Synopsis:Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity. In this coming-of-age novel set in the second century AD, Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor, recounts his seven-year affair with Hadrian, fourteenth emperor of Rome. In a partnership more intimate than Hadrian's sanctioned political marriage to Sabina, Antinous captivates the most powerful ruler on earth both in life and after death.
This version of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates the youth scorned by early Christian church fathers as a "shameless and scandalous boy" and "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust." EROMENOS envisions the personal history of the young man who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of antiquity, whose cult of worship lasted for hundreds of years—far longer than the cult of the emperor Hadrian.
In EROMENOS, the young man Antinous, whose beautiful image still may be found in works of art in museums around the world, finds a voice of his own at last.
Though slim, this novel is surprisingly thorough in the story of Antinous. Set in the second century A.D., Eromenos recounts Antinous' short life from a young boy living in rural Bithynia to his untimely death.
I loved the richness of the details in this book right from the beginning. Eromenos describes all of the scenery of Antinous' home and travels. I knew very little about this time period or Hadrian's rule. However, without knowing much beforehand, I fell into the story and felt like I knew Antinous personally.
Antinous meets Emperor Hadrian on one of Hadrian's tours through his empire. Shortly thereafter, Antinous is invited to study at Hadrian's school in Rome. Antinous excells in his studies, causing Hadrian to notice him once again. As Antinous deals with the social stratification that exists within Rome and especially Hadrian's court, Hadrian begins to pay more attention to Antinous. Antinous learns that Hadrian's current favorite young boy is getting too old to be considered a favorite anymore.
After some time, Hadrian invites Antinous on a trip. Antinous learns on that trip what it means to be one of Hadrian's eromenos. From then on Antinous works to figure out what his role is in Hadrian's court. He doesn't want to abuse any power he may be given and he works to stay as Hadrian's favorite while maintaining his own self-respect
When Antinous starts to grow too old to stay in the same position in Hadrian's court, he must decide what the rest of his life will be like. How will he take care of himself and who will stay on his side. Antinous' decision is poignant and beautifully written.
While I highly enjoyed Eromenos, I want to know more about the people surrounding Antinous, especially Hadrian. The story is told only through Antinous, who has to spend most of the time figuring out life at court by himself. I want the whole story and what the other characters thought and how they viewed Antinous. Therefore, I enjoyed this novel as a microcosm on Antinous' life but it did leave me wanting more because I felt there was more to the story.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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