Antinous was the male lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117 to 138 CE. Not much is known about Antinous’s mysterious life, except that his beauty enchanted the emperor.
Born to a Greek family, he is said to have joined Hadrian’s entourage at a young age, although no one knows for sure how the two met. Their relationship was serious, passionate and sexual.
Like his life, Antinous’s death is also shadowed in mystery. He drowned in the Nile in the year 130. The death was labelled an accident, but there are those who believe that he was either murdered or took his own life, as an act of sacrifice.
Upon his lover’s death, it has been remarked that Hadrian “wept like a woman.” His grief was so legendary, it led him to begin deifying Antinous, which was unorthodox. This process was usually reserved for imperial family members.
The veneration of Antinous was extravagant, and his memory was honoured by Hadrian with cities founded in his name and medals featuring his image. Communities throughout the east commissioned paintings of the emperor’s boy for their sanctuaries and shrines.
Just when you thought their love story couldn’t get any more dramatic, Hadrian had Antinous proclaimed a god.
Because so many sculptures, paintings and other artworks were made in Antinous’s honour, he is “one of the best preserved faces from the ancient world."
Boy must’ve been really fucking cute!