CANOPUS and Heracleion! Where Hadrian and Antinous spent pleasant days away from the hubbub of steamy Alexandria in August and September of the year 130 ... just weeks before tragedy.
Heracleion is a real-life Atlantis which sank off the coast of Egypt nearly 1,200 years ago has now been brought back to the surface with the help of 3-D ... and Antinous and Hadrian visited this city ... before a massive earthquake caused it to sink beneath the waves.
The city of Heracleion, home of the temple where Cleopatra was enthroned, was one of the most important trade centres in the Mediterranean area before it disappeared into what is now the Bay of Aboukir.
The Imperial entourage visited Alexandria and nearby Canopus in August or September 130 AD.
It is hard to believe they would have passed by fabled Heracleion without at least a brief stop to pay respects at the famous temple of Hapi the Nile inundation deity ... it was Hapi who helped Antinous perform his first miracle after deification.
Heracleion had been the primary Egyptian port at the mouth of the western arm of the Nile prior to the founding of Alexandria.
By the time Hadrian and Antinous saw Herakleion the city had been in genteel decline for 300 years but was still an important destination for annual pilgrimages by the Egyptian faithful during the annual inundation of the Nile.
Nearby Canopus had a reputation as the fun spot of the ancient world, a sort of Las Vegas or Monte Carlo or Club Med where those who could afford it played in the sun (and in the pleasure houses) of what is recorded history's first fun-in-the-sun resort.
Canopus was a welcome change from Alexandria, where Christians and Jews waged bloody street battles and where the snooty Greco-Egyptian social classes looked down on the upstart Romans and gossiped viciously behind their backs ... "but not too far behind their backs," as Antinous authority Royston Lambert notes.
"Hurt and resentful," Lambert writes in "Beloved and God," "Hadrian and his circle may in late August have removed themselves from the intense and captious city along the canal to the elegant and relaxed pleasure resort of Canopus with its elegant villas, its vine-threaded arches straddling the water to shade its revellers and its splendid Serapeam."
Lambert points out that "it was delicious Canopus and not mocking Alexandria" that Hadrian used as the motif in a special "resort-theme" area in his villa at Tibur.
In Marguerite Yourcenar's novel "Hadrian's Memoirs," it is at Canopus that Hadrian (increasingly obsessed with omens and astrological prognostications as his health fails) consults a "heka" (Egyptian magic) mistress and asks the old witch if there is any way to extend his lifespan.
Antinous' beloved tame falcon is sacrificed and its ka is added to the many kas of the emperor's in what the witch says is a guaranteed way to prolong Hadrian's longevity.
An even more sure-fire way would be for a human being to sacrifice his life in love and total devotion to the emperor.
But human sacrifice had been banned by Hadrian's predecessor Tiberius and Hadrian was known to oppose such practices.
So Hadrian and Antinous return to Alexandria and Hadrian considers the matter closed. Only later does he learn that Antinous secretly goes back to Canopus.
"He paid another visit to the sorceress," Hadrian writes in his memoirs.
Only a few pages later, with the Nile flood lagging and with Hadrian's health flagging, Antinous makes a burnt sacrifice of a lock of his hair at an Egyptian temple on the banks of the Nile opposite Hermopolis.
Then he sheds his clothes and folds them neatly on the bank ... and walks out into the Nile....