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

Keeping Company


Turbo himself came to me and asked if there was a particular soldier that I trusted to act as my personal guard upon the tour.

“Marcus Decentius!” I immediately exclaimed. How much longer than a heartbeat did I require to arrive at such an obvious conclusion?

He raised a curious eyebrow at me. “The Britton?”

I nodded eagerly, and explained: “He is an incomparable friend and possessed of a very fine character. I both enjoy and am bettered by his company. You shall have no worries, Sir, to place me beneath his vigilant eye.”

Turbo considered that for a moment. Then he nodded once and walked away.

I heard nothing more of it until, a few days later, Decentius came to me with a broad smile upon his face. I don’t think I have ever seen as happy an expression painted there as appeared on that occasion. “I am yours,” he said, “and shall with steadfast devotion protect you across every mile.”

We embraced joyously. His powerful arms around my shoulders and across my back felt right and perfect. I inhaled the scent of his neck; the earthy musk of his skin – and experienced a surge of erotic safety. I have often imagined Decentius in his long ago moments of extreme havoc – when the fog and din of damp, northern battles obscured his joys and left him wounded, grieving and broken. I’ve pictured him tense and alert, brandishing his dented sword and pocked shield; armoured and freighted with the bolts and rivets of an endless and thankless duty. I’ve envisioned him bloodied and dirty, weathered and bruised. I’ve wondered at his ability to drive a blade into the flesh of a marauding barbarian. How many times has he done so? How offensive to him was the act? Is he forever altered because of it? That he is a soldier is irrelevant, for “every man,” (he once told me) “is unique in how he beholds himself in the aftermath of a kill. Some stand more proudly, while others shrink at the discovery within themselves of something profoundly disturbing.” Which was he? I sensed it was the latter, simply by the tone and inflexion with which he spoke those words. The weight of his history as a man upon the muddy ground is immense – it presses down upon his shoulders, threatening to bury him forever in the cold slime of a strange and forgetful land. Yet I like to think (and do not believe I flatter myself in thinking it) that my presence in his world alleviates a modest proportion of that weight and affords him some much-deserved happiness. If I provide for him a renewed sense of purpose, then I have found for myself a purpose too. If I can pull him up and out from the mud and wash for him his feet and legs, then I am fulfilled. If I can balm his wounds with my lips, then I am honoured. If I can be for him a comfort in the night, then I am comforted. We nourish each other, and from his considerable manliness I consistently draw – steadily informing and fashioning my own.

Not entirely opposite in character to Decentius is the young orator, Fronto. Although he has never found himself in the midst of war, there is nonetheless a gravity about him that is deeply and reverently felt. I admire Fronto greatly, and thus was happy to hear of his acceptance when Hadrian invited him to join us on our upcoming travels.

“You shall, beneath the watchful eyes of Favorinus and Polemo, have the opportunity to address a broad range of audiences,” said Hadrian, “and you’ll also be able to observe both of them adapt their particular talents to the peoples for whom they perform. It shall doubtless be a remarkable opportunity for you.”

Fronto wholeheartedly agreed, and later on, in private, I eagerly listed off for him the names of those cities to which our entourage was committed. I could see the excitement in his eyes, and the pride – as well as the sadness.

“Word has come to me,” he explained, “that Gnaeus is dead.” I hung my head in respect, and replied, “I am sorry to hear of it, Fronto.” He gazed away, off toward the bustle of a nearby street. “He would have enjoyed knowing of these upcoming travels. He would have said to me: It is right, and timely. And I would have enjoyed recounting to him, on a regular basis, from all that I will experience.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “this sad news is also the gods’ way of telling you that you must begin the transition from one who is tutored, to one who tutors. There is no doubt you shall learn from Favorinus and Polemo when we are upon the road. But you are also, I should imagine, already well enough learned to begin thinking of yourself as one who is certainly able to impart your knowledge as well as imbibe it.”

He smiled at that. “That is very kind of you to say, Antinous.” And then we fell silent, and shared some bread together. Here is what I found myself thinking:

To say that Death is always among us is hardly controversial. What has become apparent to me, though, is the extent to which the loss of those before us serves to intensify our present joys – not by making those joys happier, but by singeing them with the painful memory of happy others now gone. That I am the Emperor’s Favourite is cause for great celebration – yet I do not exult with abandon, for always there exists the heartache of an absent Lysicles who could, by his simple presence beside me, send my exultations to the sky. O, that my parents could see me now, and rejoice! But they cannot, and so my triumph remains less than its highest potential. Could Decentius have felt such a joy at the prospect of our togetherness had he not experienced such devastating losses? Could Fronto have appreciated as intensely his good fortune if that his tutor was still alive to revel in it with him? Fronto’s awareness that Gnaeus is dead makes his joy less than pure, but such an impurity, methinks, somehow renders it a joy all the more beautiful and authentic.

“What are you thinking?” asked Fronto.

I smiled. “That we are, by our frailties, made strong. And we are perfect in our imperfections. And we are nothing so short of godly precisely at that moment when we find ourselves mired in the messiness of being human. One’s death is the ultimate expression of his godliness. It is the culmination of his godhood – the final, triumphant act. All of this to say that I think it a mistake to look on death as the beginning of one’s godliness. It is, in contrast, the beginning of his humanness: the transition into dust. We become more and more godly as we live. We return to human when we die.”

There was another silence. And then I spoke: “That made absolutely no sense, did it?”

Fronto burst out laughing. “But that is exactly why it resonates, Antinous. All that is, is its opposite. Socrates was wise precisely because he claimed to know nothing.”

If there was a compliment in his words, I did not accept it. Hardly am I a philosopher – much less one so great as to warrant an undeserved comparison with Socrates. My thoughts were but meanderings, and to express them as I did was only to reveal my mental immaturity relative to the exquisite mind of Fronto.

“Tell me of Hadrian,” he said. “Why?” I asked. “Because he fascinates me,” came the reply, “and you of all the people on this earth may be said to know him the most intimately.”

I considered my answer. “Hadrian believes there is a goodness in every soul. But it is not a goodness that manifests naturally. It must be cultivated. Called forth from beneath the thickest layers of mistrust, ignorance, ruthlessness, and base tendencies. To make manifest one’s goodness is a campaign of considerable effort, lasting, generally, for the entirety of one’s life. Thus it follows that those who are too lazy to expend such an effort must, by necessity, allow their goodness to be blanketed by the myriad of mean qualities which can be said to give them the appearance of being evil. In his heart, Hadrian knows that men are not evil. Therefore if he despises them, it is for that they are lazy – not evil. And if it is laziness that renders men despised by him, then Hadrian himself, in order to uphold his duty as father of the country, must become the paragon of industriousness. He must by his very being embody the qualities of one who is on a constant quest to uncover his goodness, and thus demonstrate to the world by example how such a program of self-expression is to be conducted.”

Fronto nodded pensively, and absorbed my words. I wondered if such an answer had done justice to the man I loved. I doubted it, for how shall I be expected to encapsulate so succinctly the spirit that is Hadrian? To know someone is a process, not a statement of fact. Thus my response, as precisely as I was able to render it, was still far from adequate. But I hoped that it would provide Fronto with a starting point. It occurred to me how ardently I would have liked to eavesdrop on his thoughts just then; to hear what he was thinking on the topic of Hadrian. And so I posed of him the same question he’d asked me before: “What are you thinking?”

He smiled and said, “I am thinking that yours is a mighty intelligence, Antinous. It is quick and perceptive, thoughtful and articulate, kind and compassionate. I am honoured to know it, however imperfectly such a limited language of words allows.”

Who am I, Lysicles, and what have I done to deserve such a swell of unfettered love from the company I so luckily keep? A.

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