One of the things that is both good and bad about reconstructionism as a working methodology is that oftentimes, one has to “go back” and revise one’s earlier statements or opinions on some matter because one subsequently has access to more information on said matter. I’ve found I’ve had to do that repeatedly with things in relation to Antinous, often with very good and happy results. Today, I’d like to just mention one further such topic that I’ve since found out a slight bit more about, and will be following up further with in the near future.
Certain other groups out there, under the bad influences of certain parties, have put about the incorrect information that Antinous was syncretized to Mithras. I have nothing against Mithras, personally–in fact, he’s quite a cool deity in many respects, and is super-syncretistic himself, just like Antinous is, and I’ve studied a fair bit about him for someone who isn’t personally devoted to him. My position on this still accords with all we know of history, I’m happy to say…
And yet, there is a connection of sorts between them, even though it isn’t a syncretistic one. The location and context from which it comes is one that is, in certain respects, not surprising, particularly given the further insights into other mystery traditions which that same context has provided.
As you may have guessed (although, in fairness, you probably didn’t!), the context is the hero-shrine to Antinous located at the Arcadian villa of Herodes Attikos. Herodes Attikos was a hierophant of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and reliefs showing Herodes and Polydeukion from that same location have suggested to scholars recently that they had some involvement in Orphic mystery traditions as well.
Among the other statuary and such found at that site, and in particular in the hero-shrine that was once dedicated to Antinous, are statue fragments of Mithras. They do not show Antinous as Mithras, by any stretch of the imagination, and thus my position and mention above about syncretism, Mithras, and Antinous still stands; and yet, there was a connection between them in some fashion for Herodes and his associates, such that they were both included in the same shrine. (This reminds me of the very fine and commanding Serapis head that I was able to see in person in London, which was found in the London Mithraeum. Just as many gods might end up in a shrine to Mithras, so too, it seems, could many different gods end up in a shrine to Antinous…don’t you just love super-syncretism?!?)
What also intrigues me about this is that many people in the period of late antiquity were well aware that Mithras was a Persian god in origin, and even though at times during this period parts of what would be considered Persia had been conquered by the Romans, it was a place of shifting political fortunes for much of that period as well. Herodes Attikos was an Athenian, but also identified strongly as a Marathonian (which was the location of his principal villa), and had several shrines for the heroes of Marathon either restored or created during his lifetime as well–with Marathon being the location of the ultimate and final defeat of the Persians’ repeated attempts of invasion upon Greece. Why would a good Marathonian, therefore, be involved in a religion of a supposed Persian god? And yet, there was his statue, in Herodes’ villa in Arcadia, once upon a time…
The book that has more information on some of these matters is one I have not yet been able to put my hands on, and it’s in Greek…I hope to be able to source it somehow; my further information, however, comes from a German book by the same author from about five years earlier. I’ll have more to say on this when I know more about it!