidentally fell into the Nile, but some say the emperor could have been preparing a ritual to extend his life that demanded a sacrifice and no one but his lover would volunteer.
Either way Hadrian was so upset by the loss of his love that we are told he “cried like a woman” and resolved to erect a city in Antinous’ honor. On October 30th 130 Hadrian issued an edict that this new city should be a monument to the dead boy, and a religious shrine. Antinoopolis, the city of gay love flourished for centuries surviving Christianity and the Arab occupation of Egypt.
Hadrian even went so far as to have his lover declared an immortal deity which was apparently not uncommon practice back then for noble people to do, but Antinous was a commoner. Nonetheless images of the beautiful youth-god are widespread. He was considered in relation to the Egyptian deity Osiris as one who died and was resurrected and grants the requests those make of him. For this he was also compared to Christ. The religion of Antinous was very popular and widespread and it survived Hadrian’s death by several centuries, and Archaeologists found over half a million jars that held offerings to the shrine at Antinoopolis.
When the ruins of Antinoopolis were surveyed in 1798 by Edme-Francois Jomard 1,344 statues of the young man were found.
And the existing statues of Antinous are considered some of the greatest works of art ever!
Unfortunately the ruins of Antinoopolis were lost sometime between 1798 and 1863 to an Egyptian construction company who ground the city’s many pillars into cement. Industry made powder of the greatest shrine ever built to love.
I look out my bedroom window at the hideous concrete foundation of the rectangular 4-story condo going up next-door and think, if only love were the motivator behind more construction and development. I can imagine gorgeous cities brimming with the love feeling. I can picture buildings bedecked with depictions of lovers entwined, statues of handsome men abounding, sexually suggestive fountains gushing. I see an entire reordering of society coming from love rather than from greed and the desire for power.
It would be a place we would really want to live in, GayLove City!
It once was and could be again.