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Statue of Antinous

Statue of Antinous


Hermes (Museo Pio-Clementino)

The Hermes of the Museo Pio-Clementino is an ancient Roman sculpture, part of the Vatican collections, Rome. It was long admired as the Belvedere Antinous, named from its prominent placement in the Cortile del Belvedere. It is now inventory number 907 in the Museo Pio-Clementino.


The most beautiful boy in the Roman empire

&lsquoAh! This is the inscrutable Bithynian!&rsquo So Tennyson exclaimed when he caught sight of a bust of Antinous while strolling through the British Museum with a young Edmund Gosse, who recorded the episode in Portraits and Sketches (1912). Staring into the eyes of the boy-favourite of Emperor Hadrian, the poet said, &lsquoIf we knew what he knew, we should understand the ancient world.&rsquo Among the 88 sculptures of Antinous that survive from the second century AD &ndash as many as remain of imperial wives and princesses of the time &ndash and the countless modern imitations, the youth emerges as modest yet sensual, godlike yet distinctly fleshly. The inscrutable Bithynian, indeed.

Walking through &lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo, a small but substantial cross-section of this tradition currently on display at the Ashmolean, one could be excused for confusing one of the 20 representations of the boy with any handsome Greek athlete or god. As the show&rsquos subtitle suggests, the confusion is telling, since after his mysterious death in the river Nile in 130, at the age of about 19, Antinous was honoured as a hero and then worshipped as a god in some parts of the Roman world until as late as the fifth century in a cult that, to some nervous early Christians (such as Origen of Alexandria), rivalled the nascent cult of Christ. But there&rsquos something distinct about the Antinous &lsquotype&rsquo, the official portrait commissioned by Hadrian after his favourite&rsquos death &ndash something that, once the memory of the homosexual relationship between Antinous and Hadrian faded, drove Renaissance collectors crazy, made Grand Tourists open their pocketbooks, and inspired Winckelmann to dub a portrait of Antinous &lsquothe glory and crown of the art of the age, as well as any other&rsquo.

(Left) Bust of Antinous, discovered in Balanea, Syria, in 1879, before it was restored. (Right) The bust restored.

The centrepiece of the show is the Syrian bust of Antinous (c. 130&ndash138), one of the best surviving examples of the type and the only one bearing an original identifying inscription. Slightly greater than life-sized, the boy (technically not yet a man &ndash a distinction, as the catalogue notes, having to do with the absence of pubic hair) modestly averts his gaze. With his long, straight nose, gently touching lips, and elegant chin, he looks like Hermes, or Apollo, or a young Dionysus, and indeed was portrayed as all three in various sculptures&mdashwhat R.R.R. Smith in the catalogue calls &lsquoequivocations&rsquo of the type. Standing close to this bust, which is mounted about eye-level, it is not hard to imagine, as Oscar Wilde put it in his poem &lsquoThe Sphinx&rsquo, the &lsquoivory body of that rare young slave with / his pomegranate mouth&rsquo.

Antinous is always on the verge of unrecognisability, hovering between equivocations, between particular and idealised forms. The object of Winckelmann&rsquos hyperbole &ndash the so-called Albani Antinous &ndash is the most idealised of all, and doubly idealised in the ghostly white resin cast displayed in the Ashmolean show. It shows the boy in profile, wearing a laurel and grasping another in his left hand his right emerges from the relief, loosely open, as if holding the reins of a chariot. Winckelmann fantasised that he was driving out of this world to his apotheosis &ndash an allegory of the power of art to elevate the human to the divine.

Cast of a relief depicting Antinous at the Villa Albani, Tivoli. Ashmolean Oxford

Yet even from the small collection assembled at the Ashmolean &ndash a rare and satisfying opportunity to study the representation of a single figure in depth &ndash one develops a strong sense of Antinous&rsquos face, his neck, and, particularly, his hair. All versions, regardless of size or costume, share the same rustic, characteristically &lsquoEastern&rsquo mane. This unusual coiffure is a key criterion used to identify his image on ancient coins, and was faithfully imitated in the Renaissance, notably by Giovanni da Cavino, who recreated Corinthian Antinous coins in the 16th century, two of which are on display. Even in a massive resin replica of a statue at Hadrian&rsquos villa at Tivoli, Antinous, clothed in traditional Egyptian garb and posed with one foot forward like a Pharoah, retains his particular boyish charm, distinctly different from a bracingly lifelike marble head of Germanicus, the designated successor to Tiberius, who died in 19 AD and was honoured across the empire much as Antinous was a century later. (The bust of Germanicus on display and another of Hadrian feel like a pair of interlopers in a room dominated by a single face.) Part of what it meant to be made a god, it seems, was to be able to take on any form, chameleon-like, while preserving an identity that transcends style, art form, or &ndash as the exhibit, which is largely composed of casts shows &ndash material.

(Left) Antinous coin from Smyrna (AD 134&ndash35) (right) Antinous Marlborough gem (1760&ndash70), Edward Burch Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (both)

&lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo ends, in chronological terms, in the 18th century. The show seems to invite us to look with a museum-going gaze, presenting us with a rich visual tradition. Twenty Antinouses look at us like so many butterflies, encased in glass, abstracted from the social world in which they were produced. In doing so the show sidesteps an aspect of these and other classical sculptures that, in the 21st century, we can&rsquot help but confront: the erotic objectification of a boy. It&rsquos an uncomfortable question. When looking at Antinous&rsquos naked body, and over at the bust of Hadrian (gazing at his favourite from across the room), we simply must consider the implications of art that memorialises, and allows us in some way to participate in, a sexual relationship between the world&rsquos most powerful man and a boy (who was in some traditions a slave). This domination of the powerless by the powerful, of beardless Antinous by bearded Hadrian, has given many a certain frisson now, it provokes a certain disgust.

But on this question &ndash and on the (homo)erotics of classical art more generally &ndash the wall texts and catalogue remain silent, a legacy, perhaps, of the archaeological approach to ancient art that foregrounds issues of geographical diffusion and authentication rather than matters of interpretation and reception. If we pick up where &lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo leaves off and turn to the moderns &ndash and other art forms &ndash we get a much fuller picture of the Antinous tradition: we read Wilde&rsquos sensuous verses, Fernando Pessoa&rsquos sexually explicit elegy, Marguerite Yourcenar&rsquos novel Memoirs of Hadrian &ndash in which a middle-aged emperor recalls being rejuvenated by his love for Antinous, and even Rufus Wainwright&rsquos new opera Hadrian in which the Emperor has sex with his boy lover on stage. If ancient sculptors and their early modern imitators transformed Antinous from boy to god, these latter-day artists make him a boy once more and urge us to see these perfect white statues as monuments to something altogether more human, more worldly &ndash and more sinister &ndash than &lsquothe glory and crown of the art of the age&rsquo.

Installation view of a cast of the Townley Antinous, cast of a portrait bust of Hadrian and the Elgin Germanicus, at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 2018.

&lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo is at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 24 February.


Discovery of the Statue of Antinous at Delphi in 1894

This post was originally published on this site

On July 1, 1893, at the excavation of Delphi near the Temple of Apollo, archaeologists uncovered a near-perfectly preserved, still-upright statue of Antinous, the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

The statue, lovingly polished for centuries, was, in some Barbarian incursion, toppled over, loosing both arms, afterwards, however, it was gently raised and re-erected without its arms in another chapel further up the sacred way.

Sometime later, some followers of Antinous lovingly buried the statue, standing upright, to preserve it from being completely destroyed by Christian iconoclasts, after Theodosius I in 380 declared Christianity the only legitimate imperial religion and fostered the destruction of the Temple of Apollo of Delphi.

(Photo by Ricardo André Frantz, via Wikipedia)

The site was completely destroyed by zealous Christians in an attempt to remove all traces of Paganism &mdash and of the Religion of Antinous, the last of the Classical Gods.

The Delphi Antinous is a cult statue of Antinous as the divine ephebe, sculpted in Parian marble during the reign of Hadrian. The head of the Antinous at Delphi wears such a crown of intertwined vegetal stems, but the leaves are missing, they were probably done in metal and then fixed to the holes drilled into the wreath.

The artist&rsquos statuary prototype for this Antinous is the youthful Apollo (and Dionysos) type, used repeatedly in times of Hadrian, for instance, in the Vatican&rsquos figure known as the &ldquoCentocelle Adonis,&rdquo a statue probably depicting Apollo.

Antinous was a young Greek of extraordinary beauty from Bithynia, who became the beloved companion or lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian but later died in Nile under mysterious circumstances.

Stricken by the death of Antinous, Hadrian, who happened to be an admirer and a passionate supporter of classical Greek Antiquity, as well as a benefactor of the Oracle of Delphi, ordered that statues of the beautiful young man, whom he had loved so passionately, be erected in all sanctuaries and cities of his vast empire. Furthermore, he ordered the institution and establishment of Games in honor of Antinous, who since then was honored and worshiped as a god.

Thus, a statue of Antinous was erected within the sanctuary of Delphi, after his death, in 130 A.D. and it was one of the most beautiful and impressive cult statues. During the excavations, the statue was discovered upright on its pedestal, next to the wall of a brick chamber, alongside the holy Temple.

If we take a closer look at the statue, we see that the head of young Antinous is tilted to the side like he is in a state of reflection. Around its thick and masterfully carved hair, which surround its face and fall on its forehead and cheeks, thus adding a mournful quality to its beautiful, full of vain youthful figure, we can see several holes that were used to attach a bronze laurel wreath. His body is carved in a way that gives it that beautiful nudity which characterized the statues of gods and heroes of classical antiquity. However, the nostalgic Hadrian classicism is not enough for the statue to stand worthy of the art of its genuine classic models.


The Statue of Antinous: The Story Behind The Discovery of This Magnificent Sculpture

Antinous was a young Greek of extraordinary beauty from Bithynia, who became the beloved companion of the Roman emperor Hadrian but later died in Nile under mysterious circumstances.

Stricken by the death of Antinous, Hadrian, who happened to be an admirer and a passionate supporter of classical Greek Antiquity, as well as a benefactor of the Oracle of Delphi, ordered that statues of the beautiful young man, whom he had loved so passionately, be erected in all sanctuaries and cities of his vast empire. Furthermore, he ordered the institution and establishment of Games in honor of Antinous, who since then was honored and worshiped as a god.

Thus, a statue of Antinous was erected within the sanctuary of Delphi, after his death, in 130 A.D. and it was one of the most beautiful and impressive cult statues. During the excavations, the statue was discovered upright on its pedestal, next to the wall of a brick chamber, alongside the holy Temple. From the Roman coins minted to honor Αntinous, we are informed that the representation of the statue was accompanied by the epithet "Propylaeus". So, it is legitimate to assume that it was originally placed at the entrance of the sanctuary. Later on, it suffered damages and broke at the height of the knee, so it had to be moved closer to the temple of Apollo, in a sort of chapel, where it was found during excavations, in relatively good condition. Its idealized characteristics as well as the intense polishing of its marble surface with a special oil (which helped it survive gleaming and in excellent condition), is indicative of the time of radical Hadrian.

Taking a closer look at the statue, the head of young Antinous is tilted to the side like he is in a state of reflection. Around its thick and masterfully carved hair, which surround its face and fall on its forehead and cheeks, thus adding a mournful quality to its beautiful, full of vain youthful figure, several holes can be observed that were used to attach a bronze laurel wreath. His body is carved in a way that gives it the beautiful nudity which characterized the statues of gods and heroes of classical antiquity. However, the nostalgic Hadrian classicism is not enough for the statue to stand worthy of the art of its genuine classic models.


Influence History of the Portraits of Antinous

Calculating example [deleted] says:

Part 1 : Renaissance and Baroque


1.a) The Capitoline Antinous
Rome, Capitoline Museums


The so-called Capitoline Antinous is one of the most copied representations of Antinous. The statue was in 1733 in the collection of Cardinal Albani. The exact place where it was found is not known but literary sources name the Villa Adriana. In 1722 Pope Clemens XII bought the statue and had it restored by Pietro Bracci (left arm and leg) before having it placed in the recently opened Capitoline Museum. Due to the Tolentino Treaty of 1797 the French took the statue to Paris where it was exhibited in the Musée Central des Arts. In 1816 the statue returned to Rome and since then it is to be seen in the Capitoline Museum.
In the inventory of Cardinal Albani the statue is already described as a representation of the youngling Antinous with the remark that it is one of the most elevated work of art of the classical antiquity. In 1750, P.J.Mariette remarked that the statue was nearly forgotten in the 30 years following its discovery, if it hadn’t been recognized as a canon and ideal for the study of the proportions of a young man. Poussin and the sculptor François Duquesnoy chose this Antinous as object of contemplation. ( The brother of François, Jerome II Duquesnoy was burned at the stake in Brussels for his homosexuality).
The Capitoline Antinous stimulated the esthetical and statistical comparison with the Belvedere Antinous, and the 18th century spectator had the most different judgements.
J.J.Winckelmann, the founder of classical archaeology as a science, was more interested in other representations of Anxious – the Villa Albany relief and the Montague head - and does not discuss this statue in detail, except for its head he didn’t appreciate this Statue much.
As soon as it became famous it was profusely copied and reproduced, in all sizes and materials. The first person to doubt its interpretation as an Anxious was E.Q.Visconti in 1831, he considered it to be a Mercury, an interpretation that is nowadays accepted as the most likely, and today, in the studies about the portraits of Antinous, is this statue barely mentioned.

1.b) Belvedere Antinous
Rome, Musei Vaticani

The so-called Belvedere Antinous had a decisive influence in the history of art of the classical antiquity, for artists of the Renaissance as well as of the Baroque, have been inspired by it, creating copies or new interpretations of it.
The first mention of the so-called Belvedere Antinous was on the 27th February 1543 when Nicolaus de Palis was paid 1.000 Ducats “for a beautiful marble statue, that His Sanctity ordered to be set up in the Belvedere Court”. In 1555, U.Aldovrandi conveyed that the statue was found in “his times” in the Esquiline Hill, close to the church of San Martino ai Monti. But a notice of M. Mercati, writing in the 1580s says, it was found in a garden by Castel Sant’Angelo, where the Palis family owned some land.
The Belvedere Antinous was taken by the French to Paris in 1798 where it was exhibited in the Musée Central des Arts from 1800 to 1815. The statue was returned to Rome on the 4th January 1816, and in February it went back to the Cortile Ottagono, the Belvedere Court in the Museo Pio Clementino in the Vatican Museums.
Immediately after its discovery the statue aroused great excitement, and was considered to be an Antinous. It soon found entryway to nearly all the descriptions of great works of art of Rome and was many times depicted by travelling artists. Copies of the statue were made for the royals of France, England and Spain, in marble, in bronze. It was as greatly esteemed by art collectors as by art experts, and it was studied by artists as Bernini, N.Poussin or F.Duquesnoy. (His gay brother, Jerome Duquesnoy (1612– 1654) was burned at the stake convicted of sodomy).
In 1753 Hogarth praised the beauty in the proportions of the Belvedere Antinous as one of the most perfect work of the classical antiquity.
J.J.Winckelmann’s judgement was positive too, even though he was a bit disappointed by beauty flaws in the forming of the legs, feet and navel, he praised the statue as “ an image of the gracefulness of precious youth and of the beauty of the blooming years, with charming innocence and gentle attraction”. E.Q.Visconti in the early 19th century identified the statue as Mercury and this is the opinion that nowadays perseveres. He compared this statue with another of the same type in the British Museum known as the Farnese Hermes, because it was in the Farnese collections from 1546 to 1864. This Hermes holds a Caduceus, the typical attribute of Hermes-Mercury.
Another replica of this type was found in a tomb in the Greek island of Andros, and since then is this type known as the “Hermes-Andros-Farnese”, being the so-called Belvedere Antinous the most important representative.

1.c) Antinous-Jonas of the Chigi-Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome.


A very important station in the reception history of the Antinous’ portraits is the figure of Jonas by Raphael - Raffaelo Sanzio - (1483-1520) in the Chigi-Chapel in the roman church of Santa Maria del Popolo (circa 1513).
Victor Rydberg, a Swedish art historian handed us down in the 1870s the following scenario:
"In the 16th century, in the age when the arts, thanks to Michelangelo and Raphael, celebrated its triumphal feast, took place what a roman legend reports: That a man who had climbed up the Sabine mountains, fell in day dreams between the ruins of the Villa Adriana and forgot it was time to leave when he saw that rays of the setting sun played weary on the stones covered with ivy. The night came, and the celestial Antinous glittered between cypresses and laurel bushes. The man recalled the great Caesar Hadrian, whose shadow, it’s said, haunts the site, and complaints that Hadrian will find no peace until the honour of the bithynian youth is re-established".
The wanderer brought this message back to Raphael who at the moment was occupied with the creation of the Chigi-Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo.
The great artist matured in quietness a thought he had cherished in his mind for a long time: To christianise Antinous, to ennoble and sanctify his beauty, to give the youth, who sacrificed himself, a place in the veneration of those who worship in Christ the Mystery of self relinquishing, and the eternal life that’s a result of it. And thus Raphael developed a daring plan, to build a temple to Antinous, under the name of the prophet Jonas, in the Chigi-Chapel…Like this, the pagan myth was united to the Christian one, and Jonas, under Raphael’s chisel became a young, beautiful, pagan, naked Antinous and not the old, bearded, coated prophet, a Jonas now free from all pain, full of joy because life has defeated death
Raphael used a stone block of the Roman Forum for this statue leaving it unfinished when he died being completed by Lorenzetto. Lorenzo Giovanni did Ludovico called Lorenzetto used in 1516 sketches by Raphael to finish this statue of Jonas-Antinous. It is possible that Raphael or Lorenzetto obtained the inspiration for this statue from the Antinous Farnese, that was known in the early 16th century and that before ending in the Farnese collections was possibly owned by the Chigi family.

Part 2: Johann Joachim Winckelmann

2.a) Villa Albani Relief and the Mondragone Head

The relief found close to Villa Adriana in 1735 became immediately famous. In 1736 R.Venuti considered it “very excellent”, and the director of the Académie Française in Rome described it as “one of the most beautiful pieces of the ancient world”.
The most eager enthusiast was J.J.Winckelmann (1717-1768), the father of modern archaeology as a science. In the famous portrait of Winkelmann painted by Anton von Maron in 1768, he is represented with a book on which there is a paper sheet with a depiction of the Albani relief. Winckelmann considered this relief, together with the Mondragone head as “the glory and the crown of art, of this as well as of all times”.
Winkelmann disliked the reconstruction of the right hand of the bithynian, he considered that instead of a flower garland that hand had originally hold reins, an allusion to the carriage trip of Antinous after his apotheosis. Nowadays the scholars see in the relief Antinous represented as a seasons genius.
The Mondragone head in opposition to the Albani relief, is more a head of a god as a portrait of Antinous, due to the ideal figuration of its traits. The head belonged to a colossal cult statue of Antinous as Dionysus-Osiris, crowned with ivy and the now lost Hem-Hem crown. This combination of the mentioned elements is also to be found in some representations on coins from Tarsos.
The head was found in 1720 in the Villa Mondragone close to Frascati, where Hadrian owned a villa. For Winckelmann this head was “after the Apollo of the Vatican and the Laoocon the most beautiful work of all what’s leftover to us”. He considered the Albani relief, the Mondragone head and the Belvedere Antinous to be products of the era of Hadrian, that were based in classical Greek models. Thus they didn’t exactly embody the Greek ideal, for they were Roman imitations, and thus second class works of art, but at the same time he praised the beauty of these Antinous’ representations because they reflected the perfection of the Greek originals. Winckelmann considered the roman art under Hadrian as an epoch of fruitless efforts to revive the spirit of freedom that had created works of art of the highest quality. This longing for a more perfect present, closer to the classical Greek ideals, has animated too, the modern reception of the portraits of Antinous.
Winckelmann was murdered by a fellow-traveller and male prostitute, named Francesco Arcangeli, on June 8, 1768, for medals that Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had given him.
Originally posted at 1:19PM, 14 December 2006 PDT (permalink)
calculating example edited this topic ages ago.

Mamluke says:

Thanks so much to Filandros, our founding group leader for compiling these informative discussion threads!
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Mesmerizing Photo of Antinous Masterpiece Unearthed at Delphi

The magnificent statue of Antinous unearthed at Delphi. Public Domain

Delphi, Greece, 1894. Archaeologists and workers pose in front of the magnificent statue of Antinous which was unearthed near the Temple of Apollo in the sanctuary at Delphi.

The statue was discovered by a team of French archaeologists who in 1891 were granted permission by the Greek government to excavate at Delphi.

Most of the workers were locals from the village of Kastri which, before it was relocated, was built almost on top of the ancient religious site.

Rare photo of the excavations at Delphi. Public Domain

In the summer of 1894, the team unearthed the exquisite statue of Antinous, which had been commissioned by the emperor Hadrian in 130 AD.

Antinous was a young Greek of extraordinary beauty from Bithynia, who became the beloved companion or lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, but who later died under mysterious circumstances along the Nile.

Greatly dismayed by the death of Antinous, Hadrian, who was an admirer and a passionate supporter of classical Greek antiquity, as well as a benefactor of the Oracle of Delphi, ordered that statues of the handsome young man whom he had loved so passionately, be erected in all sanctuaries and cities of his vast empire.

He additionally ordered the institution and establishment of athletic games in honor of Antinous, who was then honored and worshiped as a god.

Antinous statue erected at Delphi after his death

A statue of Antinous was accordingly erected within the sanctuary of Delphi after his death in 130 A.D. It is universally recognized as one of the most beautiful and impressive cult statues of all time.

The statue is now at Delphi’s Archaeological Museum

During the excavations, the statue was discovered upright on its pedestal, next to the wall of a brick chamber, alongside the holy Temple.

From the Roman coins minted to honor Αntinous, we are informed that the representation of the statue was accompanied by the epithet “Propylaeus”.

So, it is legitimate to assume that it was originally placed at the entrance of the sanctuary.

Later on, it suffered damages and broke at the height of the knee, so it had to be moved closer to the temple of Apollo, in a sort of chapel, where it was found during excavations, in relatively good condition

Archaeologists say that Antinous’ long hair was once crowned by a wreath, since there are indications of a band with leaves made of a different material.

The statue of Antinous exemplifies the evolution of ancient sculpture.

Its melancholy beauty, the graceful angle of the head and the high polish of the marble surface embody the spirit of the Roman Imperial Age, when there was a tendency to revive ancient Greek ideals.


The discovery of the statue of Antinous, Delphi, Greece, 1894 [780x595]

Amazing. Serious question: how did things like this just get lost to time and eventually buried under several feet of earth? Completely erased from memory until it’s discovered in an excavation? I mean I get that Roman Empire fell but there were still people around afterward right? It’s so fascinating.

From reading the history of the site on wikipedia: The place early on was obviously important to the Ancient Greeks. It was sacked a few times during the Helenistic period, and eventually fell into the possession of the Romans, who sacked it again. In the Roman period, the site's importance waned as religious practices shifted. It's hard to tell but my guess was the area became more and more depopulated. Eventually Delphi fell under Ottoman rule. By the 1400s, much of the area had been depopulated for centuries. There were other settlements nearby but no one lived at what was now a ruin more than a thousand years old. Later on earthquakes and other natural disasters hurt the site and it's artifacts.

So in short, great spans of time and massive cultural changes completely removed Delphi's significance and it was essentially ignored and forgotten, having lost all it's inhabitants throughout the eras.


Statue of Antinous - History

1,886 years ago, in Oct 28 of the year 130 of Common Era, a young man from Bithynia (in today’s northwestern Turkey) drowned in the Nile while touring all the provinces of the Roman Empire under the wing of his lover, the then most powerful man on Earth: Emperor Hadrian.

If Antinous had not been the emperor’s lover, if he had not been as beautiful as Adonis, and if he had not died by drowning in the Nile on the day of Osiris’ passion and death, his death would have been uneventful and quickly forgotten. But the priests of Egypt believed that anyone who drowned in the Nile was a demi-god, and his death during Osiris’ festival prompted the immediate syncretism of the new Man-God with Osiris. Also, Hadrian was so moved with grief that he “cried like a woman”, and a few days later established on the banks of the Nile where his young lover had died, the city of Antinoopolis as a cult center for the new Man-God.

Within a few years, thanks to Hadrian’s very active promotion of the cult, the face of Antinous became the best preserved–and probably the most beautiful–face from antiquity that we can still behold via sculpture. The Antinous Mondragone is still considered one of the most beautiful and highly-appraised sculptures on Earth. The remains of one ancient, Roman Antinous bust recently sold for 23 million dollars, and coins and other paraphernalia to this gay icon remain in circulation now that Antinous has been re-sacralized and has a small following of modern polytheists.

Many Christians (and others) have questioned the sincerity of ancient faith in Antinoos, but the fact is that his cult was in actuality serious competition for early Christianity, and that it survived for centuries long after the death of Hadrian in the year 138. If the faith had been feigned out of fear of the emperor, the cult would not have enjoyed such a long-standing history after Hadrian was gone.

Some of the ancient Christians who criticized Antinous’ cult for its “debauchery” (code for the homosexual nature of Hadrian and Antinous’ relationship), admitted the supposed miracles of the god and had to resort to peculiar kinds of apologetics, a fact which demonstrates a vitality and credibility that other Pagan cults apparently lacked. Origen even admitted that Antinous was a real spirit (though not a god) who could perform miracles, and that his followers merely had not had the “luck” to know Jesus. Trevor Thompson, in the conclusion of his Antinoos, The New God, said:

The cult of the new god Antinoos swept across the Mediterranean basin in less than a decade and continued to exist into the fourth century. For Origen, Antinoos was a real “daimon” with actual power. Belief in Antinoos or Jesus depended in most cases on the circumstances of one’s birth and the training received. Very few have the opportunity to examine religious claims. Most believe what they have been told.

The pagan philosopher Celsus also criticised it for what he perceived as the debauched nature of its Egyptian devotees, arguing that it led people into immoral behaviour, in this way comparing it to the cult of Christianity, which demonstrates that both the Jesus and the Antinous cults were perceived in a similar light.

Early Christians also claimed that the cult only grew because of the emperor’s favor, but what are we to make of the wealth and corruption of the early church leaders who, from the time of Constantine, enjoyed imperial material favors. Both in terms of possible lack of sincerity (that is, ulterior motives–like advancing Greco-Roman identity in Egypt), and in terms of instigating a cult through material favors, Hadrian is not all that different from Constantine and the other Christian Roman emperors–except that, having “cried like a woman” when he lost his lover, he must have been very sincere in his love of Antinous. Even the Christian History Institute admits in Controversial Constantine about the–to this day, sainted–emperor:

… The second letter informed the bishop of Carthage that funds would soon reach him for distribution to “certain specific ministers of the lawful and most holy catholic religion,” and also assured him of protection against elements disruptive to the catholic church …

Constantine’s religion is from first to last that of an autocratic ruler of an empire secured by military might—and still overwhelmingly pagan.

One of the reasons for Antinous’ cultic success had to do with the intense syncretism, which is based on being abducted into the Osirian mythical cycle–according to which there was a perpetual war between the green god of vegetation who brought life to the Nile and the red desert god Set–and based also on the foundational document of his cult, the Obelisk, which says:

All Gods and Goddesses
Give Him the Breath of Eternal Life
That He might breathe
As One Who Is Eternally Young!

One of my initial assertions in this article was that Antinous represented a real and legitimate threat and competition to early Christianity. I realize that this may be unthinkable to some people today, but one piece of archaeology remains to be considered here. This relief from the Man-God’s holy city demonstrates the extent to which the highly-syncretistic cult in Antinoopolis wove both Dionysian elements (the grapes on his left hand, and keep in mind that Dionysus was believed to have been resurrected like Osiris and Jesus) as well as Christian elements (the cross on his right hand) into itself. Here, we see the youthful Antinous (identifiable by his typical hairstyle) holding both symbols. It seems like, for some time, the versatile Antinous was also being interpreted as a Christ figure. In fact, all the resurrected Men-God were considered Savior figures who secured afterlife benefits for their followers who were initiated into their mysteries.

Antinous as a Unit of Value

Hadrian used Antinous to promote Pan-Hellenistic values and to unite his empire. It seems to me that in the cult of the last Greco-Roman God, the spiritual and the carnal coexisted in harmony and a unique sex-affirming humanist and hellenistic spirituality flourished during the last decades of the pre-Christian era. Unfortunately, the Antinous cult also copied the salvific and other-worldly theme in whose context he emerged and got mixed into grave amounts of unrestrained superstition.

The value of Antinous is not just aesthetic, and in terms of historical curiosity. Clearly, the events that led to Antinous’ deification will never happen again. It’s impossible to imagine Presidents Putin or Obama–while married to their respective wives–inviting people to worship their dead gay lover from a faraway province of their empires who died and was deified by local shamans, and even founding a city in his memory … and being taken seriously by thousands of faithful for centuries. Antinous comes from the last period of history when these things were possible, and is recent enough that he might be a good case study–like Mormonism and the cargo cults–to understand how new gods and new cults come to be. It’s not difficult to imagine how the cults of beautiful Adonis, Attis, or royal Osiris (who was believed to be a Pharaoh from the very first Egyptian dynasty) came into existence, if we take Hadrian’s yearning and love story into account.

I learned about Antinous while reading the novel American Gods: A Novel, by the amazing fantasy author Neil Gaiman, which is now being turned into a series that will air next year. I later read Royston Lambert’s 1984 account of his life titled Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. The cult has a modern following of (mostly) Queer polytheists, and Antinoopolis is described as “the Gay Jerusalem” in the Ecclesia Antinoi website, with the mystery and fertility cult aspects sometimes taking a second seat to modern LGBT identity politics.

As for an Epicurean assessment of Antinous: his deification did not fit Epicurean theology, and it seems like Lucian made passing jokes about the Antinous cult. In fact, I think Antinous might have a place within LGBT and secular humanist discourse as a kind of parody religion similar to the Pastafarian tradition–one that says something about the nature of belief, of power, and of religious privilege, not to mention about the ironies of history.

However, unlike the Spaghetti Monster and because he’s rooted in history, the cult of this risen Man-God has a much more fascinating story and posed a threat so serious to early Christianity, that numerous Church Fathers had to write apologetics against it, and some–like Origen–even considered him to have real spiritual power. It’s extremely rare to find a Christian apologist humbling himself in this manner before a Pagan god: only by understanding Antinous as a legitimately feared rival cult, can we explain how he extracted a testimony of his supposed godlike power from a Church Father.


Antinous 2.0: The New Face of an Old Favorite

Like many classical stories, this one starts with love and tragedy.

By <a href="https://www.artic.edu/authors/45/elizabeth-benge">Elizabeth Benge</a>

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The name Antinous, so important in ancient times, may not be familiar to most people today. We have sparse information about this ancient youth, but we know he was from Bithynia, a northern region of modern Turkey. Most importantly, we know he was the lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian (reigned 117–138 CE), and that in 130 CE, he drowned in the Nile River under mysterious circumstances. After his death, Hadrian not only commissioned numerous statues of Antinous but founded a city in his name, Antinoupolis in Egypt. He even created a cult in his lover’s honor.

Ancient works depicting Antinous depict him as a particularly handsome young man, with a characteristic oval face, smooth complexion, deep-set eyes, full lips, and distinctive hairstyle of thick, wavy locks. Because of the relatively uniform nature of Antinous sculptures, scholars can fairly easily identify his portraits—even when they are missing the original face.

Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century CE. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson. Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century CE. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.

In 1756, during a visit to the Boncompagni Ludovisi collection in Rome, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, dubbed the “father of art history,” saw a bust of Antinous and noted that it had a “new face.” The original ancient Roman face had been broken off at some unknown time, perhaps by a conquering army who knocked over the statue while invading Rome, leaving its parts scattered around the city’s ruins for centuries. In the mid-18th century, the statue received a baroque-style portrait. So what happened to the original ancient face?

It turns out that the “old face” has been in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1924, when it was donated by the wife of Charles L. Hutchinson. The other part of the bust, originally in the Ludovisi collection, ended up at the Palazzo Altemps museum in Rome, where it remains today.

Jerry Podany, former senior conservator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, compares a cast of the Art Institute’s face of Antinous to the fracture line of a bust at the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome.

In 2005, University of Chicago Egyptologist W. Raymond Johnson recalled the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fragmentary Portrait of Antinous while viewing the bust in the Palazzo Altemps. His theory that they belonged together was the catalyst for a decades-long research project culminating in the 2016 Art Institute exhibition A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts. The focal point of the exhibition was a plaster cast of Antinous demonstrating how the original complete sculpture looked in antiquity.

Curator Katharine Raff discusses the legacy of Antinous and how a startling discovery led to the virtual reunification of an ancient sculpture.

Antinous 2.0

In 2018, this Antinous plaster cast was loaned to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK, for its 2018 exhibition Antinous: Boy Made God. The cast was displayed next to a plaster reproduction of a bust of Antinous, the original of which was found in Syria before 1879 and is now in a private collection. This juxtaposition of the two sculptures prompted the Art Institute of Chicago’s chair and curator of ancient art at the time, Karen Manchester, to wonder if the alignment of our plaster cast interpretation could be improved.

Antinous 1.0 (left) on display next to the plaster cast of the bust of Antinous from Syria (right) in the Ashmolean Museum exhibition.

A new idea evolved: rather than replicate the Syrian bust, we would use it to inform the best angle for our own reconstruction. Non-invasive 3-D scans were taken of the Syrian bust plaster cast and compared to scans of the Art Institute of Chicago fragment, the Palazzo Altemps bust, and the original plaster cast recreation. The resulting information suggested that the position of the chest of Antinous 1.0 should be angled up slightly, which would correct the depth of the face and lift the angle of the head, allowing for what we believe is a more accurate representation of the original sculpture. It also seems to give this youth a less tragic gaze, allowing him to meet the eyes of visitors. As with the earlier cast, production of this new Antinous plaster cast also took place in Rome, Italy.

Antinous 2.0 in production at the plaster cast workshop in Rome, Italy, Antinous 1.0 in the background.

The new plaster cast of Antinous is now on display in Gallery 152, next to the original Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous and a Portrait Head of Hadrian. An interactive feature on the website and in the gallery is available to help visitors understand more about the past and present of these related artworks.

—Elizabeth Hahn Benge, collection manager of arts of Africa and arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Watch the video: λουτρό Ψηφιδωτό u0026 το άγαλμα του Νέρωνα εντός της Διώρυγας του Ισθμού.Drone video (December 2021).