Friday, October 24, 2014


GET the October edition of MINERVA magazine for the cover story: "A Passion for Greece: Emperor Hadrian's Love of all things Greek." 

It focuses on the CURRENT EXHIBIT at Hadrian's Villa (Tivoli) which ends November 2. 

Also included a brief article on a recently discovered/sold sculpture of Antinous in Derbyshire in the UK.

The marble bust, about which nothing was known when it was discovered in a British country house four years ago, has been identified as a 2nd Century Roman portrait of Antinous-Osiris. 

It has now been sold to an American collector for a six-figure sum. 

The bust, pictured, was found by Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, antiquities consultants, in Thornbridge Hall, Derbyshire, in 2010. 

It is thought to have originally been located at Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. 

Excavated in 1769, it found its way into the sculpture collection of Thomas Hope in London, whose great grandson sold it at Christie's in 1917. 

It was later acquired by Charles Boot, heir to a construction business, who bought Thornbridge Hall in 1930. When he died in 1945, the sculpture was sold with the house and its history forgotten.

Antonius Subia is elated about the find. He says: 
"Just when you think that you have seen EVERY Antinous image there is from ancient times...another one turns up out of nowhere! And as we move into the sacred weeks of October...this is a Good One!
"Seeing his face again, as if for the first time...I am struck by how beautiful he is, and I can't help but fall in love all over again. Ave Antinous the Arisen God!"

Thursday, October 23, 2014


THIS amazing fragment of stone bears an inscription commemorating the visit of Antinous and Hadrian to Jerusalem on their fateful tour of Rome's eastern provinces … a tour which ended in the death of Antinous in October 130 AD.

The inscription proves that the 10th Legion was stationed in Jerusalem between the two Jewish Revolts and that troops were on hand when Antinous and Hadrian visited.

Jerusalem was a turning point in the Emperor's tour which, until then, had been glorious. But strife-torn Jerusalem set the stage for the tragic ending to the tour. 

Hadrian's crackdown on Jewish hardline dissidents led by Rabbi Bar Kochba ... banning circumcision, renaming Jerusalem and forcing Jews into the diaspora ... created shock waves which reverberate to this day.

The stone engraved with an official Latin inscription dedicated to the Roman Emperor was discovered in the capital in July by the Antiquities Authority. 

It has just now been unveiled at Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem.

It was probably part of Hadrian's own main gate into the Old City of Jerusalem.

It was found under the Mameluke Era Damascus Gate which was built over Hadrian's Gate … probably erected after the Bar Kochba Revolt when Jerusalem was renamed Aelia Capitolina (after Hadrian's Aelian family name).

According to Dr. Rina Avner, who led the Antiquities Authority's excavation north of Damascus Gate, the relic from the Roman period is among the most important Latin inscriptions ever discovered in Jerusalem.

The inscription proves that the 10th Legion was stationed in Jerusalem between the two Jewish Revolts and that troops were on hand when Antinous and Hadrian visited.

“The [date] is a significant and tangible confirmation of the historical account regarding the presence of the 10th Legion in Jerusalem during the period between the two revolts, and possibly even the location of the legion’s military camp in the city, and of one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Bar-Kochba revolt several years later and the establishment of Aelia Capitolina,” she said.

The English translation of the inscription is as follows: “To the Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis Antoniniana.”

The Bar-Kochba revolt is ascribed to the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, who is remembered in Jewish history for having issued dictates imposing the persecution of Jews, which the sources referred to as the “Hadrianic decrees.”

The history of the Bar-Kochba revolt is known from, among other events, the works of the contemporary Roman historian Cassius Dio, who also mentions Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem in the year 129/130 CE, within the framework of the emperor’s travels in the eastern empire.

But the inscription is the first proof of Cassius Dio's claim.

“This is apparently exactly what happened in Jerusalem,” said Avner. “The completion of the two parts of the text reveals an especially large inscription that is quite impressive. The inscription itself might have set in the top of a free-standing triumphal arch on the city’s northern boundary such the Arch of Titus in Rome.”

Jerusalem's fate after destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE), and prior to the Bar-Kochba revolt (132-136 CE), is one of the major issues in the history of the city and the Jewish people, she noted.

“We know from ancient writers and the inscriptions on coins that the new city, which Hadrian established, was granted the status of ‘colonia,’ that is a city whose citizens and gods are Roman, and its name was changed to Aelia Capitolina, or COLONIA AELIA CAPITOLINA in Latin,” Avner said.

“There is no doubt that the discovery of this inscription will contribute greatly to the long-standing question about the reasons that led to the outbreak of the Bar-Kochba revolt: Were the reasons for the rebellion the construction of Aelia Capitolina and the establishment of the pagan temple on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount; or conversely perhaps, these were the results of the revolt – that is, punitive action taken by Hadrian against those who rebelled against Roman rule?” 


EXPERTS in Turkey, birth place of Antinous, have found this stunning bust of Hercules the Lion-Slayer which dates to the Hadrianic era.

Excavations in the ancient city of Kibyra revealed the bust dating from the 2nd Century AD which shows Hercules wearing the hide of the Nemean lion as a head covering.

Antinous and Hadrian slew a lion in the Egyptian desert, prompting Hadrian to be equated with Hercules the Lion Slayer with Antinous as his Hylas ... male lover of Hadrian.

One of the excavation team members, Dicle University’s İsmail Baytak, said they had found the bust in a foundation in the agora of the ancient city, according to Andalou news agency.

Noting that the most important feature of the bust was the depiction of the lion, Baytak said: “This bust has great importance. We made a review of the literature and realized that such a bust has never been seen in this region and in other museums. It is the first and only of its type that makes us very pleased.”

Baytak said the workmanship on the bust pointed to the era of the Antonine dynasty founded by Trajan and Hadrian. 

"You can see the eyes of the lion in the upper part of the bust and its mane in the back side. The mane does not belong to Heracles but to the lion. In mythology, Heracles already has the feature of a demi-god. The depiction of the lion represents power."

Baytak said the bust would be cleaned and preserved in a depot.

"Heracles puts the fur of the lion on his head and ties it to his own body. We have removed the head of the bust only," he added. 

In mythology, Mycenaean king Eurystheus asked Heracles to kill the Nemean lion as one of the 12 labors he was assigned. Upon completing the task, Heracles donned the feline’s fur, assuming its magical powers.

The academic said they would give the bust to the Burdur Museum after the end of the excavation season and were planning to unearth the other section of the statue during next year’s excavations. 

Heracles is a divine hero. He is the son of Zeus and Alcmene, and great-grandson (and half-brother) of Perseus. He enjoyed celestial power from the day he was born. When he turned 18, he killed a famous monster living in the Kitharion forests. As a reward, he was given the daughter of Thebai king, Megara.

Driven mad by the goddess Hera, Heracles killed his three children and wife. To atone for the crime, Eurystheus ordered him to carry out 12 labors, which included slaying the lion and the hydra and capturing Cerberus from Hades, among others.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


FOR most of the year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel is shrouded in darkness.

On two days, traditionally the anniversary of the birthday and coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight pierces the gloom, illuminating statues of gods and the king in the temple's inner sanctum.

On February 22, a day celebrating the king's birthday and again on October 22, a day celebrating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of king Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the Theban god of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows all year).

The spectacle—which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history—draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.

Ramses, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 BC (about 50 years after the death of Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut) made a name for himself by battling the Hittites and the Syrians, Egypt's enemies to the north.

To celebrate his victories, Ramses erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements. He completed the hypostyle hall at Karnak (Thebes), and completed the funerary temple of his father, Seti I, at Luxor on the West Bank of the Nile.

The main temple at Abu Simbel, which Ramses ordered built near the border of Nubia and Upper Egypt, was dedicated to two sun gods, Amen-Re and Re-Horakhte. 

Standing 100 feet (33 meters) tall, the temple was carved into an already-standing sandstone mountain on the banks of the Nile.

Four colossal statues of Ramses, each 66 feet (22 meters) high, guard the entrance to the temple.

Rising to the pharaoh's knees are smaller statues of family members: his mother; favorite wife, Nefertari; and son, Prince Amonherkhepshef.

Inside the temple, three connected halls extend 185 feet (56 meters) into the mountain. 

Images of the king's life and many achievements adorn the walls. 

A second temple at Abu Simbel is dedicated to Nefartari, who appears to have been Ramses' favorite wife.

"Abu Simbel was one of, if not the largest, rock-cut temples in Egypt," says Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, "The rock was sacred because the Egyptians believed the deity was living inside the mountain."

Rock-cut temples may have been especially significant in ancient Egypt because the bulge in the otherwise flat land may have signified the location where the gods emerged from the Earth, says Williams.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


BEFORE the days of, Skype sexting and Facebook stalking, singles mixers and even personal ads, there was a love and marriage guide for ancient Romans which Hadrian and Antinous were bound to have read.

Ovid’s Ars Amatoria is a colorful three-part book on how to catch ‘em and keep ‘em for both men and women. The author of the Metamorphoses includes instructions on how to be a gentleman, where to meet beautiful people (the theatre, obviously), and even proper dating hygiene (don’t smell like your livestock). Here are eleven of his best notes of advice for the world’s oldest sport.


Even with Cupid pitching on your side, Mr. Right is not going to be “wafted down to you from heaven on the wings of the wind,” as Ovid writes. Satisfying love may take some searching, at least in the beginning, and your hard work breaking the two-mile courtship circle will eventually pay off.  


The best place to find a date back in the day was apparently Rome, despite mythological heroes such as Hercules finding his Hylas elsewhere. Ovid’s favorite local hotspots for singles mingling included the circus, the arena, and even the open-air public market known as the forum.  For a modern hopeful, that could be the local bar, the public library, or a section of the Brighton seaside pier—it all depends on your tastes. 


Beautiful people were apparently everywhere in the ancient world (if surviving sculpture is anything to go by), but the go-to place for a veritable “galaxy” of beauties was a good play. There, a Roman could find “crowds of lovely beauties, gaily dressed,” in search of art and culture. And quite possibly scads of bachelors hoping to score before intermission.


That Adonis or Helen gyrating under the strobe light may be a gorgon under the sunshine the next morning, both in looks and, more importantly, in personality. Ovid warns against an ancient form of drunk goggles as well: “Bringing love and wine together is adding fuel to the fire … If you really want to know what they are like, look at them by daylight, and when you’re sober.”


Research has found that humans are attracted to each other by hormonal scent patterns, but locker room etiquette suggests that you keep at least some of them under wraps. In addition to avoiding strutting out “reeking like a billy-goat,” keep your clothes, hair, teeth, and nails well-groomed and clean. And trim that nose hair.


If you want the object of your affections to stick around for the long term, begin by paying a visit as frequently as possible. Just as saplings grow into trees and trickles of water grow into rivers, a few friendly conversations might grow into a strong relationship if you take the trouble to drop by every day for a few weeks.


Those notches on the proverbial bedpost might be a pleasure to brag about, Ovid suggests, but they won’t help your or your paramour’s reputation. If you have to spill the juicy details to a friend, at least refrain from painting yourself as the gods’ gift to women or men: “Let us… speak sparingly of our real amours, and hide our secret pleasures beneath an impenetrable veil.” Don’t be a roamin’ Roman. 


Hadrian was eloquent in Greek and Latin, and so fluent in ancient tongues and storytelling that he won over his Beloved Boy. Studying the “refinements of life” in language and history just might land you your own Antinous. And who doesn’t find dead languages titillating?


Be bold. It helps that the Goddess of Love and all her minions are on your side, but whether your talents lie in translating Latin poetry or unclogging the office paper shredder, you can use them to pursue and woo the one you set your sights on.


"Love is like warfare … The night, winter, long marches, cruel suffering, painful toil, all these things have to be borne by those who fight in Love's campaigns ... If the ordinary, safe route to your mistress is denied you, if her door is shut against you, climb up on to the roof and let yourself down by the chimney, or the skylight. How it will please them to know the risks you've run for their sake! T'will be an earnest of your love." Just check for burglar alarms first.


Finally, Ovid says, the best way to flatter, thank, praise, or seduce anyone is by a good piece of homemade literature. Even if you’re too poor to afford anything else, a few heartfelt words will let your beloved know how much you cherish him or her, and how much you’d like to keep hanging around for the long run. And even if you haunt the wrong places, can’t speak Greek, fall through the skylight, or smell like a goat, they’ll have at least one good reason to remember you.

Monday, October 20, 2014


HERE is one of the most mysterious ... and missing ... statues of Antinous, showing him as Antinous Sauroktonos, the Lizard-Slayer.

The statue once stood in Dresden's Japanische Palais. But it was lost in the firestorms which swept Dresden during Allied bombing in the final days of World War II.

There is a famous statue of by Praxiteles of Apollo Sauroktonos, showing the God of Light with a stone poised over a lizard on a tree stump. 

The Praxiteles statue was oft copied by the Romans and also by artists up to the present day.

But this statue depicts Antinous as Apollo.

There is an ambivalence which has always intrigued historians. 

Is Antinous/Apollo about to kill the lizard? Or is he consciously sparing the life of the lizard?

Forget Nietzsche and other modern "experts" who philosophize about the "light" and "dark" side of human libidos and psyches.

The answer lies ... as always ... in Greek and Roman Symbological Imagery. 

(Image: Versions of Praxiteles' Apollo-Sauroktonos)

In Greek and Roman myths, the lizard symbolizes a sneaky spy who is eavesdropping on us. 

It is keeping tabs on our every move … It is a boyish tattle-tale who says, "Nyah, nyah ... I saw what you did and I'm gonna tell on you!"

The lizard is Ascalaphus, who is mentioned variously in Ovid's Metamorphoses and also by Pseudo-Apollodorus and other writers.

There are a couple of versions of the tale of Ascalaphus being metamorphosed into a skulking lizard and/or an owl (the better to spy on you at night).

In one version, Demeter persuades Pluto to permit her daughter Proserpine (Persephone) to return to the land of the living on condition that she imbibe neither food nor drink in the Elysian Fields.

But the mischievous little Hades boy "daimon" (Greek for "spirit") Ascalaphus observers her secretly biting into a pomegranate to eat its seeds and drink its juice.

Ascalaphus goes running off to tell Jupiter what he had seen ... whereupon Proserpine is condemned to remain with Pluto forever.

Proserpine/Persephone curses Ascalaphus by hurling a few drops of pomegranate juice at him which results in red speckles on his skin -- and he is transformed into a slinking newt ("askalaxos") with red-speckled scales for skin. 

Or else he becomes a speckled owl ("Bubos askalaphos").

In yet another version, Demeter herself takes vengeance by transforming Ascalaphus into a lizard and crushing him with a huge stone at the bottom of Pluto's realm.

Then, in turn, Hercules comes along and lifts the stone ... freeing Ascalaphus. Thus, Hercules is sometimes called the "Lizard Liberator" for that reason. 

But Ascalaphus's new-found freedom was short-lived because Demeter transformed him into a spotted horned owl ... as Ovid writes: "... a loathsome bird, ill omen for mankind, a skulking screech-owl, sorrow's harbinger. That tell-tale tongue of his no doubt deserved the punishment."

Thus, throughout the ages, Ascalaphus has become a synonym for someone who is punished cruelly for telling the truth. Back in the days when cultivated people studied the Classics, the imagery of a boy with a stone poised over a lizard was very clear. 

Tennessee Williams used that Classical imagery throughout his play "Night of the Iguana"which uses a Mexican lizard tied to a tree as a metaphor for the lies and mendacity and religious hypocrisy which have restricted unpleasant truths from being set free.

Antonius Subia says: 
This story of the tatter-tale daemon boy-lizard is endearing … and I have a fondness for sneaky little spies who reveal the truth...and I admire him for not letting Proserpina get away with fooling the Lord of the Underworld … he made quite sure that she stayed in the underworld like everybody else.  
This Ascalaphus is obviously a Gay lizard-boy, not in the least charmed by Prosephone's supposed beauty … when he saw that she had broken the rules, he wasted no time reporting it to Jupiter.  Perhaps Demeter/Sabina held a grudge against the little Gay Lizard...but I'm sure Jupiter/Hadrian appreciated the loyalty of the little traitor-informant. Antinous had no secrets to hide … and even if he did … I'm sure that he could count on the loyalty of the little gay lizard … if anything … the lizard kept Antinous informed of what Hadrian was up to behind closed doors … always a dangerous game … but for the sake of truth … this little gay lizard isn't afraid to die!

Why is Apollo so often depicted as the Lizard-Slayer? There's a theory that Apollo Sauroktonos is a spoof of Apollo's first deed as a young boy-god.

(Image: Apollo Vanquishing Python by symbolist painter Gustave Moreau)

Apollo's first achievement was to rid Pytho (Delphi) of the serpent (or dragon) Python. 

This monstrous beast protected the sanctuary of Pytho from its lair beside the Castalian Spring. 

There it stood guard while the "Sibyl" gave out her prophecies as she inhaled the trance inducing vapors from an open chasm. 

Apollo killed Python with his bow and arrows (Homer wrote "he killed the fearsome dragon Python, piercing it with his darts"), and then Apollo took charge of Delphi, turning it into his own special Oracle.

So ... is Antinous about to slay the lizard like Apollo slaying Python?

Or is Antinous actually lifting the stone away from the lizard, like Hercules liberating Ascalaphus in the River of Styx? 

Either way, of course, Antinous is engaging very powerful, dark energies. 

The Python is the guardian of Divine Secrets ... and Apollo mastered and become lord of Divine Secrets by overpowering Python. And Ascalaphus is the herald of dark secrets and unpleasant truths which must be told ... even at the risk of severe penalty.

Either way, these images have nothing to do with 20th Century sensitivities about animal cruelty.

These are very powerful images of Divine Secrets.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


ON October 19th we honor Saint Divine (October 19, 1945 — March 7, 1988), born Harris Glenn Milstead. 

Divine was an openly gay American actor, singer and drag queen.

Described by People magazine as the "Drag Queen of the Century," Divine often performed female roles in both cinema and theater and also appeared in women's wear in musical performances. 

Even so, he considered himself to be a character actor and performed male roles in a number of his later films.

He was most often associated with independent filmmaker John Waters and starred in ten of Waters's films, usually in a leading role.

Concurrent with his acting career, he also had a successful career as  a disco singer during the 1980s, at one point being described as "the  most successful and in-demand disco performer in the world."

Divine, the seventh-of-a-ton transvestite star of Mr. Waters's early movies, helped set a new standard for drag that endured long after Divine's death of heart failure in 1988, Mr. Waters said.

"When we started in those days, drag queens were square," Mr. Waters explained. "They hated Divine: they wanted to be Bess Myerson. And Divine would show up in a see-through miniskirt with a chainsaw instead of a pocketbook."

The Divine look, which stylist Van Smith first created in 1972 for Pink Flamingos, had three components. First was the hair, shaved back to the crown to allow more room for eye makeup. Second was the makeup, acres of eye shadow topped by McDonald's-arch eyebrows; lashes so long they preceded the wearer; and a huge scarlet mouth. Third were the clothes: shimmering, skintight numbers that gave Divine a larger-than-life female sensuality.

The net effect, as Mr. Smith ordained it, was a cross between Jayne Mansfield and Clarabell the Clown.

"If you look at anything that Divine wore, you sure couldn't find that off the rack," Mr. Waters said.

All of Divine's costumes were constructed by a Baltimore woman who made outfits for strippers. Subtle they were not. There was the red fishtail dress from Pink Flamingos, in which Divine looks equal parts mermaid, Valkyrie and firetruck. And there was the sheer wedding gown she wears in Female Trouble (1974), underwear not included.

Divine once famously said that if anybody was shocked by a 300-pound drag queen in a slinky cocktail dress "then maybe they need to be shocked." He himself would describe his stage performances as "just good, dirty fun, and if you find it offensive, honey, don't join in."

As a part of his performance, he would constantly swear at the audience, often using his signature line of "fuck you very much", and at times would get audience members to come onstage, where he would fondle their buttocks, groins and breasts.

He became increasingly known for outlandish stunts onstage, each time trying to outdo what he had done before. At one performance, held in the Hippodrome in London, that coincided with American Independence Day, Divine rose up from the floor on a hydraulic lift, draped in the American flag, and declared that "I'm here representing Freedom, Liberty, Family Values and the fucking American Way of Life." 

When he performed at London Gay Pride parade, he sang on the roof of a hired pleasure boat that floated down the Thames passed Jubilee Gardens, whilst at a performance he gave at the Hippodrome in the last year of his life, he appeared onstage riding an infant elephant, known as Bully the Elephant, who had been hired for the occasion.

Divine and his stage act proved particularly popular amongst gay audiences, and he appeared at some of the world's biggest gay clubs, such as Heaven in London. According to Divine's manager, Bernard Jay, this was "not because Divine happened to be a gay person himself... but because it was the gay community that openly and proudly identified with the determination of the female character Divine."

He was also described as "one of the few truly radical and essential artists of the century ... who was an audacious symbol of man's quest for liberty and freedom." 

On the evening of March 7, 1988, a week after his starring role in Hairspray was released, Divine was staying at the Regency Hotel in Los Angeles. The next day, he auditioned for a part in the Fox network's television series Married ... with Children. After dining with friends and returning to the hotel, he died in his sleep of an enlarged heart at age 42.