Handsome Emperor Hadrian
Hadrian married in about AD 100, but there is not much written about the life of his wife and empress, Vibia Sabina. Sabina's image was put on the official coin and there are many statues of her. However, ancient sources, (pre National Enquirer and Daily Mail ), tell us that Hadrian formed a homosexual relationship with a young Greek male named Antinous. They enjoyed Imperial art, literature and hunting together, among other things.
Homosexual relationships were not considered unusual in ancient Rome. A Roman man was free to choose sexual partners of either gender and there is no word for homosexuality in Latin. As long as he remained the active partner in any sexual encounter, his masculinity was not in question.
( I wonder who was in charge of enforcing this ?)
Romans believed that men should always be dominant, both socially and sexually.
(Sounds good to me )
Hadrian visited Egypt in AD 130 along with the imperial entourage, including his wife and Antinous. (Probably not his smartest move)
They embarked on a voyage up the River Nile and on October 24 Antinous drowned in the river. Although Hadrian maintained Antinous’ death was an accident, malicious rumours soon spread. Some thought he had committed suicide or that he had been sacrificed. Others claimed Antinous sacrificed himself to prolong the life of the emperor.
( Did anyone suspect the wife ? )
Hadrian was profoundly affected by Antinous’ death and mourned him greatly. He founded a new city on the banks of the Nile and named it Antinoopolis. There he built a large temple and set up a festival in Antinous’ memory. (Similar to Burning Man)
Other Greek cities began to establish their own cults and festivals in honour of Antinous, who wished to express their loyalty to Rome and to Hadrian.
The early Christians, struggling at that time to win converts to their new religion, were dismayed and enraged at the deification of Antinous.
Records and artifacts show that for centuries the likeness of Antinous was worn as a talisman against evil, kept as a bust in homes and businesses, and worshipped publicly throughout the Mediterranean world. (The fact that he was very handsome made it a popular item indeed )
It was not until the rise of Christianity, three hundred years later, that the worship of Antinous was extinguished through vigorous persecution by the Church.
Today, rows of broken and scavenged marble columns in a desert waste mark the site where the city of Antinoopolis once bustled alongside the Nile; the magnificent busts of Antinous went long ago, cooked for fuel in the coke ovens. There remain now fewer than two hundred busts and statues carved in the image of Hadrian's beloved. (This is no longer a stop on cruise ships)
In his short life, Antinous became the first historical person to be declared a god because of his homosexuality, for whom a religion was declared and implemented, which lasted for several hundred years.
Hadrian died at the age of 62 of heart failure, literally and figuratively. He never got over the loss of his love, Antinous. Death came to Hadrian slowly and painfully. He wrote a letter in which he said how terrible it was to long for death and yet be unable to find it.
Hadrian's young lover, Antinous