Sunday, January 22, 2017

HEATH LEDGER
SAINT OF ANTINOUS


ON January 22nd the religion of Antinous commemorates the brief, shining life of Saint Heath Ledger, the gifted actor whose on-screen portrayals inspired millions of gay people and whose off-screen life paralleled so many more. Not gay himself, Saint Heath nonetheless is a gay icon, like Saint Judy Garland and others.

Saint Heath died on this day in 2008 under mysterious circumstances after taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills at the age of 28.


His body was found lying across the bed of his Manhattan apartment. The manner of his death bore eery parallels to the death of English  singer/songwriter Nick Drake, who is also a Saint of Antinous.

Best known for his Oscar-nominated role as a gay cowpoke in "Brokeback Mountain", the acclaimed Australian-born actor also played The Joker in the blockbuster "The Dark Knight", for which role he posthumously was awarded a Golden Globe Award for best supporting actor. On the first anniversary of his death, he posthumously won an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his role as the psychopathic criminal mastermind The Joker.

No one will ever know why Saint Heath overdosed on anti-depressants, as had his idol Nick Drake. No one will ever know why Saint River Phoenix took a fatal cocktail of booze and alcohol, just as no one will ever know why Saint Richey Edwardsjumped off a bridge to his death (if he did), and no one will know why so many talented and overly sensitive young men meet death so tragically and so young.

Just as no one knows for sure what happened to Antinous. Thus they are all Saints of Antinous.

Shortly before his death, Heath Ledger made a video tribute to Nick Drake (photo right), the ambisexual English singer/songwriter who died in 1974 under almost identical circumstances to Saint Heath.

Saying he planned to make a movie about Saint Nick, Heath appeared in a self-made video (about drowning) to the tune of Nick Drake's song Black-Eyed Dog. It was the last song that Nick is believed to have recorded before he died under mysterious circumstances after taking anti-depressants and sleeping pills at the age of 26. His body was found lying across his bed.

The black-eyed dog is thought to be a reference to Winston Churchill's famous "little black dog." Throughout his life Churchill was shadowed by violent mood swings, fits of depression and periods of emotional doubt. He felt that he was followed by this unpredictable darkness and uncertainty. He called it his "little black dog."

Heath seems to have been very well acquainted with the "little black dog" of depression, the black demon which nips at the heels of so many sensitive young souls who cannot find their way in this harsh world.

And thus Antinous is the God of Lost Boys. He knows their suffering. He knows how it is to stand on the shore at the twilight of the world, with one foot on dry land and the other foot in the murky depths of oblivion — and he understands how a beautiful soul can slip off into that oblivion.

Antinous is the God of these very sweet, shy, sensitive and talented artists, young men who agonize over their shortcomings and who can only cope with the harsh realities of showbiz by taking tablets with unpronounceable names in private.


 Saint Heath represents so many young men who seek what Nick Drake called the fruit of the tree of fame. "Fame is but a fruit tree, so very unsound", Nick sings in a song which Heath loved. It is a song about sensitive souls who reach for the fruit of fame and then, when it is within their grasp, they discover that its taste is very bitter.

Friday, January 20, 2017

DAESH DESTROYING PALMYRA THEATER
SEEN BY ANTINOUS AND HADRIAN



Antinous visited the fabled city of Palmyra with Hadrian and saw this lovely amphitheatre ... which is now being destroyed by DAESH Islamic State barbarians.

The Syrian director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, confirmed Friday that the extremist group was blasting the amphitheater and had also destroyed the tetrapylon, a cubic-shaped ancient Roman monument. 

He provided satellite images, given to him by the Boston-based ASOR Cultural Heritage Initiative and taken by satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe, that displayed the destruction.

This horrific news came amid reports that DAESH goons were also summarily executing civilians in the embattled city. Since sweeping to power across Iraq and Syria, Isil has been systematically erasing signs of their pluralistic histories. Palmyra has been a particularly egregious target of their hatred.

Palmyra was called the "Garden City of the Sands" and scientists say it was TERRA-FARMED to create a lush green oasis of life and civilization in the midst of the desert.

Islamic State fighters have already destroyed two ancient temples at the site, described by Unesco as one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

In 2015, DAESH destroyed the PALMYRA TRIUMPHAL ARCH through which Hadrian and Antinous strode.

Just weeks ago DAESH blew up the BAALSHAMIN Temple in Palmyra. The photo at right shows how impressive even its ruins were prior to its being blown to bits by DAESH.

The photo at left shows all that is left of the Triumphal Arch now. 

The ruins are a testament to the barbaric nature of DAESH renegades.

We know Antinous & Hadrian saw it because Hadrian decreed a vast expansion of the temple.

During the DAESH occupation of Palmyra, KHALED ASSAD, an 81-year-old antiquities scholar who devoted his life to understanding Palmyra, was beheaded by DAESH militants, his bloodied body hung on a pole. He had even named his daughter after Zenobia, the queen that ruled from the city 1,700 years ago.

DAESH claims ancient relics promote idolatry and say they are destroying them as part of their purge of paganism. However, they are also believed to sell off looted antiquities, bringing in significant sums of cash.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has been told that DAESH militants have killed 30 suspected gay men for "sodomy" in recent months.

DAESH released a video showing CHILDREN STONING two gay men to death after they had been thrown off a building in Homs Syria. It is one of a grisly series of such gay execution videos. 

A year ago, DAESH released a video showing two other men accused of being gay THROWN OFF A BUILDING and then stoned by a crowd in Palmyra.

Only a few weeks earlier, more than 25 men were EXECUTED BY CHILDREN at the famous theater in Palmyra.


THE GOING FORTH OF ANUBIS


ON January 20th is the Ancient Egyptian Feast of "The Going Forth of Anubis" (Yinepu) when his statues are carried through the streets for worshipers to honor ... in hopes that Anubis will convey them through the darkness of death to eternal light and life. 

This feast occurs between the completion of the mummification of Antinous on January 11th and the birthday of Hadrian on January 24th.

Anubis leads the new god Antinous to the Home of the Gods amongst the Imperishable Stars.

SAINT SEBASTIAN


ON January 20th the Religion of Antinous honors SAINT SEBASTIAN who, despite being a Christian martyr, has been identified by homosexuals of all beliefs over the centuries as a symbol of our persecution and suffering.

Sebastian was an officer in the Imperial Guard of Emperor Diocletian, and he was a Christian.

In 302 A.D. Diocletian subjected the Christians to a brutal persecution, and it was during this period that Sebastian was "outed" to the Emperor as a practicing Christian.

When asked to sacrifice before a pagan altar, Sebastian refused and  was sentenced to death. He was tied to a column before Mauritanian archers, who shot him with arrows...but to no effect. 

Sebastian was strengthened by his faith, and did not die. He was finally clubbed to death in front of Emperor.


Homosexuals over the centuries have looked to Sebastian as a patron saint. 

His manner of death, which is like an affliction of Eros, and the sight of the beautiful young soldier plumed with arrows, has moved our hearts over the ages more than all other Christian saints.

In the Middle Ages, he was said to have power over the plague. And during the Black Death, his popularity grew among the penitent flagellants.

His image was a favorite subject of homosexual artists during the Renaissance who were fascinated by the erotic charge of his death. 

During the early 19th Century he was taken up as the model for homosexual suffering and persecution, some writers even claiming that he was the young lover of Diocletian and that his martyrdom had a jealous, sexual subtext.

In our time, the power of St. Sebastian over the Plague has made him a spiritual force in the fight against AIDS. And so we recognize his sanctity as the patron saint of homosexuals and as a protector from our modern plague. 

We consecrate him to the Religion of Antinous and offer our own quivering-hearts as a target for his thousand arrows of love.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

SEEK THE LOST TOMB OF ANTINOUS
WITH BEN PASTOR'S 'THE WATER THIEF'


IT's summer vacation time ... for our many thousands of Antinous devotees in the Southern Hemisphere ... and anyone who is interested in historical fiction in general and Antinous in particular should read this book by Ben Pastor, the award-winning Italian-American historian and author. 

She knows more about Hadrian and Antinous than almost any other living expert. 

Her historical novel THE WATER THIEF is an example of fine scholarly research, as are indeed all of her books.

This novel traces the efforts of Aelius Spartianus to discover the fabled LOST TOMB OF ANTINOUS

Aelius Spartianus is a true-life figure who did in fact write a biography of Hadrian nearly 200 years after the death of Antinous.

Set in the year 304 AD, it tells of this very literate Roman army officer who is commissioned by Emperor Diocletian to do research on his predecessor the Divine Hadrian, who had died nearly two centuries earlier. 

It is while delving into the mystery of the death of Antinous and while trying to learn the whereabouts of the Boy's tomb that the officer stumbles onto evidence of a letter penned by Hadrian uncovering a covert conspiracy to bring down the Empire ... a conspiracy that is still very much at work in 4th Century Rome. 

As Spartianus comes ever closer to finding the answer to the death of Antinous, the conspirators' efforts to thwart him become ever more violent, resulting in numerous brutal murders and attempts on the officer's life.

Pastor's descriptions of Rome in the year 304 AD are superb. You get a real feel for the teeming city in mid-summer, with all the odors and noise, colors and steamy heat that that implies. 

Best of all, for those of us who love and worship Antinous, are the chapters in which Spartianus ensconces himself in Hadrian's derelict villa outside Rome. 

It is there, as he stares up into the stars at night, that he makes a startling connection between the layout of the villa and the eight visible constellations in the nighttime sky in late October when Antinous died ... indicating that Hadrian's obsession with horoscopes and astrology led him to create an earthly universe where time stood still at the death of Antinous.

Did Hadrian's belief in astrological fate compel him to have Antinous killed? Or did Antinous take his own life in a bid to fulfill his astrological fate? 

Or was it more mundane? Did he and Hadrian have a lovers' tiff that ended tragically? Was he done in by young male rivals intent on gaining Hadrian's affections for themselves? 

Or was something even more sinister at work? And why is someone desperate to preventing the officer from finding out what happened to Antinous all those years ago?

For those of us who love Antinous, this book is a joy to read. Pastor works in many small and obscure details which are well known to his modern-day followers. 

To give just one example, the Roman officer expends a great deal of effort trying to locate and decipher the OBELISK OF ANTINOUS which today stands in a park in Rome and is the focus of much current research in the 21st Century.

The obelisk's key inscription, which is the focus of modern experts seeking his tomb, says that Antinous "rests within the garden bounds of the great lord of Rome". 

Just as today's researchers have puzzled over the meaning of that phrase, Ben Pastor's protagonist must also make sense of it ... and he arrives at a startling answer that almost costs him his life and jeopardizes future of the Empire.

The novel's characters are well drawn and the reader identifies with Spartianus as he attempts to unravel this Gordian Knot while at the same time pulling together the strands of his own personal life.

There are numerous gay characters and they emerge as well-rounded and believable characters, especially the flamboyant Egyptian gays who find themselves unwittingly the target of unscrupulous killers in their very midst.

The tales of Antinous and Hadrian which unfold as the investigation progresses are a true pleasure to read, if only because they are all so contradictory and often far-fetched ... precisely as they are to today's researchers. 

Spartianus must work his way through this thicket of tall tales and outright lies and defamations in order to determine precisely what sort of persons Hadrian and Antinous were ... in order to save the Empire two centuries after their deaths.

One of the more outlandish tall tales is told to Aelius by a Roman transgender hustler named Cleopatra Minor who claims to have frequented a notorious whorehouse which specializes in boys for aristocratic customers whose villas line the Bay of Naples. 

Cleo claims it is "well-known there" that Antinous was a boy prostitute who had just arrived from Bythinia and "had barely become accustomed to his little bed" when Hadrian stopped by the whorehouse and took a fancy to him.

There are lots of other, equally intriguing characters in this book. But the most intriguing character of all, of course, is the one character who cannot take active part in the plot but whose presence is felt at every turn of the plot:

Antinous himself.

Though the 4th Century murders take center stage in the story, this book actually is more concerned with telling the story of Antinous and Hadrian and their abiding love affair which spans the gulf of the centuries.

As you read the novel, you get a growing awareness of Antinous as the living, breathing, three-dimensional human being that he must have been in life. 

The more Spartianus looks into the life of Antinous, the more he becomes obsessed with the Blessed Boy. He simply has to find that tomb, even if it means his death and the downfall of Rome.

We won't give away the thrilling ending, except to say that, when Spartianus finally "exchanges glances" with Antinous (in a manner of speaking), Spartianus is overcome with emotion ... and the reader finds it hard to hold back the tears.

CLICK HERE to order, but don't wait too long ... or the Water Thief will catch up with you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

THE CURTAIN GOING UP IN NEW YORK
ON 'ANTINOUS AND HADRIAN' THE OPERA



IT has often been said that the love story of Hadrian and his beloved Antinous has all the drama, romance, mystery and intrigue of opera — and now you can hear selections from the world's first queer opera about Antinous this weekend in New York City.

Duets from
ANTINOUS AND HADRIAN are being performed as part of the SOUND DEPARTURES 2017 arts weekend at 10 p.m. Friday 20 January 2017 at The Club 74A East 4th Street in New York.

This ground-breaking opera, which premiered in 2013, was written by composer CLINT BORZONI with a libretto by EDWARD FICKLIN.

Borzoni's award-winning music reflects his passion for lyricism and functional harmony. He has written over sixty pieces, including a full length opera, two one act operas, a piano concerto, percussion quartet, piece for orchestra, two string quartets, several works for chamber orchestra, and many art songs. 

Ficklin has composed and written librettos for various forms of music-theater. He has realized his works in a number of unusual venues, like a store window near Grand Central Station and a vacant bank lobby near the World Trade Center (with the support of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the September 11th Fund). His work has also been presented by numerous opera companies across the United States and Europe.

He describes "Antinous and Hadrian" as truly "grand opera," a hugely ambitious project.

"Rome wasn't built in a day," says Ficklin. "When embarking on something large, we're often given that sage, if cliche, advice. Having recently laid down on paper, finally, the first few lines a new libretto destined to be a grand opera, I find that I need to remind myself of this. Indeed, large endeavors always require a large perspective.


Click here for an exclusive excerpt from the opera:

 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

THE ETRUSCANS WERE NOT INVADERS
CONTRARY TO ROMAN PREJUDICE



THE Etruscans were native to the Italian peninsula, contrary to Ancient Roman prejudices that the Etruscans were barbarians from Asia Minor.

Using DNA fingerprinting, archaeo-geneticists have determined that the Etruscans are more closely related to other Italian peoples than they are to those in modern-day Turkey, former Asia Minor.

In fact, they are genetically identical with the Romans themselves, which would be a slap in the face to any Patrician in Ancient Rome.

The Roman view was that the Etruscans were interlopers who arrived on the shores of the Italian peninsula and had to be crushed by noble Romans.

The Etruscan culture is documented in Etruria, Central Italy, from the 8th to the 1st Century BC. For more than 2,000 years there has been disagreement on the Etruscans’ biological origins, whether local or in Anatolia.

Genetic affinities with both Tuscan and Anatolian populations have been reported, but all attempts have failed to fit the Etruscans' and modern populations in the same genealogy ... until now.

Now a team of scientists led by Guido Barbujani, a geneticist at the University of Ferrara, and David Caramelli, anthropologist with University of Florence, have solved the 2,000-year-old mystery of the origin of the Etruscans.

They extracted and typed the hypervariable region of mitochondrial DNA of 14 individuals buried in two Etruscan cemeteries, analyzing them along with other Etruscan and Medieval samples, and 4,910 contemporary individuals from the Mediterranean basin.

Comparing ancient (30 Etruscans, 27 Medieval individuals) and modern DNA sequences (370 Tuscans), with the results of millions of computer simulations, the scientists showed that the Etruscans can be considered ancestral, with a high degree of confidence, to the current inhabitants of Casentino and Volterra.

But they are not the ancestors of the contemporary population of Asia Minor.

They determined that the genetic links between Tuscany and Anatolia went off in different directions at least 5,000 years ago, strongly suggesting that the Etruscan culture developed locally on the Italian peninsula, and not as an immediate consequence of immigration from the Eastern Mediterranean shores.