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THE HADRIAN ENIGMA - A Forbidden History (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

George Gardiner
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Caesar's fatal search for love ...

Ancient Rome, 130 years after Christ but still two centuries before Christians achieve state recognition. Caesar Hadrian is the ruler of a vast Empire at the height of its wealth & power. One of "the five good emperors", Hadrian dominates a culture ruled by pagan values, inequities, & ambiguous sexualities.

From a cruel war's victory Triumph through Rome's Forum, to a drunken revel at Athens' Acropolis; from the stirring excitement of a board hunt in the forests of Bithynia, to the steam rooms of a grand Roman bath-house; from the opulent bordellos of Alexandria, to the privacy of an emperor's bed chamber, Hadrian's search for love destroys the very person he most adores.

During his 400-strong traveling Court's leisurely pleasure journey through Egypt Hadrian's companion & 'Favorite', Antinous of Bithynia, is found dead one dawn beneath the waters of the River Nile. Hadrian is distraught. Is it a drunken prank gone wrong, suicide, murder, or something far more sinister?

Hadrian commands the historian, barrister, & renown libertine Suetonius Tranquillus to urgently investigate. He is given 72 hours to determine the cause of death. Suetonius, ever opportune, hires a hetaera sex-worker concubine, Surisca of Antioch, as an an interpreter & paramour to assist the investigation. Between them & their courtier colleagues, they interrogate members of the Court as several new deaths occur. In the course of their investigation they uncover a subterranean conspiracy which reveals more than Hadrian may wish to know, or want others to know. They disclose the uninhibited appetites of the ruling classes amid the basic human need for affection & bonding, whatever the relationship.

THE HADRIAN ENIGMA is Suetonius's secret record of the investigation into one of history's most intriguing, suspicious fatalities. It depicts an era of relaxed morals among the elites which sanctions men loving men in a sexist macho culture of warrior pride, honor & shame.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1261 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 501 Seiten
  • Verlag: GMP Editions; Auflage: First (3. Februar 2010)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Erweiterte Schriftfunktion: Aktiviert
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #120.176 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A Masterful Recreation of Ancient Rome 29. September 2010
On October 28th of the year 130 AD, during an Imperial tour up the Nile, near the village of Hir-wer, the youth Antinous fell into the Sacred River and died. It is said that Hadrian "wept like a woman" and was disconsolate ever after. His health broke and he was a bitter and sick man the remaining eight years of his life.

The Emperor Hadrian was so grief-stricken at the death of his beloved male lover Antinous that he declared Antinous to be a God and founded a city in honor of Antinous -- called Antinoopolis -- on the shores of the Nile where Antinous died. The city was founded on October 30th, called FOUNDATION DAY in the RELIGION OF ANTINOUS.

The Egyptians syncretized Antinous fully with Osiris. For the Egyptians he was Osiris-Antinous. Like Osiris, Antinous died in the Nile and was transfigured into a deity.

Hadrian reportedly said, "He fell into the Nile." He never elaborated, never said whether it was an accident, never mentioned the circumstances.

Gardiner's THE HADRIAN ENIGMA -- A FORBIDDEN HISTORY masterfully recreates that fateful tour up the Nile and the tragic death which changed the course of history. Until the death of Antinous, Hadrian had been renowned as a wise and just ruler. After the Beloved Boy's death, Hadrian became capricious and cruel and waged a prolonged war against rebellious hardline Jews -- reverberations of which war continue to rock the Middle East to this very day.

Gardiner's novel is written in the form of a whodunnit with possibly the most original investigator imaginable -- the Roman historian Suetonius, who just happens to be along on the Imperial tour.
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4.0 von 5 Sternen Hooray for Hadrian (and for George Gardiner) ! 1. September 2010
Von reader down under - Veröffentlicht auf
George Gardiner's absorbing new book, which focuses on the relationship between the Roman emperor Hadrian and his young paramour, Antinous of Bithynia, quite possibly heralds the thrilling emergence of a new Mary Renault. (As uneven as it is in some places, to my mind it is a big improvement on Margeurite Yourcenar's book on Hadrian from the 1950s).

Gardiner begins his narrative with the discovery of the dead body of the beautiful youth, who has apparently drowned in the Nile. He coopts as his central figure cum narrator the actual historical figure of Suetonius Tranquillus, who is charged by the supreme colonial ruler Hadrian Caesar with the urgent responsibility of uncovering the reasons for, as well as the manner of, the death. Suetonius works night and day as a kind of investigator/ prosecutor and his dogged inquiry drives the plot. The narrative unfolds as a kind of antique murder mystery, then, and one of the book's great strengths is in the well-paced twists and turns of the plot, throwing up a number of suspects and scenarios along the way that keep the reader intrigued until the very end. Gardiner's humour shines through this character, who is forced to carry out his investigation under the double pressure of a pressing deadline (why is Hadrian so intent of winding it all up in such a short time, we wonder) and the threat of execution if he doesn't come up with the answers. This is compelling writing.

Suetonius is a good choice, as he is known for his history of a dozen Caesars, and the author brings him vividly and humorously to life. Indeed, Gardiner skilfully and imaginitively re-works established historical figures and creates a cast of composite characters where necessary to serve his narrative ends. The fact that he can do this convincingly, with such an extraordinary mixture of ethnicities and beliefs, is writing of a high order.

The mastery of research is remarkable, not only for Gardiner's command of the details of ethnic artefacts, weaponry, costume, architecture and so on, but also for the complex politics of Roman colonial expansionism in its abrasive encounter with other cultures. The era was marked by a complex intermingling of belief systems, and Gardiner's fictional world is woven from a rich and amazingly detailed fabric. Very occasionally the research seems almost oversupplied but for the most part it serves to underpin his imaginative reconstructions with persuasive authenticity.

Also among the book's strengths are the finely imagined conversations between characters, both historical and concocted, that move the investigation so beautifully along. There are certain set action sequences pieces, too, that are brilliantly staged and paced--the boar hunt, for example, when Hadrian rescues Antinous, and the marvellous climactic scene where Suetonius brings his prosecutorial charges home (albeit uncertainly, with some lines of inquiry that don't pan out).

The only thing that broke the spell for me was Gardiner's occasional jarring choices in language idioms. There's no doubt that the language(s) of the time and place would have been salted with colourful vulgarities, and the dialogue should reflect that, but some of the terms chosen have such strong contemporary associations for us, here at the beginning of the 21st Century, that they they jar and jolt in the reading. `Toyboy' is one example, `getting your rocks off,' `muscular stud' and `gaga' are others that don't ring well to my ear. It's a pity, because sometimes they drop the reader right out of the spell he weaves so skilfully, otherwise. In contrast, many of the scenes and dialogue move with stately Latinate constructions within a convincing and well-sustained narrative voice. Gardiner has set himself the difficult task of creating a hybrid language that can include both convincing formal language, and everyday vulgarisms, that ring true within his own reconstruction, yet sound right to our contemporary hearing. It's a delicate juggling act and sometimes he drops his balls. (If he had perhaps reserved their use strictly in dialogue, say, to help with characterisation? Perhaps some of his choices might be better realised in a second edition.)

Another of the book's great strengths is hinted at by the book's sub-title. It's a `forbidden history' not simply because Hadrian issues an edict that only the official `party line' should be recorded (and by implication, Suetonius' project of recording events for us to read goes dangerously gainst the edict of his Emperor). It's forbidden history too because Gardiner has constructed a counter-narrative to the centuries of heavily judgemental readings of this iconic same-sex relationship. Positive affirmations of same-sex bonding were exiled in silence as soon as the early Christian commentators started to impose their dominant narratives over all acceptable behaviours and ideals. In Yourcenar's 50s version, Antinous's moody adolescent pouting makes Hadrian looks like a bit of a fool for dallying with the youth, but Gardiner proposes a heroic reading here that highlights the finer elements of the erastes/eromenos partnering, which was not only tolerated but celebrated in ancient times.

For me, this moves the book onto a higher plane than a mere homoerotic titillation and places the relationship where it belongs, in the heroic company of Patroclus/Achilles and the legendary band of Theban warrior-lovers. Gardiner successfully and daringly recuperates the much-despised and consistently misrepresented ideal of man-to-man love, here based on respect, admiration and the inspiration of noble ideals, as much as the undeniable and enjoyable erotic attraction, which we see only fitful glimpses of among sporting figures and others today. During the continuing culture wars of our own times it's a relief to read this inspiring alternative with its healing potential as an affirmative voice emerging from the diminishing, culturally imposed silence.

In a strange way `The Hadrian Engima' is reminiscent of E.M. Forster's gay-affirmative novel `Maurice', which Forster was unable to publish during his lifetime. Forster's wistful happy ending for a same sex coupling was unthinkable in the mid-twentieth Century, and even today, it's hard to read such partnering as anything other than morally sinful - such is our pervasive indoctrination by churchmen - or psychologically misdirected (`homosexuality' is still construed as a kind of `failed development' in conventional psychological readings). Certainly such a relationship will still be regarded as second best to the pressing imperative of reproduction. Gardiner has struck a blow with this courageous and convincing re-telling.

So, for me this is a 5 star book for the outstanding and detailed research and the creative work that underpins the imaginative reconstructions; at least 4 stars for its plotting, but only 3 stars for the strange inconsistencies in his prose style. This averages out to a solidly earned 4 stars. I do hope Gardiner is deep at work on his next book of historical fiction. He certainly has all the skills required.
12 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Hadrian Enigma, A Forbidden History, by George Gardiner 25. Juli 2010
Von Elisa - Veröffentlicht auf
The author chose to present this novel as M/M romance, but as much as I love the genre, I think in this particular case it's a limitation. The Hadrian Enigma is more a mainstream novel, a detailed romancing of a real episode.

To a normal reader the novel will probably appear like a tour de force: almost 500 pages of historical fiction, full of details, with different point of views, and with interleaves of Greek and Roman words. This last point it's probably easier for an European reader, especially an Italian one, since we study Roman culture and Latin as other students all around the world study their own origins. The strange thing, considering our strict upbringing on regard of homosexuality, is that Antinous, the favourite of Imperator Hadrian, was never "hidden" away like a skeleton in the closet; probably the tragic love story was bigger than the restriction of morality. The tragedy itself is probably the reason why this story was not buried with the layers of time, these two lovers had not the change of an happily ever after, and so it was allowed to them to be remembered. Sure, Hadrian's behaviour after Antinous's death, his tentative to turn him in a god to be worshipped, he was even given a constellation in the sky as only ancient gods were allowed to have, all of this was seen as sign of madness, the madness of a disrupted lover.

So yes, when this novel starts, Antinous is already dead, and Hadrian assigns to historian Suetonius Tranquillus the task to investigate on this strange death, officially recorded as accidental death; but too much mystery is behind this death and probably too many people gained from that for being really an accident.

This is for sure not an easy read, and probably the novel stands in the middle between fiction and non fiction; if during the read someone wonders on the abundance of details, indeed you have to consider that the starting point of this novel is to be a recording of Suetonius Tranquillus's investigation on the death of Antinous. So yes, it's like if a modern reader is going through the files of an old buried case, a case that was filed as suicide or accident, but too many hints let it go that it was something else. You have not the chance to ask to who was there, and so you basically rebuild what it was, what they though, what they did, all on the basis of some old papers.

What is the purpose of this research? Antinous is dead, there is no way for Hadrian to have him back again, so what he is searching? What the author is trying to prove? Probably that Antinous was not "superfluous" to history, that he was not only a shiny accessory to Hadrian's arm, that he was something more than a pretty face Hadrian forced artists to immortalise. Above all that Antinous really loved Hadrian and that was his condemn; if it was only a question of sex, sex between men wasn't so uncommon, under specific "rules" (the old and more important man was always the one "on top", only slaves, women and young men could be penetrated); love instead was not an option. Indeed it was not even a question of being both men, love at that level was out of question point; marriage was a political agreement, murder was the common resolution to get free of enemies, and plotting a normal activity at dinner time.
10 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Speculative Fiction from the Roman era 19. Mai 2010
Von Kim - Veröffentlicht auf
The Hadrian Enigma - is a story of love, intrigue, politics, and scandal set in pagan Rome and Egypt, about 130 years after Christ.

The story is based on real characters and falls in the genre of speculative fiction. It starts with the discovery of the body of the Bythinian youth Antinous rumored to be Caesar Hadrian's lover or eromenos. While history says that his death was an accidental drowning in the Nile, George Gardiner weaves a story of intrigue around the incident that is quite entrancing.

The tale is revealed as a series of depositions to Special Investigator Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus who is charged by Caesar, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Antinous within 2 days.

Within the first few pages, it seems the suspect is so evident, that you wonder why the story runs to 476 pages, but as you read along, you realise there are many more players in the mix.

Gardiner has written an interesting and gripping story, but I do wish the editing was tighter. Given that large parts of the book are third person reports, a lot of the minute details included seem superfluous and out of place. He seems to have suffered from a typical writers problem of having done extensive research and then wanting to include as much of the details as possible into the end product.

The language keeps oscillating even when the same person is speaking, from high brow Latin and Greek peppered sentences (sending one scurrying to wikipedia and [...] to American colloquialisms like "that guy".

Font sizes change suddenly and inexplicably, quite often. Words are underlined for emphasis, which left me feeling like I was reading a manuscript or a draft, rather than a final copy.

While the novel is based on the same sex relationship of Caesar Hadrian and Antinous (currently deified as the God of Homosexuality by some) and marketed as a male-male romance novel, it isn't a turn off to the average reader who wants to read it as a mystery novel. What is vexing though, is the repeated use of the word "crutch" when the author actually means "crotch". Whether this is a problem of the "spell check" software or new slang (I checked [...] which did not imply any such meaning to the word - crutch), I'm not sure.

Its an extremely readable story, shedding insight into the life and times of a not-as-renowned Caesar, who had one of the most peaceful and prosperous reigns of his dynasty. It's a page turner, once you get past the initial Greek and Latin terms. I just wish the editing could have been tighter. Then this book would have really stood out for me.
12 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting topic, poorly written 3. August 2010
Von SecretSanta - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
I love historical fiction. I love gay subject matter. I am familiar with the Hadrian/Antinous story. So this book, recommended on a site I respect, seemed a natural. The author may indeed have done copious research, as claimed. There is some good detail here. But the writing? Oh dear. Within the first few pages I discovered anachronisms like "toyboy," "stud," and "sex worker" that pulled me completely off the page. Couple this with a narrative voice that breaks frame for no apparent reason, an incomprehensible use of italics, and frequent repetition of detail we already know, I found it very hard not to be distracted. I simply could not "believe" in my narrator. And frankly, that makes me question everything else. What sort of researcher is this author, if he is such a careless writer? He would do well to read Mary Renault's "Alexander" trilogy, most particularly The Persian Boy, to see how to handle language when dealing with ancient cultures, and how to do it in a fashion that keeps the reader on the page and believing.

And while it must be a good sales hook, how is this a "coming out" novel, when such relationships, when played by the rules, were commonplace, especially among Roman nobility? It may not have been as widely accepted as in Hellenic society (at given time periods) but it certainly wasn't unknown or cause for great shock among the jaded imperial circle.

I am well into the book, and invested enough to keep going, as it is an interesting concept, but I'm doing a lot of skimming, doubting, and wincing.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen The Hadrian Enigma 9. April 2010
Von Terence Charters - Veröffentlicht auf
This is a compelling crime mystery story, the theme and the unravelling of the plot makes it a hard book to put down. The setting of ancient Eygpt and authentic historical detail gives colour, excitment and atmosphere. This together with the desire described in this story, of two powerful men in love adds spice and arousal.
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