AUGUST marks the beginning of the second year of the sacred peregrination cycle, which is a recurring 3-year cycle commemorating the journey of Antinous and Hadrian through the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire.
It is at this time that we believe the Imperial Entourage arrived at the ancient city of Antioch, founded by Seleuces I Nicanor, one of Alexander's generals and the founder of the Hellenistic kingdom of Seleucia.
Antioch was the greatest city in the province of Syria during the Roman age, and was the command center from which Trajan conducted his war against the Parthians. It is very likely that Hadrian would have based his court at Antioch during his visit to Syria making excursions throughout the province.
Antioch is known as the cradle of Christianity, because it was where the majority of Hellenized Jews lived at the time, those who had embraced the Hellenic culture of the previous Seleucid empire, and then of the Romans, and had essentially created a culture with both Greek and Jewish influence, these were of course the first to embrace Christianity.
This had taken place only over the course of 100 years before, so Antioch was a city full of mixed cultures and cults and beliefs, but it was in Antioch that Hadrian and Antinous may have first encountered significant opposition and ridicule to their relationship from the Christian factions.
After traversing the deeply Hellenic provinces of Asia Minor, who loved and adored Hadrian, even proclaiming him to be the living Zeus, and lavishing adoration upon his beautiful young Ganymede, it must have come as a shock to be reviled and openly insulted by the Hellenized Jews and early Christians of Antioch.
For us, Antioch represents the first serious encounter with Homophobia that they have even experienced. There was of course, so much more to come as they progressed deeper towards Jerusalem.
It is significant that now, Syria is in a state of total chaos and war, based on the very same ideological beliefs that were growing in Antioch at that time. The war in Syria has the potential to bring the entire world into global disaster, as if Trajan's conflict has never ended.
But Syria for us, for gay people, represents something new. Apart from the many horrors and atrocities that have been committed there, like genocide, mass executions, sex slavery, public burning alive, and stoning, there is a new form of execution reserved for gay people, which is throwing us from the top of a high building..and if that does not kill us, then we are to be killed with stones.
This is new and it is happening now.
Antinous was there!
He walked upon the now contested ground of Syria where gay men are thrown from rooftops.
I am probably the least disturbed person by all the violence that is occurring now against our people across the world, because many years ago, in 2004 I think it was, Antinous revealed to me in a bath ceremony, that the greatest holocaust that gay people have ever known was coming.
It began almost immediately afterwards, when they hung the two boys in Iran, but it has grown exponentially since then and we are only in the start of it...there will be much worse to come.
The irony is that it all began when Antinous set foot in Syria.
Recently there was an auction of an Antinous bust that sold for $28 million, one of the highest prices ever paid for an ancient bust...but of course it was for Antinous. And it was not just any Antinous, but the only image of Antinous with his name engraved upon it.
The engraving says:
M. LUCIUS FLACCUS
M. LUCIUS FLACCUS
Or: Dedicated to Antinous the Hero by Marcus Lucius Flaccus
It was found in the now disputed Golan Heights region of Syria and has been owned by privately since the British occupation.
It made celebrity news for an antiquities sale, because of course it is Antinous.
Taken from the same land where so many gay people are being tortured and executed...with no realistic end in sight, the bust has vanished again into private hands...but it is one of the few Antinous images from the tumultuous middle-east, and even broken it is one of the most precious and significant, the one and only Antinous image with his name carved onto it and the name of the believer, our brother from ancient times who had it made!
This is what the beginning of the Second year of the Peregrination cycle means to us now:
It means entry into the darkness and suffering that we must not turn away from, but with the sign that Antinous was there, and that his believers were among the same people and that there is hope, there is even word of an LGBTQ group of soldiers who have banded together under the rainbow flag (photo above left).
May Antinous of Antioch be with them and with all of us in our struggle.