ON April 20 the Religion of Antinous commemorates the visit of Hadrian and Antinous to the fabled city of Aphrodisias.
Named for Venus/Aphrodite, the beautiful city of Aphrodisias was an important stop in the province of Asia.
Built near a magnificent marble quarry, Aphrodisias was a stunning city of gleaming white marble.
Not surprisingly, it was famous for its school of art. Sculptors came to Aphrodisias to perfect their skill, and the foremost masters of the Roman world gathered here.
Hadrian being a devoted lover of art, spent a great deal of time in the studios, examining the progress, questioning the masters, and even offering his learned advice to the young students.
Flamen Antonyus Subia explains the importance of Aphrodisias:
It was at this time, while in Aphrodisias that the most important portraits of Antinous were produced. Our young god modeled for the masters whose hands produced the archetypal images that later, after the deification of Antinous, would be used as sacred examples for the reproduction of his image on a vast scale.
The artists of Aphrodisias were called upon to undertake the task of creating the sacred images of Antinous by the thousands, based on one or two portraits made during his life, portraits made in Aphrodisias, by Aphrodisians.
These artists had seen the living Antinous, had spoken to him and carefully observed the fine details of his face and body. They took notice of the subtle and loving gestures between the lovers Hadrian and Antinous, and they were able to capture in marble, the radiance beneath the skin that had so captivated the Emperor.
The artists of Aphrodisias were the first to see and worship the divinity of Antinous, through his image, and it is their vision that has come down to us through the ages. We commemorate the portrait carving of the living Antinous by the Masters, whose images have maintained the religion of Antinous for so many centuries.
Foremost of these, we remember St. Antoninianus of Aphrodisias, the only sculptor of Antinous to sign his work (the image of Antinous with a dog).
This day is sacred to him, to Venus and to the idolatry of Antinous.