Scandalous Affairs: Hadrian and Antinous
You could fill a book with all the amorous shenanigans that went down in Ancient Rome (and plenty of people have); from Antony and Cleopatra to Messalina and [insert census of Rome here], scandalous stories and Roman aristocracy go together like lampreys and garum, and some of them are even true. The affair between the Emperor Hadrian and his Greek courtier Antinous is one of the most famous, a tragic romance that has inspired artists for almost 2000 years. But this affair was not scandalous for the reason some might think — the scandal was not that Hadrian had a male lover, but that Hadrian actually loved him.
|Emperor Hadrian, building walls|
and rocking facial hair like a boss
|Antinous, the face that launched a thousand chisels|
Hadrian never recovered from Antinous' death. He retreated to one of his villas, surrounded by statues of his lost love, and died eight years later. He is remembered by history as a successful Emperor with one scandalous affair, while over the centuries Antinous has become a symbol of forbidden love and tragic sacrifice. He has inspired stories, songs, art, and even has his own online society. Google his name and you'll find archives of fiction about him, perfumes and candles named after him, and instructions on how to add him to your personal pantheon. How many other royal scandals ended up creating a religion?