The Natalis Antinoi and the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium

27 November was the day when the Natalis Antinoi, the birthday of Antinous, was celebrated. Although the exact year of his birth is uncertain (c. AD 110-112), an inscription found in scores of fragments in Lanuvio (Italy) attests 27 November (V a.d. Kalendas Decembres) as his date of birth.

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, 136 AD.

The marble inscription (CIL XIV 2112) was discovered in 1816 in the ruins of the ancient city of Lanuvium, located in Latium in the Alban Hills, a short distance from the Appian Way. Lanuvium was the birthplace of Antoninus Pius, and Commodus and a concentration of Imperial villas grew up within its neighbourhood. Lanuvium is also known for its celebrated temple of Juno Sospita, of which part of the sanctuary’s portico can still be seen (see images here). A fine equestrian group in marble was also unearthed in the city in the 1880s. The statues dating to the 1st century BC include life-size torsos of Roman cavalrymen and horses, probably commissioned to commemorate the victory of Lucius Licinius Murena in the Second Mithridatic War. This collection of sculptures is now the highlight of the Leeds City Museum (see images here).

The Natalis Antinoi (birthday of Antinous) was celebrated in Lanuvium by a collegium (association) dedicated to Antinous and the goddess Diana. The Lanuvian collegium was a prominent burial association that, among other activities, provided burial for their deceased members. The longest and most important inscription of the Lanuvian inscriptions was originally erected in the temple of Antinous (tetrastylum). It contained the rules and regulations (by-laws) of the Lanuvian worshippers (cultores) of Diana and Antinous with detailed provisions for burial. Such collegia were strictly regulated by local rules and the Roman Senate’s regulations.

The inscription, dated 9 June AD 136, consists of two columns of thirty-three and thirty-two lines and one heading line stretching across the entire marble panel. It operated with the support of a wealthy patron whose name was Lucius Caesennius Rufus at the time of the consulship of Lucius Ceionius Commodus and Sextus Vettulenus Civica Pompeianus.


[L(ucio)   Ceionio]   Commodo   Sex(to)   Vettuleno   Civica Pompeiano co(n)s(ulibus) a(nte) d(iem) V Idus Iun(ias)

Column 1:

The text opens with an account of the college’s assembly on 9 June AD 136 (a little more than two years after the drowning of Antinous in October 130 AD), during which L. Ceionius Commodus, who happened to be the patron of the municipium of Lanuvium, offered the interests on 15,000 sesterces to provide annually 800 sesterces: 400 sesterces on the birthday of Diana on 13 August and 400 sesterces on the birthday of Antinous on 27 November. These financial benefactions (liberalitas) enabled the collegium to honour Diana and Antinous and pay for its members’ funerals.

[Lanuvii in] templo Antinoi in quo L(ucius) Caesennius Rufus / [patronu]s municipi(i) conventum haberi iusserat per L(ucium) Pompeium / / [—]um q(uin)q(uennalem) cultorum Dianae et Antinoi pollicitus est se / [conl]aturum eis ex liberalitate sua HS XV m(ilium) n(ummum) usum die / [natal]is Dianae Idib(us) Aug(ustis) HS CCCC n(ummos) et die natalis Antinoi V K(alendas) / [Dec(embres)] HS CCCC n(ummos) et praecepit legem ab ipsis constitutam sub tetra/[stylo A]ntinoi parte interiori perscribi in verba infra scripta

Col.1 4-10
Col. I 4-9

The members of the college’s assembly met in the tetrastyle temple of Antinous, where the collegium members were told to inscribe their by-laws so that all the town’s residents could read them.

After citing the college’s date of creation, 1 January AD 133, the Senate’s approval and prayers for the emperor Hadrian and his family, the inscription states the rules (lex) of the association. The rules had to be read in their entirety before new members could enter the collegium so that later they “may not make a complain or leave a dispute” to their heirs. The association was composed only of men, freeborn, freedmen and slaves.

[quod fa]ust[um fe]lix salutareq(ue) sit Imp(eratori) Caesari Traiano Hadriano Aug(usto) totiusque / [do]mus [Aug(usti)] nobis [n]ostris collegioq(ue) nostro et bene adque(!) industrie contraxerimus ut /

Col. 1 12.17

The by-laws determined membership subscriptions, monthly fees, fines for neglect of duties or misconduct, and the organisation procedure for members’ funerals (funus).

lexs collegi / [plac]uit universis ut quisquis in hoc collegium intrare voluerit dabit kapitulari nomine / HS C n(ummum) et vi[ni] boni amphoram item in menses sing(ulos) a(sses) V item placuit ut quisquis mensib(us) /

Each new member had to pay an entrance fee of 100 sesterces, an amphora of good wine, and a monthly contribution of 5 asses. If the member were up-to-date with his monthly dues when he died, the association would pay his funeral expenses to the sum of 300 sesterces. However, if he failed to pay his dues for six consecutive months, he would “lose the money standing in his account for the funus“. Also, If a member died more than twenty Roman miles away from Lanuvium and his death was reported, the collegium would send members to take care of his funeral. If someone else took care of the funeral, the collegium would pay this person the funeral cost.

Col. I 22-31

Column 2:

Different rules applied to slave members whose masters denied burial. They had the right to a fictitious funeral (funus Imaginarium), which involved the cremation of a wax figure (imago) on a pyre. Meanwhile, members who committed suicides lost the right to receive funeral honours.

Col. II 1-13

The inscription continues by listing the dates of the six annual banquets organised by the collegium: the birthday of L. Caesennius Rufus’ father, on 8 March, appears first among the birthday feasts listed, followed by the birthday of Antinous on 27 November, of the goddess Diana on 13 August, the birthday of Caesennius’s brother on 20 August, his mother’s on 12 September and his own on 14 December.

ordo cenarum VIII Id(us) Mar(tias) natali Caesenni [—] patris V Kal(endas) Dec(embres) nat(ali) Ant[inoi] / Idib(us) Aug(ustis) natali Dianae et collegi XIII K(alendas) Sept(embres) na[t(ali) Caes]enni Silvani fratr{a}is pr(idie) N[onas —] / natali Corneliae Proculae matris XIX K(alendas) Ian(uarias) na[tal(i) Cae]senni Rufi patr(oni) munic[ipii]

Each year a magistri (chairman) was chosen to preside over the banquets and had to supply the food, namely four sardines, loaves of bread together with hot water and good wine. The quinquennalis (chief official) had to make sacrifices with wine and incense throughout his five years of service and provide the members with oil in the public baths twice a year on the birthdays of Diana and Antinous as well as an amphora of good wine for the banquets.

Col. II 14-20

The inscription continues with the rules of conduct at banquets. Each act of misbehaviour was punished with a fine suitable for the offence. The fine was four sesterces for a member causing a disturbance by moving seats. For “speaking abusively of another”, the fine was twelve sesterces. The largest fine amounted to twenty sesterces for using “abusive or insolent language to a quinquennalis (president)”.

Col. II 2

Cult sites for Antinous, erections of statues and celebrations of festivals in his honour soon followed his death in late October of AD 130. We also have a record of the birthday of Antinous being celebrated in Egypt from a fragmentary papyrus from Oxyrhynchus (P.Oxy. 31 2553). The fragment, a part of a Calendar of Cult Offerings written in ancient Greek and dating to around AD 175 – 225, mentions the birthday of Antinous with a description of three festivals held between the birthday of Antinous and the birthday of the deified Lucius Verus on 15 December.

P.Oxy.XXXI 2553
Fragment of a Calendar of Cult Offerings mentioning Antinous’ birthday

The Lanuvian inscription can now be seen and read in the Baths of Diocletian in Rome.

The inscription of the collegium of Diana and Antinous in Lanuvium, AD 136 AD, National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian, Rome

Antinous was born in a rural locality called Mantineion just outside Claudiopolis in Bithynia (today’s Bolu, Turkey). Architectural fragments said to come from a temple Hadrian dedicated to Antinous were found in Bolu. The temple was located above the stadium where the Sacred Games of Antinous took place. An honorary Greek inscription for emperor Hadrian uncovered in the stadium in 2008 and 2009 names Claudia Procla and Aelius Plotius Iulianus as the funders.

Columns from a temple Hadrian dedicated to Antinous and architrave fragments from a theatre built by Hadrian.
Bolu Müzesi, Turkey.
Stadium of Claudiopolis/Hadrian. Bolu, Turkey.
IK Klaudiu polis 53 – 20 m long architectural inscription from the stadium of Claudiopolis funded by Claudia Procla and Aelius Plotius Iulianus and dedicated to Hadrian and the Demos of Claudiopolis.
Bolu Müzesi, Turkey.


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