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
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Phallic Amulets

The Villa at Tibur

O my Lysicles!

How shall I begin to describe to you the beautiful setting into which I have suddenly gained admittance? The scale of this place is astonishing; the details are immaculate. It is already a week I have been here at the villa of Hadrian. The days have galloped past in such a flurry that I am at a loss to tell you the exact date. Yet many of the memories I have collected here still gleam as though newly minted. Let me record them here as best I can, that I shall have permission to release them and make room for the many more that no doubt await me. I regret that they shall not be in the order of their occurrence, for that would be far too much detail. Instead, I have grouped them together by theme.

I've been saddled upon Aethon every morning, accompanying Hadrian, Corinthus, the Caesarnii Brothers and several others into the countryside in order to hunt. Twice have I launched a spear at our prey – both times at the invitation of Hadrian himself. Only once did I connect for the kill. The other time, alas, the buck escaped, yet was sufficiently harried that within a few more moments it was dead by the thrust of another. Despite the miss, Hadrian was very complimentary of my developing skills, and marveled publicly that I was still a novice – yet already with one kill under my belt (from two days previous).

As to my actual response to the hunt, I confess, my friend, to be thoroughly enchanted by it. It is a wild and thrilling affair; a dance with Diana at once delicate and vicious. Not a few times did my heart leap into my throat as I wondered if we should stumble upon her bathing; if she would render me into the very beast I hunted; if I would be devoured by our own dogs. But then, suddenly, my fear flew away, and I was yelping like the hounds in the excitement of the chase. There was good cheer among all the men; even Corinthus seemed happy and relaxed in the camaraderie that blossomed among everyone. Although we kept a healthy distance from each other, it was clear to me that, after my first kill, he did not think so lowly of me as he had on my initial ride to the villa. And although I certainly don’t foresee us becoming friends, perhaps there is less hostility in him now.

Each day, we’ve returned from the chase with enough time to bathe before lunch. We are all invited into the Small Baths, which are Hadrian’s own and, obviously, are not used by the staff. In fact, there is even a third baths complex with a room that is heated by the sun! It is a public bath that anyone present at the villa can use. But Hadrian’s baths are a very genial place, filled with the boisterous laughter and good talk of those who have shared in the experience of a morning’s vigorous hunt. Hadrian carries himself with as much dignity here as he does upon his throne. (Then again, it is rare to see Hadrian actually sitting upon his throne, for he is always up and about, engaged in some kind of productive activity!) Regardless, I very much enjoy my time with the other men, and for the most part they treat me kindly and with the utmost respect for my person. Although there is no sex taking place during these times, I have indeed noted various eyes fixed upon me, including, on occasion, the emperor’s.

Meals, as I’m sure you can imagine, are always lavish and amply stocked. The game is consistently fresh and flavourful, owing, naturally, to its origin. On the day I achieved my first kill, Hadrian made sure that I partook, with him at my side, of the very best cut from the meat. It was a remarkable moment for me, and I remember quite distinctly thinking it to be so, doing everything within my power to commit it to a permanent memory. The triumph I felt on that day was surely the most intensely savoured as any I have ever experienced. To dine with the emperor from the flesh we both had hunted and killed that same morning! Can you believe it? Even as I write this, it seems considerably less than believable, and I am constantly forced to remind myself that my life is not but merely some shimmering fantasy that a million other youths must surely dream. It is a life – lived! By me! Yet still I stagger. Still I must affirm its every bursting moment with this very deliberate and considered epistle unto you.

In the afternoons, Hadrian and his courtiers conduct behind closed doors the business of running an empire. I know nothing of such conferences and, to be honest, am quite happy with such an arrangement. Can you guess how I occupy my time? In the Library of the Latins. Or, if I’m feeling particularly nostalgic, in the Library of the Greeks, which is a whole other building! Yes, my friend, I am not exaggerating. There are two libraries here: each with its own collection, divided according to its language of origin! Unlike the rules of the Palatine, however, the librarians here have both been made to know me, and I am authorized to take books from the buildings and venture out onto the grounds. Shall I sit along the “shores” of the Canopus – a giant pool shaped like a penis, guarded by a colonnade of caryatids? Or shall I venture down the hill behind the Hospitalia to the Terrace of Tempe, where I can sit among the buzzing bees and gaze across the lower valley? Do I make it sound too idyllic? Do you hate me yet?

In truth, such afternoon leisure time is but a fantasy. I have only managed to escape twice in such a fashion as what I described above – once to the Canopus and once to the Terrace. And even then, the time I enjoyed was much too brief. For there are other distractions; other expectations. At the Hall of Philosophers I have gathered with leagues of distinguished men to hear various speeches and debates – some of which were attended by Hadrian and his advisors. Upon various fields I have sported with other young men: we have raced, we have wrestled, we have trained. I have visited with Aethon and groomed him. I have sat in an empty theatre and watched the actors rehearse, struggling to explain to them, when interrogated, why I was not laughing. Naturally, they dismissed my comments outright, and proceeded to present their performance that evening to the laughter of many – including my own. I wondered at that. Why should I not laugh when alone, but when among others suddenly find myself compelled to join them? Perhaps that is the nature of laughter; that it increases in proportion to the numbers that partake in it. Perhaps that is why I so rarely laugh.

At dinnertime I have always been deliberately seated at the dining hall in the company of a fresh and ever-changing group of courtiers. It is as though my personality is being passed around, like a plate of delectable foods, to be sampled by those with whom I dine. I have absolutely no way of knowing who it is that orchestrates or arranges my seating locations. I know not if my fellow diners are genuine conversationalists or if they have been instructed to engage me so as to assess my worth when evaluated relative to the very best of Roman company. Regardless, my exchanges with them have been, for the most part, fairly enjoyable. I have learned, for instance, that Hadrian’s plan for the villa is far from complete: still more buildings, more courtyards, and more pools are on the way. It is a staggering project, made moreso because the emperor himself is counted among its chief architects.

I must also tell you of Pedanius Fuscus. He is a lad a year younger than I and filled with the self-assurance of one who could very well become Rome’s next emperor, for he is the great-nephew of Hadrian. I met him yesterday in the Latin library, where he had come with his private tutor for a lesson (accompanied, I should add, by his own lictor!). So it is clear to me that he is one to watch, and, although I hardly consider myself a sycophant, it seemed appropriate at the time to make a good introduction of myself. He greeted me curtly and without flourish, and whether this is owning to his place in life or merely to his having been preoccupied with the lesson that had just ended is beyond my knowledge. Regardless, if I am to become Hadrian’s favourite, Fuscus will no doubt become a fellow with whom I maintain some regular company. So at the very least I made an effort, even though its results were less than spectacular. We shall see what becomes of him.

Throughout my entire week here, and across every activity I have mentioned above, I have always felt that I am being watched. Sometimes it is very explicit, at others it is more subdued. Perhaps it is merely my own hypersensitivity to the fact that I am very probably the next in line to inherit the title of Favourite. Perhaps it is all in my imagination. Nevertheless, I am continually under the impression that my every word and action is being recorded and reported back directly to the ears of Hadrian. When I am in his company, he will look at me with eyes that both smile and assess at the same time. They enjoy and evaluate me, while testing and tempting him who gazes. It is all very taxing – this constant state of uncertainty, wonder, and readiness for a role that may never, when the gods finally speak, be mine.

There is still no indication when we shall return to Rome. And although I do love it here, and find myself at once inspired and cowed by its majesty, I very much miss my friends and my familiars. I miss my routine, my duties, my sense of place and purpose. It has occurred to me that to be the Emperor’s Favourite may not actually require of me anything specific, other than to please his person while he is in a mood for pleasure. How then shall I occupy such unstructured days? Will I even care? Such thoughts unsettle me, Lysicles, for they are the thoughts of an unknown future. Let me thus console myself with thoughts of a much loved past. I shall sleep tonight with the face of a distant friend etched faithfully upon the inside of my eyelids. A.

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