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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  ~078 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~079 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~080 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~083 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~084 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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  ~101 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~102 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~103 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

Whispering Hope


I went to Bellator and I said, “Into whose hand have you been delivering my letters?” He was surprised by the question and so I explained that I wished to relieve him of the burden and deliver them myself. This, I reasoned, would bring me one step closer to learning their fate and explaining, perhaps, your lack of response. He told me that he takes my letters to a man named Mordanticus, who is a clerk at the Bureau of Imperial Correspondence in the Office for the Territories of Asia Minor. “Where shall I find him?” I asked. Bellator informed me that the office is guarded, and that as a page without official business I would not likely gain admittance. But he just as quickly offered to take me there in person, and arrange for an introduction. I was very grateful to him and we set a time.

On the appointed day, we departed together and delved still deeper into the complex of the palace – far and by into a distant block of buildings I had yet to discover. Bellator announced himself to the guards, who knew him by his familiar face, and called me his page. Then into the office of Mordanticus we stepped and he stood to greet us with a smile. He appraised me intently, and was very forthright in his admiration of my beauty. I thanked him for his compliment. Bellator then introduced me as the one who had been sending the letters to Bithynia for these past several years. At this, Mordanticus laughed very happily: “At last I meet the prolific Antinous!” I explained to him that I had come to request his permission to hand him directly my future dispatches, and he was very agreeable to the idea. “Do you see, Bellator, how efficiently the boy has cut you out of his process? He shall make an excellent administrator one day!” And Bellator laughed too, for there was no offense by it taken.

I studied this Mordanticus as he spoke and as he gestured. His face was very wide, with a broad span of eyebrows that looked like the wings of a hawk; small, piercing, and intimidating eyes that looked like those of a hawk’s, and a long, thin nose that hooked – dare I say it? – like a hawk’s. His hair was shorn close to the scalp, and his lips were flat and thin across the front of his face. There was a sinister quality to him, even when he smiled. And yet shall a man be judged on the basis of what he looks like? He was altogether agreeable: warm and affectionate, happy to make my acquaintance, and quick to announce me to the guards as one who should enjoy ready and unannounced admittance to his office. I was delighted.

It occurred to me that Mordanticus was very likely an extremely competent administrator. One who could play the part of determined intimidator in order to get what he required, but who was nevertheless a conscientious and committed civil servant, with pure and uncorrupted ideals. I very quickly deemed him admirable, and felt proud to have made his acquaintance. “Have you a letter for me now?” he asked me. I told him that I did not, but would compose one soon (and it is this one – which I intend to deliver to him tomorrow). I asked him then what happens to my letters once he receives them – and if he knew the name of the horseman who rides them to Bithynia. At this he laughed, and explained to me: “All non-essential dispatches sail once a week to Athens, and from there sail onward to Byzantium. From the Bosphorus they are then galloped by horseback to any number of destinations, including Claudiopolis. The journey can take anywhere from one to three weeks, depending on a great number of factors.”

I admit to feeling crestfallen at the news that my sleuthing would thus end with Mordanticus. I had imagined that he would be able to disclose to me the name of the riders who were coming and going through those very stables in which I worked, such that I would eventually be able to bypass even him and hand my letters to the messengers directly. But I realize now how foolish this notion was: the riders who dashed in and out of the palace were no doubt quite local – sending dispatches between and among offices and Senators, their activities encompassing only the nearest of the surrounding magistracies. The Empire is far vaster, and its lines of communication far more complex, than I had naively believed. Yet Mordanticus was very kind to my discouragement. “We learn very quickly when disaster strikes a transport, and I am pleased to tell you that this office has enjoyed several years without incident. Thus I proclaim to you with confidence that none of our dispatches have been lost in a very long time. If, therefore, you fear that your letters are not arriving, it is because, perhaps, those in Claudiopolis do not know of your friend, or, sadly, that he chooses not to respond. I can think of no other explanation.”

And so I am back to my beginning; unable to verify your receipt of me and left in the flounder of uncertainty. Yet still I continue to write. Am I not a fool?

Life in the stables is demanding, yet rewarding all the same. I am settling quite comfortably into my role as Assistant to Anaxamenos. My duties include polishing and cleaning the leathers, repairing or ordering replacement pieces from the smiths or tanners, and helping Anaxamenos to keep the inventory of supplies in good order. It is an exhausting job, but one for which I am very grateful as it affords me the opportunity to become familiar with the many beautiful horses that make their home there. On rare yet welcome occasions, when there is a brief respite in the work, Anaxamenos and I will take a pair of old mares out for some exercise into the streets, and it seems to me that they delight in the excursion as much as I enjoy returning to the high saddle of a horse. O Lysicles! How I miss our days together, riding North into the mountains and gazing from their modest, verdant peaks into the hazy silence of the mighty Euxine! Shall we ever again find such blissful company? My hope and despair walk hand in hand in perfect emulation of that pair of loving boys we were.

Hadrian comes into the stables about once a week in order to ride, with his entourage, unto his country house in Tibur. From there, they embark upon the chase, and I confess to being exceedingly envious of the young Corinthus, whom I have begun to notice among the pack of men that accompany the Emperor. Whenever Hadrian arrives at our gate, he is greeted warmly and effusively by Florentius, who gives report on the status of his office. Anaxamenos and I watch the Emperor from afar, and I have noticed him looking in my direction, as though checking to ensure that I am still present. He has not once since my arrival here spoken to me, although it is clear when Florentius turns to look at me that there is obviously some discussion between them concerning my person. I am both thrilled and frightened by the prospect that Hadrian is keeping a distant eye on my progress. What can it mean? Does it bode well for my future – or ill? I am at a loss to explain it, and must therefore only accept it as a fact of my time here upon the Palatine.

There is little else to report. My first two months here have passed in the flurry of learning a new and astonishingly detailed routine. I have made good and solid first acquaintance, not only of the other pages in my department, but also of some well-placed administrators in the persons of Bellator and Mordanticus. And, what is perhaps best of all: because I have arrived from the elementary school independently of any others, I bring with me a clean and unknowable history. Occasionally I will see the face of a boy whom I recognize from my earliest time upon the Caelian – these are the ones who were chosen during the inspection that Gryllus caused me to miss. Yet if they harbour toward me any animosity, they no doubt recognize how foolish they should be to express it aloud. For having been the exclusive choice of Hadrian’s surprise visit, and with the awareness of it rather generally dispersed, I am suddenly enjoying a certain freedom to live without harrassment, for the distinction carries with it, like an invisible shield of protection, the authenticity to demand from the others a modicum of respect.

Thus I am cautiously optimistic that my life here may unfold in ways more agreeable than I had imagined when still mired in the midst of my cheerless days. I awake each dawn with the knowledge that Hope now smiles upon me, and bids me dutifully unto my work. All that is missing from my world, Lysicles, is you. Yet Hope, when she comes, drops quietly through the roof from above. And though she may begin in one particular chamber, she passes easily through its walls and flies freely through the rooms of each man’s palace. Thus I am happy to report that she has taken once again to whispering your name as well, and has planted in my brain the idea that I may very well be able to steer the course of my duties toward a career in Bithynia. Would I not then find myself in the best proximity at last to embrace you? Would that not be glorious?

I fall to sleep this night with the vision of your body beside me and the taste of your salt upon the tip of my tongue. A.

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