Hadrian and Antinous: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.Posted: March 20, 2011
Emperor Hadrian was one of the most influential leaders of ancient Rome across political, cultural and military spectra. He was also a big gay. But before we talk about his exciting, half-a-decade-long sex scandal (that, ok, I’ll admit it, wasn’t really that scandalous), let’s talk about why he was one of history’s best gays.
He was enormously successful in expanding the Roman Empire through his military prowess. He was a Grecophile, and was not ashamed to learn from Greek cultural achievements and use them to strengthen his own empire. He is most remembered for his architectural and artistic contributions to Roman culture.
He was the adoptive son of Emperor Trajan and was pegged as his heir from a young age. The two apparently had nothing in common, except a love of young boys. It is speculated by some that Hadrian and Trajan may have been lovers, but that’s probably bull. Regardless, they were both into dudes.
But Hadrian had to get married, because that’s what people who are being groomed for emperor have to do. So naturally, Trajan picked a 13 year old girl named Sabina. I know what you’re all thinking, 13 years old, not too young for marriage in AD 100 something. Well guess again. That was still pretty weird. Even for the Romans. So they got married. And shocker! They didn’t like each other. Probably because Hadrian was gay and Sabina was too busy chatting on AIM with her girlfriends and painting her nails to pay attention to him. Needless to say, they didn’t do much boning.
And why would they when Hadrian had his dreamy favorite, the young, Greek boy Antinous to do. Antinous was in training to become some sort of civil servant/fancy slave boy when he instantly caught Hadrian’s eye and he remained his favorite (lay) for at least 5 years.
This was a looong time in gay years.
See, Hadrian subscribed to many Greek cultural ideologies. And the Greeks believed that love between a man and a boy was the purest kind of love there is. (Women had cooties.) But as soon as the boy started to look like a man, it was time to get the hell outa dodge and as soon as the man started getting old, it was definitely time to call it quits. But Hadrian was with Antinous when he was middle aged, so maybe it wasn’t just about being Greek-ish for Hadrian. Maybe he really loved the guy.
But let’s not get all emotional and crap. Because shit’s about to get real. While sailing down the Nile during some sort of seasonal festival, Antinous drowned under mysterious as shit circumstances. He is rumored to have been the victim of a murderous court plot by bitches who were jealous of his relationship with the emperor. It is also possible that he committed suicide as a sacrifice to the gods.
Hadrian was pretty upset about the whole thing. And who wouldn’t be? Have you seen a picture of this guy? He was a tooootal babe! Actually you probably have seen a sculpture of him because there are more statues of him in existence than, get this, ANYONE in antiquity. Hadrian had Antinous deified after his death and then started cranking out sculptures of his ass like he was Jupiter or something.
Like too many of our stories, this one also ends sadly. I suppose it is quite a shame that Antinous had to die such a tragic death in order that we might enjoy his finely sculpted (literally) body in centuries to come. But as you can tell by our photo captions, we’re not too upset about it.