THE discovery of a TEMPLE CORNICE STONE in Antinoopolis with the name of Antinous in Egyptian hieroglyphs made headlines this week.
It is the only inscription in the city, founded by Hadrian at the spot on the Nile where Antinous died, which mentions Antinous.
There is only one other hieroglyphic inscription of his name ... in the glyphs on the atop the Pincio Hill in Rome.
Here is a transliteration of his name, which is spelled with these glyphs:
The Egyptians spelled it with a forearm ("A"), a wave of water ("N"), a hand ("D"), two reeds ("I") another "N", a water pot ("NU") and a bolt of folded cloth ("S"). The little triangles on either side of the "NU" pot are not standard glyphs and possibly only serve to balance the composition.
Also: an unvoiced "determinative" in the form of a human eye with highlighted upper lid. The most intriguing glyph is the eye with highlighted upper lid. It represents no spoken sound. It is a "determinative," which is to say it modifies or enhances the meaning of the name.
Though experts are unclear about this glyph, it is usually interpreted as meaning "eye make-up," "eyelashes," "looking" or "good-looking."
Incidentally, no royal cartouche is used in his name. Only the names of pharaohs and caesars are written inside a cartouche. The names of gods stand alone ... so Hadrian (a pharaoh) must be spelled with a cartouche, while Antinous (as a god) stands alone.
The name can also be spelled in a vertical format using another "S" glyph (the horizontal "door bolt"), depending on the scribe or artist's graphic art constraints.
Aside from the mysterious, unvoiced eyelid glyph, the most distinctive part of the name is the "NU" which is a biliteral glyph, which means it is two sounds "N" and "U" combined in one glyph.
It's the only biliteral in the name. Biliterals always denote something special. The Egyptians usually didn't bother to try to show vowel sounds in names unless the vowel was particularly important.
That is an indication that this particular "NU" sound was very important in pronouncing the name Antinous. The Egyptians heard a distinct "NU" sound in his name and felt it needed to be graphically represented.
It is important to remember that this Egyptian spelling represents a phonetic rendering of the name Antinous. As we know from modern languages, other people hear other sounds in a name. It was the same in Ancient times.
Our transliteration from the ancient Greek is Antinoös, with an umlaut (two dots) over the second "o" to stress that there were four syllables (as far as certain Greeks were concerned).
In other languages, Antinous is spelled "Antinoo" or "Antinoos".
We know from other inscriptions that the Egyptians were quite accurate in rendering "A-D-R-I-A-N-S" (Hadrianus) and the names of the other Caesars.
So these glyphs give us a tantalizing clue as to how his name may actually have been pronounced.
Did they really call him something that would sound like "Andi-NU-us" to our modern-day ears? That's what the Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription implies.
Each glyph was carefully chosen by the Priests of Antinous. On the Earthly Level, they wanted a phonetic match, of course. But on the Sacred Level they wanted a mystical match.
As Above, So Below.
CLICK HERE for a more esoteric discussion of the mystical meaning of his name.