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

The Ride To Rome


Two more weeks have been spent in Tibur since my last letter unto you. In that time, there has been much riding, much hunting, many baths and many meals, regular performances and discourses between visiting actors and philosophers (although the difference between them was sometimes hard to distinguish), and the nightly slumber of an exhausted body amid the cooling nights of Italia late in autumn.

And then this morning, it was suddenly announced that we were returning to Rome. I was instructed to pack my personal items and assemble at the stables, which I accomplished without delay. As I readied Aethon for the journey, I had occasion to converse for a small time with Macedo, of whom I am becoming very fond. He is a tall and distinguished man who says little with his mouth, but much with his eyes. Thus, it is only the most perceptive of those around him who are able to discern when (and what) he is communicating – and I am pleased to consider myself among those who can engage with him at his somewhat rarified level. Hadrian, naturally, is another who possesses this skill, and I suspect that is why Macedo and his brother are so intimate in the Emperor’s counsel.

Statianus appeared soon after, and but moments later was followed by Hadrian, Corinthus, Phlegon and Pulcher. Everyone was mounted quickly, and with little fanfare our small troupe, accompanied by an ample detachment of the Guard, departed for the Eternal City. The sky was quite overcast, and indeed there was a light mist of cold drizzle that steadily chilled us as we rode. In contrast to the day of our arrival, the weather today was relatively dismal. Nevertheless, Hadrian remained in high spirits, and seemed to be bothered little by it. I attributed this to the acclimatizing time he had spent in Britannia (a place that Decentius has assured me is often subject to such a very heavy grayness), combined with his well-known regard for asceticism. And so I endeavoured to place my mind in concert with his, and teach myself to enjoy the weather in all its forms, not simply when sunny and warm.

It is fascinating to me how quickly then the nature of the ride became a happy one. I suddenly found myself invigorated, as though I had discovered for the very first time the majesty of the gods and their creation in all its splendour. Who was I to deem the misty clouds less beauteous than a cloudless blue? Did not this chill, this damp, this gray, offer up its own peculiar beauty to those with the power to discern and appreciate it? I smiled broadly, and breathed in the mist, willing myself to marvel at the sensation of a cold, wet nose.

It was precisely at this moment that Hadrian turned back to look at me – and burst out laughing. “Antinous!” he called. I cocked my head at him, ready to listen. “Come forward. Ride with me.”

I brought Aethon up to join Epeius at his steady, easy walk, and thus suddenly found myself in the midst of a conversation with Hadrian. “Why did you laugh?” I asked him bluntly, very intentionally doing so before he had addressed me. And he smiled, answering: “Turn around, and look at them. Their faces.”

I did as he instructed, and allowed my gaze to absorb the sullen, miserable face of Corinthus, the stoic endurance of the Caesernii brothers, the shaded void in the midst of Phlegon’s hooded tunic projecting only his nose, the disgust of a shivering Pulcher, and the quiet, morose solitudes of the soldiers who surrounded us.

“And now compare it with what was yours when I turned around to see it.” I smiled then, for I understood. Hadrian smiled too, and gazed at me warmly. “On the day I was destined to find you upon the Caelian, I was in very low spirits. And so I convinced myself that I wished to be distracted by the energy and vitality of vigorous, ambitious, laughing youth. Yet as I stood there observing the field, I found myself completely unmoved by the sight of them. Their antics made me even more despondent, for I sensed that it was all but a masquerade performed to appease me. And then, just as I was preparing to leave, I happened upon the image of a distant fellow whose aspect very much mirrored my own; who was so unmoved by my presence that I was instantly by him uniquely moved. I invented for myself a fantasy. A belief that perhaps this one boy was capable of sharing and understanding a very private and lonesome region of my spirit. I debated for a time whether it was worth it to me to indulge the fantasy. To investigate it. After all, I told myself, how could it even be possible? Was I not merely setting myself up to be disappointed if that I had you brought to me? Would not the fantasy be instantly destroyed; replaced by the reality of just another boy who was trained in the arts of sycophancy? By the gods, Antinous, you astounded me, for you revealed yourself to be no illusion. Or were you? How could you be so perfectly attuned to what it was I needed from you at that moment? I resolved to watch you. To verify it. And little by little, moment by moment, you have demonstrated to me that I was truly blessed on that day when I decided to indulge my fantasy rather than dismiss it. Time and again, you have revealed that your spirit courses in perfect concord with my own. And for that, Antinous, I am overcome with a profound and bursting joy. What say you to that?”

“With the utmost respect, Sir, I say to you that I am confused.” Hadrian responded simply, “Why confused?” I responded thusly: “I am confused because, having confessed to me such an astonishing aspect of your self, you have not yet taken what ought for you to be that very easy and unremarkable step of commanding me into your bed.”

He nodded and became pensive. “You are not the only one to be confused, Antinous. To be honest, I am myself terribly indecisive on that very matter. For you must believe me when I say that I am to your flesh immensely attracted. It is a compelling and utterly intoxicating form. Beauteous and fresh, supple with the promise of a brooding and invincible manhood. Make no mistake, Antinous: hungrily do I desire you. And yet, it is a desire that is far more complex; far more treacherous to me than simple lust. Corinthus inspires my lust. He is meaty and willing, pliant and submissive. Yet he is to me a mere possession, destined one day very soon to be relinquished unto his career as is proper. But you, Antinous, exist for me in an entirely different universe. I do not merely lust for you; I fear for you. I become anxious and worried like a mother when I think of mortality’s perils upon your body. Not only that, I fear for myself. I fear what I fantasize when my fantasies concern your flesh. For I will sometimes quite suddenly and quite inexplicably search for a method to bypass these cumbersome chains of words and language and, in a very real and gruesome and physical way, fuse my very brain into yours! Is that not terrifying? Who are you, Antinous, to effect such a state upon me? How can such a state be described as mere lust? Lust is well understood to me. It is a very plain and uncomplicated physical attraction – the kind I quite commonly feel when in the presence of any well-constructed young man. But you. You. You are not the object of my lust. You are the subject of my most erotic nightmares. You are the name I speak with reverence and fear, as though standing before the idol of Jupiter himself. Does not every supplicant secretly wish to reach out and touch the god? To stroke with an erotic finger the golden radiance of that statue’s immortal form? And does he not simultaneously recoil at the thought of such a sacrilege? That is why, Antinous, I have not commanded you into my bed. I am petrified by the thought of any trespass upon you.”

“There have been others, Sir, before you that have taken their pleasures from me. My flesh was long ago trespassed, and soon after was pleasured as much, by a small assortment of men and youths whom I have known. Therefore, Sir, you should not think my flesh so remarkable, nor compare it as you do to the flesh of one so untouchable as a god. I am quite mortal. I must eat to live; as like any animal such food must soon after pass from me with as much filth. I have worries and fears, insecurities and questions. I shall grow old, and one day shall die. Why should you delay, when I am happy – now, in the flower of my youth – to be for you whatever you would make of me?”

“But why so willing, Antinous? Because I am Emperor?” I smiled at him, and replied, “No Sir. Because you are perceptive enough to see me as more than merely your subject. Because you should love me as would the obscure philosopher love his pupil long before he reached his philosopher’s fame. Or as a Theban soldier would his tyro, long before the battle in which he won his ultimate glory. I believe you could love me modestly, free from the laurels of your cumbersome office.”

He considered that for a small time, and then spoke: “Nothing in what you have answered is persuasive. I am the Emperor. Such is more than merely a title; it is a metamorphosis upon my mind. It has changed me; changed the way I think and see the world. It has taken a very deep root, Antinous; it can no longer be so easily divorced from the daily action or random musings of this particular human animal. It commands and controls my being in a way that even I am sometimes at a loss to fully comprehend. To take and to have you in my bed will never be so simple as a man and his youth. It will first and foremost be Emperor and Favourite, for the titles are integral to the act. And yet, how ardently I wish that it were not so! For I know such titles shall pollute us in our lovemaking. And until I can reconcile that, Antinous, I am reticent to make you Favourite. I should much rather make you…”

There was a long pause, until at last he shook his head, “I cannot say. For what should I make you? My true and biological son? If only such a powerful being could ever emerge from the womb of Sabina! But if that he ever did, how could I even think to breach the natural laws against incest? Should I make you my younger self? How remarkable is that – to dream of bedding an earlier version of one’s own body; to exchange one’s proprietary fluids across the decades. What else? Hey? What should I rather make you? My wife? But then your womanhood should never inspire in me such a violent desire. My slave? But then should you be owned, and O, how quickly does possession slay desire! My friend? But that you are already! Hardly does it diminish your allure. What title is left to me but Favourite, one that falls far short of what I need for you to become to me. I wish for you to inhabit me, Antinous. I wish to inhabit you. I dream for us to be fused. Can you not understand that? And to bed you, my friend, shall be far too mundane for such a fantasy. It shall want. It shall never satisfy such an impossible ideal.”

I hardly need tell you, Lysicles, how stunned I was by the direction in which our conversation had turned. Here was Hadrian confessing to me his most monstrous and incomprehensible passions concerning my person. At once his history of behaviour toward me made sense – and yet remained at the same time completely senseless. I struggled to find words to respond, but could not. I merely sat there, quietly bumping across the terrain, riding the easy rhythm of Aethon’s steady gait.

We both remained silent for a very long time. And then he finally spoke, although without turning from his straight-ahead gaze: “I wish for you to join me on every trip I take. Be it to Tibur, or to any random destination that my office demands.” I nodded in acquiescence, and said, rather limply, “I would very much enjoy that.”

Again there was silence. And again my mind was churning, as I’m sure was his. Perhaps it was selfish of me, but I could not help but think of the consequences of this new development. Namely, that my time in the Palatine library was over. For if I was to accompany Hadrian on his travels to Tibur, I would no longer be able to read in the library while he was away.

But then, as if in affirmation of everything he had just expressed, Hadrian spoke: “We shall find you an assistant Keeper of the Personal Horse. Someone who can assume the bulk of your duties and free you to continue your studies in my library when you are in Rome.” I looked at him in amazement, and he finally turned to face me. He smiled softly. “Is there someone you would like to recommend?”

I thought instantly of the person I wanted most to join me in the stables, and said, “Marius Vitalis. He is now in the Department of the Wardrobe, where his talents and intelligence are remarkably under-utilized.” Hadrian nodded, and said nothing else. We rode in silence for a little bit more before I spoke to him again: “You are very good to me, Sir.”

He smiled to himself. “No, Antinous. I am very good to me. You, I’m afraid, are simply the hapless benefactor of all that I do to pleasure and appease myself.” It was a very frightening utterance, mostly because I understood it to be impeccably honest and true. And as a result, it made my fondness for him grow even more intense. I wanted desperately to say something to him; something profound and meaningful and personal; something that could demonstrate my vision of him as a beautiful man. It took me a few moments to find the words, and when I found them, I instantly realized how dangerously audatious they could be. It would be a risk to speak them. But had he not taken as much of a risk with me? Had he not opened the door for me to say to him whatever I would? I took a deep breath. “I admire you greatly, Hadrian.”

How rarely must the man have heard his own name spoken from the lips of those in his retinue? How long had it been since he had assumed a title so lofty that men would suddenly find it impossible to speak to his face anything other than an honourific? By speaking his familiar name, I was quite deliberately addressing him as an equal. He turned and assessed me for a long time, instantly absorbing and understanding everything I have just set here to paper. We held a very long and (for me) breathless gaze. Until at last he smiled at me, and said, “Thank you, Antinous.”

The rest was a very comfortable silence, as together we rode unhurriedly into Rome. I wanted desperately to turn around again; to see the faces that were no doubt watching both of our backs. Most, I knew, were watching only Hadrian’s – determined to be for him his faithful protector unto their deaths, if necessary. But one of them, I had no doubt, was watching only me. And I shuddered to think on the envy and the jealousy that certainly coursed through him. Thus I didn’t turn around. I merely stared ahead, embracing with my eyes the city as it unfolded before me upon our return. The drizzle never stopped, but hardly did I notice it. We arrived at the stables to be instantly greeted by Florentius, Anaxamenos, and a gaggle of anxious courtiers eager to whisk Hadrian away into the palace for warmth and food.

As he prepared to leave the stables, he glanced at me. I awaited his word. “Florentius,” he softly said. Florentius jumped to attention: “My liege!” Hadrian turned to look at him. “Marius Vitalis is a page in the Department of the Wardrobe. He is transferring here, to the stables, to assist Antinous in his duties as Keeper of the Personal Horse.” Florentius nodded quickly, “Of course, my liege. We shall welcome him.”

And with that Hadrian turned and strutted away, leaving the stablehands to do their work in the grooming and refreshment of our weary mounts. Both Florentius and Anaxamenos turned eagerly to face me. “Well?!” demanded the bursting Anaxamenos. “Tell us!”

I thought for a moment before replying thusly: “It was a very busy time. I am overwhelmed by it. Allow me, please, to rest and refresh. We shall dine tonight. I shall tell you everything.” They both thought this request quite understandable and hastened me back here, to the Gelotiana. Thus have I hastily scribbled this out, desperately trying to recall the ride’s every detail, its every word and nuance, for I am not so stupid as to fail to understand it to be quite momentous. In addition, I have two other epistles saved from my trip. Tomorrow I shall to Mordanticus deliver all three, and send my tales of Tibur unto Lysicles.

But tonight, as I sup with my friends, I suspect I’ll omit the details of my ride today from the villa. There will be plenty to occupy the conversation in the discussion of all that is, by comparison, quite mundane. I have much to digest; much to process. It is enough that I do so with you, Lysicles. It is far too taxing to do it all over again with others. I am exhausted, and I am strangely feeling very defeated, despite what every person in the world would no doubt proclaim as my unequivocal triumph. I do not understand what is happening to me, nor why. I wish to cry, but cannot. I miss you so very much. A.

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