Sunday, November 8, 2009


Here’s a second excerpt from Vittorio Lingiardi’s excellent book Men in Love: Male Homosexualities from Ganymede to Batman.

For the first excerpt from Lingiardi’s book, click


The Zeus-Ganymede relationship served as a model for many famous love stories in the ancient world, such as the love between the emperor Hadrian and his Greek eromenos Antinoos [or Antinous]. These two met in Bithynia, the younger man’s native country, around 123 B.C. . . . Hadrian abducted the boy and was devoted to him for the rest of his life. Inseparable companions, they always traveled together, and together took part in the Eleusinian mysteries.

Identifying himself with the king of Olympus, the emperor decided to restore all temples and statues dedicated to Zeus, including the Olympieion of Athens, with its huge statue of the god in gold and ivory sculpted by Phidias. In their turn, as a sign of gratitude, the Athenians dedicated a statue in the Parthenon to Hadrian. Throughout Greece, the Roman emperor came to be worshipped as a god in his own right, and thus, the new Greco-Roman religion acquired its own trinity, made up of Zeus, Jupiter, and Hadrian.

Consequently, the process of Antinoo’s divinization began while the young man was still alive and reached its apotheosis after the younger man’s mysterious death by drowning in the Nile.

Antinoos, the last divinity of the ancient Mediterranean world, was revered in ways similar to the cults of Osiris, Dionysus, Hermes, and Eros. Innumerable statues, coins, temples, and even a city, Antinoopolis, would bear for all time the name of melancholy Emperor Hadrian’s lost love. Before a bust of Antinoos on exhibit in the British Museum, the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson “bent forward a little and said in a deep slow voice: ‘Ah – this is the inscrutable Bithynian.’ There was a pause and then he added, gazing into the eyes of the bust: ‘If we knew what he knew, we should understand the ancient world’” (C. Tennyson 1949, p. 395).

SpiralSea17's portrait of Antinous (2006).

Like Ganymede, Antinoos for centuries stood as a symbol of same-sex love, and also as a platonic ideal of spiritual love. Like Ganymede, Antinoos was transformed into a star: wanting his lover to be remembered for all eternity, Hadrian named a constellation after him. In the Almagest, Ptolemy’s first great compendium of Greek astronomy, the stars of Antinoos are mentioned as part of the Aqila (Eagle) group; in various ancient maps of the heavens.

Andrew Prior’s portrait of Antinous (2008).

Recommended Reading:
Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous by Royston Lambert.


rab marlow said...

"Here is his hair, here his hair

Doty's reader might substitute "hare" for "hair."

In her novel Hadrian's Memoirs, Marguerite Yourcenar has Hadrian recount the season he took Antinous to the young man's ancestral Arcadia. Hadrian says the only thing to mar the time was the incident in which "a hare which my young hunter had tamed with great effort was caught and torn by the hounds."

I've cast about for other accounts of this incident. Perhaps Yourcenar includes it as a literary foreshadowing.

'Love the Doty poem, by the way. Love everything by Doty.

Thanks for your thoughtful posts.

rab marlow said...

Oops. 'Meant to post that under your "Death of Antinous" post.