The Love Affair of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and the Handsome Antinous

The Love Affair of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and the Handsome Antinous


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Not much was known of the young Antinous before he attracted the attention of the ruler of the Roman world at its zenith. He was born in 111 AD in the Roman province of Bithynia, which would include the Asian side of Istanbul and surrounds, in modern Turkey. He was very likely not from a wealthy family - in fact, he was even said to have been a slave. However, because of his mysterious bond with Roman Emperor Hadrian, by the end of his short life, Antinous was a house-hold name all over the Roman Empire.

Bust of Hadrian probably from Rome, Italy AD 117 – 138. Bust of Antinous From Rome, Italy AD 130-140. The presence of an ivy wreath in this portrait links Antinous to the god Dionysus, the closest Greek equivalent to the Egyptian god Osiris. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Antinous was deified upon his death and worshipped as a hero, a god and a conqueror of death - a city was founded in his name and games were held to commemorate him. More images have been identified of Antinous than of any other figure in classical antiquity with the exceptions of Augustus and Hadrian himself. However, despite his fame, we knew very little about him apart from his relationship with Hadrian.

The Roman Empire in AD 117. The western Asia Minor Senatorial province of "Bithynia and Pontus" is shown in pink, in present day Turkey. (Public Domain)

Friends or Lovers? The Emperor and the Youth

After being made emperor 117 AD, Hadrian inherited a Roman Empire which had thrived on a policy of endless expansion and conquest. Although his politically arranged marriage to Vibia Sabina, the great-niece of the childless former emperor Trajan, would have played a role in laying the groundwork for his own succession, Hadrian also proved to be an able and popular administrator to the Empire. He spent 12 out of the 21 years of his reign traveling all over the empire to visit the provinces, oversee the administration and check his armies’ discipline. He was said to have been so devoted to the army that he would sleep and eat among the common soldiers. Therefore, although his regime is marked by relative peace, Hadrian is commonly depicted in military attire.

Bust of Vibia Sabina, Roman, about A.D. 140, marble Getty Center, Los Angeles, California (Pubic Domain)

In 123 AD, Hadrian’s travels took him to Bithynia, where he possibly encountered Antinous for the first time. The handsome, exotic boy quickly became his favorite and was soon admitted into the Imperial court.


Hadrian & Antinous an ancient queer love story.

According to some modern historians accounts, history was aggressively straight. The reality is far from that, and one of the most commonly documented examples of queerness in the ancient world is that of Emperor Hadrian.

It’s always been a mystery to me how the story of Hadrian’s life can be straight-washed quite so much as it has been, when his adoration for one man in particular was such a crucial and apparent aspect of his life. Emperor Hadrian spent a great deal time during his reign touring his Empire, and arrived in Claudiopolis in June 123, which was probably when he first encountered Antinous – a young Greek boy from a peasant family, described as possessing extraordinary beauty.

The two formed a deep bond, and it was at some point over the following three years that Antinous became his personal favourite companion, for by the time he left for Greece, he brought the man with him in his close inner circle. He made no secret of the fact that there was a sexual relationship between them, and society could accept this so long as Hadrian still showed a vested interest in women, as he was required to produce an heir. To be seen as completely homosexual might have been entirely inconsequential had he not been a man of such power and responsibility, but in his position he couldn’t scream his love from the rooftops if he wanted to avoid a scandal. Their relationship had to appear emotionally uninvolved, but sources show that this didn’t exactly go to plan.

Historian Lambert is quoted as saying that “the way that Hadrian took the boy on his travels, kept close to him at moments of spiritual, moral or physical exaltation, and, after his death, surrounded himself with his images, shows an obsessive craving for his presence, a mystical-religious need for his companionship.”

Hadrian may have struggled immensely not to appear emotionally invested in his lover. He praised Antinous as being intelligent and wise beyond his years, and they had several shared passions including hunting and literature. Although none survive, it is known that Hadrian wrote erotic poetry featuring Antinous as the subject of his affections, and that in spite of their relationship providing Antinous with an uplifted position within society, there is no evidence that he ever used his apparent influence over Hadrian for personal or political gain. Lambert described Antinous as “the one person who seems to have connected most profoundly with Hadrian” throughout his life, leading many to presume that he was infact the love of his life, in place of his wife. Hadrian’s marriage to Sabina was unhappy, and there is no reliable evidence that he ever expressed a sexual attraction for her or for any woman, in contrast to much reliable evidence that he was sexually attracted to men.

Tragically, though, Antinous died young, at around 18 or 20, and his cause of death has been subject to much speculation. Most commonly believed is that he fell from a boat and drowned while on his travels with the emperor, although this may not have been accidental. An advisor of Hadrian may have pushed him overboard to protect the emperors reputation, as their love was becoming too public despite his marriage to Sabina. Alternatively, Antinous may have jumped himself in an act of sacrifice, out of an ancient belief that the death of one person could prolong the life of another. However it happened, what followed was decidedly not the reaction of a man grieving a friend or a servant. Hadrian commissioned an estimated 4000 sculptures depicting his ill-fated partner and raised Antinous to the status of a god, founding an organised cult devoted to his worship which soon spread throughout the Empire. He named a city after him, Antinopolos – and to this day throughout Italy his image is everywhere, and he is still seen as a picture of the ideal male beauty standard. Although, many of the temples and statues were destroyed when the empire converted to Christianity in an attempt to cover up the scandalous affair, at least 80 identifiable depictions of Antinous still survive in Rome.

Of course, we can’t completely romanticise Hadrian and Antinous. We have to caution the fact that there was an inherent power dynamic and a problematic age gap present in their relationship, but while considering their story this should be regarded with a pinch of salt. Today we naturally consider this kind of relationship to be morally wrong, but we cannot prescribe our morals to the ancient world without regarding the vast majority of our ancestors as morally bankrupt. While unacceptable today, we must place them in their own socio-political context and without justifying it in our own society, treat the story with forgiveness and understanding by their standards.

To the modern reader it’s apparent that their relationship was not a friendship, nor a homosexual relationship based purely on lust. They were likely very much in love and this was not a one sided, controlling obsession as seen in the story of Sporus and Nero their romance appears to have been reciprocal and – contextually – purehearted. Yet the christianisation of the Roman Empire instigated a surpression of previously existing Liberal attitudes towards queerness, depicting Hadrian by his traditionally hyper-masculine attributes of strength and fighting prowess, creating an image of an emperor who was well loved because he was a warrior and a conquerer and little more than that. The ‘flowery stuff’ could be left behind to preserve this image. I however prefer to see Hadrian as what most men are, after reading of his romance with Antinous complex. Yes, he was a fighter, but he was also a lover. A man who wrote poetry for the boy he adored, and who grieved him with heaven-splitting passion.

Denying gay history creates countless issues, but the most apparent of these in my eyes is that it is erasing the evidence of man’s true nature as not a collection of hyper-masculine ideals and archetypes, but something altogether different. Masculinity doesn’t have to be the hetero-normative stereotype of brutality, dominance and stoicism. Many of the men our ancestors revered as their emperors – as the epitome of masculinity – were so much more than this. There was a human being beyond the stoic marble statues that we see to this day, and queerness has always been a facet of human nature. Not something new and not something unnatural.

Nobody’s love deserves to be repressed, and so we shouldn’t allow same sex love to be painted over in the pages of history, either.


Antinous 2.0: The New Face of an Old Favorite

Like many classical stories, this one starts with love and tragedy.

By <a href="https://www.artic.edu/authors/45/elizabeth-benge">Elizabeth Benge</a>

Related

The name Antinous, so important in ancient times, may not be familiar to most people today. We have sparse information about this ancient youth, but we know he was from Bithynia, a northern region of modern Turkey. Most importantly, we know he was the lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian (reigned 117–138 CE), and that in 130 CE, he drowned in the Nile River under mysterious circumstances. After his death, Hadrian not only commissioned numerous statues of Antinous but founded a city in his name, Antinoupolis in Egypt. He even created a cult in his lover’s honor.

Ancient works depicting Antinous depict him as a particularly handsome young man, with a characteristic oval face, smooth complexion, deep-set eyes, full lips, and distinctive hairstyle of thick, wavy locks. Because of the relatively uniform nature of Antinous sculptures, scholars can fairly easily identify his portraits—even when they are missing the original face.

Left: Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous, mid-2nd century CE. Roman. Gift of Mrs. Charles L. Hutchinson. Right: Bust of Antinous, mid-2nd century CE. Roman, with 18th-century restorations. Museo Nazionale Romano, Palazzo Altemps, Rome, 8620. Archivio Fotografico SS-Col, num. 589475. Photo by Stefano Castellani.

In 1756, during a visit to the Boncompagni Ludovisi collection in Rome, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, dubbed the “father of art history,” saw a bust of Antinous and noted that it had a “new face.” The original ancient Roman face had been broken off at some unknown time, perhaps by a conquering army who knocked over the statue while invading Rome, leaving its parts scattered around the city’s ruins for centuries. In the mid-18th century, the statue received a baroque-style portrait. So what happened to the original ancient face?

It turns out that the “old face” has been in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1924, when it was donated by the wife of Charles L. Hutchinson. The other part of the bust, originally in the Ludovisi collection, ended up at the Palazzo Altemps museum in Rome, where it remains today.

Jerry Podany, former senior conservator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, compares a cast of the Art Institute’s face of Antinous to the fracture line of a bust at the Palazzo Altemps Museum in Rome.

In 2005, University of Chicago Egyptologist W. Raymond Johnson recalled the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fragmentary Portrait of Antinous while viewing the bust in the Palazzo Altemps. His theory that they belonged together was the catalyst for a decades-long research project culminating in the 2016 Art Institute exhibition A Portrait of Antinous, in Two Parts. The focal point of the exhibition was a plaster cast of Antinous demonstrating how the original complete sculpture looked in antiquity.

Curator Katharine Raff discusses the legacy of Antinous and how a startling discovery led to the virtual reunification of an ancient sculpture.

Antinous 2.0

In 2018, this Antinous plaster cast was loaned to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK, for its 2018 exhibition Antinous: Boy Made God. The cast was displayed next to a plaster reproduction of a bust of Antinous, the original of which was found in Syria before 1879 and is now in a private collection. This juxtaposition of the two sculptures prompted the Art Institute of Chicago’s chair and curator of ancient art at the time, Karen Manchester, to wonder if the alignment of our plaster cast interpretation could be improved.

Antinous 1.0 (left) on display next to the plaster cast of the bust of Antinous from Syria (right) in the Ashmolean Museum exhibition.

A new idea evolved: rather than replicate the Syrian bust, we would use it to inform the best angle for our own reconstruction. Non-invasive 3-D scans were taken of the Syrian bust plaster cast and compared to scans of the Art Institute of Chicago fragment, the Palazzo Altemps bust, and the original plaster cast recreation. The resulting information suggested that the position of the chest of Antinous 1.0 should be angled up slightly, which would correct the depth of the face and lift the angle of the head, allowing for what we believe is a more accurate representation of the original sculpture. It also seems to give this youth a less tragic gaze, allowing him to meet the eyes of visitors. As with the earlier cast, production of this new Antinous plaster cast also took place in Rome, Italy.

Antinous 2.0 in production at the plaster cast workshop in Rome, Italy, Antinous 1.0 in the background.

The new plaster cast of Antinous is now on display in Gallery 152, next to the original Fragment of a Portrait Head of Antinous and a Portrait Head of Hadrian. An interactive feature on the website and in the gallery is available to help visitors understand more about the past and present of these related artworks.

—Elizabeth Hahn Benge, collection manager of arts of Africa and arts of the Ancient Mediterranean and Byzantium


Мы не просто торговая площадка для необычных вещей, мы сообщество людей, которые заботятся о малом бизнесе, людях и нашей планете.

Мы не просто торговая площадка для необычных вещей, мы сообщество людей, которые заботятся о малом бизнесе, людях и нашей планете.

Details:
Approximately
Condition: New, handmade in Greece.
Diameter: 2.6cm - 1.02 inches
Weight: 12g(+-0.5)
Material: Sterling Silver 925
Hadrian and Antinous: An Ancient Love Story
There’s a Roman love story between Emperor Hadrian and his Greek sex servant, Antinous, that is so fantastic, it’s almost impossible to believe. It’s a tragic tale of immense love, scandal, sacrifice, and mystery. The scandal was not really about two men having sex it was about two men having very real feelings for each other.
We don’t know a lot about Hadrian for certain. Many of the sources documenting his legend are considered unreliable. As Antinous was a lowly Greek servant, even less of his story is written with any complete certainty. We do know that Antinous was Greek and exceptionally beautiful. Hadrian fell madly in love with him and made no secret of his affections for the young beauty.
For a Roman Emperor to take a male lover was not a huge deal. It was OK under certain guidelines, as long as Hadrian appeared to be the ‘Top’ and there was no real emotion involved, the rest of Roman society could tolerate the affair. Also as long as the sex object was a foreigner, as Antinous the Greek was, then it became even easier to accept. Foreigners were like animals, simply not as important as Romans and thus suitable human sex toys.
The love affair endured for years – Hadrian brought his boyfriend to state dinners and royal ceremonies. They also toured the empire together and were banging each other’s brains out from Britain to Byzantium.
Hadrian was married to a woman and was expected to father an heir to the Roman throne. Failing to produce a son was one of the biggest mistakes of Hadrian’s career. Not getting his wife pregnant let the whole empire down and fanned the flames of gossip about him possibly being a complete homosexual – scandalous.
Hadrian was really very talented at keeping the empire together and spent so little time in Rome that he managed to escape any real consequences for his fabulous love life. The empire basically turned a blind eye to the gay activity, as Hadrian was so good at being an absolute boss.
Mysterious Death
In the year 130 AD, yes about 1900 years ago, Hadrian and Antinous were sailing on the river Nile. Antinous fell into the water and drowned. There are several theories as to how this happened. He may have thrown himself into the water to end the relationship that could have ruined his beloved Hadrian’s reputation. The longer the affair lasted, the greater the risk of being remembered as a homosexual rather than a great Emperor. It could have been that Antinous was drowned on purpose to try and prolong Hadrian’s life. It was believed that human sacrifice could extend the life of another. It could also have just been a simple case of murder on the Nile for reasons forgotten or unknown.
In Memory of My Lover
We do know that Hadrian’s reaction to the death of his boyfriend was nothing short of absolutely epic. He founded a city close to where the man died and named it Antinopolis in his memory. He decided Antinous could now be worshiped as a god and built temples to his memory across the empire, commissioning up to 2000 statues of his beautiful deceased lover.
Hadrian hired Greek sculptors to recreate the stunning beauty of his departed sweetheart. The statues of Antinous all shared similar characteristics such as a broad swelling chest, a head of Grecian curls and his face always turned down, making them very easy to identify. When the Roman Empire converted to Christianity, most of these temples were destroyed, and many of the beautiful statues disappeared. At least 80 survive today, many of them in the Vatican museum
Hadrian was a man very much ahead of his time. Before his leadership, Roman Emperors were expected to be clean shaven. Hadrian preferred a full bristling beard and made the beard so fashionable that each emperor after him also had one. The original hipster was a Roman. He also was a fan of fake news and alternative facts. He forged his own adoption papers to become Emperor in the first place, and spread prophecies of his greatness as if they were facts. He essentially invented history as he wanted it to be, rather than being concerned with irrefutable facts and actual events. He also managed to build a wall in Northern England to keep the violent and barbarous Celts out of the peaceful and elegant Roman Empire. Uncanny, how history can repeat itself.
So Hadrian made his boyfriend into a god.


Hadrian and Antinous

Hadrian, who ruled over the Roman Empire from AD117 to 138, was hardly the first &ndash or indeed the last &ndash emperor to take a male lover. In fact, it was relatively commonplace for the elite of ancient Roman society to enjoy sexual relations with male slaves while also having a wife and family. What made Hadrian unique, however, was the intensity of his relationship with Antinous, a slave of Greek origin who would be his partner, and in many ways his equal, for decades.

Very little is known about the early life of Antinous &ndash hardly surprising given his lowly origins. However, once he caught the eye of the Emperor, he became one of the best-known figures in the whole of the vast Empire. The couple were regularly seen together, including at affairs of the state, much to the disapproval of certain elements of the Roman elite. What&rsquos more, while most Emperors chose to leave their loved ones in Rome as they traveled the world inspecting the Empire over which they ruled, Hadrian broke with tradition and had Antinous accompany him across large swathes of Europe, Asia and northern Africa. So, while Hadrian was indeed married to a woman from a good Roman family, there was little doubt about the nature of his relationship with Antinous, which is what makes the ending of the love story even more tragic.

In the year 130, the happy couple were sailing along the River Nile in Egypt when Antinous fell in and drowned. Quite how this happened has been the source of much debate over the centuries: was it simply a tragic accident, or was he murdered to save the Emperor&rsquos reputation, or did he even kill himself to ensure his lover would go down in history as a ruler and statesman rather than being remembered for his sexuality?

What isn&rsquot in doubt is how much the tragedy shook Hadrian. In his grief, the Emperor established a city, named Antinopolis, close to the site of his lover&rsquos demise, and he even decreed that Antinous be worshiped as a god in temples across the Empire. Even though such religious reverence was first frowned upon and then banned by latter Emperors, most notably by Christian rulers, to this day, dozens of the statues Hadrian ordered made to honor his partner survive, an enduring testament to their love.

Hadrian, whose unhappy marriage endued to his death, was to remain childless, a situation which ensured a complicated transition of power when his end came. He is regarded as one of the ‘Five Good Emperors of Rome&rsquo and, while undoubtedly guilty of harsh feats of tyranny and even cruelty, is also remembered for being one of the era&rsquos most loving rulers, not least thanks to the closeness of his deep and passionate relationship with his beloved Antinous.


The unexplained death of Antinous

While the two were sailing on the Nile, a severe incident occurred: for reasons unknown, Antinous fell into the river and drowned. There are several theories about his untimely death. Although an accident cannot be excluded, other theories are conceivable and perhaps even more comprehensible. The idea that Antinous sacrificed himself to heal Hadrian’s unknown illness seems far-fetched. It is also unlikely that Antinous drowned himself to not endanger his beloved’s reputation as a great emperor. From today’s perspective, it is more likely that Antinous fell victim to an insidious conspiracy concocted by the court’s highest circles.


Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous

This book appears to cover everything there is to cover about the relationship of the Roman emperor Hadrian and his early-deceased, then immortalized, young male companion (probably lover) Antinous. While virtually everything is in doubt author Lambert does adduce a series of plausible hypotheses regarding the nature of their relationship and the circumstances of the youngster&aposs death. In addition, the text pays a great deal of attention to the many and varied artistic representations of Antinou This book appears to cover everything there is to cover about the relationship of the Roman emperor Hadrian and his early-deceased, then immortalized, young male companion (probably lover) Antinous. While virtually everything is in doubt author Lambert does adduce a series of plausible hypotheses regarding the nature of their relationship and the circumstances of the youngster's death. In addition, the text pays a great deal of attention to the many and varied artistic representations of Antinous.

I found the lengthy discussions of art, mostly sculptural, to be rather boring and suspiciously subjective. Lambert reads a heck of a lot into the pieces, aspects of meaning that often were not suggested to me at all by the photographic plates provided for some of the items. Other aspects of the book were of much greater interest.

Most interesting, and very well done, was Lambert's succinct treatment of pederasty in the classical world. Not only does he manage to make sense of it, he also fairly distinguishes between its practice and social roles in Greek and in Roman cultures. Unlike some other treatments, his is sympathetic.


The most beautiful boy in the Roman empire

&lsquoAh! This is the inscrutable Bithynian!&rsquo So Tennyson exclaimed when he caught sight of a bust of Antinous while strolling through the British Museum with a young Edmund Gosse, who recorded the episode in Portraits and Sketches (1912). Staring into the eyes of the boy-favourite of Emperor Hadrian, the poet said, &lsquoIf we knew what he knew, we should understand the ancient world.&rsquo Among the 88 sculptures of Antinous that survive from the second century AD &ndash as many as remain of imperial wives and princesses of the time &ndash and the countless modern imitations, the youth emerges as modest yet sensual, godlike yet distinctly fleshly. The inscrutable Bithynian, indeed.

Walking through &lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo, a small but substantial cross-section of this tradition currently on display at the Ashmolean, one could be excused for confusing one of the 20 representations of the boy with any handsome Greek athlete or god. As the show&rsquos subtitle suggests, the confusion is telling, since after his mysterious death in the river Nile in 130, at the age of about 19, Antinous was honoured as a hero and then worshipped as a god in some parts of the Roman world until as late as the fifth century in a cult that, to some nervous early Christians (such as Origen of Alexandria), rivalled the nascent cult of Christ. But there&rsquos something distinct about the Antinous &lsquotype&rsquo, the official portrait commissioned by Hadrian after his favourite&rsquos death &ndash something that, once the memory of the homosexual relationship between Antinous and Hadrian faded, drove Renaissance collectors crazy, made Grand Tourists open their pocketbooks, and inspired Winckelmann to dub a portrait of Antinous &lsquothe glory and crown of the art of the age, as well as any other&rsquo.

(Left) Bust of Antinous, discovered in Balanea, Syria, in 1879, before it was restored. (Right) The bust restored.

The centrepiece of the show is the Syrian bust of Antinous (c. 130&ndash138), one of the best surviving examples of the type and the only one bearing an original identifying inscription. Slightly greater than life-sized, the boy (technically not yet a man &ndash a distinction, as the catalogue notes, having to do with the absence of pubic hair) modestly averts his gaze. With his long, straight nose, gently touching lips, and elegant chin, he looks like Hermes, or Apollo, or a young Dionysus, and indeed was portrayed as all three in various sculptures&mdashwhat R.R.R. Smith in the catalogue calls &lsquoequivocations&rsquo of the type. Standing close to this bust, which is mounted about eye-level, it is not hard to imagine, as Oscar Wilde put it in his poem &lsquoThe Sphinx&rsquo, the &lsquoivory body of that rare young slave with / his pomegranate mouth&rsquo.

Antinous is always on the verge of unrecognisability, hovering between equivocations, between particular and idealised forms. The object of Winckelmann&rsquos hyperbole &ndash the so-called Albani Antinous &ndash is the most idealised of all, and doubly idealised in the ghostly white resin cast displayed in the Ashmolean show. It shows the boy in profile, wearing a laurel and grasping another in his left hand his right emerges from the relief, loosely open, as if holding the reins of a chariot. Winckelmann fantasised that he was driving out of this world to his apotheosis &ndash an allegory of the power of art to elevate the human to the divine.

Cast of a relief depicting Antinous at the Villa Albani, Tivoli. Ashmolean Oxford

Yet even from the small collection assembled at the Ashmolean &ndash a rare and satisfying opportunity to study the representation of a single figure in depth &ndash one develops a strong sense of Antinous&rsquos face, his neck, and, particularly, his hair. All versions, regardless of size or costume, share the same rustic, characteristically &lsquoEastern&rsquo mane. This unusual coiffure is a key criterion used to identify his image on ancient coins, and was faithfully imitated in the Renaissance, notably by Giovanni da Cavino, who recreated Corinthian Antinous coins in the 16th century, two of which are on display. Even in a massive resin replica of a statue at Hadrian&rsquos villa at Tivoli, Antinous, clothed in traditional Egyptian garb and posed with one foot forward like a Pharoah, retains his particular boyish charm, distinctly different from a bracingly lifelike marble head of Germanicus, the designated successor to Tiberius, who died in 19 AD and was honoured across the empire much as Antinous was a century later. (The bust of Germanicus on display and another of Hadrian feel like a pair of interlopers in a room dominated by a single face.) Part of what it meant to be made a god, it seems, was to be able to take on any form, chameleon-like, while preserving an identity that transcends style, art form, or &ndash as the exhibit, which is largely composed of casts shows &ndash material.

(Left) Antinous coin from Smyrna (AD 134&ndash35) (right) Antinous Marlborough gem (1760&ndash70), Edward Burch Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (both)

&lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo ends, in chronological terms, in the 18th century. The show seems to invite us to look with a museum-going gaze, presenting us with a rich visual tradition. Twenty Antinouses look at us like so many butterflies, encased in glass, abstracted from the social world in which they were produced. In doing so the show sidesteps an aspect of these and other classical sculptures that, in the 21st century, we can&rsquot help but confront: the erotic objectification of a boy. It&rsquos an uncomfortable question. When looking at Antinous&rsquos naked body, and over at the bust of Hadrian (gazing at his favourite from across the room), we simply must consider the implications of art that memorialises, and allows us in some way to participate in, a sexual relationship between the world&rsquos most powerful man and a boy (who was in some traditions a slave). This domination of the powerless by the powerful, of beardless Antinous by bearded Hadrian, has given many a certain frisson now, it provokes a certain disgust.

But on this question &ndash and on the (homo)erotics of classical art more generally &ndash the wall texts and catalogue remain silent, a legacy, perhaps, of the archaeological approach to ancient art that foregrounds issues of geographical diffusion and authentication rather than matters of interpretation and reception. If we pick up where &lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo leaves off and turn to the moderns &ndash and other art forms &ndash we get a much fuller picture of the Antinous tradition: we read Wilde&rsquos sensuous verses, Fernando Pessoa&rsquos sexually explicit elegy, Marguerite Yourcenar&rsquos novel Memoirs of Hadrian &ndash in which a middle-aged emperor recalls being rejuvenated by his love for Antinous, and even Rufus Wainwright&rsquos new opera Hadrian in which the Emperor has sex with his boy lover on stage. If ancient sculptors and their early modern imitators transformed Antinous from boy to god, these latter-day artists make him a boy once more and urge us to see these perfect white statues as monuments to something altogether more human, more worldly &ndash and more sinister &ndash than &lsquothe glory and crown of the art of the age&rsquo.

Installation view of a cast of the Townley Antinous, cast of a portrait bust of Hadrian and the Elgin Germanicus, at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford in 2018.

&lsquoAntinous: Boy Made God&rsquo is at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford until 24 February.


Daniel Arzola’s Artwork Takes You On A Stunning Tour Through Queer History

Venezuelan artist Daniel Arzola’s artwork is a form of activism he calls “artivism,” and he counts celebrities like Madonna as fans of his work. In 2013 he created graphics for a campaign called “No Soy Tu Chiste” (“I Am Not Your Joke”), bringing awareness to his home country’s lack of LGBT rights.

For this year’s Logo Trailblazer Honors Arzola created works depicting queer figures from history. Scroll through below to see them brought to life through his beautiful illustrations.

Plato and Sappho

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato wrote poems dedicated to his male lovers. While romantic relationships between men were accepted across Greece, women taking other women as lovers was not. That didn’t stop Sapphos who was from the island of Lesbos, and wrote of same-sex desire between women. She is the reason we use the term “lesbian” today.

Hadrian and Antinous

The love affair between Roman emperor Hadrian and Antinous, someone 30 years his junior, was accepted and celebrated by Roman society. After Antinous drowned, Hadrian ordered that Antinous be worshipped as a god and erected statues of him throughout the empire.

Joan of Arc

The religious icon challenged the gender norms of her time by going against church law and choosing to present as masculine. She was seen as an equal to male soldiers and was never linked romantically to a man during her lifetime.

Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo

Renaissance artists Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo both had affairs with men and there is still a theory today that the Mona Lisa is based on the face of da Vinci’s male assistant.

The secret queer history of English royalty

Richard I, Edward II, King James I all had love affairs with men. Edward II had several male lovers, including his favorite who was publicly executed.

Walt Whitman and Albert Cashier

Before Walt Whitman was a famous poet he was a Civil War nurse who wrote about his attraction to male soldiers. Meanwhile, Albert Cashier was a Civil War soldier who was born a woman in Ireland but lived as a man when he arrived in America.

We’wha, the Two-Spirit Native American

We’wha was a Native American from the Zuni tribe in New Mexico who was born male but was regarded as a cisgender woman her entire adult life. We’wha was recognized by her tribe as Two-Spirit and was a celebrated artist who in 1886 was invited to Washington, D.C. to display her indigenous art and meet President Cleveland.

Gladys Bentley and James Baldwin

Gladys Bentley was an openly gay blues singer in the 1920s who dressed in male clothing. She ended up marrying a man as a result of the oppression from the McCarthy era. While the Harlem-born writer James Baldwin was the rare out author at that time whose novels went on to become queer literature classics.

Frida Kahlo

One of the most famous artists of the 20th century, Frida Kahlo was married to Diego Riviera but took both male and female lovers—including singer Josephine Baker.

The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis

The Mattachine Society was formed in 1955 and was one of the first gay organizations in the country while the Daughters of Bilitis—also formed in 1955, and based in San Francisco—sought to end discrimination against lesbians. Both groups paved the way for the Stonewall riots and the modern gay rights movement.

To hear Arzola talk about his work, head to Logo’s Facebook page, starting at noon on Friday, for an interview live from the Logo Trailblazer Honors red carpet.

Logo Trailblazer Honors airs Friday, June 23 at 9/8c on Logo.


The 20 Greatest Real Life Love Stories from History

In anticipation of Valentine's Day, we take a spin through history's greatest lovers&mdashstar crossed, cursed, life-long, and everything in between.

Love is a powerful emotion. Throughout history couples in love have caused wars and controversy, created masterpieces in writing, music, and art, and have captured the hearts of the public with the power of their bonds. From the allure of Cleopatra to the magnetism of the Kennedy's, these love affairs have stood as markers in history. Prepare to swoon over these love stories of the centuries.

She was another man's wife, but when Paris, the "handsome, woman-mad" prince of Troy, saw Helen, the woman whom Aphrodite proclaimed the most beautiful in the world, he had to have her. Helen and Paris ran off together, setting in motion the decade-long Trojan War. According to myth, Helen was half-divine, the daughter of Queen Leda and the God Zeus, who transformed into a swan to seduce the queen. Whether Helen actually existed, we'll never know, but her romantic part in the greatest epic of all time can never be forgotten. She will forever be "the face that launched a thousand ships."

"Brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate everyone." That was the description of Cleopatra, queen of Egypt. She could have had anything or anyone she wanted, but she fell passionately in love with the Roman General Mark Antony. As Shakespeare depicts it, their relationship was volatile ("Fool! Don't you see now that I could have poisoned you a hundred times had I been able to live without you," Cleopatra said) but after they risked all in a war on Rome and lost, they chose to die together in 30 BC. "I will be a bridegroom in my death, and run into it as to a lover's bed," said Antony. And Cleopatra followed, by clasping a poisonous asp to her breast.

We've heard of the Wall&mdashno, not that one, the 2nd Century AD one stretching across England&mdashbut what about Emperor Hadrian's heart? He lost it to Antinous (far left), an intelligent and sports-loving Greek student. The emperor displayed "an obsessive craving for his presence." The two traveled together, pursuing their love of hunting Hadrian once saved his lover's life during a lion hunt. The emperor even wrote erotic poetry. While visiting the Nile, Antinous drowned mysteriously, but some say he was murdered by those jealous of the emperor's devotion. The devastated Hadrian proclaimed Antinous a deity, ordered a city be built in his honor, and named a star after him, between the Eagle and the Zodiac.

The first Plantagenet king of England had a rich, royal wife in Eleanor of Aquitaine and mistresses galore, but the love of his life was "Fair Rosamund," also called the "Rose of the World." To conceal their affair, Henry built a love nest in the innermost recesses of a maze in his park at Woodstock. Nonetheless, the story has it that Queen Eleanor did not rest until she found the labyrinth and traced it to the center, where she uncovered her ravishing rival. The queen offered her death by blade or poison. Rosamund chose the poison. Perhaps not coincidentally, Henry kept Eleanor confined in prison for 16 years of their marriage.

Rarely has a woman served as such profound inspiration for a writer&mdashand yet he barely knew her. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri wrote passionately of Beatrice in the Divine Comedy and other poems, but only met the object of his affection twice. The first time, he was nine years old and she was eight. The second time, they were adults, and while walking on the street in Florence, Beatrice, an emerald-eyed beauty, turned and greeted Dante before continuing on her way. Beatrice died at age 24 in 1290 without Dante ever seeing her again. Nonetheless, she was "the glorious lady of my mind," he wrote, and "she is my beatitude, the destroyer of all vices and the queen of virtue, salvation."

When the Tudor king fell for a young lady-in-waiting, Anne Boleyn, who possessed eyes "black and beautiful," he was long married to a Spanish princess. But Anne refused to be a royal mistress, and the king rocked the Western world to win his divorce and make Anne queen. Ambassadors could not believe how enslaved the king was by his love for Anne. "This accursed Anne has her foot in the stirrup," complained the Spanish emissary. To comprehend the king's passion, one need only read his 16th century love letters, revealing his torment over how elusive she remained: "I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us&helliphaving been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection." (Their love affair ended when he had her beheaded.)

In 1730, a Parisian prophetess told a nine-year-old girl she would rule the heart of a king. Years later, at a masked ball, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, dressed as a domino, danced with King Louis XV, dressed as a tree. Within weeks, the delicate beauty was maîtresse-en-titre, given the title Marquise de Pompadour. "Any man would have wanted her as his mistress," said another male admirer. The couple indulged in their love of art, furniture, and porcelain, with Madame de Pompadour arranging for her jaded royal lover small dinner parties and amateur theatricals in which she would star (of course). While watching one play, Louis XV declared, "You are the most delicious woman in France," before sweeping her out of the room.

Abigail Smith married the Founding Father at age 20, gave birth to five children (including America's fifth president, John Quincy Adams), and was John Adams's confidante, political advisor, and First Lady. The more than 1,000 letters they wrote to each other offer a window into John and Abigail's mutual devotion and abiding friendship. It was more than revolutionary political ideals that kept them so united they shared a trust and abiding tenderness. Abigail wrote: "There is a tye more binding than Humanity, and stronger than Friendship . and by this chord I am not ashamed to say that I am bound, nor do I [believe] that you are wholly free from it." As for John, he wrote: "I want to hear you think, or see your Thoughts. The Conclusion of your Letter makes my Heart throb, more than a Cannonade would. You bid me burn your Letters. But I must forget you first."

When the young Romantic poet Percy Shelley met Mary Godwin, she was the teenage daughter of a famous trailblazing feminist, the long-dead Mary Wollstonecraft. The two of them shared a love of the mind&mdash"Soul meets soul on lovers' lips," he wrote&mdashbut physical desire swept them away too, consummated near the grave of Mary's mother. When they ran away to Europe, it caused a major scandal, but the couple proclaimed themselves indifferent to judgment. "It was acting in a novel, being an incarnate romance," she later said. They traveled together to visit the debauched Lord Byron, and Mary wrote Frankenstein during two weeks in Switzerland. After Percy died in a boating accident in 1822, Mary never remarried. She said having been married to a genius, she could not marry a man who wasn't one.

Elizabeth Barrett was an accomplished and respected poet in poor health (and nearly 40 years old) when Robert Browning wrote to her: "I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett," and praising their "fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought." They courted in secret because of her family's disapproval. She wrote, "I am not of a cold nature, & cannot bear to be treated coldly. When cold water is thrown upon a hot iron, the iron hisses." They married in 1846, living among fellow writers and artists for the rest of her life. When she died, it was in Robert Browning's arms.

The celebrated young poet's romance with his neighbor, Fanny Brawne, sparked what is probably his most famous poem "Bright Star", though the relationship was fraught with jealousy. Brawne was a precocious and flirtatious young woman, Keats a fiercely overzealous bard. The two clashed as often as they coalesced, but the full requisition of their love was hindered by Keats' lack of money and his illness. Bedridden by tuberculosis, which he contracted from his late brother and mother, Keats yearned in envy over his coquettish Brawne, whose frivolous nature marred her love for the young poet and subsequently aggravated his wellbeing. Though engaged to Brawne, Keats had to end the engagement in an effort to get well in Rome. He died there not long after his arrival, his romance to remain unrequited.

For nearly 40 years, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were inseparable, famous for their literary salon in Paris, which was frequented by Picasso, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and many more. When Toklas (far left) first met Stein, she wrote, "It was Gertrude Stein who held my complete attention, as she did for all the many years I knew her until her death, and all these empty ones since them. She was a golden brown presence, burned by the Tuscan sun and with a golden glint in her warm brown hair." Their love gained international fame after Stein published The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Wrote Stein, "One must dare to be happy."

The talented young Mexican painter Kahlo paid a visit to the studio of famous muralist Rivera in search of career advice. "She had unusual dignity and self-assurance and there was a strange fire in her eyes," he said. Theirs was a volatile relationship, yet Rivera knew from early on that Kahlo "was the most important fact in my life and she would continue to be until she died 27 years later." As for Kahlo, she said, "You deserve a lover who listens when you sing, who supports you when you feel shame and respects your freedom who flies with you and isn't afraid to fall. You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry."

When Edward VIII fell in love with American divorcée Wallis Simpson it was an affair shocked a nation and threw Britain's monarch into a constitutional crisis. Due to strong opposition from the church and government over their marriage, Edward chose to abdicate the throne. He famously proclaimed his love for Simpson as he addressed the nation in 1936. "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love," he said in his abdication speech. Choosing love over kingship, the Duke of Windsor spent most of his life outside the royal family as the couple married and settled in France. Note: Years later it was revealed in previously hidden German Documents that not only did Simpson and the Duke of Windsor have Nazi associations, but there were also plans for the Germans to re-install him as King after they invaded the U.K.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward met during the production of Picnic and shortly married after filming the movie The Long, Hot Summer. Unlike most on-set Hollywood romances, Newman and Woodward were happily devoted to one another for fifty years. When asked about his marriage to Woodward and infidelity, Newman was famously responded, "I have a steak at home. Why should I go out for hamburger?" The couple traded the California spotlight for Westport, Connecticut, where they raised their family and remained until Paul Newman's death in 2008.

In the wedding of the century, American film star Grace Kelly left Hollywood behind at the height of her career to wed Prince Rainier and become Princess of Monaco. Prince Rainier was immediately taken with Grace, whom he met when she filmed To Catch a Thief in the French Riviera. He courted her through letters for some time before the couple announced their engagement in the Kelly family's Philadelphia home and married in 1956. Prince Rainier never remarried after Grace's tragic death in 1982.

There isn&rsquot a more iconic country music love story than that between Johnny Cash and June Carter. Both stars in their own right, the two met backstage at the famed Grand Ole Opry. When first meeting Cash, Carter supposedly told him, &ldquoI feel like I know you already.&rdquo The couple went on to tour together and fell in love, eventually marrying in 1968. Cash credited Carter with helping him recover from drug addiction, further solidifying their bond. The couple shared two Grammys, along with two solo Grammys for Carter and 11 for Cash. The both had storied careers and welcomed one son. The happy couple stayed together their whole lives and died within just four months of each other. It&rsquos clear that this love was true - when once asked for his definition of paradise, Cash stated plainly, &ldquothis morning, with her, having coffee.&rdquo

Carolyn Bessette and John F. Kennedy Jr. married in a secret ceremony on a small island in Georgia, indicative of their desire to keep their relationship private from the feigning press and public attention. The couple tried as much as they could to live a normal life out of their Tribeca apartment and with any normal marriage they had ups and downs. "They would love hard, and they would fight hard," said a friend of the couples, Ariel Paredes. It was evident the love was there and as public attention mounted Carolyn and JFK Jr. became an iconic duo. Sadly, their love was cut short when the couple tragically died on July 16, 1999 in a plane crash over the Atlantic ocean.

George Clooney was Hollywood's self-proclaimed bachelor of many decades, making his whirlwind love story with British human rights lawyer even more sweet. The two were introduced by a friend and soon after began exchanging emails that George comically penned as his dog Einstein. After six months of dating George proposed to the song, 'Why Shouldn't I?' while making dinner. "It's a really good song about why can't I be in love?," said George. The couple balances Amal's career as a human rights lawyer, George's acting, and their two twins, Ella and Alexander.

It was a love story that captured hearts around the world when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry wed in May 2018. Their life as a couple began in November 2017, when Harry popped the question while the two were roasting a chicken at their apartment in Kensington Palace. Since then, their fairytale has been untraditional, to say the least, but the love shared between the happy couple is clear. As they begin to carve out their new royal roles, amid much controversy, it remains certain that the couple cares deeply about each other and their adorable son, Archie. It&rsquos hard to know what the future holds, but it seems like Meghan and Harry will take it all on together.


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