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
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Phallic Amulets

The Tour Begins


I have taken to recording the names of each of the villages, towns and cities to which our train arrives, that I may access my list and refresh my memory when I sit down to compose to you these intermittent missives.

So it was that from Rome we travelled the Via Appia south-eastward across the hills of Italia, passing through the villages of Terracina, Fundi, Formiae, Minturnae, Capua, and Caudium, to arrive at last at Beneventum. ‘Twas there we dined with one Ennius Firmus, a long-time acquaintance of Hadrian, whom the emperor had made curatore of the town. Upon my introduction, Firmus gazed at me for several indulgent moments and then with a smile looked back to Hadrian. “His renown is well-deserved,” said Firmus, and Hadrian most readily agreed. Over dinner that night they spoke of many things, including the baths whose construction Firmus had recently overseen, and Hadrian announced that he would sample from them after the meal. It was a spontaneous decision that caused Firmus to set in motion a flurry of instructions to his attending slaves. And so it was that several of us bathed by lamplight that evening, and Hadrian was satisfied that the building project was a success. As an additional benefit, we both felt remarkably refreshed that night as we crawled into bed together, and our exchange of pleasures was therefore particularly energetic and enjoyable.

The following morning we were off again, this time along the Via Traiana. Hadrian paid particular attention to the state of repair of the road, which was generally good, and thus as we passed through Aecae, Canusium, and Barletta, he made his approval known to its officials, who beamed with pride. Our reception along the entire route was uniformly enthusiastic, and I must admit that the cheering of the nameless multitudes, punctuated by the lofty words of not-so-nameless magistrates, has already become a rather mundane spectacle to my eyes. If this is how we are to be greeted at every town’s gate, I may as well say here and now that such is to be assumed as a standard feature of our travels, and I’ll never again mention it unless a particular reception somehow differs from the archetype.

From Butonti we took the coast road to Barium, and from there boarded a ship and sailed out onto the fat and sparkling Adriatic. Actually, I ought to clarify: we boarded several ships. For the entourage is amazingly large, encompassing a broad range of names and faces. There travels with us Phlegon (naturally) and the Caesarnii (double naturally), as well as Commodus, Fuscus, Favorinus, Polemo, Fronto, and a fellow named Pancrates, of whom I know little. Among Sabina’s women are her three friends I have mentioned previously: Parthenia, Melino, and Balbilla. There are XIV pages among us, drawn from the ranks of both the Palatine and the Villa, including Vitalis to Keep the Personal Horse, and Carisius (alas!) to Keep the Purple Robes. Turbo commands a substantial Praetorian detachment, of which Decentius is a ranked fellow on account of his personal mission to me. There is also a wide assortment of lictors and slaves to round out the procession which numbers, according to Phlegon’s latest count, at CLXXI.

We docked for the night in Cyllene, and then spent the next morning aboard ships once again sailing deeper into the Gulf of Corinth. (I have become quite a geography expert by the side of Hadrian, who, seemingly on a daily basis, looks upon one of many maps of the world that are brought before his eyes.) We landed at Panormos next, spent a very pleasant night, and then the following day set sail once more. We arrived in Corinth just past noon, to the cries of a cheering throng. (Okay, so I lied. It has been mentioned yet again.)

And so have I been here, in the heart of Achaia, for these past several days. True to its reputation, Corinth is indeed a bold, brazen, and bacchanalian town. Boats like sea-birds flock to its many ports, and some, like turtles, even make the arduous journey on the backs of slaves over the isthmus to reach its opposite waters. I saw no evidence of those notorious cruelties for which the residents of Corinth are often expected to answer, but then again, they very likely scrubbed their faces prior to our arrival. Most are all smiles, all the time.

We began our stay with the presentation, on the first evening, of a rousing oratory by Favorinus. His topic was “bridges,” a subject for which he was particularly well-suited as he comes from a place where boats themselves have been made into a permanent bridge. He flattered the Corinthians – they who are the guardians of the land bridge between Attica and the Peloponnese – with the sentiment that they are also, like priests in a temple, the bridge-builders twixt gods and men, for they administer to the glory of both Olympians and mortals alike one of the four sacred crown games of the Panhellenion. Such an astonishing word was that for them to hear coined! Indeed, it was Hadrian himself who instructed Favorinus to use it, and thus begin to seed into the minds of men his role as their great unifier. So taken was his audience with the hermaphrodite’s words that they immediately promised to erect a statue of him in their forum. Fronto, who was seated beside me in the odeon, could not help but marvel: “We have just witnessed the most perfect confluence of rhetorical beauty and political ends.” I looked at him with a smirk and said: “Are they not one and the same?” And we both laughed at that.

On a more sombre note, Vitalis has recently caught ill. Although this is cause for some worry, he is, naturally, putting on a brave face and trying as best he can through the nausea and aching flesh to remain lively and alert, as his name would imply. Some hours are better than others, and, although he told me yesterday he was improving, I did not see any evidence of that upon his face, where the exhaustion was beginning to show. I told Hadrian of my concern for Vitalis and he has since ordered the youth into bed, to be carried by litter when we depart in just a few days. You can imagine how this has upset the poor fellow, who is embarrassed to be treated in such a sheltered and womanly way when his friends and his king ride stoutly upon their steeds. As is right and proper, I went today to make an offering to Aesculapius on my friend’s behalf. May the god hear me and answer with a smile!

With regard to state business, Hadrian’s latest benefaction upon the city was to announce the funding for a new baths complex. This additional construction is partly to reward the Corinthians for the speed and efficiency with which their aqueduct from Lake Stymphalus is nearing completion. But this is hardly a surprise, given that everyone, as far as I can tell, is eagerly (by which I mean thirstily) anticipating the arrival of an ample supply of freshwater, especially after this most recent summer in which the shortages were widespread and, at times, frightening.

In acknowledgement of Hadrian’s munificence, gifts presented to him in return included two Purple robes, a small statue of the boy god Palaemon upon his dolphin, and, from a sorry-looking delegation of Christians, a lecture (yes – a lecture!) on how their particular sect manages to remain loyal to its poverty in the midst of the cosmopolitan opulence of Corinth. I hardly need tell you that Hadrian had a chuckle or two over that.

I suppose what he finds most amusing in regards to the Christians is the arrogance with which they claim to be guardians of the godliest truths. To be sure, the Jews are an impenetrable lot, and guard among themselves their holy practice, yet at least their priests are not so stupid as to openly declare our Roman gods untenable. In contrast, the Christians loudly and rabidly frown upon all gods but their Anointed One. What’s more, they openly disdain as filthy all that is Hellenic and glorious. It is this haughtiness, I think, which causes them to be so despised among right-thinking men – including the sensible Hebrew priests who deem their squabbling sects to be farcical at best and fraudulent at worst. Indeed, ours is an immeasurable world filled with beautiful, terrible, majestic, erotic, lovable, and unknowable gods; yet wherever stands a Christian can be heard the proclamation of only one worth worshipping: his own. No wonder Hadrian groans to look on them, for they are not so much a thorn in the side of the Pantheon as they are a very bad and embarrassing joke among insulted and unsympathetic men.

So ends my first dispatch from the road (and sea). Yet to whom shall I hand it? Where shall I store it? I would rather that these missives are kept apart from both myself and my life with Hadrian, for that would most appropriately reflect my relation to you, Lysicles, who flowered and faded upon my senses long before the world in which I now walk was conceived. Methinks I shall therefore ask my beloved and brawny Decentius to be my personal secretary, and keep safe for me this and all future letters.

If he agrees, they shall have found a home in his hands. If he refuses, then I shall plant them in the soils of the many lands over which we trek, and imagine that one day soon they shall sprout and blossom into an earth-spanning garden that sings only of the love I hold for Lysicles – my most ethereal friend. A.

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