The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
Links and Resources
~The Epistles of Antinous
~The Gospel of Epolonius
~The Bathhouse Frescoes
~The Gospel of Gryllus
~The Gospel of Corda
~The Oratory of Favorinus
~The Gospel of Vitalis
~The Isthmian Odes
~The Gospel of Alexander
~The Gospel of Hadrian
~The Song of Lysicles
~Central Figures
~Timeline 1 - Beginnings
~Timeline 2 - The Imperial Tour
~Timeline 3 - Hadrian's Decline
~Antinous Iconography
~Sites of Interest
~Link Back


By Shawn Postoff

An abundance of sources have been consulted over several years to arrive at the present stage of this website’s evolution, and the list will no doubt continue to grow. They are presented here with some background information as to how I approached and responded to them as texts. Where they are books that are available for sale, I've provided links to their product-page on Where the source was Internet based, I've provided the appropriate link. It is my sincere hope that this list keeps you busy and boredom-free for many moons...

The Holy Bible

The Holy BibleLong before the idea for The Sacred Antinous was sprouted, this fundamental book provided its germination. Having never had a religious education, I didn't get around to actually reading the Bible until I was in my late 20's. As such, its "message" failed to have much of an impact upon me from a spiritual standpoint. What was always far more intriguing to me, since I first learned of this multiplicity of laws and rules and sayings and far-flung holiness, was the identity of its authors (I'm speaking, by the way, of the Old Testament). As I peruse even my earliest memories as a child, I realize that I was never given to or made to believe that this Bible was written by the so-called hand of God. From the start, the very notion seemed preposterous to me. (And, I might mention, not a little unfair, for I perpetually wondered why a bunch of tribesmen living in the desert 2500 years ago got to shake God's hand in person while the saps who predated them were just plain unlucky and we modern-day suckers were left to look endlessly back in time and lament the fact that we had somehow missed the party).

Drawing on the relatively simple faculties of reason, visible evidence, and common sense, I've always believed that some flesh-and-blood person (or persons) had a hand in writing the codex, and accumulated years of self-directed research and discovery has only confirmed for me that the Bible's scope — far from being universal and omniscient — is actually remarkably localized and comparatively limited in terms of when, where, and for whom it was created. Naturally, I recognize that to some, this is quite a blasphemous statement. But I stand steadfastly by it and count myself among a small but growing group of people who look on any manifestation of blind faith as inherently untrustworthy.

With regard to the New Testament, authorship becomes less of an issue, but a whole other question arises as to whether Jesus is really the Son of God or just a 2000 year-old sectarian cat-fight cum hoodwink cum colossal misunderstanding cum Western Civilization = Dunce of the Millennium. With regard to the blasphemy of this statement, please see above, and then see The Jesus Puzzle, below.

Regardless of The Holy Bible's purported author, however, the megalomaniacal dreamer that lay within me started beating the war drums and incessantly goading on the prudent project manager to undertake a "Biblical" project of my own, just to prove my theory that a completely religious canon could actually be composed by a decidedly human hand (and I cringe to think that L. Ron Hubbard may actually be my predecessor in this attempt: were we ever invited to a dinner party together, I hereby declare that I would do my utmost to be seated as far away from him as is humanly possible).

Anyway, the salient point here is that as a writer I had begun to dream of a life-long project to create an "Anti-Bible." When I soon after stumbled serendipitously upon the story of Antinous, demanding like a lap-dog to be coddled, I was amazed and gratified at the realization that the "Anti" I had been looking for (and suddenly found) would come to serve not as a negation of the Christian Bible, but as a proper name in itself. (read: ANTI-nous). Anyway, the project was finally conceived... and I hadn't even required a Virgin!

Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous
Royston Lambert

Beloved and GodAs a foundational source of recent scholarship, this book is what started me down the path toward The Sacred Antinous. Not only was it the first and central text that introduced me to the astonishing story of Antinous, but it also made a bold claim to assemble a single, most-probable narrative from out of the centuries-old miasma of rumor, conjecture, embroidery and propaganda. For this fact alone I greatly admired it, and was happy to be taken by Lambert's capable hand across the ancient Empire as he efficiently constructed, presented, and dovetailed his elegant arguments built on an impeccable foundation of well-documented sources.

As a gay man, the enduring story of the Emperor Hadrian and his young Greek lover was compelling enough, but far more exciting to me as a writer was the existence, despite the many known and uncontested elements of the narrative, of all those pieces that were missing. Although Lambert deploys his facts to build a highly believable chronology, there is so much of the story still unknown that I found the bellows of my imagination rapidly and repeatedly gusting upon an ever-growing bonfire of literary possibility.

To further sweeten the deal, here was a story set at the exact same time as Christianity was beginning to find a foothold in the Roman world, and this was the crucial fact that made me settle on the story of Hadrian and Antinous around which to not only build my Anti-Bible, but contrast it frequently and pointedly against its Christian contemporary.

Memoirs of Hadrian
Marguerite Yourcenar

Memoirs of HadrianAs part of my initial foray into the minutiae of Hadrian's character, Yourcenar’s book was invaluable. Whereas Lambert laid down for me the bones of chronology and the sinews of probable intent, Yourcenar supplied me with the juicy flesh of poetic imagery, philosophical discourse, and emotional gravity.

Despite her accomplishment, however, I still found her descriptions of the intercourse between Hadrian and Antinous far too "broad-strokes." Arguably, the book contains brief and intermittent passages in which she hints at the wispy threads of a possible scene: a shared laugh, a remembered image or an unexpected quarrel. But never does she go so far as to give us the actual words themselves. This is of course understandable, given not only the tone, structure and conceit of the book, or the austere character of its intended recipient, but, far more probably, a healthy respect for and deference to the power of leaving those words as a mystery. And so I graciously forgave her, notwithstanding my relief at the fact that I wouldn't be treading on her well-lauded toes when I shrugged irreverently at the mystery and strove with deliberate audacity to put words into these distant characters' mouths.

Thus, having been left yet again with more questions than answers — lone milestones on the vast roadways of future narrative demanding to be paved — I thought it best to compare the purported timelines of Lambert and Yourcenar and begin to settle upon a master plot. There are two very glaring discrepancies between the authors: Yourcenar has Hadrian meeting the child Antinous while in Bithynia and instantly attaching him to the Imperial Household. Although seductive, I find this scenario hard to believe. I'm much more partial to Lambert's theory that Antinous was scooped up independently of Hadrian, found his way to Rome through the regular channels of recruitment, and only later came to the Emperor's attention as he distinguished himself in his role as a page.

Second, Yourcenar suggests that Antinous hit upon his idea to commit suicide long before the actual events on the Nile, and that his plan was built wholly on the foundation of his desire not to succumb to the degradations of old age. Yet Lambert's explanation — that of a confluence of many diverse imperatives and emotions all converging at a precise and opportune moment in time — seems to me much more believable and, in the final analysis, is considerably more dramatic. I sided again with him. Yet this is hardly a contest, and we'd be foolish to keep a scorecard. Let us never forget that Lambert had 50 additional years of scholarship and archeological discovery on which to draw, and he approached his research forensically, whereas Yourcenar took a psychological tack. Her book remains a masterful and vibrant portrait of one of the central figures of our story, and should be read as such with reverence.

Ecclesia Antinoi
Anthony Subia, Hiram Crespo, and Phillip Bernhardt-House

Ecclesia AntinoiAs a writer who forges the majority of his career in film and television, I often experience frustration at the lethargic pace in which my projects inch toward the screen. Thankfully, the Internet ensures that I can continue to feel vital and connected to an audience by rewarding my literary efforts with a degree of "instant gratification" — especially when I very deliberately create work that is not intended for the eyes of film & TV producers and thus not subject to their endless rounds of revisions. Sir Richard Wadd is one such autonomous project, and I conceived of The Sacred Antinous as being another.

Consequently, my next step after reading Lambert and Yourcenar was to hop online and see what else was circulating in cyberspace regarding Antinous. Amid a sea of spotty and generic articles, I discovered a particular triad of websites that stood head and shoulders above the rest, and they were beginning to coalesce into what is now known as the Ecclesia Antinoi.

Circa 2002, Anthony Subia, Hiram Crespo, and Phillip Bernhardt-House established the collected websites that would evolve into the Temple of Antinous, the online home of the Ecclesia. Members of this group generally consider themselves to be a Greco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist pagan religion, and approach their particular deity from an unabashedly homosexual standpoint.

Yet despite my high regard for the group's vision, as I perused its material I once again found the wide-ranging research to be not quite what I was after. While I greatly admired the painstaking effort to collect and translate a comprehensive library of historically relevant material concerning Antinous, and while I was delighted by the creation of a comprehensive liturgy and hagiography of homosexual saints both ancient and modern, I still felt that my personal questions were not yet answered. Who exactly was Antinous? How did he think? What was it about him that made Hadrian fall for him so absolutely? Surely there was more to their connection than his youthful beauty alone! The Ecclesia could not answer such questions, nor did they even suggest that they wanted to. Their sights were firmly set on the spirituality and mysticism of Antinous the God, not Antinous the mortal. Thus, as with Lambert and Yourcenar, the seekers at the Ecclesia could only provide me with a somewhat peripheral story filled with speculation and mystery that was, paradoxically, both troubling and inspiring.

I was now convinced that I was on the right track: my personal maps would be printed on the paper of historical fiction, and they would lead me into the decidedly treacherous terrain of dialogue, psychology, and dramatic storytelling.

Romeo and Juliet
William Shakespeare

Romeo and JulietIt's a tragic love story, it's a dramatic play, and it's written in iambic pentameter. Thus did I have the inspiration for my first stage piece in The Sacred Antinous cycle, which was eventually entitled The Gospel of Hadrian. But if, in the present context, I'm going to go so far as to compare my work to R&J, I might as well go the distance and talk about a certain element of Shakespeare's play that I was determined would not be included in TGoH. Call it a "negative inspiration," if you will.

When Romeo sees Juliet at the Capulet ball, he convinces himself that he as fallen instantly and madly in love with her. This, despite a rather flowery balcony exchange in which only sweet and poetical nothings are exchanged regarding her beauty and his constancy. And while the poetry is lovely, something about it just doesn't ring true. "Sorry Bill," I feel the urge to say, "but what you wrote wasn't love at first sight: it was lust at first sight." But because Shakespeare is Shakespeare — the Great and Powerful One — generations of imitative writers and readers alike have seemed to suddenly forget the fact that love — real love — takes time to blossom.

I resolved that I would not repeat the error. And although I granted that Hadrian would have probably experienced a certain amount of lust at first sight with regard to Antinous, I was nevertheless adamant that their subsequent love would blossom in a psychologically complex and believable way over the course of several months, if not years. I resolved that Hadrian's love for Antinous would be based far more on the youth's brain capacity than his body's. After all, the emperor of Rome could have had his pick of an infinite number of available beauties. For Antinous to really stand out, and become the object of Hadrian's 1) affection, 2) love, 3) obsession, and 4) deification, he would have had to possess an extraordinarily fierce, staggeringly large, and unassailably intense intelligence. He would have had to distinguish himself from the other boys not by his physical traits alone, but by their fusion with a precocious mind far beyond his years — one that could hold its own against the mind of a statesman, soldier, architect, philosopher, poet, and consummate Hellenophile.

This was my quest, and the conversations that I eventually scripted between my two protagonists (see, in particular, The Gospel of Hadrian - Act 1 and Epistle 033 - The Ride to Rome) are a deliberate attempt to not only earn the love between them, but also to justify Hadrian's remarkable behaviour in the months that followed his beloved's untimely death.

The Christians and the Fall of Rome
Edward Gibbon

The Christians and the Fall of RomeThis little booklet is Penguin's very thoughtful excerpt from Gibbon’s much more expansive The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (Chapters 15-16, Volume 1) published in 1776. The chapters contained herein conjure a picture of the early Church that wasn't quite as unified as Gibbon's contemporaries may have believed, and the portrait he paints of the Christian Fathers is somewhat less than flattering — which is probably why this particular section wasn't quite as well received as the other tracts in that first and venerable volume. The prose is dense and archaic, which ultimately makes for a rather challenging read, but it is nonetheless a very worthwhile endeavour. The ideas I encountered here were useful in helping me to imagine how Hadrian would have perceived his Christian contemporaries (i.e. Telesphorus), and such imaginings were further refined with the help of Simon Goldhill's Love, Sex & Tragedy (see below).

Love, Sex & Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes our Lives
Simon Goldhill

Love, Sex & Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes our LivesGoldhill's approach to the ancients is a delight. Easy to read and thoroughly researched, his book is offered up as a serious bit of advice to all us self-satisfied moderns, urging us never to forget who and what walked and thought upon the earth long ago, paving the way for all that we have become. His analysis of the difference between the Roman and Christian minds was like a tender piece of filet mignon compared to the endless chewing demanded by Gibbon's mountainous tracts of gristle. Much of what he writes in Part II, Chapter 2 "Superstars of the Flesh" was exceedingly helpful as I set about to compose the passage between Hadrian and Telesphorus concerning the statuary of Antinous that surrounds them.

The Jesus Puzzle
Earl Doherty

The Jesus PuzzleThis was a critical piece of the plotline for The Gospel of Hadrian in that it finally solidified a compelling motivation for Telesphorus. More coming soon...

Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art, 100 BC - AD 250
J.R. Clarke

Looking at LovemakingA fascinating read, especially for its detailed analysis of the Warren Cup, which provides the basis for much of the storytelling surrounding the early Epistles of Antinous.

If Christianity is looked at as a philosophically violent break from the traditions, customs, and mind set of the Classical world, then it follows that the Anti-Bible should do whatever it can to recapture the sensibilities of the Greco-Roman milieu. With this in mind, The Sacred Antinous was, from the start, conceived as having a very sensual and erotic grounding — a place where the frank and honest discussion of sex and its attendant power dynamics was considered useful, desirable, and perhaps even obligatory. Any reader who seriously considers Clarke's discussion of the Warren Cup (See also About This Site) will thus see the Epistles of Antinous as a completely normalized approach to sexuality.

Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic Greece
William Percy Armstrong III

Pederasty and Pedagogy in Archaic GreeceA couple of years before Lambert’s book (above) breathed life into the creation of this site, Armstrong’s work inspired an entirely different project, which was a play entitled The Imminent Boys. Under the banner of the play’s sprawling 5-acts, I tackled the birth of Athenian pederasty by writing a love story between a man (Nyanthes) and his youth (Timarchus). In the plot, their Romeo & Juliet-like trials eventually convinced their fellow noblemen to formally adopt the practice and institute its traditions into a newly-created school. Unfortunately for me, The Imminent Boys never actually escaped from draft work. Instead, it became mired in structural and storytelling issues that inevitably caused me to shelve it. But despite its over-arching failure, I always thought that certain individual scenes within it were quite strong, and thus it pained me to think that they would never see the light of day. Happily, I was able to find a place for one of those scenes in The Oratory of Favorinus, where, with some minor alterations, it was “re-purposed” as a one-man show.

Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman Empire
Mary T. Boatwright

Hadrian and the Cities of the Roman EmpireAs of March 07, The Epistles of Antinous were suddenly being composed “from the road” ­ in other words, the Imperial Tour had begun! Invaluable in my research and imaginings for this leg of the literary journey was Boatwright’s exceptionally well-researched book, which not only explored the cultural and societal underpinnings of Hadrian’s many benefactions, but provided wonderfully detailed chapters and tables that itemized those gifts according to the city in which they were given, and whether they were of the bricks & mortar, financial, or declarative/honorary variety. What a fantastic reference this book thus became as the Imperial train pulled into each new port!

Roman Sex
John Clarke

Roman SexIn the follow-up to his highly readable Looking at Lovemaking (above), Clarke here presents a sumptuous volume that delves even deeper into the sexual psyche of the ancient Roman (upper-class) mind. Drawing on newly excavated/released artefacts, as well as up-to-the-minute scholarship regarding his topic, he guides his reader through the psychological and historical background concerning the Romans’ penchant for phallic imagery and erotic art. What’s more, he asks (and answers) some fascinating questions concerning where and why such images were deliberately deployed within both public and private spaces. The implications of these various readings have worked their way into several characters and plotlines of The Sacred Antinous ­ and will no doubt continue to do so over the life of the project.

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome
L. Richardson, Jr.

A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient RomeA very thorough book which provided me with detailed information on the Paedagogium ad Caput Africae (the elementary school), as well as other random facts.

Ancient Rome: The Archaeology of the Eternal City
Jon Coulston

Ancient RomeAnother great archaeological reference book, with much more up-to-date information than the book above.

Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries
Rodolfo Lanciani

Info about the life of young boys in training to become Imperial pages can be found in Chapter 5 of this book, along with fascinating evidence concerning the presence of early Christianity upon their daily life. I found it on the web, here.


Phallic Amulets

The Sacred Antinous is an ongoing work of Historical Fiction, for contemplative and educational purposes.
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