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

Unprecedented Access


Something extraordinary is happening in my life, and I am not sure anymore that I can willfully maintain – as I have up to now been doing – my emotional distance from the man called Hadrian. Whereas before, he was but the disembodied name of a remote king whose broad machinery had effected our childhood separation; and then he was an inscrutable face that sought to interrogate me at the elementary school; and then he was a real and physical being with whom I shared an occasional and polite conversation in the stables, he has now, quite suddenly, maneuvered himself most deliberately into the centre of my consciousness.

This morning I awoke from my sleep to be greeted by the face of Phlegon – the Emperor’s secretary. Many of the other boys were already awake and watching excitedly. I sat up in bed and excused my appearance. He laughed. “Why should you excuse yourself to me, Antinous? ‘Tis not I who fancies it.” I swallowed. “Get dressed,” he continued. “I shall await for you outside.”

He departed then, leaving me in the company of the other boys, all of whom stared in awe. Carisius looked at me without expression, although it was clear to me that his envious heart was burning steadily down into his stomach. I stood up and began my morning toilet, just as Anaxamenos dashed in and embraced me hard. “Did I not tell you?!” he demanded happily. Many of the others took that as a permission to begin their congratulations.

But I refused to accept them. “Wait,” I announced. The room fell silent, and waited. “Hadrian is not in Rome,” I reasoned. “He is not upon the Palatine. He is in Tibur, and is not due to return for another week.” Anaxamenos laughed at that, and responded: “Do you not think, little princess, that he can well afford to stick you in a litter and have you trotted up to meet him?” Everyone laughed merrily at that. “Do you not think,” he continued, “that the Emperor, who loves to ride, can well enough conceive to place you upon a horse and command you at a gallop to join him? Do you not think he could for any number of official or personal reasons cut short his plans and return to Rome in the middle of the night? Why, Antinous, are you so obstinate in your refusal to accept the mighty truth that you are destined to be the Emperor’s next favourite?”

There was a round of agreement then, and I was forced to accept that Anaxamenos was very likely correct. As I hurried through my morning ablutions, the news reached us in the dormitory that Hadrian had not, in fact, returned to Rome. Thus I prepared myself for a journey to Tibur. As I left the Gelotaiana, Anaxamenos kissed me lovingly and said, “Your days as a page are numbered. And I must wonder if that number of remaining days has reached One.” I smiled at him, trusting in his understanding that my silence could speak far more eloquently than words of my love for him.

With many curious eyes peeking from the windows above, I exited the Gelotiana and greeted Phlegon. He indicated our direction, and we began walking – directly up the hill and into the great and cavernous halls of Augustus. Rarely had my duties taken me to this part of the palace – the Emperor’s personal residence while in Rome and the seat of his daily affairs. The space was vaulted and opulent: our footsteps upon the marble echoed boldly through it, despite the presence of several others. At last the man spoke to me: “The Emperor has chosen to remain in Tibur for longer than he had at first anticipated.” I nodded in understanding. “He was very concerned that you should not find yourself with too many idle days while you awaited for Epeius to return with him to Rome.”

“Am I being sent to join him in Tibur?” I inquired. Phlegon smiled at me, but shook his head. “Not yet, Antinous.” I considered that. It suggested to me that Anaxamenos had been wrong; that I was merely being assigned additional duties while I waited to resume my role as Keeper of the Personal Horse. “There is no doubt that Hadrian admires you; that he thinks on you; that he watches your progress as a young courtier. I’m quite sure you’ve noted it.” I nodded to him and responded simply, “I have.”

“It is, however, unusual,” continued Phlegon, “that he has not yet commanded you into his bed. And I must impress upon you, my young friend, the reality – sometimes exciting and sometimes terrifying – that this particular fact has certainly not been overlooked by the majority of his orbiters. There are many in the palace who are speaking your name – not from envy or hatred, nor from admiration and love, but simply from confusion. They are wondering two things: How is it that a boy of your beauty – already noted by Hadrian as being beauteous – should not so inflame his passion as to have you immediately brought to his bedchamber? Yet they are also wondering, and arguing, and debating, and discussing, and whispering, and posturing, and strategizing, about a far more perplexing fact, which is this: How it is that a boy of your freshness should be so precocious as to snare the Emperor’s very seasoned intellect?”

He stopped then and turned to stare at me. He looked me in the eyes. “You have bewitched him, Antinous. You have bewitched us all. You alone – a young boy from Bithynia – have somehow managed to claim for yourself Hadrian’s loftiest permission to address him as the lowliest man. You have equaled him. Not by rising up to greet him – but by grabbing his ears and pulling his face down to become level with your own. And all of us in the palace wish to know but one simple thing: How?”

“I do not know, Sir,” I responded. “I do not myself understand it.” He continued gazing at me for a long time before resuming his walk. I followed him. At last we arrived at a large door that was guarded from without by two Praetorians. Phlegon stopped me in front of them. “Look at him,” he told them. They each looked down to gaze at me. “This is he,” said Phlegon – and it occurred to me that they had already been told I was coming. Perhaps, I reasoned, this was comparable to how Mordanticus initiated my access into his office. “Thank you, Sir,” said one of the guards, and the other one nodded, repeating the words of the first. Then the one who was near the door reached and opened it for us, and I was ushered into a room that possessed four beautiful, marble tables, many richly carved chairs, and an assortment of cabinets. There was a man inside the room, and he stood up with a smile to greet me.

“Is this him?” asked the man. “Indeed,” responded Phlegon, and then turned to look at me: “This is Salonius. He is the Emperor’s personal librarian. You are to respect and obey him without question.” I nodded gravely. Phlegon indulged himself with a final gaze into my eyes, and then, after a long while, he nodded once to Salonius and left. The door closed quietly behind him.

“Antinous of Bithynia…” spoke Salonius. He left me standing in the Centre of the room, unsure of myself or my surroundings. He walked over to one of the cabinets and opened it. I was amazed to see the books that revealed themselves. There were many scrolls, as well as large piles of unbound papyrus. Salonius moved on, making his rounds of the room, and opened the other cabinets. Within moments I was gazing at a vast collection of books. They encircled me completely, and I was awestruck at the realization that I stood now in the Centre of a private room filled with much of the timeless wisdom of all mankind.

Salonius approached me. He smiled at my amazement. “The Emperor has commanded me to grant you a most unusual gift: the unprecedented access to his private collection. You are welcome to spend your leisure time here, so long as it occurs between the rising and the setting of the sun. He has stipulated, however, that nothing is to be removed from this room. In addition, he has requested that I record for him and report to him of your selections, for he wishes to be satisfied that you are making good use of his generosity of spirit. Naturally, your duties at the stables remain of paramount importance. I am always here to assist you should you desire something specific, and will do my best to locate it quickly. The Emperor sends you his regards, and hopes that you will enjoy yourself. He looks forward to discussing with you, upon his return, your response to the works you have read.”

And then he suggested that I spend some time becoming familiar with the various pieces available to me, and proceeded to guide me on a whirlwind tour of the cabinets. It was staggering! You can be sure that the Greek philosophers were all exceedingly well represented. There was much by way of their theatre, many hundreds of volumes of poetry, and an abundance of treatises concerning architecture, mathematics, and engineering. There was a vast collection of Latin poets and playwrights, and a great many speeches made by the greatest orators of Rome. As well, I encountered a large number of manuscripts in languages that I could not understand. “These are mostly gifts to the Emperor,” explained Salonius, “from foreign lands. They are read to him in translation, and should you wish to have them spoken for you, we shall arrange to have a translator present.”

I was astounded. Utterly speechless and completely overwhelmed. I asked only to sit down, that I could catch my breath and fully comprehend what it was I had been granted. I pictured in my mind’s eye the bearded face of Hadrian. I remembered the warmth of his eyes, the roundness of his cheeks when he smiled at me. I felt myself become breathless at the mere contemplation of his inconceivable thoughtfulness, amid all that grandeur, to pause long enough to send instructions back to Rome concerning an insignificant page and his love of the quietest books.

I carefully placed his name upon my tongue: “Hadrian.”

My gratitude was immeasurable and immense, and I resolved that my great benefactor would never be disappointed with this remarkable decision to edify me to such an unreasonable extent. I would devour his books – read everything that I possibly could – and provide to him the pleasure of those dialogues that I knew he so enjoyed – though still knowing little of the reasons for his enjoyment.

“Where should you like to begin, Antinous?” Salonius stood over me patiently. I could barely think. So I turned to him and I said: “I leave that to you.” He smiled then, for I believe my answer flattered him. And I thought I detected in him a barely perceptible softening, as though he immediately decided, by the trusting nature of my reply, that I was well worth liking. He considered my face for a time, drinking in my features. And then he turned and approached his cabinets. He searched for a small time, and at last returned to me with a volume by a writer named Valerius Catullus.

Catullus“Do you know of him?” asked Salonius. I shook my head. “He is less studied than Horatius, Ovidius, or Virgilius, all of whom I must imagine you have encountered at school.” I nodded, remembering well the hours that Maltinus and I enjoyed together in the consumption of those three most gloried of the Latin poets. “This one,” continued Salonius, tapping the volume before me, “had a considerable influence upon Ovidius. And yet, he is of a lesser stature than the others – not quite as celebrated. That, however, is why I enjoy him so much. To read an author with the knowledge that others do not is to allow yourself the joy of discovering something that is, perhaps, a little more personal. I should hope you enjoy it.” He bowed once and left me, returning to the cabinets in order to shut them all again. Then he sat down at a different table and fell into a manuscript, and I was alone with my silence, my Catullus, and my struggle to emerge from the stupor of disbelief.

But fear not, my friend! For the pages quickly embraced me, and I was delighted by their glorious words. Alack, for how much longer into the night could I go on writing this now, describing to you the essence of this under-appreciated Catullus, but that the hour is exceedingly late. You may be sure that the curiosity of the others upon my return was considerable. I told them all of what had happened, and there was much rejoicing at the fact that “the literate one” was becoming quite famously so. Carisius, I could tell, was moderately relieved at my return. Anaxamenos shrugged his shoulders and freely admitted to having been wrong: “I am saddened to think that it has yet to occur, yet am nonetheless happy that you have returned to us. I was very much regretting the thought of your absence in the stables.”

And with that I turned to this letter, and have not looked up until just a few moments ago, when all the rest of the boys are fast asleep. I must, therefore, to bed. I will tell you more when I can. I dream of you often, and more while awake. A.

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