'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

15 September 2010


Last of the Roman Gods.

Antinous, the favourite of the Emperor Hadrian, was born in Claudiopolis in Bithynia ( northern Greece). He became part of Hadrian's household, possibly at the age of eleven or twelve, when the Emperor travelled through those parts. He is likely to have been sent to Rome for schooling as a page. Antinous was reportedly intelligent and eventually the boy came to be Hadrian's lover and fill the void in Hadrian's emotional life. He was perhaps accepted by Hadrian's wife or hated, as some suggest, because of possible inheritances. He accompanied Hadrian on  tours and is seen on many sculptures of historical events. As a hunter he is seen with the Emperor, whose adoption of a young Greek lover suited his passion for ancient Greek culture.

 While touring Egypt in late October 130 AD, which was now ruled by Rome, Antinous drowned mysteriously in the river Nile at about the age of eighteen or twenty. Facilitated by the Egyptian belief that those who drowned were claimed by the gods as their own, the grief stricken Hadrian immediately declared him a god and founded on that spot a memorial city Antinopolis on the opposite bank of the river from Hermopolis. The drowned are among those encountered in the 10th hour of the night in the Amduat or the 9th hour in the revised Book of Gates, as the Sun God Ra and the dead travel the 12 night hours through the underworld towards resurrection.

    Perhaps he was cremated in Roman style but much suggests that he may have been embalmed in line with his manifestation as an Egyptian god. However within a few years of his death  there were temples, statues by the thousands and devotion throughout the entire known world. He was the very last of the Roman gods, Antinous the Beloved. So much of this survives to our time that we can wonder at such a passion. Hadrian's Villa is where much of this relationship happened and where so much of the evidence exists, in stone and feelings. It is even suggested that his remains may be buried near the area shown below and that the obelisk once marked the grave.

These monumental characters of history, at first they impress and sometimes they teach, but always they ignite imagination. A story of such love as that of Hadrian and Antinous is impressive. Just what the 'true' tale is has been assembled, documented and elaborated on by various writers, but all, I suspect, have delved into their subjective imagination to create an original narrative that may bear little truth after all. Did he die for love? Was he sacrificed for the Empire or the Emperor? Was he murdered? Perhaps it was merely an accident. All may guess. All may prefer one story to another. What is the truth, and does it matter?
When Antinous died  "Hadrian wept like a woman" 

One thing I can assume is that judging by the hundreds of statues that the grieving Hadrian erected and exist to this day, Antinous was beautiful. So many bear a striking resemblance to each other that one is tempted to say that we recognise his true face and form. The images are almost a photographic record of one of the worlds most famous, greatest and most beautiful  young homosexual lovers, who was elevated to the status of a god ( Osiris-Antinous the Holy in Egypt) in the second century AD.
Apart from the statues that were erected to Antinous the god after his death, he became a favourite of Sculptors throughout the ages and his image was represented as many figures from ancient mythology and the inspiration of beauty and the perfection of physique.
You can enlarge this photo by clicking on it.
Some heads of the many images of Antinous and  even a Pope used this infamous pagan god as a a symbol on his seal.

 Generously written and supplied by Denton P. Walter of Astronomy & Space Magazine, the monthly journal of Astronomy Ireland.  He may be contacted at gordo@iol.ie     Astronomy Ireland is the largest astronomy club in the world (per capita), with over 7,600 members to date, and may be contacted via their website,

In Greek mythology, the bi-sexual king of the gods, Zeus, fell in love with an outstandingly beautiful young man named Ganymedes (Ganymede). As it happened, Zeus was in need of a cupbearer at the time, since the previous holder of the job, Hebe, had tripped and fallen while performing her duties. Having a few cups of golden nectar dumped over him did nothing for Zues’ already poor temper, and he decided to combine business with pleasure and offer the now-vacant job to the handsome young man who had just caught his divine eye.  He therefore sent his messenger, a giant eagle, to carry Ganymedes to Olympus.  Ganymedes saw this as a good career move – barman to the gods, live-in all expenses paid on Olympus, plus a great fringe benefit: lover to the king of the gods – and so he accepted the position. Not that he had much choice of course, with a giant eagle standing over him. Zeus was so pleased with him that he declared the eagle that had brought him to Olympus to be the greatest of birds, placing it in the heavens as a reward.  To the Greeks the constellation was Aetos, ‘The Eagle’, while the Romans saw it as Ganymedes Raptrix, ‘The Huntress of Ganymedes’. We know it today by another Latin name, as Aquila, The Eagle.  This part of the tale gives us a bi-sexual planet, Jupiter (the Roman name for Zeus), still attended by his lover in the form of the moon Ganymede, the largest moon in our Solar System.

The relationship between the Emperor Hadrian and Antinous was compared with that between Zeus and Ganymedes (the emperor was, after all, considered to be a god), and, after Antinous’ death in the Nile, this had a bearing on what followed.  As well as naming a city in his dead lover’s honour, Antinopolis, and having him declared a god; the emperor ordered that he be placed among the stars.  The result was the constellation of Antinous, which was located below, and using some of the stars of, Ganymedes Raptrix, the eagle of Zeus bearing Antinous across the heavens to Hadrian, just as it had carried Ganymedes to Zeus on Mount Olympus.  Given the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous, the mythological symbolism was perfect: mighty god and beautiful young lover.

You won’t find the constellation listed in any astronomy book however, nor will you find the correct version of either the story of Hadrian and Antinous, nor that of Zeus and Ganymedes.  The former because it no longer exists, and the latter due to prejudice.

 In the 17th century, Johannes Hewelcke of Danzig took stars from Antinous to form his own constellation of Scutum, representing the shield of his patron, King Jan Sobieski III of Poland, and by the end of the 18th century Antinous had been dropped altogether from the starmaps, the remainder of its stars returning to Aquila, so that Antinous joins a long list of rejected constellations.  That is why you won’t find it on any modern starchart.  As to the mythological and historical associations, no astronomy publication, to my knowledge, has ever given the correct versions, with Ganymedes being referred to simply as a young man taken to Mount Olympus to be a cupbearer, and Antinous as a ‘favourite at court’ or some such euphuism, all in order to avoid the gay connections in both tales.  My own writings on the constellations, in Astronomy & Space Magazine, including an article on all the gay-related imagery and associations to be found in astronomy, are the only correct ones, as far as mythology and history go, ever to appear in any astronomy magazine in the world, as far as I know. 

The exquisite Roberto Bolle

For the full story of  Emperor Hadrian and the boy who was made a god, please read Marguerite Yourcenar's wonderful book -  "Memoirs of Hadrian" 

 " Beloved and God ' The Story of Hadrian & Antinous" by Royston Lambert.

Link to my post on the new novel "THE HADRIAN ENIGMA A Forbidden History" by George Gardiner
Link to the Poetry of Charles Bryant dedicated to Hadrian and Antinous
My imaginings of Antinous in my novel 'Dance With The Sun'

.....Over supper the bunch of kids, as they had become that day, yelled, giggled and shouted each other down with more and more fantastic theories of what the cave had once been. How easy it was to forget the pains of the recent months. Like puppies who soon forget a scolding within minutes and return to play, the boys' innocence was obvious. After dinner that evening, Sunny retired early to sleep alone. The night was quiet and Hans went off to bed with the Twins. They realised, that for Joseph, as a new experience it would be special if he learnt the art of love from the one who brought them, and held them together.

For hours Sunny dreamed visions of soldiers and slaves, and soon his thoughts flew back to golden gods and lost burial places. He tossed and turned on his sheets, perspiration soaking the pillow he clutched between his legs. He dreamed of a storm in the hills and he saw lightening, and rain, and thunder, until with a start he sat bolt upright in a panic. He felt as if something had been lost, something necessary, something special, something he must find, and in confusion he went out to the porch to cool off and clear his mind. He could not relax. A void grew in his mind that cried out to be filled. Things lost, something treasured must now be found. At first he crouched on the unpainted wooden boards, clutching his feet as he rocked back and forth as tension rose within his small frame. With a burst he grabbed the lamp that was left on the steps, jumped to the ground and walked, at first hesitantly and then more urgently across the chilled grass, off into the dark, lighting the flame as he went. Unsteadily he returned immediately to the cave and once inside, his breath shortening, he picked up the iron rod, forced air into his lungs and with his hands trembling and muscles about to tear he went straight to a section of the wall and struck with great force into the rock.
A gust of sweet air enveloped him and from behind the centuries caked dirt, a wall of bricks and mortar tumbled to the ground with a thunderous crash that echoed deafeningly around the cave, as a swirl of dust washed over the intruder. Through the opening was another chamber, much larger than the cave they had thought so wondrous and special. Climbing over the rubble he held the lamp over his head and saw before him in the centre of the room a six foot slab of white marble, balanced on four, three foot high black marble horses. On the far side of the chamber, high above, stood a statue of a boy in a niche in the rock. The white marble of the statue was of the purest quality and glistened in the reflection of the light shining on it for the first time in generations. Dust covered everything but not the alter and the god to whom it was dedicated. As the boy with hesitant and expectant steps, approached the figure on the wall he recognised the curled hair, the gentle smile of the full rounded lips, the soft jaw and perfect physique of the beloved Antinous. Suspended from the roof of the cave he could just make out a round golden image of the sun that he instantly knew, by faith alone, must have been brought from Egypt, where the young Greek god had died, a lost trophy of Akhenaton, servant of the Sun disk.

With overwhelming joy, and numbness in his hand Sunny placed the lamp on a small round flat rock jutting out of the ground in front of the god, and as he did so, like a rocket a beam of light shot a reflection up to and from the golden disk raised like the Sun now radiating in the heavens , and shone directly on to the surface of the alter. The spectacular sight raised the hair on his neck, shivers ran the length of his spine, his eyes glazed over and in rush of blood to his brain the boy fell to the floor unconscious.
Launched by a blast of lightening the boy felt himself plummeting through a channel of black silk that caressed and stimulated every nerve ending on his body. As he tumbled uncontrollably from silk through water, over petals he felt the warmth of sunshine and coolness of a soft breeze. He smelt incense, and perfumes. Falling through space and history the boy finally rested on a large bed covered in gold threaded soft white cushions. From beyond a soft mist parted by a slice of yellow light appeared the naked form of a man. Gently the haze cleared and the man was but a boy, Antinous. His hair was garlanded with golden leaves and ribbons of purple, his finger nails, toe nails and lips shone with gold and his body had been dusted with fine powder ground from the same precious metal. The beloved god smiled as he walked slowly towards the boy laid out for the sacrifice. Reaching out his glittering hands in a welcoming tender touch, he lay beside the trembling figure of the gentle youth he had come to embrace. Placing a hand behind Sunny's neck he lifted the boy's head as he bent over to kiss the lips that parted so willingly to breathe in the pure odour of the whispered blessings of a god. With the other hand he traced a line from the boy's throat across his chest and stomach until he came to rest on the offering between Sunny's opening thighs. Antinous lay the boy back onto the cushions and reached through his legs to caress and part the soft white cheeks . With his golden touch he loosened the muscles that would soon feel the force of that which would unite and bind them together. When the boy's delirium had transported him to the heavens of the gods the divine lover lifted the pure and hairless limbs and while covering his face with kisses he slipped himself with welcomed ease into the dazed body of the young mortal aflame beneath his touch. The perfect gold and white bodies, one strong and sculpted and one soft and tender, rose and fell in undulations as wave after wave of pleasure washed over them, from a sea of tranquillity building to the uncontrolled lash of a raging storm and just as soon they would again pass through the gentle eye of their passion .

Joseph had been awoken by a bright flash exploding in the clear night sky. He stepped outside and through the open door he saw that Sunny was not in his bed, and the lamp was missing. At first he thought of the boy's privacy but then again there were to be no secrets and at times he worried about the boy. He was so prone to leap without looking. He picked up the torch from the kitchen and headed to the cave.

Standing in the opening to the second chamber he was met with the sight of Sunny writhing ecstatically in a shaft of golden light on top of the white marble. In the darkness of this sacred place particles of dust danced and spun like stars in the reflection of light. When this hallowed space lived with the worship of the new god, no doubt the flames of offering were placed in that very spot where the lamp now stood, so that the disc's reflection would illuminate the alter for whatever bounteous and sacred offerings were made upon it.

He had little time to be startled by the discovery of the chamber for the sight of his chosen love grew more overwhelming than anything else laid before his view. As he approached the centre of the room he saw that the boy's eyes were open, but Joseph knew his presence was invisible to the passionate sweating body that he gazed upon. Tears flowed freely from the golden hued face as his slender hips lifted high off the cold surface arching his back in suspension above the pools of perspiration he had left behind. Sunny's small toes pointed, stretched and became rigid, his arms caressed and held something unseen. His mouth once again fell open and droplets of blood could be seen on his tongue as it licked the air through pants and cries. He shook violently, openly, and in what could be described as the death throes of a slain beast of offering, he sprayed his orgasm into the incensed space, covering himself and the receptive and grateful Joseph.

The disciple stood speechless and mesmerised by the sight of the boy gripped in the act of pleasure. When the spasms had subsided Sunny was still and unconscious and remained that way for several hours while Joseph held vigil beside him. The lamp grew low and went out with a flicker. The beam of light vanished but suddenly the walls lit up with a phosphorescent glow that cast a soft silver light throughout the secret cavernous temple, alive again with the worship of beauty. Once again all was still......

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