ANTIOCH was called the "golden" city because of its wealth and gilded architecture and staruary.
On August 1st the Religion of Antinous commemorates the entry of Hadrian and Antinous into Antioch. It was founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great, who reportedly had camped on the site and said it would be a good location for a great city.
Indeed it was, and Antioch rivaled Alexandria as the most important city in the Eastern Empire.
The emperors preferred Antioch. Julius Caesar visited the city. Tiberius and others showered favors on Antioch because it was far more strategically important than Alexandria.
Alexandria was between the desert and the sea. Antioch was at the crossroads of major trading routes and military roads.
Antioch was a pure Hellenistic city refounded by Augustus in 25 BC as a Roman colony. Hadrian felt very much at home here in this Hellenistic atmosphere.
Antioch was to be the base of Hadrian's Imperial administration until early spring of 130. This prolonged stay was spent visiting the regions of Syria. Starting with Antioch, the whole atmosphere of the Imperial Tour began to change. Antioch is a turning point.
Unlike the cities of Asia Minor, which had opened their hearts to Hadrian and proclaimed him a living god, the people of Antioch were cold and critical of Hadrian's policies.
The large Jewish population resisted the policies of Hellenization, which Hadrian promoted. They would not cooperate with the new religious order of unity, and condemned the whole effort as blasphemous.
The Christians were equally seditious, and defiant. They were disgusted by the presence of Antinous by the side of the Emperor, and called the whole affair an abomination.
Antioch was the center of Christianity in the ancient Roman world. It had been the base from which Paul the Apostle operated, and was considered to be his seat.
It was from Antioch that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans that is now part of the Bible, which specifically forbids and condemns homosexuality, and thereby dictates the position of the Christian religion on same-sex love (a position never taken by Jesus).
Flamen Antonyus Subia explains the significance of the visit to Antioch:
"Antioch represents the enemies of homosexuality as embodied by the Apostle Paul. It was here that Hadrian and Antinous first discovered that their love was considered to be unholy, a reality that was to over cloud the religion of Antinous and of same-sex love for centuries to come.
"We observe that when Antinous entered Antioch, the darkness of hatred for homosexuality was born. Our enemies in the Christian Church took inspiration from the beauty of Antinous and used his deification as a weapon for our destruction. It was in Antioch that homosexuality was crucified.
"We lament the misery brought against our kind, and we remember those countless souls who were brutalized and murdered for our cause, and for our form of Love. Through Antinous, upon whom the hatred of Antioch fell, we pray for salvation as we enter the second year of the Sacred Peregrination. "
Antioch today is a pile of ruins -- periodic earthquakes have taken their toll on the Roman forum and the beautiful marble palace where Hadrian and Antinous resided in August of the year 129. The tremors of their tour of the Eastern Empire sent shock waves which reverberate to this very day.