Emperor's shrine to gay lover found

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 16 2002 12:00 AM ET

A temple built by the Roman emperor Hadrian to commemorate the death of his young male lover has unexpectedly come to light after almost 2,000 years, according to The Scotsman. The ruins of the enormous semicircular structure were uncovered during recent excavations at Hadrian's sprawling villa about 20 miles east of Rome. They provide fresh insight into one of the world's most famous same-sex relationships.

"This is the most important archaeological discovery in this region for years," said Anna Maria Reggiani, superintendent of archaeology for Italy's Lazio region.

Hadrian (76-138 C.E.) was regarded as one of Rome's greatest emperors. The 73-mile-long Hadrian's Wall was built on his orders, most likely given during his visit to the British Isles in 122 C.E., for the purpose, it is widely believed, to mark the northern boundary of his vast empire.

Hadrian was said to have been grief-stricken when his Greek lover, Antinous, drowned in the Nile in 130 C.E. Hadrian and Antinous' relationship scandalized early Christian historians, who wrote of Hadrian's "unlawful pleasure" with the "scandalous boy." Activists today counter that prudish versions of history have swept their romance under the rug. Following Antinous' death, Hadrian immediately declared him a god and founded the memorial city of Antinopolis in Egypt on the spot where his body was found.