WE CELEBRATE July 15th as the date of the triumphal arrival of Hadrian and Antinous at Tarsus in what was the biggest "celebrity arrival" in that city since Cleopatra had landed with her barge two centuries earlier.
Passing through the Cilician Gate, the famous mountain road used by Alexander to cross the Taurus Mountains, the Imperial court arrived at the city of Tarsus, the guardian of Asia Minor.
It was outside of Tarsus that Alexander battled against the Persian Army and defeated Darius, after which he soon took control of the vast Empire of the Persians, the traditional enemies of Greece. Tarsus was the crossroad between the Hellenic west and the Persian-Phoenician East.
The people of Tarsus were rapturous and espcially adored Antinous, according to Antinous authority Royston Lambert, who writes:
"Tarsus added Adriana to its name, provided a splendid festival and seems to have taken very special note of Antinous."
It was here that Hadrian and Antinous first encountered the devotion that the Phoenicians and Canaanites held for the Sun God, whom they called El, Baal, or Elagabal.
The Greeks called the deity who was the orb, heat and light of the Sun, Helios, and he was pictured riding a chariot pulled by burning horses, who made their way across the sky.
Phaeton was the son of Helios, and he one day tried to drive his father's chariot but lost control, so that the sun moved erratically out of its course and scorched Ethiopia. Zeus struck Phaeton down before he could do further damage.
Flamen Antonyus Subia explains the parallels:
"So it is that Antinous, on his journey towards Ethiopia, would find himself unable to control the mighty horses that pulled Hadrian's chariot, and would be struck down by the jealous Sun. We pray to Father Helios of Tarsus on this day."