July 18, 2013
The ancient world saw the birth of pantheons and singular gods who emerged as icons to be piously worshiped and duly feared (like the Greek word “thambos” suggests) but was particularly the heyday of mortals deified by deeds of such audacious character or so astounding a trait people could not refrain eventually granting them supernatural statute. From the much-revered Osiris to the now less popular Asclepius, faith elevated the extraordinary to heights unparalleled ever since and Antinous, reputedly the most handsome creature to have pleased the eyes of men, perhaps best exemplifies these hasty canonizations that were ultimately ensued by the plethora of mythological figures currently known.
But what did this ostensibly common youth, whose pulchritude seemed his sole distinctive feature, to deserve being an object of veneration for a cult even our contemporaries perpetuate?
What they all do: make themselves fervently loved.
Apparently, Antinous, a Bithynian Greek of no aristocratic breed, stirred a most unlikely passion in the eminent Roman Emperor Hadrian that would not cease to consume him the whole span of his lengthy life, which turns the case quite similar to Alexander and Hephaestion‘s. Thus the story goes that the named Augustus from Nervan-Antonine dynasty, being a declared philhellene who took a liking to the old Greek habits, penchant for homosexuality included, so ardently cherished the boy that when he was found drowned in the Nile river a whole sophisticated mechanism of propaganda ensured his place between the immortals. Countless statues bearing his marvelously beauteous features were consequently produced, sanctuaries erected to commemorate him and at one point Hadrian had coins struck with Antinous’ profile, a prerogative previously resumed to the gods or their earthly representatives, the Imperial family.
Across time, this most handsome lover of royalty secretly inspired all the gay intellectuals and J.J. Winckelmann, reputedly the father of art history, is said to have more ore less been influenced by Antinous in his pursuit of Greek and Roman culture.
How do you feel about it, though? to learn it’s outrageously easy to ascend a heavenly reputation through a very humane sovereign’s obsessive infatuation?
My, that’s love to shape destinies. Wonder what Freud would comment.