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
  ~073 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~074 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~075 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~076 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~077 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~078 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~079 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~080 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~081 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~082 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~083 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~084 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~085 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~086 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~090 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~091 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~092 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~093 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~094 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~095 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~096 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~098 Epistle Coming Soon
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  ~100 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~101 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~102 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

Rafts in a Raging Sea


Three full moons have waned since last I wrote your name. The month is August; the summer is broad and mature. I have been here, in Tibur, the entire season. There is no Vitalis. There is no Decentius. The emotional and sensual isolation I often feel is beyond description.

I have struggled, my friend, to abandon any thought of you. I have tried desperately to resist the desire to set down words in your name and bathe for a spell in the image of you. And I have generally succeeded, more from the sheer will of it than by the fullness of my days, which have in themselves become somewhat routine. Yet I have recently arrived at the conclusion that to fight the desire of writing to you is pointless, for all it does is to foment a far greater sense of grief than the sadness I feel now, at composing this missive that is destined to be never received. Perhaps the lopsided logic of my brain goes something like this: To refuse to write at all is an act of aggression against your memory, whereas to indulge the desire is to acknowledge my enduring love for you. It is a recurring requiem for our togetherness; an endless paean in the name of our distant oneness.

Thus have I capitulated. Thus have I returned to the parchment and the sacred rite of placing your name at its top. What I report to you, therefore, becomes less important than the act of reporting it. I take comfort in the thought that I am telling my stories to Lysicles; far less in the contemplation and valuation of the stories themselves.

Hadrian and his immediate circle is by now quite accessible to me. I am engaged by it and welcomed into it on a regular basis. For the most part, it is a very agreeable company. Hadrian himself is a remarkable man whom I admire and respect greatly. His advisors are all capable and proud, and of them I am particularly fond of the Caesernii brothers. They, in turn, seem to hold me in high regard, mostly because I am quite adept at knowing when to wag my tongue and when to hold it. Fuscus, whose appearance in Hadrian’s vicinity is erratic and intermittent, no longer seems to disparage my presence, although he has done nothing to indicate his acceptance of it. He simply regards me with a cordial formality that is, in the final analysis, tolerable. Phlegon, in contrast, treats me very kindly and seems at times even paternalistic in his relations. I am grateful for his support, for he, like Macedo and Statianus, takes pains to interpret for me Hadrian’s behaviour when it is thought that I could be adversely affected by it.

Notwithstanding their assistance, I have become quite skilled myself at understanding the whims and wishes, styles and utterances of Hadrian. He is an exacting and energetic man, powered by a most amazing mind that can read a piece of correspondence concerning the tax collections of a far-off province while conversing with its messenger about the conditions of the road upon which it arrived. All the while, he shall be formulating in his brain a precise and apposite edict; a detailed set of policy adjustments for the province in question which he’ll dictate efficiently to Phlegon the moment the messenger’s report is ended. Then, suddenly, he shall turn to me and ask which of two lines verse I most preferred from the performance of a poet the night before. He shall recite each of them with perfect recollection, and then listen critically to my response. He shall respond in turn, and engage with me in a sprawling (and yet, paradoxically, inconsequential) debate regarding the finer points of that particular poet’s skill. And then he shall announce an amendment to the design of his latest construction project here at the villa, which he’ll hastily scratch out for the benefit of his fellow architects while he debates with us all about the colour of marble that would be best suited upon its floors. All of this, incidentally, in the span of about a quarter of an hour.

How can I not but admire him? More substantially, how can any that knows him not acknowledge that he is indeed ordained by the gods to rule Rome? Which makes all the more puzzling to me his friction with the Senate and their stubborn refusal to honour him as a great and glorious benefactor. Has he not proven himself constant and trustworthy? Has he not made clear that the tumultuous early days of his reign were not, as many feared, the harbingers of an enduring terror but the swift, necessary, and limited actions of a decisive ruler in search of stability? Shall he never be forgiven? It is the Senate that repulses him from Rome; that indirectly persuades him here, to Tibur.

And so I too am here. I am a companion and a friend to him, albeit one whose interactions are strictly public and limited to such activities that take place in full view of the court. We hunt and we dine, we bathe and we partake in the theatre of debate. Yet we do not exchange our private, physical pleasures. For that, Hadrian calls other boys into his bedchamber, and disposes of them as frequently. To me is left the pleasure of my fingers, or, if I am deliberate in locating it, the company of random strangers that wish only to record me as a notch in their walking sticks and care little to know of me in depth.

“Does that upset you?” asked Macedo recently. “Of course it does,” I replied, knowing full well how useless it would be to lie to him. It also occurred that he needn’t have bothered to ask it: he surely already knew the answer. Yet it was his custom to ask directly, and use the response as a gateway into more targeted conversation.

“You should not be,” he said. “It is a mark of the esteem he holds for you, that you have already moved directly into the circle of his immediate counsel.”

“Do not insult me, Macedo. Hadrian’s bed is not a hurdle over which one must climb in order to reach the inner sanctum of his counsel. Were you ever in his bed? Was your brother? Such prescripts are not so rigid and defined. And while I am certainly pleased to find myself so readily consulted and so often present in his company, I am nevertheless disheartened that such company does not extend to more intimate pleasures. Not because I wish for the formality of Favourite, nor the structured pace of its duties, but simply because I desire him! He is a fascinating and wondrous man who has enraptured my imagination. I wish to give of myself to him. I wish to take for myself from him. Yet he consistently, consciously, and conspicuously refuses to admit me.”

“Then you must assert yourself,” said Macedo simply. “You must impress upon him the folly of his delay.”

I sighed at that, and said, “But it is not folly, my friend. There is a very real, if not unreal, reason for his hesitation. The dilemma rests in his inability to find a suitable garb, definition, and category for his unusually ardent love for me.” Macedo knew better than to assume that I spoke from a place of excessive self-regard. He knew my words and my frustration to be genuine. Yet he did not know how I knew them. And so he asked: “How do you know this?” Thus I replied, just as simply: “He told me.”

There blossomed between us a few moments of thoughtful silence. At last Macedo asked, “But why must such a love be named at all? Why can he not just embrace it, and let it be as it will be?” Indeed, it was a very good question. And though I felt it to be a powerful and useful question to ask, I also suddenly found myself inside Hadrian’s head, where I was able to formulate an answer according to his particular logic: “Because beyond these walls, Sir, is a vast and cruel world, filled with the talk of ignorant fools, who shall seek to destroy him on account of his refusal to name it.”

Macedo smiled at me. There was a deep and coursing respect in his gaze. And then he spoke: “Antinous the wise.” With that, he nodded singly, turned, and walked away, leaving me alone to ponder amid the lush stillness of a buzzing garden.

How many gods shall I thank for the Caesernii brothers? Knowing that they are concerned for me, and watch over me, and esteem me as an equal, seems somehow to make the daily revolution of sun and stars more bearable. They are good and unimpeachable friends. In Hadrian’s paradoxically isolating company, I am eternally grateful for the quiet and understated smiles of Macedo and Statianus. Like rafts in a raging sea, they sustain me and keep me from drowning. A.

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