Vatican Museums - Round Room - bust of Antinous - found in Hadrian's
Villa near Tivoli in 1790 and immediately sold to the Vatican Museums
by Ferdinando Lisandroni. The face of Emperor Hadrian's "young
favourite" is framed by thick hair with thick curly ringlets
falling over the forehead and below the neck. This hairstyle is
unusual for a bust of this type and is connected to Antinous's servile
beginnings as an imperial slave of emperor Trajan's
"familia". The bust can be dated to between 130 and 138
- Antinoüs or Antinoös (Greek: Ἀντίνοος) (November 27, c.111–October before 30th, 130) was a beautiful Bythinian youth and the favourite of the Roman emperor Hadrian. He was deified after his death, although his exact status in the Roman pantheon was uncertain.
Thorsten Opper in Hadrian: Empire and Conflict, notes: "Hardly
anything is known of Antinous' life, and the fact that our sources get
more detailed the later they are does not inspire confidence."
At an irreducible minimum he was born to a Greek family in
Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Roman province of Bithynia in what is
now north-west Turkey, and joined the entourage of the emperor Hadrian
at a young age, although nothing certain is known of how, when, or
where he and Hadrian met. He is constantly described and depicted as a
beautiful boy and youth. The relationship is believed to have been
Antinous drowned in The Nile in October 130. The death was presented as an accident, "but it was believed at the time that Antinous had been sacrificed or had sacrificed himself," and Hadrian "wept for him like a woman." Hadrian went through the process of deifying him soon afterwards, a process previously exclusively reserved for imperial family members rather than friends or lovers of non-Roman origin.
The grief of the emperor knew no bounds, causing the most extravagant veneration to be paid to his memory. Cities were founded in his name, medals struck with his likeness, and cities throughout the east commissioned godlike images of the dead youth for their shrines and sanctuaries. Following the example of Alexander (who sought divine honours for his beloved general, Hephaestion, when he died) Hadrian had Antinous proclaimed a god. Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens, festivals celebrated in his honour and oracles delivered in his name. The city of Antinopolis or Antinoe was founded on the site of Hir-wer where he died (Dio Cassius lix.11; Spartianus, "Hadrian"). One of Hadrian's attempts at extravagant remembrance failed, when the proposal to create a constellation of Antinous being lifted to heaven by an eagle (the constellation Aquila) failed to be adopted.
After deification, Antinous was associated with and depicted as the
Ancient Egyptian god Osiris, associated with the rebirth of the Nile.
Antinous was also depicted as the Roman Bacchus, a god related to
fertility, cutting vine leaves. Antinous's was the only non-imperial
head ever to appear on the coinage.
The "Lansdowne Antinous" was found at Hadrian's Villa in 1769 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)
Worship, or at least acknowledgment, of the idealized Antinous was widespread, although mainly outside the city of Rome. As a result, Antinous is one of the best-preserved faces from the ancient world. Many busts, gems and coins represent Antinous as the ideal type of youthful beauty, often with the attributes of some special god. They include a colossal bust in the Vatican, a bust in the Louvre (the Antinous Mondragone), a bas-relief from the Villa Albani, a statue in the Capitoline museum (the so-called Capitoline Antinous, now accepted to be a portrayal of Hermes), another in Berlin, another in the Lateran and one in the Fitzwilliam Museum; and many more may be seen in museums across Europe.
There are also statues in many archaeological museums in Greece including the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the archaeological museums of Patras, Chalkis and Delphi. Although these may well be idealised images, they demonstrate what all contemporary writers described as Antinous's extraordinary beauty. Although many of the sculptures are instantly recognizable, some offer significant variation in terms of the suppleness and sensuality of the pose and features versus the rigidity and typical masculinity. In 1998 the remains of the monumental tomb of Antinous, or a temple to him, were discovered at Hadrian's Villa.