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
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Phallic Amulets

Vitalis Atones


Surely you remember the story of Trenus, and how he was humiliated before all. Yet I cannot recall in what detail I told you the tale. Did I mention that there was a boy involved in the plot, a fellow named Vitalis who had newly arrived at the school, and, being younger than most of us, was easily swayed by Carisius to do his bidding? It was Vitalis that ran up to my unsuspecting self, delivered me the message that Trenus had found his god, and then fled in a flurry of hoots and hollers.

You can well imagine my disdain for him, and how happily I had forgotten his face upon my arrival at the Gelotiana. Yet recently there has occurred another General Inspection, and a new crop of boys has suddenly entered the dormitory. Can you guess who it is that has taken up a mattress beside me?

Despite my initial upset, I soon discovered that something quite remarkable has occurred in the interim. Vitalis is not such a rodent as I had thought him. In fact, with his first night upon the Palatine, he looked at me very earnestly, and with a soft, respectful voice, sought to make his peace: “O Antinous,” he said, “I wish to impress upon you my sorrow and my shame at having been party to the treachery against Trenus.”

I glanced quickly across the room, where Carisius was quietly preparing his bed for the night. “How is it,” I asked him, “that you have come to feel such things?” Vitalis also looked across the room. He lowered his voice even more: “There are several reasons for my need to atone, not the least of which is that Carisius has been absent from the elementary school, which has allowed me to cleanse myself of his influence and acknowledge my wrong.” I considered that for a time, wondering if this was perhaps some renewed attack on the part of a disguised Carisius. “What are some of the other reasons?” I asked him.

“Maltinus,” he replied. “The man has become to me a tutor, and impressed upon me the magnitude of your worth. He has given me books to read – many of those which have passed beneath your own eyes. Thus have I followed in your footsteps, Antinous, and found myself better able to see with my own eyes the world as I believe you see it.”

Again I considered, and again I wondered. Everything he said was flattering, and yet at the same time dubious. What was to stop it from being a falsehood – conjured to effect some maniacal plot in the service of Carisius? “Are there any other reasons?” I asked him.

“Indeed,” he said. “For Maltinus has suggested to me that you are bound for the Emperor’s bed and shall soon become Hadrian’s favourite. I realized that I should be a fool to arrive here your enemy, and thus, three days ago, learning of the General Inspection, I journeyed with Maltinus to the temple of Minerva. He stood for me a mortal witness while I made to the goddess an offering and prayed not only for your forgiveness, but for your friendship and guidance, your wisdom and your love. And do you see how she has answered me? With a place beside the bed of the very one I would appease, that I should not delay even a moment in righting the wrongs I have done you.”

I was quite moved by this, for there had come from his own mouth an admission of the power and status I held above him, and his desire to be supplicated beneath it. “I shall consider what you have said, Vitalis, and tell you of my thoughts at this time tomorrow.” He nodded in agreement, and we each to our beds retired.

The reason for my delay was simply to verify his account. On the morrow I stole from the stables and made a quick dash to the Caelian. I even decided it was appropriate to interrupt one of his lessons in order to hear Maltinus corroborate the words of Vitalis. “It is true, Antinous,” he said to me gravely. “The boy has re-discovered himself since your departure. He is an avid reader; a conscientious soul. And he has been deeply troubled by the role he played in that terrible affair of Trenus. It has been my privilege to guide him and return him into the light of the best society.”

“Yet why did you not tell me of this?” I asked. “Was it for me to tell?” he responded. “Does such an admission of wrong not carry with it more substantive weight when it comes from the very mouth of the wrongdoer? I did not tell you, my friend, for to do so would rob Vitalis of his right to assume the fullest responsibility for his deeds.”

Thus I returned to Palatine feeling awed and inspired by both the intent and the actions of Vitalis. Here indeed was courage – courage in far greater quantity than that which I had exhibited toward Decentius, for Vitalis had lived with the shame in his heart for well over a year before seeking to have it expunged.

That night, as I entered the dormitory, the patient and long-suffering fellow was seated on his bed beside mine. He watched me silently as I sat down to face him. “Marius Vitalis,” I began, “by your atonement last night you have gained a ready and open admittance into my heart, and all that is past is forgotten. Let us celebrate together the promise of our future friendship, and share in the joy of wisdoms both ancient and modern.”

And with that he smiled broadly, and I felt a great surge of happiness. “Where are you assigned?” I asked him. “I am Vestiplici,” he replied simply. I nodded in acknowledgement, making good note of his lack of embarrassment at being among the lowest ranked of the pages in the Department of the Wardrobe – a folder of clothes. His modesty was, I decided, a very good sign.

I told Anaxamenos of my experience and within but days he had welcomed Vitalis into our company. Incidentally, it is quite obvious to me that Carisius is not at all happy with this development, for it is but one more signal of my growing imminence over his own. It is almost as though he believes that our individual status in the Gelotiana will, upon our graduation from it, be exchanged for an assortment of fine goods and luxurious services. And yet, even as I wrote that previous line, it has occurred to me that in a very palpable way, this is exactly the case. Shall not the Emperor’s favourite enjoy such things far more frequently and immediately than would a page who advances into a very common office within the civil service? Maybe Carisius is not wholly without reason to be so ambitious, or so painfully envious of my every incremental gain toward Hadrian’s bed. Yet that he is so calculating in his competitive pursuit of it is what makes him increasingly despised among the more perceptive of the boys here. Perhaps in another era, with a different Emperor, he would find himself meeting with more success. But Hadrian, it seems to me, is far more attuned to and repulsed by all that is inauthentic in the mind of a man, and, in addition, seems far more loved by the gods, who wish to see him successful in his reign; surrounded only by those with the best of intentions.

I hear you, Lysicles, laughing. “Is such a well-intentioned soul your own?” you would ask me. Yes, my friend, I believe it is, for I consider myself a very ethically-centred person and can honestly say that I am not given to an excess of ambition. “Perhaps,” you would argue, “the reason for my lack of ambition is that there is no longer any need for it, given that my trajectory seems so assured.” An excellent point – to which I respond: Were I to learn tomorrow that Hadrian’s tastes had suddenly altered, and that he no longer had his eye upon me, I cannot say I would be too upset. I would very likely join Anaxamenos in the embrace of a simple life devoid of those dangerous attentions that are attracted by the beacons of fame or power or both.

And yet, having said all that, I must readily admit that the eye of Hadrian carries with it some very enjoyable benefits. ‘Twas three days ago that he departed for the country once again, and suddenly I have found myself returning to his personal library and the company of Salonius. To say that Vitalis is envious is obviously an understatement, and yet his envy is of a decidedly different character than that of Carisius. To appease it as best I can, I have promised him a nightly report – a full account of my literary travels through the parchment and papyri of the Emperor’s collection.

“But why the Jews?” asked Vitalis after I returned from my first full day with Salonius. He was completely amazed at my announcement that I had begun to read the Septuagint. “Because,” I replied, “how much minutiae must I read of the Roman gods before I find myself spinning in circles? Have I not, after years of studying their stories, come to a place where I am comfortable in my familiar knowledge of them? By heaven, there are other gods to learn of; other deities to know; other peoples to understand – and I daresay that I am in the perfect position to do so. In fact, I should think it downright criminal to have such works at my disposal and refuse to read them simply on account of their foreignness.”

Vitalis smiled in deference and said, “You are right, of course. Will you tell me of it?” I sat down upon his bed and made my report: “They are a people whose whole of creation is the product of a single mind – a lone God who may not be named. Further, they claim as from their own religion the first man and woman who walked upon the earth – a man and a wife from of his own rib who with him seeded a vast genealogy traceable unto the present era.”

Vitalis laughed: “That’s preposterous!” he said, and I made it clear to him that I did not believe it either: “I am merely the messenger.” From there, I ventured still deeper into the Jewish laws and customs which had by their holy men been codified. For a long time our discussion raged – so much so that by its end we had accumulated a small audience of curious ears.

“What shall you read when your are done with this?” asked one of my listeners. I smiled at him and shrugged. “There is so much,” I replied. “So much to understand and know. For there is far more available to me than just the texts of the Jews. There are vast heaps of Parthian writings. And a small number of Christian works as well.”

“Wherefore should the Emperor have such things in his personal library?” asked Vitalis. “Would you rather they were in the state libraries?” I asked. Many of the boys laughed, for they each understood how dangerous such a thing should be. “Mostly,” I continued, “they are gifts. Given to him by foreign kings, astute priests and humble supplicants; fellows that wish for him to know of and tolerate the many other faiths that sprout within, across, and even beyond the empire. Salonius has told me that Hadrian reads them for amusement and curiosity, but I believe there is more to it than that. I suspect he reads them in order to truly understand the vast array of people he governs, or opposes, or fears.”

“Fears?” asked a confused listener. “Yet the Emperor fears nothing!” I turned to him and smiled, replying: “The emperor is a mortal man, and I assure you he has his fears. That you have never witnessed them upon his face is but for your lack of meeting him at the right time, and, moreso, for the triumph of the sculptors who carve its countenance all across the Roman world. What king, commissioning himself into marble, shall want it rather afeared than courageous? Hey? Therefore do not doubt that he possesses fears. Yet, that he possesses them shall hardly render him incapable of controlling them. Such a skill, methinks, makes him all the more worthy of a throne.”

And with that, there was a general murmur of assent, and Vitalis gazed upon me proudly. “You are wondrously poised, Antinous, and I admire you greatly.” I thanked him for his compliment and as a group we retired to our beds. As I lay that night in the darkness, I reflected on the conversation, and on having noted throughout the course of it that Carisius had refused to join us despite a constant and attentive presence on its outermost periphery. What of that? I wasn’t sure, and still am not. Was it a signal that he wanted to be included? Or was it for another reason entirely? Either way, what good is it to speculate? I must be content with having noted it.

Happily, “content” is exactly what I am feeling tonight. I have no explanation, but it has settled upon me as like a calm before the storm. Strange, is it not? On this night, as the other boys slumber quietly around me, the world seems like it has suddenly transformed into a very decent place. O, my Lysicles! Would that I could feel this way forever! A.

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