ANTINOUS AND THE SEVENTH
WONDER OF THE WORLD
ANTINOUS and Hadrian may not have seen all Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (they didn't make it to Babylon), but they definitely visited most of them — including the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in June of 129 AD.
In the new novel "The Seven Wonders" by STEVEN SAYLOR there is a stunning description of the Temple of Ephesus — both the fabulous and monumental exterior as well as the awesome interior.
Reading this description gives you something of an idea of what greeted the eyes of Emperor Hadrian and Antinous as they entered the fabled city of Ephesus during the cycle of the Summer Solstice in the year 129 AD as part of their three-year tour of the Eastern Empire.
Ephesus had 300,000 inhabitants at its peak in the time of Hadrian, and it drew thousands of devotees to the shrine of the goddess annually. Even today, Ephesus is one of the most complete and most splendid ancient sites in the world and still draws thousands of tourists every year. The Great Library of Ephesus, which Hadrian patronized and greatly expanded, has been lovingly restored.
The Temple of Ephesus was consecrated to Artemis in her Asian element as a Phrygian-Hittite goddess of the hunt, a youthful manifestation of the Great Goddess of Mount Ida and Dydimus.
The Ephesus form of Artemis looks strange to our eyes — and looked strange to Roman eyes as well.
The Roman Artemis — called Diana — is a virgin huntress. She carries a bow and wears a short, simple tunic suitable for the chase.
But Artemis of Ephesus — presumably more ancient — stands stiffly upright with her bent elbows against her body, her forearms extended and her hands open. She wears a crown, and outlining her head is a nimbus decorated with winged bulls. More bulls and other animals adorn the stiff garment that covers her lower body, almost like a mummy casing.
From her neck hangs a necklace of acorns and a ring of zodiacal figures, and below this you see the most striking feature of Artemis of Ephesus — a mass of pendulous, gourd-shaped protrusions that hang in a cluster from her upper body. At first glance, they appear to be multiple breasts. But in fact these protrusions are bulls' testicles.
You can read the full description (which we have only paraphrased here) in Saylor's marvelous novel, along with vivid details of the festive procession of the goddess through the streets of Ephesus and the sacrifice of scores of bulls to the virgin goddess at the temple — a ritual which Antinous must have seen with his own eyes.
The Temple had burned down on the night that Alexander the Great was born, but after his conquest, Alexander ordered the reconstruction of the Temple, which was still standing when Hadrian and Antinous visited.
ANTONIUS SUBIA explains the parallels between Artemis and Antinous and why we celebrate this Sacred Event:
"Artemis is considered the female Antinous, as his divine twin, the only goddess to exhibit lesbian qualities. She was worshipped as Diana alongside Antinous by the funeral society of Lanuvium. Ephesus was one of the first cities to proclaim Hadrian a living God, and one of the first to adhere to his veneration as a Divus.
"The presence of Antinous and Hadrian with their very pronounced Artemisian qualities must have made a deep impression on the Ephesians, in that they were aware that the city was being visited by living gods. It is to Artemis of Ephesus that this day is Sacred, as the female twin of Antinous, the Bithynian hunter god."