HADRIAN designed the Antinous Mortuary Temple at his Villa outside Rome so that the rays of the rising sun would illuminate the inner sanctum on the Egyptian festival of the Nile Inundation, according to a US research team.
The new findings come on the heels of studies by other researchers showing that Emperor Hadrian, a skilled architect and astronomer/astrologer in his own right, aligned the Pantheon and the observatory at his Villa to the Solstices.
The new findings are the first indicating a celestial configuration for the Mortuary Temple of Antinous at Hadrian's Villa.
Archaeo-astronomers at Ball State University in the United States say the mystery-shrouded temple, called the ANTINOEION, was aligned so that the first rays of the rising sun would illuminate the East Face of the OBELISK OF ANTINOUS, which would then cast a shadow across a monolithic statue of Antinous-Osiris deep in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Using "solar tracking" technology and highly sophisticated 3-D computer imaging, the Ball State experts say that this sunrise configuration only occurs on July 20th each year.
July 20th was when the Egyptians, at that point in their long history, celebrated the annual Inundation of the Nile, the flood waters which brought nutrient-rich sediment down the river to Egypt to ensure bountiful crops for the coming year.
At other points in Egyptian history, that "Egyptian New Year" festival was celebrated on other dates, owing to vagaries of ancient calendars. But according to Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year's Day fell on July 20th in the Julian Calendar in 139 AD, which was a heliacal rising of Sirius in Egypt.
The Ball State University findings are all the more interesting because the First Miracle of Antinous, the July after his death in October 130 AD, was the NILE INUNDATION MIRACLEwhich ended a years-long drought which had threatened the entire empire with famine since Egypt was Rome's "breadbasket" for grain and produce.
The Obelisk is now located atop the Pincian Hill in Rome, but it almost certainly originally stood at the Antinoeion within the Hadrian's Villa compound. The plinth for the obelisk is still visible.
The Obelisk is covered in Egyptian hieroglyphs which constitute a prayer of praise for Antinous the God, describing his blessings.
The Egyptian hieroglyphs on the East Face of the Obelisk quote Antinous the God as asking Ra-Herakhte the sun god for blessings on Hadrian, and also asking Hapy, the Nile Inundation deity, to bring about a bountiful inundation on his behalf.
In effect, the rays (or "hands") of the sun god "activate" the Egyptian hieroglyphs, bringing this divine prayer to religio-magical life, as the shadow of the Obelisk covers the statue of Antinous-Osiris, master of death and transfiguration.
The Ball State University findings have yet to be verified independently, and the researchers said further studies are underway.
It is possible, of course, that the date July 20th had another significance of a more personal nature involving Hadrian and Antinous.
On the final leg of a three-year tour of the Eastern Empire, Hadrian and his Imperial entourage arrived in Egypt in the summer of the year 130 AD.
It is known that Hadrian and Antinous spent time in Alexandria, as well as in the coastal resort of Canopus. And they also slew a man-eating lion in Egypt in the summer of 130 AD.
So July 20th could refer to one of those events. It could, of course, also refer to something of a more intimate nature between the two men which transpired on that date.
Perhaps Hadrian and Antinous took part in celebrations for the Nile Inundation on July 20th of 130 AD in Egypt at which drought-weary Egyptians looked to Emperor Hadrian, as their pharaoh, to provide a miracle.
Ancient writers speculated that Antinous may have been eager to find a religio-magical way to help his beloved Hadrian, possibly sacrificing his life in return for blessings on the Emperor.
Whatever the date may signify, we know that, barely three months later, Antinous drowned in the Nile, and that grief-stricken Hadrian proclaimed him a God, the last Classical Deity before the Fall of Rome.
He died under mysterious circumstances, with Hadrian saying only that he "fell into the Nile." The Inundation Deity Hapy ensured that the Nile overflowed its banks generously the following July 20th.
A walk-through of the Ball State University computer model of the Antinoeion and explanation of the July 20th solar alignment is provided in this YouTube video: