- Intro Video
The beloved of Hadrian, disappeared and drowned under mysterious circumstances in the Nile river.
Later deified and associated with Osiris, he gathers the souls of the dead for the underworld.
And such a one is the new God Antinous, that was the Emperor Hadrian’s minion and the slave of his unlawful pleasures; a wretch…a sordid and loathsome instrument of his master’s lust. This shameless and scandalous boy died in Egypt…
he who was the darling of an emperor now deified and in the imperial embrace was robbed of his manhood
O hands that clasped erewhile Hadrian’s warm hands,
That now found them but cold
O hair bound erstwhile with the pressing bands
O eyes too diffidently bold
O bare female male-body like
A god that dawns into humanity
O lips whose opening redness erst could strike
Lust’s seats with a soiled art’s variety
O fingers skilled in things not to be named
O tongue which, counter-tongued, the throbbed brows flamed
O glory of a wrong lust pillowed on
Raged consciousness’s spilled suspension
Antinous, by Fernando Pessoa
Ah, the inscrutable Bithynian! If we knew what he knew we should understand the ancient world.
Who would not fall in love with such a youth?
Antinous was born in November, around the year 111, in a Grecian city. His early years passed much without comment, although he did not have many early years before Hadrian first saw him in 123. It was acceptable in Rome to take male lovers, provided that they were not freeborn Roman men, and it was likely with that purpose in mind that Hadrian requested Antinous be brought to Italy for education. The opportunity to be Roman-educated and live in the greatest city in the Empire was too good to pass up, and Antinous’s parents, wanting the best for their son, sent him there.
Over the next three years, Antinous was taught Latin and Roman culture and was likewise informed of what his role was going to be. Once he was reintroduced to Hadrian, the emperor was smitten.
Antinous had grown up a little, from a nearly immature boy into a teenager, and he was beautiful. More than that, he was as intelligent a companion as anyone could want, and early historical sources make it clear that he was extremely skilled and desirable sexually. Hadrian did not just take Antinous as a bedfellow, but fell in love with him.
Antinous did not reciprocate. Throughout the first year they were together, he demanded to be let go (for although Antinous was not by name a slave, it was clear the position he occupied was one below that of a real Roman citizen–no Roman citizen would be openly used as Antinous was used). As time went on, Antinous became used to his place and to Hadrian’s misplaced devotion. He never used his obvious influence over Hadrian for personal gain, and tried to counsel the emperor as best as he could. Hadrian became afflicted with an illness in 127, and Antinous tried to soothe him.
Hadrian was devoted enough to the youth to have Antinous accompany him on his travels. They went to Athens, where both of them were initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. Both of them saw or felt the specter of immortality there: in the psychoactive drink they were given, and in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea.
From Athens, they moved to Asia Minor, where they lived for a year. After that, they went on a tour of Egypt. Antinous accompanied Hadrian when he went hunting, and he accompanied Hadrian when the imperial retinue traveled down the Nile on boats, in the year 130.
It was there in the Nile that Antinous drowned.
Hadrian was besides himself in grief. After Antinous’s body was discovered, he was brought to an Egyptian temple, and there Hadrian proposed deifying him. It was common practice to deify the Emperor and the Emperor’s spouse–though Hadrian was married to a woman, he had no children with her and it was commonly known that Antinous was more of a spouse to him than his wife Sabina. Antinous’s death deep in the Nile was similar to the drowning of the god Osiris, and so the Egyptian priests agreed, casting Antinous in a similar death-god role.
That would have been the end of it, because emperors and their wives were deified very often and few truly worshiped. But the cult of Antinous caught on. He was worshiped in Rome as just Antinous, in Egypt as Antinous-Osiris, and in Greece as an aspect of Hermes.
And so it was that Antinous woke up as a god and was flung out into the world as a psychopomp, one who collects the souls of the dead and takes them to the Underworld. He has never met any of the other gods that occupy the same pantheon as him; indeed he has never met whoever controls where he goes and how long he will stay there performing his duties. The world is very confusing to him now. When he is upset or angered, his skin loses its godly pale glow and turns pallid, blueish, and cold, and once more Antinous looks as he did under the Nile.
Antinous is very gentle and sympathetic towards others. Although later authors, particularly Christian ones, would describe him as shameful and sordid, he is remarkably sweet, although often sensual. He mimics Hadrian’s beliefs on many topics, including the role of government in the military and how an Empire should be run. When he speaks, it is either in untranslated Latin or in Ancient Greek, his birth language, which appears to the ears of everyone as their own native language. Like most lost things, he is frightened of the confusing world around him, and he hates conflict. He was never taught how to fight, although he can hunt with remarkable ability.
He loves the water.
I’m feeling devious
You’re looking glamorous
Let’s get mischievious
Wine and women and wonderful vices
Welcome to the cult of Dionysus
The main run of Antinous’s backstory is all the stories prefaced by AD __. They may be out of order on the timeline, as I have gone back and added more.
A secondary backstory collection, Four Loves, focuses on scenes from Hadrian’s perspective. They all occur when Antinous is between the ages of eighteen and nineteen. Their titles are Storge, Eros, Philia, and Agape.
- Romantic Interests
Antinous spent a quarter of his life as the beloved of the Emperor Hadrian, and during that time he developed a strange sort of affection for him. But although Antinous is in fact as homosexual as the Emperor was, and only interested in other men, that affection was not love.
- My Appearance
If you’ve ever seen any marble statue of a beautiful young man, it’s Antinous. Even if it says it’s not, it is. They all started with him.
He has pale skin. It faintly glows after his deification, unless he becomes upset or distressed. He has masses of curled bronze hair and hazel eyes. He is unintentionally sensual, particularly in the curve of his mouth and his often downturned and sweetly pained face. Antinous wears muscle on him, but it is latent and hidden behind his youth.