Saturday, September 8, 2012



ANTINOUS must have loved dogs because the only domestic animal depicted with him in a portrait is a dog.

There are other images which show him with wild animals, a boar and a lion, which were slain by Hadrian and Antinous on their various hunting expeditions.

But a stone relief found at the ruins of Lanuvium north of Rome over 100 years ago shows Antinous with a knee-high mongrel dog the only "pet" ever depicted with him.

There was a major temple to Antinous in Lanuvium, which was a favorite town of Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius, who lovingly carried out Hadrian's plans for establishing the Religion of Antinous. Perhaps this image once adorned the villa of Antoninus?

It is easy to imagine Hadrian and Antinous with hunting dogs in pursuit of wild game, or lounging on dining couches with faithful dogs nearby. Perhaps Antinous had a favorite dog which accompanied him on all his travels with his beloved Emperor.

Maybe it was that dog whose frantic barking led the imperial search party to the body of Antinous in the bullrushes of the Nile. It was a dog which mourned for his dead master ... who knows?

What we do know is that gay people who worship Antinous encounter guide dogs when they visit Hadrian's Villa. This has happened enough times to make it more than "anecdotal" evidence.

A British gay man got lost at the sprawling villa and was rescued by a dog. He related his encounter this way:

"I find Antinous to be a benign, gentle deity. I have had a couple of points when I felt his presence was actually with me. One was at the ruins of Hadrian's villa near Rome. I got lost and worried I'd get locked in as it was near closing time there. A large dog appeared and very clearly wanted me to follow him. I did so and he led me to the exit where he instantly disappeared. We know Antinous loved dogs from a beautiful relief carving of him with a dog clearly worshipping his owner. I am 100% sure Antinous sent the spirit dog to help me. "

Coincidence, you say? Well, Flamen Antonyus Subia and Priest Hernestus were not totally convinced either until the same thing happened to them just a few days ago during their Sacred Pilgrimage to Rome.

The sun was getting low and Hadrian's Villa closes an hour before sundown. So Antonyus and Hernestus were hurrying to find their way back through the gritty suburb of Tivoli to a bus stop, the first leg of the 90-minute trek back to Rome.

They had scarcely left the gates of the Villa when a knee-high mongrel (looking remarkably like the one in the Lanuvium relief) scampered up to them and began to trot along in front of them.

A matronly woman emerged from a cottage gate and shrieked in German at the dog: "Ercolino! Komm hierher!" (Little Hercules, Come Here!).

Ercolino ignored her and trotted off in front of the two priests, as she continued to shout in German for him to come back. Antonyus smiled at her to be friendly, but she gave him an evil scowl in return as if he were the Pied Piper luring her dog from home. 

They began to suspect that this had happened before.

"I think he's actually leading us!" Antonyus said with amazement.

Ercolino ran before them the whole way, turning a sharp left and then another left, darting back and forth across streets in front of cars. Antonyus kept telling him, "Go home, Ercolino, you'll get run over!" but Ercolino seemed to be on a mission to lead Antinous worshipers to the bus stop.

After at least half an hour, twisting and turning through the dusty streets of run-down Tivoli, the two priests reached the litter-strewn bus stop.

Ercolino gave them one last look and then dashed back the way he had come.

"He really did show us the way, and he managed not to get run over," Antonyus said in wonderment. "Ercolino really did show us the way."

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