A Greek from Claudiopolis in Bithynia (now Bolu in north-west Turkey), Antinous (born 111 CE) entered the service of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigned 117-138 CE) around 123 CE, while Hadrian was touring the region. Antinous became Hadrian’s lover, and in 130 CE accompanied Hadrian on the Emperor’s first visit to Egypt. On a lion hunt in the Libyan desert in September of that year, Antinous was charged by a lion which was slain by Hadrian. From the lion’s blood was said to have grown a novel variety of red lotus named Antinoeios for Antinous. This incident formed the basis for an epic poem by Pancrates. On October 28th, Antinous drowned in the Nile just south of Hermopolis. At the site where his body was found, Hadrian founded the city of Antinoopolis (near the modern village of Sheik Abade or Ibada) on October 30, 130 CE and instituted parallel Greek and Egyptian cults of the divinized Antinous. Temples were consecrated to Antinous in every part of the empire, and his worship continued for more than three centuries. Little is known, however, concerning the peculiarly Egyptian side of the cult, other than that in it Antinous was associated with Osiris. All deceased persons were Osiris; there was a long history in Egypt, however, of regarding persons who had drowned as saints, because their manner of death evoked the ‘drowning’ of Osiris in the Nile, which granted to the river its lifegiving potency. Examples of other such cases are the brothers Pedesi and Pihor worshiped at Dendur, and Isidora, a Greek woman who died around the same time as Antinous and not far away (Graindor 1932).

Graindor, Paul. 1932. “Inscriptions de la nécropole de Touna el-Ghebel (Hermoupolis).” Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale 32: 97-119.

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