Today, August 22, the modern cult of Antinous celebrates the Festival of the Red Lotus.
When the Emperor Hadrian visited Libya in 130 C.E., he learned that a man-eating lion was terrorizing a nearby area. There were many experienced hunters among the Imperial party, and they determined to destroy the predator. When they tracked and confronted the lion, Hadrian honored Antinous by giving him the chance to make the kill. Antinous cast his spear, but the weapon missed the mark, and the beast attacked him. Hadrian stepped in and killed the lion, saving the life of his beloved companion.
The red Nile lotus is said to have miraculously sprung from drops of the lion’s blood that fell to the earth that day. Because the lotus closes at night and sinks under the water, and re-emerges in the morning to bloom again, it is a symbol of victory and rebirth.
The death of Antinous in the Nile occurred a few weeks later, during the visit of the Imperial entourage to Egypt. The red lotus has been associated with Antinous ever since.