Wednesday, 15 February 2023

(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World: 1) Love in the Stars

This time last year I began researching for the next edition of my “Around the World in 80 Gays” series. It was my intention to have it complete and ready for serialisation this year. However, the Beijing Winter Olympics and Birmingham Commonwealth Games slowed down that research because of an explosion of interest and inclusion in competing lgbt+ athletes at both events. Between them these games provided almost a hundred new names to research and catalogue.

By the end of last year I decided that I had done enough research on “80 Gays” to produce a shortened version, “(Not Quite) 80 Gays Around the World” Not every part of the serialisation has been written, and I am trying to expand it with more names as I go along, so I can’t say for sure how many names I will end up with.

The format will remain the same as in previous editions. Each individual will be numbered so that you (and I) can keep track of how far through the list of names we are. The first three names are of people we’ve encountered before on this blog and they are all connected by love relationships, which is quite appropriate considering yesterday was what is popularly and mistakenly celebrated as St. Valentine’s Day (see here to discover why it’s the wrong St. Valentine and the wrong date). So without further ado, here’s the new “Around the World in (Not Quite) 80 Gays.

1) The Roman Emperor Hadrian (76-138) is one of the more well-known of the gay emperors. Last year we celebrated the 1900th anniversary of his visit to Britain and the construction of the famous wall named after him.

It was on his continuing travels around his empire after laving Britain that Hadrian is believed to have first met the young 2) Antinuos (c.111-c.130) in Claudiopolis (now called Bolu, a city in northern Turkey). It is assumed that Antinous was born in the area.

If estimates of Antinous’s birth are correct he would have been no more than 12 years old when he and Hadrian met 1900 years ago in 123. Hadrian, who was in his 40s, was a big fan of Greek culture, so taking Antinous as a boy lover would not strike him as being questionable, unlike it would today. Even so, there were many critics of Hadrian’s lifestyle who thought the relationship was morally wrong. One of the theories concerning Antinous’s mysterious early death in the River Nile is based on this criticism, that it was a murder to ensure the relationship stopped for good. Other theories include accidental death, political assassination, ritual sacrifice, and suicide.

Hadrian’s grief at the death of his young lover, who was not yet 20 years old, was overwhelming. Back in 2011, in the first of my “Star Gayzing” series (was it really that long ago?) I mentioned some of the tributes Hadrian created for Antinous. In that article I concentrated on the constellation Hadrian “created” and how this was to show Antinous as a new 3) Ganymede.

Ganymede was also a youth who became the lover of an older man, in this case the god Zeus. He became a very popular subject in art during ancient and classical Greece, and also from the Renaissance through to the present day. Both Antinous and Ganymede were immortalised as constellations, with Ganymede becoming Aquarius. Both young men have been inspirations for gay men’s organisations and brotherhoods, and both were deified after their deaths by their lovers. Because of Ganymede’s greater and longer significance he has more statues and images than of Antinous. He remains more prominent in modern gay male culture.

There are many directions I could take from Ganymede in our “Not Quite 80 Gays” journey, but the one I have chosen is through literature, after all, the Greek myths are only known to us through ancient writings.

The modern publication which will take us further is called “An Asian Minor: The True Story of Ganymede” by an American author called 4) Felice Picano (b.1944), and we will learn more about him and his works in a few weeks’ time.

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