Posted by: aediculaantinoi | January 8, 2014

Pan and Antinous


Don’t Panic!

In the wild papyrus swamps of Egypt
Antinous went hunting for boar one day.

He met Pan of the Mountains playing his syrinx
and was startled, turn, and began to run.

“Do not flee so quickly, boy!” the god called,
and instantly Antinous’ heart rate lowered.

“Come to me, turn, let me see your face.”
The bashful Bithynian slowly shifted, eyes downcast.

The goat-footed god laughed, “If the gods were pleased
at seeing my face, how much more pleased would they have been

had I been you and had a face such as yours!”
The boy had no idea what to say or do at such words.

“Come, do you play the pipes” the god asked.
“Only the double flute, and not too well…”

“Perhaps another time, we shall play
two flutes together–but not today.”

The noon hour was approaching with its sloth,
and Pan looked to the lion-sun overhead,

yawned, and looked back at the boy hunter.
“I have sleep ahead of me, but I shall dream of you.”

Antinous turned to leave, but stopped
when he heard Pan shout “WAIT!”

“What would you have of me?” Antinous asked.
The goat-god laughed and danced a wild reel.

“Your blood is the same as my own,
sprung from Antinoë’s hearth in Mantineia,

and your mother Mantinoë gave it to you
just as it was given to me. But we look

nothing alike, therefore I ask of you:
give me your beauty that I may approach

any mortal without panic following my appearance.
Your visage will not be improved by horns,

therefore carry my pedum as a gentle shepherd.”
Antinous, thinking nothing of these words,

not knowing what Egypt’s Nile would have in store
nor how the gods would use it and his fate,

nodded and agreed to the goat-god’s request
though he understood little of its meaning.

The goat-god laughed and retreated into the rushes,
leaving Antinous alone, no boars in sight.


Khaire Pan! Khaire Khaire Antinoe!


  1. I like this very much.

    I am very curious, aediculaantinoi. Have you ever written on what you think actually happened to Antinous that day on the Nile? Was it an accident, or deliberate: from a mundane point of view? Or do you think it best that the circumstances remain mysterious?

    • Thank you!

      Yes, I have written on it here and there, and my thoughts can be found at various points in this blog; if you are interested in some of the most recent ones, I’d suggest looking at “Nine Days Along the Nile,” which was a nine-part poem I wrote and posted here back in October of 2013, from October 24th through November 1st.

      In brief, I can say this: I think all of the “conspiracy theories” that suggest murder or poisoning (including by a “jealous” Empress Sabina) are nonsensical, as do most modern historians; I also think that the idea that Hadrian had a part in his death in order to gain a daimon as a magical servitor are likewise ghoulish and based on minority opinions from the gutter press of the early 3rd century (even though this opinion is entertained by Daniel Ogden, whose work I otherwise respect and appreciate); I also think the theory that he was a “depressive and melancholy youth” and thus committed suicide because he knew that he’d never be anything later than life other than a has-been butt-boy of the Emperor, is likewise modern pseudo-psychologizing and homophobic hogwash; and the theory that the previous idea was true, but that the “get out free” clause of it was that if he made it look like he offered himself in sacrifice for the benefit of the Emperor, he’d then be honored as a hero and that would be better than the life which would have been ahead of him, is likewise more homophobic pseudo-psychologizing.

      To put it simply, I’m inclined to believe what we know Hadrian said on the matter: “He fell into the Nile.” In other words, it was a sheer accident, mere happenstance, something no one expected, anticipated, wished for, nor could do anything about. It wouldn’t have hit the Emperor as hard as it did, I don’t think, if this weren’t true. But, as ever, the gods are wont to use happenstance for their benefit, and the customs of the Egyptians being that they were, it all turned out ultimately “for the good,” I think…

      On the one hand, I’d rather there were a successful ancient homoerotic love story that didn’t end with the death of the youth, as was so common in the myths of ancient Greece and Rome (and elsewhere); on the other, that this actually happened, and that Antinous and Hadrian’s lives were, thus, even more mythic in scope than they would have been otherwise, makes it all the more important to pay attention to, and to take seriously as a possibility for every one of us. We may not drown in the Nile, but that doesn’t mean we’re not destined to become divine at some point, no matter who we are or whom we are fortunate enough to love and be loved by.

  2. Wonderful reply, thank you!

    Antinous’ story is so heart wrenchingly poignant. It makes me cry. He must have been, in life an incredible person. He has been called good; and I imagine him as good. I know he was considered physically beautiful. But even physical beauty is not enough to be so well loved.

    I know that the Christians claimed people were forced to worship Antinous after his death. But I strongly suspect that his cult became so widespread because, in fact, his story and his person in both life and death touched a deep cord in all.

    Yes, I am slowly but surely working my way through your blog and will read what you suggest. Maybe I will have much of it read by the time I come to one of your presentations at Pantheacon.🙂 I can only hope!😉 I find that you have much wisdom to share. May Antinous and all your Gods bless you and give you peace.🙂

    • Thank you! May Antinous and all of his divine and heroic friends likewise bless and favor you with health, abundance, and peace!

      Indeed, I entirely agree: he couldn’t have been “just a pretty face.” Hadrian got bored easily (an attribute I share with him), and had Antinous not been a deep thinker, a good conversationalist, philosophically inclined, and virtuous, I don’t think Hadrian would have given him the time of day. Even though he was beautiful, he wasn’t “perfect” by any means either (even by classical standards), and Hadrian could have had his pick of people at any point, and yet he remained interested in him for a long time, it seems, and never really tried to (nor could) replace him after he was gone.

      Antinous as Deus Amabilis, “the lovely god,” in the sense that he was beautiful, but also lovely, friendly, and nice to deal with, is an epithet he receives that I think really tells us a great deal about how people viewed him and dealt with him. Or, at least I think so! 😉

      • “Deus Amabilis”. What a beautiful epithet!

  3. Thank you for the blessings, aediculaantinoi!🙂

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