31 Days of Devotion, day 6

What other deities and entities are associated with this deity?

To answer this question with, “All of them” would be easy and not wholly incorrect. Antinous has the gift of making connections among gods and between gods and mortals. He is often described as a “gateway god”, someone who attracts people to polytheism by their worship of him.

However, a facile answer doesn’t make for a very interesting read. Therefore, I’ll offer my opinion on the deities and entities that are definitely associated with Antinous.

First and foremost, of course, there is Hadrian. Without Hadrian’s relationship to Antinous, we would likely know nothing of the Greek youth from Bithynia, even if he had travelled to Egypt and drowned in the Nile under other circumstances. Antinous still would have been deified, but his cult would have been confined to a small locale instead of promoted around the Empire. Without Hadrian, we would have no statues to immortalize Antinous’ beauty, and one less model of an erotic, even romantic relationship that in some ways broke the rules for such relationships by its intensity.

Along with Hadrian I must mention his wife, Sabina. That may seem strange to our sensibilities, if we are thinking of Sabina as the wronged wife of a man having an affair with a younger man. A few considerations have helped me to understand Sabina’s importance. First, that categories like heterosexual and homosexual really do not apply in the ancient world; in both Greek and Roman culture, adult men could take whatever partners they wished, male, female, slave, free, as long as they were appropriately dominant. The double standard wasn’t a hypocrisy, it was simply a fact; men were not under the same sexual constraints as women.

Second, that it would have been simple for Hadrian, once established as Emperor, to divorce Sabina and replace her with another wife, or no wife. He did not. And third, he ordered her divinization, which along with their continued marriage leads me to believe that he had affection and respect for her and found value in their partnership. The Obelisk of Antinous portrays the divinized youth praying for Hadrian and Sabina together as rulers of Egypt and the Empire; I think his worshippers should do no less than honor them together in the same way.

After Hadrian and Sabina, Antinous’ closest connections are with the four deities with whom he was most often syncretized: Osiris, Dionysus, Hermes, and Apollo. He became Osirantinous upon his death in the sacred river. The Greeks had already syncretized or equated Dionysus with Osiris, and much of Antinous’s iconography borrows from the traditional depictions of Dionysus. Antinous was syncretized with Hermes as a messenger, communicator, interpreter among the gods, and with Apollo as an oracle, healer, and inspirer. With the exception of Osiris, these gods are all portrayed as youths, the children of Zeus rather than the first generation of Olympians.

Besides Sabina, the goddesses with whom Antinous has the closest connection are Diana, especially at Lanuvium, where a burial society was dedicated to both of them, and Juno, who was also worshipped at Lanuvium. I find it interesting that both of these goddesses support female sovereignty, Diana the virgin huntress, refusing the ties of marriage, and Juno the queen of heaven who gave her name to the divine spirit within every woman.

Those are my choices for the deities most closely associated with Antinous. But I still stand by my original answer: The deities connected to Antinous? All of them.

2 thoughts on “31 Days of Devotion, day 6

  1. In addition to those already described, an early association I made with Antinous was that of Asklepios, the Hellenic god of medicine and healing. A mortal child of Apollon, Asklepios was talented in the arts of medicine, even to the point of bringing people back from the dead. This could not be allowed, disrupting the order of things and all, so he was struck dead. However, he was so beloved by the gods and men that he was raised to the status of a god, and he had healing temples throughout the ancient world. What distinguished the method that he brought healing to the world were dreams. Those who came to his temples seeking aid were often asked to participate in a ‘dream incubation’, whereby the supplicant spent the night in a chamber in the temple, and in the morning was questioned by the priest as to the contents of the dream, to see what message and/or method of healing was being communicated by the gods.

    When it comes to Antinous, an interesting piece is mentiioned in the text of Obelisk of Antinous. On the Northern face, it reads “He goes out of his places to numerous temples in the whole country, and he hears the pleas of he who calls upon him; he heals the diseases of the needy ones by sending a dream.” The methodological similarity is clear, and there’s also an emphasis on healing those who call upon him. When it comes to modern devotion, I’ve often included Antinous with my prayers o Asklepios when it comes to seeking healing, for myself and others. As well, members of my coven participate in bi-monthly Reiki circles that are principally dedicated to Asklepios, and who have welcomed my interest in Antinous, so much so that when we take our Asklepios Shrine on the road, Antinous always has a place on the altar.

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  2. There are two other deities that I would like to mention, namely Demeter and Persephone. As I had mentioned in an earlier comment, I first heard of Antinous at a festival reconstruction of the Eleusinian Mysteries. It just so happened that year that tragedy struck the priesthood who put on this festival, particularly the priestess of Demeter. She lost her son, who was not much older than Antinous likely was when he died, and who also drowned in a river, namely the Snake River in eastern Washington. This happened within three months of being introduced to Antinous, and needless to say the association between him and the young man who died was strong in my mind. And the grief that his mother had, which mirrored the grief of the goddess she was devoted to, and which mirrored the grief of Hadrian himself upon losing his Antinous. And of course, there is Persephone herself, the young maiden goddess who was kidnapped and later seduced by the lord of the Underworld, and who would become its Queen. Antinous walked Her path, not only by taking part in her and her Mother’s mysteries in Eleusis, but on her sacred path to godhood. Besides, it was likely She who he encountered on his journey to the Underworld, She who would judge him on his journey to apotheosis.

    So yeah, Demeter and Persephone are two that I hold close in my devotion to Antinous.

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