The Sacred Antinous - Erotically-charged, Explicitly Illustrated, Queer-Themed Historical Fiction about Antinous and Hadrian
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Sacred Texts
LEGEND TO ILLUSTRATIONS
  CONTAINS X-RATED IMAGES
  CONTAINS R-RATED IMAGES
  CONTAINS G-RATED IMAGES
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
  ~105 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~106 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~107 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~108 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~109 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~110 Epistle Coming Soon
Phallic Amulets

Causes of Nausea

Lysicles

Glaucia is pregnant.

This from Mordanticus, who laughed when I asked him, rather stupidly, “But how do you know?” “She is my wife!” he proclaimed. “She tells me!”

I am the first to admit that I know little of a woman’s way. And so I continued: “But how does she know?” Mordanticus thought for a moment, and then answered, “Thrice has the moon renewed itself since has fallen from her belly some blood. She is nauseous; like a hare she craves only lettuce to eat and refuses anything so rich as an olive. Speak of such things to any midwife and you will hear it in a snap: such a woman is pregnant.”

I considered that for a very long time. There can be no doubt that Mordanticus knew what I was thinking. I believe he allowed me to think it, and waited patiently for me to voice my next question: “Was it I?” He smiled coyly then, and said, “Well it certainly wasn’t me. And I can think of no other man who had – as did you – such privileged access to the space between her thighs. ” I blushed at that. “And yet, Antinous, let us both be perfectly clear: though it was you who impregnated her – it is I who shall be known to the world as the father. Understood?”

I nodded at him. And after a considerable length of time, in which Mordanticus did nothing but stare at me steadily, he finally reached out and took from me the letter I had brought to him. He placed it on the pile that was destined for Antioch.

Mordanticus then asked me how I was enjoying my time in Hadrian’s personal library. “You knew of that?” I asked him. He laughed, “Everyone knows it, Antinous! You must stop being so surprised by the speed at which news travels through the Augustan Halls – especially now that you are emerging as one of its most regular and intriguing subjects. There is much interest in your future career.” I thought about this for a time, and then I confessed to him that I have noticed more than a few people becoming distant. “Distant?” asked Mordanticus. “How so?”

I tried to explain to him my observation; the sensation I had when among others of their certain reticence to be too near me. “It is not reticence, my dear friend, it is reverence. Your ability to capture the mind of Hadrian has captured the imagination of his court. And yet, let me be the first to warn you: You must beware, Antinous, of people who will suddenly appear to you as though they were your finest friend. The nearer you get to the Emperor, the more will people assume that you have his ear. And they shall endeavour to exploit it.”

“How?” I asked him. He sat back and considered. “Say that I am a courtier who owns a farm beyond the hills, and the road to reach it is in such horrendous disrepair that it is harming my ability to bring my produce to the markets. I have tried in vain to convince the department of public works that my road ought to be counted among their priorities. Yet I have also been smart enough, in my several years at Rome, to recognize that young Antinous is destined, in the not so distant future, to enjoy direct access to the one man who may, at a whim, order my road repaired. Shall it not behoove me to befriend Antinous?”

“But surely the department of public works is vigilant enough to know when a road is in need of repair!” It was a ridiculous reply, and Mordanticus, to his credit, was very patient with my complete lack of political savvy: “The road, Antinous, is merely an example. In truth, the objective of your swelling ranks of sycophants shall be aimed at far more lucre; far more opportunity. Their machinations shall be complex and intricate. Think of how easily you could make or break a man’s career with but a single utterance to Hadrian. Think how you might be used to effect a person’s plan who wishes to destroy the reputation of a rival. As you are drawn steadily closer to the royal bedchamber, you must be increasingly wary of any man who professes – or even demands – to be your friend. Far more trustworthy shall be those that may claim to have known you long before you were declared the Imperial favourite. I must certainly hope that you have such fellows in your midst?”

I thought instantly of Anaxamenos, and nodded. And then of Maltinus, my beloved tutor. And then I gazed into the face of Mordanticus and realized that he himself was one of those people he had just described. He smiled at me, as if reading instantly my thoughts: “It is suddenly very hard to trust anyone, isn’t it?” I could not help but laugh, for it amazed me to consider just how perceptive he really was. I became playful with him, and asked, “So then, Mordanticus: what is your objective?” He smiled warmly and replied: “Happily, Antinous, I have already achieved it, and it did not require anything from Hadrian. You have made both myself and Glaucia very happy.”

I felt a great fondness for him then, and regretted having spent so much time fretting over the virtuousness of my actions whilst in the company of his wife. It occurred to me that they had somehow very privately come to understand that Mordanticus was unable to father a child. And so, to protect his honour, they devised a simple plan to produce one in his name. I suddenly felt not shame for what I had done with Glaucia, but pride. And Juvenalis, I resolved, was far too rigid a moralist to understand any of this.

I wished him well and took my leave. But as the door to his office closed behind me, I found myself gazing into the long corridor that was but one of hundreds of halls within the vast and whispering Palatine. I suddenly stopped walking, for I was overcome with a profound sense of loneliness. Would Mordanticus be proven correct in his prediction? Would I very shortly find myself surrounded by so many dismal, untrustworthy people? The words of Gryllus drifted back to me; how he had warned me of the great number of vipers who slinked in these shadows of Roman power. I longed for something simple; something authentic and familiar. I longed, O my Lysicles, for you.

“Are you well, Sir?” I turned to face the voice that had spoken behind me. It was a soldier – the same fellow, in fact, to whom Mordanticus had recently introduced me. I nodded at him, although it was very likely an extremely unconvincing affirmation. “Do you require assistance?” he asked me. I smiled politely and shook my head. And then I turned, intending to leave. “Another letter?” he inquired. I stopped and looked at him again. It struck me as exceedingly odd that he was attempting to initiate a conversation. Was that not expressly forbidden? And yet, was not Mordanticus himself in the habit of holding friendly conversations with the soldiers? “Yes,” I replied, “another letter.”

“I have often wondered,” he said, “what my life should be like were I able to read and write, as are you. You are very fortunate, Antinous, to have such a luxury in the ability to speak so frequently to a friend that lives so many leagues away.” I was, I must admit, quite moved by his words. For they were true, at least, in their intent, regardless of the sad probability of their inaccuracy. It goes without saying that I sincerely doubted in my ability to speak with you as frequently as this stranger must have inferred. “Indeed,” I said to him, “I do consider myself very fortunate. Thank you for saying so, and reminding me of such a fact in the midst of my self-absorbed despair.”

“If you do not mind my asking,” he continued, “what do you write about to your friend?” I smiled, for the question evoked in my mind a flash of several years; the joys and pains; the triumphs and heartache; all that had passed from my fingers in the name of Lysicles. “Things that occur,” I told him. “Books I have read. People with whom I have spoken, and, quite often, the contents of such exchanges, as best as I am able to recall them.”

He considered that for a time. His face was rugged, silent, thoughtful. His eyes, I could easily imagine, had seen many horrors. At last he spoke: “Shall you write of me? Of this very conversation?” I was struck by the forwardness of such a question; by the audacity of assuming that what was passing between us was somehow worthy of record. And yet, was it not indeed – by its very oddness, its very unexpectedness – completely worthy? I smiled at him and replied, “There is every reason to believe it.”

He laughed at that, as though the prospect filled him with a peculiar joy. “In fact,” I continued, “I have already written of you previously – the day when you first appeared outside this office, when Mordanticus introduced himself. I wrote of you then.” He was pleased by this, and I suddenly realized with some embarrassment that I had forgotten his name. “Forgive me, soldier,” I said, “but I cannot recall your name.”

“Decentius,” he replied, and his voice was without offense. I repeated it back to him, as an assurance that I would not forget it again. And then he seemed to grow more comfortable, and he asked me, “What is it like, Antinous, to read a book?” I marveled at the beauty of such a question – for it was simple and direct; so utterly guileless. “It is like embarking upon a great journey,” I replied. “A journey of the mind. You begin from a place of ignorance, and arrive in a place of knowledge. Or happiness. Or awareness. Or, at the very least, at a place of deeper thought, where you may newly conceive of a subject in a manner that is different from how you looked on it before. And, what is even more astonishing, is that more often than not, your guide to such a place has been dead for many years, if not centuries. Such is the power of language when it is written down, that you may communicate to the world far beyond your final breath.”

Decentius considered that for a long while. At last he looked at me and said, “I envy you, Antinous, to be in receipt of such an education. Long have I dreamed of receiving one myself.” I smiled uncomfortably, for I was not sure why he was telling me this. The gulf between us – between our separate castes and our divergent histories, our gaping ages and our exclusive experiences – became to me quite apparent. And then he prostrated his pride at my feet, and asked me very humbly, “Do you suppose, Antinous, that you might be so kind as to teach me how to read?”

I was instantly overcome with a terrible fear; an inexplicable sense of being invaded and accosted by a barbarian army of unruly requests. The words of Mordanticus rang loudly in my ear: Beware the sycophants! I am ashamed, Lysicles, to report to you that I panicked, for I suddenly and very desperately wanted only to escape. And so I smiled at him pitifully: “I am sorry, Decentius, but my duties are exceedingly demanding, and I cannot expect to be able to spare for you the time that would be required to tutor you properly.”

I could tell that he was disappointed, but he nodded respectfully. “Forgive me,” he said, and then returned to his station by the door to Mordanticus’ office.

I hurried away, awash in a strange and unsettling nausea. And I realized quite quickly that it was a sickness born of shame. As I returned to my post at the stables, I discovered myself feeling profoundly regretful at having done what I did. How, I berated myself, should the honest desire to read be ever considered as sycophantic? How arrogant of me to proclaim the joys of reading to a humble and pining illiterate, only then to callously deny him the very gift of which I sing! I suffered through the remainder of my duties and then, as quickly as I could, returned to the office of Mordanticus. But Decentius was no longer there; the guards had changed. I trudged back to the Gelotiana feeling rotten and spoilt.

Tomorrow I shall deliver this letter, and make with the noble Decentius amends. A.

 
Optimythic
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