Inv. 22795 is a beautiful marble statue of Antinous. Antinous was a favourite of the Roman emperor, Hadrian, and is believed by many to have been his lover. He accompanied Hadrian on a tour of the Roman Empire.
In 130AD, Hadrian, Antinous, and the rest of Hadrian’s entourage assembled at Heliopolis in Egypt to set sail along the Nile. Shortly after stopping at Hermopolis Magna, the cult centre of the god Thoth, Antinous drowned in the river. His death was reported publicly by Hadrian and rumours spread that Antinous had been murdered.
One theory is that Antinous voluntarily sacrificed himself. His death was around the time of the Osiris festival in Egypt, a time when it was believed that the sacrifice of young males in the river Nile would ensure a prosperous crop due to the flooding of the Nile. It is possible that Antinous sacrificed himself to strengthen Hadrian’s rule by proving him to be a legitimate Egyptian pharaoh under whom Egypt flourished.
Hadrian was devasted by Antinous’ death and ordered the youth to be deified – in Egypt, he was identified with the god Osiris because of the nature of his death. There are many images of Antinous and these have been classified by archaeologists into different types. Inv. 22795 is of the type Osiris-Antinous, representing the royal and the divine attributes of the man.
This statue possesses many Egyptian qualities. Antinous wears the nemes headdress and stands with one foot forward in a striding pose – this is very common is pharaonic statues and symbolises power.
Hadrian founded a city in Egypt called Antinoopolis in honour of his favourite (above).