Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: March 2011
Publisher: Seriously good books
Source: Blog tour
Review by Lis
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.
**be warned: this review contains spoilers**
Melanie McDonald sent me a copy of her book Eromenos – which is Greek for beloved – for review and it’s actually the first m/m book to review for B.’s blog, though it’s not what you think. Eromenos is not the romantic man meets man and instant love ensues between two hot men. Far from it actually, though that didn’t make this book any less good. In fact, this is one hell of a good book with a lot of depth.
Eromenos is the first person fictional journal account of Antonious, a youth from Asia Minor on his relationship with Emperor Hadrian just hours before his death. It’s a story that sticks, that’s for sure. Antonious describes his youth and how he came to meet the Emperor to how he became Hadrian’s favorite to his lover. He accompanied Hadrian on his travels and went everywhere Hadrian went.
On the surface this is an account of Antonious life. Just below the surface lies the story of a youth searching for his identity who he is and who he will be. Antonious grew up in the country and this defines how he sees the world and people. Because of the erastes/eromenos role between Hadrian and him people already see him as different, but he is also Hadrian’s favorite a position many desire. As a result he keeps himself apart from the rest of the court. His views on people and the world around him are very interesting to read. He’s also very detached from them. It’s almost as if he’s writing a scientific account on the people around him.
Because this story is journal style, you don’t get much from Hadrian’s pov, you only view the emperor through Antonious’ eyes. This part was a bit frustration for me, because you never really know how Hadrian feels about Antonious. Though Antonious is a very insightful person and as a result you get a good view of Hadrian. One of the sad parts of this story is that Antonious thinks Hadrian never completely trusts him because Hadrian doesn’t have a firm grasps of what love is. Yet, I believe he was mistaken in that view.
Antonious’ story is based on truth. His story has captivated historians through the ages. He really was Hadrian’s favorite and his lover and his death has been a riddle through the ages. Some say it was suicide because his relationship with Hadrian could not continue past his adulthood and something this book builds; others say it was an accident or even sacrifice. Hadrian simply said he fell overboard, which is entirely possible, but it something that will remain a mystery forever.
The relationship between Hadrian and Antonious is not exactly equal. Hadrian is a man who likes to take and control. Their relationship is not exactly romantic, but there is something – if not love – between the two. Historically accounts tell of how distraught Hadrian was after Antonious death and how he grieved. Antonious was actually deified – same as Alexander did after Hephaistion’s death – and Hadrian created a city after his death. There were many busts and medals created in Antonious likeness.
The story of Antonious is fascinating. Not only historically but also in this story. The writing is superb, skilful and rich. It’s a beautifully crafted story that has many levels, thoughts and philosophy. Melanie McDonald did an excellent job on writing Antonious story in Eromenos. It is most definitely a story I’d recommend, though you would have to like this sort of story. It deals with an erastes/eromenos relationship, which means it is a relationship between an older man and a young boy – and Antonious is young at the start of the relationship. Though there is nothing explicit it is hinted at.
As said, the story is written journal style and divided into four parts: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. You’d have to like this style of writing. Though it’s most definitely worth it. I was glad I got the chance to review this book.
There is much I could tell you about this book. There is a lot of depth into. As said it’s not merely an account of Antonious life. There are many layers and you have to delve into them to really understand Antonious and what he’s trying to say. So all I have to say is: this is a must read book! *hides tissues*
Twitter Event Hashtag = #EromenosVirtualBookTour
For more information on Melanie McDonald please visit her WEBSITE.