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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.

176 pages, Paperback

First published March 11, 2011

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About the author

Melanie J. McDonald

1 book10 followers
Melanie McDonald was awarded a 2008 Hawthornden Fellowship for Eromenos.

She has an MFA from the University of Arkansas. Her short stories have appeared in New York Stories, Fugue, Indigenous Fiction, and online. An Arkansas native whose Campbell ancestors were Highland Scots, she now lives in Virginia with her husband, Kevin McDonald, the author of Above the Clouds: Managing Risk in the World of Cloud Computing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 68 reviews
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,860 reviews1,899 followers
August 11, 2020
The Publisher Says: 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.

My Review: There have been books aplenty in the voice of Hadrian, Emperor of Rome, but so far as I know none in the voice of his beloved Antious of Bithynia. Antinous is portrayed in this book as he reflects on his life at its end. How and why his life is ending, if one isn't familiar with the story, is a question still of some interest to scholars, who don't have a solid consensus about causes and motivations. Hey, it's almost 2,000 years ago! No one knows *any*thing for sure at that distance in time. But Melanie McDonald creates a composed, mature voice for this important and vital character in her novel, titled after the Greek word describing Antinous's relationship to Hadrian. The course of Antinous's life, the exciting events in it, and the reasons for his long tenure as Hadrian's eromenos, are presented in swift, sure prose; the inevitable, it would seem, conclusion is very nicely handled; and the narrative frame, the temple offering of a manuscript in Serapis's sacrificial fire, gives the book a very agreeable frisson of the supernatural.

This is a first novel for both author and publisher. The degree to which this surprises me is a testament to the very high design, production, and editorial standards the publisher adhered to. I think the book is very, very well-conceived, but I know that it owes a great deal to the vision of a small, new publishing venture that it came out at all, and that it looks and feels so good in its present form.

Experiencing the joy, pain, humiliation, love, lust, and hate that Antinous feels for his old-man lover is extraordinary. That the author is a married straight lady makes me think she's channeling a past life! (That was a joke, Ms. McD, should you chance to read this review...I think it is, anyway....)

The book posits a reason for the mysterious death of Antinous, an event that caused Hadrian such acute agony that his final 8 years were spent in a kind of mourning for his lost love, that had not occurred to me...an explanation that accounts for some of the strangeness of the timing of his death, which has always made me think that the hints and rumors of murder were just off. It's a valid reason, or complex of reasons, and it rings true enough that I wish it were possible to research it. (Absent time travel to the past, an unlikely development, it isn't. Drat you, Albert Einstein!)

My quibbles are few, the largest being that I find references made by Antinous to Christianity to be extremely unlikely to be accurate; a minor Jewish cult would not have made the radar screens of a person at such a rareified remove from ancient Palestine's nasty, squabbling inhabitants; the Christians hadn't made it big enough yet for someone not Palestinian to know the things Antinous is portrayed as knowing.

It didn't ruin the book for me, though, and I certainly hope you'll all zip right out to Amazon or somewhere and get a copy of this beautiful, well-written, and very engrossing story.
Profile Image for Warwick.
812 reviews14.5k followers
January 21, 2014
Eromenos is a novel sketched as it were in the margins of Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian. It adds little, though, to the story of Hadrian and Antinous, and the few moments which openly invite comparison between the two books only draw attention to a difference in quality.

It's not awful. If you have an interest in Roman history, this tale of a Greek country boy who became the Emperor's ‘beloved’ has some points of interest and McDonald has done plenty of research into the time and place. Unfortunately the book doesn't wear its learning lightly, and some passages – lists of commodity prices in Rome for instance – seem little more than a way to infodump some of the things the author has researched. Similarly Antinous's tendency to compare everything to Greek myth seems less like the behaviour of a second-century teenage diarist and more like the behaviour of a 21st-century novelist who wants us to know she's read Hesiod.

Conversation scenes are a little laboured, with a tendency towards too much unmotivated exposition. And the historical setting does sometimes tempt the author into rather clunky quasi-archaic word choices, uncolloquial parenthetical asides, and occasional poetic lapses which didn't work well for me:

What a happy hound I was in those green and gold days, content to bask beneath the emperor's gaze, loll at his feet and watch him in silence. Looking back, I can see how such adoration, innocent though it was, might well seduce its object with as much efficacy as the oft-honed skills of a jade.

It's all rather infelicitously-phrased. I seem to be concentrating on the negatives here, but that's not because I think the book is a waste of time, but because I think there is a good novel somewhere in here that's been slightly buried by a few literary affectations and, perhaps, a lack of confidence in what the narrative voice should be.

I actually read this straight after reading Yourcenar, which probably didn't help. It made an interesting footnote, but not much more than that.
Profile Image for Aleksandr Voinov.
Author 80 books2,398 followers
February 11, 2011
There are plenty of books in the genre that are a struggle to read even once. Even more aren't worth being read more than once. There's nothing left to discover, and I delete these off my reader without regrets. Then there are books like "Eromenos" by Melanie McDonald, which I read twice to be able to review it, and will very likely read a couple more times. (This from somebody who rarely, if ever, re-reads fiction books – non-fiction is a different matter.)

What made Eromenos so compelling for me was the style and the authenticity. Frankly, few authors in the genre write as well as McDonald, and even fewer look behind the mask of their characters, so when you find a book like that, it's a rare ray of sunlight in what threatens to be fairly drab and mediocre world – at least when I despair over the genre, as I sometimes do and every time I read a bad book that somehow got published.

Here's one of the rare gems that make it worthwhile. And if "Eromenos" is a gem, it's an opal. Glittering depths and sparks of light and brilliance, a complex aray of meaning that is great to discover a first time, even better the second time around, and strong enough to earn a permanent space on my bookshelf.

On the surface, it's another novel (or short novel/novella, it's pretty short at under 180 pages in the formatting on my e-reader, of which around 30 pages are appendices and intro) about Antinous, the Greek favourite of Roman emperor Hadrian. It's the second Antinous novel I've read (after Gardiner's The Hadrian Enigma and it's facinating how different the two books are.

McDonald's book is written in first person from the view of Antinous just before he commits suicide. The mysterious death of the emperor's lover on the cusp of manhood has always intrigued historians and writers, and every one has found his or her own solution. In this case, it's suicide.

But it's more than that (so I'm not really giving away the twist of the story here). It's a short memoir where we learn about Antinous's youth in Bythinia, his training, how Hadrian chose him, and about life at court. It's not a historical romance by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly not an erotic romance. Sex is hinted at and more or less symbolic. Hadrian must have what Hadrian wants, and as the most powerful man of his time, who would deny him?

At the same time, Antinous knows about the vulnerabilities of the great man, and plays dumb to survive the power struggles at court. He's not a player, he's not a pawn, he's an outsider in a very privileged position and defined as "Hadrian's favourite".

In this is the true tragedy of the character. He's defined as Hadrian's lover, and yet about to lose his position (as he's getting too old, and while it's fine for an emperor to take a boy or youth as a lover, it's unseemly to have a man as a consort). And once the emperor has severed those ties, where else does he have to turn to? What else could he possibly be? From the dizzying heights he has climbed (or rather, has been elevated to due to his good looks and a healthy portion of luck), anything after that would be a fall and descent into anonymity and insignificance.

The tragedy is that because of Hadrian, Antinous can't be Antinous. He can't discover who he really is, because he is the emperor's consort. But even without Hadrian, he'll only be the ex-consort. Who and what he is beyond that is the question that makes suicide such a tempting option. He can be tied forever to Hadrian, becomes eternal in joining – according to the magical thinking of the time – his lifeforce with that of the emperor and prolong his life.

The memoir we read is that search for identity, which asks these questions. Who could I be? Who could I have been? And many of those questions have no answers. The search for these answers is what defines Antinous in the book – he is a cypher, both for historians and writers and for himself. The suicide makes him even more that.

If that makes it sound like a self-pitying, whining book, it's not. It's an earnest quest for identity and purpose (this is where the authenticity comes in). The book is literary in style and depth, and treats both the history and sexual mores of the time with great respect. There's a lot of research in this, both how a man of the times would frame things, what he'd refer to and how he'd express himself. References to mythology and history firmly ground the character in history.

The relationship between Hadrian and Antinous is an unequal one. An eromenos is the beloved, and the junior partner to an erastes, supposedly to be taught and prepared to become a man, but ultimately, it's not the equal partnership of two men that romantic love would suggest. And while there's fondness and affection in the text, I don't read Antinous as being romantically in love with Hadrian. He was clearly infatuated and loved him during the early stages of the relationship, but that emotion is tempered and changes into something else during the telling.

And how could Antinous, now more mature, really truly deeply madly love Hadrian? In the end, he is "just" the consort. He plays his role because that's his duty, he's been chosen, but he's never an equal partner and can't possibly be. Hadrian calls all the shots.

Here's a small piece of text from the start:

"When I was six, wandering about the cook's garden behind our villa, I discovered a field mouse dead in a thicket of berry brambles as high as my waist. Gazing at those translucent claws, his fur the color of bark and stone, I wondered how he came to be suspended there between earth and sky, like a tiny Antaeus. Maybe he had climbed up to escape one of our cats or wriggled loose from the talons of a hawk or owl only to drop down and become entangled in those thorns he mistook for his salvation. Perhaps he had been summoned there by Apollo Smynthius, Lord of field mice and the plague, my favourite god in the story of the Greek war against the Trojans.

Studying the creature's unnatural position, my wonder turned to pity, for death had left him in a state of indignity. Heedless of the bramble spines that scored my forearms, I reached into the thicket to dislodge him, an effort frustrated by the clumsiness of my childish fingers. I carried him away and deposited him on solid ground at last beneath a rosebush, where his tiny stink bothered no one as he returned to the soil.

I wondered if mice went to Hades, and imagined their tiny shades scrabbling about among the tall ones of famous men."

This little piece foreshadows the whole book – the similarity of the names – Antaeus and Antinous – is hardly accidental. And Antinous, too, writing this just before he dies, is suspended between earth and sky. Compared to Hadrian, the "famous man", he's nothing but a field mouse.

It's layers like this that make the book such a joy. While eminently readable, historically accurate, there are depths to discover, symbols, foreshadowings, and it's all written beautifully, too, which made this a five star read for me.

(This review will also appear on www.speakitsname.com)
Profile Image for Kassa.
1,118 reviews108 followers
April 26, 2011
I sat down to read just a few pages of Eromenos by Melanie J. McDonald and I couldn’t put it down. I read the entire novel in one sitting and wanted more. Though there are numerous books about the emperor Hadrian and from his viewpoint, this is the first one I’ve come across that features the dead lover Antinous. Here the young Antinous tells his life and how he became the emperor’s favorite and the events that led to his death. The story is beautifully written with obvious historical research but a fascinatingly complex twist to Antinous’ actions and reasons. This isn’t a romance, though there is love, it’s more a compelling examination of a young man’s life.

The story is told from Antinous’ first person perspective as he reflects on his life. He describes his early childhood with his parents before they died, his grief and how he learned about vulnerability and strength. Growing up as he did, outside of a big city, changes how Antinous views the world and the people in it. From those defining years to his appointment as page to the emperor and eventually favorite, Antinous is always set apart and in many ways different from the people around him. He writes and observes with a detached perspective. He wants a connection, desperately yearns for emotion that will move him, change him, and form him into something better than he is but never seems to find it. Instead he observes those around him, their actions and their weaknesses while inherently knowing how to avoid the same pitfalls.

Much has been made historically about Antinous’ death and whether it was murder or something else. Eromenos offers a very realistic version of events and complicated reasoning resulting in Antinous’ death and here, suicide. This isn’t a spoiler for those that are familiar with the historical characters and those new to them can easily glean this through the numerous foreshadowing passages. These asides are often obvious in their purpose but seen through Antinous’ eyes give new meaning. How he interprets these events is what is important and they form the framework of what Antinous will realize about his life.
Antinous spends the novel struggling to define who he is and what he wants out of life. This is juxtaposed to what he will be able to have as the soon to be ex-favorite. Once he’s nineteen he will no longer allowed to be the emperor’s favorite and must be cast aside for a new boy. Antinous describes how his youthful worship of Hadrian turns into love and eventually how the love and relationship changes him in numerous ways. These changes aren’t always good and Antinous struggles with the lack of choice. He comes to realize that his life and his love are not what he wanted or what he would have chosen but the series of lucky events and a pretty face have forced him into this life.

One of the main aspects of the story is of course Hadrian’s relationship with Antinous. Hadrian falls for the young man’s face but is warped by the lack of love in his life so he can’t trust Antinous’ love. Antinous has incredibly insightful and intelligent analysis of Hadrian, far more than a boy his age would have so that’s clearly the author’s inclusion but I can’t say that bothered me at all. The sometimes brilliant glimpses into the real character of the emperor provide a fascinating look. Antinous sums up their relationship perfectly with this statement towards the end:

Once I believed our life together represented a great love, like the heroes of old, the bonds of the Sacred Band. Instead, it is about power and control. Hadrian holds all that power, always has, and always will.

Hadrian’s need for control warps Antinous and eventually changes his love for Hadrian. The change is fascinating as Antinous gives examples of how it happens and why it could have been another way. Antinous talks about how he willingly would have given his love and submission to Hadrian had he asked but instead Hadrian’s need to take and not trusting any love ends up ruining that love for Antinous.

The excellent characterization blends seamlessly into the excellent writing. The prose is crisp, clean and evocative. The descriptions are lush and the actions are obviously historically accurate, or they seem that way to me. In some cases the detached manner of the story also works against it. I would have liked more personal inflection in the narrator’s voice as he talks about events that happen over years. It’s almost a recitation and while these events are interesting, they also feel somewhat dry without the personal connection. They discuss important events in Hadrian’s life and reign but only sometimes are these events connected to Antinous’ life in a meaningful way. Those that are really shine and I occasionally wished for more.

Overall though, Eromenos is a stunning debut novel filled with fascinating characters and an interesting struggle. The main character steals your attention and affection, compelling you to follow as he tries to define himself and realizes the only choice left to him. His reasons are complicated yet honest and very real. It’s easy to see how this alternate explanation could have been true. This is definitely a book I’ll reach to again and again for something satisfying and intriguing.
Profile Image for Meg - A Bookish Affair.
2,444 reviews197 followers
September 16, 2011
Ancient Rome has quickly become one of my favorite places to read about. Okay, really any book that has to do with anything involving Italy or the area that became Italy intrigues me. The Romans are fascinating to me. You have all sorts of larger than life personalities marching through all of the different stories about Ancient Rome. This story was new to me. I knew of Hadrian (my husband had photographed a lot of his villa while in Italy studying during college) but I did not know about the great love affair between Antinous and Hadrian.

You have handsome, young Antinous and aging Hadrian who almost seems to yearn for Antinous' youth even though Hadrian is an incredibly powerful emperor. Hadrian brings Antinous to Rome to study in one of the best schools. Hadrian and Antinous' love soon blossoms.

I really liked the character of Antinous, who is our narrator for this book. He is very young but learns very quickly the sort of games he must play in order to retain Hadrian's favor. He is also incredibly vulnerable and isn't sure that he can make Hadrian love him forever. At only a little over 150 pages, this book is short but we easily fall for the characters.

One of the highlights of the book is the descriptions. I was drooling over the descriptions of some of the food in the book. I thought the book also had a good sense of place. I could see the hills of Rome and the Roman Forum and the palaces.

One drawback to the shortness of the book is that I found myself wanting a lot more. The ending is good and gripping but I just wasn't ready to leave the characters quite yet!

Bottom line: This is a great book for any historical fiction lover!
Profile Image for M.
847 reviews101 followers
March 3, 2012
I'm a bit conflicted about this book. It tells the story of the Roman emperor Hadrian and his famous lover Antinous. I love the setting and the context (although I wish Antinous wasn't quite so young) but I almost felt it was too flat; I finished it and I just don't feel satisfied. For a book written from a first-person perspective it never really gets emotional enough for me, but I guess that's because there's very little dialogue. It is very well written though, and presumably well-researched. I just feel like something is missing, something that books like Mary Renault's The Persian Boy and Heather Domin's Soldier of Raetia have in abundance. I can't pinpoint what, exactly. Maybe it's because we never really get a good look at the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous; their interactions are described very briefly. That said, it's still a lovely, melancholy little read. And if you're keen on historical fiction, it's well worth it.
Profile Image for Camilla Monk.
Author 11 books645 followers
September 5, 2017
This is arguably one of my favorite books. The writing is nothing short of sublime, crisp and erudite, void of the weight of purple prose. Every single detail is carefully researched, and the characterization of both Hadrian and Antineous is complex, subtle, and uncompromising. Melanie J. McDonald does not attempt to layer modern moral considerations over this 2,000 years old love story. I can only dream of ever writing something that good.
Profile Image for Sally.
Author 126 books303 followers
August 4, 2011
Carefully researched and meticulously crafted, this is a story that grabbed my attention from word one, and which refused to relinquish that hold, keeping me in thrall until I had finished every word. This is historical fiction at its finest, honest and open about its subject matter, and straightforward in its telling, with no colouring of events from a contemporary narrator.

On one level, this a simple coming of age tale, taking us through the live (and death) of Antinous. We follow him on a journey across both landscapes and classes, from one end of the known world to another, and from humble beginnings to the highest of callings. Much of the power of the story is derived from his strength of character, his understanding of his situation, and his self-awareness. Although he is deliciously naive about his place in Hadrian's affections, to start, Antinous proves himself to be a quick study. It would be all to easy to paint a concubine (or eromenos) as a victim, or as an opportunist, Melanie wisely avoids that temptation. Rather than judge him, or cast a moral shadow upon from contemporary times, she allows his story to be told in the context of the times.

Of course, a significant aspect of that classical morality is the lack of judgement regarding homosexuality. More than that, it's the accepted role it played in the class and customs of the time. I found it refreshing to read the story of a young man who feels no shame over his attraction to his fellow students, and no embarrassment for his awestruck affections of the Emperor himself. As a young man, he has a role to play in the affairs of state, and his place at Hadrian's side has considerable precedent.

As for Hadrian, I think Melanie cast him perfectly, portraying him as a human being, rather than some perfect archetype. He can be capricious and cruel at times, but also warm and friendly at others. Although owed respect by his role as Emperor, we see that much of that respect is earned honestly, awarded to him by friends and servants by virtue of his words and his actions. His relationship with Antinous is complex, being a father figure, a best friend, a teacher, a lover, and (somewhat guardedly) a love. There's real emotion between the two, but it's a love that's haunted by the knowledge that it's only acceptable until Antinous reaches a certain age, at which time he must be cast aside.

The historical and geographical details here are as fascinating as they are diverse, introducing (or reminding) us of the most interesting aspects of the classical word, once again seen through the eyes of those who lived it. The aspects of the story relating to Antinous' attitude towards the new religion, Christianity, struck me as oddly amusing, while his faith in the stories of Greek mythology came across as genuine and commendable.

For those who may be put off by the thought of a love story between man and boy, the sexuality is left largely off the page, and what little makes its way through is carefully worded and subdued. For those who are willing to accept that love, even if it's just in the context of the times, this is a remarkable story that is well-worth reading. The language is beautiful, the scenery jumps off the page, and I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a history lesson so much. Melanie has accomplished something masterful here, and it deserves to be widely-read . . . and enjoyed.
Profile Image for Jenny Q.
1,001 reviews54 followers
August 22, 2011
I really enjoyed this lyrical and surprisingly poignant short novel. With meticulous research, lush imagery, and admiration and respect for this pair of lovers, Melanie McDonald has lovingly combined a well-rounded portrait of Hadrian as a man as well as an emperor, with a tender and unconventional coming-of-age story set amidst the decadent prosperity of the ancient Roman empire.

Plucked from obscurity as a small boy and favored by Hadrian for his beauty and Greek heritage, Antinous is destined for a life he never could have imagined. Given a royal education and a luxurious lifestyle, he is groomed to be Hadrian's companion. It's a strange relationship; simple and complex at the same time. Though Antinous is Hadrian's preferred companion for seven years, they both seem to hold each other at arm's length; neither of them entirely comfortable enough in the relationship to give completely of themselves. Hadrian, because he is unable to fully trust anyone, and Antinous, because he can never get past Hadrian as the emperor and god-like figure, even after seven years of witnessing his faults and weaknesses. Yet in the end, both of them create the ultimate tributes to each other.

This is the only book I've ever read about an important historical figure from the point of view of his male lover, and I didn't really know what to expect going into it. Not much is really known about this relationship, aside from Hadrian's obvious grief upon Antinous's death. Rather than focusing on the sexual relationship, (though there is one, to be sure), this story is more an examination of the dynamics of a relationship between two people of different class and the emotional effects of subservience and self-sacrifice; the humanization of a young man known to history as the deity created by those he left behind. This is historical fiction from a different perspective, and I thought it was very interesting, very well-written, and really rather haunting.
Profile Image for Lisa.
893 reviews81 followers
April 15, 2017
I've been trying to find a way to start this review. I've thought about making a disclaimer about my lack of knowledge about the history of Ancient Rome, and more. But the phrase that keeps going through my head is "oh, wow."

I must talk about the last section of the book, Water. Even now, I don't have the words to describe it. It's so well-crafted, so beautifully written, but the emotion there is so agonising to read. The ending is particularly powerful and brought a tear for my eye.

As mentioned above, I don't know a lot about Ancient Rome, but sometimes the mark of a good book is that it leaves you hungering for more information. Eromenos is such a story. I don't mean to say that there should be more of the story (though, there was on incident mentioned in passing that I would liked to have seen fleshed out), but that I want to know more about the time period and the Emperor Hadrian. I've seen the mention of the close relationship with Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian , so I'll be checking that out.

For anyone who is thinking about reading this: do. It's simply astounding.
Profile Image for Laura Gill.
Author 11 books45 followers
October 13, 2018
This is not a long book--in fact, I read it in a matter of hours--but it captures beautifully the affair between Hadrian and Antinous. It's also the best novel about the subject written from the point-of-view of Antinous.

The novel takes the form of a sacred memoir written over the course of the last four days of Antinous's life; at the end, it will be immolated in sacred fire, just as Antinous himself will end in the sacred waters of the Nile. Why does Antinous choose this end? For more than one reason, but the truth he reveals verifies a long-held belief of mine about the relationship between Hadrian and the boy from Bithynia.

Readers will no doubt compare this book with Margaret Yourcenar's The Memoirs of Hadrian, and there are places in Eromenos, especially toward the end, where McDonald seems to echo Yourcenar's narrative.
Profile Image for Angela.
Author 16 books115 followers
March 26, 2011
A great novel that brings to life the tragic love affair of Antinous and Hadrian during the Roman Empire.
Profile Image for Daniel.
342 reviews17 followers
October 28, 2019
Oh my god, I couldn't put it down. It was awesome and I wanna read it again, I was in tears at the end.
Update 2019: My original thoughts still hold up. Though this time it was more bittersweet.
Profile Image for Teodelina.
6 reviews7 followers
May 21, 2011
Yes, decidedly: worth to be read more than once.

Eromenos is a novella (158 pages). The narrator is Antinous; the last four nights of his life, aboard the imperial barge anchored near Hermopolis, he has assigned himself the task of writing, in Greek, some pages intended to disappear with him.

Antinous was born into a modest family; he is an orphan of both parents; he studied in Rome, in the imperial Paedagogium; he has accompanied Hadrian on his journeys throughout the Empire and, most important of all, on his hunting expeditions. Hunt images are one of the novel's major threads, and provide some of the best passages (like the lion hunt episode).

So, it is like Antinous' life describes an arc spanning between two hunting parties: the one which turns into a sweet and sour honeymoon in the Arcadian woods (as this particular Arcadia and Rome seem to be quite close, and I do not think the author believes that in 2nd century CE there were planes, I think Arcadia here is rather a mental place) – and the lion hunt in the desert, which turns into a test – a test Antinous fails.

There is a sort of dialogue between Yourcenar and McDonald: passages of Memoirs of Hadrian are quoted, reworked, transformed. So we can recognize some scenes (the Arcadian woods, the Mithraic initiation, the night in Smyrna, the snake and the wrens, the hare torn out by the hounds, the death of the falcon). But the focus is entirely different. The voice we hear is – definitely - Antinous'.

“He must always win […] I must always, always lose”. Because of his character, because of his life experience, and because he is so close to death, Antinous is absolutely lucid (the author has given him one more name, a family name, Parthenos, which links him with Athena, the bright-eyed goddess). He knows very well he is neither Dionysus, nor Ganymede, nor Hermes, nor any of the gods in whose form Hadrian is so pleased to have him represented. “When Hadrian looks upon me now, he fancies he sees the face of his beloved. He does not. Like Narcissus gazing into the pool, he sees his own youth, Publius Aelius Hadrianus, reflected. That is what he loves. That is what he looks for now when he orders my image recreated over and over in paintings and sculpture […] if he were honest, he would have me made in his own image, draped in his own purple toga.”

The beloved has no choice. “I stayed well away from balconies, ledges, and steep stairwells, in order to prevent any danger to Hadrian, or myself, of falling or being shoved down, as well as to avoid confronting that part of myself which always felt tempted to jump, or push.”

Crucial dilemma. In fact Eromenos opens on a quotation from Catullus 85 (“Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio, et excrucior”).

Not only a personal dilemma. Antinous experiences power. He is under the power of the emperor; he is tempted to impose power on another human, a Caledonian slave girl; he gets trapped in a hall of mirrors, as it were.

Hadrian, too, is only human - but he is the ruler of the civilized world, guardian of the Pax Romana.

To this varius, multiplex, multiformis

"Lover master father brother slave"

Antinous sacrifices himself. There is no other solution. But his last word, as he sinks, is: I.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Michelle Stockard Miller.
332 reviews154 followers
September 8, 2011
Eromenos is a perfect example of why historical fiction is important. Having never heard of Antinous, even in my self-induced and dedicated study of all things historical, I learned of an intimate aspect of the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. And so the crucial aspect of historical fiction is fulfilled. Attracting lay persons (although I wouldn't consider myself a lay person by any means) to history and historical subjects. Not only was the very fact of Antinous's existence in history brought to my attention, but also the ritual of the October Horse and the study of lycanthropy, the former of which I had heard in passing and the latter, of which I had no idea its study extended as far back as antiquity. This, in my opinion, is the unique responsibility of historical fiction. To interest the reader in the further investigation of a time, place, and persons in history.

Not only do we get the fulfillment mentioned above in Eromenos, but we also get an idea of the culture of ancient Rome. Homosexuality was known and accepted, although it seemed tolerated among the patricians, yet frowned upon among the lower classes. I refer to Antinous's passing encounter with a farm boy who seems to judge Antinous's lifestyle disdainfully with one knowing glance. What I found most interesting in the story of Antinous was the fact that, despite his high status as Hadrian's 'favorite', he always had to keep in the back of his mind that one day he would be put aside for someone new, someone younger. Quite sad was that, upon losing his inheritance, he knew he would have no options in society after his favored status was lost. He did not believe truly that Hadrian loved him and, in truth had very ambiguous feelings toward Hadrian himself. A sad realization for us to find out that Hadrian would mourn him so fervently after his death. Perhaps Hadrian would not have put him aside, if we look at his grief as evidence of his true love for Antinous.

Eromenos gives us the tragic story of a boy who was not given much choice in life. We see the fact that once the Emperor sets his favor upon a person, then he must obey, as this royal favor is considered an honor and the knowledge of this is taught early on. A refusal would bring dishonor to the person's family and this was unacceptable in Roman society. In the end, Antinous takes control of his destiny. The result leaves a feeling of sadness and yet, elation for his triumph. In this short book, Ms. McDonald has succeeded in telling us an engaging story while whetting the appetite for historical investigation.
Profile Image for Céline.
Author 1 book15 followers
April 17, 2011
I won this book thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I discovered Antinous during a parisian exhibition about Hadrian's Villa in 1999 and was fascinated by the myth he generated and how little we know about him: a young Greek fron Bithynia which was the Roman Emperor Hadrian's favorite, died at about nineteen by drowning in the Nile, and was later deified. I was looking forward to reading a fiction about him and I was not disappointed at all by this fictional autobiography.
Melanie McDonald's Eromenos is an impressive first book - with a beautiful cover!
The book is carefully researched and it shows - in a positive way. A lot of historical and cultural references are intelligently used, for instance, carefully selected comparisons refering to Greek or Roman culture as well as to a country-based childhood - "like a tiny Antaeus", ... - that Antinous could really have used.
Antinous thinks and acts like a Greek Roman subject of his time, and thus sometimes quite differently from us, which proves the tale to be carefully researched and historically acurate.
Indeed, Ms McDonald has carefully attended to topics such as Greek and/or Roman sexuality, philosphy, politics, way of life, ... and it is very interesting.
But the historical accuracy is not all that is likeable in the book nor all that makes it believable. The cultural clashes between Hadrian's time and ours don't prevent us from caring for Antinous. Indeed, the novel exudes emotion and empathy, Antinous is a real human being, not the unknowable and mysterious idol we might think of. I liked to read Ms McDonald's account of what his character could have been as well as that of Hadrian, not to mention the interesting secondary characters such as Korias, Amyrra, Marcus, Favorinus...
It is a powerful tale about love and hate, free-will and death.
The writing style embellishes this novel, I really found it beautifully written and witty (I loved such sentences as "butterflies, those scraps of color that feather the meadows each spring" ). It is also carefully divided between the four Elements, all of them leading to the fateful conclusion.
Profile Image for Patty.
1,191 reviews33 followers
August 25, 2011
I love the history of ancient Rome. As I have mentioned in past reviews I have done most of my reading in the eras before, during and after Caesar so I was not that familiar with the Emporer Hadrian other than to remember Hadrian's Wall from history lessons past. This book explores a very short time period in Hadrian's life and a specific love in that time. Hadrian had a passion for young boys but one of them he loved above others - Antinous. Hadrian was so distraught after Antinous' death that he basically deified him.

Antinous died by drowning in the Nile. It is not known if he committed suicide, fell accidentally or was pushed intentionally. This book makes a choice and is written in Antinous' voice as a chronicle of his life; from his coming of age as a young country bred child to the cusp of manhood when he dies.

Ms. McDonald's writing is magical, it draws you into the story and you feel all of Antinous' emotions - from surprise, to embarrassment, to pride, to anger to loss. A good love story is a good love story no matter the sex of the proponents, but was this a love story? Hadrian held all the power, Antinous really was an adornment for him. As with any courtesan he was never sure of Hadrian's affections, especially as he got older.

I fell into this story, the descriptions, the feelings. It's a far more literary work than I usually read but I truly enjoyed it. I found it did help that I had a decent grasp of the Greek and Roman gods and their tales.

If you are looking for an intelligent story about love lost this book and it's lyrical writing would be a good choice.
Profile Image for Jane.
1,509 reviews169 followers
October 7, 2014
Written by himself on successive evenings, Antinous, Emperor Hadrian's Greek beloved traces his life in this Bildungsroman: from his boyhood in Bithynia through the emperor's meeting him and the two becoming lovers. Then the seven years of their affair unfold until the final decision of the nineteen-year-old Antinous to die, on their trip down the Nile. I enjoyed this haunting, bittersweet novel. Characterization was the strong point; I also got a flavor of the relationship between the two and a sense of life in the Roman Empire at that time: 100's A.D. The author presented a strong case for her own theories concerning the greater and lesser motivations for the youth's death; to this day scholars do not know for sure why he died and where exactly he is buried. [Some scholars feel he may be buried at Hadrian's villa.] Of course there are many theories. Hadrian's only words were: "he fell into the water", an ambiguous statement at best.

Well written, there was nothing graphic or gross in descriptions of any sexual situations. As the novel progressed, I felt more and more compassion for Antinous. The author created a marvelous story from the few bare facts we know about Antinous.

"These last four nights, while the Empire sleeps, I [Antinous] have assigned myself this confession. Any struggle must be resolved here upon these sheets, so the morrow holds nothing but acceptance, acquiescence, peace. With my lamp as witness I record my life until now. When I am finished, I must consign it all, save the final chapter, to the temple fire."
From Antinous's words herein.

Profile Image for Terri.
Author 7 books27 followers
April 9, 2011
Eromenos is the story of Antinous, one of the beloved youths of Emperor Hadrian in the second century. In this book, the reader follows Antinous through his seven years as part of Hadrian's court, first as a young scholar, then as a lover. The story follows their adventures across the ancient world until Antinous is nineteen, the time when he can no longer be Hadrian's favorite and a new boy must be chosen.

Typically historical fiction is a gamble—many of these books tend to lull the readers to sleep in the middle either because the author adds so much historical detail that the story gets lost, or the story is never put into enough context. Not this book—at just 176 pages it is not like the 800 page monster size historical fictions I've read in the past. It is a concise story that kept me interested throughout. There's just enough historical references to pique my interest in the time and setting while still keeping an interesting interaction between the characters.

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes to read about Greek/Roman societies, those that want to read a great historical fiction, and anyone that likes a good love story—no matter the time or place.

*Reviewer received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads
Profile Image for Kenneth.
146 reviews10 followers
June 11, 2011
This is a nice, short history, told from the perspective of one of Hadrian's young male lovers. Deep while still concise, the story chronicles Antinous' years with the emperor of Rome; years which are the most important of his life. In fact, most of Antinous' life (and the Roman world of the era) revolves around the emperor, but it is only when he is sent to live with a family friend, at the age of eleven, that the provincial young man begins to experience the breadth of Roman society. He is immersed slowly, first in the bustling port where he catches the emperor's eye during a visit, then aboard a ship crossing the Mediterranean, aboard the imperial barge, in Rome itself, Athens, Jerusalem and Alexandria, among many stops on their journeys. All the while, Antinous becomes more and more self-aware, and more and more apprehensive toward his own future. This book, while not for the faint of heart, is thoroughly researched and well-written. A pleasure to read.

I received this book for free through Goodreads FirstReads. Thanks.
Profile Image for Christy English.
Author 31 books393 followers
July 29, 2011
Told in the clear, often sardonic voice of Antinous of Bithynia, Emperor Hadrian's lover, EROMENOS opens a window into the Roman world. This novel is a well-researched and vivid portrayal of the Imperial court of Rome in in early second century AD.

With sharp insight and a razor wit, Melanie McDonald show us the mind of Hadrian's Eromenos, the beloved who is the embodiment of a fleeting beauty that, like all things, will pass away. Through Antinous' eyes, we see first hand what it means to be chosen by an emperor at the age of 12, and groomed to be his lover. A novel of power, control, regret and loss, EROMENOS is finally a story about courage, and of one man's choice to take his fate into his own hands.

EROMENOS asks more questions than it answers, a good thing in any novel. It left me wondering about who Antinous was, about his choices, such as they were, and about what it means to be the favorite of an emperor. Melanie McDonald gives the silent dead a voice.
Profile Image for Melissa.
12 reviews2 followers
June 9, 2011
Admittedly, I knew close to nothing about Hadrian and had never heard of Antinous when I began reading so I cannot comment on historical accuracy or research. The novel has effected a fascination and longing to learn more and I have added Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian to my reading list. This novel affords an intriguing slice of Roman life and I enjoyed the references to Greek myth as well. The text has a lyrical quality which made it a joy to read. My only complaint would be that it was too short (although I cannot tell you what could have been added - I just wanted more) and I could have done without the erotic passages.
Profile Image for Gerry Burnie.
Author 8 books27 followers
April 24, 2012
Gerry B's Book Reviews - http://gerrycan.wordpress.com

Until I came across "Eromenos" by Melanie McDonald [Seriously Good Books, 2011] I had never before heard of Antinous of Bithynia, or his legendary affair with the Emperor Hadrian. Just how I could have missed such a charming page in history (referred to as the “real life version of Zeus and Ganymede”) I don’t know, but I am certainly grateful to Ms McDonald for introducing me to it in such an entertaining way.

The story

Antinous was born in the town of Bithynion-Claudiopolis, in the Greek province of Bithynia, and the story is told in his voice as a recollection. At about 12 years Antinous is sent to Nikomedia for his education, and it is there that he catches the eye of Hadrian on one of his many tours. With a ready eye for beautiful young boys, Hadrian invites him to join his imperial retinue as a page.

This is fairly heady stuff for a farm lad from one of the Greek provinces, but even more honours were to follow when Hadrian asked him to be his personal attendant on a hunting trip, and eventually into his bed.

As one might expect, however, being the catamite of a living god had its ups and downs, as Antinous would soon discover, for Hadrian was by profession a general as well as emperor, and thereby firmly in command of everyone around him. Nonetheless, Antinous somehow learned to cope with the vagaries of both the emperor and the imperial court for some seven years.

Nevertheless, as he approached manhood (around 19) he began to realize the he could no longer be Hadrian’s lover because of public opinion and because Hadrian preferred younger boys; therefore, Antinous decided to sacrifice himself to the gods and the man he loved. At least that is how the story goes, for no one really knows for certain.

One researcher has put it this way:

“One may well wonder why a young and vibrant man would sacrifice himself for his Emperor and for Rome. There is the obvious answer that people often do strange and illogical things for love. Antinous may well have believed that he would win immortality in the waters of the Nile and hence may not have seen his death as an end to his life. And, although there is no direct evidence that Antinous was suffering from a depression, he had to have realized that he was passing the age of eromenos. Within a year or two at most Antinous would either have to give up his position as royal favorite or accustom himself to the condemnation, “pathetic.” Whatever would become of Antinous after his decline from favorite could only be a lessening of position and if he truly loved Hadrian he would undoubtedly be alarmed at the prospect of ending their relationship not only for reasons of status, but for reasons of the heart. Or, perhaps, Antinous had simply grown to feel shame at his position and was driven into the waters with a sense of helplessness and lack of self worth that could scarcely be considered rare in teenagers of any time period.” http://ladyhedgehog.hedgie.com/antino....

The aftermath

The days following Antinous’s death brought great emotional upheaval and strain to the emperor. Trudging through a despair and sense of guilt, Hadrian’s first impulse was to follow his beloved into the otherworld. However, Hadrian was emperor and his life was not really his to give, and so in compensation he declared Antinous a god.

For whatever reason Antinous entered the waters of the Nile, therefore, he did obtain a form of immortality. Had he passed quietly from his role as favourite he may well have disappeared from history, but with his death and Hadrian’s response to it, he was assured a place in future remembrance—such as this book.

My Review

This novel is a textbook example of how historical fact and fiction should meet in a seamless, agreeable balance, so that one does not outweigh the other. Moreover the characters are well developed, and as far as I could determine, historically accurate. I rate is fairly-well faultless. Five bees.

Note: I note the Seriously Good Books is a new publisher with a worthy mission. i.e. “SERIOUSLY GOOD BOOKS hopes to survive and thrive as a small, independent press publishing historical fiction of lasting quality. Here you will find solid historical fiction that enlightens as well as entertains. From time to time, SG Books may select a work of literary fiction, a notable thriller, or some other surprise, so be sure to bookmark and visit these pages frequently.” See: http://www.seriouslygoodbooks.net/#!_...
Profile Image for Julie.
166 reviews9 followers
September 6, 2011
The actual review with a rating of 3.5/5 (and a giveaway)can be found on my blog:
One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I agreed to review this book. Hadrian is a historical figure that I had heard of before, but I wasn't familiar with his personal story or that of his beloved Antinous. The fact that this is in actuality a love story piqued my interest and made me want to find out more. Especially when I read that a grief-stricken Hadrian had immortalized Antinous and literally put him up on a pedestal next to his own.

I learned a lot about Hadrian and the times he lived in. This story is about a powerful man and the boy he loved. The young and attractive Antinous caught the great emperor's attention at a very early age. Extra opportunities and advantages were bestowed upon Antinous, including an excellent education. Hadrian enjoyed quick minds as well as youthful beauty and was grooming Antinous to be his companion or courtesan, if you please.

Told from Antinous' point of view as he looks back over his brief life, it shares the details of a close relationship that is doomed because of the society they live in, the expectations that are put upon them and the simple fact that the wheel of time turns. Melanie McDonald has given Antinous a voice to tell his story in his own way. I enjoyed seeing the Romans through his eyes and seeing how the different levels of society lived and were treated by each other. It truly is a story of love between two people that are at different stages in their lives and on two completely different Socioeconomic levels.

One of the things that really jumped out at me was the author's attention to detail. It is very obvious that she put a lot of research into the time period and what was normal for both the upper and lower classes. I was amazed when the dishes of one of the feasts were being listed and it included hummingbird! I was horrified to think of the little beauties that come to my window every day being in a dish. But then my logical side took over and I started wondering about who would have to catch the little hummers, pluck them, clean them, etc. I started feeling sorry for that person. Can you imagine having that task? Especially since the birds would barely be a mouthful for all of that effort... (Be sure to read Melanie's guest post about Food and Feasts in Ancient Rome).

I do recommend this book to those who enjoy a fresh look at an important time and person. It's a much more intimate and personal look into the story of a larger-than-life man in Rome's history. The author does a beautiful job of sharing a poignant and tragic tale that will stay with you long after you've finished reading the book. There is also a helpful section at the end of the book with questions for reader's groups or book clubs.
Profile Image for Allie.
102 reviews12 followers
August 29, 2011
Eromenos is the story of Antinous. Antinous hails from a small providence in Rome, who meets Hadrian. Soon, Antinous is called to Rome to be Hadrian's next Eromenos, or beloved youth. Life in Rome is full of challenges for the nature loving youth. He learns the hard burden that comes with ruling, as well as the burden of loving the ruler. For seven years, Antinous stays by Hadrian's side as his devoted lover. But the life of power takes it toll on Antinous, who is shaped and molded by the scupltor Emperor Hadrian. Antinous, ever the romantic continues to love the ruler of his heart, life and empire. Antinous knows that his status as Hadrian's eromenos is fast fleeting as he approaches his nineteenth birthday. Antinous must decide who rules his fate, himself or Hadrian.

Melanie McDonald gives the melancholic Antinous a voice that will resonate soundly. Though he was just a boy when he was chosen by Hadrian as a lover, he quickly grew into a man in this story. Navigating the Roman court was no easy task, but Antinous does it with such grace and loyalty that he shines among his brethren. His gentle and loving nature is refreshing. As his wisdom grows, so does his anger and resentment. I was surprised by his anger. Not because it was astounding, but because I felt it and was surprised at how deep it flowed. Even in me. While I knew how Antinous story ended, I loved hearing his voice and seeing the Roman World through his eyes. He has many wise and notable quotes in this book, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
While this is a rather short book, it is not a fluffy, light read. It is an intense, moralistic book that will leave you thinking. I would like to share some my favorite quotes.
"For how dismaying is it to find oneself buffeted at all times by others' never-ending quests for power, to be forced to witness man's cruelty to man, even prevailed upon to participate in it--when after all, one wanted only to seek out love, truth, beauty, the hidden perfection of Forms."
"Men always believe their own love to be eternal, unchanging, unending, as so men are fools."
"He has defined me to suit himself within the dyad of our relationship; by ascribing to me certain characteristics and virtues, he also has denied me myriad others."
I am participating in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for this amazing book. I will have a guest post with author Melanie McDonald on August 18th! Check back in for that!!!
Profile Image for KC.
72 reviews5 followers
September 12, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 12 books94 followers
August 4, 2012
This coming-of-age novel is set in the second century AD, and recounts the seven-year relationship between Emperor Hadrian and Antinous of Bithynia, a Greek youth from Asia Minor. Told from Antinous’s point of view, this story recounts the affair between the fourteenth emperor of Rome and a Greek farmboy that was raised to the height of a pagan god because of his famous beauty.

The author gives rigorous attention to historical accuracy in recreating Roman society in the second century AD, and presents it with beautiful prose, which is by far the highlight of this otherwise dull novel.

The first third of the book is mostly description about the setting, with few scenes and no conflict to speak of. In fact, the writer’s style of telling, telling, telling, keeps the reader at a distance from the characters, and offers very few engaging scenes throughout the book, making it read like a dry history book. I found it lacking in exploring the interpersonal relationship between Antinous and Hadrian, which left me wanting more.

The author offers up a few petty court squabbles as a way to inject drama, but they seem so insignificant that they don’t register on the interest scale.

This is obviously a well-researched novel, told with a lovely voice, but it is not a book I can recommend.
Profile Image for John.
35 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2019
I didn't intend to read this book. I was actually in the middle of another, equally short and poetic, and recalled that I'd bought this one a while back, so I dragged it out to read after, opened the cover, read a few lines and *just kept going*. I didn't read it all in one sitting, but in just a couple days. Despite the poetic nature of the prose, it's not a long book.

I know less about Rome than about ancient Greece, but the background seemed well-done. I particularly liked the weaving in and out of myth the same way a modern teen might refer to whatever is popular on TV: Game of Thrones or whatever.

But what I liked best is that she really wrestles with what it would have been like for Antinoos to be Hadrian's beloved (eromenos). How could he have said "no"? Too often, the gay community is inclined to glorify Hadrian and Antinoos, enshrine them as gay gods, while forgetting the huge age (and power) difference. To me, the relashionship has always felt more than a little creepy, especially given Hadrian's reaction after Antinoos's death. I wouldn't have been surprised if Antinoos had drowned himself as the only way to get *away* from Hadrian.

McDonald doesn't quite suggest that--Antinoos does care about him in his own way--but it's not far off. So I appreciated very much her bringing to light the huge discrepancy between them, and not romanticizing it.
Profile Image for Star.
1,288 reviews64 followers
August 3, 2016
EROMENOS is a touching and poignant story which tells the richly emotional tale of Antinous, who was Emperor Caesar Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus' companion. Antinous' story had been lost throughout time and he was only know as the youth Hadrian favored and later deified after his death. Now you get to see Rome through Antinous' eyes and Hadrian through his heart. A truly imaginative novel which brings to life ancient Rome - its culture, religion, politics, and relationships.

I felt as if EROMENOS was written perfectly to describe a relationship of unequals. A lot of fictional and non-fictional relationships are those in which the power lies mostly with one individual. It is said that sometimes one person loves more than the other, but the person who loves more doesn't hold the greater power. Antinous gave all of himself to Hadrian and while he always loved him - he did not always like him or his behavior.

EROMENOS is a riveting book, with so much history and feeling that it really came alive for me. Beautifully written, so much so that I look forward to reading Ms. McDonald's future novels.
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