The Love Affair of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and the Handsome Antinous

The Love Affair of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and the Handsome Antinous

Not much was known of the young Antinous before he attracted the attention of the ruler of the Roman world at its zenith. He was born in 111 AD in the Roman province of Bithynia, which would include the Asian side of Istanbul and surrounds, in modern Turkey.  He was very likely not from a wealthy family - in fact, he was even said to have been a slave. However, because of his mysterious bond with Roman Emperor Hadrian, by the end of his short life, Antinous was a house-hold name all over the Roman Empire.

Bust of Hadrian probably from Rome, Italy AD 117 – 138. Bust of Antinous From Rome, Italy AD 130-140. The presence of an ivy wreath in this portrait links Antinous to the god Dionysus, the closest Greek equivalent to the Egyptian god Osiris

Bust of Hadrian probably from Rome, Italy AD 117 – 138. Bust of Antinous From Rome, Italy AD 130-140. The presence of an ivy wreath in this portrait links Antinous to the god Dionysus, the closest Greek equivalent to the Egyptian god Osiris. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Antinous was deified upon his death and worshipped as a hero, a god and a conqueror of death - a city was founded in his name and games were held to commemorate him. More images have been identified of Antinous than of any other figure in classical antiquity with the exceptions of Augustus and Hadrian himself. However, despite his fame, we knew very little about him apart from his relationship with Hadrian.


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