This book adequately demonstrates that Hadrian's private sexual life and his obsession with his young lover Antinous did have an impact on policy and his public actions, particularly the establishment of Antinous as a state sponsored god, to be worshiped by the citizens of the Roman empire.
Antinous was the beautiful young Greek lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian. When Antinous, around age 20, was accidentally drowned on the Nile, the 54 year old Hadrian was devasted and his grief changed the Empire. There is some evidence to indicate that Hadrian and Antinous had a 9 year acquatance before Antinous' death. We are unsure if the relationship was sexual in the beginning when Antinous was a child of 11. Other evidence would indicate that he gradually rose to prominence in the Imperial household and became the lover of the Emperor in the final two years of his short life. There are some descriptions of the couple that would indicate Antinous's maturity beyond his years and his calming wise personality brought relief to the restless personality of Hadrian. There is also some evidence that they shared spiritual beliefs and together joined a mystery cult. Hadrian established a cult around Antinous that spread throughout the Mediterranean. There were at least 40 cities with evidence of worship and cults to this state sponsored god. There is some evidence that the cult of Antinous and the cults of Dionysos and Hermes are overlapping since both were named the gods of farm animals, fertility and crops. Sculptors created statues of male adolescent beauty in honor of Antinous, which established the canon of adolescent perfection for many years in the classical world.
Hadrian was an amazing fellow. In his later years he lived at Tivoli in a fantasy village containing replicas of the great landmarks of the empire. He was surrounded by multiple images of his deceased lover.
There is some belief that Antinous was a human sacrifice of some kind to appease the gods or to benefit Hadrian. Handrian himself denied this to be true in his later years. Others believe he was a slave boy. This is certainly false since Rome was built on slave labor and to raise a slave to god status would have been totally beyond the economic and class structures of Rome. Reports that Antinous was a castrated eunich are also to be questioned since the statues all indicate fully developed muscular male beauty and Hadrian outlawed castration of slaves. Some records indicate Hadrian wrote erotic poetry to Antinous but none survives.
Also remember that the cult of Antinous was a competitor with early Christianity. With very few exceptions, writing about the relationship between Antinous and Hadrian are not homophobic with the exception of early Christian writings which were scandalized by the religious cult established by the Emperor in honor of his lover. The festivities around the cult of Antinous supposedly endorsed homosexual orgies. This book is very well researched and documented and certianly is broad reaching and thorough. I would suggest however Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian as a companion book. Hadrian become Emperor at 41, mature and wise to the ways of worldly power. He beame emperor after his Spanish cousin, Trajan, a major character in Yourcenar's Memoirs. Trajan, a childless but happily married man, never showed favoritism to Hadrian and never acknowledged him as his successor. This may have save Hadrian's life and character since he was supposed not favored above others in his military career. his political skills increased as the speech writer for his cousin Trajan. Hadrian quickly consolidated power when Trajan died of a stroke in Syria. He wore a short beard, the first of the Emperors to do so but a style followed by all the others. Twice assassination attempts were made on his life. Hadrian ws known for never forgetting the names of men who served with him in the military and was known to bathe and eat alongside common soldiers. There was never a hint of a military takeover during his reign.
Much like Elizabeth I, he kept his own council, never really trusting those around him. He married Sabina but all indications would indicate this was a marriage of convenience. He respected the Senators but retained the lion's share of power.
Hadrian was known for his many state trips and spent half of his reign outside of Rome. Of the 44 provinces making up the Empire, he visited 38. He died at age 62 atter ruling Rome for 21 years. Lambert has written a good book, speculating sometimes but sticking to the skimpy facts most of the time. The nature of this Imperial homosexual relationship remains a mystery in many ways. The fact that a gay Emperor ruled Rome at the height of power and world dominance, was able to establish a religious cult to his beautiful young deceased lover, and have very little negatively reflected in the surviving texts is testimony that homophobia need not always infect a society.