I was looking at some coin reverses (in a book, unfortunately) recently of Hadrian’s principate, and noticed that in all of the ones which depict Apollon, the god is nude. Now, of course, it’s not unusual for ancient Greek or Roman deities (or heroes, or even deified emperors) to be depicted nude; the ancient polytheists (and many modern ones as well!) had no problem showing the human or divinely-human form uncovered because it is nothing to be ashamed of, and what indeed do deities have to worry about in terms of appearing unclothed? You can’t send them to jail or fine them for “public indecency” (unless you’re Pentheus, and we all know how well THAT turned out!), and thus it is a characteristic of divine beings to generally not be shown with clothes.
Why am I focusing on this topic for starters on the day on which Apollon’s syncretism to Antinous is being recognized, other than the vague connection to Hadrian (who was, incidentally, also given the Neos Pythios epithet on occasion, just like Antinous)? Well, because after a few days of it being relatively nice here in my insular corner of western Washington state, today is one of those days that, while not overly sunny or hot, is suddenly extremely humid, and one would very much prefer not to be wearing any clothes at all. It might seem ironic, from certain viewpoints, to associate this feeling with Apollon, who is often characterized as “restrained” and “civilized” and “refined” and all sorts of other things, in contrast to his brother Dionysos (thanks very much for that persistent meme, Nietzsche!), and yet I’m tempted to think it’s not at all out of character for either deity. Direct divine inspiration and insight, like Apollon gives, and the epiphanies that are granted by Dionysos, both have a kind of “shameless” quality to them, and a way of being overwhelmingly beautiful and convulsively transformative in the moment; and such flashes of enlightenment are, perhaps, not unlike being surprised by someone suddenly appearing naked in front of one’s eyes. It can often be too much for us…
I’m still parsing a dream involving Antinous I had last night…and, from what I understand, it’s likely that more are on the way in the coming weeks and months. I can’t really say more about it at present, but I wasn’t expecting him to show up when or how he did last night at all…I’m glad after ten years, we still surprise one another!
So, however you celebrate Solstice, and whomever your own cultus amongst the divine beings focuses upon at this time of the year, I hope that all is well with you, and that you are the recipient of divine flashes, and divine flashers, on this day!
Khaire Apollon! Ave Ave Antinoe!