WE are often asked whether Antinous was gay during his mortal lifetime ... truly gay, at least as we understand the complex sociological and orientation that exist today.
Scholars have quibbled ... especially in Victorian times ... that Hadrian and Antinous were not homosexuals in the modern sense.
Instead, they were engaged in a socially acknowledged erotic relationship between an adult male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos) usually in his teens ... or so the uptight scholars argued.
These semantic nuances allowed academics to sidestep the socially loaded issue of calling some of the greatest figures in history "practicing homosexuals" ... because that might imply that homosexuality was in fact not a degenerate mental illness, but instead was perfectly normal.
Even up until the turn of the 21st Century, many academicians (mostly male) persisted in avoiding the "G" word when referring to Hadrian and Antinous.
All of that changed at a news conference in London a few years ago.
"Hadrian was gay, and we can say that now. The Victorians had a problem with it. But we can say it." Thorsten Opper, a British Museum curator of Greek and Roman sculpture shocked the stuffy world of academia when he made that statement ... at a news conference announcing the Museum's Hadrian: Empire and Conflict" exhibition in 2008.
The British Museum, that bastion of staid and conservative scholarship, signaled a paradigm shift in historical awareness of homosexuality.
The collage portrait of Antinous by artist Doug Stapleton on this page symbolizes the many layers of perception of gayness through the ages.
Our own high priest, Flamen Antonius Subia, explains the change in attitude that has taken place ... it is not so much gayness which has changed ... but rather the cultural perception of gays has changed ... not only society's perception of gays ... but more especially the perception of gayness amongst gays.
"Gay has always been and always will be, or so I feel," Antonius says. "Antinous was gay in the way that gays were in Roman times, which is different from how gays were in the 1950's, which is different from how gays are now," he says.
"Antinous represents the divine essence that we all hold in common, so yes, I believe that in his own way and for his time, Antinous was gay just like we are now."
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