Friday, January 11, 2008
Hadrian and Antinous and Our Lost Gay History
When I first came across Hadrian's wall as a child...and I was told that the Emperor had built it to keep the Scots out of England... I immediately hated him.
And wondered who would WANT to go to England anyway?
But then I found out that Hadrian was gay...and I changed my mind. And now I wish I was in London.
The bust is classically Roman, the face imperious. But this is no ordinary emperor. As a major new exhibition at the British Museum makes clear, Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus was not only a peacemaker who pulled his soldiers out of modern-day Iraq. He was also the first leader of Rome to make it clear that he was gay.
Several of the artefacts relate to his male consort, Antinous, who accompanied him on his travels around the empire. These items include a poem written on papyrus, featuring the two men hunting together, and new finds that include memorials to the dead lover at Hadrian's villa in Tivoli.
Because our history is a hidden one. Or a buried one.
And the tragic tale of Hadrian and Antinous is such a great love story.
Hadrian commissioned so many busts and statues of Antinous there are more of the former slave boy today than there are of many Emperors. He made him a god after his death just like Alexander the Great made his dead lover Hephaestion.
Which only makes me wonder how many other great gay love stories were lost because for thousands of years nobody wrote about our history? Or our loves.
So it took FOREVER for people to realize that we've always been around. And always will be. That we are EVERYWHERE. And that OUR love is as good and as beautiful and as powerful as any other.
The good news? That's over now.
Because now we're reclaiming our history. We're writing our own.
And the small but excellent love story of Simon and Sébastien will live forever.
Because I'm writing it myself...