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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  ~089 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~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
  ~099 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~100 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~101 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~102 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~103 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~104 Epistle Coming Soon
  ~105 Epistle Coming Soon
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Phallic Amulets

On the Isthmus


Our departure from Corinth brought us, within but an hour, to the Temple of Poseidon and the opening of the Isthmian Games, whose offerings were among the most generous I have ever seen. As this was the capstone of the CCXXVIth Olympiad, Hadrian presided over the games with great fanfare and marvellous felicity, bringing to the celebrations a palpable sense of pride and renewal in his inauguration of the Panhellenion.

The competitions were glorious and invigorating to watch, despite the sediment of memories they occasionally churned up from the lakebed of my mind; the discomfort of desperate hours alone on the fields of the elementary school while the other boys excluded me from their play. At one point during the spear throw I turned to look up at Carisius, who was seated a few rows behind me. He glanced down and held with me a long moment of expressionless silence before looking away. I could hardly fathom what it meant, although it left me feeling chilled inside, despite the intensity of the sun that beat down upon our heads.

I am not a wrestler, yet enjoy its spectacle. And I am certainly not a runner, but will cheer myself hoarse in the excitement of a close footrace. With regard to the chariots – those massive and unwieldy wheels forever hitched to the glamour of their speed – I admit (a little sheepishly) that they are not quite so enthralling to me as the magic of a well-made poem. Thus was it the poets who most delighted me, and I marvelled at the astonishing dexterity of their words.

When each day’s winners had received their crown of pines and their prize money, they were all invited to feast with Hadrian and his company for the evening. Even those athletes who had not achieved a victory, yet still by their extraordinary skill (or beauty) had captivated the Emperor, were called to celebrate with us. It was a boisterous and rambunctious string of nights, whose only discernable sadness was caused by the perpetual absence of Vitalis, who was too weak to join us.

Hadrian had warned me earlier of his intent with regard to the Games: “It is not often we find ourselves in the company of such a diverse and elite collection of youths. I shall take my pleasures from them – and do earnestly hope that you will too.” I smiled at him and answered: “I’ll do my best to keep up, and we can compare notes each morning.” He laughed at that and kissed me lovingly.

Thus was Hadrian each evening with a different fellow occupied, and I was left on my own to play. On those evenings I did not return to spend time with Vitalis, I exchanged my pleasures with four of the athletes – two younger runners whose leanness I admired, a wrestler of my own age whose strength and physicality inspired in me a great and instant desire, and a XXV year-old charioteer slave who, although not the victor this particular year, was nevertheless gifted with a most beauteous body.

Yet of all the nights which I enjoyed during the Games, the most resplendent was the one which occurred on the second last. For it was then that Favorinus, Fronto and I took for ourselves two of the competing poets whom we all agreed were worthy of much admiration, and the five of us spent a happy evening in the erotic thrall of a symposium to make Dionysus proud. As the wine soaked into our bodies, one of the poets, a handsome XXXIV year-old named Septimus Darius, spontaneously composed a spectacular ode in my honour, which had me blushing both from embarrassment and awe at his quick-witted brilliance. This in turn inspired the others to follow suit, each man responding to the fellow before him and all of them making good use of the occasion to coax me (albeit without much resistance) into their distinctively personalized pleasures. Naturally, as each successive act occurred, the others watched eagerly. And although it was a rather debaucherous evening, I maintain that it was a necessary distraction; a much-needed time apart from the depressing reality of Vitalis, who was (and still is) not faring well.

At the close of the Games, we spent some private time at the temple of Palaemon that Hadrian himself ordered built when last he travelled through the region. And although I succeeded (barely!), I nevertheless found it agonizingly difficult to suppress my sacrilegious laughter when the priests invoked the story of the boy-god. I struggled desperately not to make eye-contact with either Fronto or Favorinus, knowing full well that to do so would render me helpless to control my escaping giggles. Thus I kept my head down throughout the sacrifices and made a point of concentrating intently on the offering. The blood of the bull as it spilled upon the altar was helpful in this regard, yet still I knew that one look into the face of Fronto and I’d lose all my composure.*

From the temple, we continued eastward through the treacherous Scironian rocks that overlooked the Saronic Gulf. Hadrian, in what has become for him a constant vigilance, was not happy with the state of the road along the pass, and ordered a fresh bout of construction so that it could be made more accessible to wagons and their commerce. In this regard, he once again assumed the role of Theseus (and indeed, sent messengers ahead to Athens to remind them of it), who triumphed over that ancient malcontent for whom those very rocks are named.

With our arrival today at Megara, the eyes of Vitalis have turned decidedly yellow and his health continues to tumble downward. The physicians have all been solicited for their opinions and those who are in agreement with each other have been authorized by a very sombre Hadrian to prepare their strongest potions. Despite his obvious pain, Vitalis nevertheless manages to respond to my presence with a feeble smile, and also bestows the same gift upon the daily visits of poor Decentius, who is beside himself with the wretched frustration that inevitably attends our utter helplessness as mortals. And so, despite the very best efforts of all, as I write this, Vitalis lies pitifully in a bed beside me, sweating and sleeping fitfully, wheezing with the laboured breaths of one who, in his mind’s eye, is no doubt standing amid the noxious mists that prowl upon the nearer banks of the Styx. There is a shape upon the dark waters: a small boat that slowly pushes through the sulphurous fog toward him. Whether he can find the strength to run away and rejoin us in the world of the living is yet uncertain. I am terribly worried for him, and know not what to do except write of it.

Such is the news. We shall remain here for some days while the Athenians no doubt scramble to prepare for us. Hadrian sleeps alone tonight, for which I am grateful – I suspect he is as exhausted as I. I am saddened by the thought that he and I have had few occasions to speak since arriving in Achaea, and will likely have just as few while he conducts his business in Megara. Yet he has promised me his fullest attention when we arrive in Athens, for he is eager to parade his Favourite youth around his favourite city, and looking forward to standing at my side before the priests of Eleusis. I am, naturally, excited for it, but scared as well, for it is a weighty rite that I must question if I am indeed ready to receive.

I suddenly miss you dearly, Lysicles, and know quite easily why. With each passing milestone eastward, I am brought closer and closer to you; to wherever you may be. Are you in Antioch, as Mordanticus once dubiously reported? Are you still at home, with your wonderful parents? Are you married yet? Or have you picked up your sack and taken to the road, becoming for me a constantly moving target that I shall never truly capture. I must hope that you have stayed where you belong – in Claudiopolis – which has been marked for our train’s arrival in the springtime. I can barely imagine it: the prospect of kicking at your door, and watching it open to reveal your surprised and beautiful face. O my friend, I am returning to Bythinia! Will you be there to receive me? A.

* In this paragraph and the one above it, Antinous is making reference to The Isthmian Odes that were recited during his evening with the poets. The memory of their tellers’ irreverence, as well as the erotic activities that accompanied them, would still have been quite fresh in his mind as he stood in the temple of Palaemon at Hadrian’s side.

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