The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
Sacred Texts
  ~000 Introduction
  ~001 Arrival at Caelian Hill
  ~002 Life at the Paedagogium
  ~003 Monsters and Heroes
  ~004 The Private Baths
  ~005 The Soaps of Cyprias
  ~006 The Treachery of Gryllus
  ~007 Assurances and Endurances
  ~008 The Demise of Trenus
  ~009 The Surprise Inspection
  ~010 Little Donkey
  ~011 Whispering Hope
  ~012 Epigrams for Antinous
  ~013 Books from Maltinus
  ~014 Little Signals
  ~015 Promotion
  ~016 Juvenalis IX
  ~017 A Frothy Idea
  ~018 Evening on the Riverbank
  ~019 Across the Leagues
  ~020 Unprecedented Access
  ~021 Winged Mercury
  ~022 Dinner Guest
  ~023 Causes of Nausea
  ~024 New Pupil
  ~025 Wax, Soap, and Wool
  ~026 Four Daughters
  ~027 Vitalis Atones
  ~028 Futures and Histories...
  ~029 The Triumph of Desire
  ~030 An Image of Antinous
  ~031 The Ride From Rome
  ~032 The Villa at Tibur
  ~033 The Ride To Rome
  ~034 Praeconina
  ~035 Foolish Carisius
  ~036 The Christian Texts
  ~037 Married Pleasures
  ~038 In Tibur, Alone
  ~039 The End of Corinthus
  ~040 Turning Tables
  ~041 A History & Fantasy...
  ~042 A Sad Collection
  ~043 Rafts in a Raging Sea
  ~044 Rome, Home and History
  ~045 A Caravan of Monologue
  ~046 On Favorinus
  ~047 The Flesh of a Metaphor
  ~048 Disquieting Thoughts
  ~049 Purple Reign
  ~050 The Heart of Numidia
  ~051 Stables of the Palatine
  ~052 Hadrian's Deprivation
  ~053 Transcripts and Categories
  ~054 In the Wake of a Paradox
  ~055 Father of the Country
  ~056 The First Night with Hadrian
  ~057 A Place in the World
  ~058 Hard Resolution
  ~059 Announcements...
  ~060 Keeping Company
  ~061 The Stallions' Ride
  ~062 The Tour Begins
  ~063 On the Isthmus
  ~064 On Grief
  ~065 The Eleusian Mysteries
  ~066 A Playful Wager
  ~067 The Delights of Athens
  ~068 On Receiving
  ~069 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~070 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~071 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~072 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~073 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~074 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~075 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~077 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~080 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~082 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~084 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~085 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~088 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~090 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~091 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~092 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~093 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~094 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~095 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~096 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

Assurances and Endurances


I went as I had intended unto Maltinus to ask of him how he gets these letters to you. He explained to me that his is only the first link on what is a long chain of exchanges over hundreds of leagues. Despite this burdensome truth, I begged him to assure me of the integrity of that first link. At this he divulged the existence of a friend on the Palatine Hill who is named Bellator. He is the personal recordkeeper of the Castellan of the Sacred Palace, and therefore a man who is well positioned to see to it that my notes are included among the official dispatches to Bithynia. I asked Maltinus if Bellator would know of any reason why the letters should be lost, and Maltinus could not say. But I requested of him to inquire after the letters and attempt to verify to the best of his ability that they were being delivered. This in turn raised a whole other issue – that of your replies, assuming of course that they are indeed being written and sent back my way. For I have yet to receive any, and am dismayed by your silence. Every day, however, dawns with it the renewed hope that your words shall finally reach me. That it has been almost two years since I started writing to you does not in the least diminish my expectancy.

I must imagine Maltinus perceives in my ardency to connect with you a decidedly pathetic quality, one engendered as much by my unswerving devotion to our shared and forever departed past as it is intensified by the despair of my present hardships. More than once has that good and compassionate soul attempted to dissuade me from continuing to write to you, citing in the name of my best interests the need to focus squarely on my future as a page and all the attendant disciplines of body and mind such a life shall require. I can quite clearly read through his entreaty the real message he no doubt increasingly doubts he shall ever successfully impart – one which advises me as delicately as he dares to be not so obstinate in my attitude toward Gryllus. And although I understand and am touched by his fatherly concern, wishing nothing more than to allay it, I am resolved to be obstinate in order to protect the one thing I have left to me: a living spirit that is my own. Thus I am content to give to Gryllus my body, for such is his demand and my duty. And I am content to mark my days here upon the Caelian Hill for as long as the Fates command it, for I am hardly in a position to contest them. Yet I shall certainly not be seen to enjoy these things, nor enjoy them even when unwatched. This refusal to enjoy; this denial of the demand to engage, is the one choice I have left to me, and only in choosing for my spirit to be obstinate over willing do I assert that precious free will to choose, and thus the fellow named Antinous who once you knew survives. (I have little doubt, Lysicles, of your perfect capacity to infer from this claim the many hours of silent and isolated reflection I have occasioned here to arrive at such a ridiculous but necessary philosophy. Would Arkamedes approve of it? I am scared to know.)

When Men Were MenGryllus returned, as like a lion to a village too powerless to assemble a hunting party bent on the beast’s destruction, to feed from me again, yet he restrained himself this time merely to words. He remarked that I should be happy there would on this single occasion be no expectation of my nakedness before him; no subjugation of my flesh unto his. I gazed at him evenly and said, quite truthfully, “I am indifferent to my body in relation to yours, and neither clothes nor nakedness in your presence shall have any bearing on my present being.” He had obviously expected such an answer (for it was not substantially new from what I had said to him before), and he chose not to be angered by it. “I understand, Antinous,” he said. And then he revealed a pair of dice, and asked if I wished to play some rounds with him. I said no, and he accepted my refusal. “You are making our time together very awkward, Antinous,” he told me softly. “Then perhaps it is best if we do not see each other anymore,” I replied. He laughed at that, and commended me on such a quick-witted reply.

There was a silence then, after which he looked at me with affection and said: “Do you not sometimes wish for those happy days we shared together? That felicity and warmth which prompted from you such an authentic and voluntary kiss upon my lips?” I replied to him that I no longer wished for those days. “And what of your current days?” he asked. “Do you not hope to see ended the despicable attention of those other boys in your school who show you so little respect?” It was amazing to me that he should have the audacity to ask such a question, and I thought for a second before replying thusly: “I certainly hope that their assaults shall one day end, yet despair of them ever receiving the order to do so from the human power that may, at his convenience, command it.” With this, it must have been most clear to Gryllus that I have long known of his involvement. “Perhaps that power,” he said, “is very much willing to end the assaults, if that it becomes satisfied that you are worthy of having them ended.” “And how shall I be deemed worthy?” I asked him. He smiled at me and reclined upon his chair: “I think you know the answer, Antinous.”

At last I was tired of his childish intrigue, and wished only to tell him openly of my mind. “Had you taken me to Cyprias on any other day than the General Inspection,” I began, “I should have been happy to give my spirit unto you as you desire. But you have proven incapable of allowing me the dignity of a choice, and as such I must recoil from you.” He stared at me for a long time before replying, “It is not I who denies you the choice, Antinous. You are by your very position forbidden to choose. Though not a slave, you are an orphan less than a page, and as such considerably limited in your options.”

“With regard to my duties as a page,” I said, “I fulfill them to the minimum standard, the result being that our meetings here are rendered to you as awkward. Yet if you wish of me to engage my spirit, you must acknowledge it first to be mine, to dispense with as I – not you – see fit. You may compel my body to your will, but not my soul. That, Gryllus, must be earned.” He considered me then with a bemused expression: “And how shall I earn it, O young one?”

“First and foremost by the willingness to allow it a choice.”

“But you have one, Antinous. At this very moment, you are presented with the opportunity to choose me as your willing provider and forevermore live according to the luxury of my estate.”

“And if I choose not to?” I inquired. He stared at me for a long time before replying, “Then nothing shall change here, and I regret that the abuse of Carisias shall continue.”

I held my tongue, lest it spit venom at him.

“You do not appreciate how much is being offered to you, Antinous, nor how much you stand to lose in its refusal. You do not yet know your place.” I looked at him then without fear: “My place, Gryllus, is to stand firm against any tyranny over my soul. My body is destined to serve and to that I am resigned. But unless the one it serves recognizes in me a soul that deserves men’s good esteem, then I am adamant it shall not go along willingly with my body. If you wish from me my willing soul, you must afford for it the solemnity of a voluntary choice.” There was a long pause, until at last, with a harsh, impatient anger behind his words, he replied, “Do you think it shall be any better in the Imperial Household? Do you believe with such naivety that there shall not be intrigue and manipulations, monstrous men and hungry hounds in the vast and reeking swamp of sycophants that surround the Emperor? The palace is a hornet’s nest, boy, and you shall be treated there by your Imperial master with far less respect than should I.”

I looked at the face of Gryllus then; at the hollowness of those eyes it padded. I placed it at the theatre beside me, at a table across from me, in a bed above me. I pictured the years upon it, and upon my own face in a looking glass. And I resolved that his was a face I could see before me at the moment of my violent death. Gryllus, I was sure, had it in him the power and potential to kill me for some random and petty offense, some unexpected whim, some indiscriminate reason less than honourable. Not now, while I remained beauteous before him and represented the challenge of ultimate conquest. But later, when I was become a man, and he had grown weary of me. And I knew further that Hadrian was a lover of all things Greek – not only its art and literature and philosophy and culture, but its venerable erotic tradition as well. (Was it not Gryllus, in fact, who had told me the story of the man’s quarrel with Trajan?). I thought of my readings; of Plato’s Symposium. The youths therein from whom the men took their pleasure were not left like refuse in a ditch when those generous philosophers were done of them, but rather converted into friends and confidants, respected for their maturing sensibilities long after they had left the bed of their elder. This was the Greek way. The Roman way, it seemed to me, was far less than this, and the luster of its Cupid-adorned drinking cups was dulled in the neglectful tarnish of ambition that always looked elsewhere and beyond, impatient of the present dialogue. Given, then, the shiver of my instinct, heaped upon for confirmation and warmth with the thick and woolen reality of a choice between what was Greek and what was Roman in the approach to my body and my soul, the decision was quite clear, and thus I declared it to him: “It is known to me,” I said, “that Hadrian is a man enamoured with life. Peace and Happiness are the slogans he stamps upon his coins. I must believe that a man such as this is well disposed to administer a household of similar disposition. And if, within it, I am stung by the occasional hornet, I daresay it shall be better than the sole and fatal stab of a scorpion.”

With that he had my answer, and thus hardened forever against me. He left then, and I have not seen nor heard from him since that day almost three weeks ago. The assaults of Carisias have not diminished, but neither have they intensified. All continues as it was, and I am left to wonder at the strange and sinister machinations that Gryllus is concocting beyond the nearest knolls of my knowledge and the farthest frontiers of my foresight. I must assume he is arranging to keep me from the next General Inspection – if not to have me for himself, then simply to foil my aspirations out of spite. Or is he accessing whatever contacts he has at the palace, working to influence the particular office into which I’m directed, the better then to torment me by it? I have no idea; no possible means to investigate after my suspicions. I am left with little else to do but mark each hour as it occurs, pray that this thread of difficult days ends, not severed, but woven into one of thicker weight and more artful braid. In the meantime I endure, and go now to give again this parchment into the unverifiable assurances of Maltinus.

Deeply, Lysicles, do I love you. A.

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