The Lovers–Hadrian and Antinous


A true story. The Roman Emperor Hadrian took a young lover named Antinous. While such relationships were common in Rome and Greece, the seriousness of their love was unusual for the time. The Senate whispered loudly of the unseemliness of the affair while Hadrian traveled extensively with Antinous around the empire. When they were in Delphi, the Oracle told Hadrian that “he would become the most famous and powerful Emperor of all time, if he lost the thing he loved the most.”

Although a Roman, Hadrian had a thing for the Greeks. He brought the Greek beard back in style, promoted the Greek language and rebuilt the ancient Greek temples. He re-instituted the Roman baths as same sex and conducted much of this business there.

On a trip to Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile. One story is that Antinous knowing that he was what Hadrian loved the most, sacrificed himself. Another story is that Hadrian’s men knew this and threw Antinous overboard to get to the same end.

The chronicles of the time stated that “Hadrian cried like a woman” upon hearing of his lover’s death. In his honor, Hadrian deified the young man and decreed the development of  what became a very popular cult around his worship. He filled his temples and a new city on the Nile called Antiniopolos

with thousands of statues of the beautiful young man.


Rumors at the time in the Empire declared that  there were sacred nights in the city with drunken revelries and sexual orgies.

While he was on a roll, Hadrian dedicated a new constellation (now part of Aguila, the eagle)


and put Antinous on coins of the realm, an honor traditionally accorded to emperors, their wives and children.


The city was active until about the 10th century. The constellation remained on charts until 1930 when it deemed inappropriate  for a gay icon to be represented in the skies.

Oscar Wilde popularized Antinous in The Young King, The Sphinx and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Antinous now has his own website

In The Troubleseeker, which begins in Cuba in 1962, the hero is named Antinio and his story is narrated by demigod Hadriano.

4 Replies to “The Lovers–Hadrian and Antinous”

    1. Thanks. I updated the mention of the coins to note that other family members of emperors appeared on coins. So to have him on coins would indicate that Hadriano recognized his relationship as equal to a wife or children.


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