Posted by: aediculaantinoi | September 6, 2010

Dies Lucii Marii Vitalis

Today is a day to remember many things, including the end of the last attempt to restore polytheism in the Roman Empire by Flavius Eugenius, which Sannion detailed in a very good blog entry today. Eugenius may be a Sanctus of the Ekklesía Antínoou at the end of October, depending on who else is nominated and how much support is voiced for his nomination, incidentally. He most certainly should be honored for his accomplishments, and many modern Hellenic and Roman pagans are doing this. However, I would now like to talk about a figure that is also honored today, who is almost never spoken about.

Last month, I first posted about the Treískouroi. Of the Treískouroi, we are lucky to know a great deal about Antinous, including his birthplace, his birthdate, and a few tiny details of his life, as well as what he looked like. We know less about Vibullius Polydeukion, though we know more of his nomenclature and his ancestry, we know what he looked like, and we know of one inscription that was done by him; but, we know nothing on his date or year of death (or of birth), nor very many details of his life. The third of the Treískouroi, Lucius Marius Vitalis, is the one we know the least about–his entire existence and life is known only from one inscription, and it is his funeral/memorial inscription.

Royston Lambert gives Henderson’s prose translation of the inscription on p. 102 of Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous; however, I went and tracked down the exact text earlier this year. Here it is in Latin.


When I went to look at the text, however, the editors suggested at the bottom of their entry in CIL that it could possibly be taken as an iambic trimeter for parts of it. That being the case, I decided to translate it as a poem, but instead of iambic trimeter, I ended up using anapest trimeter, so that each line has nine syllables–this was suggested simply by the expedient of the fact that Lucius Marius Vitalis is an anapest trimeter, and thus could be the opening line. I had to embellish a bit in order to get it to fit quite right, but I like the pattern created by the last words in each line as a result. Anyway, here it is.

Funeral Inscription of Lucius Marius Vitalis

Lucius Marius Vitalis,
I, Son to Lucius, lived for years
seventeen and for days fifty-five.
Perfected in ways literate, I
persuaded my parents to allow
me to learn the craft of artifice.
With Caesar Hadrian Augustus
I departed from the city, Rome,
companion in the suite of Caesar’s
imperial entourage. The Fates,
becoming jealous, snatched me away
from art while I was studying thus,
to this place.
Maria Malchis, his
most infelicitious mother, wrote
and did this for her holiest son.

Even though we know very little of him, in certain respects we know more about him than we do about Antinous, including the names of both of his parents (there are well-founded conjectures on Antinous’ mother’s name, based on papyrus fragments, but we are totally in the dark about his father), some of his lineage and his complete nomenclature, and what exactly brought him into association with the Emperor–those are three things that we do not know about Antinous. Yet, we know of no certain depictions of Lucius Marius Vitalis. However, Shawn Postoff has done a few (warning: that is a mature audiences only image!), and I have often used an image like this one for him (this one is an image of a tarot card I created for him):

For various reasons (including oracular pronouncements), we have come to associate Lucius Marius Vitalis with both Thoth, the great literate god if ever there was one, but also with Set, the “stranger” god of Egypt. In our own version of the mythologized history of Antinous, Hadrian, and company, we assume that he and Antinous were friends (at very least), and that he probably died in Greece before Hadrian and Antinous were initiated together in the Eleusinian Mysteries.

I have written the following Latin hymn/prayer for him today, which can be sung to the same tune as the Dies Natalis Dianae one I posted last month. (I was not able to make a YouTube video of it today, alas…)

Lucius Marius Vitalis

Lucius filius Lucii
Princepts ecclesiae sancti
Sanctissimus mortui beati
Consummatus litterati

Primus initiati
Mysteriae Antinoi
Coviator Hadriani
Peritus arteficii

Cereris fortunatus
Liberaque amplexus
Matris eius defletissimus
Mariae Malchis filius

Musae Nonae flerete
Atrox Fata tremeque
Antinoe eum protege
et custodi Hadriane

Data Lucie Sancte nobis
sapientiam subtilitatis
sub consilio Thothis
et tutela Sethis

Gaudete pro filio Mariae
et triumpho Memoriae
Ave Lucie Marie Vitalis

Ave Lucie Marie Vitalis
Ave Lucie Marie Vitalis
Ave Lucie Marie Vitalis

Vitae Tripuerorum nunquam e memoria excideatur.

Lucius, son of Lucius,
Foremost of the Ekklesía’s Sancti,
Most blessed of the holy dead,
Most learned in letters;

First of the initiates
of the Mysteries of Antinous,
Fellow traveler of Hadrian,
Skilled one of art;

Favored one of Ceres
and embraced by Libera;
most mourned of his mother
the son of Maria Malchis.

Weep, O Nine Muses
and shudder, cruel Fate!
Protect him, Antinous,
and look after him, Hadrian!

Give us, O Sanctus Lucius
the wisdom of subtlety
under the guidance of Thoth
and the protection of Set.

Rejoice for Maria’s son
and the triumph of Memory!
Hail Lucius Marius Vitalis!

Hail Lucius Marius Vitalis!
Hail Lucius Marius Vitalis!
Hail Lucius Marius Vitalis!

May the lives of the Treískouroi never be forgotten!


  1. Wow, this is all so beautiful and it never ceases to amaze me how well you can compose in both English and Latin.

    • Thank you! Though, in fairness, this was one of the most difficult Latin pieces I’ve written, because I was just so out of practice with it…and L.M.V. wasn’t giving up any of his secrets easily, either, as it were. But that happens occasionally.

  2. [...] serve as a brief review. Lucius Marius Vitalis is commemorated yearly in the Ekklesía Antínoou on September 6. He was a young man in Hadrian’s entourage who was skilled in the arts and also apparently [...]

  3. [...] syncretisms has emerged in the overall schemata of the Serpent Path involving the Treískouroi of Lucius Marius Vitalis, Antinous, and Polydeukion, and their respective syncretisms to Set, Osiris, and Horus, which has [...]

  4. [...] The other major Treískouroi festival is six months from now, when we honor the memory of Lucius Mar… (And, as a side note, it’s hard for me to believe at this point that this blog has been going for more than six months!) [...]

  5. [...] Memnon, and Achilles. Earlier in the festivals, we also honored the Treískouroi, including Lucius Marius Vitalis. And, of course, we’re perennially honoring Antinous [...]

  6. [...] the major hunt festivals–I’ll tentatively set a date for completing each of those by September 6 for the former, and August 21 for the latter…for reasons you’ll find rather obvious! [...]

  7. [...] be such Sancti. One of the figures honored in the Ekklesía Antínoou as one of the Treískouroi is Lucius Marius Vitalis, and the only record of his existence which we currently possess–his funerary [...]

  8. [...] on Foundation Day 2002, Marguerite Porete was the first Sancta, and thus like Lucius Marius Vitalis Sanctissimus, who I consider the Prince of the Sancti, so too do I hold Marguerite Porete in particularly high [...]

  9. [...] CE. His memorial inscription (and the only source we have on him) was in Rome (and you can read it in my post on this occasion last year), but in my own non-historical framing of the situation, I imagine he may have been traveling with [...]

  10. [...] So, today kicks off our week-long festival of the Trophimoi, Herodes Attikos, and his family. While there are days devoted to each of the Trophimoi and some of the other figures in this sub-grouping within the modern Antinoan pantheon (and, yes, I think we can safely state at this stage that there is a whole pantheon of Antinous-related divine figures now, even excluding the usual deities to whom he is syncretized or with whom he came into contact!), today is a day that honors in particular the membership of the “foremost” of the Trophimoi and the Herodes Attikos group in a further grouping: the Treískouroi, the “three boys,” being the hero/god/daimon Antinous, the hero Polydeukion, and the Sanctissimus Lucius Marius Vitalis. [...]

  11. [...] at the same time, this is a festival that has been important to me for a while, and especially since the start of this blog, way back in its second month in 2010, and in subsequent years as well; thus, this year was bound to be no [...]

  12. […] more on Vitalis himself, including the inscription which has allowed us to calculate this date, see this, this, and […]

  13. […] of previous years, and for a day that happened not too long ago as well, see the following entries: for 2010, for 2011, for 201, and 55 days ago. Also, as he is a member of the Treískouroi, you might want to […]

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