Eromenos by Melanie McDonald
This coming-of-age novel recounts the brief, tumultuous life of Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth who becomes the lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian at age twelve, after he is plucked from the obscurity of his home in Asia Minor following an earthquake; shipped overseas to Rome; enrolled in the Imperial School, and asked to serve at court, along with a cadre of fellow students all handpicked for their beauty, intelligence and athletic prowess, in order to please the emperor.
Antinous soon captures the attention of Hadrian, fourteenth ruler of the Roman Empire, and joins him as a hunting companion on a boar hunt in the Arcadian forest, where Hadrian takes the boy as his beloved (eromenos), a practice he and other Roman aristocrats follow in emulation of the ancient Greek bond between man and boy.
Afterward, Antinous becomes Hadrian's acknowledged "favorite," a position that complicates his relationships with friends and nemeses at court, even as his intimacy with the emperor deepens and he matures toward manhood. Antinous witnesses the wonders and horrors of the Empire at its zenith; meets the eminent philosophers, writers, architects and scientists of the imperial courts in Rome and Athens; and undergoes initiation into religious mysteries within the cults of Demeter and of Mithras.
On a lion hunt during a sojourn to Egypt and Africa, Antinous is subjected to a test of skill during a lion hunt which almost proves disastrous. Afterward, while the imperial flotilla navigates the Nile, Antinous, now almost nineteen, grapples with questions of love, power, honor, manhood and selfhood which have arisen from seven years of intimacy with Hadrian, and makes a decision to undergo an act of ritual devotion, the consequences of which reverberated throughout the world of antiquity.
In a style similar to Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar, EROMENOS gives voice to a character who captivated an Emperor both in life and after death—Hadrian commissioned hundreds of works to immortalize his beloved youth, many of which still may be seen in museums today—and who achieved apotheosis as a pagan god of late antiquity, one whose cult of adoration lasted hundreds of years after his death at age nineteen in 130CE (and far outlasted the cult of Hadrian himself); this account of the affair between the emperor and his beloved ephebe vindicates a beautiful, brilliant young man whose story often outraged early Christian church fathers and historians such as St. Athanasius, who vilified Antinous as a "shameless and scandalous boy," the "sordid and loathsome instrument of his master's lust."
In Eromenos, Antinous, long silenced and scorned by history, speaks at last.
Melanie McDonald received an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas, where she also taught World Literature and Honors World Literature, and received the Claude Faulkner Award, the Fulbright College Baum Award, and the University Graduate Teaching Award for teaching excellence. Her work has appeared in Fugue, New York Stories, Indigenous Fiction and other literary magazines. She has received a fellowship for a residency with the Hawthornden International Writers Program in Scotland in November 2008; she also received a fellowship toward a residency at Vermont Studio Center in 2002. She attended the international summer writing program at NUI, Galway, in 2005, and has participated in various writing workshops in New York City, Squaw Valley, Napa Valley, and in Paris, where she studied with C. Michael Curtis, the senior fiction editor for The Atlantic Monthly. Eromenos, her debut novel, has just been released by Seriously Good Books, a new small press for historical fiction.
Thank you to Melanie for providing us with all of this background on Eromenos.
For those readers interested in Ancient Rome and want to read Eromenos, today is your lucky day! If you enjoy Kate Quinn's bools or Michelle Moran's, I bet you would enjoy Eromenos also.
Melanie is generously offering two lucky followers of HF-Connection each an autographed copy of her book Eromenos!
To enter, just simply comment here with your email address! Open to USA, and giveaway ends 5/13.
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