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The Great Love Story of Hadrian and Antinous

Primeval King Osiris’s tragic death happened in the final week of October AD 130. He drowned in the Nile River, which led to the emergence of the most powerful god of Egypt.

However, he wasn’t considered a king. In fact, he was a nobody to the community. Despite his non-existent reputation, he wasn’t like any ordinary person. He was the secret lover of Emperor Hadrian, the most powerful human being during that time. This mysterious person’s name, Antinous, can be seen written underneath most of the busts and statues spread all over the museums worldwide.

The Tale Of The Clandestine Lovers

If Antinous had not died, they could have been fostering an illicit love affair with Hadrian. If his death wasn’t known to be the most beautiful creation at that time, he wouldn’t have any part in world history. This young man Bithynia, known as Turkey today, had a massive cult following. He was considered a demi-god, and these followers were almost as big as Rome’s Christian community.

When the Holy Roman Empire was created, all the emperors were worshipped. However, the reverence of a gay lover was not something they practiced. A sexual relationship between a male and a boy is known as pederasty. And this situation is fully accepted both in the early days of the Roman Empire and Greece. However, the special connection between the two lovers, Antinous and Hadrian, went beyond what was accepted. The emperor was devastated and cried for days following the death of his partner. Because of such an epic death, a city known as Antinoopolis was built on the river banks where Antinous’s death occurred. Eventually, this turned out to be a place of worship for his cult and promoted his status as god. The perception of him being a slave was discounted by such an elevation of his status and only confirmed that slaves couldn’t be revered.

A tragic love affair of Emperor Hadrian and Antinous

The Boy From Claudiopolis

Antinous was born on November 27, AD 111, in the old city of Claudiopolis. He was still 12 years old when he was removed from the emperor’s entourage.

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Their relationship’s transcript only surfaced after they were seen together traveling to Greece to join the Eleusinian mysteries. Antinous won Hadrian’s heart during this time and caused him a promotion from a lowly worker to an official partner. However, their relationship’s representations weren’t the typical situation of gay lovers wherein the younger man in the affair seemed feminine and soft. It was the exact opposite for Antinous since he turned to be the strong grown man who joined vicious hunting activities with Emperor Hadrian.

The lovers were inseparable, and one of their memorable trips together was when they went to Egypt, took a cruise that headed to the Nile River. This was a peculiar boat trip, the river didn’t have any flooding incidents for a few years. And according to Egyptian tradition, this was a sign of misery from the gods. In ancient times, to keep the gods happy, the pharaoh would drown himself.

This belief brought a realization from historians that Antinous purposely killed himself by drowning to acquire immortality, just like the love of his life Hadrian.

Lisa Less
Written By

Anna received her Masters degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland. Her writing focuses on history and general lifestyle pieces. Anna has been published in various lifestyle magazines. She spends her free time reading and furthering her knowledge about the about history.


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