Brighten up your day with some striking images of Antinous, Emperor Hadrian’s young lover who is known and loved by fandom from the “Antinous farouche” that Hugo provocatively uses to describe Enjolras.
Hadrian’s very public and lasting relationship with the low-born young man scandalized the Roman elite, but the real controversy didn’t begin until Antinous mysteriously drowned and the distraught Hadrian deified him. This is actually what intrigues me most about the Enjolras comparison; the pretty and gay make for fun reading, but I’m particularly fascinated by how Antinous became an object of popular devotion, official outcry against his apotheosis notwithstanding. This absolute nobody who may even have been a slave somehow caught the emperor’s eye, became his beloved, then ascended to the heavens. Among all the aristocratic gods of the classical pantheon, Antinous represented the people. As best I can tell, his cult lasted for centuries.
His beauty was famous and his face shows up in a ton of art from the period, often as Apollo or Dionysus. Should you ever be lucky enough to find yourself in a gallery with Roman statues, you can actually play the game of trying to pick him out. Just find the prettiest marble man in the room and chances are you’ll have him.
A final note: while I absolutely love “Antinous farouche” as a descriptor, and understand why the adjective is necessary to make the comparison about something other than just sex, the actual Antinous had plenty of ferocity of his own. Don’t let Hugo make you think he was just posing on imperial couches and looking pretty. He accompanied Hadrian on his travels around the empire and the two were apparently known for hunting lions together. Lions!