Monday, November 30, 2015


A stunning new exhibition at the British Museum will enable you to see some colossal statues and other treasures that Antinous saw in coastal Egypt ... before they vanished beneath the sea in quake-spawned tsunamis. 

Some 300 outstanding objects will be brought together in the blockbuster exhibition SUNKEN CITIES which opens 19 May 2016 at the British Museum in London and which ends on 27 November 2016 ... the birthday of Antinous.

The exhibition features objects from the British Museum's own collection plus spectacular artefacts brought to the surface over the past 20 years by marine archaeologist Franck Goddio off the coast of Alexandria and also at two nearby cities famed as resorts in ancient times.

Vanished beneath the Mediterranean for 1,000 years, the fabled "Lost Cities" of Canopus and HERAKLEION (Heracleion) once lay at the mouth of the Nile. 

Goddio and his divers found those lost cities in 2000.

It is intriguing to think that Antinous may have gazed on those treasures when he and Hadrian visited Egypt in 130 AD.

Since first discovering the Alexandria treasures, Monsieur Goddio has gone on to trawl the waters a few kilometres east of Alexandria in hopes of discovering

Goddio's exhibition of "Egypt's Sunken Treasures" has traveled the world and the British Museum is supplementing the show with a selection of its own objects.

The exhibition also showcases ongoing research ... the most recently excavated objects were found only in 2012!
The discoveries are transforming our understanding of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Egypt.

It brings many objects to Britain for the first time, including statues and jewelry.

The exhibition is the first public viewing of newly discovered Canopus/Herakleion treasures since the two cities vanished below the waves in a series of floods and earthquakes, finally disappearing completely in the late 7th Century AD.

By that time, Egyptian priests had retreated to Canopus/Herakleion and advancing Muslims were sweeping across the land. Thus the exhibition offers a sort of time capsule of the waning days of paganism when the "barbarians" literally stood at the gates.

There are many statues, mostly fragmentary ones minus heads and limbs. 

But by far the most impressive statues are three virtually intact monumental figures of Isis, Amun and the Nile inundation deity Hapi which stand 5.5 meters (nearly 20 feet) tall.

The figure on the right of Hapi is particularly remarkable because it is the world's only large and intact statue of this hermaphrodite deity.

Two modern-day priests of Antinous saw this statue of Hapi in all its magnificence at an exhibition in Germany in 2007 where the two priests placed flowers at the base of the statue and said prayers. 

Hapi, with narrow male hips and strong thighs, but with pendulous female breasts, with long Isis-like hair, but with a chinbeard and with a tall headdress of lotus and papyrus plants on his/her head, holds forth a sacrificial platter.

Presumably, the ancient priests would heap foodstuffs onto that platter on a daily basis, or at least on special feast days ... just as the two modern-day priests did before the statue at the exhibition in Germany.

When Antinous and Hadrian were there, the Nile had failed to flood sufficiently in the summer of the year 130 and there were great concerns that Egypt, the "bread basket" of the Roman empire, would not be able to supply enough food for the coming season.

That makes this particular statue of Hapi even more significant. Throughout Egypt, throughout the empire, all eyes were on Hadrian to intercede with Hapi to avert famine and hunger-induced rioting.

These three statues flanked the portals of the main temple in Herakleion and Hadrian and Antinous must have seen this magnificent statue of the Nile flood deity Hapi ... the first miracle attributed to Antinous after his deification only a few months later was the end of the drought with the help of Hapi.

Was there a link between the looming flood disaster and Hadrian's flagging powers? As Lambert writes: "The link, if any, was in Antinous' mind."

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