Friday, April 15, 2016

A love story circa 130 AD...

I am currently preparing to give a tour of an ongoing special exhibit at the museum.

This exhibit requires more reading than usual as it covers different time periods, cultures, and civilisations. I don't know how I'm going to pull it off.

Anyway, one of the artefacts on display is a bust of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Upon reading a little more about him, I found out that the man behind the artefact has one of the more cheesy stories.

Considered to be one of the five Good Emperors, I would describe Hadrian as a man in love. He was in love with the Greek culture. (In fact, he was nicknamed the "Greekling" when he was growing up.) He was in love with architecture and civilisation. We don't know how deeply in love he was with his wife Sabina, since not much was known about her.

But we do know that he was deeply in love with a young Greek named Antinous.

During these ancient times, two men having a relationship was not condemned. What was unacceptable was coveting another Roman citizen's wife. But the relationship Hadrian and Antinous did not raise eyebrows and in fact, they were open about it.

Hadrian was enthralled with Antinous and the entire Roman world probably saw this.

Unfortunately, it was a relationship that would be cut short. During an imperial trip of Egypt, Antinous drowned in the Nile.

The emperor Hadrian was deeply affected by this and from what I read, I guess it might be okay to say that Antinous' death really crushed Hadrian's world.

Just how much did Hadrian love Antinous?

The former loved the latter so much that Hadrian founded a city in Egypt and named after his late lover. The city's name was Antinopolis. Furthermore, Hadrian elevated Antinous to become a god. Usually, this was reserved for family members but Hadrian went ahead with it. A temple was built at Antinopolis and a Antinous had a cult following.

It is a kind of love story we rarely hear about these days.

Today, Hadrian and Antinous are reunited in one of the galleries at the British Museum. At the museum, they will remain together for as long as the museum is around. Only a traveling exhibit or perhaps a jealous curator could separate the two. Hehe! During a later imperial tour of Egypt in AD 130, Antinous drowned in the Nile and Hadrian is said to have been distraught and ‘wept like a woman’. His devotion to Antinous led him to found a city named Antinopolis on the banks of the Nile where he died. He also made Antinous into a god - not unusual for members of the emperor's family, but unheard of for such a low born person. Hadrian commemorated his beloved in huge numbers of statues, figures, portraits and coins across the known roman world.

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