A friend and co-religionist suggested something to me recently that makes perfect sense as far as syncretism goes, and which I came close to saying in my super-syncretism post but didn’t: if we think of various animal totems as “deities” in their own right, then when a particular deity has a strong association with an animal, or even sometimes takes the form of that animal, it is a form of syncretism between the animal spirit/totem and the deity. I like that, and think it makes perfect sense of why, for example, why certain deities have a particular animal form or association but may not have the same character or demeanor as the animal spirit/totem itself. (I’ll have more to say on that in relation to Loki and some members of his family later this month…)
So, that brings up the question in relation to Antinous: how much is he syncretized to spider in various respects, and are there forms of him that evince that syncretism more than others? Well, to be blunt, no, not exactly, since the spider connection is a newer and more recent one that no one has really paid any heed to until the last ten years or so. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t start exploring those possibilities now…
And, I have to give credit to Sannion for already beating me to talking about this, in a way, though I’ll be taking it in a different direction based on some other matters at present. That would be to discuss Antinous as Vir Aranea, which is to say: Spiderman!
There’s a Spiderman theme song that I seem to be the only one amongst my chain of acquaintances who remembers it, from the children’s television show The Electric Company, and after all these years, while I remember hearing it and seeing it, I never knew what one of the lines of it actually was–until recently, that is. Last week, when Emma Stone from the new The Amazing Spiderman film appeared on Jimmy Fallon’s show, The Roots played her in with the song! What luck! I was joking with Sannion in the comments to the post linked to above on substituting “Antinous” (or “Antinous-Man”) for “Spiderman” in the various theme songs, and that The Electric Company‘s version was particularly appropriate for Antinous in so many respects:
Where are you comin’ from, Antinous?
Nobody knows who you are!
However, there is further precedent for linking Antinous and Spiderman now available, as of today, with the release of The Amazing Spiderman (which I haven’t seen yet, and probably won’t get to see while it’s in the cinemas, because I couldn’t afford to pay my bills this month, much less go see a film). Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter Parker/Spiderman in the new film, also played Antinous in a BBC radio drama back in ’03 or so (despite everyone pronouncing his name utterly incorrectly…aargh…but, that doesn’t stop True Blood from doing worse with more common names, or bits of Greek, alas…), and he also played a character who played Hermes/Mercury in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus a few years ago, in addition to playing a very Hermes/Mercury-esque role in The Social Network.
In any case, he’s awfully cute, wouldn’t you agree?
Perhaps it’s a kind of Dionysian method of syncretism that is ultimately involved here: having one person embody multiple characters through their acting abilities, and then those characters thus coming into contact with one another…It would be interesting to explore the various modalities of syncretism that may be dependent on the primary deity in operation within them!
If, as Christopher Knowles and Grant Morrison would argue (though these are the words of the former rather than the latter), “our gods wear spandex,” then seeing Antinous through the images of comic super heroes might be an interesting way to approach the matter for some people. So much of the Peter Parker/Spiderman story is about a young and somewhat nondescript teenager finding he has great power and great responsibility, and has risen far above what he ever thought possible. Much the same could be said, I think, about Antinous both in his life and in his eventual deification: though I’d never say he was nondescript (for if he were, Hadrian never would have noticed him for his beauty, I suspect, nor would he have been as enthralled and in love with him for his character), I suspect the theme of his story is much the same. Not many children or even ephebes were able to become heroes in the entirety of Greek and Roman history–only a small handful, really–and yet Antinous was one of them, and a very unexpected one at that. No, he wasn’t bitten by a radioactive mutant spider; but he was drowned by a divine river…if we were being Joseph Campbell-like, we might say “Same thing, really.”