Just cos he didn't build it...

One of things that always gently worries me with history is our obsession with the start and the end. It extends across our lives, genealogy and indeed we then apply it to written and recorded history.  So let me take my pet project, interest and current research project The Gallic Empire.

This was a breakaway structured rebellion that covered modern day Britain, Spain, France, Belgium Holland and tracts of Germany and included parts of Italy and Switzerland.  So a pretty large undertaking.  So from 260AD to 274AD the Roman Empire as governed and administered from Rome and presided over by the Emperor was removed from the operations of these provinces and countries.  But reading the history books you would think nothing happened in northern Britain during this time - cos they didn't build anything that is directly recorded.

The myth of Antinous is pretty strong and vivid.  It has developed over the years immediate after his death and the centuries since, and as with all good myths, the facts are tricky to pin down. But always keen on a challenge and seeing the raft of folks out there, also keen on this topic - let's try and put the pieces together.

Antinous is thought (based on an inscription) to have been born on or around 27th November - but the year is estimated as being between 110 and 112AD.  His year of death was 130AD but the date uncertain and thought to fall on or around 22nd October (24th being the feast of Osiris has been often used)

So the Historia Augusta says this on Hadrian and Antinous;

"During a journey on the Nile he (Hadrian) lost Antinous, his favourite, and for this youth he wept like a woman. concerning this incident there are varying rumours; for some claim that he had devoted himself to death for Hadrian, and others - what both his beauty and Hadrian's sensuality suggest.
[Penguin: what both his beauty and Hadrian's excessive sensuality make obvious.]

"But however this may be, the Greeks deified his at Hadrian's request, and declared that oracles were given through his agency, but there, it is commonly asserted, were composed by Hadrian himself."
Historia Augusta, Hadrian, XIV. 5-7

So folks, I am passionate about the ancient world, consider myself a sort-of campaigner for equality, am transfixed by the human stories from the past - not just of the high born but also of the ordinary. So by working with a fellow Classics-loving friend we were thinking of setting up an Antinous Society.

This would be a fun, informal, sort of friendly society for the appreciation of Antinous, beloved of Hadrian. Or to give it its full and perhaps it's Imperial definition "for the ongoing appreciation of the Deified Antinous, beloved companion of the Imperial Augustus Titus Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius".

From an early age the stories and exploits of Imperial Rome have gripped me. The mix of bravura, of ambition, of success all drew me in. The names themselves of people, places and battles roused my imagination. And the reality - of Britannia, of Gaul, of Rome itself was all around and me and within reason, accessible.

And so, with my father collecting coins of the Emperor Gordian III on one side, and the near neighbour and leading ancient historian Peter Connolly on the other, my fascination was set. I soon discovered Penguin Classics and tucked into Tacitus, Livy and Pliny the Younger. I well remember Peter himself saying "Why read novels when you have Suetonius?"