Historia Venationis Apri Hadriani Augusti et Antinoi Pueri Aeterni Magistris Equi

P Sufenas Virius Lupus

Hadrian, bearer of the numen Augusti,
was a veritable Zeus Olympeios,
Zeus Philios, Zeus Ktesios, but also
Zeus Kynegesios, whose spear never missed.

In the plains of Asia, not far
from Mysia of bear-slaying fame,
it pleased the Emperor to search
the wilds and wastes for a boar.

With Arrian of Nikomedia
and Polemo of Smyrna,
Hadrian took to the hoof
with faithful Antinous at his flank.

A fair Galatian huntsman
called Demetrios in the Greek tongue
(but known by another name among
his people) accompanied the small cohort.

Hounds, called by Gauls vertragi
would be used in the pursuit,
while sturdy Molossian dogs
would harry and harangue the boar.

Hadrian had hunted boar before:
in the northern forests of Britannia,
in Pannonia with Borysthenes —
famous horse, like Bucephalos of old.

Antinous, youthful, only knew
of boar hunts in Arcadian tales —
of Herakles and the Erymanthean’s
capture, creature of Apollo and Adonis.

Demetrios reassured the eromenos,
told him to trust in his steed
and the skill and speed in handling
of horses at which he excelled.

Small lances thrown at a distance
would wound the tusked tufted beast,
then on foot the heartier men
would engage it in the final charge.

A long spear with crossing bars
would be set firmly into the earth,
its wielder kneeling alongside,
waiting for the fateful advance.

If the aim of the spear was true
in the final moments of adjustment,
boar’s head would be impaled,
its impact followed shortly by death.

If the spear point penetrated its body,
wounded, the beast would charge on,
thrashing, thrusting, likely carrying
spear and side of hunter as spoils.

Demetrios, as was the custom
of his people in heroic contest,
mentioned that the victor in valor
would have the portion of champions.

Each man among them pondered
in silence amid the hound’s cries
and the chirping of birds and buzzing
of summer’s insects their plans for the chase.

At last, the vertragi spotted, pointed
the path toward the brown-skinned boar;
the Molossians were unleashed,
and men and horses gallopped at speed.

A fight amidst thorns and thickets
raged between mastiffs and beast;
at a signal from Arrian’s well-bred bitch
the hounds gave chase, tiring the boar.

Hadrian dismounted, gave his horse
to Antinous to tend, while Polemo,
Arrian and Demetrios continued
their final pursuit on foot.

The hounds cornered the creature,
circling back to the hunting party
with boar leading, gashed and bleeding
but with a forceful, chthonic persistence.

Arrian of perfect Apollonian aim
launched his lance at the advance
of the boar, piercing its back
as bristles sharpened — a rough comb.

Polemo like tridentian Poseidon
sent three sharp spears in succession,
but only one struck, like the stone
of Hermes in Argos’ eye, blinding the boar.

Hadrian with the hafted spear
set himself down, stout-hearted
as the wild boar advanced squealing,
foam scattering from its curled tusks.

Yards away, fire-eyed it stared;
feet away, it rutted and roared;
inches away, Hadrian realigned his grip …
the boar slid along the spear’s length.

Point had impaled through the snout
of the boar, into its brain —
but, possessed of godlike fury
it did not expire immediately.

Thrashing and tearing the earth around,
boar struggled with hardened hunter;
herculean the feat, Hadrian
turned spear-shaft, throwing the beast.

Spear snapped, leaving head and shaft
driven through the skull — deadly thrust —
of the boar, wild in its death throes,
righting itself, seeking a target.

Snorting and snarling, scaring the horses
Antinous tried to calm the mounts;
in unutterable and insane rage
the boar came charging equines and keeper.

Demetrios, with his spear and sword
put himself between horses and boar;
he stabbed with both weapons skillfully,
leaving them embedded in the beast’s hide.

Half-blinded, bleeding rivers of red
the boar’s charge found fleshy target
for sharp-tipped tusk in the thigh
of Demetrios, trampling his torso.

With a single baleful red eye
the boar did not cease his advance;
the hadetic hog set his sights
on fair Antinous and the horses.

A second boar-spear was unreadied,
lying across the back of Hadrian’s horse;
Antinous unfastened its hold and set
himself before horses, held the shaft.

As he had heard Demetrios describe
and saw from afar Hadrian’s feat,
he crouched down, stoic, heroic,
waiting for the crazed creature.

The charging boar in madness attacked;
Antinous backing down the length a step,
his knees shaking — suspenseful squat —
until at last boar’s breath touched him.

The eternal ephebe moved the spear
at the last second masterfully —
point pierced boar between its eyes,
the crack of its skull muffled by baying.

The boy held fast, pushed back forcefully,
the thrashing boar now pounced upon
by Molossians far ahead of the three
heroes of hunts in times passed.

The boar’s legs crumpled amidst the crush
of the jaws of the pack of mastiffs;
panting, wheezing, bleeding out
the terrible beast lay on its side.

Antinous pulled out his sturdy spear
now coated in red film — beast’s hot blood —
the boar sighed, squealed, spurt
a small gush of red from its wound.

Hadrian, now at the center of strife
removed the stump of his spear from snout;
the beast’s heart burst inside it,
shaking, ceasing, seized with death.

Demetrios, dirty, limping, bandaged,
came to the side of the carnage.
“The kill goes to he whose spear,
extracted, causes its last breath.”

Arrian and Polemo, amused and polite
wondered whether the Galatian
was merely flattering the Emperor
at the Bithynian’s expense.

The Emperor offered water to the man
who was the only one wounded by the boar;
as if by Asklepios, in a week’s time
Demetrios only had a nasty scar.

The choice of the boar’s spoils, therefore
was given to the Zeus-like Emperor.
Tusks, tail and hide would make
a trophy most pleasing and envied.

“I give the best meat of its haunch
to my friend, Arrian, whose hound,
as all loyal and skilled lieutenants,
sustains legions and strengthens all.

The head of the boar, save for the tusks,
I give to Polemo of Smyrna,
whose perceptiveness in all things
dazzles some eyes and blinds others.

For myself, nothing more do I wish
than to feast on the meat with friends,
for what should an Emperor enjoy more
than to see his people prosper from his deeds?

The hide, the tusks, and the tail,
like Meleager for Atalanta,
I leave to my master of horse, Antinous,
matching in beauty and bravery those heroes.”

Thus the division of those spoils
of hunt of boar to Bithynian
was pleasing to the goddess of Ephesus
and of Silvanus of the ferocious forest.

Apollon and Hermes, Eros,
Aphrodite Ourania and Herakles,
look kindly upon daring men,
both hunters and lovers alike!


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