The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
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LEGEND TO ILLUSTRATIONS
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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
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Phallic Amulets

Juvenalis IX

Lysicles

Mordanticus was overjoyed. No sooner had I entered his office to hand him my last letter than he rose to embrace and thank me. “For what?” I asked him. “The Emperor has rewarded me,” he said, “for contributing so selflessly to your education.” I was amazed at how quickly it had all happened: from my utterance, to Hadrian’s secretary, to the pocket of Mordanticus. I smiled at him and shrugged. “I gave him your name because he asked who it was that had given me my books. I did not realize he would be so kind to the provider.” It dawned on me that Maltinus would very likely have received a gift as well, and for this I was quite gratified. And to Hadrian himself I was even more so.

Mordanticus took my letter dutifully and placed it on the accustomed pile. And then he invited me to sit with him, and share some cheese and bread. “Unless, of course, you have duties to attend to.” I smiled and told him of my promotion to Keeper of the Personal Horse – one of the benefits of which was that I was afforded considerable more autonomy and time. At this, he clapped his hands together in triumph. “By the gods, you are making a name for yourself.” And he thrust the plate of cheese at me. I must admit, my friend, that it was quite delicious, and as I sat there across from him, my heart swelled with joy. For I suddenly became cognizant of my station in life; my accumulating successes, and the good acquaintances that were burgeoning around me. Mordanticus, being one of them, gazed at me happily, if not proudly.

“My wife, Glaucia, very nearly fainted when I told her of the Emperor’s favour. She has demanded to meet you, and wishes her household to prepare for you a most delectable dinner. Are you amenable?” I laughed in disbelief at such a silly question, for how could I not be? “Most gracious Mordanticus,” I said to him, “I would be very honoured to be a guest in your home.”

And so it was that the next evening, after ensuring that my duties were completed and that there was nothing else required of me at the stables, I quickly bathed myself and dressed in the finest clothes I possessed – which, to be quite honest, were not very fine. And then I scampered through the corridors of the palace toward the office of Mordanticus. Upon seeing me, he closed up his desk and locked his office door, and bid farewell to the soldiers that were stationed there.

But a moment later he stopped, and went back to inspect one of them. “You are a new face here,” he said to the large, well-built man. “Yes, Sir,” replied the soldier, “I was posted here this morning, and do believe it shall be a regular station for me.” He spoke in a thick accent whose origin I could not determine. But Mordanticus was quick to identify it: “Brittania?” The soldier smiled and nodded once. “Indeed, Sir. ‘Tis but four moons since my arrival here.” “And how like you our Roman sun?” The soldier smiled broadly, and replied, “It is far warmer, and much less shy, than it is in the place from which I hail.” Mordanticus laughed loudly and nodded. “My name is Mordanticus.” Again the soldier nodded, “Yes, Sir. So was I told.” Mordanticus waited for a small time, but nothing additional was offered. “And what is yours, my friend?” The soldier seemed momentarily surprised by the question, but quickly recovered. “My name is Decentius, Sir.” Mordanticus smiled at him. “Allow me to introduce Antinous, who is a page in the palace, and one who is welcome to enjoy unfettered admittance into my office.” The soldier turned to look down at me, and it was not a cursory glance. He stared deliberately into my eyes, as though attempting to evaluate the contents of my soul. “Very well, Sir. Unfettered admittance for young Antinous.” Mordanticus nodded approvingly. “It is a pleasure to have met you, Decentius.” And then he reached into his pocket and produced a single denarius. He held it up before the soldier’s face, and then placed it down onto the ground. “Finders keepers,” he said, and beckoned me to follow him away.

When we were out of the soldier’s earshot, I asked him why he had done that. “It is forbidden,” he said, “for a private citizen to pay a public soldier directly.” I laughed, thinking it a joke, “Surely a single silver shall not transform him into a mercenary!” Mordanticus smiled at me: “Surely?” he asked. “How sure are you?” And I was momentarily dazzled by the thought that, perhaps, it could. I smiled slyly at him: “Are you planning to overthrow the Emperor?” He laughed at that, and explained: “I have always made it a point, in my tenure upon the Palatine, to befriend the guards who work here. I consider it a form of insurance: should there ever be an uprising, I shall have a certain number of allies, or, at the very least, acquaintances, among those that wield the truest form of power. Although it is a strategy that may prove little able to assist me, it could very well save my life. No one can say for sure. Let us hope, however, it forever remains but a theory which needs never to be tested.” And with that we emerged upon the bustling streets, and he guided me toward his home.

Can you guess, Lysicles, in which direction we traveled? Right back up the Caelian! Past the elementary school, in fact, and toward an enclave of beautiful villas that I had often gazed at, wondering who might live there. And now I knew. Glaucia, the spirited young wife of Mordanticus, greeted me warmly at the front gate to their home, and commanded her servants to make a great fuss over me. I was shown into the atrium, where a table had been set with all manner of fruits and vegetables, olives both black and green, breads and cheeses. A jug of wine was brought forth, the libations were poured, and before I knew it I was seated upon a couch, sipping from a goblet made of silver. Glaucia sat happily beside me, and bade Mordanticus to sit across. But he said that he wished to refresh himself for dinner, and would take a quick bath. Glaucia gave him his leave – commanding him nevertheless to hurry for she was very hungry. Off went Mordanticus and I was suddenly alone with his wife.

She asked me all manner of questions about my duties in the palace, and wanted to know how it was that I had achieved such familiarity with the Emperor. I told her of my history: of the earthquake in Bithynia, of my discovery by Gryllus, of my time at the elementary school. She was delighted by the fact that I had spent two years in such proximity to the villa, and only now were we making acquaintance. She was very forthright in her admiration of my beauty, and reached out often to touch my curls and marvel at the richness of their black.

It wasn’t too long before Mordanticus returned, dressed now in his dinner robes. He sat down on the couch across from us and gazed at both his wife and guest with a bemused smile upon his face. The slaves were ordered to begin serving, and my goblet was refreshed with wine. I was given a plate of silver, and a procession of three stout servants took turns presenting me with the dishes of produce, olives, cheeses, and breads. I ate of it greedily, for it was far more delectable than the porridge we were often served at the Gelotiana. A third helping of wine was then accompanied by a large dish which was brought forth from the kitchen, containing three delicious-smelling quails. I was given one for my plate, and my hosts received their own. My first bite into the flesh of the bird was astonishing to me. It was tender and juicy and utterly delightful. Glaucia was very pleased with how well I was enjoying the meal.

All the while, we talked. I learned of Glaucia’s family, and of their beautiful wedding several years before. I learned of Mordanticus’ career; how he had spent some time in Corinth before returning to Rome and establishing himself at the palace. When I asked him how it was he could identify the soldier’s accent, he told me that he often worked closely with the other dispatch offices, and the clerk for Brittania was a native of that province. Thus he knew the accent well, for it was very distinctive.

Juvenal adn PersiusAnd then the conversation turned to books. “Have you been reading from Juvenalis?” Mordanticus asked me. I nodded. “Well?” he pressed, “what think you of him?” I swallowed my food before responding, “I think that he is a very upright person.” Both Mordanticus and his wife laughed, and he looked at me intently. “And by his uprightness; by his condemnation of all that he despises, has he persuaded you to live as uprightly?” I considered my words carefully before answering. “It is not Juvenalis who persuades me to live uprightly: it is myself. Juvenalis merely shows me the example of others who have chosen not to seek that which is moral, and in seeing myself against them contrasted, my choices are merely affirmed.” He stared at me then for a long time, “That, Antinous, is a very mature perspective.” I thanked him for saying so. “And yet,” he continued, “surely you are not so perfect as to find his every illustration so abhorrent as he claims it to be. For despite thy affirmed morality, I should hope you are also capable of reading his words amid the pleasurable company of laughter within a boisterous theatre of comedy.” I considered his words and acknowledged them to be true.

“Let us talk about the ninth,” said Mordanticus, “for it is a story that demands our attention.” I tried to remember the details of the satire to which Mordanticus was referring, but could not. I had of late read many passages, not only of Juvenalis but Martialis and Epictetus as well, and that third goblet of wine was beginning to swirl their words together. “Remind me of it,” I said, just as a slave brought forth a basket filled with desserts. I reached in and took one of the morsels: it was bread, fried in oil and drizzled with honey. Delicious. And just as my eyes lit up at the succulence of it, my goblet was filled again – this time with mulsum: boiled wine stirred in with honey. You can well imagine how happily my tongue swam amid the sweetness. Both Mordanticus and Glaucia watched as I licked my fingers clean and reached for another morsel of bread.

“You will recall that the ninth,” said Mordanticus, “tells the tale of Naevolus, a beautiful and virile young man who is hired by his patron, Virro, to penetrate both himself and his wife, thus fathering Virro’s children.”

It suddenly dawned on me that Mordanticus had not spoken of any children. I set my goblet down on the table before me and tried hard to steady my brain. Was this why I had been invited? I looked up Mordanticus, whose face was expressionless. And then I turned to face Glaucia, who kissed the space between us. “Darling Antinous,” she purred, “you are so very handsome.” And she leaned over then to place her hand upon my groin. I looked again at Mordanticus, expecting to see his instant rage, and yet found only a steady, inscrutable gaze as he watched his wife make me hard. “This is not right,” I protested, although with not so much conviction as I should have. Mordanticus smiled, “Don’t you mean, Antinous, that it is not Up-right?” Glaucia leaned in to bring her face closer to my lap. She pushed back my tunic, pulled down my loincloth, and up I sprang toward her. “But it most certainly is!” she exclaimed, and then she laughed happily, and Mordanticus laughed too, and I could not help but smile at the joke. She exhaled sensuously, and then gripped me with her fingers, sliding my foreskin down to reveal the shiny tip of my manhood. And then she took me into her mouth with a groan, and I could do nothing but permit the warmth of her lips to embrace me. I looked at Mordanticus, who raised his eyes to meet my gaze, and for a long time he but stared at me silently. At last he dropped them again to watch as his wife bobbed up and down upon me.

After a while she raised herself and brought her face close to mine. “You taste far better than anything we have just eaten.” She lifted up her peplos and mounted me, thrusting her chest into my face and reaching around behind herself to grip me. I marvelled then as she sank her warm flesh down on top of me, using her fingers to guide me all the way in. It was a strange and wondrous sensation, Lysicles, and I found myself utterly mesmerized by her presence before me.

“Have you ever been with a woman?” she whispered down to me. I looked up into her hungry eyes and shook my head. She sighed in delight, and continued to bounce upon me. I could no longer see Mordanticus, for Glaucia’s body completely obscured my view of the world. It was but the woman and her breasts, her breathing, her long hair dancing recklessly upon my forehead. It did not take me long to attain my release, and I confess it to have been one of the more enjoyable I have experienced in a long time. Whether this is owing to the fact that it was a woman with whom I had partnered, or that the meal I had imbibed was particularly satisfying, or that the situation itself was so utterly unexpected, I cannot tell.

At last Glaucia climbed off me and plopped back down onto the couch. She was breathing very hard. She gazed at her husband, who gazed back at her. They both smiled, yet both said nothing. Until Mordanticus finally turned to face me directly. “I thank you, Antinous, for your generosity of spirit.” Glaucia giggled, and he bade her to be quiet. “Would you like something more to drink?” he asked. I reached for my loincloth and pulled it up about me. “No thank you, Sir,” I said.

“May we trust in your discretion, Antinous?” He was looking at me intently now, and I sensed that it was as much a command as a request. “Of course,” I answered, for what alternate answer could I possibly give? It was clear to me that to expose him would be utterly foolish, and would likely compromise my own career far quicker than it would his. Besides, I needed him: his access to the port of Byzantium. And how strange that we should be thinking the very same thought: “Not even to your friend, Lysicles. Agreed?” I nodded, making to him a promise that I am now in the process of breaking.

I have thought a great deal about whether or not to send this letter off into the world – through the very hands of Mordanticus himself. It has occurred to me that, if he finds me scribbling so soon after that evening, he may become suspicious and open this, thus ending forever his faith in me and severing the one and only tie to you, my beloved Lysicles, that I have left. But how much time shall I wait? And might he not at any time hence become suspicious of my words? Must I now, and from this point forward, forever curtail my honest thoughts to you as a result of having stupidly compromised my integrity? I must think on this.

* * *

It is now one week after the events I have described, and I have returned to this letter with the final decision that it shall indeed be sent. Perhaps it is a stupid course of action; one that shall, twenty years from now, suddenly find these words revealed at a most inopportune time in my career. And yet, my friend, I have a desperate need to reach out to you; to share with you my every thought and feeling.

You will smile to learn, if ever you receive this, that Mordanticus sought me out in the stables a few days ago and expressed his hope that my friendship with him would not be compromised as a result of what transpired. He encouraged me to continue writing to you, and to continue coming to him with my letters. I assured him that I would. “You may trust in me, Antinous, as greatly as I trust in you.” He was very ardent in his desire to have me understand that Juvenalis, despite all his boisterous claims, was not the alpha and omega of Roman morality, and that people must be allowed to follow their own course in matters of their personal happiness. I told him that I agreed with him, and yet confessed that I could not help but feel shamed by what had happened. Mordanticus smiled warmly at me. “You will learn, my dear, that shame is a wasted emotion, for it is a state that we impose upon ourselves when we sense that others must look upon us with disapproval. And yet, what is the gaze of others? It is, when all is done, but the gaze of others, and should never become so powerful that it affects how we live and laugh, or gaze upon ourselves.” And as he departed, leaving me again to my duties, I heard myself admit to my own mind that he was indeed correct.

But the feeling did not last long. Alas, for all the philosophers I have read, both here at the Gelotiana, and when I was in the company of Maltinus, I confess to be still in a state of utter confusion and turmoil in my attempts to understand and accept what I have done. I awake each morning with an overwhelming sense of transgression; a feeling that I have strayed from the path of the virtuous. It has occurred to me that, should I ever again claim in public or private company to subscribe to the strictures of Juvenalis, that I shall become instantly a hypocrite – something for which even I, without the help of the satirist, can claim to be abhorrent. Thus I am trapped now by my own history, condemned to live a life that is less than my vision for it. And yet, am I so different from the thousands of Romans who everyday live not according to the strictures of Juvenalis, but to their own, self-directed desires? If I, who know in my heart that I am not an evil person, can act as I did, does that not exonerate the many others who Juvenalis claims to be evil? Has Juvenalis himself never transgressed the propriety of Roman fashion? I must wonder if he is not perhaps the biggest hypocrite of them all!

Yet this is all but speculation, and I am writing now without intent or tale. By the gods, I feel like a fool.

* * *

A fortnight has passed, and still I have not sent this. Here is what I have decided: Philosophy is delightful, yet it is but a confection for the mind. Social intercourse is important, yet it is but the means to move through the world from day to day. Whatever gossip or consequence arises from the result of one’s social intercourse is irrelevant. All that matters, from the first instant of wakefulness to the final moment before sleep, is that one remains powerfully attuned to his own mind, and to the state of his own being. This is the key to peace and tranquility.

* * *

Or is it? Gods! For I am hardly a philosopher! Where are you, Lysicles? I am lost. Today I shall seal this up, take it unto Mordanticus, and be done with it. There are other stories unfolding, and I am tired of fretting over my virtuousness, when indeed it is but a word that must come to stand for nothing more than the ability to restrain my cock. May you read this and laugh lovingly at my idiocy. A.

 
Optimythic
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