Posted by: aediculaantinoi | June 1, 2012

“The Essential Books”: Antinoan/Ekklesía Antínoou Edition!

I mentioned books quite a lot in my last post. And, it turns out, books have been mentioned quite a bit lately all over the place…What’s new? We live in a very literate world (perhaps not as literate, or as well-lettered, as some of us might prefer, but oh well)…

Some people are doing a kind of meme these days of “the essential books” for this, that, or the other religion. The Huffington Post did one on 27 pagan books, which was mentioned today by The Wild Hunt, and Star Foster at did a first installment of such as well recently, in addition to asking the question, “What’s yours?” in terms of a list of essential books.

Of course, I can’t even venture an answer for that on the basis of “all paganism” since I am in a very niche position within modern paganism–queer is small, but queer recon is smaller; recon is small, but recon that is syncretism-friendly (and even syncretism-friendly-based-in-its-recon!) is even smaller; and Antinous-specific? Well, that narrows it down to a very small handful of groups and individuals indeed. But, I think I can venture a pretty damned good guess on what I’d consider to be some of the most important books for an Antinous-related modern practical spirituality could be; I’ll refrain from using the term “essential,” though, because–being queer–I’m somewhat against the notion of essentialism generally speaking. (And, if you want some ideas about books as well as articles on Antinous, you can always look at the bibliography I’ve been compiling here on the blog…which might be in need of an update or two in the near future…) Interestingly enough, you’ll see a few books here that overlap with those on the other lists…

And, of course, I’m very willing to say and am totally non-self-deluded about the fact that the list of thirty-one books to follow here is very subjective, and quite biased as well because it has four books that I wrote solely, and at least one other that I contributed to in some fashion. What can you do? The books I’ve written have been books I rather wish existed when I got into this–now they do exist, and they’re meant to help people who want to pursue Antinoan devotion, so I challenge anyone who thinks they should not be included to suggest something that will do the job equally well, if not better, at this point. Plus, some books by friends and/or co-religionists of mine also make the list because they’re just that damn good, in my opinion.

One last question before getting to the list: why “thirty-three”? Well, I saw the 27 above in the HuffPo article, and thought I could easily do thirty, which I figured out in about ten minutes; but, then I remembered one more a bit later, and thought it should go in, rather than replacing something that was already there. Antinous died in 130 CE, which we usually pronounce “one-thirty,” so turning that around to “thirty-one” sounded good enough to me! But then I realized, I mis-counted, and there were actually thirty-two, to which I decided to add one more…why not? So, no real significance to the number, but I didn’t want to let myself go too much and come up with 50, which would be quite easy to do, actually…

Now, without further ado, and in no particular order:

Thirty-Three Important Books for Anyone Devoted to Antinous

Royston Lambert, Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous This is kind of the ür-text as far as modern Antinoan devotion goes, in certain respects. There are many covers of it available, but my first copy of it (and I currently own two) had this cover. It was the first full-length book on Antinous that I read, and one of the only ones in English up until recently that treated Antinous specifically. There’s also an awful lot wrong with the book in terms of correctness, completeness, and ease of referencing; and, there are some ideas in the book that I find absolutely erroneous or infuriating at this stage. Nonetheless, it’s quite an important resource for anyone doing work in this area.

Anthony Birley, Hadrian the Restless Emperor Of all the academic biographies of Hadrian out there in English–including several that have come out over the last decade–this one remains the best, not only in its thoroughness, but in the completeness of its analysis and the elegance of its references. Again, perhaps not everything will be agreed with, but the material on Antinous in particular is quite excellent, and some of it found nowhere else in books that I’ve read elsewhere (though the material discussed can be found in various articles and chapters in anthologies, etc.). Very highly recommended–perhaps even more than Lambert, to be honest!

Caroline Vout, Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome Though only a few chapters of this book are on Antinous specifically, it’s got a ton of information in it, and references to some of the newer texts that either Lambert didn’t report on correctly, or that have been discovered since. And, it’s one of few academic books that does acknowledge there are people still actively revering Antinous today!

Thorsten Opper, Hadrian: Empire and Conflict This is the book (not quite a catalogue, but similar to one) that accompanied the British Museum’s exhibit on Hadrian from a few years ago, which had the same name. A beautiful and very affordable book, with some wonderful photographs of a variety of things in it, including a reconstruction of the Antinoeion at Hadrian’s Villa, based on the latest archaeological work there.

Mary Taliafero Boatwright, Hadrian and the City of Rome An excellent examination of many important buildings of Hadrian, including the Temple of Venus and Roma, the Pantheon, the lost hunting monument depicting him and Antinous that was recycled into the Arch of Constantine, and even a final chapter on the Obelisk of Antinous!

Mary Taliafero Boatwright, Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire Any time in my own writings when I refer to Antinoöpolis and its various demoi, I refer to this book, which has a very excellent section of one chapter on it, as well as many other interesting topics having to do with Hadrian’s activities all across the empire.

Philippe Borgeaud, The Cult of Pan in Ancient Greece Want to know about Arcadia? Pan? Hermes? Werewolves? (And if you don’t know about why these things are important in relation to Antinous, read as many entries on “Arcadia” as you can in the present blog!) Then this is the book for you!

Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung, Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat–A Quest for Immortality While any number of Egyptian afterlife-related texts could have been suggested on this list, here’s one I think needs to be known about more generally–and, it’s relatively inexpensive as well, which is a bonus!

Marvin Meyer (ed.), The Ancient Mysteries: A Sourcebook of Sacred Texts Pretty much exactly what it says. Nothing directly on Antinous, but given that we know he and Hadrian went through the Eleusinian Mysteries, there’s a lot of good stuff on that, and on several other cults of potential relevance…

Christopher P. Jones, New Heroes in Antiquity: From Achilles to Antinoös Not only does this book have a lot of info on ancient hero cultus, including stuff on Polydeukion, but it also has one of the best short chapters on Antinous in any book I’ve ever read. Very highly recommended!

Marguerite Yourcenar, Hadrian’s Memoirs Again, there are many covers of this book available, and this one closely resembles the one I have (which is an older edition, which lacks the photo plates that many editions do, unfortunately). This is the only historical fiction that I’d include in this list, even though many people have tackled this story from a fictional stance in the last few years. (Though some of those are pretty good…) I wouldn’t fully endorse parts of the author’s interpretation, but a great deal of it is quite beautiful and convincingly Hadrianic in its tone.

Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean and Ellen Bradshaw Aitken (trans.), Flavius Philostratus, Heroikos While it does not mention Antinous at all, this text on hero-cultus was written a few generations after Antinous’ cultus was innovated, and gives a much better idea of hero cultus from an ancient perspective than almost anything else one could wish for from that period.

Mary Beard, John North, and Simon Price (eds./trans.), Religions of Rome: Volume 2, A Sourcebook While I’m sure Volume I is quite good as well (though I still don’t have it!), Volume 2 is quite excellent. I got my own copy when I was on pilgrimage in Newcastle, and it has translations of many documents, inscriptions, calendars, and so forth, and both the Lanuvium inscription and the love spell from Antinoöpolis in relation to Antinous-specific materials.

Daniel Ogden, In Search of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice: The Traditional Tales of Lucian’s Lover of Lies While many of Ogden’s books are good (though I don’t tend to agree with his interpretations of the death of Antinous and Hadrian’s ooky-spooky motivations to make it happen), this one is quite good for a variety of reasons, including the information it gives on Pancrates.

Karl Kerényi, Hermes Guide of Souls I thought I’d limit myself to two Kerényi books, and this one is quite excellent (though I like all of his for various reasons, no matter what Jungian flaws might be present in some of them). Hermes is, I think, one of the most important and under-rated deities there is to get to know in terms of understanding Antinous’ overall cultus, and this is one book that can help one do that quite well, I think.

Karl Kerényi, Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter This book is very useful for understanding Eleusis generally, but also highlights a text I’ve come to find very important as well: the Tebtynis Papyrus on Herakles being refused from the mysteries. So, a very good Kerényi book to consult for some further background info to Hadrian and Antinous’ involvement in the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Jennifer Tobin, Herodes Attikos and the City of Athens: Patronage and Conflict Under the Antonines This is probably the most important book I’ve yet discovered (in English) on the iconography and epigraphy of Herodes Attikos generally, and on Polydeukion and the other Trophimoi in particular. If you want to know more about that subject generally, this is the book I’d unreservedly recommend.

Robert Turcan, The Cults of the Roman Empire A really excellent overview of all the late antique cultus that were part of the religious mix of the Mediterranean world, with a tiny bit of coverage of Antinous’ cultus; however, get it for the info on Isis, Sabazios, Mithras, and others, not the Antinous-specific stuff!

Ramsay MacMullen, Paganism in the Roman Empire I mean, really–you have to buy a book that has Glykon on the cover, don’t you? But, even apart from that, it’s quite good, and has a lot of very useful info in it, on Antinous as well!

Hans Dieter Betz (ed.), The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation Really, one of the most important primary sources for a great deal of late Graeco-Egyptian tradition, syncretism, theurgy, magic, and any number of other things. An indispensable reference work for your library!

John Michael Greer, A World Full of Gods: An Inquiry into Polytheism This is one of the books on this list that I’d recommend to a far wider modern pagan audience than just those into Antinoan matters. Strangely enough, a large number of modern pagans don’t really understand what polytheism is or entails, and so this is a book that they really ought to read to learn more about it!

Arthur Evans, The God of Ecstasy: Sex-Roles and the Madness of Dionysos An important book on a queer theological approach to Dionysos, as well as giving some good and interesting polytheistic understandings of the god, plus a kick-ass version of Euripides’ Bakkhoi (with photos of their production!).

H. Jeremiah Lewis (Sannion), Ecstatic: For Dionysos However, if one only buys one book on Dionysos off this list (or any other), it shouldn’t be Walter Otto or Kerényi (though both of those are good!), but this one by Sannion. At the quite modest cover price, it’s a gift to yourself–and to the god–that keeps on giving.

Tony Mierzwicki, Graeco-Egyptian Magick: Everyday Empowerment This is one of few “practical” modern pagan books that I’d include in this list, for good reason. The methodologies laid out for usage of the PGM (and similar) materials that one might come across in a reconstructionist context is very valuable indeed.

Sarah Kate Istra Winter (Dver), Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored One of very few reconstructionist-specific books that I’d also include on this list. Really an essential book for some basic, practical, day-to-day suggestions and investigations into recon-based practice in a Hellenic context. And, a total steal!

Edward P. Butler, Essays on a Polytheistic Philosophy of Religion One of the best philosophical approaches to theology I’ve ever seen, and to such an approach in relation to modern practical and reconstructionist paganism in particular. And at the very small price being asked, there’s no reason not to check it out!

Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America In its third edition and still going strong…Yet another one that is recommended for a wider audience than just Antinoan devotees and particular types of polytheist. The third edition’s resource guide does have a reference to my old website, too! 😉

Jake Stratton Kent, Geosophia Whether you buy this two-volume work as a paperback or digital download, it is worth every penny. An enjoyable, informative, and provocative set of books. I do have some niggles with some of his information’s accuracy, and would have preferred a great deal more notes, but nonetheless, this is a really excellent work, especially for some matters having to do with the Serpent Path.

Ruby Sara (ed.), Mandragora One of the most physically beautiful books any of my work has yet been published in…Not only does it have an Antinous-and-Hadrian-specific poem by me in it (the only poem of mine accepted into this publication), and an essay that I think is amongst my most important in terms of its overall message and applicability for a very wide variety of modern pagans, but also a great collection of poetry and essays, including some of each by two other Antinoans: Michael Routery and Erynn Rowan Laurie, whose work on Antinous in essays or fiction have appeared elsewhere. Go out and get it!

So, that leaves four books that are exclusively by me. In order of relevance, then (least to most)…

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, The Phillupic Hymns While all of the Antinous and Hadrian (and Sabina, and Polydeukion/Herodes Attikos!) poetry in this book is included in the other major publication below, these things do not emerge in a vacuum, and among the 130 poems of this collection are a ton dedicated to a great variety of other deities. So, even if you’re not interested in Antinous that much, there is very likely something you might find of interest, or at least something for a deity or two that you might find of interest, in this volume. You can get it here.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, All-Soul, All-Body, All-Love, All-Power: A TransMythology The first fully-fledged, fully-developed mythological text of the modern period involving Antinous, at least from my own pen–but, a great many other deities as well. It’s not only the story of the Tetrad, but also a kind of primer on polyamorotheism and syncretism, I think. You can get it here.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, The Syncretisms of Antinous A book that I never expected to write, but that somewhat wrote itself after less than three months of starting this blog back in August of 2010. If you want a relatively comprehensive guide to the syncretisms of Antinous, this is the book for you. You can get it here.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Devotio Antinoo: The Doctor’s Notes, Volume One Honestly, if I had to say that there was one and only one book that a person should buy off this list of thirty-three books, if one was interested in Antinous in a devotional or spiritual manner, and was also interested in the Ekklesía Antínoou, this would be it. It’s the book I wished would have existed when I first got into Antinous just about ten years ago now…So, if you’ve gotten this far in the list and don’t have this book in particular, I’d suggest putting it on your wish list, at very least! You can get it here.

And, that’s all for now! 😉


  1. […] to the piece from authors who were included, and alternate lists from folks like Star Foster and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus.“And, of course, I’m very willing to say and am totally non-self-deluded about the fact […]

  2. Damn it, every time a Pagan blog posts one of these lists I suddenly find my bank account balance dropping alarmingly🙂

    • Oops…sorry! 😉

      (My Amazon wish list is the worse for things like this…at something like 1500+ items at present, almost all of which are books, I don’t think I’ll ever have it down to zero, to be honest…)

  3. […] The Wild Hunt did its own booklist, focusing on fiction, after Star Foster and myself did likewise recently. Books, I tells ya: they’re on everyone’s wish-list bedside […]

  4. I am honored to be included in such esteemed company!

    • You deserve it, dear friend! 🙂

      I’ve loved all the books you’ve put out thus far (though I still haven’t read one of them/don’t have one of them–Gods and Mortals), and knew one of them should have been included. So, as there’s probably very few modern polytheists who are more Dionysian than yourself, I think your recognition for your contributions in that literary field were good ones to highlight. (And, in fact, in balance bumping off Evans’ book in favor of yours might have even been a good idea…)

      • You don’t have Gods and Mortals? Hmm. I’ll have to rectify that at some point.

      • It’s funny you should mention that: I was hoping to win one of the agon events (what’s the plural of agon, anyway?) you’ve put on over the last year, so that I could request that one as a prize. Maybe next time…?!? 😉

  5. I missed this when you first wrote it. Thanks for recommending my book, Graeco-Egyptian Magick!

    • Certainly! It’s one of the only books I know of that deals with that particular set of material (the PGM specifically) that does a good job of it from a practical viewpoint, in my view.

  6. […] so they say. Thus, I’d have to add Raven’s latest book to this list, if not also this list. It will probably also figure on the suggested reading lists, if not the required textbooks, in […]

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