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
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  ~075 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~083 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~084 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~090 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

Little Donkey


In the bedroom that I share with fifteen others, there is inscribed upon the wall a message to posterity from a nameless one who was formerly in my place: “Work, work, little donkey, as I have worked myself, and thou shalt be rewarded for it.” Along with it is drawn the picture of an ass, a sorry creature that turns endlessly a mill, and from what I can deduce of this place (I have been here not more than a week), it shall be an accurate portrayal of my life here.

Antinous contemplates the grafitto in the Gelotiana - Work Little Donkey
Illustration by Shawn Postoff

And where is “here,” you ask? My promotion has landed me at the Domus Gelotiana, which sits upon the western slope of the Palatine, directly across the street from the Circus Maximus. Above us looms the Augustan halls and the immense complex of buildings beyond it. You will hardly believe the adventure I had – which lasted me the better part of a morning – trying to locate the office of the record-keeper of the Castellan, wherein I might introduce myself to the man named Bellator. He is an earnest-looking fellow with thinning hair atop his scalp. His eyes, luckily, are large enough to fill a wide face and appear eager to assist whomever it is that stands before him. The whole effect is to render him peace-loving and unthreatening – the perfect countenance, in my opinion, for one whose duty it is to collect information. When at last I found him, and confirmed that he was indeed that friend of whom Maltinus had spoken, I introduced myself as the writer of those very letters he had been receiving from Maltinus, and he was very glad to make my acquaintance. I told him that I was no longer resident upon the Caelian; that I was now installed upon the Palatine, and he congratulated me on my promotion. “Were you the fawn who walked from your school alone in the company of Hadrian?” he asked. I smiled at him and confirmed this as well. “It has been noted,” he said, “by more than a few, that there now walks among us a certain boy who not only snared the Emperor’s eye, but had the immensity of spirit to engage his intellect beyond what was once for a boy thought possible.” Suddenly I was afraid, for such invidious fame can be dangerous. I wanted only to return to my duties, and thus asked him quickly if he was still disposed to forward my letters onward to Bithynia. Happily, he was most amenable to it, and so I delivered him my latest – the one that spoke of that very famous day whereat I “snared the Emperor’s eye.”

As I am speaking of my duties, I should be derelict in my one to you should I fail to give some greater detail concerning the one I carry for the palace. I have been assigned to the Office of the Household Stables, and my role is defined as Assistant to the Keeper of the Tack. It is a very agreeable position to me. My senior is a jolly and cherubic fellow named Anaxamenos, who has been here for just over a year. He possesses an astonishing and unruly amount of tightly curled red hair, and from its bramble has apparently tumbled a great many freckles that have settled across the bridge of his nose and upon the bulbous cheeks that flank it. I like him very much, and respect him greatly, for he has no doubt earned his place as Keeper of the Tack. It is a station that requires much attention to the details, and in my role as his assistant, he is indoctrinating me into a particluar mode of thinking that is trained to look critically at even the minutest variances in position, alignment, and colour. His storage hooks and shelves are ordered and arranged with the utmost of precision, and together we take great pride in ensuring that they both impress the eye and satisfy the mind's thirst for sensible categorization.

The stables are exceedingly busy, for there is a steady stream of messengers coming and going. I have seen many a determined face mounting and dismounting in what seems to be a continuous stream of critical missions – it is difficult to estimate just how many messengers the palace receives and dispatches by the hour. But I am nonetheless excited to find myself in such a hub of activity and vitality.

In addition to myself and Anaxamenos, our department is comprised of a few others: Dominicus is Keeper of the Imperial Horse, and his assistant is one Qunitillius. It is under their purview to ensure that the horses are always in good health and spirit, and that the workers beneath them are conscientious with regard to the beasts they administer. Dominicus is a sturdy fellow and quite the opposite of Anaxemenos with regard to his jocularity. Yet there is a nobility about him that renders him extremely trustworthy and I am of the opinion that he shall become a good friend. Quintillius, like myself, is quiet and studied, not given to speak when speech is not required. For this I admire him, yet confess that it renders him somewhat opaque (as I’m sure I must appear to him!). I am patient, though, and shall not force a friendship upon him. In my experience, it is the quiet ones who take a good length of time to open up, but when they do, the conduit of communication they utilize is far wider than would be necessary for even a raging river of words. In support of this statement, I present for your consideration the memory of Trenus, and, naturally, the memory of you and I.

Above us all is Florentius, who is the Officer of the Stables and our departmental report. He is sharp and intentioned, and while I cannot yet say that I like him, he has done nothing to earn my disrespect. It is too early, I think, to know for sure. Florenius is governed by the will of Petasius, who is Master of the Household Page and the Paedagogiarch of Domus Gelotiana. I know very little of this man for I have yet to find myself too long in his company. Above Petasius is Lepontus, who is the Castellan of the Sacred Palace. And it was to the office of Lepontus that I set my sights when I went in search of the man’s record-keeper, whom I have already told you is named Bellator.

What else can I tell you? Shall I bore you with the endless speculations? It is mostly just silliness and gossip, yet it carries much currency within the nighttime whispers of the dormitory and so I feel no shame in sharing it with you. After all, I wish to acquaint you with my life here, even if it is, at times, less than edifying.

The Emperor’s current favourite is Marianus, who is 20 years old this month. As there is hair sprouting upon his chest (a fact which he proudly displays to all), it is clear that his time in the Emperor’s bed is at an end. But he is greatly esteemed by all, of a very amicable disposition, and thus well situated to enjoy a fine career. He is keen for a consulship, and I have no doubt that a few decades in the civil service will eventually reward him with one. Yet his departure – as I’m sure you can imagine – is cause for much excitement. Not that people are happy to see him go, but he is nevertheless leaving in his wake a vacancy for the title of “Favourite” in the familiar company of Hadrian. There are several contenders, but most of the bets are on Corinthus, a handsome 16 year-old with straight black hair, laughing orbs and a smooth, broad chest. He is a very erotic being, pleasing to all manner of eyes that chance to gaze upon him. Anaxamenos reported to me that just before my arrival, Cornithus was assigned to the Office of the Sacred Bedchamber as Keeper of the Lamplight. As a result, he is increasingly absent from his bed here in the dormitory and you can certainly understand why more and more people are placing the odds in his favour.

There is other talk, of course, for the Emperor is not alone to choose a favourite. Always is there yet another upcoming banquet or function, meeting or marvel at which a rotation of the pages are expected to be in attendance. Dignitaries and courtiers of every rank and age are forever present, and often will express to Petasius a particular desire for one of the boys. I have no doubts that sooner or later it shall be me who catches some stranger’s fancy and ends up in his bed. So be it. In the meantime, I listen to the others as they natter away about who it was that had them, how they were treated, how much pain they endured or what pleasure they received, and whether there is some foreseeable future benefit to the liaison. In all, the nature of every conversation hardly varies and is easily dismissible – even now, as I sit here at the table and compose these lines to you, the intrigue swirls back and forth across the beds behind me. Yet what is far more worrying to me is the disturbing prospect that, through some insidious and incremental corruption, it shall one day be me who fritters away the hours in the pondering of such trifles. I should certainly hope I discover the fortitude to resist it, and that my taste for all that is substantial shall never diminish. Let me forever prefer to read something noble, or write to you an endless stream of embarrassing love letters, or plan some great and mighty journey into the heart of the Orient, rather than squander myself in the morass of political transience.

Is it that I have no ambition, or that I aspire too high? Such questions as this, at once heavy and ridiculously trivial, do swarm forever in my brain. Zeus. The hour is late and I ought to sleep. I love you, Lysicles. A.

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