Well, my friend, it is done. Anaxamenos is married. It happened
at the home of Maltinus, upon the Oppian hill, attended by a great
many guests who were, like myself and Anaxamenos, former students
of the beloved tutor.
Palmetta in her white was quite beautiful; for her bridesmaid she
had chosen her sister, Corda, who made a point of smiling in my
direction as Maltinus gave his daughter’s hand to Anaxamenos.
They approached the priest, chanted their Gaius, made the offering,
and ate their cake. Brocca, the girls’ mother, wept loud and
Dinner was vast and lengthy. I spent a considerable portion of it
talking to Corda, who had been strategically seated beside me. Across
from us sat Vitalis, who was not unaware of the extent to which
she lavished her attentions upon me. I was very polite and gracious
with her, for indeed she is well-mannered and intelligent (which
is hardly surprising, given her father’s influence). I very
much enjoyed the course of our conversation, and felt that Vitalis,
Corda and I profited from a very fine interaction. And yet, always
in the back of my mind was a certain disquiet. For I would glance
occasionally at my friend Anaxamenos; a glorious young man consumed
in the presence of his bride at the centre of everyone’s attention.
He was so obviously happy; so unabashedly blissful in Palmetta’s
company. And I confess to having felt a stab of jealousy. Of loneliness.
Of being by him abandoned.
Or perhaps he was being abducted from me – by a woman whose
12 year-old sister was sitting beside me and plotting her very own
abduction. I looked across the table to Vitalis; gazed upon the
friend who is to me what I was once to Anaxamenos, and I wondered
if he was perceptive enough to know my thoughts.
When dinner was over, Anaxamenos, amid much laughter, experienced
a certain amount of embarrassment at his inability to rip his bride
from Brocca’s arms. But finally he won her, and off we trod
toward his new apartment, a modest little home close to his father-in-law’s.
Anaxamenos asked if I would bear the torch for him, and, after delivering
some prepared words*, I accepted. We were joined in our procession
by about twenty-five strangers, who laughed and sang with us to
their door. ‘Twas there Palmetta repeated her Gaius, and was
carried across the threshold into her new home. When I handed her
the torch with which to light her new hearth, she smiled warmly
at me. Then she blew out the torch and tossed it among the guests.
Can you guess who caught it? Corda, naturally. And many eyes turned
to look in my direction, for she was not modest in making her affections
We spent some time in revels – a great many guests crowded
into a tiny space, and at last it was time to leave Anaxamenos with
the challenge of untying Palmetta’s knot. Brocca teased him
that she had tied it with the strength of Hercules himself, and
that, if Anaxamenos was unable to conquer it by morning, the marriage
was void. Amid such laughter we took our leave, and Vitalis and
I headed for the Palatine.
There was suddenly a great emptiness in my heart, for I knew that
Anaxamenos would never again return to the Gelotiana in order to
call it home. I found myself thinking about his body and its manhood
– a device that was, by that time, probably quite happily
embedded in Palmetta; consummating and concluding the marriage;
planting its seed deep into her soil in anticipation of long and
prosperous years ahead.
Vitalis no doubt sensed the depth of my thinking; for he was not
unaware of the affection I held for Anaxamenos. “The love
between fellows not yet men,” he said, “is wild and
precious. It is always a tragedy to see it tamed.”
I smiled at him, for it was clear that he felt for me that very
emotion about which he spoke. “Do you fear the day when I
am tamed?” I asked. He nodded and replied: “I do not
understand why it is considered so wrong, that grown men, friends
and lovers of all that is good, cannot take their pleasures from
each other as they did when they were boys. Why must they suddenly
be commanded to turn from the company of those very fellows whose
love and affection makes the exchange of such fleshly pleasures
so glorious? Why must they only seek out a younger man? Or a slave?
Or a whore? Someone who is ultimately lesser than they? Why cannot
they continue in the enjoyment of a one who is their social equal?”
I considered that for a long time. “Perhaps,” I said,
“when we arrive at such an age, we shall understand what it
means, and why it is prescribed for us that way.”
Vitalis seemed very unsatisfied with such an answer. “I promise
you, Antinous, that when I am arrived at my manhood, I shall continue
to share myself with you, if such is your desire. I will not succumb
to the silliness of rules that serve only to suppress the physical
expression of that most wonderful love between us. And I shall not
so willingly give you unto Corda as you this night surrendered the
I was amazed by that, and, I think, mildly insulted. “I did
not so willingly relinquish Anaxamenos. Believe me, my friend: I
did it quite grudgingly.” Vitalis shook his head: “I
saw no evidence of that. You were very happy to be there and to
see him married.”
“Of course I was!” I exclaimed. And then I stopped and
looked at him fondly. “But I know what you are saying, Vitalis.
I understand. Tonight I lost a part of me, and felt quite powerless
against the forces that had amassed to deprive me of it. How does
one take up arms against such a thing as marriage? How does one
declare war against it? Your love for me is beautiful and inspiring,
and I am honoured to beam it back to you with equal intensity. But
I am not so sure as you, my friend, that on the day I take my bride,
you will be able to stop me, regardless of how ardently I might
wish for your success.”
He said nothing then, for I know he knew I was right. Together we
felt the great swirl of the world around us; the mighty forces of
destiny that were quite unconcerned for our insignificant little
love. We would both be married someday, and despite our dreams of
sharing our flesh long into our elder years, I think we each understood
that they were but fiery fantasies, fated to one day be doused in
the deluge of ancient custom.
Vitalis took my hand and solemnly guided me into the shadows of
a dark corner of the street. As the hour was late, there were few
people about, and in our tiny enclave of privacy, surrounded by
the walls of oblivious buildings, we quietly shared with each other
our pleasures. There was something desperate about the act; it was
hurried and breathless. And yet it was of an intensity I have rarely
in my short life experienced. When it was over, we walked slowly
back to the awaiting Gelotiana, where the guards had been told to
expect us late on account of the wedding. They let us in without
incident, and we quietly found our beds.
I lay for a time awake amid the slumber of other boys. I wondered
at the man I would one day become, and wondered again if that mysterious
fellow was destined to live in the warm glow of happiness. A.
Gospel of Corda