Statue of Antinous: The Story Behind The Discovery Of The Sculpture In Delphi

The Statue of Antinous at Delphi is an ancient statue that was found during excavations in Delphi. Antinous was a young Greek of extraordinary beauty from Bithynia, who became the beloved companion or lover of the Roman emperor Hadrian but later died in the Nile under mysterious circumstances.

Statue of Antinous

On July 1, 1894, at the excavation of Delphi near the Temple of Apollo, archaeologists uncovered a near-perfectly preserved, still-upright statue of Antinous

The statue was discovered by a team of French archeologists, who in 1891 were granted permission by the Greek government to excavate at Delphi. Most of the workers were locals from the village of Kastri, which, prior to its relocation, was practically built atop of the ancient religious site.

Rare photo of the excavations at Delphi

Stricken by the death of Antinous, Hadrian, who was an admirer and a passionate devotee of classical Greek Antiquity, and also a patron of the Oracle of Delphi, gave orders that statues of the beautiful young man, whom he had loved so passionately, should be erected in all sanctuaries and cities of his vast empire. Furthermore, he decreed the institution and establishment of Games in honor of Antinous, who thereafter was honored and worshipped as a god. Thus a statue of Antinous was erected within the sanctuary of Delphi, after his death, in A.D. 130, and it was one of the most beautiful and impressive cult statues.

Statue of Antinous

During the excavations, the statue was discovered upright on its pedestal next to the wall of a brick chamber alongside the holy Temple. From the Roman coins minted to honor Αntinous, we are informed that the representation of the statue was accompanied by the epithet “Propylaeus.” Hence, it is legitimate to assume that it was originally placed at the entrance of the sanctuary. Later on, it suffered damages and broke at the height of the knee, so it had to be transferred closer to the temple of Apollo in a sort of chapel where it was found during excavations in relatively good condition Today, the statue is on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delphi.