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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Phallic Amulets

Across the Leagues


Wherefore, any thinking fellow ought ask, do I even bother to address this in your name? Especially now, when Mordanticus has told me, quite regretfully, that you are no longer in Bithynia? What silliness it is; what willful folly. And yet, to assemble so religiously the letters that must invariably constitute the word that is the invariable idea of you, my friend, is both a comfort and a joy; it soothes me to think on you as often as I can. As the air rushes in to stretch the bones of my ribcage, so too does a spirited and simultaneous hope expand my heart so near to bursting that my lungs must struggle in the assertion of their right to fill with air. All competes for what limited space my pitiful body affords.

“My dear Antinous,” said Mordanticus glumly. “My friend and my confidant. Sit down.” I did as he commanded. He looked at me and smiled – although it was a face so obviously intended to prepare me for sad news. “Your Lysicles,” he said, “and his family have left Claudiopolis.” I was devastated, for even at that moment I held in my hand the story of an evening at the riverbank with Anaxamenos – and now had nowhere to send it. “When?” I asked. “It was some time ago,” he replied. “At the very least, two years. Perhaps more. They did not move very far: a little south and then east. They live now in Antioch.”

I sat silently with that news for a long time. At last Mordanticus spoke: “There is a magistrate in Claudiopolis – a good and decent fellow – whose name is Epolonius. It is he who responded to my inquiry, and gave me the news of their departure. He told me that he has been forwarding your letters on, but cannot verify if they have been received.”

Epolonius! Can you imagine, Lysicles? Can you believe it? The very man who set our ever-growing distance in motion now works to build with these feathers of language an increasingly untrustworthy bridge for us. Shall I love or despise him for it? There lives in my heart a particular bitterness for that man; for his demonstration of me to Gryllus. My mind began to rove in search of solutions. “We must alter the destination,” I resolved. “Why continue to route them through Claudiopolis, which now is nothing more than a cumbersome detour? Shouldn’t we send them directly to Antioch, addressed to Lysicles, Son of Niraemius? Won’t they know of him there?”

Mordanticus considered that. Finally, he responded: “It is dangerous to address a message to a person who has but shallow roots in a city, and who lives without office or title. When he resided in Claudiopolis, it was easy to assume that many there would know of him, and would see that the letters reached him. But Antioch is a far more populous city, and, even after two years, I suspect his household is still relatively unknown. It would be a risk, Antinous.”

“It is a risk I am prepared to take,” I finally said. I could have added that I loathed the thought of Epolonius touching with his sullied fingers my every word to you. But I refrained, as it was clear that Mordanticus thought quite well of him and I wished not to offend this very conscientious man whom I needed now more desperately than ever. There was, at the very least, some comfort in the fact I had received a small crumb of news, despite the fact that it was decidedly dismal. I pictured you in a caravan, my friend, trundling over the vastness of our beloved land and arriving, with your family, at your new home. I resolved that I would one day seek you in Antioch.

Meanwhile, Mordanticus took my letter from me and placed it into a large pile beside the one it had usually rested on. There were many more papers in this new one than I had always seen in the old. “That,” he smiled at me, “is the difference between Claudiopolis and Antioch. Let us at the very least rejoice that Lysicles did not move to Egypt! For then, Antinous, you would be going to a different office – in fact, a different building! – altogether, and we should never see each other ever again.”

I told him that such was not the case, as he was a friend. He looked at me for a long time then, as if assessing me. “Something between us has altered,” he said, “since that evening in which I took you to my home.” He was right, of course. How could it have not? “I am confused, Mordanticus,” I confessed. “I have struggled often with the memory of that night. Some days it is nearly forgotten; a distant and nebulous dream. Yet others, it weighs heavily upon my soul. I still do not know how to understand myself, or you, in light of what happened with your wife. What is most disturbing to me is that you were there; that you watched it; that you invited upon yourself and Glaucia the dishonour of another man’s possession of her. How shall this be reconciled?”

Mordanticus smiled. “Did you possess her, Antinous, or did she possess you?” Indeed, it was a very good question. “I have no doubt,” he continued, “that you would never in all your dreams have thought to do what you did to her had you not been prompted. You are far too noble a spirit for that. Together, Glaucia and I made much preparations for it. We plied you with wine; with succulent foods. We eased your mind and fattened into a torpor the hard and lean defenders who have long and loyally stood guard around your propriety. And we did so, Antinous, not to dishonour you, nor cause you grief, nor condemn you to wander aimlessly upon an endless shore of lapping, sleepless nights.”

“Then why did you do it?” I asked him. He answered simply, “It excited me. I have long fantasized about seeing my wife in the thrall of another man. I wanted to observe her from a distance: to look on her in that very same manner in which we look on a mural at the baths. I wished for her to become as like a living mosaic – animated and breathy. And as for her partner, I wished him to be someone I was fond of. Someone of intelligence and charm, of social worth, of presence – not some random fool too easily and willingly bought. And yet, for all these reasons, he needed as well to be someone I could trust for his discretion. You thus represented to me a very attractive target, not the least because of your beauty. I am not embarrassed, my friend, to report to you that it was for me a most glorious evening: I felt as though I alone had been granted the ultimate privilege to spy upon a pair of young and mythological beings as they privately performed their sacred rite.”

Tell me, Lysicles: How can I not, at the very least, admire this Mordanticus for his honesty?

Tonight, as I sit and reflect on the news of your departure from Claudiopolis, I wonder why your father should have decided, after expending such effort to rebuild his house in the aftermath of the earthquake, to so suddenly abandon it for a strange city? What was it about Antioch that so attracted him? I simply cannot fathom it, and yet must trust that he did so for the betterment of his family and a formidable faith in his future. Let us pray that this letter, across the endless leagues of danger, delay and uncertainty, finally finds you, Lysicles; and that you receive it as you always received me – with patience, love, and soundless forgiveness. A.

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