“Hadrian and Antinous: an encounter, 19 centuries later” by the Unseen Museum
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“Hadrian and Antinous: an encounter, 19 centuries later” by the Unseen Museum

Antiquities selected from the unknown world of the storerooms, one after the other emerge every two months everfrom their secure state of obscurity into the light, inviting the fans of rare memorable moments to capture their stories and narratives. At the Unseen Museum, the visitors have the chance to see never before seen antiquities. This time the Museum presents Hadrian and Antinous in an encounter, 19 centuries later.

The visitors will have the chance to see the inscribed base of a monument in honour of emperor Hadrian. This stone block underwent alteration in order to be used. In the inscription the emperor is characterized as Saviour, Olympian and Builder (Ktistes). The last two titles are related to the completion, in his days, of the temple of the Olympian Zeus, and the founding of the Panhellenion in Athens. The speci c title Olympian was of cially granted to Hadrian during his sojourn in Athens at the end of 128 and the beginning of 129 AD. All three titles are encountered on altars and in inscriptions honouring the philhellenic emperor, for his benefactions to the city.

Next to the inscription we see a colossal bust of Antinous, a favourite of Hadrian. It was found in 1856, during digging works for a private house in Patras, along with the identical bust, no. 417, on display in room 31a of the Museum. The latter most probably served as prototype for the creation of the former one. The technical characteristics of both sculptures suggest that these are creations of the same workshop, in all probability, an Attic one.

The handsome youth was deified by Hadrian after his drowning in the Nile, in 130 AD. Nuditity is indicative of his heroization, while the melancholic, idealized features of the face call to mind his tragic end. Well-known is the emperor’s fathomless nostalgia for the adolescent boy from Bithynia. Portraits and statues of him were erected across the entire Roman empire by Hadrian himself, so as to capture in marble the features of the youth, who was doomed to early death, but also many Greek cities did the same, willing in this way to honour him.