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 Amazon.com. 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
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,
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
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
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
Anthony Subia, Hiram Crespo, and Phillip Bernhardt-House
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
Circa 2002, Anthony Subia, Hiram Crespo, and Phillip Bernhardt-House
established the collected websites that would evolve into
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
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
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
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
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
fascinating read, especially for its detailed analysis of
the Warren Cup, which provides the basis for much of the storytelling
surrounding the early Epistles
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
Pederasty and Pedagogy
in Archaic Greece
William Percy Armstrong III
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
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!
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.
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
great archaeological reference book, with much more up-to-date
information than the book above.
Ancient Rome in the Light
of Recent Discoveries
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,