Thursday, February 14, 2008
It's 10 am and so far I've gotten two pop-up Valentines that Fritz made himself and a Blue Mountain musical e-Valentine from him, sung by the animated Love Bugs. With all this lovely attention, it's an pleasure that the day has dawned with a virtually cloudless clear deep blue sky and brilliant sun. I needed this day very much as the combination of gloom, slush and cold was finally beginning to get to me.
Today I hope you get some sweets or other goodies from the men in your lives.
Today I wish you love and happiness.
Today I’m going to celebrate the legendary love of one man for another. Hadrian, one of Rome’s finest and most effective Emperors, spent much of his reign visiting far-flung places in the Empire on journeys away from the capital that took years at a time.
At Bithynia in Asia-Minor (modern day Turkey) in the year 127, he stayed with the local king and was struck by the spirit and beauty of Antinoos, a young man in his teens attached to the court.
When Hadrian’s journey resumed, Antinoos went along as part of Hadrian’s inner circle. Empress Faustina was apparently not thrilled, but when your husband’s Emperor there’s not a hell of a lot you can do.
Hadrian’s love only deepened over the years until, on a fateful visit to Egypt in the fall of 130, Antinoos drowned in the Nile. He was 19 years old.
The death may have been completely accidental but some scholars are convinced that Antinoos purposely went into waters from which he could not get back safely, the idea being to give his life to the gods to protect Hadrian who was dealing with massive crop failures and famine in Egypt.
Hadrian was devastated. He immediately ordered the construction of a memorial city, Antinoopolis, in Egypt. When he returned to Rome he prevailed upon the Senate to declare Antinoos a god (he certainly seems to have resembled one and his personal looks, which differed from the classical ideal, influenced depiction of the male form in art for centuries afterward).
Temples were put up to honor the Emperor’s lover. Full length statues and busts of him flooded the Empire. In many of them, Antinoos was portrayed as Hercules, Dionysos, or as Ganymede, the beautiful boy who was the god Jupiter’s young lover.
At Tivoli, the massive estate outside of Rome that Hadrian designed and had built as a retreat in his later years, several buildings were constructed to honor Antinoos and allow the bereaved emperor more closely to recapture his lover’s memory.
Architectural historians have analyzed the plans and seen strongly erotic symbolism and iconography in these structures.
Many have water that is seen to be symbolic of the Nile central to their design, running through them, or running around parts of them.
Hadrian outlived Antinoos by eight years during which he attempted to have himself killed or attempted suicide several times. He finally succeeded in joining his young lover in 138 after having established the cult of the god Antinoos securely throughout the Roman Empire. After his death, the Roman Senate declared Hadrian a god, guaranteeing that the two men would be together for eternity.
The love story and the young man who inspired it were so popular in the Empire that those who had a special devotion to Antinoos were among the very last Romans to convert to Christianity.
Interestingly the Popes, who seem to have developed an interest in homoerotic images of beautiful young men rather early in the game, acquired a huge collection of statues and busts of Antinoos for the Vatican Museum over the centuries, possibly the largest collection of Antinoos statuary in any museum in the world.
Doug--I have the Yourcenar book in my "To be read" pile and I'm very much looking forward to it. I read a very readable history of Hadrian's life, "Hadrian: The Restless Emperor" some while ago that has a detailed account of his love for Antinoos.
That was, however, a great story. I'm glad you had such a good Valentine's Day.
I saw your comment on another blog, lamenting the downfall of WCRB here in Boston. Please, tune to 95.3, classical music begins at 1:00 every day, they broadcast the Metropolitan Opera on Saturdays, and on Sunday nights at 8:00, they produce their own Opera program. And, let's not forget the orgies.
I'm delighted you found me--please don't be a stranger here.