The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
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LEGEND TO ILLUSTRATIONS
  CONTAINS X-RATED IMAGES
  CONTAINS R-RATED IMAGES
  CONTAINS G-RATED IMAGES
COMMENTARY
  ~000 Introduction
I - THE YOUNG SCHOOLBOY
  ~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
II - THE COURT PAGE
  ~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
III - THE IMPERIAL FAVOURITE
  ~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
  ~076 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~077 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~078 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~079 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~080 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
IV - THE SEARCHING SOUL
  ~082 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~083 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~084 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~085 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~086 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~087 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~088 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~089 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~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
  ~097 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~098 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~099 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~100 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~101 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~102 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~103 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~104 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~105 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~106 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~109 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~110 Epistle Coming Soon
Phallic Amulets

The Demise of Trenus

Lysicles

As the days fold endlessly over onto themselves, I am able to both more clearly discern my situation’s reality and more convincingly invent for myself a false one. On the side of truth, I consider with heartache the long string of letters I have addressed to you since my arrival here and, despite the many assurances of Maltinus, am forced to admit how unlikely it is that any of them have reached you. On the side of falsehood, I construct a vast and complex network of possibilities to convince myself that not only have all my words arrived before your eyes, but that you have even taken the time to reply to them and have religiously dispatched your thoughts hastily back in my direction, and, further, that they are steadily overcoming a staggering course of obstacles to find me in order that we may very shortly begin at last to enjoy our long-overdue dialogue. Which do you suppose is easier – the bitter truth or the sweet deception – to believe? For the sake of that which matures in me by the hour, I am resigned to carry at all times upon the back of my tongue a mordant stone of hopelessness that refuses to be swallowed. And yet, for that it affords me an impetus to write and to reflect upon my time here at this despicable school, I shall with as much regularity as I can muster dip the longing tip of it into the warm and honeyed fantasy that these words may one day find you. If that the discomforting lump of my present predicament may for an occasional respite be salved by the sweet pomade of words written in your honour, it shall be easier, methinks, to bear.

But if there is comfort in the image of you to whom I write, there is, alas, a sickly horror in the sorrowful words that must herein be set down. Trenus is dead. He was slain on account of his religion – or was it on account of me? – and, what’s worse, his murderer walks free among us still, unnamed but known by all.

I was by a fountain in the school’s courtyard reading from Menander, when a boy who is known to me to be servile to Carisius, but lesser in his esteem than Falconius and Servilius, approached me slyly and threw a scrap of paper at me. And then he dashed triumphantly away, hooting that his mission had been accomplished. I unrolled it and read what was scratched there: “Your friend has found his god at the back gate.” That I possessed only one known friend was instantly evident to me. That he held in his heart a single god different from those multitudes in the Roman pantheon was our shared secret. And yet, here was the evidence that the secret was out. I became as like Hermes and ran across the fields, watched by the many cheering boys who no doubt had all been privy to whatever horror awaited me. Many of them followed, curious to see my reaction. And as I approached the back gate, my heart turned once around in my chest, for there was Trenus tied helplessly to a tree, his arms outstretched upon its limbs and weeping bitterly at the embarrassment brought down upon his undeserving head. I rushed to him and untied him, only to have him attack me angrily upon his release, for he instantly accused me of divulging his secret. I tried desperately to convince him that I had betrayed nothing, but he would not listen. He ran through the back gate and did not return until the night was thoroughly dark.

Although I had no way of knowing how or to whom his religion had escaped, it was perfectly clear where lay the blame for its wide exposure. In the seconds after Trenus had fled, I turned to face the assembled onlookers, all of whom were gaping happily and awaiting breathless my next move. No doubt they wished to see me take up with my fists the defense of my friend’s honour, and this was indeed my intent. I located Carisius and approached him. I moved to swing at him, but my arm was held from behind by Falconius, who had skirted around behind me. Suddenly I was exposed, and Carisius swung hard at my belly to drive the wind from my lungs. I crumpled to the grass, only to find his foot explode upon my eye and a river of blood streaming down my cheek as I suddenly stared at the cloudless sky. There was laughter and noise, until even this mild disturbance swirled away into oblivion and there was but silence in my ears and warm, purple liquid in my eyes and the image of a weeping Trenus seared onto the inside of my skull.

I know not how long I lay there, but soon there was the fleeting awareness of Maltinus about me. I was picked up and carried. I was in his chamber. There was a cold cloth upon my face and the sounds of the world slowly began to creep back into my head. And then it was night, and Maltinus was by my side. “Where is Trenus?” I asked him. He told me that Trenus was alone in a bedroom unto himself, for he wished some time to meditate. “May you summon him for me?” I requested. Maltinus hesitated and at last agreed. He left the room and some time later returned with my compatriot. Trenus stared at me bitterly, yet not without sympathy, for my injury was in itself a declaration of my loyalty to him.

“I did not betray you,” I told him. He nodded at me, confirming that the hours had allowed him to re-admit some reason into his brain. “For two years have I faithfully kept your secret undisturbed,” I continued. “Why should I allow it to escape now? What purpose would that serve, and to whom should I hope to benefit by it?” Trenus could not answer, but was still confused. “I have divulged it to none but you, Antinous,” he said. “How else could it have found exposure?” I was unable to answer him. Maltinus offered his counsel: “The damage is done, my friends. There can be nothing fruitful gained in the attempt to understand how it occurred, for I suspect it is a tale the perpetrator has taken pains to keep undiscovered. Let us turn instead to the future, and to the spirit of tolerance which animates our Emperor. Trenus shall no sooner be from our walls excluded as he shall from the gates of the palace. Of this I am quite sure. Courage, friends, is all what this moment requires of us.”

“I should like to write a letter to my father,” said Trenus. And instantly I thought of my own, and then, Lysicles, of yours – that solid man who was so generous of his love for me. At that moment I envied Trenus doubly, for not only had he a father to write to, but with it the confidence of a reply. Trenus returned to his room furnished with some parchment and a reed. I slept fitfully in the attendant care of Maltinus.

The following morning my eye was severely bruised and yet I was determined to attend my classes. Trenus was also present, and I was strangely gratified at the rather morbid fact that the ordeal had so isolated him from all others that, by default, he had returned to my side. We were thus bound together by our mutual ostracism: the meekly Christian and the envied beauty – easy targets for derision and scorn. And yet, in our private solidarity, Trenus and I were able to grow even closer, and there was a sense of that restored fidelity between us. “What did you write unto your father?” I asked him. He told me that he had sought for counsel on how now to carry himself in light of having been discovered. As his family lived in Rome, he expected the reply within a day. I was curious as to why he should think to carry himself differently, and he told me that the religion of the Christians was evangelical. “It is expected of Christ’s disciples to carry with them the good news of His sacrifice and bring it to the peoples of the world. Thus I asked of my father if I should take up the task, or remain as I was first instructed – content to live meekly and in the service of my immediate education. If he wishes of me to become an evangel I shall happily do so. If he wishes for my silence, I shall obey him.”

By such an answer you can imagine how instantly I was concerned for him. Thus I inquired, “Shall it not endanger you and your family if you are seen to act against the official gods?” He nodded in agreement. “But that is not a deterrent,” he replied. “If that we are endangered it is because others fear us, for we bring before their eyes the truth of the Christ. If we are struck down in the course of proclaiming His word, we are deemed by Him the holier for it, and become to His cause a martyr. Thus we die in the highest esteem of our god, who calls us back to Him in gratitude for having sung of Him to men upon the earth. I am not afraid to die.”

It seemed to me then that his anger and his uncharacteristically puffed display was in response to the wounds that had yesterday befallen him, and there was a part of me that could not believe in his professed fearlessness of death, especially when the Amphitheatre – and all it must symbolize to his people – was but steps away from where we lived. Mount me upon a horse and give me a spear, and I should fear no lion, regardless how ferocious he roars. Yet place me weaponless at the bottom of Flavian’s bowl before a screaming crowd of thousands hungry for my dismemberment, and I should wet myself! I confess, Lysicles, to have no understanding of these Christians – Jews that are become unto their own tribe rebellious so as to embrace... I know not what! Another god? It is all very confusing, and Trenus has never been very clear in his descriptions of it. Yet aside of all the nonsense they preach, I pity them their persecution and think it unfounded. Let them believe what they will. I have little doubt that sensible people shall avoid them in favour of a glorious pantheon that is known to be stable and undisputed.

Trenus was correct to expect so quick a reply, and received it in person. I witnessed his mother and father greeted by Vestinus, who showed them to the private bedroom that was for the moment given to their son. They spent some cloistered time with Trenus and then departed, and he waved to them from the gate. In the afterward I asked him of their counsel. “I am to remain as I was,” he said, and seemed by this command to be somewhat unhappy. “Perhaps that is for the best,” I said, and he but nodded. Yet it felt to me that there was more to him; that he had emerged from the meeting fortified and empowered in the knowledge of something additional. There was a glint of determination in his eye, and I attributed this to the private encouragement he had no doubt received in the company of his parents.

Some four days passed without event. It appeared as if all had been forgotten, although we both knew it had not. And then, without warning, Trenus was dead – drowned in the very fountain of which I had spoken above. His head and his arms floated silently in the water; his abdomen was upon the ledge; his legs were splayed upon the cobblestones. It was clear to everyone that his face had been held underwater until he could no longer breathe. The whispers started instantly – everyone knew it was Falconius, for there had even been witnesses. But none dared expose him to Vestinus. (I can only imagine how quickly the official fingers should have pointed to me had I not been spared by the authentic alibi of Maltinus, with whom I had already spent several hours in a lesson). And although I would soon after report to him of the swirling rumors concerning Falconius, and of the names of the four boys who were claiming to have witnessed him do it, without their official admission to the fact Maltinus was quite helpless to proceed. He told Vestinus of my report, but Vestinus was similarly constrained. Falconius declined even to protest it was him – he merely strutted into the company of Carisius and they spent the day together running races. The other four boys were quick then to recant their whispers and claim aloud that it was not, in actual fact, they who had been witness. Thus apart from my overwhelming grief, I was of course disgusted, and remain so still. Yet what can I do? Having not seen him commit the deed myself, and possessing only hearsay that it was him who did it, I should be just as spurious in seeking to avenge the crime. Yet in my heart I doubt little that it was Falconius, and I curse the cowards who have so quickly abandoned the spirit of justice that wails voicelessly above the corpse of Trenus.

What more can I write? Shall I endeavour to compose his official eulogy? If yes, I should be constrained to summarize the life of a boy whose occasional physical presence at my side was always, alas, lesser than the never-ending memory of Lysicles in my heart. What, then, of an elegy? Shall I attempt some lines of verse; some amateur composition of last respects, and send them to his parents as a demonstration of my sympathies? Yet how shall I pretend to speak of Trenus authentically – he whose unfathomable faith appeared to me as but a desperate and nonsensical hollow? Though mournful and disturbed, I am at a loss to respond, and helpless in the face of this particular death that weighs on me, it seems, almost more heavily than did the deaths of my mother and father when Poseidon struck. How shall I understand that? How shall it be reconciled? Perhaps it was you, Lysicles, and your presence beside me in the darkest days of mourning that convinced me there was at the very least some genuine purpose in it – for we were destined (or so it appeared) to rebuild from the rubble in our togetherness and allow our love to blossom before us into manhood. Thus I could take what was my sorrow and commute it into joy at the prospect of sharing forever with you the pleasures of both the mind and the flesh. But now, in the aftermath of Trenus, what is left to me but an even wider plain of lonely rubble? And how shall I escape from it? In what direction shall I venture when every horizon appears flat and infinite? Perhaps it is enough that I have written this. Let it be sealed, thus, and sent unto you. Let it fly through unseen hands and drop unseen from the satchel of the rider who is the last of the links in our imaginary chain. Let it be picked up, not by human hands, but by the winds, and let it flutter somewhere unimaginable, beyond the farthest dreams of Alexander. And let it be glimpsed by eyes too foreign to decipher it, who think it therefore a message from the gods, and revere it thus for that it is impenetrable and mysterious and eternal. That, methinks, is the very best eulogy of all.

My dearest Lysicles… Though I am resigned that you shall never read this, I write it with conviction: Live long and joyously, know peace, and in your happiest moments believe that I am with you. A.

 
Optimythic
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