The name Antinous was given may have come from the Antinous that was the most handsome of the doomed suitors of Penelope-we will never know. The young man's ancestry, as far as immediate family and other blood than purely Hellenic flowing through his veins can only be guessed at and there is too much lost to history to give any kind of story. He most probably had some other genes in him than Greek. This could have come from the diverse nature of Bithynia and the many varieties of peoples that crossed through his homeland. What we do know from historical images of him is that his features were not purely Hellenic.
From Royston Lambert's, Beloved and God: "And indeed his features have elements which are obviously unclassical; the angle and bluntness of his nose, the breadth at its roots, the width of the face, the squatness of the neck, the thickness of the eyebrows and the indefinable curvature and protrusion of that 'pomegranate' mouth which many see as voluptuous."
There is only a tiny clue about his immediate family from the obelisk on the Pincio Hill in Rome. His mother's name is praised; there seems to be more about his family and birthplace where the granite is damaged, Hadrian had wrote the lines on this monument. Perhaps (this is another maybe to our story), Hadrian had known and liked the family of Antinous. From Beloved and God: "For what it is worth, this doubtful phrase might imply that Antinous came from a respectable family (otherwise Hadrian would have scarcely mentioned it) and was the first of perhaps several children, not an orphan or an abandoned waif as has sometimes been supposed."
Was Antinous a slave, as many historians and chroniclers from the early Christian era to the Renaissance and even after have said? Highly doubtful in my opinion. The denigration of the relationship and characters of Hadrian and Antinous began later in history after they passed from the stage. Much of the defamations seem to come from the viewpoint of homophobia. About only one in fifty scholars and scribes of ancient times describe Antinous as a slave. The thoughts about Antinous being a slave are suspicious in another very major respect. In ancient times the elevation of a slave to godhood would have been very unlikely. A slave was viewed as even worse than a catamite. Slaves did not even qualify for Hades, much less Olympus. Slaves were feared in ancient times if they tried to change their status, as this would threaten the whole social structure and order of those days. Certainly there would have been much outrage at the thought of a mere slave becoming a god that was to be worshipped by respectable free people.
Also wouldn't the many detractors of Hadrian, both pagan and Christian have seized this further opportunity to denounce him and defame his name? In all of the ancient references to Antinous he is called a slave in one extract given by Eusebius which was quoted by Jerome. Although when Jerome gives his own three independent views of Antinous he never mentions him as a slave. From Beloved and God: "Either these ancient critics did not know of the allegation (incredible if Antinous had been of servile status) or chose to deliberately ignore it because it was so obviously false that it was scarcely profitable to repeat it."
To me the charge that Antinous was a slave is absurd. Antinous may have even come from a family high on the social totem pole. The charge that Antinous was a slave seems to me to be coming from the viewpoint of homophobia, both from pagans and early Christian polemicists, and subsequently repeated through history-to the Renaissance and on to the time of Gibbons and beyond. In later posts I will also try to refute the charge that Antinous was a mere catamite to Hadrian and other charges. I have so enjoyed doing this set of posts and for someone who works at my speed these posts have been coming fast and furious. I will have to slow down in the future to do the story justice. Originally I didn't want to have too many other posts between the story, but I have found that in beating myself over the head trying to figure out what to include here and leave out I am rushing things for no good reason and it would be better to have higher information and quality rather than just trying to get the story done. I am already working on the next post for the series but it won't be here for a bit. I hope that this isn't off-putting to anyone that reads my blog. I am just not quick enough to give the story justice trying to get it all done at once. I hope folks will not mind other things being here with more frequency in between the saga of Hadrian and Antinous.