The Emperor HADRIAN (AD76-138)

Hadrian was Roman Emperor from 117-138 and was responsible for the building of the wall between England and Scotland named after him. While Hadrian was married, as convention dictated, he had a male consort, the young Greek Antinous, who accompanied him whenever he toured the Empire.  The relationship appears to have been very close and the two were what we would today describe as 'out'. Antinous died in mysterious circumstances while accompanying Hadrian in Egypt. The Emperor grieved for him for the rest of his life, deifying his young lover and founding the city of Antinopolis, near to where he died, in his name.

While the strength of Hadrian’s feelings may be untypical, sexual relations between men were not.  Historians have suggested that bisexuality was practised in second-century upper-class Roman society and was often socially accepted.

Image:  Unknown artist, Hadrian (AD76-138).  Copy of a bronze in the British Museum; image: © Tullie House Museum, Carlisle