24 February 2014 (Monday) Antinous: Last God of the Ancient World
by John J. Johnston
When, in 130 AD, the beautiful youth Antinous, favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian, drowned in the Nile, under suspicious circumstances Hadrian proclaimed him a god and his cult survived until the eventual fall of the Empire. Drawing upon archaeological and textual sources, tonight’s lecture explores Antinous’ religious and artistic legacy from the time of his death and apotheosis until the modern age, and examines the importance of his name and image to gay men since the 18th Century. John J Johnston is Vice-Chair of the Egypt Exploration Society. This event celebrates LGBT History Month.
Taking a few of the snippets of information from the talk…
- The theory that Hadrian** allowed Antinous to sacrifice his life in the Nile - acting as a surrogate for the ill fate that had been prophesied for Hadrian**.
- Hadrian** raises Antinous to the level of a god and his imagery (in the form of coins and statues) spread far and wide across the empire.
- The recurring motifs of death and rebirth with Antinous portrayed as Dionysus and Osiris.
- Hadrian** was miserable for the eight years following Antinous death and then Hadrian** dies.
- The prophecies of the demise of Hadrian** represented the death of the Roman Empire
- Hadrian** sacrifices a willing Antinous to preserve the empire. Perhaps this is why the Christians hate him so. Not only because he is a pagan roman god, but also because he represents the Roman Empire that the Christians want to re-make the empire in their own image.
- Antinous’ popularity spreads further than Hadrian** anticipated and he is faced with the imagery of his sacrifice where ever he looks for the last eight miserable years of his life.
- After his death, Antinous haunts Hadrian**. Is it possible to exorcise a god?
Whilst I am not in favour of waking sleeping or dead gods, part of me wonders if Antinous was active today if he would mind going via Sochi to (haunt) hang out with the leader of the Russia and then on to the leader of Uganda.
** - may his bones be crushed.