I’m 99% percent sure I didn’t mix you up with anyone else, and if I did I apologize. I was wondering what drew you to worship Antinous/how you connect with him. It’s something that I’ve been curious about, and I can’t really draw as much connections with him as I do with other gods, so it’s something I want to learn more about, at least so I can frame it in my head/heart better, if that makes sense. Sorry if I’m bothering you any in advance.
I may possibly be the person you were thinking of, Anon, and your ask is no bother! I appreciate your asking me about this.
I think what first piqued my curiosity about Antinous is that he is the last “regular” human being known to have been apotheosized in pagan antiquity, as well as in the Western religious tradition. People received hero cultus after Antinous (notably Polydeukion), and there were many Christian saints in the centuries that followed, but Antinous was an actual god with priests, Mysteries, oracles, temples, and altars. We have evidence that everyday people prayed to him for everyday things, like health and love. He was known as Antinous the Good and Antinous the Kind.
Antinous is fascinating because he lived and died at the intersection of different religious and cultural traditions. He was a Greek from Asia Minor, he lived in the early Christian era, he spent the last years of his life in the court of the Emperor of Rome, and traditional Egyptian religion shaped his fate after his death in the Nile.
There is a romantic side to the story, too. While there is no definitive proof that Hadrian and Antinous were lovers, their relationship was undoubtedly very close. We will never know for certain what happened between them because, as historian Michael Wood once said, love leaves no evidence in the archaeological record.
Hadrian didn’t make Antinous a god – that honor was beyond even his ability – but he promoted his cult with all of his considerable powers. He founded a city at the site of Antinous’ death, he commissioned cult statues of Antinous, he founded games and Mysteries in honor of Antinous, and generally showed himself to be his most devout votary.
Now, lots of human beings in ancient Hellenistic culture became gods. Most of them were children of, or otherwise descended from, the gods. Others were humans who accomplished great things – like Homer, the Pharaohs, Roman Emperors, and some of their immediate family members.
Antinous, though, was was of common birth, and he died too young to have accomplished anything great. His only extraordinary characteristic up to the time of his death was his physical beauty, but one did not survive seven years at the court of the Emperor of Rome on one’s looks alone. He was obviously a survivor. I suspect he was quick on the uptake, and probably had an engaging personality. He was an ideal companion.
Do you know anything about Doctor Who? The Doctor is a TIme Lord who is always travelling, helping people, and saving civilizations. He always has at least one companion, usually human, along to share his adventures. Part of his personal tragedy is that all his companions leave him in the end, most of them to resume normal lives, but some of them…mere humans like Ace and Rose Tyler and Captain Jack Harkness…go on to become very Doctor-ish themselves.
Antinous is a lot like that. He was the companion to a travelling Emperor. They had many adventures together, but Antinous embarked on his final human adventure alone. His mortal existence ended when he drowned in the Nile. But he clambered aboard the Barque of Night and stood with Osiris against Apep and the other monsters of Chaos. His valor granted him the right to choose whether to stay with Osiris in the Duat, or to leave with Ra. Antinous chose to sail forth to new adventures on the Barque of Millions of Years.
I connect with Antinous because he wasn’t a demigod or an ascetic. He was merely human. Yet he answered what Joseph Campbell described as the Call to Adventure, and left his mundane life behind, not just in his decision to follow Hadrian, but in choosing to leave the Underworld and become a force for good in the Universe. He doesn’t spend his time in an Olympian paradise, but answers the prayers of the lowly and cures the afflictions of those in need.
Antinous show us that mere humans can achieve transcendence, and it doesn’t take having godly parents, spending hours in meditation, retreating from human society, or living a life of austerity to accomplish. It can be happen if only we have a sense of adventure, face our fears, focus on the welfare of others, and have the courage to do the right thing.
I hope this helps answer your questions, Anon. Please feel free to talk to me more about Antinous, or about any other topic. May your path be blessed!