Hadrian's temple to favourite male lover
October 31st, 2002
From Richard Owen in Rome
ARCHAEOLOGISTS excavating Hadrian’s villa near Rome have uncovered a hitherto-unknown Egyptian temple built by the Emperor to commemorate the untimely death of his youthful male lover,
Although Hadrian (AD117- 138) had numerous mistresses as well as a wife, the Empress Sabina, Antinous was his favourite male lover. The Emperor met Antinous, “a languid and beautiful youth”, at Bithynium in Asia Minor, now Bolu, in
Antinous drowned at 20 in the Nile near Alexandria in AD130. It was said that he killed himself in a sacrificial rite, although Hadrian denied this. The Emperor broke down “and cried with the tears of a woman” when he
Hadrian had a tomb for Antinous built in Egypt, creating around it a town that was the centre of a cult in which his dead lover was identified with Osiris, the Egyptian god of the
Scholars had been puzzled by the apparent absence of a memorial to Antinous at Hadrian’s huge estate at Tivoli, northwest of Rome.
In the 18th century a statue of Antinous as Osiris was found at the villa and deposited in the Vatican
Anna Maria Reggiani, superintendent of archaeology for the Lazio region, said that archaeologists had begun to dig last month in the area where the statue was found and had uncovered the remains of a temple dedicated to Antinous and Osiris. “This is the missing piece of the jigsaw,” she said.
The temple consisted of a 30-metre wide columned semi-circle behind two rectangular buildings, flanked by a nymphaeum with niches and fountains. Beneath the complex were well-preserved tunnels. The finds included a seated statue in grey granite of the Pharaoh Rameses II, which Hadrian probably had transported from Memphis.