A Sad Collection
Shall I rejoice, or shall I weep? I write this at a table upon
which sits XLI additional letters – all composed in my own
hand and all addressed to you.
Do I smile at their safe return to me; at the assurance that they
are not all lost? Do I celebrate their intactness as a collected
testament to my enduring and serialized love for you? Or do I despair
at the fact that they have never even left Rome; that you, who are
pursuing your private dreams elsewhere in the world, have quite
probably forgotten my face and my name under the assumption that
I, callous Antinous, long ago abandoned you forever?
It is difficult to relate the details of how these epistles were
returned to me, as I do not know them myself. Suffice it to say
that Decentius, who is well liked among the other guards and in
an excellent position to enlist their assistance, effected a bold
strategy to intimidate Mordanticus into believing that I was aware
of his deceit and possessed, to my advantage, the overwhelming support
of the Praetorian Guard. Knowing well how fearful is Mordanticus
of offending the military powers that prowl the Palatine, it is
not hard to understand how quickly he probably capitulated to their
demands. Further, the knowledge that I have a direct and ready access
to Hadrian himself is doubtless a cause of much sudden distress
for him. All of this to arrive at the report that, within but moments
of their confrontation, Mordanticus handed over to Decentius the
complete collection of letters, and received in return the rather
terrifying suggestion that he was, on account of his proven and
protracted deception, very likely being observed by the Frumentarii.
Decentius later told me, with a small and sheepish smile, that the
secret police know and care nothing of Mordanticus – that
he merely uttered it so as to strike into the man’s heart
an appropriate and deserving fear. Yet that is small comfort to
me, given that you, Lysicles, remain to these many and astonishing
adventures completely oblivious.
What, therefore, shall I do with them all? How shall I discover
in myself the motivation to continue writing? What is the point
of it? Who benefits? To these questions I have no answer. Nor do
I even have in myself the strength to begin searching for one. I
shall end this here. I shall place it at the bottom of a somber
and dispirited pile, roll them up together, and hide them from the
world. It seems I am off again to Tibur next week, quite possibly
for the entire summer. I do not expect myself to write.
Goodbye, my dearest Lysicles. If, as appears increasingly to be
the case, it is fated that you shall never again know of me, perhaps
I can take solace in the fact that the gods have witnessed, time
and again, my enduring and faithful devotions unto you. At the very
least, may they deign to smile upon me for that. A.