How did Antinous come to meet the Emperor Hadrian? I find this question particularly fascinating, as there is so much speculation about it. L.B. Dietrichson puts them meeting as late as 129-130 AD, when a group of slaves (please note previous post about this), supposedly including Antinous, were sent to Hadrian's camp. This date is now considered to be far too late. Dietrichson also had an interesting quote about Antinous in regards to the slanders cast upon him; "Antinous is the reflection which awakening Christianity throws back on dying antiquity."
I wonder what the leaders of the early Christian Church would have made of this?
From Royston Lambert's, Beloved and God: "Rydberg has Antinous as an earnest and brilliant student of philosophy meeting Hadrian in Athens at some unspecified time. Marguerite Yourcenar depicts the Emperor's eyes first resting on the form of a youth lolling, half absracted, next to a pool in the palace of Nikomedia in 123 AD. Carandini suggests that Hadrian encountered the boy on his first great journey and then met him again by appointment in Athens in 128 AD at the start of his second. Several recent historians assume that Hadrian and Antinous were already close enough to take part together in the mysteries of Eleusis in the September of 128, only a few days after the Emperor had arrived from Rome; a reasonable enough assumption though still begging the question of when they first met." So we have a range from various historians ancient and modern saying that Hadrian met Antinous when he was just a boy of 11 or 12 and some saying they met as late as 129-30-towards the end of Antinous' very short life.
The most important information that can be gathered is from the partially destroyed writing on the epitaph of the obelisk at Pincio. Going from this it seems that Antinous was respectfully taken away from his family, rather than kidnapped. Hadrian's devotion to Claudiopolis after the death of Antinous would indicate that Hadrian had at the very least a friendly if not close relationship to Antinous' family and birthplace.
The only time that historical evidence shows us for sure that Hadrian was in Claudiopolis during the lifetime of Antinous is 123 AD. This is the most likely year of Antinous joining the entourage of Hadrian's court. There is other circumstantial evidence involving a small set of sculptures of Antinous as a boy that could possibly be actual historical memories of him in Hadrian's circle at a young age of 11 or 12. There are more tenuous links to support this line of thought. From Beloved and God: "If the Arch of Constantine does illustrate the life of Antinous, then he must have been in the west as a page, especially if he figures on the bear hunt and the related sacrifice to Silvanus, a Latin god, with whom he was also to be significantly associated in Italy after his death."
So much of the historical evidence we have does not constitute absolute proof of the time Antinous joined Hadrian's court. Overall, the bits and pieces that can be put together suggest the 'most likely' scenario of Antinous leaving Claudiopolis in 123 AD in Hadrian's entourage, he would have been only 11 or 12 years old. Following this line of thinking he would have been taken to Rome as a page. Maybe he entered the paedagogium, whose official role was to train the boys to become civil servants of servants at the palace.
However the paedagogium may have also been used as a harem for boys. Antinous' star had risen and he was a companion of the Emperor by the mid-summer of 128 AD, when he was noticed at Caesarea. By this point in time Antinous would have been the imperial favorite. He was Hadrian's travelling companion to the Greek mainland, where it is largely agreed that they both participated in the Eleusinian mysteries in September of 128 AD.
The image at the head of this post is of Hadrian and Antinous depicted on one of the tondos of the Arch of Constantine. They are hunting wild boar in the late spring of the year 129 AD.
I have two more posts about our story here already written and ready to go-as I think these posts are better written and very interesting I am anxious to put them up here. I would like to mix things up a little in between with other things to prevent boredom with the story-but they should be here very soon unless any complications arise.