|The face of Antinous is still as recognizable today as it was in the second century
CE, when his fame was spread throughout the Roman Empire. The eromenos of the emperor
Hadrian, who died in the Nile in 130 CE, became a deity, an event of epic proportions
unprecedented in Roman history for persons outside of the imperial family. From Antinoopolis
in Egypt, a new city founded in his honor, his cult spread quickly throughout the
eastern part of the empire, with especially strong presences in Bithynion, the Pontic
hometown of Antinous, and Mantineia, its mother city in Greece. As a credit to his
popularity, his likeness is only the third most commonly encountered among ancient
statues in our own age (with the emperors Augustus and Hadrian filling the respective
first and second places). Besides statues and busts, his likeness can be encountered
on coins, cameos, amulets and even his name became a popular choice to give to children,
by parents who were apparently inspired by the young Bithynian. Furthermore, games
and mysteries were devoted to Antinous in several places, such as in Athens and Argos.
Perhaps the most striking evidence for the popularity of Antinous? cult is its longevity:
whereas most of the cults connected with the imperial house disappeared after the
death of its recipient, the cult of the young ephebe very likely outlived that of
Hadrian himself, ending only in the fourth century CE as one of paganism's last great
symbols in the struggle with Christianity.
In the West, however, a very different picture emerges. With the exception of Rome,
there are hardly any remains to be found of cults dedicated to Antinous. This fact
often surfaces in the secondary literature regarding the history of Hadrian and Antinous,
yet it is never fully explained. Often, the focus is on a single peculiarity of one
of these two ancient celebrities, such as the disputed nature Hadrian?s pro-Hellenic
policies, his harsh treatment of the Jews, Antinous as the champion of paganism in
Late Antiquity and, of special interest, the exceptional relationship between Hadrian
and Antinous, and its status within Roman culture. Yet though often mentioned, a thorough
explanation for the unequal spread of the Antinous cult is never fully explained.
The main goal of this investigation will thus be to analyze the extent of the Antinous
cult in the Roman Empire, comparing its presence in the two halves of the empire,
in order to answer the question why his cult appears to have been much more widespread
in the eastern than in the western part.