The Syncretisms of Antinous

Title: The Syncretisms of Antinous
Publisher: The Red Lotus Library
Author: P Sufenas Virius Lupus
Pages: 162 pp
Price: $20.00 US
ISBN: 1456300458 / 978-1456300456It is unfortunate that “syncretism” is something of a dirty word in some contemporary Pagan circles. In this first volume of the new Red Lotus Library, the publishing arm of the Ekklesía Antínoou, P Sufenas Virius Lupus sets out to correct misapprehensions and misconceptions about syncretism by clearly defining it, examining it, and offering examples of the many — and even unexpected — syncretisms of the God Antinous. In his introduction, Lupus states:

“Syncretism is the blending or combination of different religious ideas or different divine figures into hybrid or composite forms. However, unlike eclecticism, syncretism is usually done in a deliberate, non-random fashion, with an overarching purpose or thematic program in mind.”

With this definition at the fore, Lupus sets out to examine The Syncretisms of Antinous. From his deification in the second century CE though the (known) end of his worship in the fifth century, Antinous was equated, merged and associated with Deities as varied as the Greek Apollon and Hermes, Attis of Asia Minor, Osiris of Egypt, and the Roman Vertumnus. Even difficult-to-identify Deities such as Men and heroes such as Achilles. However, these were not random syncretisms; there is a pattern, an internal logic to these associations. Consider the syncretism of Antinous with Pan, a God intimately connected to the former’s homeland of Bithynia. Or the syncretism with Osiris, the Egyptian God of the afterlife and of the Nile in which Antinous drowned.

While the discussion of Antinous’ syncretisms with well-known Deities was interesting, I found this volume particularly valuable in that it introduced me to new Gods and heroes. I had never heard of Eunostos (wrongly accused of rape and slain) or Echmoun (a Phoenician God). Or Men, for that matter, a lunar God honored in Asia Minor, whose ultimate origins are unknown. If nothing else, I find  The Syncretisms of Antinous valuable because it reminds me that I still have so much to learn (too many Gods, not enough time).

Additionally, each chapter is heavily illustrated with black-and-white photographs, particularly of statues and coins. My favorite is the statue of Antinous-Dionysus (now in the Vatican) which graces both the Dionysus chapter and the cover.

One small critique and one final comment. This volume began as a series of posts on Lupus’ Aedicula Antinoi blog. In a few places, they still read like blog posts. For instance, the Pan chapter opens with “In the Hermes and Antinous chapter a few days ago ….” Removing such references would have smoothed out the text and made it read more like a whole, rather than parts.

Finally, in his introduction, Lupus refers to the fact that, while Antinous was linked with Goddesses such as Selene and Diana, he was never syncretized with them. I would love to see a volume examining the relationships between Antinous and various Goddesses (gender constructions in the ancient and modern worlds, gender relations, female Deities in contrast to male Deities, sexuality, fertility, the afterlife, and on and on). The next volume in The Red Lotus Library, perhaps?

The Syncretisms of Antinous is that rare volume which combines solid, scholarly research and the passion of a devotee. Recommended to anyone interested in Antinous, syncretism as a theological/cultural matter, or the religious life of the late Classical World.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of EHS.]

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