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The Roman

The Roman

Mika Waltari The Roman

    The memoirs of Minutus Lausus Manilianus, who has won the Insignia of a Triumph, who has the rank of Consul, who is Chairman of the Priests’ Collegium of the god Vespasian and a member of the Roman Senate.



    Because the Jews at Rome caused disturbances at the instigation of Christus [Claudius] banished them.
Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Claudius (25).
    Although he held power for the same number of years as his stepfather, and for much of that time as a very young man, yet for the first five years he was so great, particularly in his development of the city, that Trajan used often to assert, and rightly, that none of the emperors came anywhere near matching those five years of Nero.
Aurelius Victor, De Caesoribv-s (5).

Book I


    I was seven years old when the veteran Barbus saved my life. I remember well how I tricked my old nurse Sophronia into letting me go down to the banks of the river Orontes. The rapid swirling current attracted me and I leaned over the jetty to look at the bubbling water. Then Barbus approached me and asked in a friendly way:
    “Do you want to learn to swim, boy?”
    I replied that I did. He looked around, and grasping me by the back of my neck and the crotch, he flung me far out into the river. Then he let out a wild cry, calling on Hercules and the Roman Jupiter the Conqueror, and flinging his ragged cloak down on the jetty, he plunged into the water after me.
    People flocked to his cry. They all saw and unanimously testified to how Barbus, at the risk of his own life, saved me from drowning, carried me ashore, and rolled me on the ground to make me spew up the water I had swallowed. When Sophronia arrived, crying and tearing her hair, Barbus lifted me in his strong arms and carried me all the way home, although I struggled to get away from his filthy clothes and the smell of wine on his breath.
    My father was not particularly fond of me, but he plied Barbus with wine and accepted his explanation that I had slipped and fallen into the water, I did not contradict Barbus, for I was used to holding my tongue in my father’s presence. On the contrary, I listened as if spellbound as Barbus modestly related how, during his time as a legionary, he had swum fully equipped across the Danube, the Rhine and even the Euphrates. My father drank wine, too, to calm his fears, and was himself disposed to relate how, as a youth at the school of philosophy in Rhodes, he had wagered that he could swim from Rhodes to the mainland. He and Barbus were in complete agreement that it was high time I learned to swim. My father gave Barbus some new clothes so that when he was dressing, Barbus had an opportunity to exhibit his many scars.
    From that time onwards Barbus stayed at our house and called my father master. He escorted me to school, and when he was not too drank, came to fetch me at the end of the school day. First and foremost, he raised me as a Roman, for he really had been born and bred in Rome and had served for thirty years in the I5th legion. My father was careful to confirm this, for although he was an absentminded and reserved man, he was not stupid and would never have employed a deserter in his house.
    Thanks to Barbus, I learned not only to swim but also to ride. At his request my father bought me a horse of my own so that I could become a member of the young Equestrian Knights in Antioch as soon as I was fourteen. It was true that Emperor Gaius Caligula had struck my father’s name from the rolls of the Roman Noble Order of Equestrian Knights with his own hand, but in Antioch that was considered more of an honor than a disgrace since everyone remembered only too well what a good-for-nothing Caligula had been, even as a youth. Later lie was murdered at the great circus in Rome as he was about to promote his favorite horse to the rank of Senator.
    At the time, my father, albeit reluctantly, had reached such a position in Antioch that they wanted him to go with the delegation the city was sending to Rome to congratulate Emperor Claudius on his accession. His knighthood would undoubtedly have been returned to him there, but my father resolutely refused to go to Rome, and later it was proved that he had had good reasons for this. Now he himself said that he preferred to live in peace and humility and that he had no desire for a knighthood.
    Just as Barbus had come to our house by chance, so also had my father’s fortune increased. He used to say in his bitter way that he had had no luck in his life, for when I was born, he lost the only woman he had ever really loved. But even in Damascus he had already made a habit of going to the market on the anniversary of my mother’s death and buying a wretched slave or two. Then when my father had kept the slave for a time and fed him well, he took him to the authorities, paid the redemption fee and gave the slave his freedom. He allowed these freedmen to use the name Marcius, not Manilianus, and gave them money so that they could begin to practice the trade they had learned. One of his freedmen became Marcius the silk merchant, another Marcius the fisherman, while Marcius the barber earned a fortune modernizing women’s wigs. But the one who became the wealthiest of all was Marcius the mine owner, who later made my father buy a copper mine in Sicily. My father also frequently complained that he could never carry out the smallest charitable deed without receiving benefit or praise from it.
    Since he had settled in Antioch, after his seven years in Damascus, he had served, good linguist and moderate that he was, as adviser to the Proconsul, especially on matters concerning Jewish affairs, in which he had become thoroughly versed during earlier travels in Judaea and Galilee. He was a mild and good-natured man and always recommended a compromise in preference to forceful measures. In this way he won the appreciation of the citizens of Antioch. After losing his knighthood, he was elected to the city council, not just for his strength of will and energy, but because each party thought he would be useful to them.
    When Caligula demantled that an idol of himself should be raised in the temple in Jerusalem and in all the synagogues in the province, my father realized that such an act would lead to armed uprising, and he advised the Jews to try to gain time rather than make unnecessary protests. So it came about that the Jews in Antioch let the Roman Senate think that they themselves wanted to pay for sufficiently worthy statues of the Emperor Gaius in their synagogues. But the statues suffered several misfortunes during their manufacture, or else the premonitory omens were unfavorable and prevented their erection. When Emperor Gaius was murdered, my father won much approval for his foresight. Though I do not believe he could have known anything about the murder beforehand but had merely wished, as usual, to gain time and avoid trouble with the Jews, which would have upset trade in the city.
    But my father could also be stubborn. As a member of the city council, he flatly refused to pay for circus shows of wild animals and gladiators and was even against theatrical performances. On the advice of his freedmen, however, he had an arcade bearing his name built in the city. From the shops inside, he received considerable sums in rents so that the enterprise was also to his advantage, quite apart from the honor.
    My father’s freedmen could not understand why he dealt with me so severely, wishing me to be content with his own simple way of life. They competed to offer me all the money I might need, gave me beautiful clothes, had my saddle and harness decorated, and did their best to cover up for me, hiding my thoughtless deeds from him. Young and foolish as I was, I was tormented with a desire to be in all things as outstanding, or preferably even more outstanding, than the noble youths of the city, and my father’s freedmen shortsidedly considered that this would be to the advantage of both themselves and my father.
    Thanks to Barbus, my father realized it was necessary for me to learn Latin. Barbus’s own legionary Latin did not go very far. My father thus saw to it that I read the history books by Virgil and Livy. For evenings on end Barbus told me of the hills, splits and traditions of Rome, its gods and warriors, so that I was finally seized with a wild desire to go there. I was no Syrian, but had been born a Roman of Manilian and Maecenean lineage, even if my mother had been only a Greek. Naturally I did not neglect my Greek studies either, but at fifteen years of age already knew many of the poets. For two years I had Timaius from Rhodes as my tutor. My father had bought him after the disturbances in Rhodes and would have freed him, but Timaius bitterly refused each time, explaining that there was no real difference between slaves and freedmen, and that freedom lay in a man’s heart.
    So I was taught the Stoic philosophy by an embittered Timaius who despised my Latin studies, since Romans in his opinion were barbarians, and bore a grudge against Rome, which had deprived Rhodes of its freedom.
    Among the youth of the city who took part in the equestrian games were ten or so who vied with each other at wild exploits. We had sworn allegiance and had a tree to which we made sacrifices. On the way home from riding practice, we once recklessly decided to ride through the city at a gallop, and while doing so, to snatch the wreaths hanging on the shop doors. By mistake I grabbed one of the black oak-leaf wreaths which were hung as a sign that someone in the house had died, although we had meant to do no more than annoy the shopkeepers. I should have realized that this was an ill omen, and inwardly I was frightened, but despite this I hung the wreath on our sacrificial tree.
    Everyone who knows Antioch will realize what a commotion our exploit caused, but naturally the police did not succeed in proving us guilty. We ourselves were forced to admit our guilt, for otherwise all the partakers in the equestrian games would have been punished. We escaped with fines since the magistrates did not want to offend our parents. After that we contented ourselves with exploits outside the city walls.
    Down by the river we once saw a group of girls busy doing something which roused our curiosity. We thought they were country girls, and I hit upon the idea of pretending to carry them off, just as the ancient Romans had seized the Sabine women. I told my friends the story of the Sabines and it amused them very much. So we rode down to the river and each of us seized the girl who happened to be in his way and lifted her onto the saddle in front of him. This was in fact easier said than done, and it was equally difficult keeping the screaming, kicking girls there. In actual fact I did not know what to do with my girl, but I tickled her to make her laugh and when I had, as I thought, shown her sufficiently clearly that she was completely in my power, I rode back and let her down to the ground. My friends did the same. As we rode away, the girls threw stones at us and we were gripped with evil presentiments, for as I had held the girl in my arms, I had indeed noticed that she was no peasant girl.
    In fact they were all girls from noble families who had gone down to the river to purify themselves and make certain sacrifices which their new degree of womanhood demantled of them. We should have known this from the colored ribbons hanging on the bushes as a warning to outsiders. But which of us was versed in the mysterious rites of young girls?
    The girls might have kept the matter secret for their own sakes, but they had a priestess with them and her sense of duty drove her to think that we had deliberately committed blasphemy. So my idea led to a fearful scandal. It was even suggested that we ought to marry the girls whose virtue we had dishonored at a delicate moment of sacrifice. Fortunately none of us had yet received the man-toga.
    My tutor, Timaius, was so angry that he hit me with a stick although he was a slave. Barbus tore the stick from his hand and advised me to flee from the city. Superstitious as he was, he also feared the Syrian gods. Timaius feared no gods since he saw all gods as nothing but idols, but he considered that my behavior had brought shame on him as a tutor. The worst was that it was impossible to keep the matter secret from my father.
    I was inexperienced and sensitive, and when I saw the fear in all the others, I myself began to think that our exploit had been more serious than it in fact was. Timaius, who was an old man and also a Stoic, ought to have been more balanced and encouraged me in the face of such trials rather than depressing me. But he revealed his true nature and all his bitterness when he said:
    “Who do you think you are, you idle, repulsive braggart? It was not without reason that your father gave you the name of Minutus, the insignificant one. Your mother was no more than a wanton Greek, a dancing-woman and worse, perhaps a slave. That’s your descent. It was according to the laws and no whim of Emperor Gaius that your father was struck from the rolls of knights, for he was expelled from Judaea in the time of Governor Pontius Pilate because he was involved in Jewish superstitions. He is no true Manilianus, only an adoptive one, and in Rome he made a fortune with the help of a shameful will. Then he was involved in a scandal with a married woman and can never again return there. So you are nothing, and you will become even more insignificant, you dissolute son of a miserly father.”
    He would undoubtedly have said even more had I not hit him across the mouth. I was immediately horrified at what I had done, for it is not correct for a pupil to hit his tutor, even if he is a slave. Timaius wiped the blood from his lips and smiled malevolently.
    “Thank you, Minutus my son, for this sign,” he said. “What is crooked can never grow straight and what is base can never be noble. You ought also to know that your father drinks blood in secret with the Jews and worships the goblet of the Goddess of Fortune secretly in his room. How else could anyone have been so successful and become so rich with no merits of his own? But I have already had enough of him, and of you, and of the whole of this unhappy world in which injustice reigns over justice, and wisdom has to sit by the door while insolence holds a feast.”
    I did not take much notice of his words as I had quite enough to think about with my own tribulations. But I was seized with a blind desire to demonstrate that I was not insignificant and at the same time make good the evil I had done. My fellow conspirators and I remembered that we had heard of a lion which had been attacking cattle half a day’s ride from the city. It was rare that lions dared to approach so close to a large city and the matter was much discussed. I thought that if I and my friends could capture it alive and give it to the city’s amphitheater, we should thus redeem our evil deed and win fame.
    This thought was so demented that it could only have been born in the sore heart of a fifteen-year-old, but the most lunatic thing of all was that Barbus, who was as drunk as usual that afternoon, considered the plan an excellent one. Nor was it easy for him to oppose it after the many stories he had told me of his own heroic deeds. He himself had caught lions in nets innumerable times to acquire extra income to supplement his meager pay.
    It was necessary that we leave the city immediately since the police might well be on their way to arrest me, and in any case I was certain that our horses would be taken from us forever-early the following morning at the latest. I found only six of my friends, for three of them had been wise enough to tell their parents at once what had happened, and their parents had immediately sent them out of the city.
    My friends, who were severely shaken, were so delighted with my plan that we soon began to bluster and brag among ourselves. We fetched our horses from the stables in secret and rode out of the city. Meanwhile Barbus got a bag of silver pieces from Marcius the silk merchant, took it to the amphitheater and bribed an experienced animal trainer to come with us. They loaded a cart with nets, weapons and leather protectors and met us outside the city by our sacrificial tree. Barbus also brought meat, bread and a couple of large jars of wine. The wine restored my appetite, for hitherto I had been so anxious and depressed, I had not been able to swallow a single bite of food.
    The moon was out when we set off. Barbus and the animal trainer amused us with stories of lion catches in different countries. They described it as something so simple that I and my friends, fired by the wine, sought to restrain them from taking too much part in our venture so that we might receive all the honor. This they willingly promised to do, assuring us that they sought only to help us with advice and with their experience, and that they themselves would keep well out of the way. As far as I was concerned, I had witnessed in the amphitheater with my own eyes how ingeniously an experienced band of men could capture a lion with a net and how easy it is for a man with two spears to kill one.
    At dawn we came to the village we had heard about. The villagers were busy lighting their cooking fires. The rumor had been false, for the village was by no means terror-stricken. In fact, it was very proud of its lion. No other lion had been seen in the district within living memory. This one lived in a mountain cave nearby and had worn a path down to a stream. The previous night it had killed and eaten a goat the villagers had tied to a tree by the path so that their valuable cattle should not be taken. The lion had never attacked a human being. On the contrary, it used to make itself known by giving a couple of deep roars as it emerged from its cave. Nor was it a very demanding lion, for it contented itself, for lack of anything better, with eating carcasses, insofar as the jackals allowed it to. Furthermore, the villagers had already built a sturdy wooden cage in which they intended to convey the beast to Antioch and sell it. A lion captured with nets must be bound firmly as its limbs can be injured if one does not quickly put it in a cage and loosen the ropes.
    When the villagers heard our plans, they were not at all pleased. Fortunately they had not yet had time to sell the lion, but when they realized our situation, they pressed us so hard that Barbus had to pay them two thousand sesterces for the lion and the cage. When the purchase was settled and the money counted, Barbus suddenly began to shiver all over and suggested that we should all get some sleep now and leave the capture of the lion until the following day. The people of Antioch would by then have had time to calm down after the scandal we had caused. But the animal trainer sensibly remarked that now was the right moment to drive the lion from the cave-in the morning when it had eaten and drunk its fill, was sluggish in its movements and dulled with sleep.
    So Barbus and he put on the leather protectors and taking several men from the village, we rode off toward the mountain. They showed us the lion’s path and drinking place, large paw marks and a fresh heap of droppings. We could even smell the lion and our horses shied. As we slowly approached the lion’s lair, the scent became sharper and our horses trembled, rolled their eyes and refused to take another step forward, and we were forced to dismount and send the horses back. We continued on foot toward the cave until we heard the lion’s grumbling snores. It was snoring so loudly that the sound shook the ground beneath our feet. It is of course possible that the trembling was in our own legs, as we now approached a lion’s lair for the first time in our lives.
    The villagers were not the least afraid of their own lion but assured us that it would sleep right on into the evening. They knew its habits well and swore that they had fed it up into such a sluggish and plump creature that our greatest difficulty would be in waking it and chasing it out into the open.
    The lion had worn a broad path between the bushes outside the cave, and the steep rocky slopes on each side of it were so high that Barbus and the animal trainer could safely climb up and assist us with their good advice. They indicated how far we should stretch the heavy rope net in front of the cave and how three of us should hold on to each end of it. The seventh was to call and jump about behind the net so that the dazed lion, blinded by the sun, would rush out at him and thus plunge straight into the net. Then we were to wrap the net around the lion as many times as possible, making sure that we did not get within reach of its teeth and claws. When we considered the matter, we noticed that it was not quite so simple as they had made it out to be.
    We sat down on the ground to decide which of us would wake the lion up from its sleep. Barbus suggested that it would be best to poke the animal with a spear shaft, just enough to irritate but not injure it. The animal trainer assured us that he would have liked to perform this little service for us but his knees were stiff with rheumatism and then too he did not want to deprive us of the honor.
    My friends began to glance at me and assured me that as far as they were concerned, from sheer good nature they would relinquish the honor to me. I was the one who had thought up the plan, just as I had inveigled them into the capture of the Sabine women which had been the beginning of this adventure. With the acrid smell of lion in my nostrils, I reminded my friends with some force that I was my father’s only son. When we considered this matter further, five of us proved to be the only sons of their fathers. This fact may possibly explain our behavior. One of us had nothing but sisters and the youngest, Charisius, hastily explained that his only brother stammered and also suffered from other defects.
    When Barbus saw that my friends were putting pressure on me and I should be forced to go whether I wanted to or not, he took a great gulp of wine from the jar, with a trembling voice called upon Hercules, and assured me that he loved me more than his own son, although he in fact had never had a son. The task was not suited to him, he said, but he, an old legionary veteran, was prepared to step down into the cleft in the rocks and awaken the lion. Should he lose his life because of his poor sight and weakened legs, he wished only that I should see to it that he had a fine funeral barge and that I should make a speech about him so that his many famous exploits would be known to all. By his death he would show that at least a part of all he had told me about his exploits over the years was true.
    When he began to crawl down the slope with a spear in his hand even I weakened, and we embraced each other tenderly and wept together. I could not let an old man sacrifice his life for me and my mistakes. Instead, I bade him tell my father that at least I had met death like a man and this would perhaps atone for everything, for I had brought only misfortune to him from the time when my mother had died giving birth to me until now when, although with no evil intent, I had shamed his good name throughout Antioch.
    Barbus demantled that I should at least take a few gulps of wine since, he assured me, nothing really hurts if one has enough wine in one’s stomach. I drank and made my friends swear that they would hold the net firmly and not let it go at any price. Then I gripped my spear with both hands, clenched my teeth and crept along the lion’s path through the cleft in the rocks. With the thunder of the lion’s snores in my ears, I made out its recumbent form in the cave. I waved the spear, heard the lion let out a roar, myself gave a yell and ran, more swiftly than I had ever done at an athletic competition, straight into the net, which my friends had hastily raised without waiting for me to jump over it.
    As I struggled for my life in the meshes of the net, the lion came hesitantly and groaning out of its cave and stopped in surprise to look at me. It was such a huge and fearsome beast that my friends, unable to bear the sight of it, dropped the net and fled. The animal trainer bawled out his good advice and shouted that we must at once cast the net over the lion before it became used to the daylight, for otherwise it might turn dangerous.
    Barbus also shouted and urged me to show presence of mind and remember I was a Roman and a Manilian. If I found myself in need, he would immediately come down and kill the lion with his sword, but first I should try to capture it alive. I do not know which part of this advice seemed the soundest, but once my friends had dropped the net, it was easier for me to get out of it. Despite everything, their cowardice had made me so angry that I turned with a firm grip on the net and looked the lion straight in the eye. It stared back at me with a majestic mien and a deeply offended and hurt expression, whining gently as it lilted a bleeding hind paw. I raised the net with both hands, hoisted it tip willi all my strength, for it was heavy for a single man, and threw it. The lion simultaneously took a leap forward, became entangled in the net and fell to one side. Roaring terribly, it began to roll about on the ground, winding the net around itself so that only once did it manage to strike me with its paw. I felt its strength, for I flew head-over-heels for quite a distance, a fact which undoubtedly saved my life.
    Barbus and the animal trainer loudly urged each other on, the latter taking his wooden pitchfork and pinning the lion to the ground, and Barbus successfully threading a noose around its hind legs. Now the Syrian peasants tried to come to our rescue, but I shouted and swore and forbade them to since I wanted my cowardly friends to be in on the capture of the lion. Otherwise the whole of our plan would have been to no avail. Finally they did this, although they received several scratches from the lion’s claws in the process. The animal trainer secured our ropes and knots until the lion was so firmly bound that it could scarcely move. While this was going on, I sat on the ground, trembling with rage and so upset that I vomited between my knees.
    The Syrian peasants threaded a long wooden pole between the lion’s paws and began to carry the creature toward the village. As it hung there on the pole, it seemed less large and majestic than when it had stepped out from its cave into the sunlight. In fact, it was a weak and flea-bitten old lion with several bald patches in its mane, and badly worn teeth. What worried me most was that it might be strangled by its bonds during the journey to the village.
    My voice betrayed me several times, but I managed to make perfecdy clear to my friends what I thought of them and their behavior. If I had learned anything, it was that one could rely on no one when it came to one’s life. My friends were ashamed of their behavior and accepted my criticism, but they also reminded me of our joint oath and that we had captured the lion together. They willingly allowed me the greater part of the honor, but also demonstrated their wounds. I, in turn, showed my arm, which was still bleeding so profusely that my knees felt weak. Finally we agreed that we were all scarred for life by our venture. In the village we celebrated with a feast and respectfully made sacrifices to the lion after we had successfully barricaded it inside the sturdy cage. Barbus and the animal trainer got drunk while the girls in the village danced in our honor and garlanded us. The following day we hired an ox-wagon to take the cage and we ourselves rode behind in procession with wreaths on our foreheads, while carefully ensuring that our bandages bore clearly visible bloodstains on them.
    At the city gates in Antioch the police were about to arrest us and take away our horses, but the officer in command was wiser and decided to come with us when we told him that we were voluntarily on our way to the City Hall to give ourselves up. Two policemen made a way for us with their batons, for as always in Antioch, all the loafers began to crowd around as soon as word spread that something unusual had happened. At first the crowd shouted abuse and threw lumps of manure and rotten fruit at us, for an exaggerated rumor had circulated that we had violated all the girls and gods in the city. Irritated by the noise and cries of the crowd, our lion began to roar dully, and it continued to roar, encouraged by the sound of its own voice, until our horses once again began to rear and shy away.
    It is possible that the animal trainer had played a part in the roaring. Anyhow, the crowd fell back willingly before us and when they saw our bloodstained bandages, several of the women gave cries of sympathy and wept.
    Anyone who has ever viewed the broad mile-long main street of Antioch, with its endless columns, will understand that our procession gradually began to look like a procession of triumph rather than of shame. It was not long before the easily influenced crowd began to throw flowers in our path. Our self-confidence grew, and when we reached the City Hall we already felt ourselves heroes rather than criminals.
    The city fathers allowed us first to present our lion to the city and dedicate it to the protector Jupiter, who in Antioch is usually called Baal. After this we were brought before the criminal magistrates. But at that time there was a famous lawyer, with whom my father had spoken, working with them, and our voluntary appearance made a deep impression on the magistrates. They took our horses from us of course, which was inevitable, and we had to listen to gloomy words on the depravity of youth and about what one could expect in the future when the sons of the city’s best families set such an appalling example to the people, and about how different it had all been in the days when our parents and forefathers had been young.
    But when I returned home with Barbus, a death wreath hung on our door, and at first no one would speak to us, not even Sophronia. Finally she burst into tears and told me that my tutor, Timaius, had the previous evening asked for a pan of warm water in his room and then had opened his veins. His lifeless body had not been found until morning. My father had shut himself in his room and had not even received his freedmen, who had sought admission to console him.
    Actually no one had really liked the morose and discontented Timaius, but a death is always a death and I could not escape from my sense of guilt. I had struck my tutor and by my behavior had brought shame on him. Now I was seized with terror. I forgot that I had looked a real lion straight in the eye, and my first thought was to run away forever, go to sea, become a gladiator or enlist in one of the most distant Roman legions in the countries of ice and snow, or on the hot borders of Parthia. But I could not flee from the city without landing in prison, and so I thought defiantly of following Timaius’ example and in that way ridding my father of my troublesome presence.
    My father received me quite differently from the way I had thought he would, although I ought to have imagined something like it, as he rarely behaved as other people do. Weary from his vigil and weeping, he fell on me, took me in his arms, pressed me to his breast, kissed my cheeks and my hair and rocked me gently to and fro. He had never before held me in his arms in this way and with such gentleness, for when I was small and longed for his caresses he had never wished to touch me nor even look at me.
    “My son Minutus,” he whispered. “I thought I had lost you forever and that you’d fled to the end of the world with that drunken veteran, because you had taken money with you. And you must not mind about Timaius, for he wished for nothing but to avenge his destiny as a slave and harness his vague philosophy on you and me, and nothing can happen in this world that is so evil that there is no way of reconciliation and forgiveness.
    “Oh, Minutus,” he went on, “I am not fit to raise anyone, for I have not even been able to manage my own life. But you have your mother’s forehead and your mother’s eyes and your mother’s short straight nose and your mother’s lovely mouth too. Can you ever forgive me for the hardness of my heart and my neglect of you?”
    My father’s incomprehensible gentleness melted my heart and I began to weep loudly, although I was already fifteen years of age. I threw myself down before him, clasped my arms around his knees and begged forgiveness for the shame I had caused him and promised to improve if he once again showed leniency. But my father too had fallen to his knees and embraced me and kissed me, so that we knelt there and begged each other’s forgiveness in turn. My relief was so great and so sweet that my father wished to take upon himself both the death of Timaius and my own guilt, that I wept even louder.
    But when Barbus heard my wails, he could no longer contain himself. Banging and clattering, he burst into the room with drawn sword and shield, in the belief that my father was beating me. Hard on his heels came Sophronia, weeping loudly. She tore me away from my father and clasped me to her own ample bosom. Both Barbus and she bade my cruel father beat them instead, since they, rather than I, should take the blame. I was still a child and had certainly meant no harm with my innocent pranks.
    My father rose in confusion and defended himself hotly against the accusation of cruelty by assuring them that he had not struck me.
    When Barbus realized his state of mind, he noisily called on all the godx of Rome and swore that he would fall on his own sword to make good his guilt, as Timaius had done. He became so excited that he probably would have done himself harm had not we all three, my father, Sophronia and I, succeeded in wresting his sword and shield from him. What he had in fact thought of doing with the shield, I did not know. Afterwards he explained that he had been afraid my father would strike him on the head and his old head could no longer bear the blows it had once borne in Armenia.
    My father asked Sophronia to send out for the best meat and have a feast prepared, since we must all be hungry after our escapade, and he himself had not been able to eat a thing after he discovered I had left home and that he had been so unsuccessful in bringing up his own son. He also had invitations sent to his freedmen in the city, for they had all been concerned about me.
    My father washed my wounds with his own hands, smeared them with healing ointment and bandaged them with clean linen, although I myself would have preferred to retain the bloodstained bandages a little longer. Barbus was given the opportunity of relating the story of the lion. My father became even more morose and accused himself even more that his son had felt himself bound to face death in a lion’s mouth rather than turn to his own father to atone for a boy’s youthful prank.
    Finally Barbus became thirsty from all his talk and I was left alone together with my father. He said that he realized he must talk to me about the future, for I should soon be receiving the man-toga, but he found it difficult to find words to begin. He had never before spoken to me as father to son. He looked at me with troubled eyes and sought vainly for the words which might help him to find me.
    I looked at him too, and I saw that his hair had grown thin and his face furrowed. My father was already nearer fifty than forty and in my eyes was elderly lonely man who could enjoy neither his life nor the fortunes of his freedmen. I looked at his scrolls and for the first time realized that there was not a single idol of a god in his room, nor even an image of a genius. I remembered Timaius’ malevolent accusations.
    “Marcus, my father,” I said. “Before his death my tutor, Timaius, told me several evil things about my mother and you. That was why I struck him on the mouth. I do not want to excuse what I did in any way, but all the same, tell me if there is anything evil. Otherwise as an adult how shall I be able to watch over my actions?”
    My father looked troubled, rubbed his hands together and avoided my eyes. Then he said slowly, “Your mother died giving birth to you, and that I could not forgive either you or myself until today, when I noticed that you are the image of your mother. I first feared I had lost you, then my sight returned and I realized that I have little to live for except you, my son Minutus.”
    “Was mother a dancing woman, a loose woman and a slave, as Timaius maintained?” I asked directly.
    My father was visibly upset.
    “You shouldn’t even speak such words, Minutus,” he cried. “Your mother was a more noble woman than any I have known, and of course she was no slave although she had, because of a promise, dedicated herself to serve Apollo for a time. I once journeyed in Galilee and Jerusalem with her, looking for the king of the Jews and his kingdom.”
    His words gave me courage. My voice trembled as I said, “Timaius told me that you were so involved in the secret conspiracies of the Jews that the magistrate was forced to expel you from Judaea, and this was why you did not regain your knighthood and not just because of a whim of Emperor Gaius.”
    My father’s voice also shook as he said, “I have waited before telling you all this until you had learned to think for yourself, and I did not have to force you to think about things which not even I fully understood. But now you stand at the crossroads and must yourself choose the direction you take. I can only hope that you choose the right one. I cannot force you, for I can only offer you invisible things which I myself do not understand.”
    “Father,” I said, appalled, “you haven’t secretly gone over to the Jewish faith, after having so much to do with them, have you?”
    “But Minutus,” said my father in surprise. “You have been with me at the baths and athletics. You must have seen that I don’t bear the sign of allegiance on my body. If I had, I should have been laughed out of the baths.
    “I don’t deny,” he went on, “that I have read a great deal in the Jewish holy scripts in order to learn to understand them better. But in reality, I bear something of a grudge against the Jews, for it was they who crucified their king. I’ve borne a grudge against the Jews because of your mother’s painful death, yes, even against their king, who on the third day arose from the dead and founded an invisible kingdom. His Jewish pupils still believe that he will return and found a visible kingdom, but all this is very involved and unreasonable, and I cannot teach you anything about it. Your mother would have been able to do so, for as a woman she understood better than I about the affairs of the kingdom, and I still cannot understand why she had to die for my sake.”
    I was beginning to doubt my father’s sanity and I thought about how he in all things behaved differently from most people.
    “Then have you drunk blood with the Jews in their superstitious rites?” I said roughly.
    My father looked very troubled.
    “This is something you cannot understand,” he said, “for you know nothing about it.”
    But he took a key and unlocked a chest, taking out a worn wooden goblet and holding it gently between his hands. He showed it to me.
    “This is your mother Myrina’s goblet,” he said, “and from this goblet we together drank the wine of immortality one moonless night on a mountain in Galilee. And the goblet did not empty, although we both drank deeply from it. And the king appeared to us and spoke to every one of us, although we were more than five hundred. To your mother, he said that never again in her life need she be thirsty. But afterwards I promised his pupils that I should never try to teach anyone these things, as they considered that the kingdom belonged to the Jews and I, as a Roman, had no part in it.”
    I realized that this was the enchanted goblet Timaius had said was of the Goddess of Fortune. I took it in my hand, but to my hand and my eyes it was but a worn wooden goblet, although I did feel a tenderness at the thought that my mother had handled it and prized it highly.
    I looked sympathetically at my father and said, “I cannot blame you ~ for your superstition, for the magic arts of the Jews have confused the heads of wiser men than you. Without doubt the goblet has brought success and wealth to you, but I wish to say nothing about immortality, for I don’t want to hurt you. And as far as a new god is concerned, there are old gods who have died and returned, such as Osiris and Tammuz and Attis and Adonis and Dionysius, not to mention many others. But all these are but parables and tales which those initiated into the mysteries revere. Educated people no longer drink blood and I have had more than enough of mysteries, thanks to stupid girls who hang colored ribbons in the bushes.”
    My father shook his head and pressed his hands together. “Oh, if only I could make you understand,” he said.
    “I understand only too well, even if I am not fully grown,” I assured him. “I have, after all, learned something here in Antioch. You talk about Christ, but the new superstition is even more pernicious and shameful than the other teachings of the Jews. It’s true he was crucified, but he was by no means a king and neither did he rise from the dead. His disciples stole his body from the tomb so that they would not be ashamed before the people. It is not worth talking about him. The Jews see to all the talking and the bickering.”
    My father began to argue the matter with me.
    “He was truly a king,” he said. “It was even put in three languages on his cross. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. I read it with my own eyes. If you don’t believe the Jews, then you must believe the Roman governor. And his disciples did not steal his body, even if the Jews did bribe the guards to say so. I know that because I myself was there and saw it all with my own eyes. And once I met him myself, on the east shore of the lake of Galilee, after he had risen from the dead. At least, I still believe that it was he. It was he himself who led me to find your mother. She at that time was having trouble in the city of Tiberias. Admittedly, sixteen years have passed since these events, but I can still see them clearly before my eyes when you upset me by your inability to understand.”
    I could not afford to make my father angry with me.
    “I don’t wish to argue with you about divine matters,” I said hastily. “There is only one thing I want to know. Can you return to Rome whenever you wish? Timaius maintained that you can never return to Rome because of your past.”
    My father stiffened, frowned and looked sternly at me.
    “I am Marcus Mezentius Manilianus,” he said, “and I can certainly return to Rome whenever I wish. I am not an exile and Antioch is no place of banishment. You should know that yourself. But I have my own private reasons for not going to Rome. Now I should be able to do so, if forced to, now that I am elderly and no longer as receptive to influences as I was when I was younger. Other reasons you need not ask about. You would not understand them.”
    I was pleased with his assurances and cried, “You spoke of a dividing of the ways and my future which I myself must choose. What were you thinking about?”
    My father wiped his forehead hesitantly, weighed his words carefully and finally said, “The men here in Antioch who know the way best have nowadays begun to realize that the kingdom does not belong only to the Jews. I suspect, or to be quite honest, I know, that even uncircumcised Greeks and Syrians have been baptized and allowed to take part in their meals. This has aroused many disputes, but at the moment there is a Jew here from Cyprus whom I once met in Jerusalem. He has with him, as his helper, a Jew called Saul, from Tarsus, whom I had also seen during his time in Damascus, once when he was led into the city. He had lost his sight during a divine revelation, but later it was returned to him. He is a man worth meeting. My dearest wish is that you should seek out these men and listen to their teachings. If they can convince you, they will baptize you as a subject of the kingdom of Christ and you will be allowed to partake in their secret meals. That is, without circumcision, for you need not fear coming under the jurisdiction of Jewish law.”
    I could not believe my ears.
    “You really wish me to be initiated into Jewish rites?” I cried. “To worship some crucified king and a kingdom that doesn’t exist? What else can one call something one cannot see?”
    “The fault is mine,” my father said impatiently, “and I am sure I am using the wrong words, as I cannot convince you. Anyhow, you would have nothing to lose by listening to what these men have to say.”
    But the very thought filled me with fear.
    “I’ll never let the Jews sprinkle their consecrated water over me,” I cried. “And neither will I agree to drink blood with them. Then I’d lose the last remaining shreds of my good reputation.”
    Once again my father tried patiently to explain that in any case Saul was an educated man and a Jew who had been to the school of rhetoric in Tarsus, and not only slaves and craftsmen, but also many noble ladies in Antioch secretly went to listen to him. But I put my hands over my ears, stamped my foot, and cried shrilly and uncontrollably, “No, no, no!”
    My father returned to his senses and said in colder tones, “The choice lies with you. The learned Emperor C laudius has no doubt calculated that next spring it will be eight bundled vents since the foundation of the city. To be sure, the god Augustus celebrated this centenary, and there are many people still alive who joined in. But another centenary feast will give us an excellent lenson for going to Rome.”
    Before he even had time to finish, I had flung my arms around his neck, kissed him, cried aloud in delight and rushed round the room, for I was still but a boy. Then his freedmen began to arrive for the feast and he had to go out into the hall to greet them and receive their gifts. I stood beside my father as a sign that he meant to stand by me in all things. They were very pleased about this, stroked my hair, consoled me over the loss of my horse and admired my bandages.
    When they were lying at table and I was sitting on a stool at my father’s feet, since I was still a minor, my father explained that the point of this meeting was a family consultation about my future.
    “Let us begin by fortifying ourselves with wine. Wine loosens the tongue, and we need all the good advice we can get.”
    He did not sprinkle wine onto the floor, but Barbus was not frightened by this atheism. He made an offering to the gods instead and pronounced the greeting in a loud voice. I followed his example and the freedmen too sprinkled at least a drop of wine onto the floor with their fingertips, even if they said nothing aloud. My heart swelled with love when I saw them all, for all of them had done their best to spoil me and wished that I should grow up into a man with whose reputation their reputation too would grow. They expected nothing more from my father, for they had already become used to him.
    “When I had bought your freedman’s staves,” my father continued, “I let you drink of the wine of eternity from my late wife’s wooden goblet. But you never began to assemble your riches, save for the mundane things of this world, which can come to an end at any moment. Yet that is only as it should be, for I should be tormented by my satiety and my wealth and the many useless works which I do not value at all. I wish for nothing but to live quietly and humbly.”
    The freedmen hurried to assure him that they too tried to live as quietly and humbly as was possible for successful businessmen. Boasting about one’s wealth only led to increases in tax and obligatory donations to the city. And none of them wished to boast about the past when they had been slaves.
    “For your sake and because of the obstinacy of my son Minutus,” my father said, “I cannot go the new way, which has now been opened to the uncircumcised, both Greeks and Romans. If I admitted to being a Christian, as this way is called, as distinct from the Jewish faith, then you and all my household would be forced to follow suit, and I do not believe that any good can come of this. I cannot believe, for instance, that Barbus would participate with any spirit, no matter who laid hands on his head and blew on him. Not to speak of Minutus, who lost control of himself to the extent of screaming at the very thought of it.
    “Therefore,” my father went on, “the time has come to talk about my family. What I do, I do thoroughly. Minutus and I will travel to Rome and there I shall retrieve my rank of knight in conjunction with the centenary festivities. Minutus will receive the man-toga in Rome in the presence of his family. And he will receive a horse in place of the one he has lost here.”
    For me this was a surprise of which I had not even dared dream. At the most I had thought that sometime, thanks to my boldness and talents, I should be able to return to my father the honor he had lost through the Emperor’s whim. But it was not news to the freedmen. From their behavior, I realized they had long been putting pressure on my father in this direction, for they themselves had honor and benefits to gain from my father’s regaining his knighthood. They nodded now and explained that they had already been in contact with the freedmen of Emperor Claudius, who looked after important matters in the administration of the State. My father also owned property on Aventine and land in Caere, and so more than fulfilled the conditions of income demantled of the rank of knight.
    My father bade them be silent and explained.
    “All this is of less importance,” he said. “The essential thing is that I have at last succeeded in acquiring the necessary papers on Minutus’ ancestors. This has demantled a great deal of judicial knowledge. At first I thought I should quite simply adopt him on the day he came of age, but my counsel persuaded me that such a measure would not be favorable. In that case his legal Roman descent would have been in doubt forever.”
    After unfolding a mass of papers, my father read aloud from them and explained them more thoroughly.
    “The most important of these is a marriage contract between Myrina and myself, certified by the Roman authority in Damascus. This is indubitably a genuine and legal certificate, for after my wife had been made pregnant by me in Damascus, I was very happy and wanted to strengthen the position of my heir-to-be.”
    After looking at the ceiling for a while, he went on:
    “Investigating into Minutus’ mother’s ancestors has been much more difficult, for at the time I did not regard it as essential and so we never even talked about it together. After long investigations it has been definitely shown that her family originally stemmed from the city of
    Myrina in the province of Asia, near the city of Cyme. It was my counsel who advised me to start from this city in my search, because of the similarity of name. It later turned out that her family, after losing their fortune, moved from there out to the islands, but their origins are extremely aristocratic, and to confirm this, I have had a statue of my wife placed in front of the courthouse in Myrina and also have made several donations in her memory. In fact my deputy had the whole of the courthouse rebuilt; it was not large and the city fathers themselves offered to trace back Myrina’s family to ancient times, yes, back to one of the river gods, but this I thought unnecessary. On the island of Cos, my deputy found a venerable old priest in the temple of Esculapius, who remembered Myrina’s parents very well and could confirm on oath that he was the brother of Myrina’s father. At the death of their honest but impoverished parents, the children dedicated themselves to Apollo and then left the island.”
    “Oh, how I should like to meet that uncle of my mother’s,” I said eagerly, “if he is the one and only living relative on my mother’s side.”
    “That won’t be necessary,” my father hastened to say. “He is a very old man with a bad memory and I have seen to it that he has a roof over his head, food and someone to lead him until he dies. All you need remember is that on your mother’s side, you are of noble Greek descent. When you are adult, you can remember the poor city of Myrina sometime with a suitable gift, so that the matter is not completely forgotten.
    “I also,” he went on quickly, “belong to the Manilian family by adoption, and my name is therefore Manilianus. My foster-father, that is your legal grandfather, was the famous astronomer Manilius, who published a work on astronomy which is still studied in libraries all over the world. But you have undoubtedly wondered about your other name-Mezentius. This brings me to your real descent. The famous Maecenas, friend of the god Augustus, was a distant relative of mine and held his hand over my father’s parents, even if he did forget them in his will. He on his part was descended from the rulers of Caere, who were kings long before Aeneas fled from Troy. In this way Roman blood also runs in the former Etruscans. But legally speaking, we should count ourselves as members of the Manilianus family. In Rome it is better to keep silent about the Etruscans, for the Romans do not like to be reminded that the Etruscans once ruled over them.”
    My father was speaking in such a dignified way that we all listened in silence, and only Barbus remembered to fortify himself with wine occasionally.
    “My adoptive father, Manilius, was a poor man,” my father went on. “He squandered his fortune on books and research into the stars, instead of earning money by the art of divination. It was due more to the absentmindedness of the god Tiberius than to himself that he was allowed to retain his knighthood. It would take too long to relate how I spent my hungry youth as a clerk here in Antioch. The main reason for this was that I could not have a horse because of the poverty of the Manilianus family. But when I returned to Rome, I had the good fortune to win the favor of a highly placed woman whose name I shall not reveal. This experienced woman introduced me to an old and sickly but noble-minded widow. In her will, this lady left me her entire fortune so that I could confirm my right to wear the gold ring, but then I was already nearly thirty years old and was no longer interested in official service. In addition, the widow’s family contested the will, yes, even made the appalling accusation that the old lady had been poisoned after drawing up the will. Justice was on my side, but owing to this wretched case and also to other matters, I left Rome and went to Alexandria to study. Even if there was much gossip in Rome at the time, I don’t think anyone any longer remembers this dispute which malevolent people started. I am telling you this to show Minutus that there is nothing shameful about it and there is nothing to stop my returning to Rome. And I think that it is best, considering what has happened, that we go there as soon as possible, as long as the good sailing season lasts. Then I shall have the whole of the winter in which to arrange my affairs before the centenary celebrations.”
    We had eaten and drunk. The torches outside our house began to smolder and go out, and the oil was low in the lamps. I myself had sat as silently as I could, trying not to scratch my arms where my wounds had already begun to irritate me. In front of the house some of the beggars in Antioch had gathered, and in accordance with good Syrian custom, my father had had the leftover food shared out among them.
    Just as the freedmen were breaking up, two Jews made their way in. At first they were taken for beggars and were shown to the door. But my father hurried up to meet them and greeted them respectfully.
    “No, no,” he said, “I know these men and they are messengers from the highest god. Come back in, all of you, and listen to what they have to say.”
    The more dignified of the two men was very upright and had a gray beard. It was revealed that he was a Jewish merchant from Cyprus named Barnabas. He or his family owned a house in Jerusalem, and my father had met him there long before I was born. The other was considerably younger. He was dressed in a thick cloak of black goatskin, was turning bald, his ears were prominent and his eyes had such a piercing expression that the freedmen avoided them and moved their fingers as if warding off his look. This was Saul, of whom my father had’told me, but he was no longer known by his real name, for he said he had changed it to Paul. This he had done out of humility, but also because his former name had a bad reputation among the followers of Christ. Paul means the insignificant one, just as does my own name, Minutus. He was not a handsome man, but in his eyes and face there was such fire that one felt no desire to quarrel with him. I realized that whatever one said to this man, nothing would influence him. Instead, he himself desired to influence others. Compared with him, old Barnabas seemed quite a reasonable man.
    My father’s freedmen were troubled by the arrival of the men, but they could not leave without offending my father. At first Barnabas and Paul behaved politely, speaking in turn and relating that the elders of their assembly had had a vision, according to which they were to set out on a journey to preach the good tidings, first to the Jews and then to the heathens. They had been to Jerusalem, too, with money for the holy men there, and their supporters had sealed their authority by the striking of hands. They had since preached God’s word with such power that even the sick had been cured. In one of the inland cities, Barnabas had been taken for Jupiter in human form and Paul for Mercury, so that the priest of the city had sought to have garlanded oxen sacrificed to them. They had only just been able to prevent such an ungodly demonstration. After that, the Jews had taken Paul from the city and stoned him and then, out of fear of the authorities, they had fled the place in the belief that Paul was dead. But he had come to life again.
    “What are you possessed by, then,” the freedmen asked in wonder, “that you are not content to live like ordinary mortals, but expose yourselves to danger in order to bear witness to the son of God and the forgiveness of sins?”
    Barbus burst out laughing at the thought that anyone had taken these two Jews for gods. My father reproached him and, putting both his hands to his head, said to Barnabas and Paul, “I have acquainted myself with your way, and I have tried to reconcile Jew with Jew for ill* wiln» of my own position among the city fathers. I should like to believe lliut you speak (he truth, but the spirit does not seem to reconcile you among yourselves. On the contrary, you quarrel among yourselves find one says one thing and another another. The holy ones in Jerusalem sold all their possessions and waited for your king to return. They have already waited for more than sixteen years, the money has gone and they live on alms. What do you say to this?”
    Paul assured him that he for his part had never taught anyone to cease honest labor and divide his possessions among the poor. Barnabas also said that each person should do as the spirit moved him. After the holy ones in Jerusalem had begun to be persecuted and murdered, many people had fled to foreign lands, to Antioch too, setting up in business and practicing trades, and successfully, some more so and some less so.
    Barnabas and Paul went on speaking until finally the freedmen were annoyed.
    “Now that’s enough about your god,” they said. “We wish you no harm, but what is it you want of our master, pushing your way into his house late at night and disturbing him? He has enough troubles of his own.”
    They related that their activities had stirred up bad blood amongst the Jews in Antioch, so that even the Pharisees and Sadducees had combined against them and the Christians. The Jews were conducting a lively campaign of conversion for the temple in Jerusalem and had collected rich gifts from the pious. But the Christian Jewish sect was tempting the newly converted over to its side by promising them forgiveness of their sins and maintaining that they need no longer follow the Jewish laws. For this reason the Jews were now bringing an action against the Christians in the city court. Barnabas and Paul intended to leave Antioch before this, but they feared that the council would have them followed and brought back before the court.
    My father was pleased to be able to calm their fears.
    “By various means,” he said, “I have managed to ensure that the city council does not interfere with Jewish internal matters of belief. The Jews themselves should settle disputes among their sects. Legally, we regard the Christian sect as one of the many Jewish ones, despite the fact that it demands neither circumcision nor complete obedience to the law of Moses. So the police in the city are duty bound to protect the Christians if other Jews attempt violence against them. In the same way, it is our duty to protect the other Jews if the Christians make trouble for them.”
    Barnabas was deeply troubled.
    “Both of us are Jews,” he said, “but circumcision is a seal on true Judaism. So the Jews of Antioch have claimed that although uncir-cumcised Christians are not legally Jews, they can be tried for violation and abuse of the Jewish faith.”
    But my father was a stubborn man when he had something firmly in his head, and he said, “As far as I know, the only difference between Christian and Jew is that the Christians, both circumcised and uncir-cumcised, believe that the Jewish Messiah, or Christ, has already taken human form in Jesus of Nazareth, that he has risen from the dead, and that sooner or later he will return to found the kingdom of a thousand years. The Jews do not believe this, but are still waiting for their Messiah. But from a legal point of view, there is no difference, whether they believe that the Messiah has come or that he will come. The main thing is that they believe in a Messiah. The city of Antioch is neither. willing nor even competent to decide whether the Messiah has come or not. So the Jews and the Christians must settle the matter in peace among themselves, without persecuting each other.”
    “So it has been and so it would still be,” said Paul passionately, “if the circumcised Christians weren’t so cowardly, like Cephas for instance, who first ate together with the uncircumcised but then withdrew from them because he was more afraid of the holy men in Jerusalem than of God. I told him straight out what I thought about his cowardice, but the damage was done and now the circumcised eat more and more frequently by themselves and the uncircumcised do the same. So the latter can no longer be called Jews, even legally. No, amongst us there are neither Jews nor Greeks, neither freedmen nor slaves, but we are all of us Christians.”
    My father remarked that it would be unwise to put forward this argument to the court, since by it the Christians would lose an irreplaceable advantage and protection. It would be more rational for them to admit that they were Jews and benefit from all the political advantages of Judaism, even if they did show little respect for circumcision and the Jewish laws.
    But he did not succeed in convincing these two Jews. They had their own unshakable belief that a Jew was a Jew and all others heathens, but a heathen could become Christian and in the same way a Jew could also become a Christian and then there was no difference between them, but they were one with Christ. Nevertheless, a Jew as a Christian continued to be a Jew, but a baptized heathen could become a Jew only by circumcision, and this was neither necessary nor even desirable any longer, for the whole world must know that a Christian did not need to be a Jew.
    My father said bitterly that this was a philosophy that was beyond his comprehension. In his day, he himself had been humbly willing to become a subject of the kingdom of Jesus of Nazareth, but then he was not received because he was not a Jew. The leaders of the Nazareth sect had even forbidden him to talk about their king. As far as he could see, he would be wisest to continue to wait for the affairs of the kingdom to be clarified so that they would also be comprehensible to simpler minds. Clearly it was providence that was now sending him to Rome, for such unpleasantness was to be expected in Antioch from both Jews and Christians that even the best mediators could no longer offer a solution.
    But he promised to suggest to the city council that the Christians should not be tried for having violated the Jewish faith, since they by receiving the baptism, devised by the Jews, and by admitting a Jewish Messiah as their king, in any case de facto if not also literally de. jure, in some way or other were Jews. If the council admitted this standpoint, then the matter could at least be postponed and the Jews’ action set aside for a time.
    With this Barnabas and Paul were satisfied, and indeed they could hardly be otherwise. My father assured them that his sympathies in any case lay more with the Christians than with the Jews. The freedmen on their part implored my father to ask to be allowed to resign from the city council without delay, for he had enough to do with his own affairs. But my father quite rightly replied that just at this moment it was impossible for him to do so, for a public application for resignation would make everyone believe that he in fact regarded me as guilty of sacrilege.
    The freedmen began seriously to fear that my father’s obvious sympathies with the Christians would make the people suspect that he had perhaps encouraged me, his son, with the view in mind of violating the girls’ innocent rites. For both Christians and Jews felt an equally implacable aversion to idols, holy sacrifices and hereditary rites.
    “The Christians who have been baptized and then have drunk blood with their fellow believers,” said the freedmen, “pull down and burn their household idols and destroy their expensive fortunetelling books instead of selling them for a reasonable price to people who could still use them. This impetuous intolerance makes them dangerous.
    You, our good patient master, should have no more to do with them, or things might go badly for your son.”
    In all honor to my father, it must be said that after the visit from the two Jews, he no longer pressed me to go and listen to their teachings. After disagreeing with other Jews, they also began quarreling between themselves, and they left Antioch in different directions. The faithful Jews calmed down after their departure, for the moderate Jews avoided open and public conflict and kept themselves to themselves in their own secret society.
    At my father’s suggestion, the city fathers refused to allow the Jews’ complaint against Paul and Barnabas, and proclaimed that the Jews themselves must settle their own disagreements. With the help of some determination, it was also easier to hand over the dispute concerning me and my friends to be solved by the oracle in Daphne. Our parents paid heavy fines and we ourselves underwent purification ceremonies in the groves of Daphne for three days and three nights. The parents of the girls we had violated no longer dared press us with proposals of. marriage. But in connection with the purification ceremonies, we were forced to make a certain promise to the Moon Goddess, but this I could not tell my father, nor did he ask me about it.
    My father, contrary to his usual habit, went with me to the amphitheater, where we seven youths were allowed to occupy the place of honor behind the city authorities at the next performance. Our lion had undergone a slimming course and was skillfully spurred on to conduct itself in the arena far better than we had dared to hope. With little difficulty it tore apart a malefactor who had been condemned to be thrown to the beasts of prey; then bit the first gladiator in the knee, and fell while fighting fearlessly to the end. The crowd roared with delight and honored the lion and ourselves by rising to its feet and applauding. I think my father was proud of me, although he said nothing.
    Several days later, we said good-bye to the tearful servants and traveled to the port of Seleucia. There we boarded a ship, my father and I, with Barbus following, to sail to Naples and from there to Rome.

Book II


    If I could but describe what it feels like to arrive in Rome, at fifteen years of age, when one has known since childhood that all one’s blood ties are united with those sacred hills and valleys. For me, it felt as if the very ground shook beneath my feet as it welcomed its son, as if every furrowed stone in the streets had repeated eight hundred years of history for my ears. Even the muddy Tiber was so sacred to me that I felt faint at the sight of it.
    I was perhaps exhausted by the excitement and lack of sleep on our long journey, but it all felt to me as if I were delightfully intoxicated, but more sweedy than with wine. This was the city of my forefathers and my city too, which ruled over the whole of the civilized world as far distant as Parthia and Germany.
    Barbus sniffed the air eagerly as we made our way to the house of my father’s aunt, Manilia Laelius.
    “For more than forty years I have missed the smell of Rome,” he said. “It’s a smell one never forgets and one notices it most in the town of Subura, just at this time of the evening when the smell of cooking and hot sausages blends with the natural smells of the narrow streets. It’s a mixture of garlic, cooking oil, spices, sweat and incense from the temples, but most of all a kind of basic smell which one can only call the smell of Rome, for I have never met it anywhere else. But in forty years the mixture seems to have changed, or perhaps my nose has grown old. Only with an effort can I regain the unforgettable smell of my childhood and youth.”
    We arrived at the city on foot, for vehicles are forbidden in Rome in the daytime. Otherwise, communication would become impossible because of the overcrowding. For my sake, and perhaps also for his own, my father chose a roundabout route across the forum to Palatine, so that we had Palatine hill on our left and the Capitoline in front of us. Then we took the old Etruscan road to get up to Palatine, alongside the great circus. My head swung from side to side as my father patiently enumerated the temples and buildings, and Barbus gaped in wonder at the vast new apartments on the forum which had not been there in his dau. My father was sweating and breathing heavily as he walked. I thought compassionately that he was an old man although he was not yet fifty.
    But my father did not stop to draw breath until we came to the round temple of Vesta. Through the opening in its roof rose the thin spiral of smoke from the sacred fire of Rome, and my father promised that the next day, if I wished, I could go with Barbus to look at the cave where the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus and which the god Augustus had preserved as a spectacle for the whole world. The sacred tree of the wolf-brothers still grew in front of the cave.
    “For me,” said my father, “the smell of Rome is an unforgettable scent of roses and salves, of clean linen and scrubbed stone floors, a smell which cannot be found elsewhere in the world, for the smell and soil of Rome itself has its own contribution to make. But the very thought of this smell makes me so melancholy that I can hardly bear to walk through these memorable streets once again. Let us not stop then, so that I shall not be too moved and lose the self-control which I have practiced for over fifteen years.”
    But Barbus objected pitifully.
    “Experience of a lifetime has taught me,” he said, “that a few gulps of wine are enough for my mind and for the whole of my being to take in smells and noises more clearly. Nothing has ever tasted so good in my mouth as the small spiced sausages one can get sizzling hot in Rome. Let us at least stop long enough to taste some.”
    My father was forced to laugh. We stopped at the market and went into a small inn which was so old that its floor lay well below street level. Both Barbus and I eagerly sniffed the air.
    “Blessed be Hercules!” cried Barbus in delight. “A bit of the old days is left of Rome after all. I remember this place, even if in my memory it was considerably larger and more spacious than it is now. Take a deep breath, Minutus, you who are younger than. I. Perhaps you can smell the smell of fish and mud, of reeds and manure, of sweaty bodies and the incense shops of the circus.”
    He rinsed his mouth, spat out an offering on to the floor, and then stuffed his mouth with sausage, chewing and smacking his lips, his head to one side. Finally he said, “Something old and forgotten is in fact returning to my mind. But perhaps my mouth has also grown too old, for I can no longer feel the same sensual bliss as before with sausage in my mouth and a goblet of wine in my hand.”
    The tears rose in his old eyes and he sighed.
    “I am indeed like a ghost from the past,” he said, “now that the centenary is to be celebrated. I don’t know a single person here, neither a relation nor a protector. A new generation has replaced mine and it knows nothing of the past, so the spiced sausage has lost its flavor and the wine is diluted. I had hoped to come across an old comrade-inarms among the Emperor’s Praetors, or at least in the Fire Brigade of Rome, but now I wonder whether we’d even recognize each other. Woe to the conquered. I am like Priam in the ruins of Troy.”
    The innkeeper hurried up, his face shining with grease, and asked what the matter was. He assured us that in his house one could find horsemen from the circus, officials of the State archives, actors, and architects who were putting Rome’s sights in order for the centenary festivities. One could even make acquaintance with nice little she-wolves beneath his roof. But Barbus was inconsolable and replied gloomily that he could not consider a she-wolf, for even that would certainly not feel the same as before.
    Afterwards we walked up the hill of Aventine and my father said with a sigh that we should not have turned off into the inn after all, for the garlic sausage had given him a stomachache which not even the wine could allay. He was feeling pressure in his chest and was filled with evil forebodings, which grew worse at the sight of a crow flying past on our left.
    In among the new and old apartment blocks, we wandered past several ancient temples which looked sunk into the ground beside the large buildings. On the other side of the hill, my father at last found the Manilianus family property. Compared with our house in Antioch, it was quite a small and neglected building which had at some time had an additional story built on to it to provide more space. But it was surrounded by a wall and a wild garden. When my father saw my contemptuous expression, he said sternly that the plot and the garden alone bore witness to the age and nobility of the house.
    The bearers had long since arrived from the Capua gate with our luggage and Aunt Laelia was expecting us. First she let my father pay the bearers and then she came down the steps and along the garden path between the laurel bushes. She was a tall thin woman and had carefully rouged her lined cheeks and darkened her eyes. She was also wanting a ring on her finger and a copper chain around her neck. Her hands trembled as she came to meet us, her cries of joy carefully controlled.
    She made a mistake at first, for my father in his humble way had stood in the background to pay the bearers himself, and she stopped in front of Barbus, bowing a little and covering her head as if in prayer.
    “Ah, Marcus, what a joyful occasion,” she cried. “You are much changed since your youth. But your stance is now better and your figure more powerful.”
    My father burst out laughing.
    “Oh, Aunt Laelia,” he cried. “You are as shortsighted as ever. I am Marcus. This good honest old veteran is our companion Barbus, one of my clients.”
    Aunt Laelia was annoyed at her own mistake. She went up to my father, peered at him with glittering eyes and fumbled over his shoulders and stomach with shaking hands..
    “It is not so strange,” she remarked, “that I no longer recognize you. Your face has swollen, your stomach sags and I can hardly believe my own eyes, for you used to be quite good-looking.”
    My father was not offended by her words. On the contrary.
    “Thank you for your words, Aunt Laelia,” he said. “A weight has fallen from my mind, for I have had nothing but trouble from my appearance before. As you didn’t recognize me, then hardly anyone else will either. But you haven’t changed a bit. You’re as slim as before and your features are just as noble. The years have not changed you in the slightest. Embrace my son Minutus too, then, and be as good and considerate to him as you were to me in the lighthearted days of my youth.”
    Aunt Laelia embraced me with delight, kissed me on the forehead and eyes with her thin mouth and felt my cheeks.
    “But Minutus,” she cried, “you already have the beginnings of a beard and are not at all a child to be hugged.”
    She went on, holding my head between her hands and looked carefully at my face.
    “You look more like a Greek than a Roman,” she said. “But those green eyes and fair hair of yours are certainly very unusual. If you were a girl, I should say you were beautiful, but with those looks you will certainly make a good marriage. Your mother of course was a Greek, if I remember rightly.”
    Not until she had stammered and chattered away for some time, as if she herself did not really know what she was saying, did I realize that she was in a state of utter terror. At the entrance we were greeted by a bald, toothless slave, and at his side stood a lame and one-eyed woman. They both knelt in front of my father and called out a greeting which Aunt Laelia had obviously taught them. My father looked embarrassed, patted Aunt Laelia on the shoulder and asked her to go in before us as she was the hostess. The little room was full of smoke which made us all start coughing, for Aunt Laelia had had a fire lighted on the household altar in our honor. Through the smoke I could just make out our family gods in fired clay, and their yellowed wax masks seemed to move in the swirling smoke.
    Nervously tripping, coughing and gesticulating, Aunt Laelia began verbosely to explain that according to the traditions of the Manilianus family, we ought really to sacrifice a pig. But as she had been uncertain of the day of our arrival, she had not acquired a pig and could now offer us only olives, cheese and vegetable soup. She herself had long since ceased eating meat. We looked at all the rooms in the house and I saw the cobwebs in the corners, the wretched couches and some other poor furniture, and I suddenly realized that our noble and much respected Aunt Laelia lived in the depths of poverty. All that remained of Manilius the astronomer’s library were a few rat-chewed scrolls, and Aunt Laelia was forced to admit that she had even sold his portrait bust to the public library below Palatine. Finally she broke down and wept bitterly.
    “Just blame me, Marcus,” she said. “I’m a bad housekeeper because I have seen better days in my youth. I shouldn’t have been able to keep this household going if you hadn’t sent money from Antioch. I don’t know where the money has gone, but at least it hasn’t gone on luxuries, wine and perfumed ointments. I still hope that my destiny may change any day now. This has been foretold. So you mustn’t be angry with me or ask me for a careful rendering of accounts of the money you sent me.”
    But my father assured her that he had not come to Rome as an auditor. On the contrary, he deeply regretted he had not sent more money for the maintenance and repair of the house. But now everything would be changed, just as had been foretold to Aunt Laelia. My father bade Barbus unpack and spread the rich Eastern cloths on the floor. He gave Aunt Laelia a silk robe and a silk cloth, hung a necklace of jewels around her neck and asked her to try on a pair of soft red leather shoes. He also gave her a handsome wig, so that she wept even louder.
    “Oh, Marcus,” she cried, “are you really so wealthy? You haven’t acquired all these expensive things in some dishonest way, have you? I thought perhaps you had fallen victim to the vices of the East, as Romans so easily do if they stay there too long. So I was uneasy when I saw your swollen face, but it was probably the tears which dimmed my sight. When I look at you with greater equanimity I shall get used to your face, which perhaps doesn’t look quite so unpleasant as I first thought.”
    In fact Aunt Laelia feared and believed that my father had only come to take over the house and send her away to a life of poverty in the country somewhere. This belief was so deep-rooted that she kept repeating that a woman such as she could not possibly like it anywhere else but in Rome. Gradually she became braver and reminded us that she was after all the widow of a senator and was still a welcome visitor in many of the old houses in Rome, although her husband, Gnaius Laelius, had died so long ago as in the time of Emperor Tiberius.
    I asked her to tell me about Senator Gnaius Laelius, but Aunt Laelia listened to my request with her head on one side.
    “Marcus,” she said, “how is it possible that your son speaks Latin with such a dreadful Syrian accent? We must put that right or he’ll sound very foolish in Rome.”
    My father said in his untroubled way that he himself had spoken so much Greek and Aramaic that his own pronunciation was almost certainly strange.
    “Perhaps so,” said Aunt Laelia pungently, “for you are old and everyone knows you’ve picked up foreign accents on military or other duties abroad. But you must appoint a good tutor in rhetoric or an actor to improve Minutus’ pronunciation. He must go to the theater and listen to the public readings by authors. Emperor Claudius is particular about the purity of the language, even if he does let his freedmen speak Greek on matters of State, and his wife does other things which my modesty forbids me to mention.”
    Then she turned to me.
    “My poor husband, Senator Gnaius,” she explained, “was neither stupider nor simpler than Claudius. Yes, Claudius in his time even betrothed his son, who was a minor, to the daughter of the prefect Sejanus, and himself married his adoptive sister, Aelia. The boy was as scatterbrained as his father and later choked to death on a pear. I mean that my departed husband Laelius in the same way strove for the favors of Sejanus and thought he was serving the State in this way. You,
    Marcus, weren’t you in some way mixed up in Sejanus’ intrigues, since you vanished so suddenly from Rome before the conspiracy was revealed? No one heard from you for years. In fact you were struck from the rolls of knighthood by dear Emperor Gaius simply because no one knew anything about you. I know nothing either, he said jokingly, and drew a line through your name. Or that’s what I heard, although perhaps whoever told me wanted to spare my feelings and not reveal everything he knew.”
    My father answered stiffly that he would be going to the State archives the next day to have the reason for his name being struck off the rolls investigated. Aunt Laelia did not seem all that delighted to hear this. On the contrary, she asked whether it would not be safer to desist from digging into what was now old and rotten. When Emperor Claudius was drunk, he was irritable and capricious, even if he had put right many of Emperor Gaius’ political mistakes.
    “But I realize that for Minutus’ sake, we must do what we can to restore the family honor,” she admitted. “The quickest way would be to give Minutus the man-toga and ensure that he comes before the eyes of Aelia Messalina. The young Empress likes young men who have recently been given the man-toga and invites them into her rooms to question them a deux on their descent and their hopes for the future. If I weren’t so proud, I would beg an audience with the bitch for Minutus’ sake. But I’m very much afraid she would not receive me. She knows only too well that I was the best friend of Emperor Gaius’ mother in her youth. In fact I was one of the few Roman women who helped Agrippina and young Julia give the remains of their poor brother a reasonably respectable burial after the girls had returned from their exile. Poor Gaius was murdered in such a brutal way, and then the Jews financed Claudius so that he could be Emperor. Agrippina managed to find a rich husband but Julia was banished from Rome again because Messalina thought she hung around her Uncle Claudius too much. Many men have been banished because of those two lively girls. I remember a certain Tigellinus, who may have been uneducated but who had the finest figure of all the young men in Rome. He didn’t mind about his exile much, but started a fishery business and is now supposed to be breeding racehorses. Then there was a Spanish philosopher, Seneca, who had published many books and had a certain relationship with Julia although he had tuberculosis. He has been pining away in exile in Corsica for several years. Messalina considered it unsuitable that a niece of Claudius’ should be unchaste, even if it was a secret. Anyhow, only Agrippina is alive now.”
    When she stopped to draw breath, my father took the opportunity to say tactfully that it would be best if for the moment Aunt Laelia did not attempt to do anything to help me. My father wanted to see to the matter himself without interference from women. He had had enough of female interference, he said in bitter tones, so that it had choked him ever since the days of his youth.
    Aunt Laelia was about to reply, but gave me a look and decided to keep quiet. At last we could start eating the olives, the cheese and the vegetable soup. My father saw to it that we did not finish the food but left some of it, even of the-small lump of cheese, for otherwise obviously neither of the household’s aged slaves would get anything to eat. I did not realize this myself, for at home in Antioch I had always received the best bits and there was always more than enough left over for the rest of the household and the poor who always gathered around my father.
    The following day, my father appointed an architect to arrange for the repairs to the family property and a couple of gardeners to put the unkempt garden to rights. A hundred-year-old sycamore tree grew there, planted by a Manilius who had later been murdered in the open street by Marius’ men. A couple of ancient trees also grew near the house and my father was careful to see that they had not suffered any damage. The little sunken house he also left as outwardly unchanged as possible.
    “You’ll be seeing a great deal of marble and other luxuries in Rome,” he explained to me, “but when you grow up you will realize that what I am doing now is the greatest luxury of all. Not even the richest upstart can acquire such ancient trees around his house, and the building’s old-fashioned appearance is worth more than all the columns and decorations.”
    Fie turned back to his past in his thoughts and his face clouded.
    “Once in Damascus,” he went on, “I was going to build myself a simple house and plant trees all around it, to live a peaceful life there with your mother, Myrina. But after her death, I sank into such complete despair that nothing meant anything to me for many years. Perhaps I would have killed myself if my duty to you had not forced me to continue living. And once a fisherman on the shores of Galilee promised me something which still makes me curious, although I remember it only as a dream.”
    My father would not tell me more about this promise, but just repeated that he would have to be content with these ancient trees, for he himself had not been granted the joy of planting any and watching their growth.
    While the building workers and the architect were about the house and my father was in the city from morning to night arranging his affairs, Barbus and I walked insatiably around Rome, looking at the people and the sights. Emperor Claudius was having all the old temples and memorials repaired for the centenary festivities and the priests and wise men were collecting all the myths and tales which belonged to them and adapting them to the demands of the present. The Imperial buildings on Palatine, the temple on the Capitoline, and the baths and theaters in Rome did not captivate me in themselves, for I had grown up in Antioch where there were just as magnificent and even larger public buildings. In fact Rome, with its crooked alleys and steep hillsides, was a cramped city to one who was used to the straight streets of spacious Antioch.
    There was one building, however, which entranced me with its vast-ness and its associations. That was the enormous mausoleum of the god Augustus. It was circular in shape, for the most sacred temples in Rome were circular in memory of the days when Rome’s first inhabitants lived in round huts. The simple grandeur of the mausoleum seemed to me worthy of a god and the greatest ruler of all time. I never tired of reading the memorial inscription which listed Augustus’ greatest feats. Barbus was not so enthusiastic about it. He said that during his time as a legionary he had become cynical about all memorial inscriptions, for what was left out of them is usually more important than what is put in them. In that way a defeat can become a victory and political mistakes wise statesmanship. He assured me that between the lines of the memorial inscription on Augustus’ tomb he could read the destruction of whole legions, the sinking of hundreds of warships and the unmentionable deaths of civil war.
    He was, of course, born at the time when Augustus had already established peace and order in the State and had strengthened the power of Rome, but his father had told him less of Augustus, who was considered petty and mean, and more of Marcus Antonius, who sometimes stood at the speaker’s platform in the forum so drunk that, inflamed by his own words, he was forced intermittently to vomit into a bucket beside him. That was at the time when they still used to appeal to the people. Augustus had won the respect of the Senate and the pea-ple of Rome during his all too long reign, hut life in Rome had, at least according to Barbus’ father, become considerably duller than before. No one had really loved the cautious Augustus, but the dashing Antonius was liked for his faults and his gifted lightheartedness.
    But I was already familiar with Barbus’ stories, which my father would perhaps have considered unsuitable for my ears had he known about them. The mausoleum of Augustus delighted me with its wonderfully simple richness, and over and over again we walked right across Rome to look at it. But naturally I was also tempted to Mars field for the noble youth of Rome, where the sons of senators and knights were already busy practicing for the equestrian games at the centenary festivities. Enviously I watched them grouping, separating at signals from a horn and then regrouping again. I knew about all this and knew that I could control a horse just as well, if not better, than they.
    Among the spectators to the equestrian games there were always several anxious mothers, for the noble youths were of all ages between seven and fifteen. The boys naturally pretended not to recognize their mothers, but snarled angrily if one of the smallest fell from his horse and the mother, frightened and with flapping mantle, rushed up to save him from the horse’s hooves. Naturally the smallest had quiet and well-exercised horses which soon stopped to protect whoever had fallen from the saddle. They were certainly not wild warhorses these Romans were riding. Ours in Antioch were much wilder.
    Among the spectators, I once saw Valeria Messalina with her brilliant following, and I looked at her curiously. Of course I did not go near her, but from a distance she did not seem as beautiful as I had been told. Her seven-year-old son, whom Emperor Claudius had named Britannicus in honor of his victories in Britain, was a thin pale boy who was obviously afraid of the horse he was riding. He should really have been riding in the lead in these games because of his descent, but this was impossible because his face swelled and his eyes ran as soon as he mounted a horse. After every practice his face had turned scarlet with rash and he could scarcely see ahead of him because of his swollen eyes.
    Pleading that the boy was too young, Claudius named Lucius Domitius, son of his niece Domitia Agrippinas, as leader. Lucius was not yet ten but he was quite different from the timid Britannicus, strongly built for his age and a fearless rider. After the practice, he often remained behind alone and did daredevil feats to win the applause of the crowd. He had inherited the reddish hair of the Domitius family, so he liked to take off his helmet during practice to show the people this sign of his ancient and fearless family. But the people praised him more because he was the nephew of Emperor Claudius than because he was a Domitius, for then he had the blood of both Julia, the daughter of Julius Caesar, and Marcus Antonius in his veins. Even Barbus was spurred on to shout in his coarse voice both benign and indecent gibes at him, making the people howl with laughter.
    His mother, Agrippina, was for her part said not to dare come and watch the riding practices as the other mothers did, for she was afraid of Valeria Messalina’s envy. Warned by the fate of her sister, she avoided appearing in public as much as possible. But Lucius Domitius did not need his mother’s protection. He won the admiration of the crowd unaided with his boyish conduct. He controlled his body well, moved beautifully and his eyes were bold. The bigger boys did not seem to envy him, but subjected themselves quite willingly to his command during the exercises.
    I leaned against the worn polished fence and watched the riding longingly. But my free existence soon came to an end. My father found a dismal tutor of rhetoric who sarcastically corrected every single word I spoke and apparently deliberately made me read aloud from nothing but dull books on self-control, humility and manly deeds. My father seemed to have an infallible gift for appointing tutors who drove me out of my mind.
    While the house was being repaired, Barbus and I had a room on the upper floor which was impregnated with the smell of incense and had magical symbols on the walls. I did not take much notice of them, for I thought they had been there since the time of Manilius the astronomer. But I began to sleep badly because of them and have dreams, so that I woke to the sound of my own screams, or Barbus had to wake me up as I whimpered in a nightmare. My tutor also soon tired of the noise and the sound of hammers, and began to take me to the lecture rooms at the baths.
    I found his thin limbs and round yellow stomach repugnant, and even more so when, in the middle of his sarcasms, he began to stroke my arms and talk about how in Antioch I must have made acquaintance with Greek love. He wanted me to move into his room with him on the top story of a wretched house in Subura while our house was being repaired. One had to climb a ladder to get there and he would then be able to instruct me undisturbed and familiarize me with a life of wisdom.
    Barbus noticed his intentions and gave him a serious warning. When he did not heed it, Barbus finally gave him a beating. This frightened him so much, he no longer even dared go to my father for his salary. On our part, we dared not tell my father the real reason why he had vanished from our sight. My father presumed that I, by being so stubborn, had displeased an eminent scholar. We quarreled and I said, “Let me have a horse instead, so that I can get to know some other boys in Rome and have the company of others like myself and learn their customs.”
    “A horse was your downfall in Antioch,” remarked my father. “Emperor Claudius has proclaimed a sensible new edict in which an old or otherwise decrepit senator or knight in the procession can lead his horse by the bridle without mounting. One has to carry out, in name only, the military service the office demands.”
    “But at least give me enough money,” I said quickly, “so that I can make friends among actors, musicians and circus people. If I mix with them, I can get to know the effeminate Roman boys who avoid military service.”
    But my father did not like this either.,
    “Aunt Laelia has already warned me and says that a youngster like you shouldn’t be without company of your own age for too long,” he admitted. “While seeing to my affairs, I have met a certain shipowner and grain dealer. Now, after the. famine, Emperor Claudius is havifig a new harbor built and will pay compensation for grain ships which founder. On the advice of Marcius the fisherman, I have bought shares in these ships, for one no longer runs such a risk, and some people have already made a fortune by just re-equipping old ships. But the habits of these newcomers are such that I have no desire for you to mix with them.”
    I had a feeling that my father did not himself know what he wanted.
    “Have you come to Rome to get rich?” I asked him.
    My father was annoyed.
    “You know perfectly well,” he said violently, “that I desire nothing more than to live a simple life in peace and quiet. But my freedmen have taught me that it is a crime against the State and the common good to save gold coins in bags in a chest. In addition I want to buy more land in Caere, where my real family lives. You must never forget that we are of the Manilianus family only by adoption.”
    He looked at me with troubled eyes.
    “You have a fold in your eyelid,” he said, “just as I have. It is a sign of our true origins. But when I searched in the State archives, I saw with my own eyes the rolls of knighthood from Emperor Gaius’ day, and there is no mark against my name, only a snakelike wavy line through it. Gaius’ hands shook badly because of his illness. There was no court judgment or action against me. Whether this was because of my absence or not, I don’t know. The Procurator Pontius Pilate himself fell from grace ten years ago, lost his office and was removed to Galilee. But Emperor Claudius has that secret record and it could obviously contain something to my disadvantage. I have met his freedman Felix, who is interested in the affairs of Judaea. He has promised to consult Narcissus, the Emperor’s private secretary, at a suitable moment. I should prefer to meet this influential man myself, but he is said to be so important that it costs ten thousand sesterces just to meet him. For the sake of my honor and certainly not from meanness, I should prefer not to bribe him directly.”
    My father went on to tell me that he had listened carefully and memorized everything said about Emperor Claudius, the bad as well as the good. The return of our name to the rolls depended in the long run on the Emperor personally. With increasing age, Emperor Claudius had become so capricious that at a whim or an omen, he would reverse the firmest decisions. He might also fall asleep in the middle of a session of the Senate, or at a trial, and forget what was being dealt with. While waiting, my father had taken the opportunity of reading all the works Emperor Claudius had published, even his manual on the game of dice.
    “Emperor Claudius is one of the few Romans who can still speak the Etruscans’ language and read their script,” explained my father. “If you want to please me, go to the public library in Palatine and ask to read the book he has written on the history of the Etruscans. It is several scrolls long and not a very dull book. It also explains the words in many of the priests’ sacrificial rituals which they have hitherto had to learn by heart. Then we’ll go to Caere and look at our property, which I have still not yet seen myself. You will be able to ride there.”
    But my father’s advice depressed me even more and I felt more like biting my lips and weeping than anything else. When my father had gone, Barbus gave me a sly look.
    “It’s odd how many middle-aged men forget what it’s like to be young,” he said. “I remember very well indeed how when I was your age I wept without cause and had bad dreams. I know perfectly well how you could retrieve your peace of mind and sound sleep, but because of your father I daren’t arrange any such thing for you.”
    Aunt Laelia also began to look at me with troubled eyes, and then she asked me into her room, looking around carefully before speaking.
    “If you swear not to tell your father,” she said, “I’ll tell you a secret.”
    From politeness I promised I would not, although I was laughing inwardly, for I thought that Aunt Laelia would be unlikely to have any thrilling secrets. But in this I was wrong.
    “In the room you sleep in,” she said, “a Jewish magician called Simon used to live as my guest. He himself says he is a Samaritan, but they’re Jews too, aren’t they? His incense and magical symbols have probably been disturbing your sleep. He came to Rome some years ago and soon won a reputation as a physician, fortuneteller and miracle worker. Senator Marcellus let him live in his house and erected a statue for him, for he believed that Simon had divine powers. His powers were. tested. He plunged a young slave into the sleep of the dead ‘and then wakened him again from the dead, although the boy had already turned cold and did not show the slightest sign of life. I saw this with my own eyes.”
    “I’m sure you did,” I said. “But I’ve had enough of Jews in Antioch.”
    “Quite,” said Aunt Laelia eagerly. “Let me go on. The other Jews, the ones who live on the other side of the river, and the ones who live here on Aventine, became bitterly envious of Simon the magician. He could make himself invisible and he could fly. So the Jews summoned another magician who was also called Simon. Both of them had to demonstrate their powers and Simon, that is my Simon, asked the spectators to look carefully at a little cloud and then he suddenly disappeared. When he showed himself again, he was flying out of the cloud above the forum, but then the other Jew called on his idol, Christ, so that Simon fell to the ground in midflight and broke his leg. He was angry about this and was carried out of the city to hide in the country while his leg healed, until the other Simon had left the city. Then Simon the magician returned with his daughter and I let him live here as he had no better patron. He stayed with me as long as I had money but then moved to a house by the Moon temple and he receives, clients there. He doesn’t fly anymore, and neither does he raise the dead, but his daughter earns her living as a moon priestess. Many noble people let her tell their fortunes, and Simon gets back vanished articles.”
    “Why are you telling me all this?” I asked suspiciously.
    Aunt Laelia began to wring her hands.
    “It’s been so sad since Simon the magician left,” she said, “but he won’t receive me any longer because I’ve no money and I’ve not dared go to his home because of your father. But I’m sure he would cure your bad dreams and calm your fears. Anyhow, with his daughter’s help he could tell your fortune and advise you on what you should eat and what doesn’t agree with you and which days are your lucky days and which are unlucky. He forbade me to eat peas, for instance, and ever since then I’ve felt quite ill as soon as I see peas, even if they’re only dried ones.”
    My father had given me some gold pieces to console me and spur me on to read the history of the Etruscans. I thought Aunt Laelia was a silly old lady, spending her time on superstition and magic because she did not have much fun in her life. But I didn’t grudge her her pastime, and the Samaritan magician and his daughter seemed much more exciting than the dusty library where old men sit endlessly rustling among the dry scrolls. The time had also come for me to make acquaintance with the Moon temple, because of the promise I had made to the oracle in Daphne.
    When I promised to go with Laelia to the magician, she was extremely pleased. She dressed herself in silks, painted and prinked her wrinkled face, put on the red wig my father had given her and also put the necklace of jewels around her thin neck. Barbus asked her, in the name of the gods, at least to cover her head, for otherwise people might well take her for the hostess of a brothel. Aunt Laelia was not angry, but just wagged her forefinger at Barbus and forbade him to come with us. But Barbus had promised solemnly never to let me out of his sight in Rome. Finally we agreed that he should come with us to the Moon temple but would wait outside.
    The Moon temple on Aventine is so ancient that there is no myth about it as there is about the more recent Diana temple. King Servius Tullius in his day had it built in a circular shape from magnificent timber. Later a stone temple was built around the wooden building. The innermost part of the temple is so holy that it has no stone floor, but is just flattened earth. Apart from votive gifts, there are no other sacred objects except a huge egg of stone, the surface of which is worn black and smooth with oil and salve. When one enters the half-light of the temple, one can feel the shiver of holiness one experiences only in very old temples. This shiver I had felt before in the temple of Saturn, which is the most ancient and most terrifying and most holy of all the temples in Rome. It is the temple of Time, and the high priest, who is usually the Emperor himself, on a certain day every year still beats on a copper nail in the oaken pillar which stands in the middle of it.
    In the Moon temple there is no sacred pillar, but just the egg of stone. Beside it, on a tripod, a deathly pale woman was sitting so still that at first I took her for a statue in the darkness. But Aunt Laelia spoke to her in a voice that mewed with humility, calling her Helena and buying holy oil from her to rub into the egg. As she poured out the oil in drops, she mumbled a magic formula which only women are allowed to learn. For men it is useless to make offerings to this egg. As she was making offerings, I looked at the votive gifts and noticed to my delight that there were several small round’ silver boxes amongst them. I was ashamed at the thought of what I had promised to offer to the Moon goddess, for I considered it best to take it to the temple in a closed box when the time was right.
    Just then the pale woman turned to me, looked at me with her frightening black eyes, smiled and said, “Don’t be ashamed of your thoughts, oh handsome youth. The Moon Goddess is a more powerful goddess than you think. If you can win her favor, then you will possess a power incomparably greater than the raw strength of Mars or the barren wisdom of Minerva.”
    She spoke Latin with an accent, so that it sounded as if she had spoken some ancient forgotten language. Her face became enlarged in my eyes, as if shining with a hidden moonlight, and when she smiled I saw that she was beautiful despite her pallor. Aunt Laelia spoke to her even more humbly, so that I suddenly thought she looked like a thin cat, insinuatingly stroking and weaving herself around the stone
    “No, no, not a cat,” said the priestess, still smiling. “A lioness. Don’t you see? What have you got to do with lions, boy?”
    Her words frightened me and for a very brief moment I really seemed to see a thin troubled lioness where Aunt Laelia had been standing. It looked at me as reproachfully as the old lion outside Antioch had done when I had jabbed its paw with my spear. But the vision vanished as I brushed my hand across my forehead.
    “Is your father at home?” asked Aunt Laelia. “And do you think he would receive us?”
    “My father Simon has fasted and journeyed in many countries to appear unexpectedly to people who respect his divine power,” said the priestess Helena. “But I know that at the moment he is awake and is expecting you both.”
    She took us through the rear door of the temple and a few steps beyond it to a tall block which had a shop for holy souvenirs on the ground floor full of both cheap and expensive moons and stars of copper and quite small polished stone eggs. The priestess Helena at once looked quite ordinary, her thin face yellow and her white cloak soiled and smelling foully of stale incense. She was no longer young.
    She took us through the shop into a dirty back room where a black-bearded, thick-nosed man was sitting on a mat on the floor. He raised his eyes toward us as if he were still in another world, but then rose stiffly to greet Aunt Laelia.
    “I was speaking with an Ethiopian magician,” he said in a surprisingly deep voice. “But I felt it in me that you were on your way here. Why do you disturb me, Laelia Manilia? From your silks and jewels I see that you have already received all the good things I foretold. What more do you want?”
    Aunt Laelia explained meekly that I slept in the room in which Simon the magician had lived for so long. I had bad dreams at night, ground my teeth and cried out in my sleep. Aunt Laelia wanted to know the reasons for this and if possible to receive a remedy for it.
    “I was also in debt to you, dearest Simon, when you left my house in your bitterness,” said Aunt Laelia, and she asked me to give the magician three gold pieces.
    Simon the magician did not take the money himself, but just nodded to his daughter-if the priestess Helena really was his daughter-and she took it indifferently. Three Roman aureii is after all three hundred sesterces or seventy-five silver coins, so I was annoyed at her superciliousness.
    The magician sat down on his mat again and asked me to sit opposite him. The priestess Helena threw a few pinches of incense into the holder.
    “I heard that you broke your leg when you were flying,” I said politely at last, as the magician said nothing and just stared at me.
    “I had a fall on the other side of the sea in Samaria,” he began in a monotonous voice. But Aunt Laelia became impatient and started to fidget.
    “Oh, Simon, won’t you command us as before?” she pleaded.
    The magician held his forefinger up in the air. Aunt Laelia stiffened and began to stare at it. Without even glancing at her, — . Simon the magician said, “You can no longer turn your head, Laelia Manilia. And don’t disturb us, but go bathe in the spring. When you step into the water, you will be satisfied and become younger.”
    Aunt Laelia did not go anywhere but just remained immobile where she was, staring stupidly ahead as she made gestures as if she were undressing. Simon the magician went on looking at me and returned to his story.
    “I had a tower of stone,” he said. “The moon and all five of the planets served me and my power was divine. The Moon Goddess took on human form in Helena and became my daughter. With her help I could see into both the past and the future. But then came magicians from Galilee whose powers were greater than mine. They needed only to place their hands on a man’s head and he would begin to speak and the spirit came to him. I was still young then and wanted to study all kinds of powers. So I bade them lay their hands on me too and promised them a large sum of money if they would transfer their powers to me so that I could perform the same miracle as they did. But they were miserly with their powers and cursed me and forbade me to use the name of their god in my activities. Look in my eyes, boy. What is your name?”
    “Minutus,” I said reluctantly, for his monotonous voice, more than his story, had made my head whirl. “Oughtn’t you to know that without asking me, if you’re such a great magician?” I added sarcastically.
    “Minutus, Minutus,” he repeated. “The power in me tells me that you will receive another name before the moon waxes for the third time. But I did not believe the Galilean magicians. On the contrary, I cured the sick in the name of their God until they began to persecute me and had me prosecuted in Jerusalem because of a little gold Eros. A rich woman gave it to me of her own free will. Look in my eyes, Minutus. But they bewitched her with their powers so that she herself forgot she had given it to me. Instead she said that I had made myself invisible and stolen it from her. You know I can make myself invisible, don’t you? I count to three, Minutus. One, two, three. Now you cannot see me any longer.”
    He really did fade away from view so that I seemed to be staring at a shimmering ball which was perhaps a moon. But I shook my head violently, shut my eyes and opened them again, and then he was sitting opposite me just as before.
    “I can see you as before, Simon the magician,” I said distrustfully. “I don’t want to look into your eyes.”
    He laughed in a friendly way, made a dismissive gesture with his hands and said, “You are a stubborn boy and I don’t want to force you, for that would bring nothing good. But look at Manilia Laelius.”
    I looked at Aunt Laelia. She had raised her hands and was leaning back with a rapturous expression on her face. The wrinkles around her mouth and eyes had been smoothed out and her figure had become buoyant and youthful.
    “Where are you at the moment, Manilia Laelius?” asked Simon the magician in a commanding voice.
    In girlish tones, Aunt Laelia replied at once. “I’m bathing in your spring,” she said. “The wonderful water covers me completely so that I am quivering all over.”
    “Just go on with your divine bath, Laelia,” said the magician, and then to me he added, “This kind of witchcraft means nothing and does no harm to anyone. I could bewitch you so that you were always stumbling and injuring your feet and hands. But why should I waste my powers on you? Let us anyhow tell your fortune, now you are here. Helena, you are asleep.”
    “I am asleep, Simon,” replied the priestess, immediately submissive though her eyes were open.
    “What do you see about the youth called Minutus?” asked the magician.
    “His animal is the lion,” said the priestess. “But the lion is approaching me and I cannot come past it. Behind the lion is a man attacking him with mortal arrows, but I cannot see what he looks like. He is much too far away in the future. But I can see Minutus clearly in a large room in which the shelves are full of scrolls. A woman is handing him an opened scroll. She has blackened hands. Her father is not her father. Be careful of her, Minutus. And now I see Minutus riding on a black stallion. He is wearing a shining breastplate. I can hear the roar of a crowd. But the lion is rushing at me. I must run away. Simon, Simon, save me!”
    She gave a cry and covered her face with her hands. Simon hurriedly ordered her to waken, gave me a penetrating look and then asked, “You’re not practicing witchcraft yourself, are you? With your lion protecting you so jealously? Don’t worry. You need have no more bad dreams if only you remember to call on your lion in the dream. Was what you have heard what you wished to hear?”
    “The main thing I heard,” I admitted. “And that was a pleasure to me, whether it was the truth or not. But I shall certainly remember you and your daughter if I ever find myself mounted on a black stallion in a shouting crowd.”
    Simon the magician now turned to Aunt Laelia and spoke her name.
    “Now it’s time for you to rise from the spring,” he commantled. “Let your friend pinch your arm as a sign. It won’t hurt, only sting a little. Wake up now.”
    Aunt Laelia woke slowly from her trance and felt her left arm with the same rapturous look as before. I looked at her curiously and on her thin arm there really was a large bruise. Aunt Laelia rubbed it and trembled all over with pleasure so that I had to turn my eyes away. The priestess Helena smiled at me with her lips appealingly half-open. But I did not want to look at her either. I was confused and felt prickly all over. So I said farewell to them, but I had to hold Aunt Laelia’s arm and lead her out of the magician’s room, she was in such a dazed state.
    In the shop, the priestess picked up a small black stone egg and handed it to me.
    “Take this as a present from me,” she said. “May it protect your dreams when the moon is full.”
    I was seized with the greatest reluctance to take anything from her.
    “I’ll buy it,” I said. “How much do you want?”
    “Just a strand of your hair,” said the priestess Helena, stretching out her hand to pull a hair from my head. But Aunt Laelia intervened and whispered that it would be better if I gave the woman money.
    I had no small coins so I handed her a gold piece, and perhaps she had earned it with her fortunetelling. She accepted the coin indiffere tly.
    “You set a high price on your strands of hair,” she said scornfully. “But perhaps you are right. The goddess knows.”
    I found Barbus in front of the temple, doing his best to hide the fact that he had this opportunity to take a drink or two of wine so that he staggered unsteadily along behind us. Aunt Laelia was in a gay mood and she stroked the bruise on her arm.
    “Simon the magician was more gracious to me than he has been for a long time,” she explained, “I feel enlivened and refreshed in every way and haven’t a single ache in my body. But it was a good thing you didn’t give a strand of hair In his shameless daughter. With its help she could have visited your bed in n dream.”
    She put her hand to her mouth in fright and glanced at me.
    “You’re already a big boy,” she said. “Your father must have explained these things to you. I’m certain Simon the magician sometimes bewitches a man to sleep with his daughter. Then that man falls completely in their power, even though he in exchange has received success of another kind. I should have warned you beforehand, but I didn’t think about it as you are still a minor. I didn’t realize until she asked you for a strand of your hair.”
    After the meeting with Simon the magician, my bad dreams did not occur again. When a nightmare tried to take possession of me, I remembered Simon the magician’s advice in the dream and called upon my lion. At once it came, lay down protectively beside me and was in every way so living and real that I could stroke its mane with my hand even if, when I woke up from my light sleep, I noticed I had been stroking a fold in my covers.
    I was so pleased with the lion that once or twice I called on it just as I was falling asleep. Even out in the city, I could imagine the lion walking along behind me and protecting me.
    A few days after the visit to Simon the magician, I remembered my father’s request and went to the library below Palatine. I asked the crusty old librarian for the history of the Etruscans by Emperor Claudius. He was contemptuous at first because of my youthful attire, but I was already tired of the superior attitude of the Romans, and I snapped at him that I was thinking of writing to the Emperor himself to complain about not being allowed to read his works at the library. So he hurriedly called on a blue-clad slave who took me to a room in which there was a large statue of Claudius, and showed me the right section.
    I was left looking at the Emperor’s statue in amazement, for Claudius had had himself represented as Apollo, and the sculptor had in no way beautified his thin limbs and drunkard’s face, so the statue looked more absurd than imposing. At least the Emperor was not vain, allowing a statue of himself such as this to be erected in a public library.
    At first I thought I was alone in the room and presumed that the Romans did not rank Claudius very high as an author since they left his scrolls collecting the dust in their slots. But then I noticed that over by a narrow reading-window a young woman was sitting with her back to me. I hunted for the Etruscan history for a while. I found the history of Carthage which Claudius had also written, but the slots in which the history of the Etruscans was evidently kept were empty. I looked again at the woman reading and noticed she had a whole heap of scrolls beside her.
    I had allotted the whole day to this dreary task, for one may not read by lamplight in the library because of the danger of fire, and I did not want to leave without having accomplished my work. So I plucked up courage, for I was shy of speaking to strange women, went over to her and asked her whether she was reading the history of the Etruscans and whether she needed all the scrolls at once. My voice was sarcastic, although I knew perfectly well that many well-brought-up women are bookworms. But they certainly did not usually read history books, but more likely Ovid’s fantastic love stories and adventures.
    The woman started violently, just as if she had only then noticed my arrival, and she looked up at me with her eyes glittering. She was young, and judging by her hair style, unmarried. Her face was not beautiful but rather irregular and coarse of feature. Her smooth skin was sunburned like a slave’s, her mouth large and her lips full.
    “I’m learning the words of the holy rituals and I’m comparing them with each other in different books,” she snapped. “It’s not funny.”
    Despite her bad temper, I had a feeling that she was as shy of me as I was of her. I noticed her hands were blackened with ink and that she was making notes with a leaky pen on a papyrus. One could see from her handwriting that she was used to writing but the poor materials blurred her script.
    “I assure you I’m not laughing,” I hastened to say, smiling at her. “On the contrary, I am full of respect for your learned occupation. I don’t wish to disturb you in any way, but I’ve promised my father to read this book. Of course I shall not understand as much of it as you, but a promise is a promise.”
    I had hoped she would ask me who my father was so that I could ask after her name. But she was not as inquisitive as that. She looked at me as one looks on a troublesome fly, then poked among the heap of scrolls at her feet and handed me the first part of the book.
    “Here you are,” she said. “Take it and leave me in peace from your advances.”
    I flushed so violently that my face burned. The girl was certainly mistaken if she thought I had trumped up an excuse to get to know her. I took the scroll, went over to the reading-window on the other side of the room and began to read with my back to her.
    I read as quickly as possible without attempting to try to memorize the long list of names. Claudius evidently considered it necessary to enumerate from whom and how he had received every piece of information, what other people had written about it and what he himself considered to be the case. I did not think I had ever before read such a finicky and tedious book. But at the time when Timaius had ordered me to read the books he liked, I had learned to read swiftly and to memorize a few things that interested me. I used to cling stubbornly to these when Timaius later questioned me on the contents of the book. I thought I would read this book in the same way.
    But the girl would not let me read in peace. She sat tittering to herself and sometimes swore aloud as she rustled the scrolls. In the end she tired of constantly sharpening her useless pen, broke it in half and stamped her foot in a rage.
    “Are you blind and deaf, you horrible boy?” she cried. “Go and get me a proper pen at once. You must be very badly brought up if you can’t see I need one.”
    My face burned again and I was annoyed, for the girl’s own conduct did not exactly point to a good upbringing. But I did not want to quarrel with her over the scrolls just as I had finished the first one. So I controlled myself and went to the librarian and asked for a spare quill. He muttered that according to the library rules, quills and paper for notes were free, but that no citizen was so poor that he had the nerve to take a pen without paying. Angrily I gave him a silver piece and he happily handed me a bundle of pens and a scroll of the worst paper. I returned to the Claudius room where the girl snatched the pens and paper out of my hand without even thanking me.
    When I had finished the first book, I went back to her and asked her for the second.
    “Can you really read so quickly?” she asked in surprise. “Do you remember anything of what you’ve read?”
    “At least I can remember that the Etruscan priests had a deplorable habit of using poisonous snakes as throwing weapons,” I said. “I’m not surprised that you’re studying their customs and habits.”
    I had a feeling she was already regretting her behavior, for in spite of my nasty remark she humbly handed me a quill and like a little girl, said, “Would you mind sharpening my quill for me? I don’t seem to be able to do it. They start leaking almost at once.”
    “That’s because of the poor paper,” I explained.
    I took her pen and knife, sharpened and carefully split the point for her.
    “Don’t press so hard on the paper,” I said, “or you’ll get a blot at once. If you’re not too rough, it’s quite easy to write even on bad paper.”
    She gave me a sudden smile, like lightning in dark stormy clouds.
    Her strong features, wide mouth and slanting eyes looked suddenly lovely, such as I could never have believed before.
    When I remained standing, staring at her, she grimaced, stuck her tongue out and snapped, “Take your book and go away and read, since you think it’s such fun.”
    But she still kept disturbing me, coming over and asking me to sharpen her pen again, so that my fingers were soon as black as hers. The ink was so lumpy anyhow that she cursed her inkstand several times.
    At midday she took out a bundle, opened it and began to eat greedily, tearing off long strips of bread and taking huge bites out of a country cheese.
    When she noticed my look of disapproval, she began to make excuses.
    “I know perfectly well you’re not allowed to eat in the library,” she said, “but I can’t help that. If I go out, I get pushed about and strange men follow me and say shameless things because I’m alone.”
    She paused and then, with her eyes lowered, she added, “My slave is coming to fetch me in the evening when the library closes.”
    But I soon realized that she did not even have a slave. Her meal was simple and she presumably had no money for pens and paper which was why she had commantled me so haughtily to fetch her a pen. I felt baffled, for I did not wish to offend her in any way. But I also felt hungry when I saw her eating.
    I must have swallowed, for her voice suddenly softened.
    “Poor boy,” she said. “You must be hungry too.”
    She generously broke the bread in half and also handed me her round cheese so that we could bite from it in turn, and the meal ended before it had really had time to begin. When one is young everything tastes good. So I praised her bread.
    “That was real country bread and the cheese was a fresh country cheese, too. You can’t get those in Rome every day.”
    She was pleased with my praise.
    “I live outside the walls,” she said. “If you know where Gaius’ circus is and the burial ground and the oracle, then it’s in that direction, behind Vatican.”
    But she still would not tell me her name. We went on with our reading. She wrote and mumblingly repeated by heart several old texts which Claudius had written about in his book on the holy scripts of the Etruscans. I read one part after another and memorized everything about the wars and warships of the city of Caere. In the evening the room grew dark as the shadow of Palatine fell over the window. The sky had also clouded over,
    “We mustn’t ruin our eyes,” I said finally. “Tomorrow is another day, but I’m already tired of this moldy old history. You, who are an educated woman, would be able to help me and note down briefly what is in the parts I haven’t read, or at least what the most important things in them are. My father has property near Caere, so he’ll probably question me on everything Emperor Claudius says about the history of Caere. Please don’t be offended at the suggestion, but I feel like having some hot sausage to eat. I know a place and would like to invite you, if you will help me.”
    She frowned, rose and looked at me so closely that I could feel her warm breath on my face.
    “Don’t you really know who I am?” she asked suspiciously, and then went on at once: “No, you don’t know me, and you meant no harm. You’re just a boy.”
    “I’m just about to receive the man-toga,” I said, offended. “The matter has been held up because of a number of family circumstances. You’re not much older than I am. And I’m taller than you.”
    “My dear child,” she teased, “I’m already twenty and an old woman compared to you. I’m certainly stronger than you. Aren’t you afraid of going out with a strange woman?”
    But she swiftly stuffed the scrolls willy-nilly back into their slots, collected her belongings, smoothed her clothes and eagerly prepared to leave, as if she were afraid I might regret my offer. To my surprise, she stopped in front of the statue of Emperor Claudius and spat on it before I could stop her. When she noticed my horror, she laughed loudly and spat again. She was indeed badly brought up.
    Without hesitating, she thrust her arm into mine and dragged me with her so that I could feel how strong she was. She had not boasted for nothing. She haughtily said good-bye to the librarian who came to see that we had not hidden any scrolls beneath our clothes. He did not examine us very thoroughly however, as suspicious librarians sometimes do.
    The girl made no further mention of her slave. There were many people out on the forum and she wanted to walk up and down there for a while between the temple and the Curia, all the time holding my arm as if she wanted to show off her prize and possession to people. One or two people called something to her as if they knew her, and the girl laughed and replied without shyness. A senator and a couple of knights and their following met us. They turned their eyes away when they caught sight of the girl. She took no notice.
    “As you see, I’m not considered a virtuous girl.” She laughed. “But I’m not entirely depraved. You needn’t be afraid.”
    Finally she agreed to come with me into an inn by the cattle market where I boldly ordered hot sausage, pork in a clay bowl, and wine. The girl ate as greedily as a wolf, and wiped her greasy fingers on a corner of her mantle. She did not mix her wine with water, so neither did I. But my head began to whirl, for I was not used to drinking undiluted wine. The girl hummed as she ate, patted my cheek, abused the landlord in simple market language and suddenly struck my hand completely numb with her fist when I accidentally happened to brush against her knee. I could not help but begin to think that she was a little odd in the head.
    The inn was suddenly full of people. Musicians, actors and jesters made their way in too and entertained the guests, collecting copper coins in a rattling jar. One of the ragged singers stopped in front of us, plucked at his cittern and sang to the girl:
    “Come, oh daughter Of the hang-jowled wolf, She who was born On the cold stone step; Father drank And mother whored, And a cousin took Her virginity.”
    But he got no further. The girl rose and slapped him across the face. “Better to have wolf blood,” she screamed, “than piss in your veins like you!
    The landlord hastened up to drive away the singer and he poured us out some wine with his own hands.
    “Clarissima,” he pleaded. “Your presence is an honor, but the boy is a minor. I beg you to drink up and go. Otherwise I’ll have the magistrates here.”
    It was late already and I did not know what to think of the girl’s unrestrained conduct. Perhaps she was in fact a depraved little she-wolf whom the landlord only jokingly addressed as honorable. To my relief she agreed to leave without any fuss, but when we were outside, she seized my arm again firmly.
    “Come with me as far as to the bridge over the Tiber,” she begged.
    As we came down to the riverbank we saw uneasy clouds appearing low in the sky, reddened by the flares from the city. The rough autumn waters sighed invisibly below us and we smelled the mud and decaying reeds. The girl led me to the bridge which went over to the island of Tiber. In the temple of Aesculapius on the island, heartless masters left their mortally sick and dying slaves for whom they had no further use, and from the other side of the island a bridge went on over to the I4th department of the city, the Jewish Transtiberium. The bridge was not a very pleasant place at night. In the gaps between the clouds there glittered a few autumn stars, the river shone darkly, and the moaning of the sick and dying was carried toward us from the island on the wind like a dirge from the underworld.
    The girl leaned over the bridge and spat into the Tiber as a sign of her contempt.
    “You spit too,” she said, “or are you afraid of the River God?”
    I had no desire to dishonor the Tiber, but after she had teased me for a while I spat too, childish as I was. Simultaneously a shooting star flew over the Tiber in a flashing arc. I think I shall remember until my dying day the swirl of the waters, the uneasy shimmering red clouds, the wine fumes in my head and the crystal star curving across the glossy black Tiber.
    The girl pressed herself against me so that I could feel how supple her body was, although she was a head shorter than I.
    ‹cYour shooting star went from east to west,” she whispered. “I am superstitious. You have lines of happiness on your hands, I’ve noticed. Perhaps you will bring happiness to me too.”
    “At least tell me now what your name is,” I said irritably. “I’ve told you mine and I’ve told you about my father. I’m bound to get into trouble at home for staying out so late.”
    “Yes, yes, you are but a child,” sighed the girl, taking off her shoes. “I’ll go now, and barefoot too. My shoes have already rubbed my feet so much that I had to lean on you as we walked. Now I no longer need your support. You go home so that you don’t get into trouble because of me.”
    But I insisted stubbornly that she should tell me her name. Finally she sighed deeply.
    “Do you promise to kiss me on the mouth with your innocent boy’s lips,” she said, “and not be frightened when I tell you my name?”
    I said I was neither able nor allowed to touch any girl until I had fulfilled the promise given to the oracle in Daphne, so she was curious.
    “We might at least try,” she suggested. “My name is Claudia Plautia Urgulanilla.”
    “Claudia,” I repeated, “Are you a Claudian, then?”
    She was surprised that I had not recognized her name.
    “Do you seriously mean to say that you know nothing about me?” she said. “I can well believe you were born in Syria. My father separated from my mother and I was born five months after the divorce. My father did not take me in his arms but sent me naked to my mother’s threshold. It would have been better if he’d thrown me in the sewers. I have a legal right to bear the name of Claudia, but no honest man either can or will marry me because my father, by his action, illegally declared me to have been born out of wedlock. Do you see why I read his books to find out how mad he really is and why I spit on his image?”
    “By all the gods, both known and unknown,” I cried in astonishment, “are you trying to tell me that you are the daughter of Emperor Claudius, you silly girl?”
    “Everyone in Rome knows it,” she snapped. “That’s why the senators and knights daren’t greet me in the streets. That’s why I’m hidden away in the country behind Vatican. But fulfill your promise now, I’ve told you my name, although of course I oughtn’t to have done so.”
    She dropped her shoes and put her arms around me, although I resisted her. But then both she and the whole affair began to annoy me. I pressed her hard against me and kissed her warm lips in the darkness. And nothing happened to me, although I had broken my promise. Or perhaps the goddess was not offended as I did not even begin to tremble when I kissed the girl. Or perhaps it was because of the promise that I could not tremble when I kissed a girl. I do not know.
    Claudia let her hands rest on my shoulders and breathed warmly on my face.
    “Promise me, Minutus,” she said, “that you’ll come and see me when you’ve received the man-toga.”
    I mumbled that even then I should have to obey my father. But Claudia persisted.
    “Now you’ve kissed me,” she said decisively, “you’re bound to me in some way.”
    She bent down and hunted for her shoes in the darkness. Then she patted my cold cheek and hurried away. I called after her that I felt in no way bound to her as she had forced her kisses on me, but Claudia had vanished into the night. The wind carried the groans of the sick from the island, the water swirled ominously and I hurried home as quickly as I could. Barbus had searched for me at the library and the forum in vain and was furious with me, but he had not dared tell Aunt Laelia that I had disappeared. Fortunately my father was late as usual.
    The following day I asked Aunt Laelia in a roundabout way about Claudia. I told her I had met Claudia Plautia at the library and given her a quill. Aunt Laelia was appalled.
    “Don’t you ever get mixed up with that shameless girl,” she said. “Better to run away if you see her again. Emperor Claudius has many times regretted not drowning her, but at the time he didn’t yet dare do such things. The girl’s mother was a big fierce woman. Claudius was afraid of the consequences if he had got rid of the girl. To annoy Claudius, Emperor Gaius would always call Claudia his cousin and I think he dragged her into his immoral life too. Poor Gaius even slept with his own sisters because he thought he was a god. Claudia isn’t received in any of the respectable houses. Anyhow, her mother was killed by a famous gladiator and he wasn’t even prosecuted because he could prove that he was only defending his virtue. Urgulanilla became more and more violent in her love affairs as the years went by.”
    I soon forgot Claudia, for my father took me with him to Caere and we stayed there for a month in the winter while he saw to his property. The huge burial mounds of former Etruscan kings and nobles in their countless numbers on each side of the sacred road made a deep impression on me. When the Romans had captured Caere hundreds of years before, they had plundered the old tombs, but there were some large, more recent mounds untouched beside the road. I began to feel respect for my own ancestors. Despite everything my father had told me, I had not imagined that the Etruscans had been such a great people. From Emperor Claudius’ book one could not imagine the melancholy exaltation of these royal tombs. One has to see them with one’s own eyes.
    The inhabitants of this now poverty-stricken city avoided going to the burial ground at night and maintained that it was haunted. But in the daytime, travelers walked here to look at the ancient mounds and relief carvings in the plundered tombs. My father took the opportunity to make a collection of old bronze miniatures and holy black clay bowls which the local people found when plowing and digging wells. Collectors had of course already taken away the best bronzes in the time of Augustus, when it was fashionable to collect Etruscan objects. Most of the statuettes had been broken off from the lids of the urns.
    I was not interested in farming. Bored, I accompanied my father while he inspected the fields, the olive groves and the vineyards. The poets usually praise the simple life of the country, but I myself felt no more longing to settle there than they had. Around Caere one could hunt only foxes, hares and birds, and I was not very enthusiastic about this kind of hunting which required nothing but traps, snares and lime twigs, and no courage.
    From my father’s attitude to his slaves and freedmen who looked after his property, I realized that farming is an expensive pleasure for a city man and that it costs more than it brings in. Only huge estates worked with slave labor can possibly pay, but my father was reluctant to farm in this way.
    “I’d rather my subordinates lived happily and had healthy children,” he said. “I’m glad they can be a little better off at my expense. It’s good to know one has a place one can retreat to if one’s fortunes go awry.”
    I noticed that the farmers were never satisfied and always complaining. Either it rained too much or it was too dry or the insects destroyed the vines or the olive harvest was so good the price of oil fell. And my father’s underlings did not seem to respect him, but behaved unscrupulously when they saw how good-natured he was. They complained endlessly about their poor houses, their wretched tools and their oxens’ illnesses.
    Occasionally my father grew angry and spoke harshly, in contrast to his usual attitude, but then they hurriedly produced a meal for him and offered him chilled white wine. The children tied a wreath around his head and played ring games around him until he was appeased and made new concessions to his tenants and freedmen. In fact, in Caere my father drank so much wine that he hardly saw a sober day there.
    In the city of Caere we met several potbellied priests. and merchants who had folds in their eyelids and whose family trees went back a thousand years. They helped my father draw up his own family tree, right back to the year when Lycurgus destroyed the fleet and harbor of Caere. My father also bought a burial place on the holy road in Caere.
    Finally a message came from Rome that everything was in order. The Censor had confirmed my father’s request to have his rank of knighthood returned to him. The matter would be put before Emperor
    Claudius any day now, so we had to return to Rome. There we waited at home for several days, since we could be summoned to Palatine at any time. Claudius’ secretary, Narcissus, had promised to pick a favorable moment for the case.
    The winter was severe; the stone floors in Rome were icy cold and every day people died in the tenements from fumes from ill-cared-for braziers. In the daytime the sun shone and predicted spring, but even the senators unblushingly had braziers put under their ivory stools during the meetings at the Curia. Aunt Laelia complained that the old virtues of Rome had gone. In the time of Augustus, many an old senator would have preferred pneumonia or a lifetime of rheumatism to such unmanly coddling of his body.
    Aunt Laelia naturally wanted to see the feast of Lupercalia and the procession, too. She assured us that the Emperor himself was the high priest and we should scarcely be summoned to Palatine on that day. Early on the morning of Idus in February, I accompanied her to as near the ancient fig tree as it was possible to get. Inside the cave the Luper-calias sacrificed a goat in honor of Faunus Lupercus. The priest drew a sign on the foreheads of all the Lupercalias with his bloodstained knife and they all wiped it off again at once with a piece of holy linen which had been steeped in milk. Then they all burst into the ritual communal laughter. The sacred laughter which came from the cave was so loud and terrifying that the crowd stiffened with piety and several distracted women ran ahead down the route the guards were keeping open for the procession with their holy bundles of sticks. In the cave the priests cut the hide of the goat into long strips with their sacrificial knives and then danced their sacred dance down the route. They were all completely naked, laughing the sacred laughter and, with the strips of goatskin, whipping the women who had pushed forward onto the route so that they received bloodstains on their clothes. Dancing in this way, they circled the whole of Palatine Hill.
    Aunt Laelia was pleased and said that she had not heard the ritual laughter sound so solemn for many years. A woman who is touched by the Lupercalias’ bloodstained strips of hide becomes pregnant within a year, she explained. It was an infallible remedy for infertility. She regretted that noble women did not want children, for it had been for the most part the wives of ordinary citizens who had come to be scourged by the Lupercalias, and she had not seen a single senator’s wife along the whole route. Some people in the tight-packed crowd of spectators said that they had seen Emperor Claudius in person leaping about and howling as he urged the Lupercalias on to the scourging, but we did not see him. When the procession had circled the hill and turned back to the cave to sacrifice a pregnant bitch, we went home and ate the customary meal of boiled goat meat and wheaten bread baked in the shape of human sexual organs. Aunt Laelia drank wine and expressed pleasure that the wonderful Roman spring was at last on its way after the miserable winter. Just as my father was urging her to take her midday siesta before she began to talk about things which were not suitable for my ears, a messenger slave from Narcissus, the Emperor’s secretary, came running breathlessly in to say that we must go to Palatine at once without delay. We went on foot with only Barbus accompanying us, which surprised the slave considerably. Fortunately we were both suitably clad for the occasion because of the feast.
    The slave, who was dressed in white and gold, told us that all the signs were favorable and that the festival rituals had been faultlessly carried out, so Emperor Claudius was in a very good mood. He was still entertaining the Lupercalias in his own rooms, dressed in the robes of the high priest. At the entrance to the palace we were thoroughly searched and Barbus had to stay outside because he was wearing his sword. My father was surprised that even I was searched, although I was a minor.
    Narcissus, the Emperor’s freedman and private secretary, was a Greek, emaciated from worries and his prodigious burden of work. He received us with unexpected friendliness, although my father had not sent him a gift. Quite openly he said that at a time which foreboded many changes, it was to the advantage of the State to honor reliable men who knew and remembered whom they had to thank for their position. To confirm this he rustled in the papers concerning my father and extracted a crumpled note which he handed to him.
    “It would be best if you yourself took care of this,” he said. “It’s a secret note from Tiberius’ day on your character and habits. They are forgotten matters which are of no importance today.”
    My father read the paper, flushed, and hastily thrust it into his clothes. Narcissus went on as if nothing had happened.
    “The Emperor is proud of his knowledge and wisdom,” he said, “but he is inclined to fasten on to details and sometimes persists with some old matter for a whole day just to demonstrate his good memory, while forgetting the main point.”
    “Who in his youth has not occasionally kept vigil in the groves of Baiae?” my father said in some confusion. “As far as I am concerned all that is in the past. In any case, I don’t know how to thank you. I have been told how strickly Emperor Claudius, and especially Valeria Messalina, watch over the moral conduct of the knights.”
    “Perhaps one day I’ll let it be known how you can thank me,” said Narcissus with a bleak smile. “I am said to be a greedy man, but you must not make the mistake of offering me money, Marcus Manilianus. I am the Emperor’s freedman. Thus my property is the Emperor’s property and everything I do as far as I am able is for the best for the Emperor and for the State. But we must hurry, for the most favorable moment is soon after a sacrificial meal when the Emperor is preparing for his siesta.”
    He took us to the south reception room, the walls of which were decorated with paintings of the Trojan war. With his own hand, he let down the sun-blind so that the sun should not glare too strongly into the room. Emperor Claudius arrived, supported on each side by his personal slaves who, at a sign from Narcissus, sat him down on the Imperial throne. He was humming the Faunus hymn to himself and he peered at us shortsightedly. When he was seated, he looked more dignified than when standing, although his head kept nodding in different directions. He was easily recognizable from his statues and the replicas of his head on the coins, though now he had spilled wine and sauce on himself during the meal. He was obviously cheered by the wine for the moment and was ready and eager to tackle matters of State before he began to feel sleepy.
    Narcissus introduced us and said swiftly, “The matter is quite clear. Here is the family tree, the certificate of income and the Censor’s recommendation. Marcus Mezentius Manilianus has been a prominent member of the city council in Antioch and is deserving of full compensation for the injustice that has been done to him. He himself is not an ambitious man but his son can grow up and serve the State.”
    While Emperor Claudius mumbled about his youthful memories of the astronomer Manilius, he unrolled the papers and read here and there in them. My mother’s ancestry captivated him and he ruminated for a while.
    “Myrina,” he said. “That was the Queen of the Amazons who fought against the Gorgons, but then it was a Trachian, Mopsus, whom Lycurgus had exiled, who killed her in the end. Myrina was really her divine name. Her earthly name was Batieia. It would have been more suitable if your wife had used this earthly name. Narcissus, make a note of that and put it right in the papers.”
    My father reverently thanked the Emperor for this correction and promised to see to it at once that the statue the city of Myrina had erected in memory of my mother would bear the name of Batieia. The Emperor received the impression that my mother had been a famous woman in Myrina as the city had raised a statue of her.
    “Your Greek ancestors are very noble, boy,” he said, looking at me benignly with his bloodshot eyes. “Our culture is of Greece but the art of building cities is of Rome. You are pure and handsome like one of my gold coins on which I have had a Latin text imprinted on one side and a Greek on the other. How can such a beautiful and upright boy be called Minutus? That is exaggerated modesty.”
    My father hurriedly explained that he had postponed my day of manhood until my name could be placed in the rolls of knights in the temple of Castor and Pollux at the same time. It would be the greatest honor if Emperor Claudius would himself give me a suitable second name.
    “I have property in Caere,” he said. “My family goes back to the days when Syracuse destroyed the sea power of Caere. But those are things you know more about than I, Clarissimus.”
    “I thought your face was known to me in some way,” cried Claudius in delight. ‘Tour face and eyes I recognize from the murals in the old Etruscan tombs I studied in my youth, although even then they were being destroyed by damp and neglect. If you are called Mezentius, then your son should be named Lausus. Do you know who Lausus was, boy?”
    I told him Lausus was a son of King Mezentius who fought together with Turnus against Aeneas.
    “That’s what it says in your history of the Etruscans,” I said innocently. “Otherwise I shouldn’t have known it.”
    “Have you really read my little book, despite your youth?” asked Claudius, and then he began to hiccough with emotion. Narcissus patted him gently on the back and ordered the slaves to fetch him more wine. Claudius invited us also to take wine, but warned me in a fatherly way not to drink wine undiluted until I was as old as he was. Narcissus took the opportunity to ask Claudius for his signature to confirm my father’s knighthood. He signed willingly although I think he had forgotten what the matter was about.
    “Is it really your will that my son shall bear the name of Lausus?” asked my father. “If so, it is the greatest honor I can think of that Emperor Claudius himself wishes to stand as godfather to him,”
    Claudius drank his wine, his head trembling.
    “Narcissus,” he said firmly. “Write that down too. You, Mezentius, just send a message to me when the boy is to have his hair cut and I’ll come as your guest if important matters of State do not hinder me at the time.”
    He rose decisively and nearly stumbled before the slaves had time to come forward and support him. With a loud belch, he remarked, “My many learned works of research have made me absentminded, and I remember old things better than new things. So it would be best to note down at once everything I have promised and forbidden. Now I had better take my siesta and must vomit properly. Otherwise I shall have stomachache from that tough goatmeat.”
    When he had left the room, supported by his two slaves, Narcissus turned to my father.
    “Let your boy receive the man-toga at the first suitable moment,” he advised, “and then let me know. It is possible that the Emperor will remember his promise to stand as godfather. At least I shall remind him about the name and his promise. Then he’ll pretend he has remembered, even if he has not.”
    Aunt Laelia had to go to great trouble to find even a few nobles who could be considered related to the Manilianus family. One of the guests was an old former consul who kindly held my hand while I sacrificed the pig. But most of them were women, contemporaries of Aunt Laelia, who were largely tempted to the house in the hope of a free meal. They gabbled like a flock of geese when the barber cut my hair short and shaved the scanty down from my chin. It was an effort to keep calm while they dressed me in the toga and stroked my limbs and patted my cheeks. They could hardly contain their curiosity when, because of the promise I had made, I took the barber up to my room and had him also shave off all the body hairs which showed my manhood. These I put together with the down from my chin into a silver box, the lid of which was decorated with a moon and a lion. The barber chatted and joked while going about his business, but also told me that it was not at all unusual that noble youths receiving the man-toga offered the hair from their private parts to Venus to win her favor.
    Emperor Claudius did not come to our family feast, but he had Narcissus send me the gold ring of knighthood and permission to have it written in the rolls that he personally had given me the name Lausus. Our guests went with my father and me to the temple of Castor and Pollux. My father paid the necessary dues into the archive, and then I had to put the gold ring on my thumb. My ceremonial toga with its narrow red border was ready. The ceremony was not particularly formal. From the archive we went to the meeting room of the Noble Order of Knights, where we paid for permission to choose our horses at the stables on Mars field.
    When we returned home, my father gave me the complete outfit of a Roman knight, a wrought-silver shield, a silver-plated helmet with red plumes, a long sword and a spear. The old ladies urged me to put it all on, and naturally I could not resist the temptation. Barbus helped me fasten the soft leather tunic and soon I was marching around the floor in my short red boots, strutting like a turkey cock with my helmet on my head and a drawn sword in my hand.
    It was already evening. Our house was ablaze with lights and outside people stood watching as well-wishers came and went. The spectators greeted with acclamation the arrival of a finely decorated sedan which was carried up to our entrance by two coal-black Slaves. Aunt Laelia, tripping over her garments, rushed up to meet this late arrival, and out of the sedan stepped a short plump woman whose silk gown revealed almost too clearly her voluptuous figure. Her face was hidden behind a purple veil, but she drew it to one side and allowed Aunt Laelia to kiss her on both cheeks. She had fine-drawn features and a beautifully painted face.
    Aunt Laelia, her voice shrill with emotion, called out, “Minutus, my dear, this is the noble Tullia Valeria, who wants to wish you good fortune. She is a widow, but her late husband was a real Valerius.”
    The woman, still startlingly beautiful although she had reached a mature age, stretched out her arms and swept me, armor and sword and all, to her bosom.
    “Oh, Minutus Lausus,” she cried, “I heard that the Emperor himself has given you your second name and I am not surprised now I see your face. If my fortunes and your father’s whims had allowed it, you could be my own son. Your father and I were good friends in our time, but he must still be ashamed of his behavior toward me as he-didn’t come to see me as soon as he came to Rome.”
    She was still clasping me tenderly in her arms so that I could feel her soft, breast and smell the stupefying scent of her perfumed salves as she looked around. When my father caught sight of her face he stiffened, turned deathly pale and made a movement as if he wished to turn and flee. The lovely Tullia took my hand and approached my father with a charming smile on her face.
    “Don’t be afraid, Marcus,” she said. “On a day like this I forgive you everything. What is past is past, and don’t let us grieve over it. But I have filled many flasks with my tears because of you, you heartless man.”
    She let me go, wound her arms around my father’s neck and kissed him tenderly on his lips. My father shook himself free, trembling from head to foot, and said reproachfully, “Tullia, Tullia, you should know better. I’d rather see a Gorgon head than your face here in my house tonight.”
    But Tullia put her hand over his mouth and turned to Aunt Laelia.
    “Marcus hasn’t changed at all,” she said. “Someone should take care of him. When I see how confused he is and hear him talk in that unreasonable way, I regret that I overcame my pride and came to him when he was ashamed to come to me.”
    This beautiful silk-clad woman entranced me, however old she might be, and I felt a malicious pleasure in seeing my father so completely lose his self-control in her presence. Tullia now turned her attention to the other guests and greeted some of them in a friendly way and others superciliously. The old ladies had much to whisper about with their heads together, but she took no notice of their spiteful glances.
    She would eat only a few sweetmeats and drink a little wine, but she asked me to sit beside her on the couch.
    “It’s not unseemly,” she said, “although you are fully grown now. I could be your mother.”
    With her soft hand she stroked the back of my neck, sighed and then looked in my eyes so that I felt a tingling all over my body. My father noticed and came up to us with his hands clenched.
    “Leave my boy alone,” he said briskly. “You’ve already caused me enough trouble.”
    Tullia shook her head sadly and sighed.
    “If anyone has helped you, Marcus,” she said, “then it was I in your manhood days. Once I even traveled all the way to Alexandria after you, but don’t think I would do it again. It is only for your son’s sake that I have come to warn you. Valeria Messalina is offended that Claudius has given your son his name and sent him the ring of knighthood without consulting her. For that reason there are certain other persons who are curious about you and your son and want to favor all those with whom this shameless woman seeks a quarrel. It is a difficult choice that awaits you, Marcus.”
    “I don’t want to be involved, even to know about such things,” cried my father in despair. “I can’t believe that after all these years you immediately want to involve me in one of your intrigues in which I can lose my good reputation just as I have managed to retrieve it. Shame on yon, Tullia.”
    Hut Tullia teasingly laughed aloud and brushed her hand across my father’s.
    “Now I see why I was so insane about you once, Marcus,” she said. “No other man has ever been able to pronounce my name so delightfully.”
    And to tell the truth, when my father spoke her name there was a touch of melancholy in his voice. Of course I could not possibly see what such a fine noble woman could see in my father. Aunt Laelia came up to us, tittering cheerfully, and gave my father a playful slap on the cheek.
    “You’re not sitting here squabbling like a pair of young lovers, are you?” she said warningly. “It’s high time you calmed down, my dear Tullia. You’ve already had four husbands and the last “one has hardly had time to grow cold in his grave.”
    “Exactly, dear Laelia,” admitted Tullia. “It is time I calmed down. That is why I am so unutterably glad to have found Marcus again. His presence calms me wonderfully.”
    She turned to me.
    “But you, young Achilles,” she went on, “your new sword makes my mind uneasy. If only I were ten years younger, I should ask you to come with me to look at the moon. But old as I am, I cannot. Go then and amuse yourself. Your father and I have much to settle together.”
    When she mentioned the moon, I was disturbed and went up to the upper floor to remove my armor. I felt my shorn hair and my smooth cheeks and was suddenly disappointed and sad, for I had been waiting for this day for so long and had dreamed about it and now nothing was as I had expected. But I had to fulfill my promise to the oracle in Daphne.
    I went out the back way and in the kitchen acknowledged the good wishes of the sweating slaves. I told them to eat and drink as much as they could manage, for there would be no more guests arriving now. At the gate I dutifully straightened up the almost extinguished torches and thought sadly that this was perhaps the greatest and most solemn day of my life. Life is just like a torch, which at first burns clearly and then is extinguished in fumes and smoke.
    A girl wrapped in a brown mantle stepped out from the dark shadows of the wall.
    “Minutus, Minutus,” she whispered. “I want to wish you happiness and have brought you these cakes which I baked for you myself. I was going to leave them with the slaves, but fate was kind to me and let me meet you myself.”
    With horror, I recognized Claudia, against whom Aunt Laelia had warned me. But at the same time I was flattered that this strange girl had found out the day of my majority in order to wish me happiness. Quite unexpectedly a great rush of joy went through me when I saw her thick black eyebrows, her wide mouth and sunburned skin. She was different from all the aging soured guests who had gathered in our house. Claudia was living and real and genuine. She was my friend.
    Claudia shyly brushed her hand across my cheek and was not at all as arrogant and self-confident as when we had first met.
    “Minutus,” she whispered. “You’ve probably heard evil things about me, but I am not as bad as people make out. In fact I want to think only good thoughts now I have met you. In that way you’ve brought me happiness.”
    We began to walk side by side toward the Moon temple. Claudia adjusted my toga at the neck and together we ate one of her cakes by taking turns at biting into it, just as we had done with her cheese at the library. The cake was spiced with honey and caraway. Claudia said she had collected the honey and caraway herself and ground the wheat-flour with her own hands in an old hand mill.
    As we walked she did not take my arm, but shyly avoided touching me. Filled with my manhood, I took her arm and steered her around the potholes in the street. She sighed happily. In strictest confidence, I told her about my promise and said that I was now on my way to the Moon temple with my votive gift in a silver box.
    “Ugh, that temple has a bad reputation!” cried Claudia. “Immoral mysteries go on there behind barred doors at night. It was a good thing I was standing outside your house. If you’d gone there alone, you might have lost more than your gift.
    “I don’t even bother to watch the State sacrifices any longer,” she went on. “The gods are just stone and wood. That lying old man in Palatine is reviving old ceremonies just to bind people more firmly with the old chains. I have my own sacred tree and a clear sacrificial well. If I’m sad I go to the oracle at the Vatican and look at the birds flying.”
    “You talk like my father,” I said. “He did not even want to let a seer read in a liver for me. But powers and witchcraft exist. Even sensible people admit that. So I prefer to fulfill my promise rather than not.”
    We had reached the temple, which stood sunk in the ground. Fortunately the door stood wide open and inside a few small lamps were burning, but there was no one in sight as I hung my silver box up among the other temple gifts. I should really have rung the bell to summon the priestess, but to be honest I was afraid of her and did not at that particular moment wish to see her pale white face. I hurriedly dipped the tips of my fingers into the holy oil and rubbed them on the stone egg. Claudia smiled in amusement and placed a cake on the priestess’ empty stool as a gift. Then we ran out of the temple like two naughty children.
    Outside in front of the temple, we kissed each other. Claudia held my head between her hands.
    “Has your father already betrothed you,” she asked jealously, “or have you only been shown some Roman girls to choose from? That’s usually part of the coming of age ceremonies.”
    I had not given even a thought to why Aunt Laelia’s old friends had brought a couple of small girls with them. They had stared at me with their fingers in their mouths. I thought they had been allowed to come to taste the sweetmeats and cakes.
    “No, no,” I replied in fright. “My father has by no means considered marrying me to anyone.”
    “Oh, if only I could control myself and tell you clearly my thoughts,” said Claudia sadly. “Don’t bind yourself to anyone too s’oon, will you? That brings a great deal of unhappiness. There are enough marriage breakers in Rome already. You probably still think the difference in our ages very great since I am five years older than you are. But as the years go by and you do your military service, the difference will seem less. You have eaten a cake I have baked and kissed my lips of your own free will. That does not tie you in any way, but I take it as a sign that I am not entirely repugnant to you. So I can do no more than ask you to remember me sometimes and not tie yourself to anyone else without first telling me.”
    I had not the slightest intention of marrying, so I thought her request reasonable. I kissed her again and was warmed by holding her in my arms.
    “That I can promise you,” I said, “as long as you don’t always want to be with me wherever I am. In fact I’ve never liked giggling girls of my own age and I like you because you are more mature and because you read books. I can’t remember the poets describing marriage ceremonies in their love poems. On the contrary, they describe love as free and untrammeled. It has nothing to do with hearth and home but is about the scent of roses and moonlight.”
    Claudia was upset and drew back a little.
    “You don’t know what you’re saying,” she said reproachfully. “Why shouldn’t I think about the scarlet veil, the saffron yellow mantle and the girdle with two knots. That is the innermost thought in every woman’s mind when she strokes a man’s cheeks and kisses his lips.”
    Her protestations made me pull her roughly back into my arms, to kiss her reluctant lips and warm throat. But Claudia struggled free, gave me a sharp slap over the ear and burst into tears, which she then wiped away with the back of her hand.
    “I thought you had other thoughts about me,” she sobbed. “This is all the thanks I get for controlling myself and believing only good of you. But you only want to fling me down on my back over there by the wall and press my knees apart to satisfy your lust. I’m not that sort of girl.”
    Her tears made me weaken and cool down.
    “You’re strong enough to defend yourself,” I said sullenly, “and I don’t even know if I could do what you say. I’ve never played about with slave-women and neither did my nurse seduce me. There’s no need for you to cry, for you’re certainly much more experienced in these matters than I am.”
    Claudia was astonished at my words and forgot to cry as she stared at me in wonder.
    “Are you telling me the truth?” she said. “I’ve always thought that boys behave like monkeys. The more noble they are, the more monkeylike their habits. But if you’re telling me the truth, then I have even more reason to control my trembling body. You would despise me if I gratified our desires. Our pleasure would be short-lived and soon forgotten.”
    My cheek was stinging and the disappointment in my body made me snap at her, “You obviously know best.”
    Without looking at her, I began to walk homeward. She hesitated for a moment and then slowly followed me and we said nothing to each other for a while. But in the end I had to burst out laughing. It was pleasant that she came with me so humbly.
    She made the most of the opportunity and put her hand on my shoulder.
    “Promise me one more thing, Minutus dear,” she begged. “Don’t go straight to a brothel or to make an offering to Venus, as most boys do as soon as they receive their togas. If you feel an irresistible desire for something like that, for I know men are ungovernable, then promise to tell me first, even if it hurts me.”
    I promised her all this as she asked me so persuasively. All I was thinking of was what kind of horse I should get. At that time not even Cleopatra could have competed with a good horse in my mind. I laughed when I gave my word and told her she was a nice but rather peculiar girl. We parted smiling and good friends. I was in a good mood afterward. When I got home, my father was just getting into Tullia’s sedan to accompany her home, for she lived at Viminalis on the other side of the city, on the boundary between Altasemita and Esquilina. My father’s eyes were staring and glassy and he did not ask me where I had been, but just told me to go to bed in good time. I suspected that he had drunk a good deal of wine but it was not noticeable from his walk.
    I slept soundly and long, but was very disappointed when my father was not at home in the morning. I had hoped we could go straight to the stables to choose a horse for me. The house was being cleaned after the feast and Aunt Laelia complained of a headache. I asked where my father had gone so early.
    “Your father is old enough to know what he’s doing,” she replied angrily. “He had a great deal to discuss with his erstwhile friend. Perhaps he stayed the night at Tullia’s house. She has room for more men than him.”
    Barbus and I whiled away the time by playing dice in the bushes in the garden while the cleaners set about the house indoors with their brooms and buckets. Spring was in the air. At last my father returned at midday, unshaven, his eyes wild and bloodshot. He had covered his face with a fold of his toga and there was a lawyer with him carrying scrolls of paper and writing materials. Barbus gave me a nudge as a sign that it would be wiser to keep quiet.
    My father, in contrast to his usual behavior, kicked over the cleaners’ buckets and ordered the slaves to vanish from his sight with all speed. After hastily consulting the lawyer, he called me in. Aunt Laelia was weeping copiously and I hardly dared stammer out a question to my father about whether he now had time to come with me to choose a horse.
    “You and your horse will drive me mad,” he exclaimed. His face was twisted with rage and when one looked at him, it was easy to realize that in his youth he had gone about for years in a state of mental confusion. But he soon regretted his rage.
    “No, no, it’s all my own fault,” he said. “It’s my own weakness that has driven me into this state. A stroke of ill fortune has changed all my plans. Now I must go back to Antioch without a moment’s delay. So I have allotted to you the income from some of my estates in Caere and my properties here in the city. It will give you more than the annual income of a thousand sesterces required of a knight. Aunt Laelia will have to look after the house. It can be your home. I have also allotted an annuity to Aunt Laelia. And it’s nothing to cry about. My lawyer will be your guardian. He is of an old noble family. You can go and choose a horse together at once if you want to, but I must return to Antioch immediately.”
    My father was so confused that he was about to rush out on to the street at once to set off on his journey, but the lawyer and Aunt Laelia restrained him. They arranged for his luggage and clothes and food, although he said impatiently that he could hire a wagon at the city gates and go to Puteoli and buy everything he wanted on the way. Suddenly chaos reigned in our house after the cheerful festivities of the previous day. We could not let him go away like an exile, the corner of his mantle hiding his face. So we all went with him, Aunt Laelia, the lawyer, Barbus and I. Last came the slaves carrying his hurriedly packed belongings.
    When my father reached the Capua gate below Coelius, he let out a deep sigh of relief and began to bid us all farewell, saying that he could already see golden freedom looming ahead of him on the other side of the gate and that he should never have left Antioch. But at the gate, one of the city magistrates came up to us with his official stave in his hand and two powerful policemen behind him.
    “Are you the Roman knight, Marcus Mezentius Manilianus?” he asked my father. “If you are, then there is a lady of high position who has important business with you.”
    At first my father turned scarlet and then ashen gray in the face. He looked down at the ground, said that he had nothing to say to any lady, and then tried to leave through the city gates.
    “If you try to go outside the walls,” the magistrate warned him, “I am ordered to bring you before the City Prefect and it is my duty to arrest you to prevent you from escaping.”
    The lawyer hurried up* to my father, asking the magistrate to disperse the crowd that had already gathered, and also asking what my father was accused of.
    “It is a simple and discreditable story,” explained the magistrate. “I should prefer to see those involved settle it between them. The noble senator’s widow Valeria Tullia insists that last night Manilianus, in the presence of witnesses, de jure promised her marriage and afterward de facto slept with her. When she for some reason or other doubted Manilianus’ honorable intentions, she had this Manilianus followed by her slave after he had run from her house without bidding her farewell. When the widow Tullia became convinced that he intended to flee, she turned to the Prefect. If Manilianus removes himself beyond the city wall, he will be charged with breach of promise, rape, and also for the theft of a valuable necklace belonging to widow Tullia, which is presumably more ignominious for a knight than a breach of promise.”
    My father fumbled at his throat with stiff fingers, pulled out a gold necklace of different colored stones and then said in a broken voice, “Widow Tullia put this cursed necklace around my neck with her own hands. In my haste I forgot to return it to her. Matters of great importance force me to return to Antioch. Naturally I shall give the necklace back to her and stand whatever security you wish, but I must leave here immediately.”
    The magistrate was ashamed on behalf of my father.
    “Didn’t you in fact exchange necklaces with each other,” he asked, “to confirm your betrothal and marriage promise?”
    “I was drunk and did not know what I was doing,” protested my father.
    But the magistrate did not believe him.
    “On the contrary,” he said, “you appealed verbosely to a number of examples according to which philosophers have been able to enter into a genuine and legal marriage simply by giving a promise in the presence of witnesses. This is what I have been told. Do I understand that in a drunken state, you have made fun of an honorable woman and induced her into bed with you? In which case what you have done is even worse. I am giving you an opportunity to come to some agreement, but if you go through that gate, I shall have you imprisoned and your case will be settled in court instead.”
    At least the lawyer managed to persuade my father to hold his tongue and also promised to accompany him to Valeria Tullia’s house to talk the matter over. Exhausted and confused, my father broke down and wept.
    “Leave me to my misery,” he pleaded. “I’d rather go to prison, give up my knighthood and pay the fines than have to face that false woman again. She must have poisoned me and mixed something shameful in my wine for me to have been so out of my mind. I remember almost nothing of what happened.”
    Everything could be straightened out, the lawyer assured him, and promised to defend him at the trial. Then Aunt Laelia intervened, stamping her foot and weeping, burning red patches appearing on her cheeks.
    “You must not sully the good name of Manilianus with another shameful case, Marcus!” she cried. “Be a man for once and stand by what you have done.”
    Weeping, I supported Aunt Laelia’s demand and cried that such a case would also make me look foolish all over Rome and would ruin my future. I begged that we should all go to Tullia’s house at once. I promised that I would go down on my knees beside my father in front of this beautiful and noble lady and beg her forgiveness.
    My father was unable to withstand us. Followed by the magistrate and the policemen, we went to Viminalis hill, the slaves in the rear carrying my father’s things because no one had thought to order them to turn around and go back home. Valeria Tullia’s house and garden were immensely large and magnificent. In the columned courtyard we were met by a giant doorkeeper dressed in green and silver. He greeted my father respectfully.
    “Oh, my lord,” he cried. “You are welcome back to your house. My mistress is impatiently awaiting you.”
    With a final glance of despair, my father weakly asked us to wait for him in the courtyard and then went on in alone.
    A whole flock of slaves came hurrying out to offer us fruit and wine from silver vessels. Aunt Laelia looked cheerfully about.
    “There are some men who don’t know what’s good for them,” she remarked. “I can’t think what Marcus can have to complain about in a house like this.”
    Soon Tullia came running out to greet us, dressed in nothing but a transparent shift of silk, her hair neatly combed and her face painted.
    “I’m so pleased,” she cried joyfully, “that Marcus has returned to me so soon and has brought his things with him too. Now he need never go away from here again, but we can live happily together for the rest of our days.”
    She ordered a purse of soft red leather to be handed to the magistrate as compensation for his trouble, and then said ruefully, “Of course in my heart I did not doubt Marcus for a moment, but a lonely widow has to be careful, and in his younger days Marcus was quite fickle. I am delighted that he has now brought his lawyer with him so that we can draw up the marriage contract at once. I wouldn’t have imagined, dear Marcus, that your wits were ordered to that extent, so disordered were they in my bed last night.”
    My father cleared his throat and swallowed, but not a word was forthcoming. Tullia took us into her large rooms and let us admire the mosaic floor, the murals and the beautifully proportioned panels. She let us look into her bedroom, but pretended to be shy, covering her face.
    “No, no,” she cried. “Don’t go in there. Everything is in disorder after last night.”
    My father at last managed to find his voice.
    “You have won, Tullia,” he snapped, “and I submit to my fate. But at least send the magistrate away so that he need no longer witness my degradation.”
    Handsomely dressed slaves hovered around us and did their best to serve and please us. Two small naked boys were running about the house playing at cupids. I was afraid that they would catch cold until I realized that the stone floor in this magnificent house was heated by hot pipes. The magistrate and my father’s lawyer consulted together for a while and decided that a promise of marriage given in the presence of witnesses was legally valid without a public marriage. The magistrate and his policemen left when he had been convinced that my father was prepared to sign a marriage contract without protest. The lawyer made the magistrate promise to keep silent about the whole affair, but even I with my scant sense realized that a person in his position could not possibly resist passing on such a delicious piece of scandal.
    But was it in fact a scandal? Was it not flattering for my father that such a noble and obviously immensely rich woman would stop at nothing to marry him? Despite my father’s modest habits and outward humility, he must have possessed hidden qualities of which I knew nothing and which would certainly rouse the curiosity of the whole of Rome, both about him and also about me. In fact this marriage could be to my advantage in every way. At least it would force my father to stay in Rome for the time being so that I need not drift about in this city in which I still felt insecure.
    But what could the beautiful pampered Tullia see in my father? For a moment I was seized with the suspicion that she led a frivolous life and was up to her ears in debt and so wanted my father’s money. But in fact my father was not especially rich by Rome’s standards, although his freedmen in Antioch and elsewhere in the East were wealthy. My suspicions were allayed when my father and Tullia, in complete agreement, decided to make the marriage contract so that even in the future they would each keep control of their own fortunes.
    “But whenever you have the time or feel like it, dear Marcus,” suggested Tullia mildly, “I hope you will talk to my treasurer and go through my accounts and give me advice about my affairs. What does a simple widow understand about such things? I have heard it said that you have become a clever businessman, although no one would have suspected it of you in your youth.”
    My father remarked in annoyance that now that law and order reigned in the country, thanks to Emperor Claudius and his freedmen, a sensibly placed fortune grew by itself,
    “But my head is empty and I have not a single sensible thought left,” he said, scratching his chin. “I must go to the barber and the baths to rest and collect what is left of my wits.”
    But Tullia led us straight past the marble statues and wells in the vast inner courtyard of the house, over to its far side where she showed us her own bathhouse with hot and cold pools, steam room and cooling room. A barber, a masseur and a bath-slave were all waiting there ready to serve us.
    “You need never again pay a single denarius to the clothes-minders at the public baths, or expose yourself to the crush and smell of the people,” Tullia explained. “If you feel like reading, poetry or music after your bath, there is special room here for that purpose. Go now, Marcus and Minutus, and bathe, while I consult with my dear friend Laelia on how we shall arrange our lives from now on. We women understand such things better than you impractical men.”
    My father slept until sunset. When we had dressed in the new clothes the clothing steward had laid out for us, the house was suddenly filled with guests. Most of them were quite young, happy and cheerful people, but among them were also two fat old men of debauched appearance whom I could not respect although one of them was a senator. I could at least talk about horses to a senior centurion from the Praetorian Guard, but to my surprise he showed a much greater interest in the women who, after drinking wine without restraint, loosened their clothes to be able to breathe more freely.
    When I noticed which way this marriage feast was developing, I went to find Barbus, whom the servants had been generously regaling. He was holding his head and said, “I have experienced greater hospitality licit: than I have ever known before and would Have even been married oil’ in a flash if I hadn’t, as an old veteran, known when to call a halt. This house is no place for you, Minutus, nor for an old soldier like me either.”
    The music played on and naked dancers and acrobats were writhing all over the floors as I went in search of my father. He was lying on a couch beside Tullia in gloomy silence.
    “Perhaps it is the custom in Rome,” I said, “that noble women are sick all over the place and the men make indecent gestures at me, but I simply cannot tolerate that anyone seems to think they have the right to paw me anywhere on my body. I’m neither a slave nor a eunuch. I want to go home.”
    “I’m much too weak-willed and comfortable,” my father admitted, “to extract myself from this depravity, but you must try to be stronger than I. I’m glad to hear your decision, and that you yourself have made it. I am forced to stay here, for no one can avoid his destiny, but it would be better if you lived with Aunt Laelia, and anyhow you have your own fortune now. You would gain nothing by living in your stepmother’s house.”
    Tullia was not looking at me so kindly as she had the previous evening. I asked if I could come the next morning to fetch my father so that we could choose a horse for me, but she briskly cut me off with the words, “Your father is too old to ride. He would only fall off the horse and injure his valuable head. At the centenary festival parade he can lead his horse.”
    I realized I had lost my father, and a sense of desolation came over me, for I had experienced his favor for a very short time. But I also realized that it was better for me to harden myself and create a life of my own. I went in search of Aunt Laelia, hitting out as hard as I could at a half-naked woman with glittering eyes who tried to hang around my neck. But the blow on her backside only spurred her on, so Barbus was forced to pull her away.
    Tullia was so pleased to be rid of us so easily that she let us take her own sedan. Inside the sedan Aunt Laelia adjusted her clothes and began to chatter.
    “I’ve heard a great deal of gossip about what goes on in the new houses in Rome,” she said, “but I could not believe my ears. Valeria Tullia is considered to be a decent woman. Perhaps marriage has made her quite unrestrained after the abstemious life of widowhood, although there were many fine men who seemed to make themselves at home at her house. Your father will have much to do keeping her in order.”
    Early next morning, while we were eating our bread and honey, I spoke to Barbus.
    “I must go and choose a horse,” I said, “and I must do it alone, for now that I am an adult I don’t need a companion as I did as a boy. Now you have the chance to realize your dream of becoming an innkeeper.”
    “I have looked at several pleasant inns in different parts of Rome,” replied Barbus seriously, “and I am also in a position to buy one, thanks to your father’s goodness. But when all is said and done, the idea no longer delights me as it did in the days when I slept on the bare ground and drank the legion’s sour wine. And also an inn needs a woman as well as a landlord, but in my experience good landladies are very hardhearted women. In fact I’d prefer to stay in your service for the time being. Of course, you don’t need me any longer as a protector, but I’ve noticed that every knight who is the slightest concerned with his dignity usually has one companion or more, some even ten or a hundred if they are going out of the city. So it would be wisest if only for your own sake that you had a scarred old veteran with you.
    “The cavalry is another matter,” he went on, “but I fear you have several difficult weeks ahead of you. In the eyes of the others you are nothing but a recruit. I’ve told you how they train recruits in the legion, but you probably didn’t believe it all and thought I was exaggerating a bit, perhaps to amuse you. Above all, you must remember to control yourself, clench your teeth and never be angry with a superior. We’ll go there together. Perhaps I can give you some advice.”
    As we walked through the city to Mars field, Barbus remarked sadly, “I should really have the right to bear the insignia of an under-centurion, the mural crown, if only I hadn’t been so given to fighting after drinking. Even the chain I received in memory of Tribune Lucius, that time I swam across the Danube between the ice floes with him bleeding on my back, ended up in pawn in some wretched barbarian inn in Mesia, and I never got it out again before we were moved on. But we could go and look in some weapon shop and buy a secondhand souvenir chain. Perhaps you’d be better treated if your companion was wearing one round his neck.”
    I said that he had sufficient insignia of honor on his tongue, but Barbus insisted on going in and buying a triumph badge of copper on which the inscription was so worn that one could not discern who it was had once given them out to his veterans. But when Barbus fastened it at his shoulder, he said he felt more secure among all the cavalrymen.
    On the great field there were about a hundred young knights practicing for the centenary equestrian games. The stablemaster was a big churlish man who laughed loudly when he read the certificate I had received from the quaestor at the Noble Order of Knights.
    “We’ll soon find a suitable horse for you, young man,” he shouted. “Do you want a big one or a small one, a wild one or a quiet one, a white one or a black one?”
    He led us to the stable of available horses. I pointed to one and saw another which I liked, but he looked in his papers and said coldly that they were already taken.
    “It’d be safest if you had a quiet horse which is used to the exercises and the noise of the circus and which knows the horn signals, if you’re thinking of taking part in the centenary parade,” he said. “Have you done any riding before?”
    I admitted modestly that I had practiced a bit in Antioch, for Barbus had told me not to boast, and I added that I thought all cavalry horses were used to horn signals.
    “But I’d be glad to take an unbroken horse and break it in myself,” I dared to suggest. “However, I realize that I’d not have time to do that before the festival.”
    “Excellent, excellent!” cried the stablemaster, almost choking with laughter. “There aren’t many youngsters who know how to break in a horse. So help me, Hercules, to keep me from bursting. Professionals do the breaking in here.”
    One of the professionals came up at that moment and looked me over from head to foot.
    “We’ve got Arminia,” he suggested. “She’s used to the circus racket and stands still even if you drop a sack of stones in her saddle.”
    He showed me a large black mare who turned in her stall and gave me a look of distrust.
    “No, no, not Arminia,” said the stablemaster in horror. “She’s much too sedate for such a young man. She’s so handsome and yet as gentle as a lamb. We must keep her for some old senator who wants to ride in the parade.”
    “Naturally, I had not thought to receive a horse for nothing,” I said, “just with a certificate. If you’ll allow me, I’d like to try this horse.”
    “He wants to try it and pay for it as well,” said die breaker-in delightedly.
    After a few protests, the stablemaster finally agreed.
    “It’s much too quiet a horse for a boy like you,” he said, “but get your boots on and your riding kit. Meanwhile I’ll have the horse saddled.”
    I told him that I had nothing with me to wear, but the stablemaster looked at me as if I were mentally deficient.
    “You weren’t going to ride in parade costume, were you?” he said. “The State pays for your practice clothes.”
    He took me to the equipment room and helpful slaves laced the chest harness so tightly that I found it hard to breathe. I was given a battered helmet and an old pair of short boots. They did not give me a shield, sword or spear, but told me to be content with testing my ability to ride the first time.
    The mare trotted cheerfully out of the stable and neighed grandly, but at a command from the stablemaster stood absolutely still. I mounted with the reins in my hand, and asked to have the stirrup straps adjusted to the right length.
    “I can see you’ve ridden before,” said the stablemaster approvingly.
    Then he bawled out in a thunderous voice: “The knight Minutus Lausus Manilianus has chosen Arminia and is thinking of riding her!”
    The riders out on the exercise field scattered to the edges, a trumpet blew the signal to attack, and immediately a game began which more by good luck than skill I managed to survive unscathed. I barely had time to hear a warning from the stablemaster to spare the mare’s tender mouth and not pull too hard on the reins-but Arminia seemed to have a mouth of iron. Reins and bit were completely unknown to her. To begin with, she jerked backward in order to throw me over her head. When this did not succeed, she began bucking and rearing and then set off at a wild gallop, employing all the tricks an experienced circus horse can find to throw an inexperienced rider. I realized only too well why the others had scattered and fled to the edges of the field when Arminia was let loose.
    I could do nothing but hang on with all my strength and keep her head at least turned slightly to the left, for she rushed straight at the fence around the field and then stopped suddenly, trying to crush my head against the posts. When despite her efforts I remained on her back, she went quite mad and took great leaps over the obstacles on the field. She was in truth an overwhelmingly powerful and cunning horse, so that when I had recovered from my first fright, I began to enjoy the ride. I let out one or two wild yells and kicked her flanks with my heels to let her work off her rage and tire herself out.
    Astonished, Arminia tried to look back at me and obeyed the reins just sufficiently for me to guide her straight at the stablemaster and the breaker in. They hurriedly stopped laughing and scuttled behind the stable door. The stablemaster shouted an order, his face scarlet with fury. A trumpet blared, a troop formed into line and began to trot toward me.
    Hut Arminia did not swerve away, however much I pulled at the reins. Spluttering lather and swinging her head, she carried me at full gallop straight at the closed ranks of riders. I was sure I would be thrown, but either the leading riders lost courage or they must have deliberately opened the line at the last moment to let me through. But each one who could reach tried to sweep me out of the saddle with his wooden spear or hit me over the back as the furious Arminia took me, biting, leaping and kicking, right through the group of riders without my receiving more than a few bruises.
    This vicious and deliberate attempt to frighten me made me so angry that I mustered all my strength and managed to turn Arminia in order to try to unseat some of the riders myself. But at the last moment I remembered Barbus’ advice, controlled myself and instead rode past them shouting, laughing and waving a greeting.
    When Arminia had worked off her rage, she at last calmed down and became irreproachably obedient. When I dismounted in front of the stable, she did try to bite my neck, but I think it was mostly in fun and I contented myself in return by butting her with my elbow under her muzzle.
    The stablemaster and the breaker-in looked at me as if I were a monster, but the stablemaster pretended to be angry.
    “You’ve ridden her into a lather and torn the mouth of a valuable horse so that it bled,” he said reproachfully. “You shouldn’t have done that.”
    “It’s my own horse and my own business how I ride it,” I answered.
    “You’re quite wrong,” he said angrily. “You can’t ride her at practices because she won’t stay in line and doesn’t obey orders. She’s used to being ahead of the others.”
    Several of the riders had left their horses and had gathered in a circle around us. They encouraged me and cried out that I was a good rider and they all agreed that the stablemaster had allotted me the horse by shouting it out for all to hear.
    “Don’t you see it was a joke?” the stablemaster finally had to admit. “Every recruit has to try Arminia the first time, if he’s not too feeble. Arminia is a real warhorse and no miserable parade nag. She’s even fought with wild animals in the amphitheater. Who do you think you are, you insolent boy?”
    “Joke or not,” I protested, “I stayed in the saddle and you fell into your own trap. It’s a shame to keep a fine horse like that shut up for days on end just to use for frightening recruits. Let’s meet each other halfway. I want to ride her every day, but for practices I’ll take another horse if she can’t keep in line.”
    The stablemaster called on all the gods of Rome to bear witness that I had demantled two horses instead of one, but the others were on my side and cried out that he had played his joke with Arminia long enough. Every one of them had a bump or a scar or a broken bone to remind them of their attempts to ride Arminia as recruits, although they had all been riding since infancy. If I were mad enough to want to break my neck then I had a right to have Arminia. She was in any case the property of the Order of Knights.
    But I did not want to quarrel with the stablemaster, so I promised him a thousand sesterces as a tip and said I should like to stand everyone some wine to wet my riding boots. In this way I was taken into the Roman cavalry and made friends among my contemporaries and also among the older youths. After a while I was chosen to join the elite riders in place of a youngster who had broken his leg, and we started practicing seriously for the competitive games at the centenary festivities. They were sufficiently dangerous that no one was allowed to take part simply because of noble birth or wealth, but only according to his own skill and ability. So I was proud of being chosen.
    It is unnecessary to continue boasting about my success in the equestrian games. We were divided into two sections which performed a regular cavalry battle at the great circus at the centenary feast. It was a rough game, although it was prescribed that neither side either won or lost. I managed to stay on Arminia’s back right to the end but after that I had to be carried home and I saw little of the displays in the amphitheater or the performances at the circus which were supposed to be the most brilliant and best organized that had ever been seen in Rome. In the middle of the festivities, many of my friends found the time to come and see me on my sickbed and assured me that without me they would have won much less honor and glory. I contented myself with having ridden my black mare and with having heard a couple of hundred thousand people roaring with excitement and shouting my praises before I broke several ribs and my left thigh. But I had stayed in the saddle on Arminia until the very end.
    The most significant political outcome of the centenary festival was that people paid great tribute to Emperor Gaius’ nephew, that ten-year old Lucius Domitius, who beautifully and fearlessly led the more innocent displays of the boy riders. Claudius’ own son, Britannicus, was put completely in the shade. The Emperor did call him up to his box and tried his best to show him to the people, but the crowd only shouted for Lucius Domitius and he received the acclaim with such modesty and good manners that everyone was even more delighted.
    As far as I was concerned, I should have been lame for life if the cavalry doctor from the temple of Castor and Pollux had not been so skillful. He handled me cruelly and I suffered fearful pain. I had to lie in splints for two whole months. After that I had to practice walking on crutches and could not leave our house for long.
    The pain, the fear of being a cripple and the discovery of how fleeting are all success and fame were certainly good for me. At least I did not become involved in the many fights which the wildest of my friends joined in at night in the streets of Rome during the general excitement of the festival. At first I thought that my enforced confinement in bed and the intolerable pain were part of fate’s efforts to determine my character. I was lonely, once more abandoned by my father because of his marriage. I had to decide for myself what I wished from my life.
    As I lay in bed right into that hot summer, I was seized with such melancholy that everything that had hitherto happened seemed to be quite meaningless. Aunt Laelia’s good and nourishing food tasted of nothing. At night I could not sleep. I thought of Timaius, who had committed suicide because of me. For the first time I realized that a good horse was perhaps not after all the best in life. I had to find out for myself what was best for me, duty and virtue or comfort and enjoyment. The writings of philosophers which had formerly bored me suddenly became meaningful. And I did not have to think very hard for long before I realized that discipline and self-control gave me more satisfaction than childish lack of restraint.
    The most faithful among my friends turned out to be Lucius Pollio, the son of a senator. He was a slender, frail youth only a few years older than I, and he had only just managed to get through the riding exercises. He had been attracted to me because my disposition was the exact opposite to his, rough, self-confident and irresponsible, and yet I had never spoken a harsh word against him. That much I had probably learned from my father, so I was more friendly to those who were weaker than to those who were like me. I was reluctant, for instance, to strike a slave, even if he were insolent.
    In the Pollio family there had always been bookish and scientific interests. Lucius himself was also much more of a bookworm than a rider. The riding exercises were for him nothing but a tedious duty which he had to endure for the sake of his career and he did not enjoy hardening his body. He came to me with books from his father’s library which he thought would be good for me to read. He envied me my perfect Greek. His secret dream was to be a writer, although his father, Senator Mummius Pollio, took it for granted that he would be an administrator.
    “What’s the use of my wasting several years on riding and listening to cases?” said Lucius rebelliously. “In time I’ll be given command of a maniple with an experienced centurion under me and after that I’ll be in command of a cavalry division somewhere in the provinces. In the end I’ll become a tribune on the staff of some legion building roads at the other end of the world. Not until I’m thirty can I apply for the office of quaestor, if one can get dispensation on the grounds of age because of one’s own or one’s family’s merits. I know perfectly well that I’ll be a bad officer and a wretched official because I’ve no real interest in such activities.”
    “While I’ve been lying here, I’ve been thinking that perhaps it’s not all that clever to get one’s limbs broken for a moment of glory,” I admitted. “But what would you really like to do?”
    “Rome already rules over the whole of the world,” said Lucius, “and is not seeking new conquests. The god Augustus sensibly limited the number of legions to twenty-five. Now the most important thing to do is to convert Rome’s crude habits to those of Greek civilization. Books, poetry, drama, music and dance are more important than the blood-drenched performances at the amphitheater.”
    “Don’t take away the races,” I said. “At least one can see fine horses there.”
    “Gambling, promiscuity and shameless orgies,” said Lucius gloomily. “If I try to get a symposium going to talk in Greek in the way the old philosophers did, it always ends up with dirty stories and a drunken orgy. In Rome it’s impossible to find a society interested in good music and song or which would appreciate classical drama more than adventure stories and dirty jokes. Most of all I’d like to go and study in Athens or Rhodes, but my father won’t let me. According to him Greek culture has only an effeminate effect on the manly virtues of
    Roman youth. Just as if there were nothing left of the earlier Roman virtues except hollow pretense and pomp and ceremony.”
    But I gained much from Lucius too, for he willingly told me about the administration and key offices of Rome. According to his innocent conception, the Senate could reverse a bill of the Emperor, while again the Emperor as a people’s tribune for life, could block a bill by the Senate with his right of veto. Most of the Roman provinces were ruled by the Senate through the Proconsuls, but some were more or less the Emperor’s private property, the administration of which was his own responsibility. The Emperor’s most important province was Egypt; also countries tied to Rome and several kingdoms, the regents of which had been brought up since childhood in the Palatine school and had learned Roman customs. I had not really realized before how basically clear and sensible this apparently involved form of government was.
    I explained to Lucius that I myself wanted to be a cavalry officer more than anything else. Together we went through the possibilities available to me. I had no chance of gaining entry into Rome’s Praetorian Guard for the sons of senators took up all the vacancies for tribunes there. In the border country of Mauretania one could hunt lions. In Britain there was endless border fighting. The Germans were disputing with Rome over grazing lands.
    “But you can hardly win battle honors even if you do take part in a bit of fighting here and there,” said Lucius. “Border scuffles are not even reported, for the legion’s most important task is to keep the peace along the borders. A legion commantler who is too enterprising and anxious for war loses his post before he can turn around. In fact an ambitious man has the best chance of promotion in the navy. An officer in the navy needn’t even be a knight by birth. There isn’t even a temple of Poseidon in Rome. You’d have a good income and a comfortable life. You could count on the command of a ship from the start. A good helmsman would of course look after the navigation side. Usually no one of noble birth ever goes into the navy.”
    I was sufficiently Roman, I replied, that it did not seem much of a life for a man to be rowed from one place to another, especially now that one had heard no mention of pirates within living memory. I could do the most good in the East, for I could speak Aramaic like everyone else who had grown up in Antioch. But I was not attracted to building roads and living in garrison towns where the legionaries had permission to marry and settle and the centurions could become successful merchants. I did not want to go to the East.
    “Why should you bury yourself at the other end of the world anyhow?” asked Lucius. “It would be incomparably better to stay here in Rome where sooner or later one is noticed. With the help of your riding skill, your fine figure and beautiful eyes, you could go further in a year here than in twenty years as a commantler of a cohort among the barbarians.”
    Irritable from my long stay in bed and from sheer contrariness, I said, “Rome in the heat of the summer is a sweating stinking city full of filthy flies. Even in Antioch the air was fresher.”
    Lucius looked searchingly at me in the belief that I had meant more with my words than I had.
    “Undoubtedly Rome is full of flies,” he admitted. “Real carrion flies too. It would be better if I kept my mouth shut because I know perfectly well your father retrieved his rank of knighthood thanks only to the Emperor’s conceited freedman. I suppose you know that delegates from cities and kings bow and scrape to Narcissus and that he has amassed a fortune of a couple of hundred million sesterces by selling privileges and official positions. Valeria Messalina is even more avaricious. By having one of the oldest men in Rome murdered, she acquired the gardens of Lucullus on the Pincian hill. She has had her rooms in Palatine made into a brothel and not content with that, she spends many nights in disguise and under a false name in the bawdy houses in Subura, where she sleeps wdth anyone for a few coppers just for the fun of it.”
    I clapped my hands over my ears and said that Narcissus was a Greek with fine manners and I could not believe the things that were said about the Emperor’s beautiful wife with her clear ringing laugh.
    “Messalina is only seven years older than we are,” I said. “She also has two lovely children and at the festival performances she sits with the Vestal Virgins.”
    “Emperor Claudius’ shame and ignominy in the marriage bed are well known as far away as in the enemy countries, in Parthia and in Germany,” Lucius said. “Gossip is gossip, but I personally know young knights who boast that they’ve slept with her on the Emperor’s orders. Claudius orders everyone to obey Messalina, whatever she demands of them.”
    “Lucius,” I said, “what young men boast about you know only too well from your symposiums. The shyer one is in the company of women, the more one boasts and invents conquests when one has had a bit of wine to drink. That such gossip is known abroad too, seems to me to show that it is deliberately spread by someone. The bigger the lie, the more likely it is to be believed. Human beings have a natural tendency to believe what they are told. Just that kind of lie which tickles a depraved palate, people believe most easily.”
    Lucius flushed.
    “I have another explanation,” he whispered in an almost trembling voice. “Perhaps Valeria Messalina really was a virgin when she was married at fifteen to that fifty-year-old depraved drunkard Claudius, whom even his own family despised. It was Claudius who debauched Messalina, giving her myrrh to drink so that she became a nymphomaniac. Now Claudius is finished and it’s not impossible that he deliberately closes his eyes. In any case he certainly demands of Messalina that she constantly sends new slave-girls to his bed, the younger the better. What he does to them is another matter. All this Messalina herself has in tears confessed to a person whom I do not wish to name but whom I believe absolutely.”
    “We are friends, Lucius,” I said, “but you are of very noble birth and son of a senator, so you’re not competent to speak on the subject. I know that the Senate brought in the republic when Emperor Gaius was murdered. Then the Praetorians accidentally found his uncle, Claudius, hiding behind a curtain when they plundered Palatine and proclaimed him Emperor because he was the only one who held that right by birth. It’s such an old story that no one even laughs at it anymore. But I’m not surprised that Claudius relies more on his freedmen and his children’s mother than on the Senate.”
    “Would you choose a mentally deranged tyrant before freedom?” asked Lucius bitterly.
    “A republic under the Senate and the Consuls doesn’t mean democratic freedom, but is rule by aristocracy,” I said. “Plundering of the provinces and new civil wars, that much do I understand from the history I have read. Be content with reforming Rome from within with Greek culture and don’t talk nonsense.”
    Lucius was forced to laugh.
    “It’s strange that one has absorbed the ideals of republicanism with one’s mother’s milk,” he said. “It makes me hotheaded. But perhaps the republic is nothing but a relic of the past. I’m going back to my books. Then I can do no harm to anyone, not even to myself.”
    “And Rome can remain full of carrion flies,” I conceded. “Neither you nor I can get rid of them.”
    The most surprising honor which came my way as I lay tormented by my inactivity and my gloomy thoughts was a visit from the leader of the noble boys, the ten-year-old Lucius Domitius. He came with his mother, Agrippina, quite unpretentiously and without prior notice. They left their sedan and following outside the house and only came in for a brief moment to commiserate with me over my accident. Bar-bus, who during my illness was acting as doorkeeper to the household, was of course drunk and asleep. Domitius jokingly gave him a light punch on the forehead and shouted out an order, at which Barbus, dazed with sleep, sprang to attention, raised his hand in salute and barked, “Ave, Caesar imperator.”
    Agrippina asked him why he greeted the boy as an Emperor. Barbus said that he had dreamt that a centurion had hit him on the head with his stave. When he had opened his eyes he had seen in front of him, in the midday sun, a huge celestial Juno and an Emperor in glittering armor inspecting their troops. Not until they had spoken to him had his sight cleared and he had recognized Domitius and guessed that Agrippina was his mother by her goddesslike beauty and stature.
    “And I wasn’t far wrong,” he said flatteringly. “You are sister to Emperor Gaius and Emperor Claudius is your uncle. On the god Julius Caesar’s side you are descended from Venus and on Marcus Antonius’ side from Hercules. So it’s not all that strange that I greeted your son with the highest possible token of honor.”
    Aunt Laelia was completely confused by such a grand visitation and ran around with her wig askew, straightening out my bedclothes and chattering reproachfully that Agrippina should have informed us beforehand of her arrival so that the household could have been prepared.
    “You know very well, dear Laelia,” said Agrippina sadly, “that it’s safest for me to avoid official visits since the death of my sister. But my son had to come and see his hero Minutus Lausus. So we looked in to wish him a quick recovery.”
    This lively, attractive and, despite his red hair, handsome boy hurried shyly up to give me a kiss and then drew back in admiration as he looked at my face.
    “Oh, Minutus,” he cried. “You have indeed earned the name Magnus more than any other. If only you knew how I admired your amazing courage. None of the spectators had the slightest idea that you’d broken your leg when you remained in the saddle right to the end.”
    Domitius took a scroll from his mother and handed it to me. Agrippina turned to Aunt Laelia apologetically.
    “It’s a book on balance of mind,” she explained, “which my friend Seneca has written in Corsica. It’s a good book for a youngster who is suffering from the consequences of his own foolhardiness. If he at the same time should wonder why such a noble-minded man must spend his life buried alive in exile, then it is because of the present situation in Rome and not because of me.”
    But Aunt Laelia did not have the patience to listen. She was much too taken up with offering some kind of refreshment. It would have been a matter of shame if such distinguished guests had left without partaking of anything.
    Agrippina protested but finally said, “In your house, we should be glad to taste a little of that refreshing lemon drink which your brave invalid has in a jug by his bed. My son can share one of the buns.”
    Aunt Laelia stared at her with wide-open eyes.
    “Dearest Agrippina,” she said in horror, “have things already reached such lengths?”
    Agrippina was then thirty-four years old. She was a statuesque woman, her features aristocratic if also expressionless, and her eyes were large and brilliant. To my horror, I saw those clear eyes fill with tears. She lowered her head and wept silently.
    “You guess correctly, Laelia,” she said at last. “It is safest for me to fetch water from the pipe with my own hands for my son, and for me to choose from the market what I dare eat myself and let him eat. The people cheered him too openly at the festivities. Three days ago someone tried to kill him at his midday siesta. I no longer even trust the servants. It was strange that none of them was near and that a complete stranger with evil intentions could get into the house without any of them seeing him. So it occurred to me-but perhaps it’s best to say nothing.”
    Naturally Aunt Laelia was curious, which had perhaps been the intention all along, and she began to question Agrippina about what it was that had occurred to her.
    “I thought that Lucius needed the constant companionship,” she said after a moment’s hesitation, “of a few young noblemen whose loyalty I could rely on and who at the same time would set him a good example. But no, no, it would only bring them misfortune. They would be jeopardizing their futures.”
    Aunt Laelia was not very pleased with this suggestion and I was not really sure enough of myself to dare think that Agrippina meant me.
    But Lucius put his hand shyly on mine and cried, “If you, Minutus, were by my side, I’d never be afraid of anything or anyone.”
    Aunt Laelia began to stammer that it could be misunderstood if Lucius Domitius began to gather a following of nobles around his person.
    “I can already walk a little on crutches,” I said quickly. “Soon my thigh will have healed. Perhaps I’ll be lame for life, but if it doesn’t make me look foolish, I’d be glad to be Lucius’ companion and protect him until he’s old enough to look after himself. That won’t be very long. You are already big for your age and you can ride and use weapons.”
    To be quite honest, he looked more girlish than manly, with his graceful movements and his elaborate hair style. This impression was strengthened even more by the milk-white complexion that redheads usually have. But I remembered he was only ten and yet could ride a horse and drive a chariot at displays. A boy like that could not be completely childish.
    We talked for a little while longer, about horses and Greek poets and singers he seemed to admire, but we came to no particular decision. I realized that I should be welcome at Agrippina’s house at any time. They left and Agrippina asked her purse-bearer to give Barbus a gold coin.
    “She’s very lonely,” explained Aunt Laelia afterwards. “Her noble birth keeps her apart from other people and her equals daren’t be seen with her for fear of incurring the Emperor’s displeasure. It’s sad to see such an exalted woman turning to a lame young nobleman for friendship.”
    I was not hurt by her words, for I had myself wondered the same thing.
    “Is she really afraid of being poisoned?” I asked carefully.
    Aunt Laelia snorted.
    “She makes too much of things,” she said. “No one is murdered in broad daylight in an inhabited house in the middle of Rome. The story sounded invented to me. You’d better not get mixed up in that sort of thing. It is true that Emperor Gaius, the dear boy, had a chest full of poisons with which he experimented. But Emperor Claudius had it destroyed and poisoners are always severely punished. You know, I suppose, that Agrippina’s husband, Lucius’ father Domitius, was a brother of Domitia Lepida, Messalina’s mother? When Lucius was three, he inherited everything from him, but Gaius kept it all. Agrippina was exiled and to survive she had to learn to dive for sponges on an island far away. Lucius was cared for by his aunt, Domitia. The hairdresser, Anicetus, was his tutor as you can still see from his hair. But now Domitia Lepida has quarreled with her daughter Messalina, and is one of the few who dare to be seen openly with Agrippina and spoil Lucius. Messalina uses the name of her grandfather, Valerius Messala, to show she is directly descended from the god Augustus. The mother is angry with her because she all too openly shows her affection for Gaius Silius, goes with him everywhere, is as at home in his house and with his freedmen and slaves as she is at her own, and has even taken valuable inherited furniture there from Palatine. On the other hand, it is all very natural, for Silius is the handsomest man in Rome. It could even all be quite innocent, as it’s all so open. A young woman can’t be forever in the company of a bad-tempered old drunkard. Claudius inevitably neglects her because of his official duties and in his spare time he prefers to play dice to going to the theater. He prefers to go to the amphitheater too, to see the wild animals tearing criminals to pieces, and that’s not very suitable for a refined young woman to watch.”
    “That’s enough about Messalina now,” I cried, clapping my hands to my ears. “My head is in a whirl of relationships between these families.”
    But Aunt Laelia had been roused by our distinguished visitors.
    “The whole thing is quite simple,” she went on. “The god Augustus was the grandson of the god Julius Caesar’s sister. By his sister Octavia’s first marriage, Messalina is the daughter of Octavia’s grandson, while Emperor Claudius, by Octavia’s second marriage with Marcus Antonius, is grandson to Octavia. Agrippina is his niece, but at the same time widow of Octavia’s second grandson Gnaius Domitius, so Lucius Domitius is therefore-listen now-at the same time grandson to Octavia’s first daughter and grandson to the second daughter and in fact a sibling to Messalina.”
    “Then Emperor Claudius has married for the third time, to his mother’s half sister’s granddaughter who calls herself Valeria Messalina, if I’ve got it right,” I said. “In fact then, Messalina is of just as noble birth as Agrippina?”
    “More or less,” admitted Aunt Laelia. “But she has none of Marcus Antonius’ depraved blood in her, which the others all suffer so much from. Her son Britannicus has of course some of it through Claudius to the extent… “
    “To the extent…?” I repeated questioningly.
    “Well, Claudius had an illegitimate child before,” Aunt Laelia said reluctantly, “It’s not absolutely certain that Britannicus is really his son, when one knows everything that’s said about Messalina. It was said at the time that that marriage was arranged by Emperor Gaius just to save the girl’s reputation.”
    “Aunt Laelia,” I said solemnly. “From loyalty to the Emperor, I ought to denounce you for insults like that.”
    “As if Claudius would believe anything bad about his lovely child-wife,” snorted Aunt Laelia.
    But she looked around carefully all the same.
    Afterwards I asked Barbus whether he had really had such a prophetic dream just as he had wakened from his drunken sleep, and he maintained stubbornly that he had in fact seen what he had described, although it could have come from the wine and the surprise.
    “Wine makes you have such strange dreams in the heat of the summer,” he said, “that it’s quite frightening sometimes.”
    When I had been walking on crutches for a while, the cavalry doctor found me a good masseur who treated my legs and exercised my slack muscles so well that I could soon walk unaided. I have worn a thick-soled shoe on the injured foot ever since, so my limp is scarcely noticeable.
    I began to ride again, but soon noticed that only a very few young nobles chose to take part in the riding exercises. Most of them had no thought of a military career. For them it was sufficient if they could somehow remain in the saddle for next year’s parade.
    A resdessness and a desire for activity seized me in the heat of the summer. Once or twice I went to see Lucius Domitius, but in spite of everything he was much too childish company for me. He was busy writing poems and he read verses to me from his wax tablet and asked me to correct them. He modeled surprisingly well and fashioned animals and people out of clay. He was very pleased if you praised him but was easily hurt if you made critical remarks, although he tried to hide it. He seriously suggested that I should take lessons from his dancing master so that I could learn to move gracefully with pleasing gestures.
    “The art of dancing is not much use to anyone who is going to learn to use a sword and spear and shield,” I said.
    Lucius said that he hated the sword fights at the amphitheater, in which rough gladiators injured and killed each other.
    “I’m not going to be a gladiator,” I said, offended. “A Roman knight has to learn the skills of war.”
    “War Is n Momly nnd unnecessary occupation,” he said. “Rome has given peace lo the world. But I’ve heard that a relation of my late father, Gnaius Domitius Corbulo, is skirmishing in Germany on the other side of the Rhine to earn the right of a triumph. If you really want to, I can write to him and recommend you as a tribune. But he’s a hard taskmaster and will make you work hard if he’s not posted away from there. I don’t think Uncle Claudius wants any of my father’s relations to become too famous.” _
    I promised to think about the matter, but Barbus found out more about Corbulo and maintained that he had been more distinguished as a road builder in Gaul than a warrior in the forests of Germany.
    Naturally I read the little book I had been given. The philosopher Seneca wrote in a fine modern style and asserted that a wise man could keep a balance of mind throughout the tests of fate. But I thought he was long-winded, for he gave no examples but just philosophized so that not many of his ideas stayed in my mind.
    My friend Lucius Pollio also lent me a letter of condolence Seneca had written to the Emperor’s freedman Polybius. In it, Seneca was consoling Polybius over the death of his brother, telling him he need not grieve as long as he had the good fortune to be allowed to serve the Emperor.
    What had amused readers in Rome was that Polybius had recently been executed after being found guilty of selling privileges. According to Pollio, he had quarreled with Messalina over the division of the money. Messalina had denounced him which the rest of the Emperor’s freedmen had not liked at all. So the philosopher Seneca had struck bad luck again.
    I was surprised that Claudia had not tried to get in touch with me all through my illness. My self-esteem was hurt, but my good sense told me that I should have more trouble than joy from her. But I could not forget her black eyebrows, her bold eyes and her thick lips. When I was better, I began to go for long walks to strengthen my broken leg and to quell my restlessness. The warm Roman autumn had come. It was too warm to wear a toga and I did not wear my red-bordered tunic so as not to attract too much attention on the outskirts of the city.
    I walked over to the other side of the river to avoid the stench of the city center, past Emperor Gaius’ amphitheater to which he had at immense expense had an obelisk brought all the way from Egypt, and then on up the Vatican hill. There was an ancient Etruscan oracle temple with wooden walls there which Emperor Claudius had had protected with a layer of tiles. The old soothsayer raised his stave to attract my attention, but did not bother to call after me. I walked down the far side of the hill, right out of the city toward the market gardens. Several prosperous-looking farms lay within sight. From here and from farther away, every night an endless stream of ratding bumping carts brought in the city’s vegetables which were then unloaded and sold to the dealers in the market halls before dawn, when they all had to leave the city.
    I felt no desire to inquire after Claudia from the sunburnt slaves who were working in the vegetable fields, but went on my way. I let my feet take me where they wished to go, but Claudia had said something about a spring and some old trees. So I looked around and my thoughts led me the right way as I followed a dried-up stream bed. Below some ancient trees stood a little hut, near a large farm. In the vegetable field beside it crouched Claudia, her hands and feet black with earth, wearing only a coarse shift and a wide pointed straw hat to keep off the sun. At first I scarcely recognized her. But I knew her so well, although several months had gone by since we had last met, that I recognized her by her hand movements and her way of bending down.
    “Greetings, Claudia,” I called. I was filled with exultant joy as I crouched down on the ground in front of her and looked at her face under the brim of the straw hat.
    Claudia started and stared at me with her eyes widening in fright and her face flushing scarlet. Suddenly she flung a bunch of muddy pea stalks in my face, stood up and ran away behind the hut. I was flabbergasted by such a reception and swore to myself as I rubbed the earth out of my eyes.
    I followed her hesitantly and saw that she was splashing in some water and washing her face. She shouted angrily at me and told me to wait on the other side of the hut. Not until she had combed her hair and put on clean clothes would she come back.
    “A well-brought-up man gives notice when he is coming,” she snapped angrily, “but how can one expect such good manners from the son of a Syrian money-lender. What do you want?”
    She had insulted me. I flushed and turned away without a word. But when I had taken a few steps, she came after me and took my arm.
    “Are you really so touchy, Minutus?” she cried. “Don’t go. Forgive my hasty tongue. I was angry because you took me by surprise, ugly and dirty from work.”
    She took me into her modest little hut which smelled of smoke, herbs and clean linen clothes.
    “You see, I too can spin and weave, as Romans of old should be able to,” she said. “Don’t forget that in the old days even the proudest Claudian steered his oxen behind the plow.”
    In this way she was trying to excuse her poverty.
    “I prefer you like this, Claudia,” I replied politely, “with your face fresh from spring water, to all the painted silk-clad women of the city.”
    “Of course,” Claudia admitted honestly, “I’d rather my skin were as white as milk and my face beautifully painted and my hair set in lovely curls on my forehead and my clothes revealing more than they concealed and myself smelling of the balsam of the East. But my uncle’s wife, Aunt Paulina Plautia, who has let me live here since my mother died, does not approve of such things. She is always dressed in mourning, prefers silence to speaking, and keeps away from her equals. She has more than enough money but she gives her income to charity and to even more doubtful purposes rather than allowing me to buy rouge and eye shadow.”
    I could not help laughing, for Claudia’s face was so fresh and clean and healthy that she really had no need for cosmetics. I wanted to take her hand, but she jerked it away and snapped that her hands had become as rough as a slave-girl’s during the summer. I asked if she had heard about my accident, but she replied evasively.
    “Your Aunt Laelia would never have let me in to see you,” she said. “Anyhow, I’ve become humble and realize that nothing but harm would come to you from knowing me. I wish you well, Minutus.”
    I replied roughly that I could make my own decisions about my own life and choose my own friends.
    “Anyhow, you’ll soon be rid of me,” I remarked. “I have a promise of a letter of recommendation to go to war against the Germans under the famous Corbulo. My leg is better and only a fraction shorter than the other one.”
    Claudia quickly said she had not even noticed that I limped at all. Then she thought for a moment.
    “Actually you are safer in the field,” she said sadly, “than in Rome where some strange woman can take you away from me at any moment. I should grieve less if through some foolish ambition you lost your life in war, than if you fell in love with someone else. But why do you have to go and fight against the Germans? They are horribly large, and powerful warriors. If I ask Aunt Paulina nicely, she’d certainly give you a letter of recommendation to my uncle, Aulus Plautius, in Britain. He commands four legions there and has been very successful. Obviously the Britons are much weaker opponents than the Germans since Uncle Aulus is no military genius. Even Claudius managed to claim a triumph in Britain, so the Britons can’t be very fierce opponents.”
    I did not know this and I asked her eagerly for more details. Claudia explained that her mother was a Plautius. When Aulus Plautius’ wife, Paulina, had taken her husband’s parentless niece under her wing, Aulus had good-naturedly regarded Claudia as a member of his family, especially as they had no children of their own.
    “Uncle Aulus did not like my mother, Urgulanilla, at all,” Claudia told me, “but in any case, Mother was also a Plautia and my uncle was very offended when Claudius, for indefensible reasons, divorced my mother and sent me naked to be laid on her threshold. In fact Uncle Aulus was prepared to adopt me but I am too proud for that. Legally I am and shall remain the daughter of Emperor Claudius, however repulsive his habits are.”
    To me her descent was a dull topic of conversation, but the thought of the war in Britain excited me.
    “Your legal father Claudius by no means tamed the Britons, even if he did celebrate it as a triumph,” I said. “On the contrary, the war goes on there all the time. It is said that your Uncle Aulus can already claim over five thousand enemy dead from several years’ fighting and that he thus has also earned a triumph. They are obstinate and treacherous people. As soon as there is peace in one part of the country, war breaks out again in another. Let’s go and find your Aunt Paulina at once.”
    “You’re in a great hurry to gain military honors,” said Claudia teas-ingly. “But Aunt Paulina has forbidden me to go alone into the city and to spit on the Imperial statues. So I’d be glad to come with you, for I haven’t seen her for several weeks.”
    We walked back into the city together and I hurried home to change into more suitable clothes. Claudia did not want to come in for fear of Aunt Laelia, but waited at the gate and talked to Barbus. When we went on to the Plautia house on the Celius hill, Claudia’s eyes were glittering with rage.
    “So,” she cried, “you’ve been making friends with Agrippina and her cursed son, have you? That shameless old hag is a dangerous woman. Anyhow, she’s old enough to be your mother.”
    I protested in surprise that while Agrippina was certainly beautiful, she was reserved in her manner and her son was much too young and childish for me.
    “I know more than enough about those depraved Claudians,” snapped Claudia. “Agrippina sleeps with anyone if she thinks he might be useful. The Emperor’s treasurer, Pallas, has been her lover for a long time. She is trying to find a new husband, but in vain. The men who are noble enough are much too cautious to get involved in her intrigues, but anyone as inexperienced as you could be easily seduced by any immoral widowed matron of Rome.”
    Bickering together, we walked through the city, but in fact Claudia was pleased when I told her that no one had seduced me yet and that I had remembered the promise I had made to her on the way home from the Moon temple the day I had received the man-toga.
    In the Plautius courtyard there was a long row of busts of ancestors, death masks and war souvenirs. Paulina Plautia proved to be an old woman with large eyes which seemed to be looking straight through me. One could see from her eyes that she had been weeping. When she heard my name and errand, she was surprised and brushed my cheek with her thin hand.
    “This is strange,” she said. “Like an unbelievable sign from the only God. Perhaps you don’t know, Minutus Manilianus, that your father and I became friends and exchanged a holy kiss when we had broken bread and drunk wine together at the love-feast. But something very evil has happened. Tullia had spies put on your father. When she had sufficient evidence she denounced me quite recently for having partaken in shameful Eastern mysteries.”
    I realized at once from where Claudia had acquired her knowledge of the heresies of the Jews.
    “By all the gods of Rome,” I cried in horror, “has my father really become involved in the conspiracies of the Christians as well? I thought he’d left all those fads behind in Antioch.”
    The old woman looked at me with strangely brilliant eyes.
    “Minutus,” she said. “It is not a fad but the only way to the truth and an eternal life. I’m not afraid to believe that the Jew and Nazarene Jesus was and is the son of God. He appeared to your father in Galilee and your father has more to tell about him than many a man here. He considers his marriage to the domineering Tullia to be God’s punishment for his sins. So he has said farewell to his former pride and received the holy Christian baptism, as I have. Neither of us is ashamed of it, even if there are not many rich or noble people among the Christians.”
    This fearful news left me speechless. Claudia noticed my expression and said, “I’m not baptized into their faith, but on the other side of the Tiber, in the Jewish part of the city, I’ve listened to their teachings. Their mysteries and holy meals absolve them from all their sins.”
    “Rowdies,” I said angrily, “eternal squabblers, troublemakers and rabble-rousers. I’ve seen it all in Antioch. The real Jews hate them worse than the plague.”
    “One doesn’t have to be a Jew to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the son-of God,” said Paulina.
    But I was not in the mood for theological discussion. In fact I saw red at the thought of my father sinking so low as to become a follower of the despicable Christians.
    “My father must have been drunk again and hence full of compassion,” I said sternly. “So he will make any excuse to escape Tullia’s reign of terror. But he might have told his troubles to his own son.”
    The woman with the large eyes shook her head when she heard me speaking disrespectfully of my father.
    “Just before you came,” she said, “I heard that the Emperor, to save my husband’s reputation, will not agree to a public trial as a result of the denouncement. Aulus Plautius and I were married according to the longer form. So the Emperor is handing me over to be judged by my husband before the family court as soon as Aulus comes back from Britain. When you came here, I was wondering how I could get a message to my husband before he somehow happened to hear any exaggerated charges elsewhere and was shocked because of me. My conscience is clear, for I have done nothing shameful or wicked. Would you go to Britain immediately, Minutus, and bear a letter to my husband?”
    I did not have the slightest desire to take this cheerless news to a famous soldier. All I could think of was that this was no way to win his favor. But the old woman’s mild eyes bewitched me. I did think that perhaps I owed her something, as she had got into difficulties because of my father. Otherwise Aulus Plautius might simply have had her killed, according to the old longer marriage form and family laws.
    “This appears to be my fate,” I said. “I’m ready to go tomorrow, if you promise me that in your letter you do not involve me in your superstitions.”
    She promised this and soon began to write the letter. Then I realized that if I took my own horse, Arminia, the journey would be a very long one, for she would have to rest now and then. So Paulina promised to get me a first-class courier’s plaque which gave me the right to use the Emperor’s own post-horses and wagons in the same way as a traveling senator. Paulina was, after all, the wife of the Commantler-in-Chief in Britain. But in return she demantled one thing more of me.
    “On the slope of Aventine,” she said, “there lives a tentmaker called Aquila. Go to him after dark and tell him or his wife Prisca that I have been denounced. Then they’ll know to be on their guard. But if a stranger questions you, you can say I sent you to order tents for my husband in Britain. I daren’t send my own servants there, for my house is being watched because of the denouncement.”
    I swore inwardly at being dragged into the Christians’ loathsome machinations in this way, but Paulina blessed me in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, touching my forehead and chest gently with the tips of her fingers, so I could say nothing. I promised to do as she asked and to return the next day, ready for the journey.
    As we parted from her, Claudia sighed, but I was excited by this unexpected decision and the thought of the long journey which would solve all my problems. Despite Claudia’s hesitation, I wanted her to come into our house so that I could present her as my friend to Aunt Laelia.
    “Now that my father has become a shameful Christian,” I said, “you have nothing to be ashamed of in our house. You are de jure the daughter of the Emperor and of noble birth.”
    Aunt Laelia made the best of the situation. When she had collected herself after the first surprise, she took Claudia in her arms and looked at her carefully.
    “You’ve grown into a lively, healthy young woman,” she said. “I used to see a great deal of you when you were a child and I remember well that dear Emperor Gaius always called you cousin. Your father behaved shamefully towards you, but how is Paulina Plautia? Do you really shear sheep with your own hands on her farm outside the walls, as I’ve been told?”
    “Stay and talk together for a while,” I suggested. “I know women are never at a loss for anything to talk about. I must go and see my lawyer and my father, for early tomorrow morning I am going to Britain.”
    Aunt Laelia burst into tears and wailed that Britain was a wet and misty island where the fearful climate permanently ruined the health of those who survived the fighting against the blue-painted Britons. At the time of Emperor Gaius’ triumph, she had been to the amphitheater and seen Britons cruelly fighting each other in the arena. On Mars field they had built, plundered and destroyed a whole British town, but in Britain itself there was presumably little chance of plunder, if the town in the victory performance had been like the home towns of the Britons themselves.
    I left Claudia with her to console her, fetched money from my lawyer and then went to Tullia’s house to find my father. Tullia received me reluctantly.
    “Your father,” she said, “has shut himself up in his room in his usual state of dejection and doesn’t want to see anyone. He hasn’t spoken to me for several days. He gives the servants orders by nods and gestures. Try to get him to speak before he turns quite dumb.”
    I consoled Tullia and told her my father had had the same kind of attacks at home in Antioch. When she heard that I was going to Britain to fight in the army there, she nodded in approval.
    “That’s a good idea,” she said. “I hope you will honor your father there. I have tried in vain to get him to interest himself in the affairs of the city. In his youth he studied law, although of course he has forgotten all that now. Your father is much too lazy and unenterprising to acquire a position which is worthy of him.”
    I went in to see my father. He was sitting in his room with his head in his hands. He was drinking wine from his beloved wooden goblet and he stared at me with bloodshot eyes. I shut the door carefully behind me.
    “Greetings from your friend Paulina Plautia,” I said. “Because of your holy kiss, she’s in trouble and has been denounced for superstition. I must go quickly to Britain with a message about the matter for her husband. I’ve come to ask you to wish me well on my journey in case I do not return. In Britain I shall probably join the army to complete my military service there.”
    “I have never wanted you to be a soldier,” stammered my father, “but perhaps even that is better than living here in this Babylon of whores. I know my wife Tullia has brought unhappiness to Paulina by her jealousy, but it should have been I who was denounced. I have been baptized in their baptismal bath and they laid their hands on my head, but the spirit did not enter me. I shall never again speak to Tullia.”
    “Father,” I asked, “what exactly does Tullia want from you?”
    “That I become a senator,” my father replied. “That is what that monstrous woman has got into her head. I own enough land in Italy and am of sufficiently noble birth to be able to become a member of the Senate. And Tullia, by special dispensation, has obtained the rights of a mother of three children, although she has never bothered to have any. In my youth I loved her. She followed me to Alexandria and never forgave me for choosing your mother, Myrina. Now she talks on at me as one talks to an oxen, abuses me for my lack of ambition and will soon turn me into an incurable drunkard if I don’t do what she wants and become a senator. But Minutus, my son, there is no wolf blood in me, even though in all truth, many a worse man has sat in red boots on an ivory stool. Forgive me, my son. You understand now why under these circumstances I could do nothing else but declare myself a Christian.”
    As I looked at my father’s swollen face and restless roving eyes, I was seized with great compassion. I realized that he had to find something worthwhile in his life to be able to bear living in Tullia’s house. Yet even being in the Senate would be better for his spiritual health than taking part in the secret meetings of the Christians.
    As if he had read my thoughts my father looked at me, fingering the worn wooden goblet, and said, “I must stop partaking in the love-feasts, for my presence simply does harm to the Christians, as it has to Paulina. Tullia has, in her mortification, sworn to have them all banished from Rome if I don’t leave them. All this because of a few innocent kisses which are customary after the holy meals.”
    “Go to Britain,” he went on, handing me his beloved wooden goblet. “The time has come for you to take over the only inheritance you have from your mother, before Tullia burns it in her anger. Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews, once drank from it, almost eighteen years ago, after he had risen from his tomb and gone to Galilee with the scars from the nails on his hands and feet and the sores from the lashes on his back. Don’t ever lose it. Perhaps your mother will be a little closer to you when you drink from it. I have not been the kind of father I should have wished to be.”
    I took the wooden goblet which my father’s freedmen in Antioch maintained was blessed by the Goddess of Fortune. I thought that it had not protected my father from Tullia, if one did not consider this fine house, all the comforts of life and perhaps the honor of being a senator the greatest possible earthly success. But I felt a secret respect as I took the wooden goblet in my hands.
    “Do me one more service,” my father said gently, “On the slopes of Aventine, there lives a tentmaker… “
    “… whose name is Aquila,” I said ironically. “Quite. I am taking a message to him from Paulina. I can tell him at the same time that you too are leaving them.”
    But my bitterness dissolved and melted away when my father gave me his beloved goblet as a memento. I embraced him and pressed my face against his tunic to hide my tears. He clasped me tightly to him, and we parted without looking at each other again.
    Tullia was waiting for me in the high-backed chair of the mistress of the house.
    “Have a care in Britain, Minutus,” she said. “It will be important for your father to have a son serving the State and the common good. I don’t know much about army life, but I’m given to understand that a young officer is more quickly promoted by being generous with his wine and playing dice with his men than by going on unnecessary and dangerous expeditions. Don’t be mean with your money, but incur debts if necessary. Your father can afford it. Then you’ll be considered normal in every way.”
    On the way home I went into the temple of Castor and Pollux to inform the Curator of the cavalry of my journey to Britain. At home my Aunt Laelia and Claudia had become firm friends and had chosen the best kind of woolen underclothes for me as a protection against the raw climate of Britain. They had gathered other things for me too, so much that I should have needed at least a wagon to take them all. But I was not even going to take my armor, except my sword, as I thought it best to equip myself on the spot in accordance with what the country and circumstances demantled. Barbus had told me how they used to laugh at the spoilt Roman youths who brought quantities of unnecessary things with them on active service.
    In the moist warm autumn evening, beneath the uneasy red sky, I went to see the tentmaker, Aquila. He was obviously quite a wealthy man, for he owned a large weaving business. He met me suspiciously at the door and looked around as if afraid of spies. He was about forty and did not look at all Jewish. He had no beard and no tassels on his mantle, so I took him for one of Aquila’s freedmen. Claudia had come with me and she greeted Aquila like an old friend. When he heard my name and the greetings from my father, his fear left him, although the uneasiness in his eyes was the same as I had seen in my father’s. He had vertical lines on his forehead like a soothsayer.
    He asked us kindly to come into his house, and his fussy wife Prisca at once began offering us fruit and diluted wine. Prisca was at least a Jewess by birth, judging by her nose, a managing, talkative woman who had probably been very beautiful in her youth. Both were upset when they heard that Paulina had been denounced and that my father considered it best to leave their secret society so as not to harm them.
    “We have enemies and people who envy us,” they said. “The Jews persecute us, hound us out of the synagogues and beat us in the streets. An influential magician, Simon from Samaria, hates us bitterly. But we are protected by the spirit who puts words in our mouths and so we need fear no earthly power.”
    “But you are not a Jew,” I said to Aquila.
    He laughed.
    “I am a Jew and am circumcised, born in Trapezus in Pontus, on the southeast shore of the Black Sea, but my mother was a Greek and my father was baptized when he was celebrating Pentecost in Jerusalem once. There was much quarreling in Pontus when some people wanted to make sacrifices to the Emperor outside the synagogue. I moved to Rome and live here on the poor side of Aventine, like many Jews who no longer believe that to follow the law of Moses absolves them from their sins.”
    “The Jews on the other side of the river hate us most,” explained Prisca, “because heathens who have listened to them prefer to choose our way and think it is easier. I don’t know if our way is easier. But we have compassion and the secret knowledge.”
    They were not unpleasant people and lacked the usual superciliousness of the Jews. Claudia admitted that she and her Aunt Paulina had listened to their teachings. According to her, they had nothing to hide. Anyone could come and listen to them and some were moved to a state of ecstasy. Only the love-feasts were closed to outsiders, but that was also true of Syrian and Egyptian mysteries which occurred in Rome.
    They kept repeating that everyone, slave or free, rich or poor, wise or dull, was equal in the eyes of their God, and they regarded everyone as their brothers and sisters. I did not entirely believe this as they had been so depressed to hear that my father and Paulina Plautia had left them. Claudia had assured them of course that Paulina had not done so in her heart but only outwardly to protect her husband’s good name.
    The following morning I was given a horse for the journey and a courier’s plaque to wear on my chest. Paulina gave me the letter to Aulus Plautius and Claudia wept. I rode along the military highways right through Italy and Gaul.

Book III


    I arrived in Britain just as winter was setting in with its storms, mists and icy rain. As every visitor to Britain knows, the country can oppress any man. There are not even any towns in the sense that there are in northern Gaul. Whoever does not die of pneumonia in Britain gets rheumatism for life, if he has not already been captured by the Britons and had his throat slit in their ash groves; or been carried back to their priests, the Druids, who predict the future of their tribe from the intestines of Romans. My legionaries, who have thirty years’ service behind them, told me all this.
    I met Aulus Plautius at the trading station of London, which lies by a fast-moving river, and where he had his headquarters as there were at least a few Roman houses there. He was not angry, as I had feared he would be when he read the letter from his wife, but burst out laughing, slapping his knees. A week or two earlier he had received a secret letter from Emperor Claudius confirming his triumph. He was in the process of arranging his affairs in Britain so that he could leave his command and return to Rome in the spring.
    “Oh, yes,” he laughed, “so I’m supposed to summon the family together to pronounce judgment on my dear wife, am I? I shall be lucky if Paulina doesn’t tear the few remaining hairs from my head when she questions me on the kind of life I’ve been leading in Britain. I’ve had enough of religious matters here, what with cutting down the Druids’ sacred groves, and paying for a whole shipload of idols to stop people here making their revolting human sacrifices. And then they immediately smash the clay statues and start rebelling again.
    “No, no,” he went on, “superstition at home is much more innocent than it is here. This accusation is only an intrigue by my dear colleagues in the Senate who are afraid I’ll be much too wealthy after being in command of four legions for four years. As if anyone could get rich in this country. In fact Rome’s money disappears as if into a bottomless pit, and Claudius has been forced to let me celebrate a triumph so that Rome will think that all is peaceful here. No one will ever make this country peaceful, for it is in a permanent state of turmoil. If one conquers one of their kings in honorable battle, another soon appears, caring for neither hostages nor treaties. Or else a neighboring tribe comes and captures the land we’ve conquered and slaughters our garrison troops. One can’t disarm them completely because they need their weapons to defend themselves against each other. I should have been glad to return without a triumph just to get out of this godforsaken country.”
    He grew serious and looked sternly at me.
    “Had rumor of a triumph already spread to Rome when you left,” he asked, “for a young knight like you voluntarily to offer to come here? I suppose you hope to share in the triumph with the minimum effort.”
    Indignantly I explained that I had heard nothing of any triumph. On the contrary, it was said in Rome that Claudius, out of sheer envy, would not allow any such thing for service in Britain because he himself had celebrated a triumph for quelling the Britons.
    “I have come to study the art of war under a famous commantler,” I said. “I was tired of the riding exercises in Rome.”
    “There are no glossy horses and silver shields here,” said Aulus briskly. “No hot baths or skilled masseurs either. There is nothing here but the war cries of blue-painted barbarians in the forests, daily fear of ambush, an eternally running cold, an incurable cough, and permanent homesickness.”
    And he was not exaggerating all that much, as I was to find out in the two years I spent in Britain. He kept me on his staff for a few days to have my descent confirmed, to hear the latest gossip from Rome and with the help of a relief map to teach me the shape of Britain and the positions of the legionary camps. He also gave me leather clothes, a horse, weapons, and some friendly advice.
    “Look after your horse well or the Britons will steal it,” he said. “They fight with chariots, so their horses are small and are not good for riding. As Roman war and politics here are based on our treaties with the British tribes, we also have several chariot auxiliaries. But never trust a Briton, and never turn your back on one. The Britons would like to have our large war-horses to start up their own cavalry. Claudius’ victory here was due to his elephants, which the Britons had never seen before. The elephants tore up their wooden barricades and frightened their horses. But the Britons soon learned to aim at the elephants’ eyes with their spears and to scorch them with burning torches. And the elephants could not stand the climate either. The last of them died of pneumonia a year ago. I’ll send you to Flavius Vespasian’s legion because he is my most experienced soldier and most trustworthy commantler. He is dull but never loses his head. His descent is humble and his habits crude, but he is an honest man who thus will probably never rise to greater heights than that of legion commantler. But you will learn the art of war from him, if that is what you want.”
    I met Flavius Vespasian on the shore of the flooded river Anton, where he had dispersed his legion over a wide area and had had wooden fortifications built far apart from each other. He was a man of about forty, powerfully built, his forehead broad and with good-natured lines around his stern mouth. And he was not so insignificant as one would have thought from Aulus Plautius’ superior description. He liked to laugh loudly and also to joke about his own reverses, over which a weaker man might have despaired. His presence alone gave me a sense of security. He looked at me slyly.
    “Is fortune coming our way,” he said, “now that a young knight from Rome comes of his own free will to the damp dark forests of Britain? No, no, it’s not possible. Confess what you have done at once and what boyish pranks you have fled from into the protection of my legion’s Eagle, then we’ll get on better together.”
    When he had questioned me minutely on my family and friends in Rome, he said that I would be neither a credit to him nor the contrary. Good-natured as he was, he decided that I should gradually get used to the filth and crudity and trials of military life. At first he took me with him on one of his tours of inspection so that I should get to know the country, and he dictated to me his reports to Aulus Plautius because he himself was too lazy to write. When he had made sure I really could ride and did not trip over my sword, he handed me over to the legion’s engineer to learn how to build fortifications.
    Our isolated garrison did not even make up a full maniple. Some of us went hunting for provisions, others felled timber in the forest and a third contingent was building fortifications. Before leaving, Vespasian exhorted me to see that the men kept their weapons clean and that the guards were awake and not idle, for carelessness with weapons was the mother of all vice and weakened discipline.
    After a few days I grew tired of wandering about the camp, listening to the barefaced gibes of the old legionaries. I took an ax and began to fell trees in the forest. At the pile-driving, I too, with dirt in my eyes, took a hand at the rope and joined in the song. In the evenings I stood both the centurion and the engineer some wine, which one could buy at an outrageous price from the camp trader, but often I joined the scarred old under-officers around the campfire and shared their porridge and salt meat. I grew stronger, coarser, cruder and I learned to swear, no longer minding about being asked how long I had been jveaned.
    There were a score or so of cavalry men from Gaul attached to our garrison. When their commanding officer realized I was not competing for his command, he decided it was time for me to kill my first Briton, so he took me on a provisioning raid. After crossing the river, we rode a long way to a village where the inhabitants had complained that a neighboring tribe was threatening them. They had hidden their weapons, but the veterans, who had come after us on foot, were used to finding weapons in the earthen floors of the round huts and in the heaps of manure outside. After finding the weapons, they plundered the village of all the corn and some of the cattle and mercilessly killed the men who tried to defend their property, on the theory that Britons were not even any good as slaves. The women who had not had time to escape into the forest, they raped as a matter of course and with friendly laughter.
    This pointless destruction appalled me, but the commantler just laughed and told me to calm down and be prepared. The demand for protection was merely a customary trap as was proved by the weapons we had found. Nor was he lying, for at dusk a howling mob of blue-painted Britons attacked the village from all directions in the hope of surprising us.
    But we were on our guard and easily withstood the lightly armed barbarians who had no legionary shields with which to protect themselves. The veterans, who had the day before destroyed the village and whom I thought I should never forgive for the bloody deeds I had witnessed, enclosed me in their midst and protected me in the hand-to-hand fighting. When the Britons turned and fled, they left behind one of their warriors, who was wounded in the knee. He bellowed wildly, supporting himself on his leather shield and swinging his sword. The veterans opened their ranks, pushed me forward and shouted laughingly, “There’s one for you. Kill your Briton now, little friend.”
    It was easy to protect myself and kill the wounded man, despite his strength and his sword. But when I had finally cut his throat with my long sword and he lay dying on the ground with blood pouring from his body, I was forced to turn away and be sick. Shame for my weakness drove me quickly back into the saddle to join the Gauls as they followed the fleeing Britons into the undergrowth until the trumpet recalled us. We left the village prepared for another attack by the Britons, for our centurion was convinced that the fighting was by no means over yet. We had a difficult journey ahead as we had to drive the cattle and carry the corn in baskets back to the garrison and at the same time ward off attacks from the Britons. I felt better when I had to defend myself and also ride to the assistance of others, but I did not think this was a particularly honorable way of waging war.
    When we finally recrossed the river and had returned with our spoils to the protection of the fort, we had lost two men and a horse and had a number of wounded. Exhausted, I went to rest in my wooden hut with its earthen floor, but I kept waking and seemed still to be hearing the Britons’ shrill war cries outside.
    The following day I did not feel the slightest desire to join in on the division of the spoils, but the cavalry commantler jokingly boasted to everyone how I had distinguished myself and slashed around with my sword and bellowed with fear almost as loudly as the Britons. So I had the same right to the spoils as the others. Presumably in jest, the veterans pushed toward me a half-grown Briton girl with her hands bound together.
    “Here’s your share of the spoils,” they cried, “so that you won’t find life dull and leave us, brave child knight Minutus.”
    I shouted furiously that I did not want to keep and feed a slave-girl, but the veterans were all innocence.
    “If one of us takes her,” they said, “she’ll just cut his throat with a knife as soon as her hands are free. But you are a noble youth with fine manners and you can talk Greek. Perhaps she’ll like you better than us.”
    They willingly promised to give me advice on how to train such a slave-girl. At first I must beat her morning and evening, on principle, just to tame her wild ways. They also gave me more experienced advice, but that I cannot put down on paper. When I roughly refused, they shook their heads and pretended to be sad.
    “Then there’s nothing else for it but to sell her for next to nothing to the camp trader,” they said. “You can imagine what’ll happen to her then.”
    I realized I should never forgive myself if I were the cause of this frightened child’s being trained with a stick as a camp whore. Reluctantly I agreed to take the girl as my share of the spoils. I drove the veterans out of my hut and sat with my hands on my knees, looking at her. She had smuts and bruises on her childish face and her red hair hung untidily over her forehead. She looked like one of the Britons’ colts as she peered at me from beneath her fringe.
    I began to laugh, cut the rope around her wrists and told her to go and wash her face and plait her hair. She rubbed her swollen wrists and stared at me mistrustfully. Finally I went and fetched the engineer, who could speak a few words of the Iceni’s language. He laughed at my dilemma but remarked that the girl was at least healthy and had straight limbs. When she heard her own language, the girl seemed to gain courage. They talked animatedly for a while.
    “She doesn’t want to wash, or comb her hair J explained the engineer, “because she suspects your intentions. If you touch her, she’ll kill you. She swears this in the name of the hare-goddess.”
    I assured him that I had not the slightest intention of touching the girl. The engineer said that the most sensible thing to do would be to give her wine to drink because the uncivilized Britons were not used to wine and she would soon be drunk. Then I could do what I liked with her as long as I made sure that I did not get too drunk myself. Otherwise the girl might cut my throat when she sobered up. That was what happened to one of the legion’s tanners who had made the mistake of drinking together with an untamed British woman.
    I repeated impatiently that I did not want to touch the girl. But the engineer insisted that it would be wisest if I kept the girl bound. Otherwise she would run away at the first opportunity.
    “Nothing could be better,” I said. “Tell her that tonight I’ll go with her past the guards and set her free.”
    The engineer shook his head and said that he had thought I was mad before, voluntarily joining in the work with the men, but he had not thought I was that mad. He spoke to the girl and then turned back to me.
    “The girl doesn’t trust you,” he said. “She thinks that you’re taking her into the forest to get your own way. Even if she did escape from you, Britons from other tribes would capture her and hold her as a hostage as she doesn’t belong here. Her name is Lugunda.”
    Then the engineer’s eyes began to glisten and he licked his lips as he looked at the girl.
    “Look,” he said. “I’ll give you two silver pieces for the girl and then you’ll be rid of her.”
    The girl saw the look and rushed up to me, grasping my arm as if I were the only security she had in the world. But at the same time she uttered a stream of her sibilant language. The engineer laughed loudly.
    “She says, if you touch her without permission you will be reborn as a frog. Before then her tribesmen will come and cut out your stomach, pull out your intestines and stick a red-hot spear up your backside. It’d be wiser, I should think, if you sold her at a reasonable price to a more experienced man,”
    For a moment I felt like giving the girl to the engineer for nothing, but then I again patiently assured her that I did not want to touch her. In fact I thought of treating her like a colt. They had their fringes combed and were given a blanket on their backs on cold nights. Old veterans used to relieve their boredom by keeping pets. The girl would be better than a dog because she could teach me the Britons’ language.
    I do not know how the engineer interpreted my words, or if in fact he knew enough of the language to convey what I had said to the girl. I suspect that he told the girl that I was as unwilling to touch her as I would be to mate with a dog or a horse. Anyhow, she drew quickly away from me and began to splash her face with water from my wooden pail, to show she was neither a horse nor a dog.
    I asked the engineer to leave and gave the girl some soap. She had never seen such a thing before, and to tell the truth, neither had I until I stayed the night in the Gallic town of Lutetia on the way to Britain and visited the wretched bathhouse there. It was on the anniversary of the day of my mother’s death and thus also my birthday. I was seventeen in Lutetia and no one congratulated me.
    The thin slave in the bathhouse surprised me with the mild and cleansing soap he was using. It was quite a different feeling from being scoured with pumice. I remembered the money Tullia had given me and bought both the slave his freedom and his soap for three gold pieces. On the morning I left Lutetia, I gave him permission to call himself Minutius. The few pieces of soap I received in return, I kept well hidden when I realized that this new invention roused the contempt of the legionaries.
    When I showed the girl how the soap should be used, she forgot her fear, washed herself and began to untangle her hair. I rubbed her swollen wrists with good ointment, and when I saw how badly her clothes had been torn by the thorns, I went to the trader for underclothes and a woolen cloak for her. After that she followed me everywhere like a faithful dog.
    I soon noticed that it was easier for me to teach her Latin than for me to learn the barbarians’ language. During the long dark evenings by the fire, I also tried to teach her to read. But I did it just for my own amusement, by writing the letters in the sand and letting her copy them. The only books in the garrison were the centurion’s almanac and the trader’s Egyptian-Chaldaean book of dreams, so I very much regretted not bringing anything with me to read. Teaching Lugunda made up for some of this.
    I endured with a laugh the stream of obscenities from the veterans regarding the girl in my hut, for they meant no harm. More likely they wondered what kind of witchcraft I had used to tame the girl so quickly. Of course, they thought I slept with her,” but in fact I did not touch the girl, although she was over thirteen years of age.
    As the icy rain poured down and the even normally wretched roads were transformed into bottomless mud, and the puddles every morning were covered with a crisp layer of ice, life in the garrison became more and more static and monotonous. A couple of young Gauls who had enlisted in the legion to become Roman citizens by serving for thirty years, made a habit of slipping into my wooden hut when I was teaching Lugunda and watching with their mouths open and repeating aloud the Latin words. Before I knew what was happening, I was teaching them both Latin and how to write. Some knowledge of reading and writing is necessary for promotion in the legion, for no war can be waged without wax tablets.
    It was while I was teaching like this that Vespasian surprised me in my turf-roofed hut when he came to inspect the garrison. As was his habit, he came unexpectedly and did not allow the duty guards to sound the alarm, for he liked to go around and see the camp as it was each day. He considered that in this way a commantler had a better picture of the morale of the legion than by a previously arranged tour.
    I was reading aloud from the tattered Egyptian-Chaldaean book of dreams what it meant if one dreamed about hippopotamus, and I was pointing out each word in turn while Lugunda and the young Gauls put their heads together and stared at the book, repeating the Latin words after me. Vespasian laughed so much that he bent double and slapped his knees as the tears poured down his cheeks. We all nearly fainted with fright when he appeared so suddenly behind us. We sprang to attention and Lugunda hid herself behind my back. But from his laughter, I realized that Vespasian was not at all angry.
    When he had at last collected himself, he looked sternly at us with a heavy frown. The upright posture and clean faces of the youngsters showed him that they were irreproachable soldiers. He said that he was pleased they wanted to learn Latin and to read rather than getting drunk in their spare time. Vespasian even lowered himself to tell us that he had seen a hippopotamus with his own eyes in the amphitheater in Rome at the time of Emperor Gaius, and he described how enormous the animal is. The Gauls naturally thought he was making it up and laughed shyly, but he was not offended and merely ordered them to get their equipment in readiness for inspection.
    I respectfully asked him to step inside my hut and begged permission to offer him some wine. He assured me he would very much like to rest for a while, for he had finished his inspection and had set people to work everywhere. I found my father’s wooden goblet, which I thought my best drinking vessel, and Vespasian turned it around in his hand curiously.
    “You’ve the right to wear the gold ring, you know,” he remarked.
    I explained that I did indeed own a silver goblet, but that I prized the wooden goblet much more highly as I had inherited it from my mother. Vespasian nodded in approval.
    “You are right to honor the memory of your mother,” he said. “I myself have inherited a battered old silver goblet from my grandmother and I drink from it on all feast days without caring what people think.”
    He drank the wine thirstily and I willingly gave him more, although I was already so used to the poor life in the legion that I calculated how much he was saving by drinking my wine. This was not out of meanness. I had simply learned that a legionary, on ten copper pieces or two and a half sesterces a day, had to provide food for himself, keep his clothes in order and put something by in the legion’s fund toward the day when he was ill or wounded.
    Vespasian slowly shook his large head.
    “Soon the spring sun will be here,” he said, “and it will dissolve the mists of Britain. Then we may well have a hard time. Aulus Plautius is preparing to go to Rome to celebrate his triumph and he is taking his most experienced soldiers with the longest service with him. Wise veterans would rather accept gratuities than trek the long way back to Rome for a few days’ feasting and drinking. Among the legion commantlers, I was the one whose length of service entitled me to the first chance to go with him, because of my conquest of the Isle of Wight. But someone must see to Britain until the Emperor appoints a new commantler-in-chief in place of Aulus Plautius. Aulus has promised me a triumph insignia anyhow, if I agree to stay here.”
    He rubbed his forehead over and over again.
    “As long as I am in charge,” he went on, “there will be no more plundering and we shall pursue a policy of peace. But that means we’ll have to extract even higher taxes from our allies and subjects to maintain the legions. That’ll make them rebellious again. Admittedly, it will take some time to do, for Aulus Plautius will take the kings, commantlers and other important hostages to Rome. There they’ll get used to the comforts of a civilized life and their children will be brought up in the Palatine school, but the only result will be that their own tribes will desert them. On our part, we shall gain a breathing space while the tribes competing for power here setde their differences. But if the Britons move swiftly enough, they’ll have time to get a rebellion going by midsummer day. That’s their main religious feast day. They usually sacrifice their prisoners on the communal stone altar. It is strange, when otherwise they worship the gods of the underworld and the Goddess of Darkness with the face of an owl. The owl is also the bird of Minerva.”
    He thought for a moment about this.
    “In fact we know much too little about Britain and its different tribes and languages and customs and gods,” he went on. “We know something about the roads, the rivers, the fords, the mountains, forests, grazing lands and drinking places, for a good soldier’s first task is to find out about that sort of thing somehow or other. There are successful merchants who travel freely among hostile people, while other merchants are robbed as soon as they set foot outside legion territory. There are civilized Britons who have traveled to Gaul and all the way to Rome and who talk broken Latin, but we’ve not been able to meet them as their rank demands. At a time like this, if someone were to collect the most necessary information on the Britons, their customs and gods, and write a reliable book on Britain, it would be of much more use to Rome than the subjection of a whole people. The god Julius Caesar didn’t know much about the Britons but believed all kinds of loose talk, just as he exaggerated his victories and forgot his mistakes when he wrote his propaganda book on the war in Gaul.”
    He drank again from my wooden goblet and became even more animated.
    “Naturally the Britons must in time adopt Roman customs and Roman culture,” he said, “but I’ve begun to wonder if we couldn’t civilize them more easily by knowing their own customs and prejudices, rather than by killing them. This would be just right at the moment, when we want peace because our own best troops are leaving Britain and we’re waiting for another experienced commantler-in-chief. But as you’ve killed a Briton yourself, I suppose you want to take part in Aulus Plautius’ triumph, as your descent and your red border give you the right to do. Naturally I’ll give you my recommendation, if you want to go. Then I’d know I had at least one friend in Rome.”
    The wine was making him melancholy.
    “I have my son Titus, of course,” he went on, “who is growing up and playing with Britannicus in Palatine and who is getting the same education as he is. I have guaranteed a better future for him than I myself can hope for. Perhaps he will finally give Britain peace.”
    I told him I had probably seen his son with Britannicus at the riding exercises before the centenary feast. Vespasian said that he had not seen his son for four years and would not be able to this time either. His other son, Domitian, he had not even held on his knee, for the boy was the result of Emperor Claudius’ triumph and Vespasian had had to return to Britain immediately after the celebrations.
    “A lot of noise and not much else,” he said bitterly, “the whole of that triumph. Nothing but a mad waste of money to please the mob in Rome. I don’t deny that I too would like to creep up the Capitoline steps with a laurel wreath on my head. There isn’t a legion commantler who hasn’t dreamed of doing so. But one can get drunk in Britain too, and much more cheaply.”
    I said that if he thought I could be of any use to him, I should be glad to stay in Britain under his command. I had no great desire to take a part in the triumph which I had not earned. Vespasian took this as a great sign of confidence and was obviously moved.
    “The more I drink from your wooden goblet, the more I like you,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I hope my own son Titus grows up like you. I’ll tell you a secret.”
    He confessed that he had taken a British sacrificial priest prisoner and was keeping him from Aulus Plautius, just when Aulus was collecting up prisoners for the triumph parade and the battles in the amphitheater. To give the people a special treat, Aulus especially wanted a genuine British priest who would sacrifice prisoners at a performance.
    “But a real Druid would never agree to do such a thing just to please the Romans,” said Vespasian. “It would be much easier for Aulus to dress up some suitable Briton as a priest. People in Rome would never know the difference. When Plautius had gone, I was going to set the priest free and send him back to his tribe as evidence of my good intentions. If you are brave enough, Minutus, you could go with him and make yourself familiar with the customs of the Britons. With his help you could make ties of friendship with their noble youths, for I have a secret suspicion that our successful merchants have been in the habit of buying safe-conducts at high prices from the Druids, even if they daren’t admit it.”
    I had no desire whatsoever to get involved in an alien and frightening religion. I wondered what sort of curse it was that seemed to follow me wherever I went, for in Rome I had been forced into an acquaintance with the Christian superstition. But one confidence for another, I thought, and I told Vespasian the real reason why I had ended up in Britain. He was very amused at the thought of the wife of a commantler who had gained a triumph being judged by her husband because of a shameful superstition.
    But to show he was aware of the gossip in Rome, he said, “I know Plautia Paulina personally. As far as I know she went wrong in the head after letting a young philosopher-Seneca, I think his name was-and Julia, Emperor Caesar’s sister, meet in secret at her house. They were exiled because of this and Julia finally lost her life. Plautia Paulina couldn’t stand a charge of procuring, became temporarily insane and, going into mourning, she withdrew into solitude. Naturally a woman like that gets strange ideas.”
    Lugunda had been sitting all this time crouched in a corner of the hut, watching us intently, smiling when I smiled and looking anxious when I was serious. Vespasian had absentmindedly looked at her occasionally and now surprisingly said, “Generally speaking, women do get funny ideas in their heads. A man can never be quite sure what they have in mind. The god Caesar had the wrong idea about British women but he didn’t respect women particularly anyhow. I think that there are good women and bad women, whether barbarians or civilized. For a man there is no greater happiness than the friendship of a good woman. Your wild one here looks like a child, but she can be more useful to you than you think. You probably don’t know that the Iceni tribe has applied to me and offered to buy the girl back. The Britons don’t usually do such things. They usually reckon that members of their tribe who have fallen into the hands of the Romans are lost forever.”
    He spoke laboriously to the girl in the Iceni language and I understood little of what they said. But Lugunda looked confused and crept nearer to me as if seeking protection. She answered Vespasian shyly at first and then in a more animated way until he shook his head and turned again to me.
    “This is another hopeless thing about the Britons,” he said. “The people who live on the south coast talk a different language from the inland tribes, and the northern tribes don’t understand anything of the southerners’ dialect. But your Lugunda has been chosen since infancy by her priests to become a hare-priestess. As far as I can gather, the Druids think they can look at a child even in infancy if it suits their purposes and see whether it can be trained for the priesthood. This is necessary, for there are Druids of many different grades and ranks, so they have to study all their lives. With us, a priest’s office is almost a political honor, but with them the priests are physicians, judges and even poets, insofar as the barbarians can be said to have any poetry.”
    It seemed to me that Vespasian was by no means as crude and ignorant as he himself liked to make out. He seemed to have adopted this role in order to draw out other people’s self-assurance.
    It was news to me that Lugunda had been marked as a Druid priestess. I knew she was not able to eat hare flesh without being sick and that she would not tolerate my catching hares with snares, but this I had presumed was some barbaric whim, for different families and tribes in Briton have different sacred animals, in the same way that Diana’s priest in Nemi may not touch or even look at a horse.
    When Vespasian had once again spoken to Lugunda, he burst out laughing and slapped his knees.
    “The girl doesn’t want to go home to her tribe,” he cried, “but wants to stay with you. She says you are teaching her magic which even their priests know nothing about. By Hercules, she thinks you are a holy man because you haven’t tried to touch her.”
    I replied with annoyance that I was certainly no holy man. I was just bound by a certain promise and anyhow, Lugunda was only a child. Vespasian gave me a sly look, rubbed his broad cheeks and remarked that no woman is ever completely a child.
    “I can’t force her to return to her tribe,” he said, after thinking for a moment. “I think we’ll have to let her ask what her hares think about it.”
    The following day, Vespasian held the usual inspection in the camp, spoke to the soldiers in his crude way and explained that from now on they must be content with cracking their own skulls and must no longer go out after the Britons.
    “Do you understand, dolts?” he barked. “Every Briton is your father and your brother, every British hag your mother, and even the most tantalizing maiden your sister. Go out to meet them. Wave your green branches when you see them, give them presents, let them eat and drink. You know only too well that the rules of war punish individual plundering with death at the stake. So see to it that I don’t have to scorch the hides off you.
    “But,” he continued grimly, glowering at them, “I’ll scorch the hides off you even more if you let any Briton steal as much as a single horse or even a sword from you. Remember they are barbarians. You must civilize them with mildness and teach them your own customs. Teach them to play dice and swear by the Roman gods. That’s the first step to higher culture. If a Briton strikes you on the cheek, then turn the other cheek to him. I have indeed heard of a new superstition which demands that one does that, whether you believe me or not. However, don’t turn the other cheek too often, but settle your differences with Britons by wrestling, steeplechasing or ball games, in the British way.”
    I have seldom heard legionaries laugh so much as they did during Vespasian’s speech. The lines swayed with merriment and someone dropped his shield in the mud. To punish him, Vespasian himself flogged him with a stave of rank borrowed from the centurion, which caused more amusement than ever. Finally Vespasian made ritual offerings at the garrison altar with such dignity and piety that there was no more laughter. He sacrificed so many calves, sheep and pigs that everyone knew that for once they could eat their fill of free roast meat, and we all marveled at the favorable omens.
    After the inspection, he sent me to buy a live hare from a veteran who was breeding hares, as the Britons did, in cages for amusement. Vespasian thrust the hare under his arm. We three-he, Lugunda and I-left the camp grounds and walked far into the forest. He took no guard with him, for he was a fearless man and both of us were armed, as we had just come from the inspection. In the forest he seized the hare by the ears and handed it to Lugunda, who put it under her cloak with a practiced hand and began to look around for a suitable place. For no apparent reason she led us through the forest so far that I began to suspect an ambush. A crow flew up in front of us, but fortunately veered off to the right.
    Lugunda stopped at last by an enormous oak tree, looked around once more, marked out the points of the compass in the air with one hand, flung up a handful of rotten acorns, looked to see where they fell and then began to intone an incantation for so long that I began to grow sleepy. Suddenly she snatched the hare from under her clothes and threw it up into the air, and stood leaning forward, her eyes black with excitement as she stared after it. The hare darted away with great leaps in a northwesterly direction and vanished into the forest. Lugunda burst into tears, flung her arms around my neck and pressed herself to me, shaking with sobs.
    “You chose the hare yourself, Minutus,” said Vespasian apologetically. “This has nothing to do with me whatsoever. If I’ve got it right, the hare says she must go home to her tribe immediately. If it had stayed and hidden in a bush, it would have been a bad omen and stopped her going. I think I understand that much of the Britons’ art of predicting by hares.”
    He patted Lugunda kindly on the shoulder and spoke to her in the Iceni language. Lugunda calmed down, smiled at little and then seized my hand, kissing it several times.
    “I only promised that you would see her safely to the Iceni country,” Vespasian explained, unmoved. “Let us now consult several other omens so that you need not go straightaway before you’ve had time to get to know my Druid prisoner. I’ve a feeling that you’re a mad enough young man to be able to appear as an itinerant Sophist collecting wisdom from different countries for your own sake. I suggest that you dress in goatskins. The girl will bear witness that you are a holy man and the Druid will protect you. They keep their promises if they’ve made them in a certain way in the name of their own gods of the underworld. If they don’t keep them, we’ll have to think of another way of securing peaceful cooperation.”
    In this way Lugunda and I went with Vespasian to the main legion camp when he returned from his tour of inspection. When we left, I realized to my surprise that many of the men in the garrison had become quite attached to me during the winter. They gave me small parting gifts, told me never to bite the legion’s hand that had fed me, and assured me that genuine wolf blood flowed in my veins, even if I did speak Greek. I was sorry to leave them.
    When we arrived at the main camp, I forgot to salute the legion’s Eagle in the proper manner. Vespasian snarled with rage, ordered my weapons to be removed from me with ignominy and had me thrown into a dark cell. I was completely mystified by this strictness until I realized that in the cell I was to be given the opportunity of meeting the captured Druid. He was not yet thirty, but nevertheless was a remarkable man in every way. He spoke quite good Latin and was dressed like a Roman. He made no secret of the fact that he had been captured on his way home from western Gaul when his ship had been driven inland by a storm on a coast guarded by the Romans.
    ‘Tour commantler Vespasian is a clever man,” he said smiling. “Practically no one else among you would have noticed that I was a Druid, or even taken me for a Briton, because I don’t paint my face blue. He has promised to save me from a painful death in the amphitheater in Rome, but that alone won’t make me do as he asks. I do only what my own true dreams and omens tell me. He is unconsciously fulfilling a greater wish than his own by saving my life. I am not afraid of a painful death even, for I am an initiate.”
    I had a splinter in my thumb and my hand became very badly swollen in the cell. The Druid took out the splinter without even hurting me, by pinching my wrist with his other hand. When he had poked out the splinter with a pin, he held my hot and aching hand for a long time between his own. The following morning all the pus had gone and my hand showed no sign whatsoever of the splinter.
    ‘Tour commantler,” he said, “probably understands better than most Romans that the war is now a war between the gods of Rome and the gods of Britain. So he is trying to bring about a truce between the gods and in this way is acting in a much wiser way than if he tried politically to unite all our different tribes in a treaty with the Romans. Our gods can afford a truce, for they never die. Reliable omens tell us, however, that the gods of Rome soon die. So Britain will never be completely under the power of Rome, however clever Vespasian thinks he is. But everyone must of course believe in his own gods.”
    He also tried to defend the horrible human sacrifices which were part of his belief.
    “A life must be paid for by a life,” he explained. “If an important man becomes ill, to be cured he sacrifices a criminal or a slave. Death does not mean the same thing to us as it does to you Romans, for we know that we shall be reborn on earth sooner or later. So death is just a change of time and place and no more remarkable than that. I would not say that every person is reborn, but an initiate knows for certain he will be reborn into a rank that is worthy of him. So death is for him nothing but a deep sleep from which he knows he will awaken.”
    Later, Vespasian officially freed the Druid, whom he had taken as his slave, paid the necessary tax into the legion fund and gave him permission to use his other family name, Petro, sternly pointing out to him his duties to his former master according to Roman law. Then he gave us three mules and sent us across the river to the Iceni country. In the cell I had allowed my hair and fair beard to grow, and when we left the camp I was dressed in goatskins, although Petro laughed at all these precautionary measures.
    As soon as we reached the protection of the forest, he threw his freedman’s stave into the bushes and let out a bloodcurdling British war cry. In a moment we were surrounded by a crowd of armed blue-painted Icenis. But they did no harm to either Lugunda or me.
    Together with Petro and Lugunda I was taken by mule from early spring until the depths of winter among the different tribes of Britain, as far away as the country of the Brigantes. To the best of his ability, Petro taught me all the British customs and beliefs except the secrets of the initiates. It is unnecessary for me to describe my journey here, for I have put it all in my book on Britain.
    I must admit that I did not realize until several years later that I had traveled around in a kind of haze of enchantment during the whole of this time. Whether this was because of some kind of secret influence from Petro or Lugunda or simply my youth, I cannot say. But I think I saw everything as more wonderful than it was in reality and I was pleased by the people and their customs, which later I did not like as well as I had done then. Nevertheless, I developed and learned so much, that six months later I was considerably older than my years.
    Lugunda stayed with her tribe in the Iceni country to breed hares while I returned for the darkest months to London, in the Roman part of the country, to write an account of my journey. Lugunda had of course wanted to come with me, but Petro hoped I would return to the Iceni country and succeeded in persuading her that this would be much more likely to happen if she stayed with her own family, which by British standards was a noble one.
    Vespasian did not recognize me when I reported to him with blue stripes on my face, dressed in valuable furs and with gold rings in my ears. I addressed him formally in the Iceni language and made with my hand the simplest of the Druid signs which Petro allowed me to use so that I should not be in danger on my return journey.
    “I am Ituna,” I said, “from the Brigantes’ country, blood brother to the Roman, Minutus Lausus Manilianus. I have a message for you from him. He allowed himself to be sent down to the dead to acquire for you a favorable omen. Now he cannot return to earth in his original form, but I have promised to pay for a memorial tablet in Roman script. Can you recommend me a good stonemason?”
    “By all the gods of the underworld and Hecate too,” swore Vespasian in amazement. “Is Minutus Manilianus dead? Whatever shall I tell his father now?”
    “When my wise and gifted blood brother died for you, he saw a hippopotamus in the river,” I continued. “That means an everlasting kingdom which no earthly power can hinder. Flavius Vespasian, the gods of Briton bear witness that you, before your death, will cure the sick by the touch of your hands and be exalted to a god in the country of Egypt.”
    Not until then did Vespasian recognize me, and he burst out laughing when he remembered the Egyptian-Chaldaean book of dreams.
    “I nearly had a stroke,” he cried. “But what’s all this nonsense you’re talking?”
    I told him I had in fact had a dream of that kind about, him, after allowing a Druid High Priest to put me into a deathlike tfance in the Brigantes’ country.
    “But whether it means anything or not, I don’t know,” I admitted sensibly. “Perhaps I was so frightened that time you surprised me when I was reading about a hippopotamus in the book of dreams with Lugunda that the hippopotamus returned to me in my sleep just as I was dreaming about Egypt. It was such a clear dream that I could describe it and the temple in front of which it all took place. You were sitting, fat and bald, on a judge’s throne. There were many people around you. A blind man and a cripple were begging you to cure them. At first you did not want to, but finally you agreed to spit in the blind man’s eyes and kick the lame man’s leg with your heel. The blind man soon received back his sight and the lame man’s leg healed. When the crowd saw this, they came with sacrificial cakes and named you a god.”
    Vespasian’s laughter was hearty but rather forced.
    “Whatever you do, don’t tell other people that kind of dream, even in jest,” he warned me. “I promise to remember the remedies you mention, should I find myself in such a dilemma. But it is more likely that as a toothless old man I shall be, in the interests of Rome, a simple legion commantler in Britain.”
    He was not entirely serious when he said this, for I saw that he was wearing a triumph ornament on his tunic. I congratulated him, but Vespasian looked gloomy and told me that the latest news from Rome was that Emperor Claudius had had his young wife Messalina murdered, and weeping bitterly, had sworn before the Praetorian Guard that he would never marry again.
    “From a reliable source, I have heard that Messalina had separated from Claudius in order to marry Consul Silius, with whom she already had spent a great deal of time,” Vespasian told me. “They married once when Claudius was out of the city. The idea was either to bring back the republic or make Silius Emperor with the approval of the Senate. It is difficult to know what really happened, but Claudius’ freedmen, Narcissus, Pallas and the other parasites, deserted Messalina and made Claudius believe his life was in danger. During the wedding feast, however, the conspirators made the mistake of getting drunk to celebrate their victory. Claudius returned to the city and got the Praetorian Guard on his side. Then large numbers of senators and knights were executed and only a few were allowed to commit suicide. So the conspiracy was widespread and evidently carefully prepared.”
    “What a terrible story!” I exclaimed. “I had heard before I left Rome that the Emperor’s freedmen were terrified when their colleague Poly-bius was executed on Messalina’s orders. But I could never quite believe all the dreadful things that were said about Messalina. I even had a feeling the gossip was deliberately spread about to blacken her reputation.”
    Vespasian scratched his big head and glanced slyly at me.
    “I’m not really competent to speak,” he said, “as I’m only a simple legion commantler and live over here as if in a leather sack, without knowing what is really happening. It is said that fifty senators and about two hundred knights were executed because of the conspiracy. I am most concerned about my son Titus, who was left in Messalina’s care to be brought up with Britannicus. If Claudius believed so ill of his child’s mother, then such a capricious old man might equally well turn against the children.”
    After that we talked about nothing but the British tribes and kings whom I had got to know, thanks to Petro. Vespasian ordered me to write a careful account of my journeys, but by no means paid for my
    Egyptian paper, ink and pens, not to speak of my keep in London. In fact I rceeived no pay whatsoever and I was no longer included in the rolls of my own legion, so I felt very lonely and outcast that icy cold and foggy winter.
    I rented a room at a Gallic corn merchant’s and began to write, only to find that it was not nearly so easy as I had thought. It was not now a matter of commenting or revising earlier works, but of describing my own experiences. I spoiled a great deal of expensive paper and paced anxiously up and down the banks of the mighty river Thames, protected by furs and woolen clothes against the icy wind. When Vespasian returned from a tour of inspection, he summoned me to him and began to read what I had written. When he had finished he looked confused.
    “I haven’t the ability to judge literature,” he said, “and, in fact, respect learned men much too much even to try. But this gives me the impression that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. You write very beautifully, but I should have thought that you must first decide whether you are writing a poem or a factual account of Britain’s configuration, religions and tribes. Of course, it’s pleasant to read about how green the fields you have seen in Britain are, how the ash trees bloom and the little birds sing in the early summer, but for soldiers or merchants, this is not very useful information. Also, you rely-much too much on the Druids’ and noble Britons’ accounts of their tribes’ descent and the kings’ divine origins. You describe their merits and noble virtues so well that one might think you had forgotten you were a Roman. If I were you, I wouldn’t blame the god Julius Caesar and say that he never succeeded in conquering Britain but was forced to flee her coasts without ever accomplishing his task. Naturally, what you say, which in itself is not without foundation, enhances Emperor Claudius’ honor, when he, thanks to the British tribal wars, has succeeded in making such a large part of the country peaceful. But it is not a good thing to insult the god Julius Caesar publicly. You ought to know that.”
    When he talked to me in this fatherly way, my heart began to thump, and I realized that while writing I had fled from the dark winter and my own loneliness into a dreamlike summer in which I forgot the trials I had suffered and remembered only the beautiful things. I had missed Lugunda as I had been writing, and because of the brotherhood in which I joined with the Brigantes, I felt myself more of a Briton than a Roman. And in the way of all authors, I was not pleased to hear this criticism and was deeply offended.
    “I’m sorry I’ve not fulfilled your hopes,” I said. “I’d better gather up my belongings and go back to Rome, as long as it is possible to cross over to Gaul in the winter storms.”
    Vespasian put his great fist on my shoulder and said gently, “You are still young, so I’ll forgive your touchiness. Perhaps you’d better come with me on a tour of inspection to Colchester, the veteran town. Then I’ll give you a cohort for a few months, so that as a prefect you can have all the formal military training you need. Your British blood brothers will only respect you more when you go back to them in the spring. Then in the autumn you can rewrite your book.”
    In this way I received my rank of tribune in the same year, although I was only eighteen. This appealed to my vanity and I did my best to show myself worthy of the responsibility, although active service in winter was confined to garrison inspection, building work and practice marches. Somewhat later I received from my father a considerable sum of money and the following letter:
    Marcus Mezentius Manilianus greets his son Minutus Lausus. You will have heard by now of the changes that have taken place in Rome. In order to reward more fully my wife Tullia for her services in exposing the conspiracy, rather than my own services, Emperor Claudius has bestowed on me the privilege of wearing the broad purple band. I have now a seat in the Curia. Behave accordingly. I am sending you a money order to London. Here it is said that the Britons have made Claudius a god and raised a temple with a turf roof in his honor. You would be wise to take a suitable votive gift to the temple. Aunt Laelia is well, as far as I know. Your freedman, Minutius, lives with her at the moment, making and selling a Gallic soap. My wife Tullia sends her greetings. Drink to my memory from your mother’s goblet.
    So my father was a senator, something I could never have imagined. I was no longer surprised that Vespasian had been in such a hurry to promote me to tribune. What had happened in Rome had reached him more quickly than it had me. I felt bitter and my respect for the Senate lessened considerably.
    Following my father’s advice, I went to the wooden temple the Britons had built in Colchester in honor of Claudius and presented a brightly painted wooden carving as a votive gift. I dared not give anything more valuable as the Britons’ own gifts were worthless articles-shields, weapons, cloths and clay jars. Vespasian had given nothing but a broken sword so as not to offend the British kings with a too valuable gift. At least, that is what he told me.
    As the summer came in, I gladly shed my insignia of rank and Roman armor, painted blue stripes on my cheeks and threw the colored cloak of honor of the Brigantes over my shoulders. Vespasian pretended that he could not possibly let the son of a Roman senator loose to be murdered by savage Britons in the forests, but he knew perfectly well that under the protection of the Druids, I was safer traveling in all the countries of the Britons than I would be at home in the streets of Rome.
    Recklessly, I promised I would be responsible for myself and my upkeep. Out of vanity, I should have liked to have taken my own horse to prance in front of the noble British youths, but Vespasian decisively refused to allow me to and praised, as usual, the staying power of mules in British terrain. He had had a horse dealer crucified for trying to smuggle a shipload of horses in from Gaul, to sell at high prices to the Britons. My stallion, he said, would be much too great a temptation to them. They had been trying in vain to breed up their own small horses after experiencing the superiority of the Roman cavalry over war chariots.
    So I had to content myself with buying suitable gifts for my hosts. First I loaded my mules with jars of wine, for the British nobles were if possible even more given to wine than the legionaries. That summer I spent the longest day of the year at the Sun God service in the round temple of giant stones. I found gold ornaments and amber in an ancient tomb, and I made a journey to the tin mines, to the harbor of which the Carthaginians used to sail hundreds of years ago to buy tin. But the greatest surprise was Lugunda, who during the winter had grown from a child to a young woman. I met her at her hare farm, dressed in her white hare-priestess cloak with a silver band in her hair. Her eyes were shining like those of a goddess. When we had embraced in greeting, we both drew back in astonishment and no longer dared touch each other. Her tribe did not allow her to accompany me on my journeys that summer. In fact it was to flee from her that I left the Iceni country. But as I journeyed on, a living image of her followed me. I thought of her the last thing at night and the first thing in the morning, whether I wished to or not.
    I returned from my journeys more quickly than I had meant to, back to her, but I had no joy from it. On the contrary, after the first delight of seeing each other again we soon started quarreling, with or without cause, and we hurt each other so bitterly that I could go to bed hating her with all my heart and convinced that I never wanted to see her again. But when she smiled at me again later and came with her favorite hare and let me hold it, I relented and became as weak as water. It was difficult to remember that I was a Roman knight and my father was a senator and that I had the right to wear the red cloak of a tribune. Rome seemed distant and dreamlike to me as I sat on the grass in the warm British summer with her wriggling hare in my arms.
    But suddenly she pressed her cheek to mine, snatched the hare into her arms and with glittering eyes, accused me of deliberately tormenting her. With the hare in her arms, her cheeks flushed, she looked at me so provokingly that I regretted not having given her a good spanking in the days when I had had her in my power in the camp.
    On her friendly days, she took me around her parents’ vast grazing lands and showed me the cattle, the fields and villages. She also took me to the storehouse and showed me the cloths, ornaments and sacred objects which were passed down from mother to daughter in her family.
    “Don’t you like the Iceni country?” she teased. “Isn’t it easy to breathe here? Doesn’t our corn bread and our thick beer taste good to you? My father could give you many teams of small horses and chariots decorated with silver. You could have for the asking as much land as you could get around in a day.”
    But another day she would say, “Tell me about Rome. I’d like to walk on paved streets, see big temples with columned halls and war trophies from every country, and get to know women who are different from me, to learn their customs, for in your eyes I am evidently only an uneducated Iceni girl.”
    In honest moments she said, “Do you remember how you held me in your arms one cold winter night in your wooden hut and warmed me with your own body when I was homesick? Now I am home and the Druids have made me a hare-priestess. You’ve no idea what a tremendous honor that is, but at the moment I’d rather be in your wooden hut, holding your hand and listening to you teaching me to read and write.”
    I was still so inexperienced, manhood or no, that I did not understand my own feelings or what had happened between us. I was informed by the Druid Petro, whom Vespasian had freed and who had in the autumn returned from a secret island where he had been initiated into an even higher grade of priesthood. He had watched our games without my being aware of it and then he had sat down on the ground, covering his eyes with his hands and leaning forward in a holy trance. We did not dare wake him, for we both knew that in his dreams he was wandering in the underworld. But we forgot our bickering and sat down on a hummock in front of him, waiting for him to awaken.
    When he had collected himself, he looked at us as if from another world.
    “You, Minutus,” he said, “have beside you a large animal, like a dog with a man. Lugunda has only her hare to protect her.”
    “That’s no dog,” I said indignantly. “That’s a real lion. But of course you’ve never seen such a noble animal yourself, so I’ll forgive your mistake.”
    ‘Tour dog,” went on Petro, unmoved, “will hunt the hare to death. Then Lugunda’s heart will break and she will die if you have not parted in time.”
    “I wish no harm at all to Lugunda,” I said in surprise. “We’re just playing like brother and sister.”
    “As if a Roman such as he could break my heart,” snorted Lugunda. “His dog can run himself out of breath. I don’t like nasty dreams, Petro. And Ituna is not my brother.”
    “I had better talk to you both on this matter,” said Petro. “First with you, Minutus, and then with Lugunda. Lugunda can go and see to her hares in the meantime.”
    Lugunda looked at us, her eyes yellow with anger, but she did not dare oppose the Druid’s order. Petro remained seated cross-legged, picked up a stick and absentmindedly began to draw with it on the ground.
    “One day the Romans will be thrown back into the sea,” he said. “Britain is the land of the gods of the underworld, and the heavenly gods can never conquer those of the underworld as long as the earth remains. Even if I he Romans cut down our sacred groves, tip over our sacred stone slabs, build their roads and teach the tribes they’ve subjected their own farming methods to make them into slaves, the Romans will still one day be thrown back in the sea when the time is ripe. Only one man is needed, a man who will persuade the independent tribes to unite and light together and who knows the Roman art of war.”
    “That is why we have four whole legions here,” I said. “In a generation or two, Britain will be a civilized country with Roman peace.”
    When we had in this way both expressed our points of view, there was nothing more to say on the matter.
    “What do you want from Lugunda, Ituna Minutus?” asked Petro.
    He looked sternly at me and I looked down and was ashamed.
    “Have you ever thought of entering into a British marriage with her and giving her a child?” Petro asked. “Don’t be afraid. Such a marriage would hardly be legal in Roman law and would not stop you leaving Britain whenever you like. Lugunda would keep the child, and she would have a permanent memory of you. But if you go on playing with her as you are now, she’ll break her heart when you finally leave.”
    I was frightened at the mere thought of a child, even if at heart I had already admitted what it was I wanted of Lugunda.
    “In Rome they say: Wherever you are, I am too,” I said. “I’m no adventurous seaman or roaming merchant, marrying here and there to get my own way. I don’t want to do that to Lugunda.”
    “Lugunda would not bring shame upon herself in the eyes of her parents or her tribe,” said Petro. “Your only fault is that you are a Roman. That is the difference. With us, women have great freedom and power to choose their husbands themselves, even to send them away if they are not pleased. A hare-priestess is no Vestal Virgin who must promise to remain unmarried, as it is said to be in Rome.”
    “I shall soon be leaving and going back to my people,” I said stiffly. “Otherwise, Britain might prove too cramped for me.”
    But Petro talked to Lugunda too. That night she came to me, wound her arms around my neck, looked into my eyes with her amber-colored ones and trembled in my arms.
    “Minutus Ituna,” she said softly, “you know I am yours only. Petro says that you are going away and will never come back. The very thought cuts deep into my heart. Would it really be a shameful thing if you married me in our way before you went?”
    I felt very cold.
    “It would not be shameful,” I said in a trembling voice. “It would simply be unfair to you.”
    “Fair or unfair,” said Lugunda, “what does that matter when I can feel your heart thumping in your chest as loudly as my own?”
    I put my hands on her shoulders and pushed her away from me.
    “I was brought up to understand that it is more virtuous to control oneself than to give in and become a slave to one’s desires,” I said.
    “I am your legal spoils of war and your slave,” said Lugunda obstinately. “You have the power to do what you like with me. You would not even agree to receive the redemption money from my parents last summer.”
    I shook my head, unable to speak.
    “Take me with you when you go,” Lugunda then begged. “I’ll go with you wherever you like. I’ll leave my tribe and even my hares. I am your servant, your slave, however you wish it.”
    She fell to her knees in front of me.
    “If you only knew what these words have cost my pride, you would be appalled, Minutus the Roman,” she said.
    But I was seized with the manly feeling that I who was the stronger should protect her against my own weakness. I tried to explain this to her as well as I could, but my words were powerless against her stubbornly lowered head. Finally she rose and stared at me as if I were a complete stranger.
    “You have offended me deeply,” she said coldly, “and you’ll never know how deeply. From now on I hate you and every moment will wish you dead.”
    I was so deeply hurt that I felt a pain in my stomach and could not eat. I should have preferred to leave at once, but the harvest was just over and the customary harvest festival was taking place in the house. In addition, I wanted to note down the customs at the harvest feast and find out how the Icenis hid their corn.
    The following evening it was full moon. I was already dizzy with Iceni beer, when the noble youths of the district drove on to the stubble field and lit a huge bonfire. Without asking anyone’s permission, they picked out a calf from the farm’s herd and sacrificed it in noisy amusement. I joined them, as I knew some of them, but they were not so friendly as before. They even began to abuse me.
    “Go and wash the blue lines from your face, cursed Roman,” they said. “We’d rather see your filthy shield and your sword spotted with British blood.”
    “Is it true,” one of them asked, “that Romans bathe in hot water and lose their manhood that way?”
    “It’s true,” answered another. “That’s why the women in Rome sleep with their slaves. Their Emperor had to kill his own wife for whoring in that way.”
    There was sufficient truth in their insults for me to be angry.
    “I can take jokes from my friends,” I said, “when they are full of beer and stolen meat, but I can’t have you speaking disrespectfully of the Emperor of Rome.”
    They glanced maliciously at each other.
    “Let’s wrestle with him,” they suggested. “Then we’ll see if he’s lost his eggs in hot water like other Romans.”
    I saw that they were deliberately seeking a quarrel, but it was difficult for me to withdraw after they had insulted Emperor Claudius. When they had egged each other on for a while, the boldest of them rushed at me as if to wrestle with me, but in fact to hit me as hard as he could with his fists. Wresding is part of the legion exercises. So it was not difficult to make a stand, especially as he was much more drunk than I. I threw him onto his back and put my foot on his neck when he struggled instead of admitting defeat. Then they all fell on me to a man and pinned me to the ground with a firm grip on my arms and legs.
    “What shall we do with the Roman?” they asked each other. “Perhaps we should slit open his stomach and see what his intestines foretell?”
    “Let’s geld him to stop him running after our girls like an old hare,” suggested one.
    “Best to throw him on the fire,” said another, “then we’ll see how much heat a Roman can bear.”
    I was uncertain whether they were serious or just wished to frighten me in a drunken way. Anyhow, they beat me in no joking manner, but my pride prevented me from crying for help. They spurred each other on into a rage until I seriously began to fear for my life.
    Suddenly they fell silent and stood back. I saw Lugunda coming toward me. She stopped and put her head on one side.
    “I like seeing a Roman lying humiliated and helpless on the ground,” she said mockingly. “I’d like to tickle your skin with the point of a knife if I weren’t forbidden to besmirch myself with human blood.”
    She struck her tongue out at me and then turned to the youths, whom she knew by name,
    “Don’t kill him though,” she said. “That only leads to revenge. Cut me a birch switch instead and turn him over on his stomach and hold on to him properly. I’ll show you how to handle Romans.”
    The youths were glad not to have to decide what to do with me. They quickly fetched switches and tore off my clothes. Lugunda stepped up close and gave me a rap on the back with the switch, at first carefully as if testing it out, and then mercilessly with all her strength. I clenched my teeth and uttered not a sound. This egged her on to beat me in a fury, so that my body jerked and trembled on the ground and tears forced their way into my eyes.
    Finally her arm tired and she threw away the switch.
    “There, Minutus the Roman,” she cried. “Now we’re quits.”
    The youths holding me let go and backed away cautiously with their fists up, for fear I should attack them. My head was throbbing, my nose bleeding and my back on fire, but I stood silently licking the blood from my lips. There must have been something about me that frightened them, for they stopped mocking me and let me pass. I picked up my torn clothes and walked away, but not toward the house. I walked aimlessly in the moonlit forest and thought dimly that it was fortunate for all of us that no one had witnessed my ignominy. I could not walk far. I soon began to stumble and I sank to the ground on a narrow mossy hillock. Shortly afterwards the youths kicked out their fire and I heard them whistling for their chariots and driving away so that the ground thundered beneath their wheels.
    The moonlight was frighteningly clear and the shadows in the forest horribly black. I wiped the blood off my face with a handful of moss and called on my lion.
    “Lion, are you there?” I cried. “If so, roar and go after them. Otherwise I’ll never believe in you again.”
    But I did not even see the shadow of my lion. Instead I was totally alone, until Lugunda came creeping cautiously, pushing aside the branches as she looked for me. Her face was white in the moonlight. When she saw me, she came up to me with her hands behind her back.
    “How do you feel?” she asked. “Did it hurt? You deserved it.”
    I was seized with a wild desire to take hold of her slim neck, throw her to the ground and lacerate her as I had been lacerated. But I controlled myself, knowing that nothing would be gained that way. But I could not help asking if she had arranged it all.
    “Naturally,” she admitted. “Do you think they’d have dared touch a Roman otherwise?”
    She knelt beside me and without shyness felt all over me before I could stop her.
    “They didn’t crush your pouch-stones as they said, did they?” she said anxiously. “It would be bad if you could not make children with some noble Roman girl.”
    Then I could no longer control myself. I smacked both her cheeks, thrust her beneath me and pinned her to the ground with my weight, although she beat at me with both fists on my shoulders, kicked me and bit my chest. But she did not call for help. Before I knew where I was, she had relaxed and she let me come. My life strength spurted into her and I had a feeling of such sensual pleasure that I cried out aloud. Then all I could feel was how her hands held my cheeks and she kissed me over and over again. Appalled, I drew back and sat up. Then she too sat up and burst out laughing.
    “Do you know what has happened to us?” she said mockingly.
    I was so terrified I could not reply.
    “You’re bleeding,” I cried.
    “I’m glad you noticed that anyhow, stupid,” she said shyly.
    When I remained speechless, she laughed again.
    “Petro advised me,” she explained. “I should never have thought of it myself. I didn’t like beating you so mercilessly. But Petro said nothing else helped with tough, shy Roman boys.”
    She rose to her feet and took my hand.
    “We’d better go to Petro,” she said. “He’s sure to have some wine and a bowl of flour ready for us.”
    “What do you mean?” I said distrustfully.
    “You’ve taken me by force, although I struggled as long as my self-respect demantled,” she said in surprise. “You don’t want Father to take his sword down from the wall and begin looking for his honor in your intestines, do you? He has a legal right to do so. Even the Romans respect that right. It would be in every way more sensible if we let Petro rub oil and flour in our hair. He can put a ring on my finger in the Roman way, if you insist.”
    “But Lugunda,” I cried, “you can’t possibly come with me to Rome, or even London.”
    “I’m not going to run after you,” said Lugunda briskly. “Don’t worry. You can come back to me sometime if you want to, but I might well tire of waiting, break my marriage bowl and let your name burn to ashes. Then I’m a free woman again. Doesn’t your good sense tell you that it’s better to follow our customs than cause a scandal that will be heard as far away as Rome? Violating a hare-priestess is nothing to play about with. Or do you deny it? You jumped on me like a rutting beast and crushed my resistance with brute force.”
    “You should have called for help,” I said bitterly. “And you shouldn’t have stroked me so shamelessly when I was already in such a stunned state.”
    “I was only worried about your reproductive capacity,” she lied calmly. “I couldn’t possibly know that the light touch demantled by the rules of the art of healing would make you blind with rage.”
    Nothing could change my real regret. We went down to a stream and carefully washed ourselves. Then we walked hand in hand into the big room in the timbered house where Lugunda’s parents were eagerly waiting for us. Petro mixed oil and flour, rubbed it into our heads and then let us drink some wine from the same clay bowl, which Lugunda’s father then carefully put away in a chest. After this he led us to the prepared marriage bed, knocked me over on top of Lugunda and covered us with his big leather shield.
    When they had all considerately left the marriage hut, Lugunda threw the shield on to the floor and asked me humbly to do to her, in all gentleness and friendship, what I had done in my rage in the forest. The damage had already been done and no obstacle stood in the way.
    So we embraced each other tenderly after I had kissed her in the Roman way. Not until then did Lugunda get up and fetch healing ointments to rub gently on to my back. It hurt when I remembered to think about it.
    Just as I was falling into the deepest sleep of my life, I remembered that I had broken my promise to Claudia, but I blamed the full moon and the magic of the Druids. Obviously no man could avoid his predetermined destiny, I thought, inasmuch as I had the strength to think at all.
    The following day I tried to make immediate preparations to leave, but Lugunda’s father wanted me to go with him to look at the fields, herds, grazing lands and forests he was to set aside for Lugunda and her descendants. T his journey took us three days and when we returned, not to be outdone, I gave Lugunda my gold tribune chain.
    Lugunda’s lather seemed to consider this an insignificant wedding present, for when Lugunda had put her hair up he took out a gold necklace as thick as a child’s wrist and put it around his daughter’s neck. Such necklaces are worn only by the queens and most noble women in Britain. From all this even I, numbskull that I was, realized that Lugunda was of more noble lineage than I had ever imagined, so noble that her lather did not even have to boast about it. Petro explained that if I had not been a Roman knight and son of a senator, I should have had a sword run through me and certainly not the family battle shield put over my sore back,
    I had both my Iceni father-in-law and Petro’s position as sacrificial priest, physician and judge to thank for the fact that I escaped being accused of witchcraft as well. The noble British youth who had attacked me with his fists out of jealousy broke his neck that same moonlit night when his horse at full gallop shied away from some unknown animal and sent him hurtling headfirst at a stone.
    Of course I was occasionally tormented by the thought of the promise I had given to Claudia and so reluctantly broken, and also by a painful feeling that Lugunda was not really my lawfully wedded wife since in my thoughts I could not regard my British marriage as legally binding. But I was young. My body, for so long disciplined, was completely bewildered by Lugunda’s caresses and tenderness, and day after day I postponed my inevitable departure to Colchester.
    But one tires more quickly of an excess of physical satisfaction than of self-control. Soon we began to irritate one another, Lugunda and I, exchanging angry words and agreeing only in bed. When I at last began my return journey, I felt as if I had been freed from shackles or a spell. Yes, I flew like a bird from its cage and did not reproach myself for an instant that I had deserted Lugunda. She had only had her own way. She would have to be satisfied with that, I thought.
    Vespasian excused me from military exercises and tribune staff duties, and I rewrote my book on Britain from start to finish. I had rid myself of the enchantment of that first summer and now described everything as lucidly and factually as I could. I no longer saw the Britons in the same rosy light, and even made fun of some of their customs. I acknowledged Julius Caesar’s contribution to the civilizing of Britain, but verified, for instance, that the god Augustus’ treaty with the Brigantes in the eyes of the Brigantes themselves constituted nothing but a friendly exchange of gifts. They considered they had received more than they needed to give, as long as they remained peaceful.
    On the other hand, I gave Emperor Claudius full credit for leaving southern Britain in the Roman Empire, and Aulus Plautius for bringing about peace. Vespasian himself asked me not to say too much about his own merits. He was still waiting in vain for a new procurator or commantler-in-chief and did not wish to stir up ill feeling in Rome with praise of himself.
    “I am neither clever enough nor deceitful enough to adapt myself to the changed circumstances there, and so would prefer to stay in Britain, without unnecessary reminders of my merits, than to return to my former poverty in Rome,” he explained.
    I already knew that Emperor Claudius had not kept the oath he had once sworn before the Praetorian Guard to the goddess Fides, his right hand covered with a white cloth. Some months after Messalina’s death, he had explained that he could not live without a wife and had chosen the most noble woman in Rome as his consort, his own niece Agrippina, the same person whose son Lucius Domitius had once sought my friendship.
    New laws permitting incest were necessary for this marriage, but the Senate had willingly obliged. The most farsighted of the senators had begged Claudius to take back his sacred promise and benefit the state by marrying again. In Rome everything had been turned upside-down in a very short time. Vespasian was being careful not to burn his fingers in this mess.
    “Agrippina is a beautiful and wise woman,” he said. “She will certainly have learned much from the bitter experiences of her youth and her first two marriages. I only hope she’ll be a good stepmother to Britannicus. Then she won’t abandon my son Titus, although I made the mistake of leaving him with Messalina when I went to war.”
    Vespasian realized that with the completion of my book, I had had enough of Britain and was longing to return to Rome. The book had to be copied. I myself was restless and uncertain. More and more, as the spring in Britain bloomed, I was reminded of Lugunda.
    After the feast of Flora, I received a letter in London, written on bark in faulty Latin. In it stood the hope that I should soon return to the Iceni country to take my newborn son on my knee. This astounding news terminated my longing for Lugunda abruptly, and instead roused in me a burning desire to see Rome again. I was still young enough to think that I could rid myself of guilt by changing abode.
    Vespasian kindly gave me a courier’s plaque and several letters to take to Rome. Ignoring the high winds, I boarded the ship and on the journey vomited the whole of Britain into the foaming salt sea. More dead than alive, I landed in Gaul, and there is no more to tell about Britain. But I decided never to return there before it was possible to do so on foot. This is one of the decisions of my life I have been able to keep to.

Book IV


    It is wonderful to be eighteen when one has risen to the rank of tribune, feels loved by the whole world and can read faultlessly one’s first work to a knowledgeable audience. It was as if Rome, like myself, were experiencing her most wonderful spring; as if her poisoned air had been cleansed when the noble, elegant Agrippina had succeeded the youthful Messalina as Claudius’ wife.
    Living a gay life was no longer fashionable. Morals had become purer, for it was said that Agrippina, whenever Claudius was capable of it, sent for the rolls of both knights and senators and ruthlessly struck off the names of all those who were known for their immoral way of life or were guilty in other ways. Claudius, as usual, saw to his office of Censor, sighing heavily at his duties but gratefully accepting suggestions from a good and politically experienced woman.
    Thanks to her, Claudius also attempted to pull himself together. His freedmen, especially his secretary Narcissus and treasurer, Procurator Pallas, were once again in his good graces. Pallas, exhausted by the demands of his office, was forced to consult with the indefatigable Agrippina for nights on end.
    When I myself met Agrippina again, I thought she had acquired a new gentleness and beauty. She took the trouble to take me with her to the school at Palatine, summoning Vespasian’s son Titus to her and caressing her stepson, Britannicus, gently on the head. Britannicus seemed sullen and withdrawn for his nine years, but that was not surprising, as he missed his beautiful mother a great deal and not even the most loving attentions from a stepmother could compensate. When we left, Agrippina told me that Britannicus, to the sorrow of his father, suffered from epilepsy and so could not do physical exercises. The boy was especially affected at full moon and needed careful watching.
    Even more enthusiastically, Agrippina took me to a sunny part of
    Palatine to see her own family, the handsome, dashing Lucius Domitius, and introduce me to his tutor. One of the first of Agrippina’s actions after coming to power had been to summon Annaeus Seneca back from exile and ask him to take charge of her son’s education. Seneca’s stay in Corsica had obviously done him good and also cured his tuberculosis, whatever he may have said about his exile in his letters. He was about forty-five, a plump man, who greeted me in a friendly way. I saw from his soft red boots that he had also been made a senator.
    Lucius Domitius surprised me by rushing up and kissing me as if he were meeting a longlost friend. He held my hand and sat beside me, asking about my experiences in Britain and marveling that the Noble Order of Knights at the temple of Castor and Pollux had confirmed my rank of tribune so soon.
    Confused by all this graciousness, I took the liberty of mentioning my little book and humbly requesting Seneca to read it, largely to improve the writing of it before I read it in public. Seneca kindly agreed to do this and I visited the Palace several times as a result. In his honest opinion, my presentation lacked fluency, but he admitted that there was a place for a dry and factual style as I was mostly describing the geography and history of the Britons, their tribal customs, religious beliefs and their way of waging war. Lucius liked to read my book aloud to show me how one should read. He had an unusually fine voice and such an ability to become absorbed in a subject that I too became absorbed, as if my book were exceptionally remarkable.
    “If you were to read it,” I said, “then my future would be assured.”
    In the refined atmosphere of the Palace I felt I had had enough of the dreary life of camps and the crude habits of the legion. I was delighted to become Lucius’ pupil when he wished to teach me the pleasing gestures suited to an author reading out his work. On his advice, I went to the theater and often accompanied him on his walks in the Lucullus gardens on the Pincian hill which his mother had inherited from Messalina. Lucius used to run along, chattering away, but always paying attention to his movements. He might suddenly stop, as if in deep thought, and make such profound remarks that it was hard to believe he was so young that his voice had not yet broken. One could not help liking him, if he wished to please. And it was as if he needed to please everyone he met after his joyless childhood, even slaves. Seneca had taught him that slaves were also human beings, just as my father had taught me in Antioch.
    It was as if this same atmosphere had spread from Palatine over the whole of Rome. Even Tullia received me in a friendly manner and did not try to stop me seeing my father when I wanted to. She dressed carefully now, as befitted the wife of a Roman senator with legal rights of a mother of three children, and she wore far fewer jewels than before.
    My father took me by surprise. He was much thinner and less breathless and moody than before I had gone to Britain. Tullia had bought him a Greek physician educated in Alexandria whom my father had, of course, soon freed. The physician had ordered baths and massage for him, persuaded him to drink less and do ball exercises for a short time every day, so that now he wore his purple band with considerable dignity. His reputation for wealth and good humor had spread throughout Rome, so that groups of clients and people seeking help crowded into his hall every morning. He helped many people, but he refused to recommend anyone for citizenship, although as a senator he had a right to.
    But it is about Claudia I must relate, however reluctantly and guiltily I went to see her. Outwardly she had not changed a bit. Nevertheless, I seemed at first to be looking at a stranger. She gave me a delighted smile to begin with and then her mouth narrowed and her eyes darkened.
    “I’ve had bad dreams about you,” she said. “I see they were true. You are not the same as before, Minutus.”
    “How could I be the same,” I cried, “after spending two years in Britain, writing a book, killing barbarians and earning my red plumes? You live in the country as if on a duck pond. You can’t expect the same of me.”
    But Claudia looked in my eyes and raised her hand to touch my cheek.
    “You know perfectly well what I mean, Minutus,” she said. “But I was stupid to have expected you to keep a promise which no man could keep.”
    I should have been wiser if I had been angry at her words, broken off with her there and then and gone my way. It is much easier to be angry when one is in the wrong. But instead, when I saw her deep disappointment I took her in my arms, kissed her and caressed her, and was seized by the need to tell at least one person in the world about Lugunda and my experiences.
    We sat by her spring on a stone bench under her old tree and I told her about how Lugunda had come into my life, how I had taught her to read and how useful she had been on my journeys among the Britons. Then I began to falter a little and look down at the ground. Claudia seized me by the arm with both hands and shook me, telling me to go on. So I told her what my self-respect allowed me to, but in the end I did not have the courage to tell her that Lugunda had borne me a son. In the vanity of my youth, however, I boasted of my manhood and Lugunda’s virginity.
    To my surprise, Claudia was most hurt by the fact that Lugunda was a hare-priestess.
    “I’m tired of the birds flying from Vatican,” she said. “I no longer believe in omens. The gods of Rome have become to me just statues with no power and I’m not surprised that in a foreign country you were bewitched, you with your lack of experience. But if you honestly regret your sins, then I can show you a new way. People need more than magic, omens and stone statues. While you were away, I’ve experienced things I’d never have believed possible.”
    Unsuspecting, I asked her to tell me about it, but my heart sank when I realized her uncle’s wife, Paulina, had begun to use her as an intermediary between her and her friends, thus involving Claudia much more deeply in the infamous machinations of the Christians.
    “They have the power to cure the sick and forgive us our sins,” Claudia said fervently. “A slave or the poorest of tradesmen is equal to the wealthiest and most important person at their holy meals. We greet each other with a kiss as a sign of our mutual love. When the spirit comes to the congregation, they are seized with holy ecstasy so that simple people begin to speak foreign languages and the faces of the holy glow in the darkness.”
    I looked at her with the same horror as one regards a very sick person, but Claudia seized both my hands in hers.
    “Don’t condemn them until you’ve got to know them,” she said. “Yesterday was Saturn’s day and the Jewish Sabbath. Today is the Christians’ holy day because it was the day after the Sabbath that their king rose from the dead. But the heavens may open any day and he will return to earth and found the kingdom of a thousand years in which the last will be first and the first last.”
    Claudia was frighteningly beautiful, like a seer, as she spoke. I can only believe that there really was some irresistible force speaking through her, paralyzing my will and dulling my mind, for when she said, “Come, let’s go and see them at once,” I rose helplessly and went with her. Thinking I was afraid, she assured me that I would not have to do anything I did not want to do, only watch and listen. I justified my actions to myself by saying that I had reason to learn something about these new beliefs in Rome, as I had also tried to learn about the Druids in Britain.
    When we reached the Jewish part of the city, Transtiberia, it was in a state of alarm and unrest. We were met by running, screaming women and people were fighting at street corners with fists, sticks and stones. Even worthy gray-haired Jews in tasseled cloaks were involved and the City Prefect’s police did not seem to be in control. As soon as they had managed to disperse some of the fights with their batons, another broke out in the next alleyway.
    “What in the name of all the gods of Rome is going on here?” I asked a breathless policeman who was wiping blood from his forehead.
    “Someone called Christus is stirring up the Jews against each other,” he explained. “As you see, rabble from all over the city have come here. You’d better take your girl another way. They’ve sent for the Praetorians. There’ll soon be more bloody noses than mine here.”
    Claudia looked excitedly about her and let out a cry of pleasure.
    “Yesterday the Jews hunted everyone who recognizes Jesus out of the synagogues and beat them,” she said. “Now the Christians are retaliating. They’ve got help from Christians who aren’t Jews.”
    In the narrow alleys there were in fact groups of tough-looking slaves, smiths, and loaders from the shores of the Tiber who were smashing the closed shutters of the shops and forcing their way inside. Pitiful cries came from within, but the Jews are fearless fighters when they are fighting for their invisible god. They gathered in groups in front of the synagogues and fended off all attacks. I did not see any weapons used, but then neither the Jews nor any of the other people who had flooded in from all directions into Rome were allowed them.
    Here and there we saw a few middle-aged men who were standing with their arms raised, crying out, “Peace, peace, in the name of Jesus Christ.”
    They managed to calm down some people to the extent of getting them to lower their sticks and drop their stones, and slip off to join in another fight. But the more dignified Jews became so furious that they stood in front of Julius Caesar’s beautiful synagogue and tore their beards and clothes, calling out aloud about blasphemy.
    It was as much as I could do to protect Claudia and try to prevent her from becoming involved in the fighting, for she stubbornly strug-gird on toward the house where her friends were to perform their mysteries that evening. When we reached it, an excited group of ardent Jewish believers were dragging out and knocking down those who had hidden themselves inside. They tore apart people’s bundles, emptied their baskets of food, and trampled everything into the dirt, hitting out as one hits out at one’s neighbor’s pigs. Anyone attempting to flee was knocked down and kicked in the face.
    I do not know how it came about. Perhaps I was seized by the natural desire of a Roman for law and order, or perhaps I tried to defend the weaker ones from the attackers’ violence, or perhaps it was Claudia who egged me on to partake, but suddenly I noticed that I was pulling a huge Jew’s beard and twisting a stick from his hand with a wrestler’s hold as he in his religious fervor was about to kick a girl he had knocked to the ground. Then I found myself fighting in all seriousness, and indubitably on the side of the Christians. Claudia urged me on, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to catch all Jews who did not recognize him as the savior.
    I came to my senses when Claudia pulled me into the house and I hurriedly let go of a bloodstained stick I had picked up somewhere, realizing to my horror what the consequences would be if I were arrested for becoming involved in Jewish religious riots. I had not only my rank of tribune to lose, but also the narrow red band on my tunic. Claudia led me down to a large dry cellar room where Christian Jews were all shouting at once, quarreling over who had started the rioting, and weeping women were bandaging wounds and putting ointment on bruises. From the room upstairs, several old, men came down, shaking with fear, together with a couple of men who from their clothes did not appear to be Jews. As confused as I was, they were presumably wondering how they could get themselves out of this dilemma.
    With them came a man whom I did not recognize as the tentmaker Aquila until he had wiped the blood and dirt from his face. He had been severely ill-treated, for the Jews had rolled him in a sewer and broken his nose. Despite this, he passionately called for order.
    “Traitors, all of you!” he cried. “I daren’t call you my brothers any longer. Is freedom in Christ just something for you to vent your anger with? You have been beaten for your sins. Where is your endurance? We must submit and stop those who spit on us with good deeds.”
    There were many protests.
    “It’s no longer a question of the heathens among whom we live learning to praise God when they see our good deeds,” they cried. “Now it’s
    Jews fighting us and abusing our Lord Jesus. It’s for him and to his glory we resist the evil ones, not just to defend our miserable lives.”
    I pushed forward to Aquila, shook his arm and tried to whisper to him that I must get away. But when he recognized me, his face cleared in delight and he blessed me.
    “Minutus, son of Marcus Manilianus!” he cried. “Have you too chosen the only way?”
    He embraced me, kissed my lips and fervently began to preach.
    “Christ has suffered for you too,” he said. “Why don’t you model yourself on him and follow in his footsteps? He did not abuse his abusers. He threatened no one. Don’t take revenge by evil for evil. If you suffer for Christ, then praise God for it.”
    I cannot repeat all that poured out of him, for he took no notice of my protests, but his fervor undoubtedly had a powerful effect on the others. Nearly all of them began to pray for the forgiveness of their sins, though some muttered through clenched teeth that the kingdom would never bear fruit if the Jews were freely allowed to slander, oppress and ill-treat the subjects of Christ.
    While this was going on, the police outside were arresting people regardless of whether they were faithful Jews or Christian Jews, or anyone else. As the Praetorians were guarding the bridges, many people fled in boats and took the opportunity to unfasten other boats at the quays so that they began to drift away in the current. The city was left unprotected, all the police having been sent to the Jewish quarter. Crowds began to collect in the streets, shouting the name Christus as a password they had learned on the other side of the river.
    They plundered shops and set fire to several houses, so that when the Jewish quarter was quiet again, the City Prefect had to order his men to return to the city proper. This saved me, for they had just begun a house-to-house search in the Jewish quarter.
    Evening had come, I was sitting gloomily on the floor with my head in my hands, realizing I was very hungry. The Christians gathered up the remaining food and began to share it among all those present. They had bread and oil, onions, pease porridge and wine. Aquila blessed the bread and wine, in the Christian way, as the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. I accepted what was offered me and shared my bread with Claudia. I was given a little cheese too and a piece of dried meat. I drank wine from the same goblet as the others when my turn came. When everyone had eaten their fill, they kissed each other gently.
    “Oh, Minutus,” said Claudia after she had kissed me. “I am so glad you have eaten of his flesh and drunk of his blood, to be forgiven your sins and lead an eternal life. Can’t you feel the spirit glowing in your heart, as if you had discarded the tattered clothes of your earlier life and put on new ones?”
    I said bitterly that the only glow I felt was from the cheap sour wine. Not until then did I fully realize what she had meant and see that I had taken part in the secret meal of the Christians. I was so appalled that I wanted to be sick, although I knew I had not drunk blood from the goblet.
    “Nonsense,” I said furiously. “Bread is bread and wine is wine when one is hungry. If nothing worse than this happens amongst you, then I don’t see why such lunatic stories are told about your superstitions. Still less do I understand how such innocent activities can lead to such violence.”
    I was too tired to quarrel with her, aroused as she still was, but in the end she made me agree to look more closely into the Christian teachings. I could see nothing wrong in their attempts to defend themselves against the Jews. But I was fairly sure they would be punished if the disorders continued, whether they or the faithful Jews were responsible.
    Aquila admitted that there had been trouble earlier, but not to the same extent as now. He assured me that the Christians usually met without attracting attention and also answered evil words with good. But the Christian Jews also had a legal right to go into the synagogues and listen to the scripts and to speak there. Many of them had taken part in the raising of the new synagogues.
    I took Claudia home through the warm summer night, past Vatican and out of the city. We saw the glare of fires and heard the murmur of the crowd across the river. Wagons and carts loaded with foodstuffs on their way to the market halls were waiting, crowded together on the road. The country people wondered anxiously what was happening in the city. It was whispered from man to man that one Christus was rousing the Jews to murder and arson. No one seemed to have a good word to say for the Jews.
    As we walked, I began to limp and my head ached. I was surprised that I had hitherto not felt any ill-effects from the injuries I had received in the fighting. When we eventually arrived at Claudia’s hut, I was feeling so wretched that she would not let me return, but begged me to stay the night. In spite of my protests, she put me to bed in her own bed by the light of an oil lamp, but then sighed so much as she busied herself around the room that I had to ask her what was wrong.
    “I’m neither pure nor without sin,” she said. “But every word you told me about that shameless Briton girl has fallen like drops of fire on my heart, although I can’t even remember her name.”
    “Try to forgive me that I could not keep my promise,” I said.
    “What do I care about your promise?” wailed Claudia. “I’m cursing myself. I am the flesh of my mother’s flesh and the profligate Claudius is my father. I can’t help it if I am deeply disturbed to see you lying in my bed.”
    But her hands were as cold as ice when she clasped mine in them. Her lips too were cold when she bent down and kissed me.
    “Oh, Minutus,” she whispered. “I haven’t had the courage to confess to you before that my cousin Gaius violated me when I was only a child. It amused him sometimes to sleep in turn with his sisters. That is why I’ve hated all men. You’re the only one I haven’t hated, because you accepted me as a friend without knowing who I was.”
    What more need I say? To console her, I drew her into bed with me and she trembled with cold and shame. And neither can I justify my action by saying she was older than I, for I must admit I became more and more ardent until she came to me, laughing and crying, and I realized that I loved her.
    When we woke in the morning, we both felt so happy that we did not want to think about anything but ourselves. Radiating happiness, Claudia was beautiful in my eyes despite her coarse features and thick eyebrows. Lugunda became a distant shadow. Claudia was a mature woman in comparison to that immature, capricious girl.
    We exchanged no promises and did not even wish to think of the future yet. If I were oppressed by a vague feeling of guilt, I comforted myself with the thought that Claudia knew very well what she was going. At least she had something else to think about besides the superstitious mysteries of the Christians. I was pleased about that.
    When I returned home, Aunt Laelia commented acidly on the anxiety she had felt when I had been out all night without telling her about it beforehand. She looked at me carefully with her red-rimmed eyes and said reproachfully, “Your face is as radiant as if you were brooding on some shameful secret. As long as you haven’t strayed into some Syrian brothel.”
    She sniffed my clothes suspiciously. “No,” she went on, “you don’t smell of a brothel. But you must have spent the night somewhere. Now don’t go and get yourself involved in some sordid love affair. That will lead to nothing but trouble for both you and for others.”
    My friend Lucius Pollio, whose father had become Consul that year, nunc to see me in the afternoon. He was very disturbed by the rioting.
    “The Jews are getting more and more insolent under the protection of their privileges,” he said. “The City Prefect has been interrogating arrested people all morning and has definite evidence that it is a Jew called Christus who is rousing the slaves and the mob. He’s not an ex-gladiator, as Spartacus was, but a traitor who was condemned in Jerusalem but in some way came to life after being crucified. The Prefect has ordered his arrest and has put a price on his head. But I’m afraid the man has already fled the city now that his rebellion has not succeeded.”
    I was greatly tempted to explain to the learned Lucius that by Christus the Jews meant the Messiah they believed in, but I could not reveal that I knew too much about this seditious teaching of theirs. We went through the manuscript of my book once again to make the writing as clear as possible. Lucius Pollio promised to find a publisher if the book passed the acid test which public reading constitutes. According to him, the work might do quite well. Claudius would be glad to be reminded of his own successful campaign in Britain. One could flatter him by showing an interest in the affairs of Britain, and in this respect my book should prove excellent, according to Pollio.
    The differences of opinion over the ownership of synagogues which had originally given rise to the rioting amongst the Jews were settled by the City Prefect, who proclaimed that all those who had contributed to the raising of them should have the right to use them. The strict Jews and the more liberal Jews had their own synagogues. But when the Jews who recognized Christ took over a synagogue, the other Jews removed the valuable scrolls and preferred to set fire to the synagogue rather than let the hated Christians take it over. From this, new troubles arose. In the end, the faithful Jews made a great political blunder by appealing to the Emperor.
    Claudius was already angered by the riots which were disturbing the happiness of his new marriage. He became even angrier when the Jews dared to remind him that he would not now be Emperor but for their support. It was in fact true that Claudius’ drinking companion, Herod Agrippa, had borrowed from the rich Jews of Rome the money needed to bribe the Praetorians after the murder of Gaius Caligula. But Claudius had had to repay exorbitant interest on the money and for other reasons did not want to be reminded of this incident which had wounded his vanity.
    His drunkard’s head began to shake with rage. Stammering more than usual, he ordered the Jews to leave and threatened to banish them all from Rome if he ever heard of any more disturbances.
    The Christian Jews and the mob which had joined them had their own leaders too. To my astonishment, I met at my father’s and Tullia’s house the argumentative Aquila, his wife Prisca, and a few other respectable citizens whose only fault was that they had leanings toward the Christian mysteries. I had gone to see my father to talk about Claudia. I was now visiting her twice a week and staying overnight with her. I felt strongly that something should be done about it all, though Claudia had made no direct demands.
    When I surprised my father and disturbed the meeting, he told me to wait a moment and then went on talking.
    “I know more than a little about the king of the Jews,” he was saying, “for after his crucifixion, I was in Galilee and was myself convinced that he had risen from his tomb. His disciples did reject me, but I can confirm that he in no way roused the people in the manner that is happening here in Rome.”
    I had heard all this before and could not think why my father in his old age kept repeating the same old story. But Aquila tried to explain.
    “Whatever we do,” he said, “we are everyone’s stumbling block. We are hated more than the idol-worshipers. We can’t even maintain mutual love and humility among ourselves, for everyone thinks he knows best. The ones who are most enthusiastic to spread the word are those who have just found the way and acknowledged Christus.”
    “Anyhow, they are saying that he himself threw fire over the earth and separated man from wife and put children against their parents,” said Prisca. “And that’s just what’s happening here in Rome, although we mean well. How love and humility can bear fruit in quarrels, disunity, hatred, spite and envy, I cannot imagine.”
    As I listened to them, I was filled with righteous anger.
    “What do you want of my father?” I cried. “Why do you torment him so that he has to wrangle with you? My father is a kindly, good-natured man. I won’t allow you to involve him in your idiotic quarrels.”
    My father straightened up.
    “Be quiet, Minutus,” he said. Then he looked far back into the past and finally spoke again.
    “These matters can usually be cleared up by discussing them,” he said, “but this matter is becoming more involved the more it is discussed. But as you have asked my advice, then I would suggest this. Ask for a respite. In Emperor Gaius’ time, the Jews in Antioch benefited greatly from this advice.”
    They stared at my father without understanding what he meant.
    “Separate from the Jews,” he said, smiling absently, “leave the synagogue, stop paying the temple taxes. Build your own meeting-houses if you want to. There are rich people among your followers. Perhaps you can collect large gifts from men and women who think they can buy peace of mind by supporting different gods. Don’t annoy the Jews. Keep silent when you are insulted. Keep your distance, as I do, and try not to hurt anyone.”
    “These are hard words,” they all said at once. “We must bear witness to our king and proclaim his kingdom. Otherwise we are not worthy of him.”
    My father spread out his hands and sighed heavily.
    “His kingdom is a long time coming,” he said, “but undoubtedly it is you who share his spirit and not I. Do as you wish. If the matter comes before the Senate, I shall try to put in a good word for you. But if you’ll permit it, then I’ll not mention the kingdom. That would only make you politically suspect.”
    They were content with this and left just in time, for Tullia met them in the arcade on her return from her round of visits, and she was not pleased.
    “Oh, Marcus,” she said. “How many times do I have to warn you against receiving these questionable Jews? I’ve nothing against your going to listen to philosophers. If it amuses you, you can help the poor, send your physician to the sick and give dowries to parentless girls. But, by all the gods, keep away from the Jews, for your own sake.”
    Then she turned her attention to me, complained about my bad shoes, the careless folds in my mantle and my badly cut hair.
    “You’re not among crude soldiers anymore,” she snapped. “You should take more care of your appearance for your father’s sake. I’ll have to send you a barber and valet, I suppose. Aunt Laelia is too old-fashioned and shortsighted to notice any longer.”
    I replied sullenly that I already had a barber, for I did not want to have any of her slaves dogging my every footstep. It was true that on my birthday I had bought and freed a slave for whom I had felt sorry and I had helped him to set up on his own in Subura. He was already doing quite well, selling women’s wigs and the usual procuring. I explained too that Aunt Laelia would be deeply offended if a strange slave came to see to my clothes.
    “Anyhow, one has more trouble than joy from slaves,” I said.
    Tullia remarked that it was entirely a matter of discipline.
    “But,” she said, “what do you really want to do with your life, Minutus? I’ve heard you spend your nights in brothels and neglect your studies with your rhetoric tutor. If you really want to read out your book this winter then you must keep your undisciplined body in check and work hard. It’s high time you made a suitable marriage.”
    I explained that I wanted to make the most of my youth, within limits, and that at least I had not landed myself in trouble with the authorities for drunkenness and other things young knights were known for.
    “I am looking around,” I said. “I take part in the riding exercises. I listen with the audience in the Praetorium if there is anything interesting. I read books. Seneca the philosopher has shown kindness to me. Naturally I am thinking of applying for a quaestor’s office sometime, but I’m still too young and inexperienced for that, even if I could get special permission.”
    Tullia looked at me pityingly.
    “You must realize that what is most important for your future is getting to know the right people,” she explained. “I’ve arranged invitations for you to good families, but they tell me you are sulky and silent and won’t meet friendship with friendship.”
    “My dear stepmother,” I said, “I respect your judgment in every way. But everything I have seen and heard in Rome tells me to avoid binding myself to people who at the moment are considered the right people. Two hundred or so knights, not to mention a number of senators, were executed or committed suicide only a year or two ago, simply because at the time they were the right people or knew the right people only too well.”
    “Thanks to Agrippina, all that’s changed now,” protested Tullia with perhaps too much eagerness. But my words gave her something to think about.
    “The wisest thing you could do,” she suggested after a while, “would be to devote your time to the races and join one of the color parties. That’s a completely nonpolitical interest but will still lead to useful connections. You like horses.”
    “One can have enough of horses,” I said.
    “Horses are less dangerous than women,” said Tullia maliciously.
    My father looked at her thoughtfully and said that for once she was light.
    “It would only attract unnecessary attention,” she said vindictively, “if you set up your own team at once, presuming your father can afford it. I know it’s only a matter of time now before we can let the fields grow again as pasture land. Growing corn in Italy will not pay once the harbor in Ostia is completed. But you’d hardly make a good horse breeder. Be content with betting on the races.”
    But my days were full enough without the circus. I had my own old house in Aventine, Barbus to look after, Aunt Laelia to appease, and I also had to defend my Gallic freedman when his neighbor accused him of causing an offensive smell with his soap making. It was a relatively simple matter defending him in court, for the tanneries and dye works caused far worse smells. But it was more difficult to meet the statement that the use of soap instead of pumice was weakening and against the will of our forefathers. The neighbor’s lawyer tried to have the manufacture of soap banned in Rome by appealing to the forefathers of our forefathers all the way back to Romulus, all of whom had been content to scour themselves with the health-giving and hardening pumice.
    In my speech for the defence, I praised Rome as an Empire and world power.
    “Romulus did not burn eastern incense before his idols,” I cried proudly. “Our stern forefathers did not have caviar brought from the other side of the Black Sea, or foreign birds from the Steppes, or flamingos’ tongues or Indian fish. Rome is the melting pot of many peoples and customs. Rome chooses the best of everything and ennobles alien customs so that they become her own.”
    So the use of soap was not banned in Rome and my freedman improved his soap by blending perfume with it and giving it beautiful names. We made a small fortune from Genuine Cleopatra Soap, although it was made in a back street in Subura. I must also admit that his best customers, apart from Roman women, were Greeks and people from the East who lived in Rome. The use of soap in public baths was still considered immoral.
    I had much to do, but nevertheless it happened that at night, just before falling asleep, I often wondered about the meaning of life. Sometimes I was pleased with my little successes and sometimes I was depressed because it all seemed so meaningless to me. Chance and fortune ruled over one’s existence, and death was sooner or later the hopeless lot of every person. I was, of course, both happy and lucky, but every time I achieved something, my pleasure became clouded and I was discontented with myself again.
    At last the day I had so eagerly prepared for arrived. I was to read my book in the lecture hall in the Imperial Library on Palatine. Through my friend Lucius Domitius, Emperor Claudius himself sent a message to say that he would be present in the afternoon. As a result, everyone who sought the Emperor’s favor competed for a place in the hall.
    In the audience were some officers who had served in Britain, members of the Senate committee on British matters, and Aulus Plautius himself. But some people had to remain outside the doors, and complained to Claudius that there was no room for them despite their enormous interest in the subject.
    I began my reading early in the morning, and regardless of my understandable excitement I read without faltering and was myself kindled by my own reading, as is every author who has taken great pains to polish his work. Nothing disturbed me, either, except Lucius Domitius’ whisperings and gestures as he tried to indicate how I should read. A far too sumptuous meal was brought, which Tullia had arranged and my father paid for. When I continued afterwards about the religious customs of the Britons, many people were nodding, although I thought this the most interesting part of the book.
    Then I was forced to break off when Claudius arrived as he had promised. He had Agrippina with him and they sat down on the bench of honor and invited Lucius Domitius to sit between them. The lecture hall was suddenly crammed full, but to those who complained Claudius said firmly, “If the book is worth hearing, it can be read again. Make sure you are there then. But go away now. Otherwise the rest of us won’t be able to breathe.”
    Actually, the Emperor was slightly drunk and often belched loudly. I had not read more than a few lines when he interrupted me.
    “I’ve a bad memory,” he said. “So allow me, as first citizen, due to my rank and age, to tell you where you are right and where you are wrong.”
    He began to give his own long-winded interpretation of the Druids’ human sacrifices and said that in Britain he had sought in vain for the large plaited wicker baskets in which prisoners were placed before being burned alive.
    “Of course, I believe what reliable eyewitnesses tell me,” he said. “But I rely most on my own eyes and so I can’t swallow your statement whole. But please go on, young Lausus.”
    I had not read much further when he again interrupted with something he had seen in Britain and considered it necessary to discuss. The audience’s peals of laughter confused me somewhat, but Claudius had some knowledgeable remarks to make about my book.
    Finally, in the middle of it all, he and Aulus Plautius became engrossed in a lively discussion on the details of the Emperor’s campaign. The public encouraged them by calling out “Hear, hear,” and I was forced to stop reading. Only Seneca’s calming influence made me suppress my irritation.
    Senator Ostorius, who seemed an authority on all matters British, joined in the discussion. He maintained that the Emperor had committed a political blunder by breaking olf the campaign without suppressing the Britons.
    “Suppressing the Britons is easier said than done,” snapped Claudius, justifiably affronted. “Show him your scars, Aulus. That reminds me that everything in Britain is in arrears because I’ve not had the time to appoint a Procurator to succeed Aulus Plautius. There’s always you, Ostorius. I don’t think I’m the only person here who is tired of hearing how you know best about everything. Go home and prepare for your journey. Narcissus will write out your letters of authority today.”
    I think my book had already shown the audience that it was no easy task civilizing the Britons. Everyone laughed, and after Ostorius had humbly left the hall, I was allowed to finish my reading in peace.
    Claudius kindly allowed me to continue by the light of lamps as it had been he who had interrupted me and caused the delay. When Claudius began to applaud, the whole audience burst into loud clapping. No more corrections to my book were forthcoming, for it was already late and everyone was hungry.
    Some of those who had been listening came back with us to my father’s house, where Tullia had arranged a banquet, for her cook was famed all over Rome. My book was not talked about much more there. Seneca introduced me to his own publisher, a fine old man, pale, bowed and shortsighted from so much reading, who offered to publish my book in an edition of five hundred in the first instance.
    “I’m sure you can afford to publish your book yourself,” he said kindly. “But the name of a well-known publisher increases the sale of a book. My freedmen have a hundred experienced scribeslaves who on one dictation can copy any book swiftly and without many mistakes.”
    Seneca had praised this man, who had not abandoned him even when Seneca had been in exile but had faithfully supplied the bookshops with the many writings he had sent to Rome from Corsica.
    “Naturally I earn most from translations and revisions of love stories and travel books from the Greek. But not one of Seneca’s works has yet made a loss.”
    I understood the implication and said that naturally I should be glad to pay my share of the cost of producing the book. It was indeed a great honor for me that he set his respected name as a seal on the quality of my book. Then I had to leave him and speak to some of the other guests. There were so many that I was quite confused; I also drank far too much wine. Finally I was filled with despair when I realized that none of those present in fact cared about me or my future. My book to them was only an excuse to eat rare dishes and drink the best wine of Campania, study and criticize each other, and secretly marvel at my father’s success, for which he, in their eyes, had no personal qualifications.
    I longed for Claudia, who, I thought, was the only person in the world who really understood me or cared for me. She had naturally not dared come to my reading, but I knew with what excitement she was waiting to hear about it, and I suspected that she had not had much sleep. No doubt she would be outside her hut, looking at the stars in the winter sky and staring toward Rome as the vegetable carts rumbled along and the cattle lowed in the distant silence of the night. I had become so used to these sounds during the nights with her that I loved them. The very thought of rattling cartwheels brought Claudia to life so clearly in my mind that my body began to tremble.
    There is no more depressing scene than the end of a large party, when the torches smolder and reek in the arcades, the last guests are helped by their slaves into their litters, the lamps are extinguished, spilled wine wiped up from the glossy mosaic floors and the vomit washed from the marble walls of the water closets. Tullia was of course delighted with the success of her party and talked excitedly with my father about this and that guest and what he or she had said or done. But I felt quite outside it all.
    Had I been more experienced, I should have realized that this was due to the after-effects of the wine, but young as I was, I did not. So not even the company of my father tempted me when he and Tullia refreshed themselves with some light wine and fresh marine fruit while die slaves and servants cleared up the great rooms. I thanked them and left alone, without thought for the dangers of Rome at night, only longing for Claudia.
    Her hut was warm and her bed smelled sweetly of wool. She filled the brazier so that I should not be cold. At first she said she had not expected me after such a grand party and the success of my book. But she had tears in her eyes when she whispered, “Oh, Minutus, now I know that you really love me.”
    After a long spell of joy and a brief period of sleep, the winter morning crept into the hut. There was no sun and the gray winter felt like an ache in the soul as, pale and tired, we looked at each other again.
    “Claudia,” I said, “what will happen to you and me? With you I seem to be beyond reality, as if in an alien world beneath the stars. I am happy only with you. But it cannot go on like this.”
    I suppose I was secretly hoping she would hurriedly reply that things were best as they were and we could go on as before, for we could hardly do otherwise. But Claudia let out a great sigh of relief.
    “I love you more than ever, Minutus,” she cried, “because you have brought up this delicate subject yourself. Of course things cannot go on as they are. As a man, you can’t possibly understand with what awful fear I await every monthly change. Neither is it worthy of a true woman to do nothing but wait until you feel like visiting me. In this way, my life is nothing but fear and agonizing waiting.”
    Her words hurt me deeply.
    “You’ve managed to hide those feelings very well,” I remarked harshly. “Up to now you’ve let me believe that you are happy simply that I come to you. But have you any suggestions?”
    She gripped both my hands hard and looked straight into my eyes.
    “There’s only one possibility, Minutus,” she said. “Let’s leave Rome. Abandon your career. Somewhere in the provinces or on the other side of the sea, we could live together without fear until Claudius is dead.”
    I could not meet her eyes and drew my hands away from hers. Claudia shuddered and looked down.
    “You said you enjoyed holding the lambs while I sheared them,” she said, “and fetching wood for the fire. You praised the water from my spring and said that my simple food was better than ambrosia in heaven. We could find the same happiness in any corner of the world, as long as it is far enough away from Rome.”
    I thought for a moment and then said seriously, “I neither deny nor take back my words. But such a decision is too far-reaching to be decided on the spur of the moment. We can’t just go into voluntary exile.”
    Out of sheer malice, I added: “And what about the kingdom you’re waiting for and the secret meals you partake in?”
    Claudia looked downcast.
    “I am still committing a sin with you,” she said, “and with them I no longer feel the same glow as I used to. It is as if they could see right through me and were grieving over me. So I’ve begun to avoid them. My guilt feels all the worse each time we meet. You’ll take away both my faith and my hope if everything goes on as before.”
    When I returned to Aventine it was with a feeling that I had had a bucket of water thrown over me. I knew I had behaved unjusdy by using Claudia for pleasure without even giving her any money. But I thought that marriage was much too high a price to pay for mere sexual satisfaction, and neither did I want to leave Rome when I remembered how I had longed for it as a boy in Antioch and as a man in the winters of Britain.
    The result was that I went to see Claudia less and less often and found all kinds of other things to do, until the unrest in my body once again drove me back to her. After this we were no longer happy together except in bed. Otherwise we constantly tormented each other until once again I left her in a fury.
    The following spring, Claudius banished the Jews from Rome, for not a day had gone past without fighting breaking out, so that the disunity among the Jews caused unrest throughout the city. In Alexandria, the Jews and Greeks competed at killing each other and in Jerusalem, Jewish firebrands caused so many disturbances that finally Claudius tired of them all.
    His influential freedmen were in complete agreement with his decision for they could now sell special permits for high prices to the richest Jews who wished to escape exile. Claudius did not even submit his decision to the Senate, although there were many Jews who had lived in Rome for several generations and attained citizenship. The Emperor considered that a written edict was sufficient, since he was not robbing anyone of the right to citizenship. A rumor had also gone around that the Jews had bribed too many senators.
    Thus the houses on the other side of the Tiber were abandoned and the synagogues were closed. Many Jews who did not have the money hid in different parts of Rome where the district superintendents in the city had much trouble finding them. The City Prefect’s police even arrested people in the open street and forced them to show their organ to see whether they were circumcised.
    Some were discovered in the public conveniences, for Roman citizens in general had no great love for the Jews, and even the slaves bore them a grudge. The captured Jews were sent to work on the harbor in Ostia or in the mines in Sardinia, which of course was a great waste because they were mostly skilled tradesmen. But Claudius was merciless.
    Hatred among the Jews themselves grew even stronger as they quarreled over who had been the cause of the banishment. Along the roads outside Rome, many dead Jews were found, whether Christian or faithful it was impossible to tell. A dead Jew was a dead Jew and the road guards did not bother much about these troublemakers as long as the murder did not take place under their noses. “The only good Jew is a dead Jew,” they joked to each other as, in the interests of order, they looked to see whether the mutilated body they had found was circumcised.
    The uncircumcised Christians were sorely grieved over the scattering of their leaders and they followed them for long distances to protect them from attack. They were ignorant and poor people, many of them slaves, and the disappointments in their lives had made them bitter. In the confusion that followed the banishing of the Christian Jews, they were like a flock without a shepherd.
    They clung to each other in a touching way and met for their humble meals. But amongst themselves, one preached one thing and another another so that they soon separated into squabbling groups. The older ones stubbornly held to what they had heard with their own ears about the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth, but others were inclined to offer other versions.
    The boldest of them tested their powers by working themselves into a state of ecstasy and practicing the healing laying-on of hands. But they did not always succeed. Simon the magician was not banished, whether because he had bought his freedom or because, as a Samaritan, he was not regarded as a Jew, I do not know.
    But Aunt Laelia told me that he still cured the sick with the divine powers within him. I thought he contented himself with those he had power over. I had no desire to see him again, but he attracted followers from among the wealthy and curious Christian women who believed in him more than in those who preached humility and a simple way of life, mutual love and the return to earth of the son of their god on a cloud from heaven. Strengthened by this, Simon the magician began to test his flying once more and used to disappear suddenly out of his followers’ sight, only to appear again somewhere else.
    I had some trouble with Barbus, too, for sometimes he neglected his duties as doorkeeper and vanished to some unknown place. Aunt Laelia, frightened of thieves, demantled that I reprimand him.
    “I am a citizen like other people,” he protested, “and give my basket of corn to the house when there’s a distribution. You know I don’t bother much about the gods. I’ve been content to make sacrifices to Hercules occasionally when in real need, but with old age creeping on, one has to put one’s house in order. Several firemen and other old soldiers have got me to join a secret society, thanks to which I shall never die.”
    “The underworld is a gloomy place,” I said. “The shades will have to make do with licking the blood around the sacrificial altars. Wouldn’t it be wiser to submit to your fate and be content with the shades and ashes when your life-span is over?”
    But Barbus shook his head.
    “I’ve no right to reveal the initiates’ secrets,” he said, “but I can tell you that the new god’s name is Mithras. He was born out of a mountain. Shepherds found him and bowed down before him. Then he killed the great bull and brought all that is good to the world. He has promised immortality to all his initiates who have been baptized in blood. If I’ve got it right, I’ll get new limbs after death and go to fine barracks where the duties are light and the wine and honey always plentiful.”
    “Barbus,” I said warningly, “I thought you’d had enough experience now not to believe such old wives’ tales. You should take a cure at a spa. I’m afraid your constant drinking is making you see things.”
    But Barbus raised his trembling hands with dignity.
    “No, no,” he said, “when the words are spoken and the light from his crown shines in the darkness and the holy bell begins to ring, then one trembles deep down in one’s stomach, one’s hair stands on end and even the most skeptical is convinced of his divinity. After that we eat a holy meal, usually ox meat if an old centurion has undergone blood baptism. When we have drunk wine, we all sing together.”
    “We live in strange times,” I said. “Aunt Laelia is saved with the help of a Samaritan magician, my own father worries about the Christians, and you, old warrior, have become involved in Eastern mysteries.”
    “In the East the sun rises,” Barbus went on. “In one way this bull-killer is also the Sun God and so the God of Horses too. But they don’t look down on an old infantryman like me, and there’s nothing to stop you learning about our god as long as you promise to keep quiet about it. In our circle there are both older and younger Roman knights who have grown tired of the usual sacrifices and idols.”
    I had at that time grown tired of races and betting, the life of pleasure with vain and conceited actors from the theater, and of Pollio and his friends’ interminable talk of philosophy and the new poetry. I promised to go with Barbus to one of the meetings of his secret god. Barbus was very pleased and proud about this. To my surprise, on that day he really did fast and wash himself thoroughly. He did not even dare drink any wine and he put on clean clothes, too.
    That evening he led me along the winding stinking alleys to an underground temple in the valley between Esquiline and Coelius. When we had gone downstairs into a dimly lit room with stone walls, we were received by a Mithraic priest with a lion’s head across his shoulders, who unquestioningly allowed me to take part in the mysteries.
    “We have nothing to be ashamed of,” he explained. “We demand cleanliness, honesty and manliness from those who follow our god Mithras for peace in their souls and a good life the other side of death. Your face is clean and your stance upright, so I think you will like our god. But please do not talk about him unnecessarily to outsiders.”
    In the room was a crowd of men both old and young. Among them I recognized to my astonishment several tribunes and centurions from the Praetorian Guard. Several were veterans and war invalids. All were dressed in clean clothes and wore the sacred Mithraic insignia of rank, according to the degree of initiation they had reached. In this respect, their army rank or personal wealth seemed to make no difference. Barbus explained that if an irreproachable veteran were initiated with blood baptism, then it was the wealthier initiates who paid for the ox. He himself was content with the raven degree, for he had not led an entirely blameless life and did not always remember to keep to the truth.
    The light was so dim in the underground room that one could not distinguish many faces. But I could see an altar and on it an image of a god with a crown on his head, killing a bull. Then silence fell. The eldest in the congregation began to intone sacred texts which he knew by heart. They were in Latin and I could understand nearly all of them. I learned that according to their teachings, a constant battle between light and darkness, good and evil, was being waged in the world. Finally the last light was extinguished, I heard a secretive splash of water and a silvery bell began to ring. Many people sighed heavily and Barbus squeezed my arm hard. Lights from hidden apertures in the walls slowly began to illuminate the crown and image of Mithras.
    I ought not to reveal any more about the mysteries, but I was convinced by the Mithras worshippers’ solemn piety and the trust in their life to come. After the victory of light and the forces of good, the torches in the room were lit and a modest meal brought in. The people seemed relaxed, their faces radiating joy, and they conversed together with friendliness, regardless of rank and degree of initiation. The food consisted of tough ox meat and the cheap sour wine of military camps.
    From their pious songs and their talk, I had the impression that they were all honest if also simple men who were righteously striving to live a blameless life. Most of them were widowers or unmarried and found consolation and security in this victorious Sun God and in the companionship of their equals. At least they had no fear of magic and respected no other omens than their own.
    I thought that they could only be of use and help to Barbus. But the Mithraic ceremonies did not appeal to me. Perhaps I felt much too civilized and young among all those serious-minded grown men. At the end of the meal, they did in fact begin to tell stories, but they were the same stories one can hear without any ceremonies around any campfire throughout the Roman Empire.
    But my mind was often still in turmoil. At such moments I took my wooden goblet from my locked chest, caressed it and thought about my Greek mother, whom I had never known. Then I drank a little wine from the goblet to the memory of my mother and was at the same time a little ashamed of my own superstition. I did in fact feel my mother’s good and gentle presence. But I could never have told anyone about this habit.
    I also began to torment myself with unsparing riding exercises, for I seemed to feel greater satisfaction from controlling a difficult horse and exhausting my body, than spending a tearful night with Claudia. Thus I escaped both a guilty conscience and interminable self-reproaches.
    Young Lucius Domitius still excelled on the riding field, but his greatest ambition was to ride beautifully on a well-schooled horse. He was chosen as the best of the youths in the Order, and to please Agrippina, we other members of the Noble Order of Knights agreed to have a new gold piece struck in his honor. Only a year had elapsed before Emperor Claudius had adopted him.
    On the one side of the coin, we impressed his clear-cut boy’s profile and around the portrait his new adoptive names: To Nero Claudius Drusus, and in memory of his maternal grandfather, Claudius’ brother, Germanicus. The inscription on the other side ran: The Noble Order of Knights rejoices in their leader. In fact it was Agrippina who paid for it and it was distributed as a souvenir gift in all the provinces, but was of course legal currency, as were all the gold pieces struck in the temple of Juno Moneta.
    Naturally Agrippina could well afford this little political demonstration to her son’s advantage. From her second husband, Passesnus Crisus, who was only briefly stepfather to Lucius Domitius, she had inherited a fortune of two hundred million sesterces and knew how to increase it by her position as wife of the Emperor and close friend of the Procurator of the State Treasury.
    The name Germanicus had older traditions and was grander than Britannicus, whom we did not like because of his epilepsy and his allergy to horses. Many stories circulated about his real descent, since Emperor Gaius had so suddenly and unexpectedly married the fifteen-year-old Messalina to the decrepit Claudius.
    As one of Lucius’ friends, I was invited to the adoption feast and the sacrificial ceremonies connected with it. The whole of Rome recognized that Lucius Domitius had earned his new position by his noble descent as well as his own brilliant and pleasing nature. From this time on we called him only Nero. His adoptive names had been chosen by Claudius in memory of his own father, younger brother to Emperor Tiberius.
    Lucius Domitius, or Nero, was the most versatile and talented of all the young men I knew, and was both physically and spiritually more precocious than his contemporaries. He liked wresding and defeated them all, although he was so much admired th‹at no one seriously tried to defeat him, to avoid hurting his feelings. Nero could still burst into tears if his mother or Seneca reproached him too severely. He was taught by the best teachers in Rome and Seneca was his oratory tutor. I had nothing against my young friend Nero, although I noticed he could lie both skillfully and plausibly if he had done something Seneca considered wrong. But all boys do that, and no one could be angry with Nero for long.
    Agrippina saw to it that Nero was allowed to take part in Claudius’ official banquets and sit at the end of his couch as near as Britannicus. In this way, both the nobles of Rome and envoys from the provinces became acquainted with Nero and had the opportunity to compare the two boys, the cheerful and delightful Nero and the sullen Britannicus.
    Agrippina invited the sons of the most noble families in Rome to meals with both the boys. Nero acted as host and Seneca led the conversation, in that he gave the subject to each one of them to speak on. I suspect he gave Nero his subject beforehand and helped him with his speech, for every time Nero excelled with his easy, beautiful oratory.
    I was often invited to these meals, for at least half of the guests had already received their man-togas, and Nero seemed genuinely to like me. But I grew tired of listening to speakers constantly peppering their speeches with worn-out verses from Virgil and Horace or quotations from Greek poets. So I began to prepare for the invitations by reading Seneca’s works and learning by heart his favorite pieces on keeping one’s temper, the brevity of life and the imperturbable calm of the wise man in the vicissitudes of fate.
    Since meeting Seneca, I had come to hold him in great esteem, for there was nothing on this earth upon which he could not give a sensible, mild and considered opinion in his well-schooled voice. But I wanted to see if the wise man’s imperturbability also withstood man’s natural conceit.
    Of course Seneca saw through me. He was not stupid, but it must have pleased him to hear his own thoughts quoted alongside those of the authorities of the past. I was also cunning enough never to mention his name in my quotations, since that would have been rather too crude flattery, but I just said, “The other day I read somewhere,” or “I’ll always remember a word… “
    Puberty to Nero was sheer torment, and then he received his man-toga when he was fourteen. He carried out the sacrifice to Jupiter like a man, neither breaking down nor repeating himself as he read the sacrificial litany. The liver showed nothing but good omens. He summoned back Rome’s youth and the Senate agreed unanimously, without the slightest protest, that he should receive the rank of Consul when he was twenty, and thus as Consul, the right to a seat in the Senate.
    At this point an envoy arrived from the famous island of philosophers, Rhodes, to apply for the reinstatement of freedom and self-government to the island. I do not know if Claudius had become more favorably inclined toward the people of Rhodes, but Seneca considered that it was the most favorable moment for Nero to make his maiden speech in the Curia. With Seneca’s help, Nero secretly prepared for it with great care.
    My father told me that he had been astounded when Nero, after the envoy’s speech and a few sarcastic remarks from the Senate, shyly rose to his feet and said: “Honored fathers.” Everyone came awake. When Claudius nodded his consent, Nero moved to the oratory platform and enthusiastically outlined the history of Rhodes, the island’s famous philosophers and the great Romans who had completed their education there.
    “Has not this rose-colored isle of wise men, scientists, poets and orators already suffered enough from her blunders? Is she not entided to her praise?”… and so on.
    When he had finished, they all looked at Claudius as if he were a criminal, for it was he who had robbed this noble island of her freedom. Claudius felt guilty and Nero’s eloquence had moved him.
    “Don’t stare at me like cows at a gate, my fathers,” he said sourly. “Make a decision. You’re supposed to be the Senate of Rome.”
    The vote was taken and Nero’s proposal received nearly five hundred votes. My father said that what he had liked best was Nero’s modesty. In reply to all the congratulations, Nero merely said, “Don’t praise me, praise my tutor.” He went up to Seneca and embraced him in full view of everyone.
    Seneca smiled and said, so that everyone could hear, “Not even the best tutor can make a good orator of an untalented pupil.”
    Nevertheless, the elders among the senators did not like Seneca, for he lived like a man of the world and, according to them, had watered down the strict old Stoicism in his writings; They also said he was much too inclined to have handsome boys as his pupils. But this was not entirely Seneca’s fault. Nero hated ugliness to the extent that a deformed face or a disfiguring birthmark took away his appetite. Anyhow, Seneca never made any advances to me, and he would not let the all-too-affectionate Nero kiss his teachers.
    After his appointment as Praetor, Seneca was mostly concerned with civil cases which in themselves were more difficult and involved than criminal cases, since they were concerned with property, ownership, building plots, divorces and wills. He himself said he could not bring himself to condemn anyone to flogging or execution. He noticed that I faithfully listened in on all his cases and one day made a suggestion to me.
    “You are a talented young man, Minutus Lausus,” he said. “You are as fluent in Greek as you are in Latin and show an interest in legal matters, as befits a true Roman. Would you consider becoming an assistant Praetor and, for instance, digging out old precedents and forgotten decrees in the tabularium under my supervision?”
    I flushed with pleasure and assured him that such a task would be a great honor. Seneca’s face clouded over.
    “You realize, I suppose,” he remarked, “that most young men would give an eye to have such an opportunity to get ahead of his rivals in the line of office?”
    Of course I realized this and I assured him I was eternally grateful for such an incomparable favor. Seneca shook his head.
    “You know,” he said, “by Rome’s standards, I am not a rich man. At the moment I am building myself a house. When it is finished, I hope to marry and put an end to all this talk. I presume you administer your estate yourself and could pay me some compensation for my legal tuition?”
    I drew in my breath sharply and asked him to forgive my lack of perception. When I asked him what sum he would consider adequate, he smiled and patted my shoulder.
    “Perhaps,” he said, “it would be best if you consulted your wealthy father, Marcus Mezentius, on the matter.”
    I went straight to my father and asked him whether, for instance, ten gold pieces would be too large a sum for a philosopher who loved modesty and a simple life. My father burst out laughing.
    “I know Seneca’s modest little habits,” he said. “Leave it all to me and don’t worry about it anymore.”
    Later I heard that he had sent Seneca a thousand gold pieces, or a hundred thousand sesterces, which in my opinion was an enormous sum. But Seneca was not offended but, if possible, he treated me even more kindly than before, to show that he had forgiven my father for his upstart’s extravagance.
    I worked for several months as Seneca’s assistant in the Praetorium. He was absolutely just in his decisions, all of which he carefully weighed. No lawyer could bamboozle him with mere eloquence, for he himself was the greatest orator of the day. In spite of this, people who lost their cases spread rumors that he accepted bribes. Of course, such rumors were heard about all praetors. But Seneca said definitely that he had never received a gift before a judgment had been made.
    “On the other hand,” he said, “if it is a matter of ownership of a plot which is worth a million sesterces, it’s only natural that the winner of the case afterwards should give the judge a gift or two. No official can live on a praetor’s salary alone and pay for free performances at the theater during his term of office.”
    Spring had come again. Under the influence of the green grass, the warm sun and the notes of the cittern, the stilted legal phrases were banished from our thoughts by the lighthearted verses of Ovid and Propertius. I had been waiting for an opportunity to solve the problem of Claudia and it occurred to me that Agrippina was the only person who could do this with magnanimity and justice. I could not tell Aunt Laelia about Claudia, or Tullia-her least of all. One lovely afternoon when the clouds over Rome shone with gold, the opportunity arose when Nero took me to the gardens on Pincius. There we found his mother busy giving instructions to the gardeners for the spring. She was flushed with the warmth and her face lit up, as always, when she saw her handsome son.
    “What’s wrong with you, Minutus Manilianus?” she said to me. “You look as if you had some secret sorrow. Your eyes are restless and you won’t look me straight in the eye.”
    I was forced to look into her eyes, which were as clear and wise as those of a goddess.
    “Would you really permit me to put my problem to you?” I stammered.
    She led me to one side, away from the gardeners and the slaves grubbing in the earth, and asked me to speak honestly and without fear. I told her about Claudia, but my first words made her start, although the expression on her calm face did not change.
    “Plautia Urgulanilla’s reputation was always doubtful,” she said thoughtfully. “In my youth I knew her, although I wish now that I hadn’t. How is it possible that you came to know a girl like that? As far as I know, she is not allowed to set foot inside the city walls. Isn’t she a goatherd somewhere on Aulus Plautius’ farm?”
    I told her how we had met, but as I went on, Agrippina kept interrupting me with questions-as she said, to get to the root of the matter.
    “We love each other,” I managed to say at last, “and I’d like to marry her if a way to do so can be found.”
    “Minutus,” protested Agrippina shortly, “one just does not marry girls like that.”
    I tried to the best of my ability to praise Claudia’s good points, but Agrippina hardly listened to me. With tears in her eyes, she stared at the blood-red sunset over Rome, as if she had been upset by what I had said. Finally, she interrupted me and said, “Have you slept with her? Tell me honestly now.”
    I had to tell the truth. I even made the mistake of telling her we were happy together, although this was no longer quite true because of our quarrels. I asked if there was any possibility of a good family adopting Claudia.
    “Oh, my poor Minutus,” she said pityingly, “what have you become involved in? In the whole of Rome, there isn’t a single respected family who would adopt her for all the money in the world. If a family were willing to let her bear its name, it would simply show that that family is no longer respected.”
    I tried again, carefully choosing my words, but Agrippina was adamant.
    “On this point, it is my duty as the protector of the Noble Order of Knights to think of what is best for you and not just of this poor wanton girl,” she said. “You’ve no real idea of her reputation. I don’t want to go into the matter further, as you in your blindness would hardly believe me. But I promise to consider the matter.”
    I explained in some confusion that she had misunderstood the whole matter. Claudia was neither wanton nor depraved. If that had been the case, I should never have dreamed of marrying her. Agrippina did at least show great patience with me. By asking me about everything we had done together, Claudia and I, she taught me the difference between virtue and depravity in bed, and made me realize that Claudia was obviously much more experienced than I in these matters.
    “The god Augustus himself exiled Ovid, whose immoral book tried to show that love was an art,” Agrippina explained. “Surely you don’t doubt his judgment. That kind of game belongs to the brothels. That’s proved by your not being able to look into my eyes without blushing.”
    Anyhow, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I had left the matter with Agrippina to deal with. I happily hurried out of the city to tell Claudia that our affairs were in good hands. I had not told her my intentions beforehand so as not to raise false hopes.
    When I told her about my talk with Agrippina, Claudia turned pale with horror, so that the freckles on each side of her nose stood out dark brown against her gray skin.
    “Minutus, Minutus,” she wailed, “what have you done? Are you completely out of your mind?”
    Of course, I was bitterly offended that she should be so lacking in understanding when I thought I was doing it all on her behalf. It had taken considerable moral courage to discuss such a delicate matter with the first lady of Rome. I tried to ask Claudia what she had against the noble Agrippina, but she would explain nothing. She just sat as if paralyzed, her hands in her lap, refusing even to look at me.
    Caressing her made no difference either. Claudia brushed me aside brusquely and in the end I could only imagine that she had something on her conscience which she either would not or could not tell me. I could extract no other answer from her except that it was not worth explaining to me if I was really so simple-minded as to trust a woman like Agrippina.
    I left her in a fury, for it was she who had spoiled everything by her perpetual talk of marriage and the future. I had already gone quite a way when she appeared in her doorway and called after me.
    “Do we part like this, Minutus?” she cried. “Haven’t you a single kind word for me? Perhaps we shall never meet again.”
    Understandably, I was disappointed that she had not submitted to my caresses, as in former reconciliations. So I swore at her.
    “By Hercules,” I shouted, “I hope we never meet again!”
    I regretted it the moment I reached the bridge over the Tiber, and I would have turned back if my masculine pride had not stopped me.
    Nothing happened for a month. Then one day, Seneca took me aside.
    “Minutus Lausus,” he said, “you are twenty now and it’s time you learned about the administration of a province, for the sake of your career. As you probably know, my brother has been given the province of Achaia for a number of years for his services. Now he has written to me to say that he needs an assistant who knows the laws and has some military experience. You are a little young, of course, but I think I know you well enough. And your father has been so generous to me that I feel you should have this excellent opportunity of making progress. It would be best if you went as soon as possible. You can go to Brindisi at once. From there, you can take the first ship to Corinth.”
    I realized that this was an order, not just a favor. But a young man in my position could hardly have asked for a better post. Corinth is a lively, happy city and ancient Athens not far away. I should be able to visit all the memorable Hellenic places on tours of inspection. On my return after a couple of years, I could perhaps apply for office. The thirty-year age limit could often be pruned down with the help of special merit and good connections. I thanked Seneca reverently and began at once to prepare for the long journey.
    In fact the assignment came at the most favorable moment. It was known in Rome that the British tribes had risen to test Ostorius. Vespasian they knew, but Ostorius was not yet familiar with the circumstances in Britain. I had already feared that I might be sent back there and I had no wish whatsoever to go. Even the Icenis, who had hitherto been Rome’s most peaceful and reliable allies, had begun to make forays over their river boundary, and because of Lugunda, it would have been difficult to fight against them.
    Nevertheless, I felt I could not leave without saying good-bye to Claudia, however unpleasant she had been. So one day I walked over to the other side of the Tiber, but Claudia’s hut was barred and empty, no one answered my shouts, and her flock of sheep had gone. I hurried over to the Plautius farm in surprise and inquired about her. But I was received coldly and no one seemed to have the least idea where Claudia was. It was as if it were forbidden to speak her name.
    I was so worried that I hurried back to the city and went to see Aunt Paulina at Plautius’ house. The old woman, in mourning as usual, received me more tearfully than ever but would not give me any direct information about Claudia.
    “The less you talk about the matter the better,” she said, looking at me with hostility. “You’ve brought ruin to her, but perhaps it would have happened anyhow, sooner or later. You’re still young and I find it hard to believe that you know what you’ve done. Nevertheless, I cannot forgive you. I pray to God that He will forgive you.”
    I was filled with dismay and forebodings over this secretiveness. I did not know what to believe. As far as I was concerned I did not feel guilty, for what had happened between Claudia and me had been of her own free will. But I was in a hurry.
    After changing my clothes, I went quickly to Palatine to say goodbye to Nero, who said that he envied me my chance of becoming acquainted with ancient Greek culture. Holding my hand as a sign of friendship, he led me to his mother, although Agrippina was busy with Pallas over the treasury accounts. Pallas was considered to be the richest man in Rome. He was so haughty that he never spoke to his slaves, just expressing his desires with hand gestures which everyone had to interpret immediately.
    Agrippina was evidently not pleased to be disturbed, but as usual she was pleased to see Nero. She wished me success in my assignment, warned me about the frivolity of Corinth, and hoped that I would seek out the best in Hellenic culture but return a good Roman.
    I stammered out something, looking straight at her and making a gesture of appeal. She understood without words what I wanted. Freed-man Pallas did not even deign to look at me, but rustled impatiently with his scrolls and wrote figures on his wax tablet. Agrippina told Nero that he could usefully watch how skillfully Pallas added large sums, and led me to another room.
    “It would be better if Nero did not hear what we have to say,” she said. “He’s an innocent boy, although he wears the man-toga.”
    That was not true, for Nero himself had boasted of sleeping with a slave-girl, and also of trying out relations with a boy for the fun of it-although I could hardly tell his mother that. Agrippina looked at me with her clear eyes and a goddesslike expression and sighed.
    “I know you want to hear something about Claudia,” she said. “I don’t want to disappoint you. I know how hard one takes these things when one is young. But it is better that you have your eyes opened in time, however much it hurts.
    “I’ve had Claudia put under supervision,” she went on. “For your sake, I had to know the truth about her life and habits. I don’t mind that she disobeyed when she was expressly forbidden to show herself inside the city walls. Neither do I mind that she partook in certain slaves’ secret meals, at which I gather some not very pleasant things happened. But it was unforgivable that, outside the city and without the necessary health supervision, she used to sell herself for money to foremen, shepherds and anyone else.”
    This dreadful and unbelievable accusation left me speechless, and Agrippina gave me a look of pity.
    “The matter has been dealt with by the police court with the minimum publicity,” she said. “There were many witnesses. For your own sake, I won’t tell you who they were. You would be too ashamed. Out of mercy, Claudia has not been punished as the law demands. She has not been whipped, nor has her head been shaven. She has been sent away for a certain length of time to a closed house in a country town to better her ways. I shall not tell you where it is, so that you don’t go and do something stupid. If you still want to see her when you return from Greece, I’ll arrange it for you, as long as she has improved. But you must promise that you will not try to make contact with her before then. You owe that to me.”
    Her explanation was so inconceivable that I felt my knees give way and I almost fainted. I could do nothing but remember everything about Claudia which had seemed strange to me-her experience and the fact that she was unusually hot-blooded. Agrippina put her lovely hand on my arm and shook her head slowly.
    “Examine your conscience well, Minutus,” she said. “Only your youthful vanity stops you from seeing how cruelly you have been betrayed. Learn from this and don’t trust depraved women and what they say to you. It was lucky for you that you managed to extricate yourself in time by turning to me. You were wise to do so.”
    I stared at her in an attempt to find even the slightest sign of uncertainty in her plump face and clear eyes. She stroked my cheek lightly.
    “Look into my eyes, Minutus Lausus,” she said. “Whom do you believe more, me or that simple girl who so cruelly betrayed your innocent trust in her?”
    My common sense and my confused feelings vied with each other to say that I must believe this gentlewoman, the Emperor’s consort, more than Claudia. I bowed my head, for hot tears were rising in my eyes from painful disappointment. Agrippina pressed my face to her soft bosom. Suddenly I felt an excited trembling in my body and was even more ashamed of myself.
    “Please don’t thank me now, although I’ve done much for you that has been distasteful to me,” she whispered in my ear, so that I felt her warm breath and trembled even more. “I know that you will come and thank me later, when you’ve had time to think the matter over. I have saved you from the worst danger a young man can meet on the threshold of manhood.”
    Cautiously, for fear of some unexpected witness, she pushed me away and gave me a lovely smile. My face was so burning hot and tear-stained that I did not want anyone to see it. Agrippina sent me away a back way. I walked down the steep alley of the Goddess of Victory with my head bowed, and I stumbled on the white stones.

Book V


    Corinth is a metropolis, the most lively and lighthearted metropolis in the world, according to its own citizens. Although Mummius razed it to the ground two hundred years ago, the city, risen from the ashes, has today gathered half a million inhabitants from countries all over the world, thanks largely to the foresight of the god Julius Caesar. From the Acropolis, the city and its streets appear to glow with light well into the night. For a melancholy youth brooding bitterly over his own gullibility, Corinth and its colorful life is in truth a cure.
    But my servant Hierex many a time regretted that he had so tearfully begged me to buy him as he stood on the slave dealer’s platform in Rome. He could read, write, massage, cook, haggle with the tradesmen and speak both Greek and broken Latin. He assured me he had traveled in many countries with his previous masters and learned to smooth the way for them.
    The price asked for him was so high that he ought to have been a slave of the highest quality, though of course there turned out to be reasons for a reduction. Hierex asked me not to haggle too much, for his master had given him up reluctantly for financial reasons caused by a court action. I guessed that Hierex would receive a share of his own price if he could raise it with his glib tongue. But in the state of mind I was in at the time, I was not in a position to haggle.
    Hierex naturally hoped for a friendly young master and was afraid of ending up in a carefully run household of jaundiced old people. My silence and melancholy taught him to hold his tongue, however difficult that was, for he was a real Greek chatterer by birth. Not even the journey distracted me and I did not want to speak to anyone. So I gave orders as Pallas did, with gestures only. He did his best to serve me, probably fearing that behind my dismal exterior lay a cruel master who found pleasure in chastising a slave.
    Hierex was born and bred as a slave. He was not strong, but I bought him to avoid having to look further, for he had no visible defects and his teeth were good although he was over thirty. Naturally I guessed there was something wrong with him for him to be for sale at all, but in my position I could not travel without a servant. At first he was nothing but a torment to me, but when I had taught him to keep silent and look as gloomy as myself, he took care of my luggage, my clothes and my food very well. He could even shave my still youthful beard without cutting me too badly.
    He had been to Corinth before and he chose quarters for us in the Ship and Lantern Inn, near the temple of Neptune.” He was astonished that I did not at once hurry off to make a thank-offering for the successful outcome of a dangerous journey, but instead, after washing and changing, at once went to the forum to report to the Proconsul.
    The government building of the province of Achaia was a handsome house with a propylaeum, and the outer courtyard was surrounded by a wall and guardhouses. Both the legionary guards at the entrance were picking their teeth and chatting to passers-by, their shields and lances leaning against the wall. They glanced ironically at my narrow red band, but let me in without a word.
    Proconsul Junius Annaeus Gallio received me dressed in the Greek way, smelling of salves and with a wreath of flowers on his head, as if he were on his way to a banquet. He was a goodhearted man and offered me wine from Samos as he read his younger brother Seneca’s letter and the others which I had brought with me as a courier from the Senate. I left my goblet half full and did not bother with more wine, for I deeply despised the whole world into which I had so unfortunately been born, and on the whole, no longer believed any good of human beings.
    When Gallio had read his letters, he looked serious and gave me an attentive look.
    “I think it would be best if you wore your toga at court only,” he suggested carefully. ‘We must remember that Achaia is Achaia. Its civilization is older and anyhow, incomparably more spiritually directed than that of Rome. The Greeks follow their own laws and keep order themselves. Rome’s policy in Achaia is to interfere as little as possible and let things take their own course unless we are directly appealed to, to intervene. Violent attacks here are very rare. The greatest difficulty in a port city like this lies in thieves and swindlers. We have not as yet an amphitheater here in Corinth, but there is an excellent circus for the races. The theaters perform every evening. A host of pleasures are available to a decent young knight.”
    “I’ve not come to Corinth for pleasure,” I replied irritably, “but to prepare myself for my career in office.”
    “Of course, of course,” said Gallio. “I see that in my brother’s letter. Perhaps you’d better first report to the cohort commantler at our garrison. He is a Rubrius, so you’d better be polite. Apart from that, you can get the weapon exercises going, for the soldiers have become slack under his command. Later you can travel around and inspect the other garrisons. There aren’t many. In Athens and some other sacred cities, it is not even advisable to wear Roman military uniform, but a philosopher’s rags would be more suitable. Once a week I hold a court here outside the building. Then you must, of course, be present. One must fall in with the customs as one finds them. But we shall tour the building now and I shall introduce you to my chancery staff.”
    Chatting in a friendly way on this and that, he introduced me to his treasurer, his lawyer, the superintendent of the Achaian tax office and to the trade representative from Rome.
    “I’d like to ask you to stay with me,” said Gallio. “But it is better for Rome if you live out in the city, either at a good inn or in your own house. Then you’ll make contact with the people better and learn their desires, customs and complaints. Don’t forget that Achaia must be handled as carefully as a ball of feathers.
    “At the moment,” he went on, “I am expecting some learned men and philosophers to dinner. I should like you to join us, but I see you are exhausted by your journey and the food would not be to your taste, as I see my wine is not either. Go and recover from the trials of your journey first, get to know the city and report to Rubrius when it suits you best. There is no hurry.”
    He also introduced me to his wife. She was wearing a gold-embroidered Greek mantle, gold leather sandals and a gold band in her carefully arranged hair. She looked at me mischievously at first and then at Gallio, and then turned serious, greeting me in sorrowful tones as if all the cares of the world oppressed her. Then she suddenly put her hand to her mouth, tittered, turned around and fled from the room.
    I thought the Spanish-born Helvia, despite her beauty, was obviously not wholly mature. Gallio hid his own smile, looked solemnly after his wife and confirmed my own unspoken thoughts.
    “Yes, Lausus,” he said, “she is much too young and cannot take the duties of her position seriously enough. Fortunately this does not matter here in Corinth.”
    The following day I wondered for a long time whether I should send a message to the garrison for a horse and guard of honor to accompany me when I reported my arrival. This I had a right to demand, of course. But as I did not yet know Ruhrius, I thought perhaps it would be better not to make myself too forward. So I dressed according to regulations, in my breastplate with the silver eagles, my iron-shod shoes and leggings, and my red-plumed helmet. Hierex put my short red tribune’s cloak around my shoulders and fastened the shoulder clasp for me.
    My departure caused such a sensation at the inn that even the cooks and cleaners pressed around the door to watch me leave. ‘After I had marched in my clinking armor a short distance, people began to hurry up and gape at me. The men pointed at my plumes and shouted something, the women stepped up close to me to poke at my breastplate, and several urchins strode along in time beside me, shouting and yelling. It was not long before I realized they were making fun of my military splendor.
    It was such a painful situation that I was seized with a wild desire to snatch out my long sword and lay about with the flat side of it. I also realized that this would attract even more attention to myself. Scarlet in the face, I turned to appeal to an oncoming policeman. He waved at the street urchins with his little stick to make way for me. Nevertheless, at least a hundred people followed me as far as the entrance to the camp.
    The guards hurriedly snatched up their lances and shields from the wall. One blew the alarm on his trumpet when he saw the jeering mob trotting toward the barracks. The crowd had not the least desire to set foot inside the Roman garrison, only to be beaten in thanks. They stopped in a semicircle in front of the points of the soldiers’ lances, called out good wishes to me and assured me that not for years had they seen such a wonderful spectacle.
    The senior centurion of the cohort came rushing up to me, dressed in nothing but his undershirt. A handful of legionaries with lances and shields hastily assembled into something akin to a line in the courtyard, disturbed by the alarm signal. Perhaps my youth will excuse the fact that I barked orders at them I still had no right to give, as I had not even reported to Rubrius yet. After making them march at the double to the wall and back and stand in a perfect line, I asked the centurion to take over. He stood astride before me in astonishment, stubble on his chin and his hands on his hips.
    “Commantler Rubrius is asleep after a strenuous night exercise,” he said. “The men are tired for the same reason. How would it be if you came with me and had a drop of wine and told me who you are, where you come from and why you’ve landed here like the God of War himself, scowling and grinding his teeth!”
    From his face and scarred thighs, I could see he was an old veteran and I could do nothing but agree to his request. A young knight could easily be snubbed by a centurion like him and I did not want to disgrace myself further by being made a fool of in front of the increasing number of soldiers gathering around.
    The centurion took me to his room, which smelled of leather and metal polish, and began to pour wine from a jar for me. I told him that owing to a promise I could take nothing but water and vegetables, and he looked at me in surprise.
    “Corinth is not considered a place of exile,” he remarked. “You must be of a very noble family indeed if your presence here is some kind of punishment for what you’ve done in Rome.”
    He scratched his chin uninhibitedly, making a rasping sound on the stubble, yawned hugely and drank some wine. Nevertheless, on my orders he fetched Commantler Rubrius’ clerk and the cohort rolls.
    “In the city itself,” he explained, “we only have guards at the Proconsul’s courtyard and at the main gates. Both in Cenchreae and Lycaea-the ports, you know-we’ve permanent garrisons. They have their own quarters so the men don’t have to keep going to and fro between the barracks and the ports. According to the rolls, we’re a full cohort, excluding the engineers, clothmakers and other specialists, so if necessary we can be a self-sufficient field corps.”
    I asked about the cavalry.
    “In fact we’ve not a single cavalryman here at the moment,” he said. “Naturally there are a few horses at the disposal of the Commantler and the Governor, but both of them prefer to use a litter. You can have one of them if you can’t manage without a horse. Corinth’s own cavalry is, of course, bound to assist us on command.”
    When I asked about maintenance of weapons and equipment, orders for the day and the exercise program, he looked at me curiously.
    “Perhaps you’d better ask Rubrius about that,” he said. “I’m only his subordinate.”
    To pass the time, I inspected the empty quarters, with their dust and cobwebs, the weapon store, the kitchen and the altar. The garrison had no Eagle of its own, only the customary cohort field insignia with tassels and memorial plates. After my round of inspection I was both confused and appalled.
    “In the name of Hercules,” I cried, “where are the men? What would happen if we had to leave suddenly to fight?”
    The centurion had grown tired of me.
    “You’d better ask Commantler Rubrius that too,” he said angrily.
    At midday, Rubrius at last sent for jne. His room was beautifully furnished in the Greek way and I saw at least three different young women serving him. He himself was bald, his face fat and the veins in it broken, his lips blue and he dragged his left foot as^ he walked. He received me warmly, breathed wine on me as he embraced me and at once told me to sit down and make myself at home without formality.
    “Coming from Rome, you must be surprised to find how lazy we are here in Corinth,” he said. “Of course, it’s quite right that a brisk young knight should come and get things going here. Well, well, so you’ve the rank of tribune, have you? From Britain, I see. That’s a distinction, not a command.”
    I asked him about service instructions and for a while he did not answer.
    “In Corinth,” he said finally, “we don’t need to keep ourselves in a state of readiness. On the contrary, the city council and the inhabitants would be insulted if we did. Most of the legionaries here are married. They have my permission to live with their families and practice a craft or a trade. Now and again on Roman feast days, we muster them, of course. But only inside our walls so as not to attract unnecessary attention.”
    I ventured to point out that the soldiers I had seen were apathetic and ill-disciplined, that the equipment store was thick with dust and the quarters filthy.
    “Possibly, possibly,” admitted Rubrius. “It’s a long time since I remembered to take a look at the men’s quarters. Society in Corinth takes its toll of a not-so-young man like myself. Fortunately I have a very reliable senior centurion. He’s responsible for everything. Ask him what you want to know. From a formal point of view, you should be my right-hand man, but he would be offended if I went over his head. Perhaps you could work together with a kind of equal status, as long as you don’t trouble me with complaints about each other. I’ve had enough quarreling in my life and want to serve out my time in peace. I’ve not many years to go.”
    He gave me a surprisingly sharp look and added with feigned absent-mindedness, “Did you by any chance know that my sister Rubria is the eldest of the Vestal Virgins in Rome?”
    Then he went on to give me some cautionary advice.
    “Remember always,” he said, “that Corinth is a Greek city, even if the people who live here come from many other countries. Military honors do not count for much here. The art of social life is more important. Look about to start with and then make out a service program yourself, but don’t overwork my soldiers excessively.”
    With these instructions I had to leave. The centurion was standing outside and gave me a cold look.
    “Did you get your information?” he asked.
    I looked at two legionaries lumbering through the entrance with their shields on their backs and their lances on their shoulders. I was astounded to hear the centurion calmly explain that this was the changing of the guard.
    “They’ve not even mustered!” I cried. “Are they to be allowed to go like that, with filthy legs, long hair and without an under-officer or escort?”
    “We don’t hold guard parades here in Corinth,” the centurion said calmly. “It’d be better if you hung up your plumed helmet somewhere and got used to the customs of the country.”
    But he did not interfere when I ordered the under-officers to see that the barracks were cleaned, the weapons polished, that the men shaved, cut their hair, and in general tried to look like Romans. I promised to return the following morning for an inspection at sunrise, for which I also had the prison scrubbed and fresh switches prepared. The veterans looked alternately in surprise at me and at the furiously grimacing centurion, but they thought it best to say nothing. I remembered the advice I had been given and hung up my parade uniform in the equipment store and instead put on a simple leather tunic and a round exercise helmet when I went back to the inn.
    Hierex had had cabbage and beans cooked for me. I drank water with my food and went to my room so depressed that I felt no desire whatsoever to make the acquaintance of the sights of Corinth.
    When I returned at dawn to the barracks, something had indeed been happening in my absence. The guards on duty at the entrance stood to attention with raised lances and gave me a rousing greeting.
    The senior centurion was dressed for exercises. He did his best to make the sleepy men wash at the water troughs, barking at them in a hoarse voicc. The barber was fully occupied and on the sooty altar a crackling fire was burning and the yard smelled of clean soldiers rather than of a pigsty.
    “I’m sorry I didn’t have the signal blown when you arrived,” said the centurion sarcastically, “but Commantler Rubrius is particular about his morning sleep. Now you’d better take over. I’ll watch. The men are eagerly awaiting a sacrifice. A couple of pigs would do if an oxen is too expensive.”
    Because of my training and upbringing, I’d had little experience of sacrifices and under no circumstances was I going to make a fool of myself by spearing squealing pigs to death.
    “It’s not yet time for sacrifices,” I snapped. “I must first see whether it’s worth staying here or whether I’ll give up the whole assignment.”
    As I walked around, I soon noticed that the small number of men there knew the drill and could march properly if they wanted to. They did get rather breathless after marching at the double, but in the group batde-drill they could all throw their lances at least somewhere near the sacks of straw. During the sword exercises with blunt weapons, I noticed that there were several really skilled swordsmen. When they were all finally panting and sweating, the centurion made a suggestion.
    “What about standing them at ease,” he said, “and showing us how you can fence? I’m a bit old and fat of course, but I’d be glad to show you how we used to use a sword in Pannonia. It was there, in Carnun-tum, that I got my centurion’s stave.”
    To my surprise, I found I had to exert myself with him. He would have had me against the wall with his shield, despite my longer sword, if he had not become out of breath so soon. The swift motions and the clear sunlight of Corinth gradually began to make me ashamed of my former irritability and to remember that all these men were older than I and had served a couple of decades longer. There were just about as many degrees of service as there were men in the troop. A legion of normal strength has nearly seventy different pay grades to increase the zeal for service.
    I began to seek a reconciliation with the centurion.
    “Now I’m prepared to sacrifice a young bull,” I said. “I’ll also pay for a ram for you to sacrifice. The eldest of the veterans can sacrifice a pig. Then we’ll have meat of the best kinds. It’s not worth bearing a grudge against me for a little exercise in acquaintanceship, is it?”
    The centurion looked me up and down and his face lit up.
    “I’ll send the best men I’ve got down to the cattle market,” he said, “and they can choose the animals. You’ll provide some wine, too, I suppose.”
    Naturally I could not refuse to take part in the sacrificial meal with the men. They vied with each other at extracting good bits of meat for me from the jars. I had to drink some wine too. After the exertions of the day, I was made drunk by the meat alone and the wine went straight to my knees after such a long period of abstention. After dark, a number of women whose profession no one could mistake, though some of them were young and pretty, came creeping cautiously into the camp. I seem to remember that I wept bitterly and told the centurion that one could never trust any woman because every woman was guile itself and a trap. I also remember that the soldiers carried me lying on the God of War’s couch high up on their shoulders around the yard, singing the Pannonian legion’s bawdy songs in my honor. I remember nothing else.
    During the last night spell of guard duty, I woke by being sick all over myself as I lay on a hard wooden truckle-bed in the quarters. My legs buckling beneath me, my hands holding my head, I staggered out and saw men lying all over the yard, every one of them where he had fallen. I felt so appallingly ill that the stars in the morning sky danced in front of my eyes as I tried to look up. I washed myself as best I could and was so bitterly ashamed of my conduct that I might have thrown myself on my sword had not all the sharp weapons been locked up in good time the night before.
    Tottering through the streets of Corinth with their fading torches and pitch caldrons, I at last found my inn. Hierex had been anxiously waiting up for me. When he saw my wretched condition he undressed me, wiped my limbs with a damp cloth, gave me something bitter to drink and put me to bed under a woolen coverlet. When I woke again, cursing the day I was born, he fed me carefully with a few spoonfuls of wine in whipped-up yolks of egg. Before I even had time to think about my promise, I had gobbled down a portion of well-spiced meat stew.
    Sighing with relief, Hierex became voluble.
    “Blessed be all the gods,” he said, “both known and unknown, but most of all your own Goddess of Fortune. I had been very worried about you and was afraid your reason was going. It’s neither natural nor right that a youngster of your age and rank should see the world through sad eyes and eat nothing but cabbage and drink nothing but water. So it was as if a burden had fallen from my back when you came back stinking of wine and vomit and I realized that you had thrown in your lot with ordinary men.”
    “I’m afraid I’ve brought disgrace on myself all over Corinth,” I said bitterly. “I dimly remember that I danced a Greek goat dance with the legionaries. When Proconsul Gallio gets to hear of this, I’m certain he’ll send me straight back to Rome to be a writer or a lawyer.”
    Hierex forced me to go out and walk with him in the wide streets of the city, telling me the exercise would do me good. We saw the sights of Corinth together, the ancient sternpost of the Argonauts’ ship in the temple of Neptune, the Pegasus spring and the hoof mark in the rock beside it. Hierex tried to lure me up to the Venus temple on the mountain, but I still had enough sense left to refuse.
    Instead we looked at the wonder of Corinth, a waxed wooden track on which quite large ships could be hauled by slaves from Cenchreae to Lycaea and back. One would have thought this would have needed hordes of slaves and endless whiplashes, but the Greek shipbuilders, with the help of windlasses and cogs, had arranged it all so skillfully that the ships slid along the track as if by themselves. A seaman who noticed our interest swore on the Nereids that with a good wind behind them, it was sufficient just to hoist the sails. I felt better afterwards, my troubles fading, as Hierex told me about his life and several times made me laugh.
    But I still felt embarrassed when I went back to the barracks the next day. Fortunately everything had been cleared up after the orgy, the men on guard were smartly in their places and the usual daily routine in force. Rubrius summoned me and reproached me tactfully.
    “You are still young and inexperienced,” he said. “There was no valid reason for inciting these old warriors to fight each other and brawl drunkenly all night. I hope it will be the last time. Try not to give free rein to the Roman crudeness in your nature, and adapt yourself as best you can to Corinth’s more refined customs.”
    The senior centurion took me, as he had promised, to inspect the men on the cohort rolls who were tradesmen in the city. They were smiths, tanners, weavers and potters, but many had simply used their Roman citizenship, earned by long service, and married into wealthy tradesmen’s families, and acquiring from them privileges which assured themselves an easy life of abundance. Their equipment had rat-gnawed straps, the points of their lances were rusty and their shields had not been polished within living memory. Some of them could not even find their equipment.
    At every place they offered us wine and food, even silver pieces. One legionary, who had become a perfume dealer and could not find his shield, tried to push me into a room with a girl. When I remonstrated with him, he said bitterly, “All right, you can turn on the screws then. But we already pay so much to Rubrius for the right to practice a free trade that I at least haven’t many drachmas to put into your purse.”
    When I realized what he was saying, I hurriedly assured him that I had certainly not come to exact bribes but just to see, as was my duty, that all the men on the rolls were equipped and took care of their weapons. The perfume dealer calmed down and promised to buy a new shield at the flea market as soon as he had time. He also promised to join in the exercises if I wanted him to, and said that a little physical exercise would do him good, because in his line of business he was always sitting still and he was getting much too fat.
    I saw that it would be wisest if I did not look too deeply into Commantler Rubrius’ affairs, especially as his sister was the most important priestess in Rome. The senior centurion and I made out a program which at least appeared to give the men something to do. After inspecting the traditional guard posts, we agreed the guards should be relieved by the sun and the water clock. The guard would no longer be allowed to lie or sit and must be fully equipped. I could not really see what a double guard at the city gates was really guarding, but the centurion said that these places had been guarded for a hundred years and so could not be left without. It would have offended the Corinthians, for it was they who through taxation maintained the Roman garrison in their city.
    After a while, I considered I had carried out my tribune’s duties in Corinth as best I could. The legionaries had overcome their initial dislike for me and now greeted me cheerfully. On the Proconsul’s court day, I reported to him in my toga. A Greek clerk went through the cases beforehand and Gallio yawningly ordered his judge’s throne to be carried out to the front of the building.
    Gallio proved himself to be a mild and fair judge. He asked us our views, joked occasionally, questioned the witnesses carefully himself and postponed every case he thought had not been sufficiently explained by the lawyers’ speeches and the witnesses. He refused to pronounce judgment on what he thought were too trivial cases, but demantled that both parties should settle the matter between them or he would line each of them for lack of respect for the court. After the session, he invited me to a good meal and gave me some advice onCorinthian bronzes, which at that time it was fashionable to collect in Home.
    When I returned to the inn, despite everything depressed by Gallio’s sober wisdom and the ordinariness of the court, Hierex had a suggestion to make.
    “You can undoubtedly afford to live as you like,” he said. “But to live for a whole year in an inn is downright waste..Corinth is a prosperous city. It would be wisest to put your money into a house of your own and let me help to make you comfortable there. If you’ve not enough money here, as a Roman official you would certainly get as much credit as you have the nerve to ask for.”
    “Houses always need repairing,” I replied, “and servants are always quarreling. As a house owner I’d have to pay taxes to the city. Why should I give myself all those worries? It’s simpler to move to a cheaper inn if I think they’re fleecing me here.”
    “That’s what I’m here for,” said Hierex; “to look after your worries as best I can. Just give me the authority and I’ll arrange things for the best. The only thing you need do is put your name to a document from the temple of Mercury. Later on you’ll have to return hospitality with hospitality. Think what you’d have to pay at an inn, for instance, when you invite six people to a festive meal with wine. In your own house, I’d do the marketing myself, get wines at wholesale prices and advise your cook. And you wouldn’t have to live like this, when any stranger knows it every time you make water or blow your nose.”
    There was a great deal of good sense in his suggestion, and several days later I found myself the owner of quite a large two-story house with a garden. The reception room had a lovely mosaic floor and there were more inner rooms than I needed. I noticed that I also had a cook and a Greek doorkeeper. The house was furnished with comfortable old furniture, so nothing looked new and brash. Even a pair of Greek household gods stood in their niches each side of the altar, greasy and sooty with age, Hierex had also bought some ancestral wax masks at an auction, but I said I did not want someone else’s ancestors.
    Rubrius, the senior centurion, and Gallio’s Greek lawyer were my first guests. Hierex appointed a Greek sage to talk to the guests and a skillful dancing-girl with a flute player for lighter entertainment. The food was excellent. My guests left me at midnight in a state of civilized inebriation. Later I found out that they had had themselves taken straight to the nearest brothel, for from there they had a bill sent to me to teach me Corinthian customs. I was unmarried, so I should have acquired a woman guest from the Temple mountain for each of my guests. But I did not want to be part of such customs.
    Anyhow, I do not know what would have happened, because Hierex did his best, quietly and gradually, to train me to be the kind of master he wished to have. But it was court day again. Gallio, still with a hangover from the previous night, had hardly sat down and adjusted his toga properly when a crowd of Jews rushed up to him, dragging with diem two men who were also Jews. In the Jewish way, they all shouted at once until Gallio, after smiling for a while, said sharply that one of them should speak for the rest. After they had consulted together to decide on the charge, their leader stepped forward.
    “This man,” he said, “is misleading people into worshiping God in an unlawful manner.”
    I was depressed and frightened to find that even here, and as a member of the court too, I was to be involved in the quarrels of the Jews. I looked carefully at the accused man. He was nearly bald, his eyes burning and his ears large. He stood proudly upright in his worn goatskin cloak.
    As if in a dream I remembered I had seen him many years ago in my father’s house in Antioch. I was even more frightened then, for in Antioch he had caused so much trouble that the Jews who recognized Christ had preferred to send him away to sow dissension among Jews elsewhere.
    The man had already opened his mouth to begin his defense, but Gallio, guessing what was coming, signaled to him to be quiet and turned to the Jews.
    “If this were a matter of a crime or an evil deed, then I might have listened to you with patience,” he said. “But if you are disagreeing on your teaching and its name and your own laws, then those are your own troubles. I do not wish to sit in judgment on them.”
    He ordered the Jews to move away and turned to us.
    “If I gave the Jews my little finger,” he explained, “I should never hear the end of it.”
    But he did not rid himself of them quite so lightly as that. After the court session he again invited us to a meal, but he was distrait and sunk in thought. Afterwards he took me to one side.
    “I know that man the Jews wished to accuse,” he said confidentially. “He has lived in Corinth for a year and earns his living honesdy as a tentmaker. His name is Paul. They say he has changed his name to hide his past and taken a new name from a former governor of Cyprus, Sergius Paulus. His teaching made a deep impression on Sergius in his day and Sergius is by no means simple, although he did try predicting by the stars and letting a magician live with him. So Paul is not an insignificant man. I thought his piercing eyes looked right through me into another world as he stood before me so fearlessly.”
    “He’s the worst troublemaker among the Jews,” I said without thinking. “In Antioch in my childhood, he tried to drag my good father into the intrigues of the Jews.”
    “You must have been much too young at the time to understand his teachings,” Gallio remarked considerately. “Before he came to Corinth, he is said to have preached in the market in Athens. The Athenians took the trouble to listen to him and even said he might do so again. You can hardly be wiser than they.
    “In fact,” he went on, “I’d very much like to ask him here in secret sometime to find out properly about his teaching. But that might give rise to gossip and offend the rich Jews of Corinth. I have to keep myself strictly impartial. As far as I can make out, he has founded some kind of synagogue of his own alongside the Jewish synagogue, and he is pleasingly different from them in that he instructs anyone who cares to come, and also prefers Greeks to Jews.”
    Gallio had obviously thought a great deal on these matters for he continued to speak of them.
    “In Rome I did not believe that foolish story about the runaway slave called Christus,” he said. “We live in a time when all the ground beneath our thoughts is giving way. I cannot talk about the gods. In their traditional forms, they are only images which can amuse simple souls. But the teachers of wisdom cannot make man good or give him peace of mind either. We’ve seen this in the Stoics and the Epicureans. Perhaps this wretched Jew has really found some divine secret. Why else should his teaching provoke so much quarreling, hatred and envy among the Jews?”
    I need hardly repeat any more of Gallio’s broodings. But finally he gave me an order.
    “Go and find out about that man’s teaching, Minutus,” he said. “You’ve the best qualifications to do so, as you’ve known him since your childhood in Antioch. And also you are in general acquainted with the Jehovah of the Jews and their laws and customs. Your father is said to have been very successful in Antioch as a mediator between the Jews and the city council.”
    I seemed to have fallen into a trap and it was useless to object, for Gallio turned a deaf ear to all my protests.
    “You must overcome your prejudices,” he said. “You must be honest if you are to seek the truth, insofar as your duty permits you. You’ve plenty of time. There are worse ways of passing it than studying the wisdom of this Jewish savior of the world.”
    “But what if he gets me into his power with his magic?” I asked bitterly.
    But Gallio did not even consider my question worth answering.
    An order is an order. I had to carry it out to the best of my ability. It might be quite important to Gallio to be absolutely clear on what such a dangerous and influential rabble rouser preached. On the day of Saturn, I dressed in simple Greek clothes, found the Jews’ synagogue and went into the building next door. It was not a real synagogue but an inoffensive cloth dealer’s house which he had given up to the assembly Paul had founded.
    The reception room on the upper floor was full of simple people waiting with joyful expectation in their eyes. They greeted each other in a friendly way and I too was welcomed and no one asked my name. Most of them were craftsmen, small traders or trusted slaves, but there were also some old women wearing silver ornaments. Judging by their clothes, only a few of them were Jews.
    Paul arrived with several disciples. He was greeted with cries of homage as a messenger of the true God, and some women wept with joy when they saw him. He spoke in a loud, piercing voice and was so carried away with the conviction of his own words that it was like a hot wind blowing through the sweating crowd of listeners.
    His voice alone pierced me to the marrow. I tried to listen attentively and make some notes on a wax tablet, for at the beginning he referred to the Jewish holy scripts, showing by quoting from them that Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified in Jerusalem, in fact was the Messiah or Christus the prophets had predicted.
    It was interesting that he quite openly referred to his own past. He was undoubtedly a gifted man, for he said he had studied in the renowned philosophy school in his home town, Tarsus, and later in Jerusalem with famous teachers. In his youth he had soon been elected to the highest Jewish council. He said that he had been a passionate adherent to the laws, and a persecutor of the disciples of Jesus. He had even guarded the clothes of the stoners and in that way taken part in the first illegal execution of a member of the assembly of the poor. He had hunted, bound and dragged to court several followers of the new way and finally at his own request had been given authority to arrest the adherents of Nazareth who had fled from persecution to Damascus.
    But on the way to Damascus he had seen such an unearthly light that he had been blinded. Jesus himself had appeared to him, and since then he had changed. In Damascus, a man who had acknowledged Jesus, a certain Ananias, had laid his hands on him and given him back his sight, for Jesus of Nazareth wished to show him how much he must suffer to proclaim the name of Christ.
    And suffered he had. Many a time he had been flogged. Once he had been nearly stoned to death. He bore scars of Christ on his body, he said. All this the listeners had heard many times before, but they listened just as attentively and occasionally cried out with joy.
    Paul told them to look around and with their own eyes confirm that there were not many wise, powerful or important people among them. This he considered showed that God had chosen what on earth is simple and despised, to shame the wise men. God chose the foolish and the weak instead of the wise men, for he transformed the wisdom of the world into foolishness.
    He also spoke on the searching of the spirit and they who run races. And he talked of love, more impressively, I thought, than I have ever heard anyone else speak. Man should love his neighbor as himself, yes, to the extent that whatever he did for the good of another without love was of no benefit to him. He maintained explicitly that even if a person distributed all his possessions for the good of the poor and gave his own body for burning without feeling real love, then he was still nothing.
    This pronouncement pierced my mind to the depths. Gallio too had said that wisdom alone did not make man good. I began to brood on this and no longer listened carefully to his words which went over my head like the rustling of a stormy wind. He was undoubtedly talking in a state of ecstasy and went from one subject to another as the spirit put the words into his mouth. But he seemed to know what he was saying. In this he was different from the Christians I had met in Rome where one said one thing and another another. Everything I had heard before was as child’s prattle compared to Paul’s powerful eloquence.
    I tried to separate the main points in his teaching and I noted down several matters to dispute with him later in the Greek way. But it was difficult, for he whirled from one thing to another as if home by a wind. Even if within me I disagreed with him, I had to admit he was not an insignificant man.
    Finally everyone who was not baptized was dismissed, thus leaving his inner circle. Some people begged Paul to baptize them and lay his hands on their heads, but he refused firmly and told them to be baptized by their own teachers who had been given the gift of grace to do so. When he had first come to Corinth, he had made the mistake of baptizing some people, but had then heard them boasting that they had been baptized in the name of Paul and at the same time had shared in his spirit. Such twisted teaching he had no wish to spread, for he knew himself to be nothing.
    Sunk in my thoughts, I walked home and shut myself in my room. Naturally I did not believe what Paul had said. In fact I thought out how I could argue against him. But as a person and a human being, he aroused my interest. I was forced to admit that he must have experienced something inexplicable, as this experience had so completely changed his life.
    It was also to his credit that he did not strive for the favors and gifts of important and wealthy people, as the itinerant Isis priests and other visionaries usually did. The lowest slave, even a simple-minded person, seemed to be the same to him, if not more important, than a noble and wise man. Seneca taught that slaves too were human beings, but Seneca had no desire to mix with slaves because of this. He chose other society.
    I noticed in the end that whichever way I thought, I tried to find arguments against Paul rather than for him. There was a powerful spirit speaking in him, for I could not stand to one side and think coldly and clearly about his demented superstition and then with a laugh repeat it to Gallio. Reason told me that I could not feel such deep and obvious hostility to Paul’s absolute confidence if his thoughts had not made an impression on me.
    I tired of brooding and was again filled with a desire to drink from my mother’s old wooden goblet which my father valued so highly and which I had not touched for so long. I found it in my chest, poured some wine into it and drank. My room was nearly dark, but I lit no lamps. Suddenly it was as if my thoughts had lost all their foundations and all their roots.
    The rational philosophy of today denies man all hope. Man can choose a reasonable life of pleasure or a strickly disciplined life aimed at serving the State and the common good. An epidemic, a falling tile, or a hole in the ground can by chance put an end to man’s life. The wise man commits suicide if his life becomes intolerable. Plants, stones, animals and people are nothing but a blind meaningless game of atoms. It is as reasonable to be an evil man as a good one. Gods, sacrifices, omens, are only State-approved superstitions which satisfy women and simple people.
    There are of course men like Simon the magician and the Druids who, by developing certain spiritual sources, can put a man into a deathlike sleep or control weaker wills. But that power is within themselves and does not come from without. I am convinced of this, although the Druid himself may believe he has walked in the underworld and seen visions there.
    The wise man can with his words and by his own life set an example to others and by a deliberate death show that life and death are but trifles. But I do not think that a life of wisdom of this kind is much to strive for.
    As I sat in the darkness, my thoughts lost their foothold and in a strange way I experienced my mother’s merciful presence as I held the smooth goblet in my hand. I thought, too, of my father, who seriously believed that the king of the Jews had risen from the dead after crucifixion and said he had seen him when he and my mother had journeyed together in Galilee. Ever since I was a boy, I had been afraid he would disgrace himself in the company of decent people by expressing these lunatic sentiments.
    But what did the views of decent people or superiors matter to me if life was still without meaning? Of course it seems very grand to serve a kingdom whose aim is to create worldwide peace and give the world Roman law and order. But then, are good roads, fine aqueducts, mighty bridges and permanent stone houses an aim in life? Why am I alive, I, Minutus Lausus Manilianus, and why do I exist? I asked myself this and I am still asking this, here at this watering place where they are curing the disease of my blood, and to pass the time I am writing down my life for your sake, my son-you who have just received your man-toga.

    The next day I humbled myself and went to find Paul in the tent-makers’ alley to talk to him alone. He was, after all, a Roman citizen and not just a Jew. The elder of the guild knew at once whom I meant and laughed loudly.
    “You mean the learned Jew, do you?” he said. “The one who has abandoned his laws and is preaching a new faith, threatening the Jews that blood will come on their heads, and wishing that they’d not only get themselves circumcised but gelded too. A good man and a good craftsman. He doesn’t need much encouragement. He can preach at the loom if he wants to. I’ve had many a good laugh at his expense. His reputation brings us new customers, too. Do you want a new tent or a rainproof cloak?”
    As soon as I could get away from him, I went on down the dusty alley strewn with goat-hair and came to an open workshop where, to my surprise, I found the broken-nosed Aquila from Rome sitting beside Paul. His wife Prisca recognized me at once and gave a cry of pleasure, telling Paul my name and how I had once come to the assistance of the Christians in the fighting with the faithful Jews in Rome.
    “But that’s all over now,” Prisca went on hurriedly. “We very much regret the blind assurance which made us boast so. Now we’ve learned to turn the other cheek and pray for those who insult us.”
    She chattered on as before and her husband was just as silent as before, not even stopping his monotonous work to greet me. I asked them about their flight and how they were managing in Corinth. They could not complain, but Prisca wept at the thought of the dead she had left behind in the ditches on the roadside as they had left Rome.
    “But they received the immortal palm,” she said. “And they did not die with a curse on their lips but praised Jesus, who has saved them from their sins.”
    I did not answer, for she was but a silly woman who had done great harm to both her kin and the faithful Jews. But I turned respectfully to Paul.
    “I heard you preaching yesterday,” I said. “I have to render a thorough account of your way. So I have some counterarguments which I should like to discuss with you. We can’t do that here. Would you care to come to my house this evening for a meal? As far as I can make out, you have nothing to hide in your teaching nor does it prevent you from eating with a Roman.”
    To my surprise, Paul was not at all impressed by my invitation. With his worn expression and piercing eyes, he looked at me and said briefly that God’s wisdom reversed all arguments and made them foolish. He was not called to dispute but to bear witness for Jesus Christ, because of the revelation he had experienced.
    “But I’ve heard that you have spoken in the marketplace in Athens,” I protested. “You can’t have escaped disputes with the Athenians.”
    It seemed as if Paul did not particularly wish to be reminded of his appearance in Athens. He had probably been made to look foolish there. But he said that some people believed him, among them one of the judges at the city court. Whether they had really been convinced by this alien speaker or whether they had not wished to offend him out of sensitivity, I did not inquire.
    “But you could at least answer a few simple questions,” I said, “and presumably you have to eat like everyone else. I promise not to disturb your trend of thought with rhetorical objections. I shan’t dispute, but just listen.”
    Aquila and Prisca both urged him to accept my invitation and told him they knew nothing evil of me. During the confusion in Rome, I had accidentally taken part in the Christian love-feast. My father helped the poor and behaved like a godly man. Neither do I think Paul had any political suspicions of me.
    When I returned home, I arranged for the evening meal and looked around my house. In a strange way all my things looked alien to me. Hierex too, seemed alien to me, although I seemed to know him.. What did I know of the doorkeeper and the cook? I could not understand them by speaking to them, for they gave only the kind of answers they thought I liked to hear.
    I should have been content with my life. I had money, a good appearance, a position in the State service, excellent patrons and a healthy body. Most people would not reach the heights I had at my young age in all their lives. And yet I was not happy.
    Paul and his companions arrived as the evening stars were coming out, but he left his friends’ outside and came in by himself. As a courtesy to him, I had covered my household gods with a cloth, for I knew idols offended the Jews. I had Hierex light sweet-smelling beeswax candles in honor of my guest.
    After a simple vegetable course, I offered a meat course, explaining that he need not taste it if his teaching did not permit him to eat meat. Paul took some with a smile and said that he did not want to cause me any offense or even ask me where the meat had been bought. To Greeks he liked to be a Greek, to Jews a Jew. He also drank diluted wine but remarked that he would soon be making a promise for certain reasons.
    I did not want to trap him with either forbidden foods or artful questions. When we started talking, I tried to formulate my questions as carefully as possible. The most important thing from Gallio’s and Rome’s point of view was to find out what exactly his position was in relation to the Roman State and the common good.
    He assured me in all honesty that he usually advised everyone to obey the public authorities, to comply with law and order and to avoid causing offense.
    He did not set slaves against their masters? No. According to him, everyone should be content with his position on earth. A slave should submit to his master’s will and the master treat his servants well and remember that there is a Lord who is Lord of all.
    Did he mean the Emperor? No. He meant the living God, the creator of heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ, his son, who had promised to return to earth to sit in judgment on the living and the dead.
    For the time being I skirted around this delicate point and asked him what instructions he gave to those he succeeded in converting. This he had evidently meditated on a great deal, but he contented himself by saying, “Support the afflicted, take care of the weak, show forbearance to everyone. Never avenge evil with evil, but strive to do good to each other. Always be joyful. Pray unceasingly. Give thanks for every moment.”
    He also said that he told the brothers to lead a quiet life and to work with their hands. It was not their business to reproach the adulterers, revilers, drunkards, extortioners and idol-worshipers. Then they would be forced to leave the world themselves. But if someone who had joined them showed themselves to be an adulterer or reviler or drunkard or extortioner or idol-worshiper, then he must be reproved. If he did not better himself, then one would not associate with him or even eat in his presence.
    “You don’t judge me then,” I said with a smile, “although I am in your eyes an idol-worshiper, adulterer and drunkard?”
    “You are outside,” he said. “It is not my business to judge you. We judge only those who are inside. God will judge you.”
    He said it so seriously, as a definite fact, that I trembled inwardly. Although I had made up my mind not to offend him, I could not resist putting a malicious question to him.
    “When do we stand before this day of judgment, according to the information you have?” I said.
    Paul said that it was not his business to prophesy either. The day of the Lord would come like a thief in the night. I saw that he was fairly certain that the coming of the Lord would happen in his lifetime.
    Paul rose to his feet suddenly.
    “The Lord will descend from heaven and those who have died in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive will be carried there with them to meet the Lord among the clouds and then we shall all be in the presence of the Lord.”
    “And the judgment then,” I asked, “of which you talk so much?”
    “The Lord Jesus will appear in a flame of fire with his celestial angels,” he said, “and avenge himself on those who do not recognize God and do not obey the message of our Lord Jesus. As a punishment they will be afflicted with eternal perdition away from the countenance of our Lord and the light of his power.”
    I had to admit that he did not attempt to win my’favor but starkly said what he meant. His words moved me, for he was nothing if not honest in the fervor of his belief. Without my asking him, he told me about angels and the powers of evil, about his journeys in different countries and the authority he had been given by the supporters in Jerusalem. More than anything else, I was surprised that he showed no desire to convert me. In the end, I did not listen to him so much as submit myself to the power and assurance which seemed to speak from him.
    I could feel his presence quite clearly. I smelled the pleasing scent of candles, good food, incense and clean goat-hair. It was good to be in his company. Nevertheless, in a kind of dream, I tried to separate myself from it. I jerked out of my drowsiness and cried, “How can you think you know everything so much better than other people?”
    He spread out his hands and replied with all simplicity, “I am God’s fellow worker.”
    And he was not blaspheming when he said it; he was quietly but absolutely convinced of the truth of his words. I rose swiftly with my hand to my forehead and walked up and down the room as if bewitched. If it were really as he said, then here was the opportunity of my life to find the meaning of life.
    “I do not understand what you are saying,” I admitted in a trembling voice, “but lay those strong hands of yours on my head, if that is usual among you, so that your spirit shall come to me and I shall understand.”
    But he did not touch me. Instead he promised to pray for me so that Jesus should be proclaimed to me and become my Christ, for the time was short and this world already perishing. When he had gone, everything he had said seemed sheer lunacy. I cried out aloud. I reproached myself for gullibility. I kicked the furniture over and smashed the clay bowls on the floor.
    Hierex came rushing in. When he saw my condition, he called in the doorkeeper to help. Together they struggled to put me to bed. But I wept loudly and from my mouth came a mad cry which was not my own. It was as if some alien power had shaken my whole body and broken out of me in the form of this terrible scream.
    At last I fell asleep from exhaustion. In the morning my head and the whole of my body ached, so I stayed in bed and wearily took the bitter medicine Hierex had mixed.
    “Why do you receive that Jewish magician?” he said. “Nothing good comes of the Jews. They have a capacity for confusing sensible people.”
    “He’s no magician,” I said. “Either he’s mad or else he’s the most spiritually powerful person I’ve ever met. I’m very much afraid he’s an intimate of an inexplicable god.”
    Hierex looked at me in a troubled way.
    “I was born and brought up a slave,” he said, “so I’ve learned to judge life from a worm’s point of view. But I’m also older than you, have traveled widely, experienced good and evil, and learned to know people. If you like, I’ll go and listen to your Jew and then tell you honestly what I think of him.”
    His loyalty touched me. I thought it would be useful to know what Hierex in his own way thought of Paul.
    “Yes, go to them,” I said. “Try to understand them and listen to Paul’s teaching.”
    On my part I wrote a short report on Paul to Gallio, making it as formal as I could.
    Minutus Lausus Manilianus on Paul:
    I heard his teaching in his followers’ synagogue. I questioned him alone. He spoke openly. He did not try to gain my favor. He hid nothing.
    He is a Jew of Jewish parents. Studied in Tarsus, then in Jerusalem. Formerly persecuted the disciples and followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Experienced a revelation. In Damascus, recognized Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Stayed in the wilderness. Quarreled in Antioch with Simon the fisherman, Jesus’ chief disciple. Later reconciled. Received the right to proclaim Jesus as Christ to the uncircumcised.
    Journeyed in the eastern provinces. Often punished. Tactics: First visits the Jewish synagogues. Proclaims Jesus the Messiah. Is beaten. Converts those listeners who take an interest in the Jewish God. Circumcision is not demantled. The Jewish laws need not be obeyed. He who believes that Jesus is Christ is pardoned and receives eternal life.
    No rabble-rouser. Does not encourage slave rebellion. Encourages quiet life. Does not abuse others, only his own people. Powerful personal authority. Affects most those already infected by Judaism.
    Note: Convinced that Jesus of Nazareth will one day return to judge the whole world, when God’s wrath will punish all others. So in some ways an enemy of humanity.
    Politically quite harmless from Rome’s point of view. Causes splits and quarrels among the Jews. In this way, to Rome’s advantage.
    I found nothing reprehensible in this man.’
    I went to Gallio with my brief report. After reading it, he stole a glance at me and his chin trembled a little. “You are very laconic,” he said.
    “That’s just a pro memoria,” I said, annoyed. “If you like, I can tell you more about the man.”
    “What is his divine secret?” asked Gallio wearily., “I don’t know,” I said impetuously.
    Then I bowed my head, trembled, and went on: “If I were not a Roman, I would perhaps put aside my tribune’s insignia, leave my post and follow him.”
    Gallio gave me a searching look, straightened up and raised his chin. “I made a mistake sending you to find out,” he said curdy. “You’re still too young.”
    Then he shook his head dejectedly.
    “Yes, exactly,” he said. “The wisdom of the world and the pleasures of life have not yet corroded you. Are you ill that you tremble so? We have excellent plumbing here, but occasionally one drinks bad water. Then one gets a fever called Corinthian fever. I’ve had it myself. But don’t be afraid. I don’t think their Jesus of Nazareth will come to judge mankind in our time.”
    Nevertheless, I think supernatural things interested Gallio, for he liked talking about them occasionally. What Roman is wholly free of superstition? But to change the subject, he invited me to drink wine with him, called in his wife to join us and began to read to us a play he had written and worked on in Latin from a Greek original. He also read some Greek verses in comparison to show how well, given the right touch, our language accommodates itself to the Greek rhythms.
    The play was about the Trojan war. It should have interested me, for the Trojans, through Aeneas, were the forefathers of the Romans. But after drinking some wine, I happened to say, “Written Greek is beautiful, but today it rings strangely dead in my ears. Paul spoke the living language of the people.”
    Gallio looked at me with compassion.
    “One can only write the crudest kind of satire in the people’s language,” he said, “and then the language itself has a comic effect. Just as the Ostian actors in Rome use the language of the marketplace. Philosophy in spoken language! You must be out of your mind, Minutus.”
    Suddenly he turned scarlet in the face and firmly rolled up his manuscript.
    “It’s time those Jewish fumes were blown out of your head,” he said. “You’ve not been to Athens yet. There’s a border dispute in Delphi which needs someone on the spot. And there’s trouble in Olympia over the program for the Games. You can go here and now. My lecturer at the chancery will give you all the information you need and also a letter of attorney.”
    The lovely Helvia stroked Gallio’s forehead and fat cheek with the tips of her fingers and intervened.
    “Why do you send such a talented youth on such a strenuous journey?” she said. “The Greeks will bring their disputes to you in time. This is Corinth. Friendship with a mature woman would develop the boy more than riding unnecessarily all over the place.”
    She looked past Gallio at me with smiling eyes and pulled up her mantle, which had slipped down from her white shoulder. Had I been more experienced, I could have described the artistic folds of her mantle, her elaborate hair style and the rare Indian jewelry she was wearing. I did not stop to stare but leaped to my feet, stood to attention and replied, “As you command, Proconsul.”
    In this way, Paul sowed dissension between me and Gallio, too. I left my house in Hierex’s hands and rode from Corinth with a few soldiers from the cohort and a Greek guide.
    There are far too many excellent descriptions of Delphi, Olympia and Athens for there to be any need for me to go into their incomparable sights. Not even Rome had hitherto succeeded in plundering them of more than a fraction of their art treasures, though it must be admitted that we have done our best ever since Sulla to enrich Rome at the expense of Greek treasures.
    But however much I strained my body by looking at all the sights, the beauty I saw seemed to mean nothing to me. Neither the painted marble, nor the ivories, nor the gold in the loveliest sculpture in existence seemed to touch my heart.
    I found out all about the boundary dispute in Delphi. For reasons of justice, I accepted invitations from both sides. In Delphi, I was able to see Pythia in her delirium with my own eyes. Her priests made out from her incomprehensible words one or two flattering personal predictions for me. I cannot even repeat them here.
    Near Olympia lies some votive lands, and a temple which Commantler Xenophon more than four hundred years ago dedicated to Artemis. A tenth of the harvest from the area was once used for the inhabitants’ harvest festival. Anyone who cared te could pick fruit from the ancient groves of fruit trees.
    But over the years, many landmarks had gone and the temple was sadly decayed. In the time of the Pompeians, even the goddess statue itself was taken back to Rome. The people who lived there were complaining that the man who had taken the votive lands into his possession no longer fulfilled the conditions demantled. They had carefully kept a stone carving on which one could still read:
    This place is dedicated to Artemis. He who enjoys possession of it must every year offer a tenth. From the residue, the maintenance of the temple must he found. Should anyone neglect this, the goddess will remember it.
    At the meeting of the people, some old men told of their memories from times gone by, when wine, flour and sweetmeats were distributed at the Artemis feast. Everyone had the hunting rights on the sacred land. I let them speak to a finish. The owner of the land finally promised that he would preserve the custom of the harvest festival but the maintenance of the temple was beyond his capacity. So I pronounced my judgment.
    “This is not for Rome to decide,” I said. “This you must settle with the goddess, as it is written here on this stone tablet.”
    The verdict pleased no one. While I was in Olympia, I heard that the owner had fallen down a crevasse while deer hunting, so I suppose
    Artemis was collecting her dues. He had no direct heirs, so the inhabitants of the district harmoniously shared out the votive land among themselves. I put this incident in the back of my mind to tell Claudius if I ever met him again. The Emperor liked old memorial tablets and could easily have the temple repaired.
    At last I arrived in Athens. As was the custom, I removed my armor at the city gates, put on a white mantle and a wreath on my head, and went on foot into the city, accompanied only by my Greek guide. I sent the soldiers on leave to Piraeus where they could amuse themselves under the protection of the Roman garrison at the port.
    It is true, as I had been told before, that one can see more idols than people in Athens. There are fine buildings erected by eastern kings and, at the forum, philosophers walk about with their pupils from morning to night. In every alleyway there is a souvenir shop selling mostly cheap articles, but also expensive small copies of the temples and idols.
    After paying the official visit of greeting to the City Hall and the Areopagus council, I went to the best inn and met there several young men from Rome who were finishing their education in Athens before beginning in office. Some of them praised their teachers, others listed famous Hetaira names and their prices, and eating places where I needs must go.
    I was plagued by guides who wanted to show me the sights of Athens, but after walking around the marketplace for a few days and listening to different teachers, I became known and was left in peace. As far as I could make out, all the philosophers in Athens were competing with one another at teaching the art of acquiring peace of mind. They spoke with fire and wit, using striking metaphors, and liked disputing among themselves.
    Among them were one or two long-haired philosophers in goat-skin clothes. These itinerant teachers boasted of having traveled in India or Ethiopia and studying secret wisdoms. They told such impossible lies about their journeys that they made their listeners double up with laughter. Some of the coarsest of them have been banished by the Areopagus council, but in general anyone could stand there and talk about anything as long as he did not insult the gods or become involved in politics.
    I ate and drank and tried to enjoy my life. It was pleasant to sit in the sun on a warm marble bench after a good meal and watch the changing shadows of the passers-by on the marketplace’s marble paving-stones. Attic anecdotes are undeniably sharp. In a dispute, the one who has the laughs on his side always wins, but this Attic laughter seemed to me joyless and the thoughts behind it did not penetrate deeply into my mind as they ought to have done if they had been true wisdom. It seemed to me that what was being learned in Athens these days was a refined way of life to counteract the Roman coarseness, rather than genuine philosophy.
    From sheer defiance, I thought I would stay and study in Athens until Proconsul Gallio sent for me to return to Corinth. But the books in the libraries did not captivate me, such was my state of mind, nor did I find a teacher whose pupil I wished to be. Day after day I became more despondent, feeling a complete stranger in Athens. Occasionally I ate and drank with young Romans simply to be able to speak crystal clear Latin instead of the babbling Greek.
    Once I went with them to one of the famous Hetairas and listened to the flute music and watched the displays of dancing and acrobatics. I believed our smiling hostess when she said she could raise sensuality to a fine art. But she did not touch me and no one visiting her was forced to study the arts of the senses with the help of her trained slaves. She herself preferred to converse rather than go to bed with her guests. She demantled such an enormous sum that only the richest debauched old men could pay it. So she was so rich that she did not wish to tempt us young Romans to waste our money unnecessarily.
    “Perhaps my school is only for those who are already decrepit,” she said to me in the end, “though I’m proud of my art. You are young. You know what hunger and thirst are. Resinous wine and poor man’s bread taste better in your hungry mouth than Cypriot wine and flamingo tongues in a mouth that is weary. If you fall in love with a young maiden, the sight of a bare shoulder alone would dazzle your senses more than fulfillment of your desire. Smooth out that frown and be glad of your life, because you are still young.”
    ‘Would you rather tell me about the divine secrets?” I suggested. “You serve Aphrodite with your art?”
    She looked thoughtfully at me with her beautifully darkened eyes.
    “Aphrodite is a capricious and merciless but also wonderful goddess,” she said. “He who strives for her favors most eagerly and sacrifices most to her, remains unsatisfied forever. She was born from the foam of the sea and is herself like the foam which bubbles and bursts. She herself dissolves into air when anyone avariciously grasps at her faultless limbs.”
    She too frowned a little as she raised both her hands and absently stared at her scarlet nails.
    “I can give you an example of her caprice,” she went on. “One of us is a woman who is still young enough to be without a wrinkle or a blemish. She has been a model for sculptors and has a great reputation as such. The goddess put it into her head that she must succeed in seducing all the famous philosophers who come to Athens to teach the art of virtue and self-control. In her vanity, she wishes to disgrace their wisdom and make them weep in her arms. She cracked many a hard nut by listening humbly to their teachings for evening after evening, and the philosophers praised her as the wisest of all women they had met, for she knew how to listen to them so attentively. But she was not after their wisdom. She used all her arts to make them stumble in their virtue. As soon as she succeeded, she drove them away and would not see them again, although some crawled on their hands and knees outside her door and one of them took his own life on her threshold. But some time ago, about six months or so, an itinerant Jew came to Athens.”
    “A Jew!” I cried, leaping to my feet. My head prickled as if my hair were standing on end. The Hetaira misunderstood my surprise and went on.
    “Yes, I know,” she said, “the Jews are powerful magicians. But this one was different. He spoke in the marketplace. He was questioned about his teaching by the Areopagus council, as is usual. He was a hook-nosed man, bald and bandy, but he was full of fire. The woman I am speaking of was seized with a wild desire to put the Jew’s teaching to shame too. She invited him to her house with other guests to listen to him, dressed herself demurely and covered her head to honor him. But whatever she did, she could not even tempt him, so she gave up and began to listen to him seriously. After he had left Athens, she became deeply depressed, shut up her house and now sees only the few Athenians who were impressed by the Jew’s teachings. The philosopher who can’t find a follower or two in Athens doesn’t exist. That was how the goddess took her revenge on her for her vanity, although she had brought great honor to Aphrodite. On my part, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Jew was not a genuine learned man but was bewitched by the goddess herself to resist all seductions. The poor woman is still so bitter over her humiliation that she threatens to leave our association and live a simple life on her savings.”
    She laughed and gave me a look which was meant to encourage me to join in the laughter. But I felt no desire to do so. So she grew serious again.
    “Youth flies swiftly past,” she admitted, “and beauty fades, but the true power of enchantment can be retained into old age with the favor of the goddess. I have an example of this in the woman who was until recently our oldest member and who at seventy could charm any youth.”
    ‘What is her name and where can I find her?” I asked.
    “She is already ashes. The goddess allowed her to die of a heart attack in her own bed as she was practicing her art for the last time,” said the Hetaira.
    “I don’t mean her, but the woman whom the Jew converted,” I said.
    “Her name is Damaris. You can easily ask the way to her house. But I told you, she is ashamed of her misfortune and doesn’t receive guests anymore. What is wrong with my house?”
    I remembered what courtesy demantled, praised her house, her entertainment, her sweet-smelling wine and her incomparable beauty, until she calmed down and forgot her indignation. After a suitable interval I rose, left my gift on a tray and went back to the inn in the most wretched state of mind. It was like a curse, that not even in Athens could I rid myself of Paul the Jew. Naturally he was the man of whom she had spoken.
    I could not sleep for a long time. I listened to the night sounds of the inn until dawn crept into my room through the gaps in the shutters, and I wished I were dead or had never been born. I had nothing to grumble about. I was more succcssful than most of my contemporaries. I was healthy and whole, too, except for a slight limp, and that did not stop me doing anything unless I wanted to be a priest in some Roman collegium. Why had all happiness been taken from me? Why had Claudia so cruelly used my credulity? What made me despair so at meeting Paul?
    Finally I fell into a deep sleep and slept until midday. When I awoke, I knew I had had a wonderful dream but I could not remember it. In contrast to my thoughts in the night, I had been filled with the knowledge that it was no chance matter that I had heard of the Hetaira Damaris, but that it contained some meaning. This conviction pleased me so much that I ate hungrily, went to a barber and had my hair curled. I also had my Greek mantle folded artistically.
    I found Damaris’ handsome house quite easily. The door knocker was a Corinthian bronze lizard. I knocked many times. A man passing by made an indecent gesture and shook his head to show that I was waiting to no purpose. Finally the door was opened by a tearful slave-girl. She tried to close it again but I put my foot in and said the first thing that came into my head.
    “In Corinth I met Paul the Jew. I wish to talk to your mistress. I want nothing else.”
    The girl reluctandy let me into a room filled with colored statues, decorated couches and eastern tapestries. After a short while, Damaris came swiftly in, half-dressed and barefooted. Her face shone with glad expectation and she welcomed me with eager gestures of her hands.
    “Who are you, stranger?” she asked. “Have you really a greeting for me from Paul the messenger?”
    I tried to explain that I had met Paul some time ago in Corinth and had had a long talk with him, and the conversation had made such an impression on me that I could not forget it. When I had heard that Damaris had been in difficulties because of the teachings of the wandering Jew, I wanted to meet her and talk about the matter.
    As I was speaking, I looked at Damaris and saw that she was a woman past the best years of her life. She must have been very beautiful and her slim figure was still faultless. Temptingly dressed and skillfully painted, her hair well brushed, in a dim light she would have made an impression on any man.
    She sat down wearily on a couch and signed to me to do the same. She must have noticed my scrutiny, because she put her hand to her hair, as women do, adjusted her clothes and pulled her bare feet under the folds of her mantle. But more than that she did not do. Her eyes were wide open as she stared at me. Suddenly I felt content in her company. I smiled.
    “That terrible Jew,” I said, “makes me feel like a rat in a trap. Is it the same with you, Damaris? Let’s both think of a way of opening the trap and getting our happiness back again.”
    She smiled too, but raised her hand in a defensive gesture.
    “Why are you afraid?” she said. “Paul is the messenger of the risen Christ and spreads the word of joy. I did not know the taste of true happiness in my life until I met him.”
    “Was it really you who made the wisest of men fall?” I cried in surprise. “You talk as though you were out of your mind.”
    “My old friends think I am out of my mind,” she admitted unhesitatingly. “But I’d rather be out of my mind because of his teaching than continue my former life. He looked straight through me in quite a different way from that of the lewd white-bearded philosophers. I was ashamed of my earlier self. Through his Lord I have been forgiven my sins. I journey on the new way with my eyes closed as if the spirit were guiding me.”
    “If that is so,” I said curtly, “then we’ve nothing to say to each other.”
    But she kept me there, covering her eyes with her hand.
    “Don’t go,” she said. “You were meant to come. Something has hurt your heart. Otherwise you would hardly have come. If you like, I’ll introduce you to the brothers who listened to him and believed in the message of joy.”
    This was how I came to know Damaris and some Greeks who used to come the back way to her house in the evenings to discuss Paul and the new teaching. From the start they had been tempted to the synagogue by their curiosity about the Jewish god. They had also read the Jewish holy scripts. The most learned of them was Dionysius, a judge on the Areopagus council who had officially spoken with Paul on his teaching.
    To be honest, Dionysius spoke so learnedly and in such an involved way that not even his friends fully understood him, much less fr But he probably meant well with his expositions at our meetings. Damaris listened to him with an absent smile on her face, just as she had probably listened to the other wise men.
    After the discussion, Damaris offered us a simple meal and we used to break bread together and drink wine in the name of Christ, for Paul had taught them to do that. But even to a simple meal like this, the Athenians had to give fourfold import. It was Both material and symbolic, morally elevating and a mystical striving toward communion with Christ and a mutual brotherhood between the partakers.
    As we talked, I usually looked at Damaris. After the meal I was glad to kiss her, as the Christian custom demands. I had never seen a woman behave so charmingly and yet so naturally as she did. Every movement she made was beautiful and her voice was so lovely that one listened to the tone of it rather than her words. Whatever she did, she did so beautifully that it was sheer pleasure to watch her. Pleasure turned to heartwarming joy as I kissed her soft lips in friendship.
    Paul seemed to have given the Greeks some hard nuts to crack. They genuinely enjoyed their discussions. They believed implicitly in Paul, but their own knowledge impelled them to certain reservations. Bewitched by Damaris, I contented myself with just looking at her and allowed the words to pass me by.
    They admitted that innermost in every person lies a longing for
    God’s clarity, but then they began to dispute about whether this same longing was to be found also in stones, plants, animals and in all higher developments of original forms. Dionysius said that Paul possessed a surprising amount of secret knowledge on the spiritual powers, but seemed to believe that he himself possessed even greater knowledge of the mutual order and rank of the spiritual powers. To me, such talk was like running water.
    I made a habit of bringing a little present for Damaris, flowers or preserved fruit, a cake or pure violet honey from Hymettus. She received my gifts looking straight at me with her clear experienced eyes, so that I felt young and clumsy compared to her. I soon noticed that she was constantly in my thoughts and that I was only waiting for those moments when I could go to her again.
    I think that during our conversations she taught me more by her behavior than by what she said. Naturally the moment came when I was forced to admit that I was blindly in love with her. I longed for her, her presence, her touch and her kiss, more than anything I had ever longed for before. My earlier love affairs seemed quite insignificant compared with what I could find in her arms. It was as if everything within me had been burned to ashes by thinking about her.
    I was appalled at myself. Was this then my judgment, that I should be in love for the rest of my life with a Hetaira who was twenty years older than myself, conscious of all the evil she had experienced? When I realized the truth, I should have liked to Bee from Athens but could no longer do so. I understood the wise men who had sighed for her, and I also understood the philosopher who had committed suicide on her threshold when he had seen the hopelessness of his desire.
    I could not flee. I had to go to her. When we again sat together and I looked at her, my lips trembled and hot tears of desire rose in my eyes.
    “Damaris,” I whispered. “Forgive me. I’m afraid I love you beyond all reason.”
    Damaris looked at me with her clear eyes, put out her hand and brushed my hand with the tips of her fingers. No more was needed to send a terrible shudder rushing through my whole body, and I heard myself give a sobbing sigh.
    “I was afraid of this too,” said Damaris. “I have seen it coming. At first it was an innocent cloud on the horizon, but now it is a black thunderstorm flashing inside you. I should have sent you away in time. But I am only a woman, despite everything.”
    She rested her chin on her hand to smooth out the wrinkles on her throat and stared straight ahead.
    “This always happens,” she said sadly. “The mouth dries up, the tongue trembles and tears come into the eyes.”
    She was right. My tongue was trembling in my dry mouth so that I could not say a single word. I threw myself down on my knees in front of her and tried to put my arms around her. But she turned lightly away from me and said, “Remember that I have been offered a thousand gold pieces for a single night. Once a newly rich man sold a silver mine because of me and had to begin his life all over again from poverty.”
    “I can get a thousand gold pieces,” I promised, “yes, two thousand if you give me time to speak to the bankers.”
    “Sometimes a violet has been enough, if I’ve taken a liking to a handsome youth,” she said. “But we shall not talk about that now. I want no gift from you. I shall give you one myself. That gift is the inconsolable knowledge which all my experience tells me, that physical pleasure is a torture, that it is no real satisfaction, but constantly rouses a desire for an even more terrible satisfaction. Plunging into physical love is like throwing oneself onto red-hot charcoal. My fire is extinguished. I shall never again light the sacrificial flame for someone else’s downfall. Don’t you see that I am ashamed of my former life?”
    “You touched my hand with the tips of your fingers,” I whispered, my head bowed and the tears from my eyes falling onto the marble floor.
    “That was wrong,” admitted Damaris. “But I wanted to touch you so that you would never forget me. Minutus, my dearest, desire means so very much more than fulfillment. That is a painful but wonderful truth. Believe me, Minutus my dear, if we part now we shall remember nothing but good of each other, and then we’ll never think evil of one another. I have found a new way. Perhaps your way will one day lead to the same eternal happiness as mine.”
    But I did not want to understand her.
    “Don’t preach at me, woman,” I cried, in a voice hoarse with desire. “I have promised to pay whatever you want.”
    Damaris stiffened and gazed at me steadily for a moment. Then she slowly turned very pale and said disdainfully, “As you wish then. Come back tomorrow evening so that I have time to prepare. And don’t blame me afterwards.”
    Her promise made my head reel, although the words had an ominous ring to them. I left with trembling knees and, consumed with impatience, I wandered about the city, climbed up to the Acropolis and looked at the wine-dark sea to make the time go by. The following day, I went to the baths and loosened my limbs with exercises in the gymnasium, although every violent movement sent a consuming flame flaring through my body at the thought of Damaris.
    At last the dove-gray dusk fell and the evening stars came out. I knocked hard on Damaris’ door, but no one came to open it. My disappointment was overwhelming as I thought she had changed her mind and broken her promise. Then I felt the door and noticed to my delight that it was not locked, so I went in and saw that the reception room was lit up.
    But my nose met an unpleasant odor. The couch was covered with a ragged coverlet. The lamps had sooted the walls. The smell of stale incense was suffocating. I looked incomprehendingly around the formerly so beautiful room, but then banged impatiently on the gift tray. The sound rang through the whole house. A moment later, Damaris came into the room with her feet dragging, and I stared at her in horror. It was not the Damaris I knew.
    She had smeared her lips stridently, her hair was tangled and untidy like a harbor girl’s, and she was dressed in a ragged gown which smelled of wine and vomit. Around her eyes she had drawn terrible black rings and with the same brush emphasized every line in her face, so that it was the face of a depraved, decrepit old crone.
    “Here I am, Minutus. Your Damaris,” she said dully. “Here I am as you would have me. Take me then. Five copper pieces will be enough in payment.”
    I understood what she meant. All the strength left my body and I fell to my knees in front of her, bowing my head to the floor and weeping over my impotent desire.
    “Forgive me, Damaris, my dearest,” I said at last.
    “You see then, Minutus,” she said in a gentler voice. “That was what you wanted to do to me. That was what you wanted to bring me down to. It is the same thing, whether it happens in a sweet-scented bed or among stinking pigs and urine with my back against the wall down at the harbor.”
    I wept my disappointment out of me with my head on her lap, no longer desiring her. She stroked my head consolingly and whispered tender words to me. Finally she left me, went away and washed her face, put on clean clothes and came back with her hair brushed. Her face was alight with such pleasure that I had to smile back with trembling lips.
    “Thank you, my dearest Minutus,” she said. “At the last moment you understood, although you had the power to trample me back down into my past. All my life I shall thank you for your goodness, for not taking away the happiness I had reached. One day you’ll understand that my happiness in Christ is more wonderful than any earthly happiness.”
    We sat hand in hand for a long time and talked like brother and sister, or more like mother and son. Carefully I tried to explain to her that perhaps only what we see with our eyes is real and everything else nothing else but illusive games of imagination. But Damaris just looked at me with her softly shining eyes.
    “My mood alternates between deepest despondency and ecstatic happiness,” she said, “but in my best moments I come to a rejoicing which surpasses all earthly boundaries. That is my grace, my truth and my mercy. I need neither believe nor understand anything else.”
    When I returned to the inn, still paralyzed by my disappointment, knowing neither what to believe nor what to hope for, I found one of the Pannonian soldiers from my escort waiting for me. He was dressed in a dirty cloak and had no sword. I could imagine how he had crept in terror past the innumerable idols and statues of Athens, super-stitiously terrified of the world-famous omniscience of the Athenians. When he saw me he at once fell to his knees.
    “Forgive me for disobeying your express command, Tribune,” he cried. “But my friends and I cannot stand the life in the port any longer. Your horse is pining from sorrow and has thrown us every time we’ve tried to exercise it as you said. “We keep quarreling over the provisions money with the harbor garrison. But most of all it is the cursed Attics who rob us, so that we are like trussed sheep in their hands although we’re hardened to swindlers in Corinth. The worst one is a Sophist who has fleeced us to our bare bones by proving to each one of us quite convincingly that Achilles can never defeat a tortoise at running. We used to laugh at the conjurors in Corinth, who hid a gaudy bead under three wine mugs and let people guess which one of them it was under. But this terrible Attic is driving us mad, for who wouldn’t bet that Achilles could run faster than a tortoise? But he divides the distance in half, and then in half again, and so on and so on and proves that Achilles has always a little bit left to go and cannot get there before the tortoise. We ourselves tried racing against a tortoise and of course beat it easily, but we could not find fault with his evidence, although we hunted him out and laid bets with him again. Lord, in the name of all the Eagles of Rome, take us back to Corinth before we go out of our minds.”
    His flood of complaints did not give me a chance to say a thing. When he had finished, I reprimantled him sternly for his conduct but did not attempt to solve the tortoise riddle for him, for I was not in a mood even to be capable of it. Finally I let him take my luggage on his back, setded my bill at the inn and left Athens without saying farewell to anyone, and in such a hurry that I forgot at the wash two tunics which I never saw again.
    We left Piraeus in such a state of despondency that it took us three days to do a stretch I could have done alone in a single day. We stayed overnight in Eleusis and Megara. The men, however, cheered up so much that they were singing noisily when we eventually arrived at Corinth.
    I left them with the senior centurion at the barracks. Commantler Rubrius received me with his gown wet with wine and a vine-leaf wreath crookedly perched on his head. He was not entirely clear who I was, for he kept asking me my name. He explained his absentmindedness away by saying he was an old man and was suffering from the aftereffects of a skull injury received in Pannonia, and was now just waiting to be pensioned off.
    Then I went to the Proconsulate, and Gallio’s secretary told me that the inhabitants of Delphi had appealed to the Emperor over their land dispute and had paid the appeal fee. The people who lived on Artemis’ votive land near Olympia had on their part sent a written complaint that I had insulted the goddess and thus caused the owner’s death. This they had done to save their own skins, after sharing out the votive lands between them and letting the temple fall into disrepair. There had been no report from Athens on my conduct there.
    I was despondent, but Gallio received me kindly, embracing me and asking me at once to share his meal.
    “You must be full to the brim with Athenian wisdom,” he said, “but let us talk about the affairs of Rome.”
    As we ate he told me that his brother Seneca had written to say that the young Nero was daily developing and conducted himself so respectfully toward the senators and knights that they all called him the delight and joy of humanity. Claudius had married him to his own eight-year-old daughter Octavia, whom he had had by Messalina, in order to please his dear Agrippina even more.
    Legally speaking, this marriage constituted incest, for Claudius had adopted Nero as his son, but this legal objection had been set aside by a senator who had kindly adopted Octavia before the wedding.
    Britannicus did not show the same signs of development as Nero. He was often ill, usually stayed in his own rooms in Palatine and was cold toward his stepmother. The one-armed old warrior Burrus had been appointed sole commantler of the Praetorians. Burrus was an old friend of Seneca’s and held Agrippina in great esteem in her capacity of the daughter of the great Germanicus.
    “The Emperor is well,” said Gallio, glancing at his letter and at the same time spilling wine from his goblet onto the floor. “He behaves as majestically as before and suffers occasionally from a harmless throat burn. The most important financial news is that the harbor in Ostia is complete and the grain ships can now be unloaded there. Millions of gold pieces have been buried in the mud and sandbanks of Ostia, but that means that Rome need never again fear disturbances because of delayed grain supplies. Once a crowd of angry citizens crushed Claudius so hard against a wall that he had the fright of his life. The price of seed from Egypt and Africa will fall and it will no longer pay to grow grain in Italy. The most farsighted senators have already gone over to catde breeding and are selling their field-slaves abroad.”
    As Gallio talked on in his fatherly way, my own anxiety dissolved and I realized that I need not fear a reprimand for my delay in Athens. He looked searchingly at me nevertheless, as he went on talking in the same light tone of voice.
    “You are pale and your eyes are blank,” he said. “But studying in Athens has confused many other honorable Roman youths. I have heard that you have received instruction from a clever woman. Such things arc naturally physically strenuous and also somewhat expensive. I hope you are not up to your neck in debt. Do you know what, Minutus? A little sea air would do you good.”
    Before I had time to make any explanations, he had raised his hand in warning to mc and said with a smile, “Your private life has nothing to do witli me. The important thing is that young Nero and the lovely Agrippina greet you warmly through my brother. Nero has missed you. One cannot do more than praise Rome’s Goddess of Fortune that such a strong-minded and truly imperial woman as Agrippina is standing at Claudius’ side, sharing his burdens. I understand you sent Agrippina a beautiful Corinthian bronze goblet as a gift from here. She is pleased with your attentiveness.”
    For a moment my mind was filled with longing for Rome, because life there seemed simpler and bound to a sensible routine. But at the same time I knew I could not rid myself of my troubles simply by changing my abode. My dilemma made me sigh heavily. Gallio smiled absently.
    “I understand you’ve quarreled with Artemis on your journey,” he went on. “It would be wise if you personally took an offering to her to the temple in Ephesus. I have reason to send a confidential letter to the Proconsul in Asia. When you meet him yourself, you should at the same time tell him of Nero’s incomparable talents, his humble conduct in the Senate and about how wisely Agrippina is bringing him up. Nero’s marriage to Octavia has a certain political significance which perhaps you will understand if you think about it. Of course they don’t live together yet, for Octavia is only a child.”
    But my head was as if full of mist, so all I could do was to nod foolishly in reply. So Gallio enlarged on the point.
    “Between ourselves, both Britannicus’ and Octavia’s origins are, to say the least of it, suspect because of Messalina’s reputation. But Claudius regards them as his own children and legally they are anyhow. Not even Agrippina would dare to wound his masculine vanity by touching on such delicate matters.”
    I admitted I had heard similar stories in Rome before I went to Britain.
    “But at that time,” I added, “it seemed as if someone were deliberately spreading these terrible stories about Messalina, and I could not take them seriously. She was young, beautiful and liked amusement. Claudius was an old man beside her. But I can’t believe the worst of her.”
    Gallio swung his goblet about impatiently.
    “Remember that fifty senators and a couple of hundred knights lost their heads or were permitted to cut their throats because of Messalina’s recklessness. And your father would hardly have otherwise received his broad purple band.”
    “If I’ve understood you correctly, Proconsul,” I said hesitandy, “you mean that Claudius has a bad stomach and a weak head. Some day he will have to pay the debt we all have to pay, however much we sacrifice to his genius.”
    “May it be as if you had never spoken those words aloud,” cried Gallio. “Despite his weaknesses, Claudius has ruled so well that the Senate can safely exalt him to a god after his death, even if it will rouse a certain amount of ridicule. A farsighted man should be quite clear in time who is going to succeed him.”
    “Nero imperator,” I whispered dreamily. “But Nero is only a boy.”
    For the first time, this possibility occurred to me. It could not but delight me, for I had been Nero’s friend long before his mother became Claudius’ wife.
    “Don’t be frightened at the thought, Tribune Minutus,” said Gallio. “But to make it known so clearly is dangerous so long as Claudius is alive and breathing. To sort and gather up all the threads of fate and chance would in itself be useful if the same excellent thought occurred in the ruling circles of other provinces. I should have no objection if you went from Ephesus on to Antioch. That’s your old home city. Your father’s freedmen are said to have accumulated great wealth and influence there. You should speak well of Nero, no more. Not a single mention of the future in so many words. Be careful on that point. Those you speak to can draw their own conclusions. In the East there is more calculating political sense than Rome usually gives credit for.”
    He let me think about this for a moment before continuing.
    “Of course,” he said, “you will have to pay for your journey yourself, although I shall give you some letters to take for the sake of form so that you can meet the recipients in an intimate way. But “What you say, you say of your own free will. Not at my bidding. You are open by nature and still so young that no one will suspect you of political intriguing. Nor is it a question of that, as I hope you realize. But there are exiled Romans who are suffering the agonies of banishment because of Claudius’ whims and suspicions. They have friends in Rome. Don’t avoid them, for when Claudius is dead, all exiles will be pardoned, the Jews too. This my brother Seneca has promised, for he himself endured eight years of exile. The Emperor’s stomach trouble you can mention, but never forget to add that it is probably only a matter of harmless vomiting. On the other hand, stomach cancer has similar symptoms. Between ourselves, Agrippina is deeply troubled over Claudius’ health. He is a gourmet and won’t stick to a sensible diet.”
    I was forced to conclude that Gallio was drunk on his own wine, since he dared to tell me such things out loud. He must have overestimated my loyalty because he thought that loyalty was an inborn quality in every young Roman. I too have wolf blood in my veins. But he filled my head with seething thoughts and made me brood on other things besides Damaris and Athens.
    In the end he told me to sleep on the matter in peace and quiet and then sent me home. It was then late in the evening, but nevertheless a crackling fire was burning at the entrance of my house and I could hear the sound of noisy singing from within. I wondered whether Hierex had heard of my arrival and prepared some kind of reception. When I went in I saw a number of people, men and women, just emerging from a meal in my dining room. It was clear that they were all very drunk. One was dancing around with his eyes rolling and another was babbling away in some language I could not understand. Hierex was wandering about as host, kissing all his guests heartily in turn. When he caught sight of me, he was covered in confusion, but quickly regained his composure.
    “Blessed be your ingoing and your outgoing, my lord Minutus,” he cried. “As you see, we are practicing as best we can at singing holy songs together. On your orders, I have found out about the Jews’ new teaching. It fits a simple slave like a glove.”
    The doorkeeper and the cook sobered up hurriedly from their ecstasy and quickly knelt down in front of me. When Hierex saw me beginning to swell with rage, he hurriedly drew me to one side.
    “Don’t be angry,” he said. “Everything is in good order. Paul, that stern man, was suddenly despondent for some reason or other, had his hair cut and sailed off to Jerusalem to give an account to the elders there. When he had gone, we Christians began to squabble over which of us was most suited to instruct the others. The Jews quite selfishly consider that they know best about everything, even when it concerns Christ. So I use your house as a meeting place where we uncircumcised people can together practice the new teaching as best we can. We also eat a little better than we did at the communal meals, which always attract a lot of nonpaying poor people. I’m paying for this meal myself. I have that wealthy widow over there on the hook. I’ve made several useful friends among the Christians. It’s by far and away the best secret society I’ve ever belonged to.”
    “Have you become a Christian and been baptized, done penance and all that, then?” I asked in astonishment.
    “You commantled me to yourself,” said Hierex defensively. “Without your permission, I should never have joined, for I’m only your slave. But with the Christians I’ve put aside my sinful slave-dress. According to their teaching, we are equals before Christ, you and I. You must be kind to me and I shall serve you to the best of my ability as I always have. When we’ve shaken off the most vainglorious Jews then our society of love will be an adornment to the whole of Corinth.”
    Next morning Hierex* head had cleared and he was considerably humbler, but his face fell when I told him I must go to Asia and take him with me, as I could not possibly manage such a long journey without a servant.
    “That’s impossible,” wailed Hierex, tearing his hair. “I’ve only just got a foothold in here and on your account have become involved in all kinds of useful deals. If you are forced to clear off all the balances here and now, then I’m very much afraid you’ll lose a lot of money. Neither can I leave the Christians in the lurch now that Paul has gone and they’re all squabbling. There are widows and orphans who must be protected here. It’s part of the teachings and I’m one of the few in the whole assembly who understands money at all. I’ve heard an interesting story of a master who gave his servants pounds of gold and then asked them to account for how they had increased it. I wouldn’t want to appear an incompetent servant on the day of reckoning.”
    In my absence Hierex had put on weight and grown very plump. On long troublesome journeys, he would be no use to me. He would do nothing but complain and puff and pant, longing for the comforts of Corinth.
    “It is the anniversary of my mother’s death quite soon,” I said. “Let us go to the authorities together. I shall give you your freedom so that you can stay in Corinth and look after the house.’ I realize I should stand to lose if I suddenly sold everything I have acquired here on credit.”
    “Just what I was thinking of suggesting,” said Hierex eagerly. “It must have been the Christian God who gave me such an excellent idea. I’ve saved quite a sum of money, so I could pay half the redemption tax myself. I’ve already found out from a lawyer in the City Hall what would be a reasonable sum for me. I’ve got so fat, I’m no good for physical labor any longer. I’ve also certain flaws which I’ve managed to hide from you, but which would bring down my price considerably at an auction.”
    I did not accept his offer, for I thought he would need his savings himself to get started and survive in the avid life of Corinth. So I paid his fee at the City Hall and myself placed the colored freedman’s stave in his hand. At the same time I arranged for authority to be given him to administer my house and property in Corinth. In reality, I was only too pleased to be rid of both him and all dreary financial matters. I did not like his lighthearted way of joining the Christians and did not want the responsibility of him, apart from as my freedman.
    Hierex Lausius went with me to Cenchreae, where I boarded a ship sailing to Ephesus. Once again he thanked me for allowing him to call himself Lausius, which he thought a much grander and worthier name than the modest Minutus. His tears on my departure were, I think, quite genuine, but I imagine he heaved a sigh of relief as the ship pulled away and he was rid of a much too young and unpredictable master.

Book VI


    Troxobores, a brigand chieftain of the mountain people, made the most of the disturbances in Armenia which were occupying the Syrian legions, and sent an experienced expeditionary force into the hinterland of Cilicia and from there swept down to the coast, plundering the ports and dislocating the sea traffic. The old King of Cilicia, Antiochus, was powerless, for his own reinforcements were in Armenia. Finally the Cleitors began to besiege the harbor city of Anemurium itself. On my way from Ephesus to Antioch, I met a division of the Syrian cavalry, commantled by prefect Curtius Severus, hastening to the defense of Anemurium. Under the circumstances, I considered it my duty to join them.
    We suffered a severe defeat outside the walls of Anemurium, where the terrain was more suited to Troxobores’ mountain dwellers than to our cavalry. Severus must take his share of the blame, for he thought he could frighten an inexperienced band of bandits into flight just by having the trumpets sounded and attacking at full gallop, without first finding out about the terrain and the strength of Troxobores’ forces.
    I was wounded in the side, arm and foot. With a rope around my neck and my hands tied behind my back, I was taken up into the brigands’ inaccessible mountains. For two years I was kept as a hostage by Troxobores. My father’s freedmen in Antioch would have paid the ransom at any time, but Troxobores was a cunning and aggressive man and preferred to keep a few important Romans as hostages rather than hoard money in his hideouts.
    The Syrian Proconsul and King Antiochus belittled this rebellion as much as possible, saying they could crush it with their own forces. They were afraid, with some justification, of Claudius’ anger, should he learn the truth.
    “No amount of gold will buy my life when my back is against the wall,” said Troxobores. “But you, oh Roman blight, I can always crucify you to acquire a handsome escort to the underworld.”
    He treated us hostages capriciously, sometimes well and sometimes not. He might invite us to his crude banquets, give us food and drink and tearfully and drunkenly call us friends. But afterwards he might shut us in a filthy cave, have the entrance walled up and have us fed through a fist-size hole with the minimum of bread to keep us alive in our own excrement. During this imprisonment, two men took their own lives by opening their veins with sharp stones.
    My wounds became infected and tormented me. Pus oozed from them and I thought I would die. During those two ySars, I learned to live in utter degradation, constandy prepared to be tortured or to die. My son Julius, my only son, when you read this after my death, remember that certain ineradicable scars which I bear on my face and which when you were small you thought came from my service in Britain, vain as I was, were not the work of Britons. I received them many years before you were born, in a dark Cilician cave, where I learned patience, and shamefully battered my face against the rough stone wall. Think of that when you so eagerly criticize your miserly, old-fashioned and now dead father.
    For all the men Troxobores collected around him and trained as warriors during his successful days, he lost just as many after his first defeat. Intoxicated by his success, he made the mistake of becoming involved in field battles and this kind of warfare his ill-disciplined troops could not master.
    King Antiochus treated his prisoners kindly, released them and sent them up into the mountains to promise mercy to all those who deserted Troxobores. Most of Troxobores’ men considered that having collected sufficient loot, they had had enough of the game, and fled back to their villages to spend the rest of their lives as wealthy men, by Cilician standards. Troxobores had these deserters followed and killed, thus causing bad blood between his own tribal friends.
    Finally, even the men nearest to him tired of his cruelties and whims, and took him prisoner-to gain mercy for themselves. This happened just in time, for King Antiochus’ army was approaching, slaves were tearing down the walls in front of the cave, and the poles for our execution were on the ground outside. My fellow prisoners asked that Troxobores should be crucified instead of us. But King Antiochus swifty had him beheaded, to put an end to a painful episode.
    I and my fellow prisoners parted without regrets, for in the darkness, hunger and misery of the cave, we had become bitterly sick of one another’s company. While they returned to Antioch, I went on board a R. oman warship in Anemurium which was going to Ephesus. King An-tiochus compensated us generously for the sufferings we had had to endure, in order to keep us quiet.
    In Ephesus, I was well received by the then Proconsul of Asia, Junius Silanus, who invited me to his country estate outside the city and had his own physician treat me. Silanus was about fifty, rather slow but so unimpeachable in character that Emperor Gaius in his day had described him as a gilded numbskull, because of his incalculable wealth.
    When I mentioned Agrippina and Nero to Silanus, he forbade me to utter a single word about Claudius’ stomach trouble to him. A couple of prominent men had recently been banished from Rome just because they had asked an astrologist about the Emperor’s life-span. After that, the Senate had passed a bill exiling all Chaldeans.
    Silanus seemed to think that Agrippina had in some way been responsible for the death of his brother Lucius, just as he thought that Messalina in her day had brought disaster to Appius Silanus by dreaming evil dreams about him. His insane suspiciousness made me angry.
    “How can you think that of the first lady of Rome?” I said furiously. “Agrippina is a noble woman. Her brother Gaius was Emperor, and she herself is the wife of an Emperor and is descended from the god Augustus.”
    Silanus smiled stupidly.
    “Not even the most unimpeachable origins,” he remarked, “seem to protect anyone in Rome any longer. You must remember Domitia Lepida, Nero’s aunt, who brought Nero up out of kindness when Agrippina was banished for open lewdness and high treason. Domitia had always cared for Nero when he suffered from Agrippina’s severity. Quite recently she was condemned to death because she was said to have tried to harm Agrippina by witchcraft and because she had not kept her slaves in Calabria under control. Domitia too was descended from Augustus.
    “And,” went on Silanus, “if time does eventually overtake Claudius, even if we may not discuss it aloud, then I too am descended from the god Augustus. I should not be surprised if the Senate in Rome preferred an older man to a half-grown boy. My reputation is without stain and I have no enemies.”
    He was right in that, for Silanus was considered to be so stupid that no one could hate him. But of course I was surprised by his insane conceit.
    “Are you seriously considering becoming Emperor?” I asked in amazement.
    Junius Silanus blushed shyly.
    “You mustn’t spread that idea abroad,” he said. “It is the Senate that decides. But between ourselves, I cannot honestly support Nero. His father was so feared and cruel that once in the forum, he gouged out the eye of a Roman knight who did not make way for him sufficiently respectfully.”
    Because of his wealth, Silanus lived like a king in Asia. He also told me that Proconsul Gallio, after serving out his term of office, had fallen victim of hereditary tuberculosis and had returned to Rome to settle his affairs before going to the drier climate of Egypt to regain his health.
    I suspected that he had other business in Egypt besides caring for his health. But I could not write to him to tell him of Silanus’ astounding expectations, and on the other hand I felt bound to report that Nero evidently did not have the support in the provinces that his mother and Seneca believed.
    After much consideration, I finally wrote directly to Seneca and told him about my imprisonment.
    Proconsul Junius Silanus has shown me generous hospitality [I wrote at the end] and does not wish me to go home until my wounds are completely healed. They are still suppurating. I am distressed that he does not think so highly of Agrippina and Nero as I do, but boasts of being a descendant of Augustus and believes implicitly that he has many friends in the Senate. I await your advice as to whether I should return to Rome or stay here for the time being.
    Imprisonment had both dulled and enervated me. I let time run through my fingers with no thought for anything. I went with Silanus to the races and did well with bets on his team. There was also an excellent theater in Ephesus. And if there was nothing else to do, one could always go to the temple, which is one of the wonders of the world.
    Gradually my strength returned to me, thanks to the good food, a comfortable bed and skillful treatment. I began riding again and joined in the boar hunts which Silanus’ tribunes organized.
    Silanus’ Greek physician had been trained in Cos, and when I asked him about his remuneration, he laughed.
    “Ephesus is the most wretched place in the world to practice the art of healing,” he said. “The priests of Artemis practice faith-healing and there are also hundreds of magicians from different countries here. The most fashionable one at the moment is a Jew who can cure the sick and calm the insane just by laying on his hands. His sweat-cloths and aprons are sold all round the country as cures for most things. But he’s not content with that either. He has rented Tyrannus’ school to teach his craft to others. He’s jealous of his colleagues too, and speaks contemptuously of books of magic and healing idols.”
    “The Jews are the cause of all disturbances,” I said bitterly, “because they are no longer content with worshiping their own god among themselves under the protection of their special rights, but have to infect the Greeks as well.”
    The Ionian autumn is mild. Junius Silanus’ freedman Helius, who administered his estate in Asia, looked after me in every way, had plays and mimes performed at mealtimes and sometimes sent a beautiful slave-girl to my bed if I looked bored. The golden days and the dark blue nights melted away. I thought that I no longer desired anything but the everyday life of human beings. That was sufficient hope and future for me. I became hardened and numb.
    At the beginning of the winter, a swift Roman ship arrived, bringing to Ephesus an elderly knight called Publius Celer. He came with the message that Claudius had died of his stomach disorder, as had long been expected. Aphranius Burrus, the Prefect of the Praetorians, had had Nero borne to the Praetorians’ camp where Nero had made a speech and promised the men the customary gift of money. Amidst general acclamation, he had been declared Emperor, and the Senate had unanimously confirmed the decision.
    Proconsul Junius Silanus carefully scrutinized the orders and credentials Celer had brought with him. Publius Celer was a powerful man, despite his age, and seemed to know what he wanted. A sword cut had left him with a scar in one corner of his mouth which made it crooked, so that he always looked scornful.
    He had a message for me from Seneca, who thanked me for my letter and urged me to return to Rome, for Nero was missing his true friends as he was introducing his new liberal regime. The crimes, quarrels and mistakes of the past were forgotten and forgiven. Exiles could return to Rome. Supported by the fathers in the Senate, Nero hoped to be able to develop into a bearer of good fortune to humanity.
    The necessary official measures were taken. Asia’s rulers decided to commission a portrait of Nero from the most famous sculptor in Home. But despite his wealth, Junius Silanus did not arrange a special banquet in honor of Nero, as he should have done, but invited only his closest friends to his country estate. In this way, we were no more than thirty at table.
    After making an offering to Emperor Claudius, now proclaimed a god by the Senate, Junius Silanus turned his fat face to Celer and said venomously, “Let us drop all this chatter. Tell us what really happened in Rome.”
    Publius Celer raised his eyebrows and smiled crookedly.
    “Are you overcome by the strain of your duties?” he said. “Why are you so excited? Your age and your physique will not stand unnecessary emotion.”
    Junius Silanus was indeed breathing heavily and behaving very badly, as disappointed men are apt to do. But Publius Celer tried to gloss over it all in a jocular tone of voice.
    “On the way to Claudius’ funeral,” he said, “Nero, as his son, made the customary funeral oration at the forum. Whether he himself had prepared it or whether he had had help from Seneca, I could not say. Despite his youth, Nero has shown evidence of poetic talent of his own. Anyhow, he spoke in clear tones and with graceful gestures. The fathers, the knights and the people all listened attentively while Nero praised Claudius’ famous family and the consulates and triumphs of his ancestors, his own learned interests and his regime’s freedom from external strife. Then Nero skillfully changed his tone and began, as if forced by custom, to praise the wisdom, genius and statesmanship of Claudius. No one could help laughing, and gusts of laughter con-standy interrupted Nero’s memorial speech. They even laughed when he complained of his own irreplaceable loss, his grief and heaviness of heart. The funeral procession became nothing but a farce. No one tried to hide his enormous relief that Rome was at last rid of a cruel, pleasure-loving and feebleminded old dodderer.”
    Junius Silanus crashed his gold goblet down on the edge of the couch so violendy that he splashed wine in my face.
    “Claudius was my contemporary,” he snarled, “and I cannot allow his memory to be insulted. When the fathers of the Senate come to their senses, they’ll see that the seventeen-year-old son of a power-mad woman cannot rule over the world.”
    But Celer was not annoyed.
    “Claudius has been proclaimed a god,” he said. “Who can speak ill of a god? In the Elysian fields, Claudius stands divinely above criticism and insults to his person. You should know that, Proconsul. Seneca’s brother Gallio remarked, presumably in jest, that Claudius was hauled up to heaven with a hook in his jaw, in the same way we usually drag a traitor’s body from Tullianum to the Tiber. But that kind of joke only goes to show that once again we may laugh freely in Rome.”
    While Junius Silanus was still spluttering with fury, Publius changed his tone and said with a warning note in his voice, “It would be better if you drank a toast to the Emperor and forgot your rancor, Proconsul.”
    At his behest, Helius brought another gold goblet and handed it to Celer and Celer mixed the wine before us all, raised the goblet to his own lips and then passed it to Silanus, as he had dented his. Silanus emptied the goblet in two draughts, as usual, for he could not refuse to drink to the Emperor.
    After setting the goblet to one side, he was about to continue on the same theme when all at once the veins in his temples swelled, and clutching his throat, he groaned, unable to say a word, his face darkening and turning blue. We stared in terror at him. Before anyone had time to move, he fell to the floor, his fat body jerking once or twice before he let out his last rattling breath there in front of our eyes.
    We had all leapt to our feet in fright, quite incapable of speech, and only Publius Celer kept his head.
    “I warned him not to get so excited,” he said. “He was overstrained as a result of this unexpected news and took much too hot a bath before the meal. But let us regard this heart attack as a good omen rather than a bad one. You all heard with what rancor he spoke of the Emperor and his mother. His younger brother Lucius took his own life in almost the same way in his day, just to spoil the wedding day of Claudius and Agrippina, when Claudius had broken off his betrothal to Octavia.”
    We all began to talk at once of how the heart of an overweight man can burst from too much excitement, and how the face suddenly darkens. Helius fetched Silanus’ physician, who had already retired to bed in accordance with the Cos people’s healthy rules of life. He arrived looking frightened, turned the body over, asked for more light and looked distrustfully down Silanus’ throat. Then he covered his head with his mantle without a word.
    When Publius Celer questioned him, he admitted in a broken voice that he had often warned his master against gorging himself with good food, and confirmed that all the signs pointed to a heart attack.
    “This unfortunate episode should be recorded on a physician’s certificate,” said Publius Celer, “and also in an official document which we shall all sign as witnesses. An unexpected death causes evil tongues to wag when it is a question of a well-known person. So it should be noted down that I myself tasted the wine before passing it on to him.”
    We looked at one another in confusion. It had certainly looked as if Celer had first raised the goblet to his lips, but on the other hand he could quite easily have pretended to do so if the goblet had contained poison. I have described here exactly what happened, because afterwards it was said that Agrippina had sent Celer with the specific task of poisoning Silanus. Certainly his death occurred at a very convenient moment.
    Gossip maintained that Celer had bribed both Helius and the physician, and my name was also dragged into the case with a malicious reference to my friendship with Nero. The trial of Celer, which at the request of the Senate was held to investigate the matter thoroughly, was postponed year after year and was finally shelved when Celer died of old age. I should have been glad to have stood witness on his behalf. Helius was later given a prominent position in Nero’s service.
    The Proconsul’s sudden death naturally attracted considerable attention in Ephesus as well as in the whole province of Asia. There was no big funeral, so as not to cause anxiety among the people, and his body was cremated in his own beloved garden at his country property. When the pyre had burned down, we collected the ashes and put them in a fine urn which was sent to the Silanus family’s rapidly filled mausoleum in Rome. Publius Celer took over the Proconsulate until the Senate had time to choose a new Proconsul for Asia from those who were waiting their turn. Silanus’ term of. office was soon to have come to an end anyhow.
    The change of regime itself had aroused considerable unrest in Ephesus, and the death of the Proconsul worsened the situation. The city’s innumerable fortunetellers, miracle workers, sellers of black magic books, and first and foremost the silversmiths, who sold small models of the temple of Artemis as souvenirs, took advantage of this opportunity to cause disturbances in the streets and to ill-treat the Jews.
    Paul, of course, was the cause of this. I now found out that he had been sowing discord in Ephesus for two years, and it was of him that Silanus’ physician had spoken, although I did not realize it at the time.
    Paul had persuaded his followers to collect all their astrological calendars and books of dreams, worth a hundred or so sesterces, and burn them publicly in the forum as a demonstration against their rivals. The bonfire of books had aroused the ire of the superstitious people of Ephesus, and even the educated people did not like books being burned, although they themselves did not bother much with the good and evil days of horoscopes or the interpretation of dreams. But they feared that philosophy and poetry might be next to land in the fire.
    I was seized with fury when I once again heard Paul named as a disturber of the peace. I should have liked to leave Ephesus at once, but Publius Celer feared more uprisings and asked me to take over the command of the city cavalry and the Roman garrison.
    It was not long before the city council sent an anxious message to say that great crowds were on their way along the streets leading to the Greek theater, where an illegal meeting was to be held. The silversmiths had seized two of Paul’s companions in the street, but his other disciples had forcibly prevented Paul from going to the theater. The city fathers also sent a warning to Paul, appealing to him not to mix with the crowd in case it led to murder.
    When it became evident that the city council was not in control of the situation, Publius Celer ordered me to call out the cavalry and he himself placed a cohort of infantrymen at the entrance to the theater. He smiled, his eyes cold and his mouth crooked, and assured me that he had been looking forward to a suitable opportunity of this kind to give these unruly people a few lessons in Roman discipline and order.
    With a trumpeter and a cohort commantler, I went into the theater to be able to give the signal if the crowd turned violent. The people were noisy and restless in the huge theater; many obviously did not know what it was all about and had, in the Greek way, simply come to shout as loudly as they could. No one seemed to be armed. I could imagine the panic that would ensue if the theater had to be cleared forcibly.
    The senior elder of the silversmiths tried to quiet the crowd so that he could speak, but he had already roused them to such an extent that his voice was hoarse and cracked completely when he started to speak. Even so, I managed to make out that he was accusing Paul the Jew of misleading the people, not only in Ephesus but all over Asia, into believing that handmade idols were not gods.
    “We are threatened with the danger,” he shouted in his cracked voice, “of the great temple of Artemis losing all respect and she herself her power. She who is worshiped by the whole of Asia and all over the world.”
    The huge crowd began to shout on the tops of their voices: “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!”
    The continuous roar lasted so long that my trumpeter became anxious and tried to raise his instrument to his lips, but I knocked it away again.
    A group of tasseled Jews was standing huddled nearby, and they pushed a coppersmith forward, crying, “Let Alexander speak.”
    As far as I could make out, this Alexander wished to explain that the faithful Jews were not followers of Paul and that Paul did not even have the complete confidence of all the Christians in Ephesus.
    But when the crowd saw from his clothes that he was a Jew, they did not want to let him speak, and they were right, inasmuch as the faithful Jews did not approve of idols or handmade images of such things. To stop him from speaking, the crowd broke out again with the cry: “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!” This time the roar lasted without exaggeration for two full lines on the water clock.
    Publius Celer appeared beside me with his sword drawn.
    “Why don’t you give the signal?” he snarled. “We can disperse the whole meeting in no time.”
    “Several hundred people would be trampled underfoot,” I warned him.
    The thought seemed to please Celer. So I added hastily: “They’re only praising their own Artemis. It would be both blasphemy and political foolishness to disperse a crowd for that reason.”
    When the City Chancellor saw us standing hesitandy at one of the entrances, he signaled desperately for us to wait. He even had sufficient authority to quiet the crowd gradually as he stepped up to speak.
    Now the Christians were thrust forward. They had been beaten and their clothes torn, but nothing worse had happened to them. To show what they thought, the Jews spat at them, but the Chancellor told the crowd not to act rashly, and reminded them that the city of Ephesus had been chosen to care for Artemis’ idol which had fallen from heaven. According to him, Paul’s disciples were neither temple defilers nor blasphemers.
    The more sensible people in the crowd began to glance at my red plumes and at the cavalry trumpeter and then make their way out of the theater. For a moment everything hung in balance. Publius Celer ground his teeth, for if he had found reason to attack, then in the traditional Roman way he could have set fire to and plundered the silversmiths’ shops. The educated members of the crowd fortunately remembered the frightening events of the past and hurried away. As an outlet for his disappointment, Celer let his soldiers besiege the theater and beat a few of the remaining rebels and Jews. But nothing worse occurred.
    Afterwards he reproached me bitterly, saying, “Both of us would have been enormously wealthy men now, if you hadn’t been so indecisive. Suppressing a rebellion would have taken us to the top of the roll of knights. We could have put the cause of the uprising down to Silanus’ lax rule. One must seize the opportunity as it arises, otherwise one loses it forever.”
    Paul remained in hiding for a while and then had to flee the city. After I had by devious routes sent him a serious warning, we heard that he had gone to Macedonia. Then calm gradually descended again and the Jews found other things to think about Among them were many exiled Roman craftsmen intending to return to Rome in the spring.
    The winter storms were now at their worst and in the harbor there was not a single ship due to sail to Italy. But Publius Celer had taken a dislike to me and, to avoid quarreling with him, I at last found a small ship loaded with goddess idols, which would risk the journey to Corinth under the protection of Artemis. We were fortunate enough to miss the northern storms, but several times had to shelter in island harbors on the way.
    In Corinth, Hierex Lausius had been mourning me as lost, after hearing nothing from me for so long. He had grown fatter than ever and went about with his chin in the air, talking in a droning voice. He had married his Greek widow and taken two orphan boys into the house to look after their education and property. He proudly showed me his own meat shop which was kept cool in the summer with spring water from the mountain. He had also acquired shares in ships and bought skilled slaves to use in his own bronze foundry.
    When I told him about the disturbances in Ephesus, he shook his head knowingly.
    “We’ve had trouble here too,” he said. “You remember that Paul went from here to Jerusalem to consult the elders. They considered his teaching too involved and he was not met with complete approval, we gather. No wonder he preaches even more fervently in his vexation. He must have a share of the spirit of Christ, as he has succeeded with faith-healing, but the more moderate Christians prefer to keep away from him.”
    “So you’re still a Christian, then?” I said in surprise.
    “I think I’m a better Christian than before,” said Hierex. “My soul is at peace, I have a good wife and my affairs are going well. A messenger called Apollus came here to Corinth. He had studied the Jewish scripts in Alexandria and received instruction from Aquila and Prisca in Ephesus. He’s a compelling speaker and soon had many followers. So we have an Apollo sect which holds special meetings, eats together and keeps away from the other Christians. On Prisca’s advice, he was received unnecessarily warmly here, before we had any idea of his ambitions for power. Fortunately we are visited by Cephas, the most important of the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. He has traveled in many places to calm his mind and intends to go to Rome in the spring to prevent the old quarrels there being repeated when the exiled Jews return. I believe in him more than anyone else, for his teaching comes straight from the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth.”
    Hierex spoke so respectfully of Cephas that I decided to seek him out, although I was already heartily sick of both Jews and Christians. This Cephas was originally a Galilean fisherman whom Jesus of Nazareth, about twenty-five years earlier, before I was born, had taught to fish for people. It had no doubt been difficult, for Cephas was an ignorant man of the people and could speak hardly a word of Greek so that he had to have an interpreter with him on his travels. But I thought I had every reason to meet a man who had been able to make Hierex pious, for even Paul with all his Jewish wisdom and faith had not been able to perform such a miracle.
    Cephas lived with one of the Jews who recognized Christ, a man who traded in fish preserved in oil and who was by no means wealthy. When I went into his house, to which Hierex had taken me, I had to screw up my nose at the smell of fish and the grating sand which the many visitors had left behind them on the floor. It was a cramped and dimly lit room, and Cephas’ Jewish landlord greeted us uneasily, as if he were afraid my presence would sully his house.
    He evidently belonged to the group of Jews who had chosen Christ but still tried to follow the Jewish laws, avoiding contact with un-circumcised Christian Greeks. His position was more difficult than that of the Greeks, for the faithful Jews especially hated him as a deserter, and because of his laws, his conscience was never at rest.
    Cephas the Jew wore a cloak with tassels at the corners. He was a big man with a thick growth of hair and gray streaks in his beard, and one could see from his broad hands that he had been used to manual labor in his day. His bearing was calm and unafraid, but I thought I saw a glimpse of some kind of peasant shrewdness in his eyes as he looked at me. He seemed to radiate a sense of security.
    I must admit that I do not remember much of our conversation. Hierex did most of the talking, in an ingratiating way, and we were troubled by the interpreter, a slim Jew called Marcus who was considerably younger than Cephas. Cephas spoke labored Aramaic, in short sentences. My childhood memories of Antioch came back to me as I listened to him, and I tried to understand what he was saying before the interpreter translated. This confused me too. And in fact, what Cephas had to say did not strike me as particularly memorable in itself. The best thing about him was the conciliatory warmth he spread around him.
    Cephas tried, somewhat childishly, to demonstrate his learning by quoting the Jews’ holy scripts. He brushed aside Hierex* flattery and urged him to praise only God, the father of Jesus Christ, who in his mercy had allowed Hierex to be reborn into eternal hope.
    Hierex became tearful and admitted honestly that although he had noticed a kind of rebirth in his heart, his body was still subject to selfish demands. Cephas did not judge him, but just looked at him, his eyes both mild and clever at the same time, as if he had seen through all human weakness but at the same time recognized a scrap of true searching for goodness in this wretched slave’s soul.
    Hierex eagerly asked Cephas to tell us how he had saved himself from King Herod, and about the miracles he had performed in the name of Jesus Christ. But Cephas had turned to look at me attentively and did not wish to boast of his miracles. Instead he gently made fun of himself by telling me how little he had understood Jesus of Nazareth when he had followed him before the crucifixion. He also described how he had not even been able to keep awake while Jesus was praying on his last night on earth. When Jesus had been captured, he had gone too, and around the fire in the prison yard he had denied knowing Jesus three times, just as Jesus had foretold when Cephas had boasted that he was prepared to share his sufferings.
    I sensed that Cephas’ strength lay in this kind of simple story, which he had repeated so often year after year, that he knew them all by heart. In the simple and illiterate way of a fisherman, he well remembered Jesus’ own words and teachings, and with his humility, he tried to set an example to other Christians, who like Hierex could swell like toads in the name of Christ.
    No, Cephas was not an unattractive man, but I sensed that he could be frightening should he become angry. He did not make any attempt to convert me either, after looking at me steadily for a while, which offended me slightly.
    On our way home, Hierex expounded his own views to me.
    “We Christians,” he said, “regard each other as brothers. But as all people are different, so are we Christians different. Thus we have Paul’s side, Apollus’ side, Cephas’ side and then we who simply like Christ and do as we think right. So we are always at each other’s throats because of our internal strife and envy. The newly converted are the worst at squabbling and the first to reproach the quieter ones for their way of life. Since meeting Cephas, I on my part have tried to appear no more excellent or blameless than any other man.”
    My enforced delay in Corinth unsettled me and I did not feel at home in my own house. I bought a beautifully carved ivory team of horses as a present for Nero. I remembered his playing with a similar one as a child when his mother would not allow him to go to the races.
    The feast of Saturnalia had long since passed when I eventually, after a stormy passage, returned to Rome via Puteoli.
    Aunt Laelia was bowed and quarrelsome and reproached me for not writing to her for three whole years. Barbus alone was genuinely pleased to see me and told me that when he had had a bad dream about me, he had paid for the sacrifice of a whole bull to Mithras for my welfare. When he heard about my experiences, he seemed to be convinced that this sacrifice had saved me from my imprisonment in Cilicia.
    The first thing I wanted to do was to go to Viminalis to see my father, to whom I felt a stranger. But Aunt Laelia, who had by then calmed down, took me to one side.
    “You’d better not go anywhere,” she said, “until you know what has happened in Rome.”
    Seething with malicious excitement, she then told me how Emperor Claudius had decided to give the man-toga to Britannicus, despite his youth, and had then in a drunken moment rashly mentioned Agrippina’s lust for power. So Agrippina had given him poisonous mushrooms. This was being spoken of all over Rome quite openly, and Nero knew about it. He was said to have declared that mushroom stew could make a man into a god. Claudius had been proclaimed a god, and
    Agrippina was having a temple built for her deceased husband, but few people had applied for the priesthood.
    “So Rome is the same old hotbed of gossip as before,” I said bitterly. ‘We’ve known for two years that Claudius suffered from stomach cancer, although he wouldn’t admit it himself. Why do you deliberately try to spoil my happiness? I know Agrippina personally and I am a friend of Nero’s. How can I possibly believe such terrible things of them?”
    “Narcissus too was given a push into Hades,” Aunt Laelia went on, without even having heard what I had said. “To his credit, it must be said that he did burn all Claudius’ secret records before committing suicide. Agrippina had wanted those at any price. In that way, he saved the lives of a great many men. Agrippina had to be content with a hundred million sesterces which she demantled from his estate. Believe it or not, but I know there would have been a blood bath if Agrippina had had her way. Fortunately Seneca and Prefect Burrus are sensible men and they succeeded in stopping her. Seneca was chosen as Consul after writing a malicious satire on Claudius to please the Senate. Now no one can hear Claudius called god without laughing. It was really simple revenge for his exile. But we who know about things in Rome are aware that he deserved it after the scandal over Agrippina’s sister. The poor girl lost her life too, in the end. I don’t know what we can expect when an eloquent philosopher makes decisions in State affairs. Things are not what they used to be. The young people even go about indecently dressed like Greeks, now that Claudius is no longer here to make them wear togas.”
    Aunt Laelia gabbled on for some time before I could get away from her. As I hurried to my father’s house on Viminalis, I noticed that die atmosphere in Rome had become freer than before. People dared to laugh. The innumerable statues in the forum were covered with jokes which were read aloud for everyone’s amusement. No one bothered to scrape them off, and although it was only afternoon, I saw in the streets quite a number of drunken cittern-playing youths with long hair.
    Tullia’s atrium was filled as before with a crowd of people seeking audience or some favor, and clients, and also-to my sorrow-Jews, whom my father would never be rid of. Tullia stopped talking to two well-known old gossips and to my astonishment came up to me and embraced me warmly. Her plump fingers glittered with rings and she had tried to hide the loose skin at her neck with a many-tiered necklace of jewels.
    “It’s high time you returned to Rome from your travels, Minutus,” she cried. “When your father heard you had disappeared he was ill with worry, although I reminded him of his own conduct in his youth. I can see that you are quite well, you bad boy. Did you get involved in a drunken brawl in Asia, that you’ve got such ugly scars on your face? I was afraid your father would grieve to death over you.”
    My father had aged, but in his capacity as senator, he bore himself with even greater dignity than before. When I looked at him after this long time, I noticed that his eyes were the most sorrowful I had ever seen on any man. We could not talk easily to one another, however glad he was to see me. I was content to tell him about my experiences and I belittled my imprisonment. Finally I asked him, mostly in jest, what the Jews still wanted of him.
    “The Procurator in Judaea is now Felix, the brother of the treasurer Pallas,” said my father. “You must know him, the man who married a granddaughter to Cleopatra. Owing to his cupidity, complaints have been pouring in. Or rather, the Jews are eternal troublemakers for whom no one is good enough, and now someone has again gone and killed someone else somewhere. I think the whole of Judaea is in the hands of a band of brigands. Plundering and burning are going on there and Felix obviously cannot maintain order. The Jews are trying to take the matter to the Senate. But which of us wants to become involved in such things? Pallas is much too powerful to offend. And the Senate has genuine troubles in Armenia and Britain to contend with.
    ‘We meet at the Palace now,” my father went on. “Agrippina wants to listen behind a curtain to the discussions in the Senate. It’s certainly more comfortable there than in that fearful Curia, where some of us have to stand, if by some miraculous chance all of us happen to be there at the same time. You get frostbite in your feet there in the winter.”
    “And Nero?” I asked eagerly. “What do you think of him?”
    “I know that Nero wished he had never learned to write, the day he had to sign a death warrant for the first time,” said my father. “Perhaps one day he really will be the hope of mankind, as many genuinely believe. In any case, he has handed back part of the jurisdiction to the Consuls and the Senate. Whether this is a show of respect for the city fathers or to avoid having to go to trials in order to attend more pleasant amusements, I could not even guess.”
    My father was obviously talking just for the sake of talking. He frowned, looked absently beyond me and did not seem to have the slightest interest in affairs of State. Suddenly he looked straight at me.
    “Minutus, my only son,” he said, “what are you going to do with your life?”
    “For two years I have lived in a dark cave,” I said, “humiliated and more wretched than a slave. A whim of the Goddess of Fortune has taken away two years of my life. If I were even capable of a constructive thought, then it would be that one day I shall retrieve those two years and be glad to be alive as a man, without moping unnecessarily and denying the bounties of life.”
    My father gestured toward the room’s polished walls, as if including in the gesture all the pomp and grandeur of Tullia’s house.
    “Perhaps I too live in a dark cave,” he said with deep melancholy in his voice. “I submit to duties for which I have not asked. But you are flesh of your mother’s flesh and must not be lost. Do you still have her wooden goblet?”
    “It was only a wooden mug and the brigands in Cilicia didn’t even bother to take it away from me,” I said. “When we were given no water for several days and my tongue filled my mouth and our breath smelled like the breath of wild animals, sometimes I pretended to drink out of the goblet, imagining that it was full. But it wasn’t. It was only delirium.”
    I was careful not to tell my father about Paul and Cephas, because I wanted to forget them as completely as if I had never met them. But my father said, “I wish I were a slave, poor and insignificant, so that I could begin my life all over again. But it is too late for me. The chains have already grown into my flesh.”
    I was not attracted by this philosophical dream of a simple life. Seneca had eloquently described the blessings of poverty and peace of mind, but in reality he preferred to be bewitched by power, honors and wealth, explaining that they could not alter a wise man, just as poverty and exile had not been able to.
    We ended by talking about financial matters. After consulting Tullia, who also had plans for my life, my father decided to transfer a million sesterces over to me at first, so that I could live as I should, giving banquets and making useful connections. He promised me more when I needed it, for he himself could not possibly spend all his money, however much he tried.
    “Your father lacks an interest which would satisfy him at his age and fill his life,” complained Tullia. “He doesn’t even bother to go to lectures anymore, although I had a special auditorium built in the house, for I thought you would perhaps continue in a literary career. He could collect old musical instruments or Greek paintings and become famous for it. Some people breed special fish in their pools, others train gladiators, and he could even afford to keep racehorses. That’s the most expensive and the finest leisure occupation a middle-aged man can have. But no, he’s so stubborn. Either he frees a slave, or hands out gifts to useless people. Well, I suppose he could have worse amusements. With concessions on both sides, we’ve managed to find a way of life which satisfies us.”
    They wanted me to stay for the evening meal, but I thought I ought to report to the Palace as soon as possible, before the news of my arrival reached there by other means. The guards did in fact let me in without searching me for weapons. The times had changed that much. But I was amazed to see how many knights were sitting in the arcades, waiting for an audience. I reported to several court officials, but Seneca was so weighed down with his enormous burden of work that he could not possibly receive me, and Emperor Nero himself had shut himself in his workroom to write poems. One was not allowed to disturb him when he was consulting the muses.
    I was depressed when I realized how many people were striving in so many ways for the favors of the young Emperor. Just as I was about to leave, one of Pallas’ innumerable secretaries came up to me and showed me to Agrippina’s room. She was striding restlessly up and down, bumping into stools and kicking the valuable Oriental rugs to one side.
    “Why didn’t you report straightaway to me,” she said angrily, “or have you too lost all respect for me? Ingratitude is one’s reward. I don’t think any mother has sacrificed so much for her own son and his friends.”
    “Augusta, Mother of the Fatherland,” I cried, although I knew she had no right to these titles of honor. Officially she was only priestess to the god Claudius. “How can you reproach me for ingratitude? I dared not even dream of disturbing you in your widow’s grief with my insignificant affairs.”
    Agrippina seized my hand, pressed my arm in her full bosom and breathed the scent of violets into my face.
    “It’s good that you’ve come back, Minutus Lausus,” she said. “You’re a lighthearted man, despite your past mistakes, and that was sheer inexperience. At this moment, Nero needs his real friends most of all. The boy is indecisive and much too easily led. Perhaps I have been too strict with him. He seems to be beginning to avoid me deliberately, although at first he sat beside me in the same sedan or politely followed behind it. Perhaps you know the Senate has given me the right to ride all the way up to the Capitoline if I want to. Nero wastes insane sums of money on friends who are unworthy of him, cittern players, actors, racing men and various authors of works of homage, just as if he had no idea of the value of money. Pallas is very worried. Thanks to him, there was at least some order in the State finances during poor Claudius’ time when the Imperial treasury was kept strictly apart from the State treasury. Nero doesn’t understand the difference. And now Nero has become infatuated with a slave-girl. Can you imagine? He prefers meeting a white-skinned slip of a girl to his own mother. That’s no way for an Emperor to behave. And appalling friends egg him on to all kinds of immoral acts.”
    Agrippina, strong-willed and beautiful, who usually behaved with the dignity of a goddess, was so upset that she was airing her grievances to me in a way which put too great a reliance on my friendship.
    “Seneca has betrayed my confidence,” she cried. “The cursed slippery-tongued hypocrite! I was the one who brought him back from exile. I was the one to appoint him as Nero’s tutor. He has no one but me to thank for his success. You know there is trouble in Armenia now. When Nero was to receive an envoy from there, I went into the room to sit in my rightful place by his side. Seneca sent Nero to me to lead me out again, with a filial piety, of course. But it was a public insult. Women should not interfere in State affairs, but there is one woman who made Nero into an Emperor.”
    I could only imagine what the Armenian envoy would have thought if he had seen a woman appearing in public at the Emperor’s side, and I thought Nero had shown better judgment in this matter than Agrippina. But of course I could not say so. I looked at her in terror, in the way one gazes at a wounded lioness, and I realized that I had arrived just in time to witness a decisive stage in the power struggle over who should rule Rome, Agrippina or Nero’s advisers. This I could not even have imagined, for I knew how completely Nero had been dependent on his mother before.
    In my confusion I tried to tell her of my own adventures, but Agrip-pina had not the patience to listen. Not until I mentioned Silanus’ heart attack did she pay any attention.
    “It was the best thing that could have happened,” she said. “Otherwise one day we’d have been forced to prosecute him for treason. That family have shown themselves to be snakes in the grass.”
    Just then a servant hurried in and reported that Nero had begun his meal, late as usual. Agrippina gave me a push.
    “Run, stupid,” she said. “Go to him now. Don’t let anyone stop you.”
    I was so much under her influence that I did in fact half run and told the servants who tried to stop me that I had been invited to the Emperor’s evening meal. Nero was entertaining in the smaller dining hall, which held only about fifty guests. It was already so full that there were not enough couches, even though there were three people to each one, and several guests had to be content with stools. Nero was animated and carelessly dressed, but his pleasant youthful face radiated happiness. At first he stared at me, but then he embraced and kissed me, ordering a chair for me to be placed beside his own place of honor.
    “The muses have been kindly disposed toward me,” he cried, and then he leaned forward and whispered in my ear: “Minutus, Minutus, have you ever experienced what it is to love with the whole of one’s soul? Love and be loved. What more can a human being wish for?”
    He ate greedily and swiftly as he gave instructions to Terpnus, who was dressed in his full-length musician’s cloak, and who I did not even know was the most famous cittern player of our time until I was told about him. I was still so ignorant then. During the meal, Terpnus composed an accompaniment to the love poems Nero had written during the afternoon and then sang them to the guests as they sat in breathless silence.
    I lis voice was well trained and so powerful that it seemed to penetrate right through one, and after his song, sung to the cittern, we all applauded vigorously. I do not know how artistic Nero’s poems were, or to what extent they were derivative of other poets’ works, but with Terpnus’ performance they made a deep impression, and I am not particularly musical either. With feigned shyness, Nero thanked everyone for the applause, took the instrument from Terpnus and plucked at it longingly, but did not dare try singing, although many asked him to.
    “One day I shall sing,” Nero said simply, “when Terpnus has had time to train and strengthen my voice with the necessary exercises. I know my voice has certain possibilities, and if I ever do sing, I want to compete with only the best voices. That’s my sole ambition.”
    He asked Terpnus to sing again and again, never tiring of listening, and glaring at those who had had enough of the music and were beginning to talk quietly together over their goblets.
    I myself finally found it difficult to suppress my yawns. I looked at my fellow guests and could see that Nero did not choose his friends with any exaggerated reference to their descent or rank, but followed his own persona] tastes.
    The noblest of the guests was Marcus Otho, who, like my father, was descended from the Etruscan kings and to whose father the Senate had erected a statue in Palatine. But he had such a reputation for recklessness and extravagance that I remembered hearing that his father had often beaten him long after he had received the man-toga. Claudius Senecio was also among the guests although his father had been nothing but one of Emperor Gaius’ freedmen. Both were handsome young men who could behave well when they felt like it. Another of the guests was Seneca’s wealthy relative, Annaeus Serenus, to whom Nero whispered in the moments when Terpnus was silent, soothing his voice with an egg drink.
    When Nero was listening to the music, he fell into a reverie, like a marble Endymion with his handsome features and his reddish hair. Finally he sent away most of his guests, retaining only about ten, and I also stayed as he did not ask me to leave. In his youthful love of life, he had not yet had enough and suggested we dress up and go out a back way into the city to enjoy ourselves.
    He himself put on slave costume and covered his head with a hood. We were all sufficiently drunk that anything seemed amusing to us, so laughing and shouting, we tumbled down the steep street to the forum and shushed at each other as we passed the Vestal Virgins’ dwelling. Otho said something obscene about them, which showed his total god-lessness.
    At the goldsmiths’ street, we met a drunken Roman knight complaining that he had lost his companions. Nero provoked a quarrel with him and knocked him down when he tried to fight. Nero was very strong for his eighteen years. Otho took off his cloak and we laughingly flung the man up into the air with it. In the end, Senecio pushed him into a sewer opening, but we pulled him out again so that he would not drown. Shouting noisily, thumping on the shop shutters and tearing down the signs as tokens of triumph, we finally reached the stinking alleys of Subura.
    There we roughly cleared a little inn of its customers and forced the landlord to give us wine. The wine was wretched, as one might have imagined, so we broke his jars, spilling the wine all over the floor and out onto the street. Serenus promised to compensate the landlord for the damage when he wept over his helplessness. Nero was very proud of a cut he had received on one cheek and would not allow us to punish the drover from Latium who had hit him, but called the coarse-limbed lout a man of honor.
    Senecio wanted us to go to a brothel but Nero said sadly that he was not permitted to keep even the very best prostitute company because of his mother’s strictness. Then Serenus, looking secretive, swore us all to secrecy, and took us to a handsome house on the slopes of Palatine. He said he had bought it and equipped it for the most beautiful woman in the world. Nero was confused and shy and several times asked, “Dare we disturb her so late?” and “Do you think I could read a poem to her?”
    All this was mostly just talk, for in the house lived the freedwoman Acte, who had been a Greek slave, and who was in fact the very girl with whom Nero had fallen head-over-heels in love. Serenus only pretended to be her lover in order that in his name he could give her Nero’s innumerable presents. I must admit that Acte was extremely beautiful. Presumably she must have been very much in love too, for she was delighted to be wakened in the early hours of the morning to meet the drunken Nero and his reveling companions.
    Nero swore that Acte was descended from King Attalus and that he intended to prove this to the world one day. On my part, I did not approve that he felt it necessary to show us the girl naked, and boast about her incredibly snow-white skin. The girl seemed well brought up and entirely agreeable, but Nero only enjoyed seeing her blushes as he explained that he could not refuse his friends anything. They themselves must see that he was the happiest and most enviable youth in the world.

    In this way my new life in Rome began, and it was not a very honorable life. Some time later, Nero offered me his favor if there were any particular oflicc I should like to have. He was even prepared to recommend me for a cohort command in the Praetorian Guard. I declined and said that I wished only to be his friend and companion, to learn the art of living. This pleased him, and he said, “You choose wisely, Minutus. There is no office insignificant enough not to waste a man’s time.”
    In Nero’s favor, I must say that on those occasions when he was forced to sit in judgment on cases which he could not turn over to the City Prefect or Prefect Burrus, he judged fairly and considerately, limiting the lawyers’ verbiage and demanding written verdicts from the other judges to avoid ingratiation. After reading the three separate verdicts, he himself pronounced judgment the following day, according to his own opinion. Despite his youth, he could conduct himself with dignity in public, even though otherwise he dressed with artistic carelessness and wore his hair long.
    I did not envy him his lot. It is difficult at seventeen to be exalted to the position of Emperor of Rome and rule over the world, constantly distressed by a jealous mother with a desire for power. I think that only Nero’s passionate love for Acte saved him from Agrippina’s influence and drew them apart, however bitter it was for Nero. But he could not endure his mother’s wounding words about Acte, and he could have made a worse choice, for Acte never mixed in State affairs and did not even angle for presents from him, although she was naturally pleased with what she received.
    In unnoticeable ways, Acte also succeeded in subduing the Domitian wildness in Nero. She had great respect for Seneca, who secretly approved of the relationship since he considered it would have been much more dangerous if Nero had fallen in love with some noble Roman maiden or young matron. Nero’s marriage to Octavia was a mere formality, and they had not even slept together yet, for Octavia was still too young. And then, too, Nero loathed her because she was sister to Britannicus. To be honest, Octavia did not have many attractive features. She was a withdrawn, supercilious girl with whom it was difficult to talk seriously, and who unfortunately had not inherited the beauty and charm of her mother, Messalina.
    Agrippina was wise and finally realized that her complaints and outbursts of rage only increased the distance between herself and Nero. So she reverted to the gentle mother, devoting herself to caressing and kissing him passionately and offering to share her bedroom with him so that she alone could be his best and nearest confidante. As a result, Nero was tormented by his guilty conscience. Once when he was choosing a gift for Acte in Palatine’s gown and jewel store, he innocently put aside a piece of jewelry for Agrippina, driven by a twinge of conscience. But Agrippina was livid with anger and pointed out that the valuables in the Palace were already hers, inherited from
    Claudius, and that it was only thanks to her that Nero had access to them.
    I, too, came up against Agrippina’s rage when, according to her, I did not report to her on Nero’s and his friends’ pranks and political opinions. It was as if this woman, for so long reserved and now corroded by her bitter experiences, had suddenly completely lost control of herself when she had begun to realize that she was not going to be allowed to rule over Rome through her son. Her face was twisted into frightening ugliness, her eyes glared like Medusa’s and her language became so obscene that it was difficult to listen to her. I no longer thought well of her.
    I think the deepest cause of the rift between Nero and Agrippina was really that he loved his mother so much, more than was right for a son, and Agrippina had quite deliberately seduced him. So he was both drawn to his mother and repelled by her at the same time, and he fled from her into Acte’s arms, or found outlet for his hatred in alley fights at night in the streets of Rome. On the other hand, Seneca’s moral teaching kept his inner being in control, for Nero at least tried to appear outwardly as a worthy pupil. Agrippina, in her insane jealousy, made the great mistake of losing control of herself.
    Agrippina’s only support, an extremely powerful one at that, was the Greek freedman Pallas, who considered himself a descendant of the mythical Arcadian kings and who, after serving the State under three Emperors, had developed such cunning that he never spoke to his slaves so that no one could then twist his words, but gave all his orders in writing. To me, the gossip about Agrippina’s relationship with him seemed unimportant. In any case, it had been Pallas who had first advised Claudius to marry her. Naturally the friendship the first lady of Rome openly showed to an ex-slave flattered him.
    Pallas always regarded Nero as if he were a silly boy and took every opportunity to show how indispensable his own experience was to the care of the State finances. When Nero wished to lower the taxes to please the people and the provinces, Pallas pretended to agree willingly, but then asked acidly where the Emperor thought he was going to find the money the State needed, demonstrating with clear figures that the State would go bankrupt if taxes were lowered. However talented Nero was in other ways, he had no head for figures and regarded calculations as work for slaves and not worthy of an Emperor.
    Personally, Pallas was a courageous man. It had been he who, a quarter of a century before, had risked his life by going to Capri to expose Sejanus’ conspiracy to Emperor Tiberius. His wealth was immense, reputed to be three hundred million sesterces, and his influence as great. He respected Britannicus and Octavia for their position as children of Claudius, and he had not been directly involved in Messalina’s wretched death. When he had agreed to take over the State finances, he had extracted a promise from Claudius that he need never account for the measures he adopted. He had demantled the same promise of Nero on the first day he came to power, when he had paid out from the State treasury the gifts Nero had promised the Praetorians.
    But he was an aging, tired man and the administration of the State monies had not kept up with the huge development of Rome, but had become rigid in the old traditions. This I heard said in many quarters. But he still considered himself indispensable. During disputes with Nero, he always threatened to resign from his post, thus bringing chaos to the State finances.
    “Ask your mother about it, if you don’t believe me,” he would add.
    Seneca, who feared his own position might be affected, now made a determining decision on Nero’s behalf. With the help of the cleverest bankers in Rome, he drew up a detailed plan for the care of the State finances and a thorough reorganization of the tax collections, to the advantage of the State in the spirit of the day. After consulting Burrus, he had the Praetorians occupy Palatine and guard the forum.
    “Are you the Emperor or not?” he said to Nero. “Summon Pallas and tell him he must go,”
    Nero feared and respected Pallas so much that he did not wish to do this.
    “Couldn’t I send him a written order,” he asked, “just as he always does?”
    But Seneca wanted to harden Nero, however difficult it was for Nero to look Pallas straight in the eye, Pallas had of course heard rumors about this new order, but he despised Seneca the philosopher and schoolmaster too much to take it seriously. And since Nero wished to be surrounded by his friends, to have their moral support and approval when he appeared as Emperor, I also witnessed this unpleasant event.
    When Pallas received the message from Nero, he was already under guard to prevent his sending a message to Agrippina. But it must be admitted that he appeared before Nero like a prince, not a flicker on his lined old face, as Nero, with delicate gestures, made an impassioned speech in his honor, not forgetting the Arcadian kings, and thanking him deeply for all his services to the State.
    “I can no longer bear to see you becoming old before your time and being broken by the weight of your great burden of responsibilities, as you yourself have often complained about,” said Nero finally. “As a special favor, I shall permit you to retire immediately to your country estate, of whose excellence and luxury we all know, so that to the end of your days you can enjoy the wealth you have accumulated without the slightest mistrust or fault spotting your reputation.”
    “I hope you will permit me, before I leave, to undergo the cleansing oath of the Capitoline, as is due to my position,” was all that Pallas could say in reply.
    Nero remarked that in accordance with his oath, he could not demand such an oath of such a faithful and reliable servant of the State, but that if Pallas himself wished it, to lighten his conscience, then of course Nero had no objection. On the contrary. The oath would put an end to all the endless gossip which was circulating.
    We expressed our approval with vigorous clapping, laughter and cries. Nero puffed up like a cockerel and smiled to himself in satisfaction as he stood there in his purple Imperial robe. Pallas contented himself with looking coldly at each of us in turn. I shall never forget his look, so full of icy contempt for us, Nero’s best friends. Since then, I have had to admit that a fortune of three hundred million sesterces is by no means disproportionate compensation for looking after the gigantic finances of the Roman Empire for twenty-five years. Seneca accumulated just as much in five years as compensation for his exile, not to mention my own fortune, whose size you will one day discover, Julius, after I am gone. I myself have not for many years bothered to find out even approximately how much it amounts to.
    The presence of the Praetorians in the forum and in other public places soon attracted crowds of people, and the news that Pallas had fallen from favor aroused general pleasure. What delights a crowd more than when a rich and influential man falls from his pedestal? Soon the wandering jesters were imitating Pallas on the street corners and competing with malicious songs.
    But when Pallas walked down from Palatine, followed by his eight hundred freedmen and assistants, the crowd fell silent and made way for his dignified procession. Pallas left his office like an Oriental king, his following glittering with valuable costumes, gold, silver and jewels.
    Who is more ostentatious in his clothing than an ex-slave? So Pallas had ordered them all to come in their best clothes.
    He himself was wearing a simple white tunic as he went up to the Capitoline, first to the mint in the temple of Juno Moneta and from there to the State Treasury, the temple of Saturn. In front of each idol, he took the cleansing oath and confirmed it again in the temple of Jupiter.
    Hoping to throw the State finances into confusion, Pallas had taken with him all his freedmen who over the years had been trained for different tasks, hoping that Nero would be forced to recall him in a few days’ time. But Seneca was prepared for this. Five hundred skilled slaves lent by the bankers were immediately placed in Pallas’ building in Palatine. And several of Pallas’ subordinates abandoned him as soon as he had left the city, and returned willingly to their old occupations. Seneca himself took over the right to decide on financial issues at a high level and formed a kind of State bank which lent out huge sums to Egypt and the tribal kings of Britain. The money did not lie idle, but earned dividends for Seneca.
    For several days Nero did not dare face his mother. Agrippina, for her part, considered that she had been mortally insulted, shut herself in her rooms on Palatine and called Britannicus in to her with his suite and tutor, in order to show to whom she would in future devote her attentions. Vespasian’s son, Titus, was one of Britannicus’ companions, as was Seneca’s nephew, Annaeus Lucanus, who despite his youth was too clever a poet to appeal very much to Nero. For while Nero liked the company of poets and artists and arranged competitions in the art of poetry, he did not like admitting that anyone could better him.
    However cleverly Nero thought he had played his part in Pallas’ dismissal, he was still very uneasy when he thought about his mother. As a kind of penance, he devoted his time to training his voice under the supervision of Terpnus. He fasted and lay on his back for long periods with a plate of lead on his chest. His exercises were monotonous to listen to, and to tell the truth, we were ashamed of them and tried to make sure that no old senator or visiting envoy heard them.
    The good news which arrived from Armenia just then increased Nero’s self-confidence to some extent. On the advice of Seneca and Burrus, Nero had summoned Rome’s greatest commantler, Corbulo, from Germany to quell the disturbances in Armenia, for the fact that this buffer state had been occupied by the Parthians was sufficient reason for war, according to Roman political tradition.
    In the internal struggle for the supreme command, Corbulo and the Proconsul of Syria, by successful forced marches, had managed to occupy the banks of the Euphrates, and then had shown such resolution that the Parthians had thought it best to leave Armenia again without declaring war. The Senate decided on a feast of thanksgiving in Rome, gave Nero the right to a triumph and had wreaths put on his lictor’s fasces.
    These measures were taken to calm the general unrest, for many people had feared that Nero’s resolution would lead to war with Par-thia. Business life in Rome was upset by the rumors of war, and the decrease in activity in the temple of Mercury did harm to all tradesmen.
    At the end of the year, the Saturnalia were celebrated for four days, more wildly than ever before. People vied with each other at sending expensive gifts and the older and more miserly, who wished to adhere to tradition and exchange only clay figures and festive bread, were ridiculed. On Palatine, one huge room was filled with gifts sent to Nero, for the rich noblemen in the provinces had exercised their inventive powers in good time to find extravagant gifts for him. The Chancery was kept busy listing the gifts, their value and their donors, for Nero considered that his position demantled that every gift should be reciprocated with an even more expensive one.
    Jesters’ processions wandered through the streets, citterns were played everywhere, people sang and shouted, slaves strutted about in their masters’ clothes and their lords humbly served festive meals and obeyed their orders during these days of the year when Saturnus made slaves and masters equal.
    Nero held the customary banquet on Palatine for the noblest youths of Rome. At the drawing of lots, he became the Saturnalia king and had the power to command us to commit any foolishness he wished. We had already drunk so much wine that the weakest had vomited on the walls, when Nero took it into his head that Britannicus should sing for us. The intention was to humiliate him, and Britannicus was forced to obey the festival king, although his mouth began to tremble. We were prepared for a good laugh, but to our surprise Britannicus took up the cittern and sang movingly the most melancholy of all songs, the one that begins: “Oh, Father, oh, Fatherland, Oh, Kingdom of Priam.”
    We could do nothing but listen attentively, avoiding one another’s eyes, and when Britannicus finished singing this song about the dying
    Troy, a melancholy silence hung in the huge banqueting hall. We could not applaud him, for with his lament he had clearly demonstrated that he considered he had been illegally robbed of power. But neither could we laugh, so great was the grief his song had expressed.
    Britannicus’ fine voice and successful performance was an unpleasant surprise for Nero, but he hid his feelings and praised Britannicus’ talent with great eloquence. A little later Britannicus left, complaining that he did not feel well. I think he was afraid he might have an attack of epilepsy because of his agitated state. His companions went with him too, and several strictly brought up youths took this opportunity to leave at the same time. With or without cause, Nero interpreted their behavior as a demonstration against him and was furious.
    “That song meant civil war,” he cried. “Remember Pompey was only eighteen and the god Augustus only nineteen when they commantled legions in civil wars. You won’t have to wait all that long. But if Rome prefers a bad-tempered epileptic as ruler to me, then I’ll renounce my rule and go to Rhodes. I shall never plunge the State into civil war. It would be better to open one’s veins or take poison than allow such a thing to happen to the fatherland.”
    We were frightened by his words, drunk though we were. Several others took their farewells and left. The rest of us praised Nero and tried to explain that Britannicus had no hope against him.
    “First joint regent,” said Nero. “That’s what my mother threatens. Then civil war. Who knows what list Britannicus is now ruminating over in his quiet mind. Perhaps you yourselves are all on it.”
    The words alone were frightening. Nero was unpleasantly right, even if we did try to laugh and remind him that, as the Saturnalia king, he might jest as cruelly as he pleased. He returned to the games and began to assign outrageous tasks to us. Someone should get hold of one of the Vestal Virgins’ shoes. Senecio was ordered to awaken and bring in the old noblewoman whose assistance had originally helped him to find a firm place on Palatine, despite his lowly origins.
    Tiring of these pranks, Nero then decided to try something even more impossible. Many left when he finally cried out, “My laurels to anyone who brings Locusta here.”
    The others seemed to know who Locusta was, but I asked in my innocence, “Who is Locusta?”
    No one wanted to tell me, but Nero said, “Locusta is a woman who has suffered a great deal and who can cook mushroom dishes for gods.
    Perhaps I feel like tasting food for the gods because I’ve been so hideously insulted tonight.”
    “Give me your laurels,” I cried, taking no particular notice of his words. “You’ve still not set me a task.”
    “Yes,” said Nero. “Yes, Minutus Lausus, my best friend, should be given the most difficult task. Minutus can be our Saturnalia hero.”
    “And after us, chaos,” said Otho.
    “No, chaos in our own time,” cried Nero. “Why should we leave it untried.”
    At that moment the old noblewoman came in, half naked and as drunk as a Bacchaean, strewing myrtle twigs about her, while Senecio hurriedly tried to stop her. This woman knew everything about Rome, so I asked her where I could find Locusta. She was not surprised by my question, but just tittered behind her hand and told me to ask my way to the Coelius district. I left quickly. The city was well lit and I did not have to ask for long before I found myself at Locusta’s little house. When I knocked, the door was opened, to my surprise, by an angry Praetorian guardsman who would not let me in. Not until he saw my narrow red border did he change his tone.
    “The woman Locusta is under guard,” he explained, “accused of serious offenses. She may not see or speak to anyone. Because of her, I’ve had to miss all the Saturnalia celebrations.”
    I had to rush off as far as the Praetorians’ camp to find his superior, who fortunately turned out to be Julius Pollio, brother to the friend of my youth, Lucius Pollio. He was a tribune now in the Praetorian Guard, and did not oppose the command of the Saturnalian king. On the contrary, he took the opportunity to join the circle around Nero.
    “I am responsible for the woman,” he said. “So I’ll have to come with Locusta and keep an eye on her.”
    Locusta was not yet an old woman, but her face was like a death mask and one of her legs was so crippled by torture that we had to get a sedan to take her to Palatine. She said absolutely nothing on the way, but just stared straight ahead with a bitter expression on her face. There was something frightening and ominous about her.
    Nero had moved into the smaller reception room with his last remaining guests and had sent away all the slaves. To my surprise, Seneca and Burrus had both joined the company in the middle of the night. I don’t know if Nero himself had sent for them, or whether possibly Otho had done so, frightened by Nero’s mood. There was not a trace of the joy of Saturnalia left. Everyone seemed to be avoiding each other’s eyes, some anxiously.
    When Seneca caught sight of Locusta, he turned to Nero.
    “You are the Emperor,” he said. “The choice is yours. Fate has decided this. But allow me to leave.”
    He covered his head with a corner of his mantle and left.
    Burrus hesitated.
    “Am I to be weaker than my mother?” cried Nero. “Can’t I speak to my mother’s friend and ask her about food for the gods?”
    In my innocence, I thought that perhaps Locusta had formerly been one of the cooks in the Palace.
    “You are the Emperor,” said Burrus sadly. “You know best what you are doing.”
    He too left the company with his head bowed and his wounded arm hanging loosely at his side.
    Nero looked about him, his eyes round and protruding.
    “Go away, all of you,” he commantled, “and leave me alone with my mother’s dear friend. We have many matters on the art of cooking to discuss.”
    I politely showed Julius Pollio into the great empty room and offered him some wine and some of the leftover food.
    “What is Locusta accused of?” I asked. “What has she to do with Agrippina?”
    Julius looked at me in amazement.
    “Don’t you know that Locusta is the most skillful blender of poisons in Rome?” he said. “She would have been sentenced years ago according to lex Julia, but thanks to Agrippina, she has never been prosecuted. After the examination by torture which is usual for poison-blenders, she was just put under house arrest instead. I think she had so much to tell that the interrogators were frightened.”
    I was astounded and could say nothing. Julius Pollio winked at me, took a drink and said, “Haven’t you even heard about the mushroom dish which made Claudius into a god? The whole of Rome knows that Nero has the clever cooperation between his mother and Locusta to thank for the fact that he is Emperor.”
    “I was traveling in the provinces and didn’t believe all the gossip from Rome,” I exclaimed, thoughts racing through my head. At first I thought Nero wanted some poison to put an end to his life, as he had threatened to do, but then I saw things more clearly.
    I thought I understood Seneca’s and Burrus’ presence if it were true that Nero, offended by Britannicus’ defiant behavior, wished to interrogate Locusta himself, perhaps to accuse his mother of poisoning Claudius. If he threatened Agrippina with this, perhaps he could force her into 6ilence, or even, after a secret trial, have her banished from Rome. Certainly he could not accuse his mother publicly. The thought calmed me, for I still could not believe that Agrippina had had Claudius killed. I had, after all, heard about his cancer of the stomach two years before he died.
    “I should think it would be best,” I said, after thinking about it all for a moment, “if we both kept our mouths shut about what has happened tonight.”
    Julius Pollio laughed.
    “That won’t be difficult for me,” he said. “A soldier obeys orders without talk.”
    I slept badly that night and had ill-omened dreams. The next day I went out to my father’s country estate near Caere, taking only Barbus with me. It was icy cold and the darkest time of the year, but in the peace and quiet of life in the country, I hoped to realize a plan which I had long had in mind: to write a book on my experiences in Cilicia.
    I was no poet; this I had noticed. I could not give a historic account of the Cleitors’ rebellion without putting the King of Cilicia and the Proconsul of Syria in a bad light. I remembered the Greek adventure stories I had read to pass the time at Silanus’ house and decided to write a similar brigand story, in a coarse amusing style, in which I exaggerated the foolish side of my imprisonment and belittled the difficulties. For several days I buried myself in this work so completely that I forgot both time and place. I think I succeeded in writing myself free of the misery of my imprisonment by joking about it in this way.
    As I wrote down the last lines, the ink spluttering from my pen, I received an astounding message from Rome to say that Britannicus, in the middle of a conciliatory meal of the Imperial family, had had a severe attack of epilepsy. He had been carried to his bed and shortly afterwards had died, much to everyone’s dismay, for he usually recovered from his attacks very quickly.
    In accordance with the custom of his forefathers of concealing painful events, Nero had Britannicus’ body cremated that same night on Mars field in pouring wintry rain, and then had his bones taken, with no funeral oration or public procession, to the mausoleum of the god Augustus. In his speech to the Senate and the people on the subject, Nero appealed to his fatherland, whose support was his only hope for the future, as he had so unexpectedly lost his brother’s support and help in ruling the Empire.
    People are glad to believe what they hope is true, so my first thought was one of enormous relief. The sudden death of Britannicus solved in my mind all the political conflicts in a way that was best both for Nero and for Rome. Agrippina could no longer point to Britannicus when she reproached her son for ingratitude. The ghost of a threatened civil war faded away.
    But at the root of my thoughts, a secret doubt still gnawed, even though I did not wish to be aware of it. I whiled away the time in Caere, with no desire to return to Rome. I heard that Nero had shared out the large fortune he had inherited from Britannicus among his friends and the influential members of the Senate. He seemed to have strewn enormous gifts about, as if to buy everyone’s favor. I had no wish to receive a share of Britannicus’ fortune.
    When I finally returned to Rome in the early spring, Nero had stripped Agrippina of her guard of honor and ordered her to move out of Palatine to the derelict house of old Antonia, Claudius’ dead mother. There Nero occasionally went to see her, but always in the presence of witnesses to force her to control her temper.
    Agrippina had been having a temple built to Claudius on the hill of Coelius, but Nero had it all pulled down, saying he needed the site for his own purposes. He had great plans to enlarge the Palace. In this way Agrippina’s position as a Claudius priestess also lost all meaning. From Aunt Laelia I heard that Agrippina was again as lonely as she had been during the difficult times when Messalina was still alive.
    Vespasian’s son Titus, friend and companion to Britannicus, had been ill ever since the meal at which Britannicus had had his fatal attack. I decided to visit him, as I knew his father so well, even if I had avoided Titus since I had joined Nero’s circle.
    Titus was still thin and pale from his illness and he looked at me distrustfully when I arrived so unexpectedly with gifts for him. One could see the Etruscan ancestry of the Flavius family in his square face, his chin and nose, much more clearly than in his father. One had only to compare him for a moment with some Etruscan statue, and for me, recently returned from Caere, the likeness was amazingly clear.
    “I’ve been in Caere ever since the Saturnalia celebrations,” I said, “and I’ve written an adventure story which I can perhaps make into a play. So I don’t know what’s been happening in Rome, although I’ve heard evil rumors. My name has also been mentioned in connection with Britannicus’ sudden death. You must know me well enough to believe no ill of me. Tell me the truth. How did Britannicus die?”
    Titus looked at me without fear.
    “Britannicus was my best and only friend,” he said. “One day III give him a golden statue among the gods in the Capitoline. As soon as I’m well enough, I’ll go to my father in Britain. At that meal, I sat beside Britannicus. Nero did not permit us boys to lie at the table. It was a chilly evening and we had hot drinks. Britannicus’ cup-bearer deliberately offered him such a hot goblet that he himself burned his tongue when he tasted it. Britannicus asked for cold water in his goblet, drank and at once lost his power of speech and his sight. I snatched the goblet and took a sip from it. At once I felt dizzy and everything swam in front of my eyes. Fortunately I was only made violently ill. I have been sick ever since. Perhaps I would have died too, if I hadn’t vomited.”
    “Then you think he really was poisoned and that you yourself drank some of the poison?” I asked, hardly able to believe my ears.
    Titus looked at me seriously, boy that he was.
    “I don’t think it,” he said. “I know it. Don’t ask me who the culprit is. It wasn’t Agrippina, anyhow, for she was appalled when it happened.”
    “If that is true,” I said, “then I could believe that she poisoned Claudius, as rumor still persists she did.”
    Titus stared pityingly at me with his almond-shaped eyes.
    “Didn’t you even know that?” he said. “Even the dogs of Rome howled around Agrippina when she went down to the forum after the Praetorians had proclaimed Nero Emperor.”
    “Then power is a more terrible thing than I had thought,” I said.
    “Power is far too great to be borne by a single man, however skillful an adviser he may be,” said Titus. “None of Rome’s rulers has sustained it without being destroyed. I’ve had plenty of time to think about these things during my illness, and yet I still prefer to think well of people rather than evil. I think well of you too, for honorably coming here to ask me to tell you the truth. I know the Almighty creates actors, but I don’t think you are here to find out for Nero what I think about the death of my best friend. I know Nero too. He thinks now that he has bribed his friends to forget and he would prefer to forget it himself. But I had a knife ready, should you have come to injure me.”
    He drew a dagger from under his pillow and threw it away, as if to show his complete confidence in me. But I did not think he trusted me absolutely. He spoke so deliberately and with such experience. We both jumped guiltily when a beautifully dressed young woman unexpectedly came into the room, followed by a slave-girl carrying a basket. The girl was as slim and broad-shouldered as Diana, her features fine but hard, and her hair was done in the Greek way in short curls. She looked inquiringly at me with her greenish eyes, and they seemed so familiar that I stared stupidly back.
    “Don’t you know my cousin, Flavia Sabina?” asked Titus. “She visits me every day with the food the doctor prescribes and she herself supervises the cooking of it. Won’t you join me, as my friend?”
    I realized that the girl was the daughter of the Prefect of Rome, Flavius Sabinus, the elder brother of Vespasian. Perhaps I had seen her at some large banquet or in a festive procession, as she looked so familiar. I greeted her respectfully, but my tongue dried up in my mouth and I stared at her broad face as if bewitched.
    Without looking in any way disturbed, she laid out a Spartan meal with her own hands. There was not even a jar of wine in the basket. I ate out of courtesy, but the food stuck in my throat as I looked at her, and I thought that no other woman had ever made such an impression on me at first sight.
    I could not understand the reason for this. She showed no interest in me whatsoever; on the contrary, she was cool and hard, withdrawn into herself, silent but conscious of her position as daughter of the City Prefect. During the meal I was more and more tormented with the feeling that it was all a dream, and though we drank nothing but water, I felt slightly intoxicated.
    “Why aren’t you eating anything yourself?” I asked finally.
    “I have prepared the food,” she said mockingly. “I’m not your cupbearer. And I’ve no cause to share my bread and salt with you, Minutus Manilianus. I know you.”
    “How can you know me when I don’t know you?” I protested.
    Flavia Sabina stretched out her slim forefinger without ceremony and felt my left eye.
    “Oh well, then I didn’t do your eye any harm after all,” she said. “Had I been more experienced, I’d have put my thumb in it. I hope you got a black eye from my fist, anyhow.”
    “Did you fight as children then?” asked Titus, who had been listening in amazement.
    “No, I lived in Antioch when I was a child,” I answered absently.
    Hut suddenly a memory glimmered which made me burn with shame. Sabina looked straight at me, enjoying my confusion.
    “Aha, so you remember then,” she cried. “You were drunk and quite mad, together with a crowd of slaves and rogues. It was in the middle of the night and you were fooling about in the streets. We found out who you were and Father didn’t want to bring you to court for reasons you yourself. know only too well.”
    I remembered only too well. Some time in the autumn, on one of Nero’s night escapades, I had tried to catch a girl coming toward me, but had received such a blow in my eye from her little fist that I had fallen over backwards. My eye had been black-and-blue for a week. Her companion had attacked us and Otho had received burns in the face from a lighted torch. I was so drunk at the time that I had not been able to remember much afterwards.
    “I didn’t hurt you,” I said, trying to excuse myself. “I only clung to you when we collided in the dark. If I’d known who you were, naturally I’d have at once hurried to apologize to you the next day.”
    “You’re lying,” she said. “And don’t try clinging to me again. It might be worse for you next time.”
    “I’d* never dare,” I said, trying to make light of it all. “From now on I’ll take to my heels whenever I see you. You treated me roughly.”
    Yet I did not take to my heels, but in fact accompanied Sabina back to the Prefect’s house. Her greenish eyes were full of laughter and her bare arm was as smooth as marble. A week later, my father and his following of two hundred clients and slaves were taken to Flavius Sabinus’ house to present my proposal.
    Tullia and Aunt Laelia had other ideas in mind, but this betrothal was by no means a bad one. The Flavius family was poor, but my father’s fortune balanced this.
    At Sabina’s request, we were married according to the longer form, although I had no intention of entering a College of any kind. But Sabina said she wanted to be married for life and did not want a divorce, and naturally I did as she wished. We had not been married all that long before I noticed that I let her have her own way in many more ways than that.
    But our wedding feast was a fine one. At my father’s expense and in the name of the City Prefect, all the people were invited to a free meal, not only the Senate and the knights. Nero came to the feast himself and appeared in the wedding procession as well as singing an indecent wedding hymn he himself had composed to the music of a flute.
    Finally he politely turned his torch upside down and left without fuss.
    I took the scarlet veil from Sabina’s head and lifted the yellow mantle from her shoulders. But when I wanted to untie the two hard knots in her linen girdle, she sat down, her green eyes flashing, and cried, “I am a Sabine woman. Take me as the Sabine women were taken.”
    But I did not even have a horse, nor was I good at the kind of plundering she wished for. I did not even understand what she wanted, for in my love for Claudia, I had become used to tenderness and mutual concessions.
    Sabina was disappointed, but she closed her eyes and clenched her fists and let me do what I wanted and what the red veil obliged me to do. Finally she flung her strong arms around my neck, gave me a swift kiss and turned her back on me to go to sleep. I persuaded myself that we were both as happy as two wedding-tired people can be and fell asleep with a sigh of contentment.
    Not until much later did I discover what Sabina had hoped for in physical love. The scars on my face had made her think I was quite different from what I am. Our first meeting in the street at night had made her dream that I could do to her what she wanted, but in that she was mistaken.
    I bear her no grudge. She became even more disappointed in me than I in her. How and why she became what she did, I cannot explain. Venus is a capricious and often cruel goddess. Juno is more trustworthy from a family point of view, but in other matters of marriage, dull in the long run.

Book VII


    As we spent the hottest part of the summer on the coast at Caere, my wife Flavia Sabina found an outlet for her need for activity in building us a new modern summer dwelling, instead of the old rush-roofed fisherman’s hut. At the same time she observed me and my weaknesses, without my knowledge, and without mention of my future plans, for she noticed that the mere mention of office depressed me. After our return to the city, she consulted her father, with the result that the City Prefect, Flavius Sabinus, sent for me.
    “The wooden amphitheater is just being completed and Nero himself is to be present at the opening ceremony,” he told me. “I am having trouble with the valuable wild animals which keep arriving from all corners of the world. The old menagerie in the via Flaminia is much too small, and Nero is making special demands. He wants trained animals which can perform acts which have never before been seen, and senators and knights are to give demonstrations of their hunting skills in the arena. So the animals which care to be hunted mustn’t be too wild. On the other hand, the animals which are to fight each other must be exciting enough to watch. What we need is a reliable superintendent who will be responsible for the animals and who will also arrange all that part of the program. Nero is willing to nominate you for the post, as you have some experience with wild animals, and it is a worthy office in the service of the State.”
    I suppose I had only myself to blame for this, as I had happened to boast that as a boy I had once captured a lion alive, and among the brigands in Cilicia I had once saved the lives of my companions when a brigand chieftain amused himself by chasing us into a bear’s cave. But to care for hundreds of wild animals and arrange performances in the amphitheater was such a responsibility that I did not consider I had the right qualifications to fill the post.
    When I said this to my father-in-law, he replied caustically, “You’ll receive whatever money you need from the Imperial treasury. The most experienced animal trainers from every country will be competing to enter the service of Rome. Nothing more is asked of you than good judgment and good taste in choosing the programs. Sabina will help you. She has been running around the menagerie since she was a child and loves taming animals.”
    This was news to me. Cursing my fate, I returned home and complained bitterly to Sabina.
    “I’’d rather take the post of Quaestor to please you than be an animal trainer,” I said.
    Sabina looked at me, as if summing me up, then put her head on one side.
    “No, you’d never be a consul, you poor thing,” she said. “So why shouldn’t you have an exciting and interesting life as superintendent of the menagerie? There’s never been anyone in that post with the rank of knight before.”
    I told her my interests lay more in a bookish direction.
    “What’s a reputation earned in a lecture room worth,” she said scornfully, “where fifty or a hundred people clap their hands in gratitude when you at last stop reading? You’re an unenterprising idler. You’ve no ambition at all.”
    Sabina was so angry that I did not dare annoy her even more, although the reputation to be gained from stinking wild animals did not appeal to me. We went at once to the menagerie, and during our brief tour, I could see that matters were even worse than the City Prefect had described.
    The animals were starving after their long journeys and they had no suitable food. A valuable tiger lay dying, and no one had any real idea what the rhinos, which had been brought from Africa at great expense, normally ate, for they had trampled their experienced keeper to death. The drinking water was foul, and the elephants would not eat. The cages were much too cramped and dirty. The giraffes were practically dying of fright because they had been placed next to the lions’ cages.
    The bellowing and roaring from the harassed animals made my head spin and the stench was overpowering. None of the foremen and slaves in the menagerie wished to be responsible for anything. “Not my job,” was the usual reply when I attempted to ask anyone anything. They even protested that hungry and frightened animals fought better in the arena, as long as one could keep them more or less alive until the day of the performance.
    Sabina was most interested in two enormous hairy apes, larger than men, which had been brought to Rome from some unknown part of Africa. They took no notice of the meat offered to them and would not even drink.
    “The whole place must be rebuilt,” I said decisively. ‘The animal trainers must have enough space and the cages must be big enough for the animals to be able to move about. Running water must be brought to them. Every species of animal must be fed and cared for by especially appointed men who know their habits.”
    The foreman with me shook his head.
    “What’s the point of that?” he said. “The animals will die in the arena anyhow.”
    Infuriated by all these objections, I flung the apple I had been eating at the cage of giant apes.
    “Must the first thing I do be to flog you all,” I shouted, “so that you learn your trade?”
    Sabina put her hand on my arm to calm me, at the same time nodding toward the apes. I watched in wonder as a hairy arm reached out for the apple, and then the beast bared its frightful teeth and crunched up the apple in one bite. I frowned and looked as stern as I could.
    “Give them a basket of fruit,” I said, “and fresh water in a clean vessel.”
    The keeper burst out laughing.
    “Wild animals like that are meat eaters,” he said. “You can see that from their teeth.”
    Sabina snatched the whip from his hand and struck him across the face.
    “Is that the way to speak to your master?” she cried.
    The man was both frightened and angry, but to show me up, he fetched a basket of fruit and emptied it into the cage. The starving animals came to life and fell on the food, and to my own surprise, they even liked grapes. This was so strange to the keepers that they all gathered around to watch and stopped laughing at my orders.
    When my authority had been established, I soon noticed that the main failing was not lack of experience but a general indifference and lack of discipline. From foreman down to slaves, it was considered a natural right to steal some of the ingredients of the animals’ food and so the animals were haphazardly fed.
    The architect who had designed Nero’s wooden amphitheater and was responsible for its construction considered it beneath him to trouble with animals cages and exercising yards. But when he saw my drawings and heard Sabina’s explanations of what was involved, in fact an entirely new section of the city, he became interested.
    I dismissed or gave other work to all the men who were amusing themselves by tormenting the animals, or who were too frightened of them. Sabina and I thought up an attractive uniform for the menagerie’s many employees, and we also built ourselves a house within the menagerie grounds, for I soon noticed that I had to be at the place day and night if I really wished to care for these valuable animals properly.
    We abandoned all social life and devoted ourselves completely to the animals, even to the extent of Sabina’s keeping lion cubs in our bed and forcing me to feed them from a horn when their mother died at their birth. Our own married life we forgot in the rush, for to supervise a menagerie is undoubtedly an exciting and responsible task.
    When we had cleaned up the menagerie, found sufficient regular provisions and appointed efficient and interested keepers for all the different animals, we had to begin planning the events for the inaugural performance in the amphitheater, the day of which was approaching with alarming speed.
    I had watched a sufficient number of animal fights to know how hunts should be organized in the arena to be as safe as possible for the huntsmen but yet look exciting. It was more difficult to decide which animals should be set against which, for the crowd was used to seeing the most remarkable combinations of this kind. I had great hopes of. the displays by the trained animals, for skilled animal trainers from every country were constantly offering me their services.
    The actual practicing for these displays proved less difficult than trying to keep them secret until the day. We were constantly overrun with spectators who wanted to come into the menagerie, so in the end I decided on an entry fee for those who wished to walk about. The money that came in in this way, I used for the menagerie itself, although I could have kept it, as had been my initial idea. Children and slaves came in free, if the crowds were not too great.
    A week before the inauguration, a lame bearded man came to see me, and I did not recognize him as Simon the magician until he began to speak to me. The ban on fortunetelling by the stars was still in force, so he could no longer use his handsome Chaldaean cloak covered with the signs of the zodiac. He looked wretched and destitute, his eyes restless, and he made such a strange request that at first I thought he had lost his reason. He wished to give a public demonstration of flying in the amphitheater to retrieve his good name and reputation.
    As far as I could make out from his confused account, his powers of faith-healing had declined and he was no longer fashionable. His daughter had died from the intrigues of hostile magicians, he maintained. The Christians in Rome, in particular, had hated and persecuted him to such an extent that he was threatened with destitution and an insecure old age. So now he wished to demonstrate his divine powers to all the people.
    “I know that I can fly,” he said. “Before, I flew in front of great crowds and appeared from a cloud, until one of the Christian messengers came with their sorcery and made me fall in the forum and break my knee. I want to prove that I can still fly, to myself as well as others. I once threw myself down from the Aventine tower at night in a heavy storm and spread out my cloak for wings. I flew without any difficulty and landed unscathed on my feet.”
    “In truth, I never believed you flew,” I said, “but simply distorted people’s eyes so that they believed they had seen you flying.”
    Simon the magician twisted his gnarled hands and scratched his bearded chin.
    “Perhaps I did distort people’s eyes,” he said, “but no matter. I was forced to persuade myself that I was flying, with such power that I still believe I have flown. But I do not strive to reach the clouds any longer. It will be sufficient for me if I succeed in flying once or twice around the amphitheater. Then I shall believe in my own power and that my angels are holding me up in the air,”
    The thought of flying was the only thing in his head, so in the end I asked how he thought he was going to arrange it. He explained that a high mast could be erected in the middle of the amphitheater and he could be pulled up to the top in a basket so that he would be sufficiently high, for he could not raise himself from the ground with a hundred thousand people looking on. He stared at me with his piercing eyes and spoke so convincingly that my head whirled. At least, I thought, this would be an event which had never before been seen in any amphitheater, and it was Simon the magician’s own business if he felt he had to risk breaking his neck. Perhaps he might even succeed in his reckless attempt.
    Nero came to the amphitheater to watch when several Greek youths were practicing a sword dance. It was a hot autumn day, and Nero wore nothing but a sweat-drenched tunic as he shouted praises and urged the youths on, occasionally taking a part in the dance himself to set an example to them. When I put Simon the magician’s proposal to him, he was at once enthusiastic.
    “Flying is remarkable enough in itself,” he added, “but we must find an artistic framework to make an exceptional event of it. He can be Icarus, but we must get Daedalus and his masterpiece in too. Why not Pasiphae too, so the crowd can have some fun?”
    His imagination began to work with such liveliness that I was thankful for my good fortune. We also agreed that Simon should shave off his beard, dress up as a Greek youth, and have glittering gilded wings fastened to his back.
    When I put these Imperial demands to Simon, at first he refused point-blank to shave, maintaining that it would take his powers away. He had no objections to the wings. When I spoke of Daedalus and the wooden cow, he told me of the Jewish myth about Sampson, who had lost all his strength when a strange woman had cut off his hair. But when I suggested that he obviously had little faith in his ability to fly, he agreed to the demands. I asked him whether he wanted the mast erected at once to give him time to practice, but he said practicing would only weaken his powers. It would be better if he fasted and read incantations in solitude to gather his strength for the day of the performance.
    Nero had prescribed that the program should both edify and entertain the public. For the first time in history, a huge show of this kind was to take place without the deliberate spilling of human blood. Thus the people had to be made to laugh as much as possible between the exciting and artistically excellent events. During unavoidable intervals, gifts were to be thrown to the crowd, such as roasted birds, fruit and cakes, and ivory lottery tablets, from which lots for corn, clothes, silver and gold, draft oxen, slaves and even land would be drawn later on.
    Nero did not want to have professional gladiators at all. So, and to emphasize the worthiness and dignity of his show, he ordered that the games should be introduced with a battle between four hundred senators and six hundred knights. It amused the people to see important men of irreproachable reputation battering at each other with wooden swords and blunted lances. Groups of elite warriors also displayed their skills, but the crowd was dissatisfied when no one was injured, and began to mate itself heard volubly on this point. The soldiers on guard began to move in, but Nero made it known that he wished them to withdraw so that the people of Rome should get used to freedom.
    This command roused applause and general delight. The malcontents restrained themselves, to show that they were worthy of the Emperor’s confidence. A duel with nets and tridents between two fat and breathless senators was so comical that the crowd let out a giant roar of laughter, and both gentlemen in fact became so angry with each other that they would certainly have been hurt had the tridents been sharpened or if the nets had had the usual lead weights on them.
    Three men displaying giant snakes caused considerable horror when they allowed the snakes to crawl all over them, but Nero was not pleased when no one realized they were supposed to represent Laocoon and his sons. The lion, tiger and bison hunts ran their course without mishap, much to the disappointment of the crowd, for which the young knights representing the huntsmen had me to thank as I had had protective towers built for them here and there in the arena. I myself disliked this display because I had already become so fond of my animals that I did not like to see them killed.
    There was gigantic applause for a young lion-tamer, a supple young woman who came rushing out of a dark entrance, straight across the arena, with three apparently raging lions at her heels. A great hum went through the crowd, but the woman halted the lions with her whip in the middle of the sand and made them sit down obediently like dogs, and jump through hoops at her commands.
    The noise and applause must have upset the lions, for when the woman did her boldest act, forcing the great male lion to open his mouth and placing her own head inside it, the lion quite unexpectedly closed his jaws again and bit into her head. This surprise caused such jubilation and such a storm of applause that I had time to rescue the lions.
    A chain of slaves equipped with burning torches and red-hot bars hastily surrounded them and drove them back into their cages. Otherwise the mounted archers would have been forced to kill them. To tell the truth, I was so anxious about my valuable lions that I jumped unarmed into the arena to issue orders to the slaves.
    I was, however, so incensed that I gave the male lion a kick under the jaw with my iron-shod boot to make him loosen his grip on his mistress’ head. The lion growled angrily but was probably so upset by the accident that he did not attack me.
    After a troupe of painted Negroes had baited a rhino, a wooden cow was carried into the arena and the clown Paris performed the story of Daedalus and Pasiphae, while a giant bull so eagerly mounted the hollow wooden cow that most of the crowd believed that Pasiphae really had hidden herself inside it.
    Simon the magician with his huge golden wings was a spectacle which surprised everyone. With gesticulations Paris tried to induce him to do some dance steps, but Simon rejected the attempt with the swirl of his magnificent wings. Two sailors hoisted him up to a platform at the top of the immensely high mast. In the upper galleries, several Jews began to shout curses, but the crowd silenced them and Simon turned in all directions to greet the people as he stood up on the mast on this, the most solemn moment of his life. I think that right up to lie very last moment, he was convinced he would conquer and crush his rivals.
    So he swung his wings once more and leaped out into the air in the direction of the Imperial box, only to fall immediately, so close to Nero that several drops of blood splashed on the Emperor. He died instantly, of course, and afterwards it was discussed whether he really had flown or not. Some people maintained they had seen his left wing damaged as he was being hoisted up in the basket. Others thought the Jews’ terrible curses had made him fall. Perhaps he would have succeeded if he had been allowed to retain his beard.
    Anyhow, the performances had to continue. The sailors now fastened a thick rope between the first gallery and the foot of the mast. To the great surprise of the crowd, an elephant then carefully walked along the rope from the gallery to the arena, a knight known all over Rome for his foolhardiness seated on its neck. He had not taught the elephant tightrope-walking, of course, for it was used to doing this without a rider. But he received the final applause for a display of skills and daring never before seen in any amphitheater.
    I think the crowd was on the whole satisfied with what had been shown. Simon the magician’s death-leap and the lion-tamer’s sudden death were both considered the best events, the only complaint being that they had been carried out much too quickly. The senators and knights who had been forced to appear as hunters were pleased to have escaped without mishap. Only the most old-fashioned spectators complained that no human blood had flowed in honor of the Roman gods, and they recalled the cruel days of Claudius with a tinge of melancholy.
    The majority bravely hid their disappointment, for Nero had generously had expensive gifts distributed during the intervals. The withdrawal of the Praetorians had also appealed to the people’s natural sense of freedom and less than a hundred spectators had been seriously injured in the fights over the ivory lots.
    Octavia, the Emperor’s wife, had borne in silence the insult of Nero permitting Acte to watch the show from the Imperial box, even if only through a peephole in a special wall. Agrippina had not been allocated a place, and Nero had let it be known that his mother was not well. Someone in the crowd was said to have shouted out that perhaps she had been eating mushrooms. I myself did not hear this, but Nero was said to have been pleased that the people fearlessly used this opportunity to air their freedom of speech in his presence.
    My menagerie had suffered saddening losses, but some basic stock remained of course, which I intended to use as the foundation by which the menagerie could be replenished with wild animals from all corners of the earth. In this way displays in the future would not be dependent on chance, but could be put on whenever Nero felt it necessary to entertain the people. Knowing Nero’s whims, I thought there was good reason to be prepared beforehand for political events which demantled entertainment organized to lull the people into forgetting unpleasant things.
    The day before, the dead rhinos’ matrices had stiffened into a clear, trembling mass in their African cooking-trenches, where they had been simmering all night. I prepared to take this rare delicacy, which as far as I know had never been seen before in Rome, to the Emperor’s table. Sadly I looked at the empty cages, at the slaves back at their everyday work and at the modest house in which Sabina and I had lived a strenuous but, as I now thought, happy phase of our life.
    “Sabina,” I cried gratefully, “without your experience of animals and your indefatigable energy, I should never have accomplished this task with honor. We’re sure to miss these days sometimes, in spite of the setbacks and surprises, when we return to ordinary life.”
    “Return?” my wife said briskly, her face stiffening. “What do you mean by that, Minutus?”
    “I’ve accomplished my mission to your father’s and the Emperor’s satisfaction, I hope,” I replied. “Now I’m taking a new dish to Nero and our Procurator is settling the finances with the Imperial treasury. Nero has no head for figures and to be honest, neither can I understand such involved bookkeeping, except in round figures. But I think everything is in order and I don’t mind about the money I have lost. Perhaps Nero will reward me in some way, but the best reward to me has been the applause of the people. More than that I do not demand, and anyhow, I could not endure this uninterrupted excitement much longer.”
    “Which of us has had most to endure?” said Sabina. “I can hardly believe my ears. You’ve only taken the first step. Do you mean to say you are prepared to abandon the lion which now has no trainer, or those almost human giant apes, one of which is coughing horribly and needs care, not to mention the other animals? No, Minutus, you must be tired or in a bad mood. Father has promised that you can keep your present position under my supervision. It saves him a great deal of trouble since he doesn’t have to squabble over the miserly grants from the State.”
    Now it was my turn to refuse to believe my ears.
    “Flavia Sabina,” I said, “I’m not going to spend the rest of my life as a keeper, however valuable and beautiful the animals are. On my father’s side I am descended from the Etruscan kings of Caere, just as much as Otho or anyone else is.”
    “Your origins are doubtful, to say the least,” snapped Sabina angrily. “And we’ll not even mention your Greek mother. The wax masks in your father’s house were inherited by Tullia. In the Flavius family there have at least been consuls. We are living in different times. Don’t you see that the superintendent of the menagerie is a political position anyone might envy, even if it is not generally recognized yet?”
    “I’ve no desire to compete with horsemen and cittern players,” I protested stiffly. “I can name two elderly senators who already put their togas to their noses when they meet me, as if to protect themselves from the stench of the menagerie. Five hundred years ago the most noble of patricians would boast of smelling of manure, but we no longer live in those times. And I must say, I’m tired of lion cubs in our bed. You’ve more affection for them than you have for me, your husband.”
    Sabina’s face turned yellow with fury.
    “I haven’t wanted to hurt you by mentioning your capabilities as a husband,” she said, controlling herself with difficulty. “A more intelligent and tactful man would have drawn his own conclusions long ago. We are not carved from the same wood, Minutus. But a marriage is a marriage and bed is not the most important part of it. In your place, I’d be pleased to see my wife finding other interests with which to fill her empty life. But I’ve decided on your behalf that we shall stay at the menagerie. Father thinks the same.”
    “My father may also have his views on the matter,” I threatened rather feebly. “His money won’t go on paying for the menagerie forever.”
    But that was irrelevant. What hurt most was Sabina’s unexpected reproaches for my failure as a husband.
    I had to see to getting the rhino-matrice jelly to Palatine while it was still hot, so our quarrel was interrupted. It was not our first quarrel by any means, but it was certainly the worst one we had had so far, and much the most hurtful.
    Nero asked me to join him for the meal, which was quite natural, and to show his favor he ordered half a million sesterces given to me for the work done; which indicated that he had not the slightest idea of the cost of running the menagerie. In fact, I was never paid that sum, but I did not feel it necessary to ask for it as my father was not short of ready cash.
    I remarked a little sourly that it would be of greater importance to me if the post of superintendent of the menagerie became a State appointment, so that when I left it could be put in my roll of merit. My suggestion gave rise to a jocular discussion which my father-in-law swiftly put an end to by saying that such an important office could not be left for a capricious Senate to hand over to an unsuitable applicant. According to him this was legally an Imperial appointment, like that of kitchen superintendent or superintendent of the clothing store or stable-master, and could be lost only by falling from the Emperor’s grace.
    “From our ruler’s pleased countenance, I presume you still have his confidence,” my father-in-law said finally. “You are the superintendent as far as it concerns me as City Prefect, so don’t spoil an important discussion with any more remarks of that kind.”
    Nero began eagerly expounding his plans for games which would take place every five years, on the Greek pattern, to raise the level of the people’s education and taste.
    “We can proclaim that the aim is to ensure the State’s continued existence,” he said thoughtfully. “I myself will see to it that they will be looked on as the greatest games of all times. At first they can be quite simply called Nero’s feast games, so that the people get used to them. We’ll divide them up into musical games, athletic games and the customary races. I am thinking of inviting the Vestal Virgins as spectators to the athletics since I have heard that the Ceres priestesses have the same right at the Olympic Games. The most important features of all noble sports will be located in Rome. This is politically suitable, for it is, after all, we who administer our inheritance from Hellas. Let us show ourselves worthy of it.”
    I could not enthuse over his great plans, for reason told me that this Knd of Greek games would only lower the reputation of animal shows and make my own office less worthy. Naturally the crowd would always prefer the pleasures of the amphitheater to songs, music and athletics. I knew the people of Rome well enough for that. But Nero’s high-flown interest in art seemed to be transforming the amphitheater into a rather doubtful kind of pleasure.
    As I returned to our house at the menagerie, I was not in the best of moods and then, to my despair, Aunt Laelia and Sabina were quarreling fiercely when I arrived. Aunt Laelia had come to fetch the body of Simon the magician, which she wished to bury without cremation in the Jewish way, since Simon had no other friends to perform this last service for him. The Jews and their kind had underground caves outside the city where they kept the bodies of their dead. Aunt Laelia had wasted a great deal of time before she found out about these half-secret burial grounds.
    I made inquiries and discovered that no one had asked after Simon the magician’s body in time, so it had been given to the animals to eat, as was the usual practice in the menagerie with the bodies of slaves. I did not like this practice, but of course it reduced costs as long as one saw to it that the flesh was healthy. I had forbidden my subordinates to use the bodies of people who had died of diseases for feeding to the animals.
    In this case, I thought Sabina had been too hasty. Simon the magician had been a respected man in his own circles and had deserved a burial according to his own people’s customs. In fact a chewed skull and a few vertebrae were all the slaves could find after they had chased the angry lions away from their meal.
    I had the remains put in a hastily acquired urn and handed it to Aunt Laelia, telling her not to have it opened for the sake of her own peace of mind. Sabina openly showed her contempt for our softhearted-ness.
    After that evening, we slept in separate rooms. In spite of the bitterness I felt, I slept markedly better than I had done for a long time, now that I did not have lion cubs climbing all over me. They had now grown knifelike teeth.
    After Simon the magician’s death, Aunt Laelia soon lost her will to live and what reason she had possessed. She had, of course, long been an elderly woman. But instead of trying to hide this, as she had done hitherto with clothes, wigs and paint, she now gave up the struggle and for the most part remained hidden indoors, muttering to herself and talking about the old days, which she remembered far better than the present.
    When I realized that she no longer even knew who was Emperor and that she was confusing me with my father, I thought I ought to stay overnight as often as possible in my old house on Aventine. Sabina had no objections, and in fact seemed pleased to be able to supervise the menagerie on her own.
    Sabina was happy with the animal trainers, although, in spite of their much respected professional skill, they were mostly ignorant people who could talk of nothing else but their animals. Sabina was also good at supervising the unloading of the wild animals from the ships and was better than I was at haggling over the price. First and foremost, she maintained ruthless discipline among the employees in the menagerie.
    I soon noticed that I had much less to do as long as I arranged for Sabina to have enough money for the menagerie, for the grant from the Imperial treasury did not go far toward maintenance and provisions. That was why I had been given to understand that the post of superintendent was an honorary office which presupposed one used one’s own means.
    Thanks to my Gallic freedman, money poured in from his soap factory. One of my Egyptian freedmen manufactured expensive salves for women, and Hierex sent me handsome gifts from Corinth. But my freedmen liked to put their profits into new business enterprises. The soap maker expanded his business to all the big cities in the Empire and Hierex was speculating in sites in Corinth. My father remarked mildly that the menagerie was not a very profitable business.
    To help mitigate the housing shortage, I had several seven-story blocks of dwellings built on a burned-out site which I had acquired cheaply thanks to my father-in-law. I also earned a little by equipping and sending out expeditions to Thessalia, Armenia and Africa, and selling the surplus animals to games in the provincial cities. Naturally we kept the best animals for ourselves.
    My largest income came from the ships, in which I had the right to buy shares, which sailed to India from the Red Sea, officially to be able to transport rare animals from India. The goods were brought to Rome via Alexandria, and manufactured products from Gaul and wines from Campania were taken to India in exchange.
    Through an agreement with the Arabian princes, Rome was allowed a base on the southern point of the Red Sea with the right to maintain a garrison there. This was already necessary because the demand for luxury goods rose as the prosperity of the nation increased, and the Parthians would not allow Rome’s caravans through their country without taking an intermediary share in the profits on the goods.
    Alexandria gained from the new order, but large trading centers such as Antioch and Jerusalem suffered from the falling prices of Indian goods. So the great merchant princes in Syria, via their agents, “began to spread the idea in Rome that war with Parthia would sooner or later be inevitable, to open a direct overland trade route to India.
    When the situation in Armenia had calmed down, Rome had made connections with the Hyrcanians, who controlled the salty Caspian Sea north of Parthia. In this way, a trade route to China was established, circumventing the Parthians and bringing both silk and porcelain to Rome across the Black Sea. It must be said that my grasp of the whole situation was not particularly clear, and this was also true with other noblemen in Rome. It was said that it took two whole years to bring goods on camels from China to the Black Sea coast. Most reasonable people did not believe that any country could possibly be that far away and said that this was an invention of the caravan merchants to justify their extortionate prices.
    In her more sullen moments, Sabina used to urge me to go to India myself to fetch tigers, or to China for the legendary dragons, or to travel up the Nile to darkest Nubia for rhinos. Bitter as I was, I sometimes felt like setting out on a long journey, but then my reason would return to me and I would realize that there were experienced men more suited to the task and the rigors of the journeys than I.
    So every year on the anniversary of my mother’s death, I used to free one of the menagerie’s slaves and equip him for a journey. One of my travel-hungry Greek freedmen I sent to Hyrcania to try to get to China. He had the advantage of being able to write, and I had hoped that he would be able to give a useful account of his journey which I could then have made into a book. But I never heard from him again.
    After my marriage and the death of Britannicus, I had to some extent begun to avoid Nero. When I think about it now, I see that my marriage to Sabina was in some ways an escape from the closed circle around Nero, which perhaps accounts for my sudden and foolish attraction to her.
    When I again had more time to myself, I began to arrange modest receptions for Roman authors at my house. Annaeus Lucanus, the son of one of Seneca’s cousins, was pleased when I unrestrainedly praised his poetic talents. Petronius, who was a few years older than I, liked the little book I had written about the brigands in Cilicia for its deliberate use of the simple language of the people.
    Petronius himself was a refined man and had as his ambition, after fulfilling his political duties, to develop life into a fine art. He was a trying friend to have inasmuch as he liked to sleep in the daytime and stay awake at night, on the grounds that the noise of the traffic in Rome at night prevented him from sleeping.
    I began to plan and partly wrote a handbook on wild animals, their capture, transportation, care and training. To make it useful to the audience, I recounted many exciting incidents I had myself witnessed or heard described by others, and only exaggerated as much as an author has a right to do to hold his public’s interest. Petronius thought it would be an excellent book of lasting value, and he himself borrowed from it some of the coarser expressions in the language of the amphitheater.
    I no longer took part in Nero’s nighttime escapades in the less reputable parts of Rome, for my father-in-law was the City Prefect. In this I behaved wisely, for these wild pleasures came to a sad end.
    Nero never bore a grudge against anyone if he were beaten in a fight, but just took this as a sign that the fight had been an honest one. But an unfortunate senator, defending his wife’s honor, happened to hit him very hard on the head, and was then stupid enough to write an apologetic letter to Nero afterwards when he discovered to his horror whom he had struck. Nero had no alternative then but to marvel that a man who had struck his Emperor could continue to live and also boast of his deed in shameless letters. So the senator had his physician open his veins.
    Seneca was annoyed at this incident and considered it necessary to find other outlets for Nero’s wildness. So he had Emperor Gaius’ circus on the edge of Vatican set up as a private pleasure ground for Nero. There, with reliable friends and noblemen as spectators, he could at last practice the art of driving a team of horses to his heart’s content.
    Agrippina gave him her gardens, which stretched all the way to Janiculus, with its many brothels. Seneca hoped that the athletics, which Nero practiced in semisecrecy, would lessen his, for an Emperor, exaggerated pleasure in music and singing. Nero soon became a bold and fearless driver, for he had of course loved horses ever since his childhood.
    In fact he seldom needed to look around on the race course for fear that others would tip his chariot over, but the art of controlling a Spanish team on the curves of the circus is not given to every man. Many a racing enthusiast has broken his neck on the race course, or been crippled for life by falling from his chariot and failing to loosen the reins from his body in time.
    In Britain, Flavius Vespasian had had a serious dispute with Oc-torius and was finally ordered home. Young Titus had begun to distinguish himself in his service and once had courageously taken command of a cavalry division and hastened to the aid of his father who was surrounded by Britons, though Vespasian maintained that he would have managed well enough on his own.
    Seneca considered these perpetual petty wars in Britain both pointless and dangerous, for in his opinion the loan he had made the British kings created peace in the country more effectively than punitive expeditions which were nothing but a burden on the treasury. Nero permitted Vespasian to take up the office of Consul for a few months, appointed him to a distinguished College and later had him chosen as Proconsul in Africa for the customary term of office.
    When we met in Rome, Vespasian looked at me appraisingly. “You’ve changed a great deal-over the years, Minutus Manilianus,” he said, “and I don’t just mean the scars on your face either. When you were In Britain, I wouldn’t have believed that we should be related by your marrying my niece. But a young man makes more progress in Rome than by gelling rheumatism for life in Britain and marry now and again the Britons’ way.”
    I had almost forgotten my nominal marriage in the Iceni country. The meeting with Vespasian reminded me unpleasantly of my painful experiences there, and I begged him to remain silent on the point.
    “What legionary hasn’t bastards in the countries of the world?” he said. “But your hare priestess, Lugunda, has not married again. She is bringing up your son in the Roman way. The noblest Icenis are that civilized already.”
    The news hurt, for my wife Sabina showed no sign nor even desire to bear me a child, and we had not slept together with that intention for a long time. But I chased away my disturbing thoughts of Lugunda as
    I had done before, and Vespasian willingly agreed to keep my British marriage secret, for he knew of his niece’s harsh nature.
    At the banquet which my father-in-law held in Vespasian’s honor, I met Lollia Poppaea for the first time. It was said that her mother had been the most beautiful woman in Rome and had attracted Claudius’ attention to such an extent that Messalina had had her removed from the rolls of the living, though I did not believe all the evil things that were still said about Messalina.
    Poppaea’s father, Lollius, as a youth had belonged to the circle of friends around Sejanus and so was eternally out of favor. Lollia Poppaea was married to a rather insignificant knight called Crispinus and used her grandfather’s, Poppaeus Sabinus, name instead of her father’s. Her grandfather had been a Consul and had also celebrated a triumph in his day.
    So Poppaea was related to Flavius Sabinus, but in such an involved way, as was usual in the Roman nobility, that I never quite fathomed how. Aunt Laelia’s memory was often faulty and she often confused different people. When I greeted Poppaea Sabina, I said I was sorry that my wife Sabina had nothing else but a name in common with her.
    Poppaea innocently opened wide her dark gray eyes. I noticed later that their color changed according to her mood and the light.
    “Do you think I’m so old and experienced after one childbirth that I cannot even be compared with my maidenly Artemis cousin Sabina?” she said, deliberately misunderstanding me. ‘We are the same age, Sabina and I.”
    My head whirled as I looked into her eyes.
    “No,” I protested. “I mean you’re the most modest and decent married woman I have seen in Rome, and I can only be amazed at your beauty, now I have seen you for the first time without your veil.”
    “I have to wear a veil out in the sun because my skin is so delicate,” said Poppaea Sabina with a shy smile. “I envy your Sabina, who can stand as muscular and sunburned as Diana, cracking her whip in the heat of the arena.”
    “She is not my Sabina, even if we are married according to the longer form,” I said bitterly. “She is the Sabina of the lion-tamers and Sabina of the lions, and her language becomes coarser and coarser every year.”
    “Remember, we are related, she and I,” said Poppaea Sabina warningly. “Nevertheless, I’m not the only person in Rome to wonder why such a sensitive person as you chose Sabina of all people, when you could have had anyone else.”
    I indicated my surroundings and implied that there were other reasons besides mutual liking for a marriage, and Flavia Sabina’s father was the Prefect of Rome and her uncle had earned a triumph. I do not know how it came about, but roused by Poppaea’s shy presence I began to talk about one thing and another, and it was not long before Pop-paea shyly admitted that she was unhappy in her wretched marriage with the conceited Praetorian centurion.
    “One asks for more in a man than a haughty mien, shining armor and red plumes,” she said. “I was an innocent child when I was given to him in marriage. I am not strong, as you see. My skin is so delicate that I have to bathe it every day with wheaten bread soaked in ass’s milk.”
    But she was not quite so young and weak as she maintained, and I felt this as she unwittingly pressed one breast against my elbow. Her skin was so marvelously white that I had never seen anything like it before and could find no words to describe it. I mumbled the usual things about gold, ivory and Chinese porcelain, but I think my eyes bore witness to how enraptured I was by her young beauty.
    We could not talk for long, for I had to see to my many duties as son-in-law at my father-in-law’s banquet. But I fulfilled them absentmind-edly and could think of nothing else but Poppaea’s deep gray eyes and shimmering complexion. I stumbled, too, as I read out the ancient oaths to the guardian spirits of the house.
    Finally my wife Sabina drew me to one side.
    “Your eyes are quite rigid and your face is red,” she said acidly, “as if you were drunk, although there has been little wine drunk yet. Don’t get entangled in Lollia Poppaea’s intrigues. She’s a calculating little bitch, and she has her price, but I’m afraid it’s too high for a fool like you.”
    I was angry on Poppaea’s behalf, for her behavior was quite innocent and one could not possibly mistake it. At the same time, Sabina’s offensive remark excited me secretly and made me think that perhaps I had some hope if I were tactful enough to become closer acquainted with Poppaea.
    In a brief pause in my duties I approached her again, which was not difficult since other women obviously avoided her and the men had once again gathered around the guest of honor to listen to his unvarnished stories from Britain.
    To my dazzled eyes, Poppaea looked like an abandoned child, however proudly she tried to hold up her blonde head. I felt a great tenderness for her, but when I tried to. brush her bare arm she jerked back, turned away and gave me a look which reflected deep disappointment.
    “Is that all you want, Minutus?” she whispered bitterly. “Are you like all other men, although I hoped I had found a friend in you. Don’t you see why I prefer hiding my face behind a veil to exposing myself to lustful stares? Remember I am married, although if I could get a divorce, I could feel free.”
    I assured her that I would rather open my veins than hurt her in any way. She was near to tears and leaned against me in exhaustion so that I could feel her body against mine. From what she said, I understood that she did not have the money for a divorce and in fact only the Emperor could dissolve her marriage, for she was a patrician. But she knew no one in the Palace who was influential enough to be able to put her case before Nero.
    “I have experienced the meanness of all men,” she said. “If I turn to a stranger for help he would just make the most of my defenseless position. If only I had a real friend who would be content with my eternal gratitude without offending my modesty.”
    The end of the story was that I saw her home from the banquet. Her husband, Crispinus, willingly gave his permission so that he himself could get drunk in peace. They were so poor they did not even have a sedan of their own outside, so I offered Poppaea ours. She hesitated at first but then allowed me to sit by her so that I felt her proximity all the way.
    In the end we did not go directly to the Praetorian garrison area, for the night was beautiful and clear and Poppaea was as tired of the smell of sweat in the camp as I was of the stench from the menagerie. From the nearest hillside, we looked across at the view over the lights of the bazaars. In some strange way, we ended up at my house on Av-entine, for Poppaea wished to ask Aunt Laelia something about her poor father. But Aunt Laelia had of course gone to bed and Poppaea could not bring herself to awaken her at that late hour. So we sat together and drank a little wine as we watched the dawn breaking over Palatine. We dreamed of how things might be if she, and I too, were free.
    Poppaea leaned trustfully against me and told me she had always longed for pure unselfish friendship, although she had never found it. After I had pleaded with her, she agreed to accept a considerable sum of money as a loan to enable her to start divorce proceedings against Crispinus.
    To amuse her, I told her about Nero’s unusual friendliness, his magnanimity to his friends, and his other qualities, for Poppaea was inquisitive in the way women are and had never met Nero herself. I told her ahout Acte, too, about her beauty and good behavior, and about other women Nero knew. I confirmed that Nero had not even consummated his marriage with Octavia yet because of his antipathy to her as Britannicus’ sister and his own former half sister.
    Poppaea Sabina knew how to flatter me and she egged me on to tell her more with skillful questions, so that I began to admire her for her intelligence as much as her beauty. It seemed surprising that such a lovely and sensitive woman, who had already borne a son, could still appear unmoved and in the depths of her uncorrupted soul feel deep distaste for the burdens of the court. I admired her even more, and the more unapproachable I imagined she was, the more desirable she became to me.
    When we parted at sunrise, just before the sounding of the trumpets, she allowed me a kiss of friendship. When I felt her soft lips melt under mine, I was so captivated that I swore I would do everything in my power to help free her from her worthless marriage.
    During the following days, I lived as if in a confused dream. All colors seemed clearer in my sight than before, the night was sofdy dark and I was as if slightly intoxicated, even attempting to write poems. We met in the temple of Minerva and together pretended to look at the paintings and sculpture of Greek masters.
    Poppaea Sabina told me that she had had a serious talk with her husband and Crispinus had agreed to a divorce if he received sufficient compensation. With sound common sense, Poppaea explained that it would be wiser to pay Crispinus than waste money on lawyers and mutual accusations which had to be proved and only led to public scandal.
    But she was appalled at the very thought of my giving her even more money. She possessed some jewelry of her own which she could sell, although they were valuable family heirlooms. But her freedom was to cost much more.
    Poppaea made me feel so ashamed that I forced her to accept a large money order through my banker. Now all that remained was to acquire Nero’s agreement to the dissolution of the marriage. This he could do himself as the pontifex maximus, an office he could exercise whenever he wished to, although he did not do so continuously because it only increased his work in the service of the State with its innumerable religious duties.
    I did not want to spoil things by mentioning the matter to Nero myself, for he could then have suspected me of dishonorable intentions. I myself was married according to the longer form and Nero had begun to remark sarcastically that it would be better if I confined myself to the business of the menagerie, which I knew about, and not join in conversations on philosophy and music. This mortified me.
    So I thought of Otho, who was Nero’s best friend and who had so much money and influence that he even dared to quarrel with Nero when he felt like it. Otho had a weakness for keeping his face so smooth that he looked quite hairless, and this gave me an opening to mention one day that I knew a woman who used ass’s milk on her delicate skin.
    Otho was at once interested and told me that when he had had too much to drink and too many sleepless nights, he bathed his face with bread soaked in milk. I told him in confidence about Poppaea Sabina and her unhappy marriage. He wanted to meet her himself, of course, before taking the matter up with Nero.
    So I myself, like a happy fool, took Poppaea to Otho’s magnificent house. Poppaea’s beauty, modesty and lovely complexion made such an impression on him that he willingly promised to be her spokesman, but first he had to be told all the necessary circumstances.
    Smiling cheerfully, Otho questioned Poppaea on the intimate details of her marriage. When he noticed that this embarrassed me so much I did not know which way to look, he suggested that I should leave them. This I did gladly, for I realized that Poppaea would prefer to talk alone with a man as experienced and sympathetic as Otho.
    Behind locked doors, they talked until late into the afternoon. Finally Poppaea came out to me and took my hand, her eyes shyly lowered and her chin hidden in her veil. Otho thanked me for introducing him to such a delightful woman and promised to do his best about the divorce. Poppaea had red patches on her white throat from the delicate conversation she had endured.
    But Otho kept his promise. Nero, in the presence of two judges and with the necessary documents, had the marriage dissolved. Poppaea was allowed to keep her son and a few weeks later Otho quietly married her without even waiting the customary nine months. This was such a stunning blow to me that at first I simply did not believe it. It was as if the sky had fallen around me; all colors faded and I had such a terrible headache that I had to stay shut up in a darkened room for a few days.
    When I once again came to my senses, I burned my poems on the household altar, vowing never to write any again, a decision I have adhered to ever since. I realized I could not reproach Otho, for I myself had felt Poppaea’s powers of enchantment. I had just thought that Otho, who was famed for his many love affairs with women and youths, would never have been attracted by such a shy and inexperienced woman as Poppaea. But perhaps Otho wished to change his ways, and Poppaea might become a favorable influence on his dissipated soul.
    I received a personal invitation to the wedding from Poppaea, and I sent them the most beautiful set of silver drinking vessels I could find as a wedding present. But at the banquet itself I must have been like a ghost from the underworld and I drank more than I usually did. Finally I remarked to Poppaea, my eyes brimming with tears, that perhaps I too could have had a divorce.
    “But why didn’t you say something then?” cried Poppaea. “Though I could not have caused Flavia Sabina such grief. Of course, Otho has his failings. He’s a little effeminate and he drags one foot when he walks, whereas one hardly notices your limp. But he has promised to start a new life and leave the friends who have led him into certain vices. I can’t even tell you about those. Poor Otho is so sensitive and so easily influenced by others. So I hope my influence will make a new man of him.”
    “He’s richer than I am too,” I said, without hiding my bitterness. “He is of a’ very ancient family and he’s the Emperor’s closest friend.”
    Poppaea stared reproachfully at me.
    “Do you think that of me, Minutus?” she whispered, her mouth trembling. “I thought you understood that fame and wealth mean nothing to me if I like another person. I don’t look down on you, even if you are only the superintendent of the menagerie.”
    She was so hurt and so beautiful that I relented and begged for her forgiveness.
    For a long time, Otho was transformed. He stayed away from Nero’s feasts, and when Nero sent especially for him, he went home early, saying he could not keep his beautiful wife waiting too long. He boasted so much to Nero of Poppaea’s charm and love-making that Nero became more and more inquisitive and began to ask Otho to bring his wife with him to Palatine.
    Otho explained, however, that Poppaea was much too shy and proud, and he kept finding other excuses as well. But he was persuaded to tell how not even Venus herself being born from the waves could be more beautiful than Poppaea in her morning bath of ass’s milk. Otho had acquired a whole stable of asses which were milked for her alone.
    I was consumed with such black jealousy that I stayed away from all gatherings at which Otho was present. My writer friends teased me about my melancholy and I gradually consoled myself with the thought that if I really loved her, I should only wish her well. Outwardly at least, Poppaea had made the most advantageous match she could have found in Rome.
    But my wife Flavia Sabina became more of a stranger to me than ever, and we could no longer meet without quarreling. I began to think quite seriously about a divorce, however hated I might become by the whole of the Flavius family. But I could not even imagine Sabina agreeing. She had let me understand once and for all that I had instilled in her a distaste for the delights of the marriage bed.
    On her part, she did not mind that I occasionally slept with an experienced slave-girl, as long as I left her in peace. There was no legal reason for a dissolution of a marriage of our kind, and Sabina became enraged when I once mentioned the subject, mostly from fear that she might lose her beloved animals. Finally I could do nothing but hope that one day she would be torn to pieces by one of her lions as she cowed them with her strong will and forced them to do fantastic tricks, with the help of the lion-tamer Epaphroditus.
    Thus the first five years of Nero’s rule went by for me. This was probably the happiest and most flourishing time the world had ever known, or even ever will know, but I felt like a caged animal. I gradually began to neglect my office, gave up riding and put on an excessive amount of weight.
    Nevertheless, there was no great difference between me and other young men in Rome. Numerous unkempt long-haired men could be seen on the streets, dripping with sweat, singing and playing on lyres, a new generation in society who despised the rigid old customs. I myself simply felt indifferent to everything, for the best part of my life had already drifted unnoticeably by, although I was not yet thirty.
    Then Nero and Otho fell out. To annoy Nero, Otho took Poppaea to Palatine with him one day. Nero naturally fell blindly in love with her and, like a spoiled child, he was used to getting what he wanted. But Poppaea rejected his advances and said that Nero had nothing which Otho could not also offer.
    After the meal, Nero had a bottle of his most expensive perfume opened and all the guests were allowed to rub a little of it on themselves. When Nero was later a guest at Otho’s house, Otho had the same perfume sprayed in a mist over all those present.
    It was said that Nero, in his morbid love, once had himself taken to Otho’s house in the middle of the night and hammered in vain on the door. Otho would not let him in, because Poppaea thought it was an unsuitable time for a visit. It was even said that Otho, in the presence of several people, had said to Nero, “In me you see the future Emperor.”
    Whether he had got this idea from some prophecy or from elsewhere, I do not know. Nero had, however, kept his temper and laughed at him scornfully.
    “I can’t even see you as a future consul,” he said.
    To my surprise, Poppaea sent for me one lovely spring day when the cherry trees in the Lucullus gardens were in flower. I thought I had managed to forget her, but my indifference was obviously only on the surface for I obeyed her summons immediately, trembling with ardor. Poppaea was more beautiful than ever. Her little son was with her and she behaved as befits a loving mother. She was dressed in a silk gown which revealed rather than hid the entrancing beauty of her figure.
    “Oh, Minutus,” she cried, “how I have missed you! You are the only unselfish friend I have. I must have your advice.”
    I could not help feeling some distrust, remembering what had happened the last time I had been her adviser. But Poppaea gave me such an innocent smile that I could think no evil of her.
    “You must have heard of the fearful difficulty I am in because of Nero,” she said. “I don’t understand how it happened. I myself have not given the slightest cause for it. But Nero is harassing me with his affection, even to the extent that dear Otho is risking falling from grace for protecting my virtue.”
    She looked at me attentively. Her gray eyes suddenly turned violet and she had had her golden hair arranged so that she looked like an ivory and gold statue of a goddess. She twisted her slim fingers.
    “The most terrible thing is that I cannot be entirely indifferent to Nero,” she said. “He is a handsome man, with his red hair, and his violent feelings only attract me. He is so noble, too, and such an artist when he sings. When I hear him play and sing, I am so entranced that I can only stare at him. If he were unselfish, like you for instance, he would try to protect me from my own feelings and not fan the flame in them. But perhaps he does not himself see what feelings his very presence evokes in me. Minutus, I tremble all over as soon as I see him, as I have never before trembled in the presence of a man. Fortunately, I have been able to hide it and I try to avoid him as far as is possible in my position.”
    I do not know if she herself knew how I suffered when she spoke in this manner.
    “You’re in great danger, Poppaea dear,” I said in horror. “You must flee. Ask Otho to apply for a proconsulship in one of the provinces. Move away from Rome.”
    Poppaea stared at me as if I were mad.
    “How could I live anywhere else but in Rome?” she said. “I should die of grief. But there is a much worse and even stranger thing. I shouldn’t even dare tell you if I couldn’t trust your discretion completely. A Jewish soothsayer, and you know how clever they are at that kind of thing, told me a little while ago-don’t laugh now-that one day I’d be the consort of an Emperor.”
    “But my dear sweet Poppaea,” I said, “haven’t you read what Cicero says about prophecies? Don’t bother your pretty little head with such madness.”
    Poppaea sulked and said sourly, “Why do you say it’s madness? Otho’s family is a very ancient one, and he has many friends in the Senate. In fact Nero can do nothing about the prophecy except by dissolving our marriage. He has his own Octavia, although he swears he’ll never bring himself to sleep with her, so great is his dislike for the poor girl. On the other hand, I cannot understand how a young Emperor can and wants to have a freed slave-girl for his bed companion. It’s so low and despicable in my view that I boil whenever I think about it.”
    I was silent and thoughtful.
    “What do you really want of me?” I asked finally, somewhat distrustfully.
    Poppaea patted my cheek, sighed tremulously and gave me a warm look.
    “Oh, Minutus,” she said. “You’re not really very clever, are you? But perhaps that’s why I like you so much. A woman needs a friend to talk to honestly about anything. If you were a real friend, you would go to Nero and tell him everything. He’d be bound to receive you if you tell him you’ve come from me. He’s already so attracted to me that I know he’d listen.”
    ‘What do you mean by everything?” I asked. “You’ve just said you trust my discretion.”
    Poppaea drew my hand to her and pressed it to her hip.
    “Tell him he must leave me alone,” she said, “because he makes me so weak. I am only a woman and he is irresistible. But if in my weakness I fell for his seduction, I should have to take my own life to retain my self-respect since I cannot live in dishonor. Tell him that definitely. Tell him about the prophecy, too, for I cannot bear the thought of Otho harming him in any way. In my stupidity, I happened to tell Otho about the prophecy and I regret doing so very much. I had no idea how ambitious he really is.”
    I had not the slightest wish to run errands for Poppaea again. But her presence made me powerless and her eager trust in me appealed to my masculine need to protect the weak. True, I was beginning to suspect dimly that Poppaea was not in great need of protection. On the other hand, I thought I could not possibly be mistaken about the shy modesty in her conduct and her lovely gray eyes. She would hardly have leaned so trustfully against me and let me embrace her if she had had the slightest idea what she was arousing in my shameless body.
    After searching for a long time, I found Nero in Gaius’ circus exercising his Spanish team by racing at a tremendous speed around the course against the once-exiled Gaius Sophonius Tigellinus, whom he had appointed stablemaster. There were guards at the entrance for form’s sake, but in spite of this quite a few people had gathered in the spectators’ seats to cheer Nero on and applaud him.
    I had to wait a long time before Nero, sticky with sweat, finally removed his helmet and had the protective linen bandages taken from his legs. Tigellinus praised him for his rapid progress and criticized him severely for mistakes he had ‘made in the turns and with the side-horses’ reins. Nero listened humbly and accepted the advice. Quite reasonably, he trusted Tigellinus unquestioningly in all matters concerning horses and chariots.
    Tigellinus gave way for no one and treated his slaves with great brutality. Tall, muscular, thin-faced, he looked arrogantly around as if conscious that there was nothing in life that could not be overcome by harshness. He had once lost everything he possessed, but as an exile he had made a fortune breeding horses and in fisheries. It was said that no woman or boy was safe in his presence.
    When I indicated with grimaces and gestures that my errand was important, Nero allowed me to accompany him to the bathhouse in the garden. When I whispered Poppaea Sabina’s name in his ear, he sent all the others away and as a favor allowed me to scrub his dusty squat body clean with the pumice stone. With lively questions, he managed to extract from me practically everything Poppaea had said.
    “Leave her in peace then,” I said solemnly. “That’s all she asks, so that she is not torn by her feelings. She wishes only to be an honorable wife. You yourself know her modesty and innocence.”
    Nero burst out laughing, but then turned serious, nodding several times.
    “Of course, I’d rather you had come with laurels on your spearhead, messenger,” he said. “I am surprised how well you understand women. But I’ve had enough of their whims. There are other women in the world besides Lollia Poppaea. So I’ll leave her in peace. She herself will have to see that she doesn’t keep bobbing up in front of my eyes as she has done hitherto. Greet her from me and tell her that her conditions are much too demanding.”
    “But she hasn’t made any conditions,” I protested in confusion.
    Nero looked at me pityingly.
    “You’d better go and see to your wild animals and your own wife,” he said. “Send Tigellinus to me to wash my hair.”
    So he sent me away. But I could understand him, if he really were so blindly in love with Poppaea and was now disappointed at her refusal. I hurried happily back to tell Poppaea the good news, but to my surprise she was not at all pleased. In fact she smashed a little jar to pieces, so that the expensive ointment splashed on the floor and the scent of it made my head whirl.
    Her face was twisted and ugly as she cried, “We’ll see who will win in the end, he or I.”
    I well remember the day the following summer when I was stubbornly demanding that the overseer of the aqueduct should have newer and bigger lead pipes taken to the menagerie. For several days we had been having the hot wind which brought red dust and gave me headaches.
    There were always disputes over the water supply, for the rich noblemen had their own pipes from the aqueducts to their private baths, gardens and ponds, and because of the increase in population in Rome, there was a great shortage of water. I understood the overseer’s difficult situation. His office was not an enviable one, even if an unprejudiced holder did become rich during his term of office. On the other hand, I considered the menagerie had a special case and that I had no reason to pay him for what in fact were my rights.
    We had reached a deadlock. He refused and I demantled. We were finding it difficult even to maintain a formal politeness in the discussion. I should have liked to leave and let the matter drop, but my wife’s anger would have been even more difficult to endure.
    “I know the magistrates’ and Senate’s decisions on water supplies by heart,” I said finally. ‘Til have to go to Nero myself, although he doesn’t like being bothered with such little matters as this. I’m afraid it will all end far worse for you than for me.”
    The overseer, a dull man, smiled ironically.
    “Do as you please,” he said. “In your place, I wouldn’t go annoying Nero by talking about Rome’s water supply just at this moment.”
    I had heard no gossip for a long time, so I asked him what was going on.
    “Don’t you know, or are you pretending not to know?” he asked incredulously. “Otho has been appointed as Proconsul in Lusitania and has been advised to go there as soon as possible. This morning Nero dissolved his marriage officially, at Otho’s request, of course. All other matters were put aside as Nero was in such a hurry to care for the defenseless Poppaea Sabina, who is moving to Palatine.”
    It was like a blow from a club on my already aching head.
    “I know Poppaea Sabina,” I cried. “She would never agree to such a thing. Nero has taken her to Palatine by force.”
    The overseer shook his gray head.
    “I’m afraid we’re going to have a new Agrippina instead of the old one,” he said. “The old one is said to be moving from Antonia’s house in the country to Antium.”
    I could not bring myself to take his insinuations seriously. Agrippina’s name was the only thing I really took in. I forgot my thirsty animals and the hippos’ dried-up pool. Agrippina was the only person I thought might save Poppaea Sabina from Nero’s immoral intentions. A mother had to have sufficient influence over her son to prevent his publicly violating the most beautiful woman in Rome. I had to protect Poppaea now she could no longer protect herself.
    Beside myself, I hurried to old Antonia’s house on Palatine, where I found them all in such a state of confusion because of the move that no one stopped me from entering. I found Agrippina in a state of icy rage. With her was Octavia, the quiet girl who had had nothing more than the rank of wife from her marriage to the Emperor. Agrippina’s half sister Antonia, beautiful still and Claudius’ daughter by his first marriage, was also there, as was Antonia’s second husband, Faustus Sulla. When I appeared so unexpectedly, they all immediately fell silent, but Agrippina greeted me sharply.
    “What a pleasant surprise after so many years,” she said. “I thought you’d forgotten everything I’d done for you and were as ungrateful as my own son. I’m even more pleased that you are the only knight in Rome to come and bid farewell to a poor exiled woman.”
    “Perhaps I have neglected our friendship,” I cried in despair, “but we’ve no time for unnecessary talk now. You must save Poppaea Sabina from Nero’s greedy clutches and take her into your protection. Your son is disgracing himself in the eyes of all Rome with this outrage, not just the innocent Poppaea.”
    Agrippina stared at me and shook her head.
    “I’ve done everything I can,” she said sharply, “even wept and cursed, to save my son from the hands of that lecherous and scheming woman. As a reward I’ve been ordered to leave Rome. Poppaea has had her own way and is holding on to Nero like a leech.”
    I tried to assure her that Poppaea wished only that Nero should leave her in peace, but Agrippina laughed scornfully. She believed nothing good of any other woman.
    “That woman has driven Nero out of his mind with her debaucheries,” she said. “Nero is inclined that way, although I’ve done everything I could to hide it from other people. But sometimes everything blackens before his eyes and he has to protect his sight. His mad taste for lowly and unsuitable pleasures is evidence of it. But I’ve begun to write my memoirs and I’ll complete them in Antium. I have sacrificed everything for my son, even committed crimes which only he can pardon. It must be told now, since everyone knows anyhow.”
    Her eyes glowed strangely and she raised her hands as if warding off a blow. Then she looked at Octavia and stroked her cheek.
    “I can see the shadow of death on your face,” she said. “Your cheeks are like ice. But it might all pass if only Nero recovers from this madness. Not even the Emperor can defy the wish of the Senate and the people. No one can trust Nero. He is a terrible hypocrite and a born actor.”
    When I looked at Antonia, still beautiful despite her pallor, an unpleasant shadow from the past crossed my mind, and I thought of her half sister Claudia, who had brought shame on my love for her. I think I must have been confused by Agrippina’s mad accusations against Poppaea, for the question slipped unintentionally out of my mouth.
    “You spoke of your memoirs,” I said. “Do you remember Claudia? How is she? Has she improved?”
    I think Agrippina would have ignored my question had her fury not unbalanced her so.
    “You can ask at the naval brothel in Misenum,” she said viciously. “I promised to send your Claudia to a closed house to complete her education. A brothel is the right place for bastards.”
    She stared at me like a Medusa.
    “You are the most gullible fool I’ve ever met, I think,” she said. “You just opened your mouth and swallowed all that false evidence on her whoring. But for her it was enough that she had become involved with a Roman knight. If I’d known how ungrateful you were going to be, I’d never have gone to so much trouble to prevent her from bringing you unhappiness.”
    Antonia laughed loudly.
    “Did you really send Claudia to a brothel, dear stepmother?” she said. “I wondered why she suddenly stopped plaguing me to recognize her as my sister and vanished from my sight.”
    Antonia’s nostrils quivered. She stroked her soft throat as if to wipe away an invisible insect. There was a strange delicate beauty about her slim figure at that moment.
    I was struck completely dumb. Horrified, I looked at these two monstrous women. Suddenly my head felt quite clear and frighteningly large as I understood, and at last believed, all the evil I had heard told of Agrippina over the years.
    I also saw that Poppaea Sabina had ruthlessly used my friendship to fulfill her own intentions. All this happened in a second, as if in a vision. It was as if in that moment I had aged several years and had become hardened at the same time. Perhaps I had been unconsciously waiting for this change. It was as if the bars of the cage around me had burst and suddenly I was standing under the free open sky as a free man.
    The greatest stupidity of my life had been in talking to Agrippina about Claudia. In some way, I had to make up for that. In some way, I had to begin my life anew from that moment so many years before when Agrippina had poisoned my mind against Claudia and destroyed my love for her. I would be stupid no longer.

    Acting with caution, I went to Misenum to look into the possibility of transporting animals from Africa in naval vessels. The commantler of the fleet was Anicetus, a former barber who, during Nero’s boyhood years, had been his first tutor. But the navy is another matter, and
    Roman knights have no desire to serve in it. At present the commantler is an author of reference books, called Pliny, who uses warships and sailors to collect rare plants and rocks from different countries. No doubt warships could be put to worse uses, and the sailors at least get about and can enrich the barbarian peoples with their wolf blood.
    Anicetus received me respectfully, for I was of noble birth, a knight and the son of a senator. My father’s clients also had much to do with the naval dockyards, and Anicetus received considerable bribes from them. After boasting about his Greek education, his pictures and objets d’art, he became drunk and began to tell indecent stories, thus revealing his own depravity.
    “Everyone has his own special vice,” he said. “That’s quite natural and understandable, and nothing to be ashamed of. Chastity is sheer pretense. I planted that truth in Nero’s head long ago. I hate nothing more than people who pretend to be virtuous. What kind do you want? Fat or thin, dark or fair, or do you prefer boys? I can arrange little girls or old women, an acrobat or an untouched virgin. Would you like to watch some whipping or do you like being whipped yourself? Yes, we can arrange a Dionysian mystery according to the book, if you like. Just say the word, give me a sign and I’ll satisfy your secret craving, for our friendship’s sake. This is Misenum, you see, and it’s not far to Baiae, Puteoli and Naples, with all the Alexandrian vices. From Capri we have inherited the god Tiberius’ ingenuity in these matters, and Pompeii has some fine brothels. Shall we row over there?”
    I pretended to be shy, but to show myself worthy of his confidence, I said, “I used to think it exciting to disguise myself and go out on night brawls in Subura with your gifted pupil Nero. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such pleasure as that of the most wretched brothels used by slaves. You see, sometimes one tires of delicacies and gets more pleasure from coarse bread and rancid oil. So I am the exact opposite to you. Since I married, I have finished with that sort of thing, but now I feel an intense desire to make the acquaintance of the naval brothels, which I’ve heard you have excellently organized.”
    Anicetus grinned rakishly and nodded his understanding.
    ‘We have three closed houses,” he said, “the best for the officers, the second for the men and the third for the galley slaves. Believe it or not, I am sometimes visited by noble ladies from Baiae who are tired of everything and wish to serve a night in a brothel. The more debauched women especially like the galley slaves, and are better than our most experienced harlots in their willingness to serve. You see, for financial reasons newcomers must first serve the officers, then the men, and after three years the galley slaves. Some survive this strenuous profession for ten years, but I should say five is the average. Some hang themselves, of course, some become ill and useless, and some begin to drink to the extent that they are a disturbance. But we receive constant replenishments from Rome and other Italian cities. The navy’s brothels are penal institutions for women who have been charged with an indecent way of life, such as stealing from customers or hitting rough customers over the head with wine jars.”
    “What happens to those who survive their term of serviceI?” I asked.
    “A woman has to be very far gone to be no use to the galley slaves,” said Anicetus. “Don’t worry. No one leaves my houses alive. There are always certain men who find their pleasure in occasionally killing a woman in some unpleasant way. They have to be kept in control. The aim of my houses, among other things, is to protect the decent women in the neighborhood from the sailors. On my rolls, for instance, I have a man who once a month has to suck blood from the jugular vein of a woman, and because of this, he is chained to the seat in the ship. The stupid thing is that every time he does it, he regrets it bitterly afterward and asks to be flogged to death.”
    I did not believe all Anicetus’ stories. He’ was a braggart and was trying to frighten me with his depravity, because deep down he was a weak and unreliable man. I realized that he had exaggerated a great deal, in the way sailors always do.
    At first he took me to a graceful circular temple of Venus which had a wonderful view over the glittering sea, and which was connected by an underground tunnel to the naval barracks to avoid attracting unnecessary attention. The first two walled brothels were no different from their Rome counterparts and even had running water. But the house for the galley slaves was more like a prison and I could hardly endure the looks I received from the inmates, so bestially dulled were they.
    I could not find Claudia, however carefully I looked. But I found her next day in a naval fortress in Puteoli. I saw a woman aged beyond her years, whose hair and eyebrows had been shaved off because of lice. She was dressed in a ragged slave tunic, for she was busy working among the fortress’ cooking vessels.
    Actually I recognized Claudia only by her eyes. She immediately recognized me, though at first she made no sign. It was a simple matter to exchange her for a bag of silver. I could have had her for nothing if
    I had wanted to, but to cover my tracks from the censors, I thought it safer to have an accomplice by bribery.
    When we arrived together at the city’s best guesthouse, Claudia spoke for the first time.
    “You must have looked for me very eagerly, dear Minutus,” she said harshly, “since you found me so soon. It is only seven years since we last met. What do you want of me?”
    She agreed to my request that she should put on some respectable clothes and a wig, as well as draw some kind of eyebrows in with eyeblack. Thanks to her kitchen duties she had put on weight, and there was nothing wrong with her health.
    But she would not say a word about her experiences in Misenum. Her hands were as hard as wood, the soles of her feet like leather, and the sun had burned her a dark brown. Despite the clothes and the wig, she could only be taken for a slave. The more I looked at her, the more alien she became.
    “Agrippina,” I said finally, in despair. “None other than Agrippina was responsible for your fate. In the foolishness of my youth, I tried to put in a word for you with her. She deceived me.”
    “I’m not complaining,” said Claudia sharply. “Everything that happened to me was according to the will of God, to humble my proud body. Do you think I’d still be alive if Christ had not strengthened my heart?”
    If the Christians’ superstition had helped her withstand the insults of slavery, I could say nothing. So I cautiously began to tell her about myself. To regain her confidence, I told her of my meeting with Paul and Cephas in Corinth and how my freedman Lausius Hierex had become an influential Christian. Claudia listened with her head resting on her hand, her dark eyes clearing as she became more animated.
    “Here in Puteoli,” she said, “we have several brothers among the seamen who have become converted after hearing how Jesus of Nazareth walked on the water. Otherwise I should never have got out of the closed house in Misenum.”
    “A seaman’s life is full of danger,” I said. “Puteoli and Naples are said to be the dumping grounds for the East in many respects. So it’s not surprising that the new faith has spread here with the Jews.”
    Claudia looked searchingly at me.
    “And you, Minutus,” she said. “Do you believe in anything?”
    I thought carefully and then shook my head.
    “No, Claudia,” I said. “I no longer believe in anything. I am hardened.”
    “In that case,” said Claudia decisively, pressing her hard palms together, “I must help you on to the right way. I’m sure it is meant that you have been led to find me and buy my freedom from slavery. After Misenum, slavery was the greatest gift God could send me.”
    “I was not led by anyone,” I said irritably. “I began to look for you of my own free will as soon as I heard from Agrippina’s own mouth how she had deceived me.”
    Claudia gave me a pitying look.
    “Minutus,” she said, “you have no will of your own and you have never had one or everything would be different. I don’t want to leave the Christian assembly in Puteoli, but I realize I must go with you to Rome and persuade you day and night until you humble yourself and become a subject of the secret kingdom of Christ. And don’t look so dismayed. In him lies the only true peace and joy in this soon-to-vanish world.”
    I thought Claudia’s hard life had disturbed her mind and did not dare argue with her. We traveled home together to Antium on a merchant ship loaded with wild animals, and from there went on to Ostia. Then I took her secredy to my house on Aventine, where she was given a servant’s position and Aunt Laelia took a liking to her. Aunt Laelia had returned to her childhood in her mind and was happiest when playing with dolls.
    But not a single day went by without Claudia nagging at me about Jesus, of Nazareth. I fled from my house to the menagerie, but there Sabina made my life intolerable with her malice. She had become increasingly confident after a relative of hers had become one of the leading men in the State treasury and she was no longer so dependent on my money as before. In practice, it was she who supervised the menagerie, ordered everything and arranged the performances in the amphitheater. She even appeared publicly to demonstrate her skill as a lion-tamer.
    I think that Nero’s life began to become almost as intolerable as mine at this time. When he had banished his mother to Antium and openly taken Lollia Poppaea as his lover to Palatine, he had leaped from the frying pan into the fire. People did not like his brusque treatment of Octavia. Poppaea nagged and wept, demanding that he should legally separate from Octavia and frightening him with Agrippina’s secret intrigues, possibly with some justification. In any case, Nero was forced to banish Antonia’s husband, Faustus Sulla, to Massilia. Antonia naturally went with her husband and five years elapsed before I saw her again.
    Seneca was definitely opposed to an Imperial divorce, and old Burrus said publicly that if Nero separated from Octavia, then he must also relinquish his. marriage portion or the Emperorship. And Lollia Poppaea had no particular desire to move to Rhodes and live there as the wife of a free artist.
    Agrippina perhaps caused her own fate by her lust for power and her jealousy. Behind her she had a fortune she had inherited from her second husband and from Claudius, and in spite of Pallas’ banishment, her influence was still very great. Admittedly, she had no real friends left. But more than a political conspiracy, Nero feared that she would publish the memoirs she was writing herself in Antium, since she did not dare dictate them to even the most trustworthy slave. The knowledge of these memoirs she rashly allowed to spread all over Rome, so that many people who were in one way or another involved in her crimes sincerely wished her dead.
    In my thoughts, I accused Agrippina of destroying my life when I was still young and open and in love with Claudia, and I blamed all the evil things that had happened to me on to her. Once I visited old Locusta at her little country place. The old woman smiled at me, inasmuch as a death mask can smile, and told me quite openly that I was not the first person to visit her on the same errand.
    On principle, she had no objection to blending poisons for Agrippina too; it was simply a matter of price. But she shook her experienced old head and said she had already used up her ingredients. Agrippina was much too careful, cooking her own food and not even daring to pick fruit from her own trees, as it was so easy to poison. I came to the conclusion that Agrippina’s life was no pleasure to her, even if she was enjoying the revenge of writing her memoirs.
    Nero achieved peace of mind and reconciliation with Poppaea the moment he made the final decision to murder his mother. For political reasons, Agrippina’s death became as essential to him as Britannicus’ had become. And Seneca was not heard to raise a murmur in opposition to this murder, although he himself naturally did not wish to be involved in it
    Now it was only a question of how the murder could be arranged to appear to be an accident. Nero’s imagination began to work, demanding the maximum of drama, and he consulted eagerly with his closest friends.
    Tigellinus, who had certain personal reasons for hating Agrippina, promised to kill her by running her down with his team, if she could be persuaded out onto the open road in Antium. I suggested wild animals, but there was no way of getting them into Agrippina’s carefully guarded garden on her country estate.
    Nero thought that I was on his side out of sheer affection for him and Poppaea, and he did not know that I was driven by my own inflexible desire for revenge. Agrippina had earned her death a thousand times over by her crimes, and I thought it perfectly just that she should meet it at the hands of her own son. You too have wolf blood in your veins, Julius, my son, more genuine than mine. Try to keep it under better control than your father has been able to do.
    It was through my wife, Sabina, that we eventually found a possible method. A Greek engineer had shown her a small ship which could hold wild animals and which, with the help of an ingenious system of levers, one man could at any time cause to disintegrate, thus releasing the animals.
    Sabina had been very attracted by the idea of the newly built marine batde theatre, although finally, because of the cost, I had opposed all marine animals. But Sabina was victorious, and the new discovery aroused such curiosity beforehand that Anicetus came over from Misenum for the day of the performance in Rome.
    As a climax to the marine performance, the boat disintegrated into pieces as planned. The crowd was delighted to see bison and lions fighting with sea monsters in the water, or swimming ashore to fall victim to courageous huntsmen. Nero applauded vigorously.
    “Can you build me a boat like that,” he cried to Anicetus, “but larger and finer and ornamental enough for the Imperial mother to sail in?”
    I promised that Anicetus should see the Greek engineer’s secret drawings, but it occurred to me that such a theatrical arrangement demantled the cooperation of far too many people to be kept a secret
    As a reward, Nero invited me to the feast at Baiae in March, where I would be able to see with my own eyes the special performance he had planned. In company, and in the Senate too, Nero had begun to act the part of the repentant son longing for reconciliation with his mother. Disputes and outbreaks of bad temper, he explained, could be overcome if there were sufficient good will on both sides.
    Agrippina’s informers naturally immediately took this information back to Antium, so Agrippina was not noticeably surprised or suspicious when she received a beautifully composed letter from Nero containing an invitation to the feast of Minerva in Baiae. The feast was in itself an indication, for Minerva is the goddess of all schoolboys, and a reconciliation far from Rome and the quarrelsome Poppaea seemed quite natural.
    Minerva’s day is a day of peace and no blood may be shed and no weapons may be visible. Nero was at first going to send the new pleasure yacht, manned by sailors, to fetch Agrippina from Antium, to show that he intended to return her former rights to his mother. But with the help of a water clock, we calculated that in that case the boat would have to be sunk in daylight, and in addition, Agrippina was so known to be suspicious that she might well refuse the honor and travel overland.
    In the end she arrived at the naval base in Misenum in a trireme manned by her own trusted slaves. Nero went to meet her with the whole of his suite and had insisted on Seneca and Burrus being there as well, to emphasize the political significance of the reconciliation.
    I could only admire Nero’s extraordinary talent for acting as, moved to tears, he hurried to meet his mother, embraced her and greeted her as the most excellent of all mothers. Agrippina had also done her best to dress well and beautify herself, so that she looked like a slim and, because of the thick layer of paint, quite expressionless goddess.
    On Minerva’s day there is an atmosphere of spring gaiety, so the people, who do not understand much of State affairs, greeted Agrippina with jubilant applause as she was carried to her country estate in Bauli, by Lake Locrinus. At the jetties on the lake shore lay a group of beflagged warships, among them the handsomely decorated pleasure yacht. On Nero’s orders, Anicetus placed it at Agrippina’s disposal. But after staying overnight at Bauli, she preferred to be taken back to Baiae, as it is not far and she wished to enjoy the acclaim of the people along the road.
    At the official ceremonies in honor of Minerva in Baiae, Nero allowed Agrippina to appear in the foreground and held himself to one side like a shy schoolboy. The city authorities’ midday banquet, with its many speeches and the siesta afterwards, extended the ceremonies so that it was already dark when Nero’s evening banquet began. Seneca and Burrus were also there and Agrippina lay in the place of honor, with Nero sitting at her feet and conversing brightly with her. A great deal of wine was drunk, and when Agrippina noticed it was getting late, Nero’s expression grew serious, and lowering his voice, he began consulting her on State matters.
    As far as I could make out, they discussed Lollia Poppaea’s future position. Agrippina was as hard as flint. Taken in by Nero’s humble attitude, she said that all she demantled was that Nero should send Poppaea to Lusitania, back to Otho. After that, Nero could once again rely on Agrippina’s support and mother’s love, for she wished for nothing but good for her son.
    Nero managed to produce a few tears of anger but let it be known that his mother was more beloved to him than any other woman in the world, and he even read out a few poems he had written in her honor.
    Agrippina was drunk with the wine and her success, for people like to believe what they hope is true. But I noticed that she was still careful not to touch her goblet if Nero had not first drunk from it, and also not to eat any food which Nero or her own friend Acerronia had not tasted from the same dish. I do not think this was suspicion at the time, but a deep-rooted habit which Agrippina had formed over the years.
    Anicetus also turned out to be a talented actor, as he anxiously came in to say that the warships used in the display had accidentally collided with Agrippina’s trireme and damaged it to such an extent that it could not return to Antium until it had been repaired. Instead, there was the pleasure yacht with its crew of sailors.
    We all went down to the gaily lit harbor with Agrippina. At their parting, Nero kissed her eyes and “breast and supported her as she stumbled aboard. In his well-modulated voice, he bade his mother farewell.
    “Keep well, my mother,” he said. “Only through you can I rule.”
    To tell the truth, I must say I thought this parting greeting a somewhat exaggerated addition to Nero’s skillful performance. The night was calm and the stars out, and when the boat was rowed out of the circle of harbor lights, Seneca and Burrus retired to their quarters and we conspirators returned to continue the feast.
    Nero was silent, then suddenly turned pale and went out to be sick. For a moment we all suspected that Agrippina had succeeded in slipping some poison into his goblet, but then we realized that the long day had been a heavy burden to him. Nero’s sensitive mind could not endure the extended tension of waiting, although Anicetus kept assuring him that the plan could not possibly fail as he had arranged everything so cunningly.
    Afterwards I heard what had happened from the naval centurion, Obaritus, to whom Anicetus had entrusted the command of the yacht. Agrippina had at once gone to her beautifully equipped cabin, but she had been unable to sleep. Her suspicions were aroused out on the dark water when she realized that she was exposed to the good will of alien sailors, with only Acerronia and her Procurator, Crepeius Gallus, for company.
    Agrippina sent Gallus astern to demand that the boat should set course for Bauli, for she wished to spend the night there and continue on to Antium at daybreak the next morning. Anicetus, remembering that during her exile on the island of Pandataria, Agrippina had supported herself by diving for sponges, had the ship’s disintegration arranged in two different phases.
    The first twist of the lever would bring down the lead-weighted deck construction, and then another lever would make the hull itself collapse. But the equipping of the cabin had been entrusted to people who knew nothing of the plan, and for safety’s sake, only a few sailors had been initiated.
    Some fool had fitted the cabin with a parade couch with high gables, and when the roof collapsed, the heavy gables protected Agrippina so that she escaped with nothing but a cut on one shoulder. Acerronia was kneeling on the floor, massaging Agrippina’s feet, and was quite unharmed. Gallus was the only one who was killed instandy by the falling roof.
    Complete confusion reigned on the ship when the construction on the deck collapsed. Agrippina alone understood what had happened, for the sea was calm and the ship had not collided with anything. She sent Acerronia creeping out on to the deck and ordered her to cry out: “I am Agrippina. Save the Imperial mother!”
    At once the centurion ordered the initiated sailors to club her to death with their oars. Then he heaved and wrenched at the other lever, but it had jammed and would not move. Next he tried to capsize the boat. The collapsed roof with its lead weights had already given it a list, so several sailors rushed to the side that was down. But simultaneously other sailors climbed up the other side, so the ship did not capsize. In the middle of all this confusion, Agrippina slipped silently out of the cabin, slid into the water and began to swim toward land. In spite of the wine she had drunk and the wound in her shoulder, she managed to swim under water for long stretches at a time, so no one saw her head against the starlit surface of the water. After swimming out of sight, Agrippina met a fishing boat on its way out. The fishermen pulled her on board and at her request took her to Bauli.
    The naval centurion was a cold-blooded man. Otherwise Anicetus would not have chosen him for the task. When he saw that the dead woman was Acerronia and that Agrippina had vanished, he had the wrecked yacht rowed back to Baiae to report his failure immediately to Anicetus. As he hurried up to Nero’s quarters, the uninitiated sailors spread the disturbing news of the accident all over the city.
    The people of Baiae rushed down to the quays, waded out and set sail in their fishing boats to save Agrippina. When the confusion was at its height, Agrippina’s real rescuers, whom she had richly rewarded, returned and told everybody that the Imperial mother was safe and had only slight injuries. The crowd then decided to go to Bauli in a procession of homage to congratulate Agrippina on her miraculous escape from the perils of the sea.
    Nero, tense but unsuspecting and surrounded by his faithful friends, half tearfully, half jokingly, was preparing to grieve for his mother’s death. He planned mourning feasts all over the Empire and prepared a statement to the people of Rome and the Senate.
    With a twinge of conscience, he asked me if he could suggest that Agrippina should be exalted as a goddess, for she was, after all, the daughter of the great Germanicus, sister of Emperor Gaius, widow of Emperor Claudius and mother of Emperor Nero, and as such, in fact, a woman of much higher standing than Livia in the history of Rome. We all behaved horribly foolishly and had already jestingly begun to nominate one another as members of the priesthood of the new “goddess.
    In the middle of all this cheerfulness, in rushed the naval centurion Obaritus with the message that the ship had only half capsized and that Agrippina had vanished without a trace. The hope that she had been drowned was at once dispelled when the fishermen arrived at the head of a jubilant crowd, to say that Agrippina had been saved. They had seen the lights in the banqueting room and hoped that Nero would reward them. But Nero panicked and sent for Seneca and Burrus, like a schoolboy who has been caught at some prank and turns weeping to his teachers.
    I had the presence of mind to order Anicetus to arrest the fishermen at once and shut them up in a safe place while they awaited their reward so that they did not spread rumors which would worsen the situation. Fortunately for Nero, Agrippina obviously had not revealed her suspicions to them as they so innocently chattered on about the rescue.
    Seneca and Burrus arrived at the same time, Seneca barefooted and in only a tunic. Nero behaved like a madman, rushing about the room. Anicetus swiftly gave an account of what had happened, and guilt-stricken, Nero was seriously frightened for his own life. His lively imagination made him cry out aloud of what he feared might happen; that Agrippina might be arming her slaves or rousing the soldiers at the garrison against him, or on her way to Rome to complain to the Senate about his attempt to murder her, exhibiting her injuries and telling them of her servant’s cruel death.
    Seneca and Burrus were both experienced statesmen and did not need many explanations. Seneca contented himself with looking inquiringly at Burrus. Burrus shrugged his shoulders.
    “I shouldn’t send the Praetorians or Germans from the Life Guards to kill the daughter of Germanicus,” he said.
    With a grimace of distaste, he turned and looked at Anicetus.
    “Let Anicetus complete what he has undertaken,” he suggested. “I wash my hands of the whole affair.”
    Anicetus needed no second bidding. With complete justification he feared for his own life, for Nero, in his anger, had already struck him in the face with his fist. He now promised eagerly to complete his task with the help of his sailors. Nero stared at Seneca and Burrus with restless eyes.
    “Not until this night will I be rid of my guardianship,” he cried reproachfully, “and receive the right to rule. But it is to be given to me by a former barber, a freed slave, not by Seneca the Statesman or General Burrus. Go, Anicetus, hurry, and take with you everyone who is willing to do this service for his Emperor.”
    Then he turned pale and backed away as one of Agrippina’s freedmen, Agerinus, was announced as seeking audience with him with a message from Agrippina.
    “An assassin,” he cried, snatching up a sword and hiding it under his mantle.
    In fact he had nothing to fear, for Agrippina, exhausted by her swim and loss of blood, had weighed the possibilities and realized that she would have to put a good face on it and pretend to be quite ignorant of the attempt to murder her. So Agerinus entered trembling, and, stammering slightly, gave Agrippina’s message.
    “The goodness of the gods and the guardian spirit of the Emperor have saved me from accidental death. Although you will be dismayed to hear of the danger that has threatened me, do not for the time being come to see your mother. I need rest.”
    When Nero saw that he had nothing to fear from Agerinus, he came to his senses, let the sword fall at Agerinus’ feet, and then started back, pointing accusingly at the sword and crying out dramatically, “I call on you all to witness that my own mother has sent her freedman to murder me.”
    We hurried up and seized Agerinus, ignoring his protests. Nero ordered him imprisoned, but Anicetus considered it wisest to cut his throat as soon as they were outside the door. So Anicetus had tasted blood, but I thought I ought to go with him, to see that he fulfilled his task. Nero hurried out after us and slipped on the blood running from Agerinus’ body.
    “My mother sought my life,” he said with relief. “No one will suspect anything if she herself should take her own life when her crime was exposed. Act accordingly.”.
    Obaritus, the naval centurion, came with us, for he wished to atone for his failure. Anicetus had his second-in-command, Herculeius, sound the alarm in the naval barracks and we managed to get hold of some horses. A number of soldiers came with us, running barefooted, and, with shouts and swinging weapons, they managed to disperse the crowds which were on their way to Bauli to congratulate Agrippina.
    When we reached Bauli, dawn was just breaking as Anicetus ordered his men to surround the house. We broke down the door and chased away the slaves, who tried to resist us. The bedroom was dimly lit, and Agrippina was lying in bed, her shoulder swathed in warm wrappings. The servant girl with her fled and Agrippina raised her hand, calling after her in vain: “Are you forsaking me too?”
    Anicetus shut the door behind us so that there should not be too many spectators, and Agrippina greeted us in a weak voice. “If you have come to ask after my health,” she said, “then tell my son that I am already a little better.”
    Then she saw our weapons and her voice became firmer. “If you have come to kill me, then I do not believe it is on my son’s orders. He would never agree to matricide.”
    Anicetus, Herculeius and Obaritus surrounded the bed a little awkwardly, not knowing how to begin, for Agrippina looked so majestic even on her sickbed. I stood with my back against the door, keeping it shut. Finally Herculeius struck Agrippina a blow on the head, but so clumsily that she did not lose consciousness. They had intended to knock her unconscious and then open her veins, so that the suicide statement would bear some resemblance to the truth.
    Agrippina now abandoned all hope, exposed the lower part of her body, spread her knees and screamed at Anicetus, “Cut up the womb that brought Nero into the world.”
    The naval centurion drew his sword and took her at her word. Then they all slashed and thrust at her so that Agrippina received many wounds before she finally drew her last rattling breath.
    When we were convinced that she was dead, we each took some small thing as a souvenir from her bedroom while Anicetus ordered the servants to wash the body and arrange it for the pyre. I took a little gold statuette of Fortuna which was standing by the bed, in the belief that it was the one that Emperor Gaius in his day had always carried with him. Later it turned out that it was not the same one and I was extremely disappointed.
    A messenger rode swiftly off to Nero to inform him that his mother had committed suicide. Nero hurried straight to Bauli, for with Seneca’s help he had already sent a message to the Senate informing them of the attempt to murder him, and he wished to see with his own eyes that Agrippina really was dead.
    Nero arrived so swiftly that the servants were still busy washing and oiling Agrippina’s naked body. Nero stepped up to his mother, felt the wounds with his finger, and said, “See how beautiful my mother is even in death.”
    Wood was piled up in the garden and Agrippina’s body was unceremoniously lifted onto a couch from the dining room and placed on the pyre. When the smoke began to billow upward, I suddenly noticed what a beautiful morning it was in Bauli. The sea was a shimmering blue, the birds were singing and all the spring flowers were in bloom in a riot of color in the garden. But there was not a soul to be seen on the roads. The people were confused and had hidden themselves indoors, for no one now knew what had really happened.
    While the pyre was still burning, a troop of tribunes and centurions came galloping up. When Nero heard the sound of the horses’ hoofs and saw the line of marines give way before the horses, he looked around for an escape route. But the riders flung themselves out of their saddles and hurried up to press his hand in turn with cries of thanksgiving that he had escaped his mother’s criminal intentions.
    The riders had been sent by Prefect Burrus to show the people what the situation was, but he himself had not come, for he was too ashamed. When Agrippina’s remains had been hastily gathered together from the ashes and buried in the garden, the earth was smoothed over the grave. Nero gave his mother no burial mound, in order that it should not become the object of political pilgrimages.
    We plucked up courage and went up to the temple in Bauli to take a thank-offering to the gods for Nero’s miraculous escape. But in the temple, Nero began to hear bugle blasts and accusing cries in his ears. He said that the day darkened before his eyes too, although the sun was shining brightly.

    Agrippina’s death did not really come as a surprise to the Senate in Rome or the people, for they were prepared for some shattering event. The night Agrippina died, tremendous thunderstorms had raged over the city despite the time of year, and lightning had struck in fourteen different sections of the city, so the Senate had already decided on the customary expiatory sacrifices. When the death announcement arrived, they did not change them to offers of thanksgiving. The suppressed hatred for Agrippina was so great that the Senate decided to put her birthday on the list of days which brought misfortune.
    Nero had feared disturbances quite without reason. When he finally arrived in Rome from Naples, he was welcomed as if he were celebrating a triumph. The senators were dressed as if for a feast and the women and children greeted him with songs of praise, strewing spring flowers in his path from the seats which had been hastily constructed on either side of the route.
    When Nero went up to the Capitoline to discharge his own thank-offering it was as if all of Rome had rid itself of a hideous nightmare. On this lovely spring day, the people were only too glad to believe Seneca’s false account of Agrippina’s suicide. The very thought of matricide was so terrible to the older people that no one wished even to think about it.
    I had hurried on ahead to Rome, straight to Claudia, trembling with pride.
    “Claudia,” I cried. “I have avenged you. Agrippina is dead and I myself was involved. Her own son gave the order that she was to be killed. By Hercules, I have paid my debt to you. You need no longer grieve over the degradation you have been made to suffer.”
    I handed her the little Fortuna statuette which I had taken from
    Agrippina’s bedside table, but Claudia stared at me as if I were a monster and raised both hands as if fending me off.
    “I have never asked you to avenge me,” she said in horror. “Your hands are bloody, Minutus.”
    I did in fact still have a bloodstained bandage on one hand, so I hastened to assure her that I had not sullied my own hands with Agrippina’s blood, but had only cut my thumb on my own sword in my haste. But this did not help. Claudia began to scold me, calling for the judgment of Jesus of Nazareth to fall on me, and in every way behaving foolishly, so that finally I could do nothing but shout back angrily in reply.
    “If it is as you say, then I have only been a tool of your god,” I said. “You can regard Agrippina’s death as a punishment by your Christ for her crimes. And the Jews are the most vindictive people in the world. I’ve read that in their holy books. You are wasting your tears, weeping over Agrippina’s death.”
    “Some people have ears and hear nothing,” she replied angrily. “Minutus, haven’t you really understood a single word of what I’ve been trying to teach you?”
    “You’re the most ungrateful woman in the world, curse you, Claudia,” I said furiously. “I’ve tolerated your chatter about Christ up to now, but I owe you nothing more. Hold your tongue and leave my house.”
    “Christ forgive my violent temper,” mumbled Claudia between her clenched teeth, “but I can no longer control myself.”
    She slapped me across both cheeks with her hard hands so that my ears sang, then grasped me by the back of my neck and forced me to my knees, although I am taller than she is.
    “Now, Minutus,” she commantled, “you’ll pray to the heavenly father for forgiveness for your terrible sin.”
    My self-respect did not permit me to struggle with her and anyhow, she was unusually strong at that time. I crawled out of the room on all fours and Claudia flung the gold statuette after me. When I rose to my feet again, I shouted for the servants, my voice shaking with rage, and ordered them to collect Claudia’s possessions and put them outside the door. I picked up the Fortuna idol, the left wing of which was now bent, and went to the menagerie so that at least I could boast to Sabina of what I had done.
    To my surprise, Sabina was friendly and even patted my cheeks, which were rather inflamed from Claudia’s blows. She accepted the statuette gratefully and listened willingly, if somewhat absentmindedly, to my account from Baiae and Bauli.
    “You’re a man and braver than I thought, Minutus,” said Sabina. “But you mustn’t boast to too many people about what happened. The main thing is that Agrippina is dead. No one will mourn her. That harlot Poppaea, too, has received her due. After this, Nero would never dare divorce Octavia. That much I do know about politics.”
    I was surprised at this statement, but Sabina put her hand over my mouth.
    “It is spring, Minutus,” she whispered. “The birds are singing and the lions are roaring so that the ground shakes beneath them. I feel a longing and my limbs are on fire, Minutus. And I’ve seriously come to the conclusion that we should have a child, for the sake of both the Flavius family and yours. I don’t think I am a barren woman, although you so hurtfully keep away from my bed.”
    Her accusation was unjust, but perhaps her opinion of me had been changed because of what I had done, or perhaps the terrible deed had affected her as a woman, for some women are sexually excited by things like fires and blood running into the sand.
    I looked at my wife and there was nothing wrong with her, although her skin was not as white as Lollia Poppaea’s. We slept together for two nights, which we had not done for a long time, but the ecstasy I had felt at the beginning of our married life did not return. Sabina was like wood too, and finally she admitted she had done her duty more for her family than for pleasure, despite the dull roar of the lions through the nights.
    Our son was born eight months later. I was afraid we should have to put him out, as is done with prematurely born children. But he was quite healthy and well developed, and the successful birth caused great jubilation in the menagerie. I invited our hundreds of employees to a feast in honor of my firstborn, and could hardly believe the crude animal trainers capable of such tenderness to a newborn child.
    We could hardly get rid of the dark-skinned Epaphroditus, who kept pushing forward to pat the child, neglecting the animals’ feeding and insisting on paying for a wet-nurse for the child himself. I agreed to this in the end, as I regarded the offer as an act of homage.
    But I could not rid myself of Claudia. When I unsuspectingly returned home to my house on Aventine a few days later, I found all my servants, even Barbus, gathered in the reception room while on my seat of honor in the middle sat the Jewish miracle worker Cephas, with several youths who were quite unknown to me.
    One of them was translating Cephas’ Aramaic stories into Latin. Aunt Laelia was dancing about with delight, clapping her gnarled old hands. I was so angry I was about to have all my servants flogged, but Claudia hurriedly explained that Cephas was under the protection of Senator Pudeus Publicolus and was living in his house, away from the Jews on the other side of the river, so as not to cause any more disturbances between Jews and Christians. Pudeus was a silly old man but he was also a Valerian, so I was forced to hold my tongue.
    Cephas remembered our meeting in Corinth very well and addressed me by name in a friendly way. He did not demand that I should believe, but I saw that he wished me to be reconciled with Claudia and to put up with her in my house. Somehow this is what finally happened, and to my own surprise I shook hands with Claudia, kissed her, yes, and even joined in their meal since I was, after all, master in my own house.
    I do not wish to say any more of this shameful event. Afterwards I asked Barbus sarcastically if he had abandoned Mithras and become a Christian. Barbus did not reply directly but just muttered, “I am old. Rheumatism from my war years torments me so terribly that I will do anything to avoid the pains. And I only have to look at this former fisherman for them to go away. When I’ve eaten of his bread and drunk of his wine, I feel well for several days at a time. The Mithras priests could not cure me although no one knows more than they about legionaries’ rheumatism.”



    Let us turn to the champions of recent times and pick out the noble examples provided by our generation. It was because of envy and malice that the greatest most upright pillars of the Church were persecuted and had to carry the contest to the point of death. Let us conjure up those good Apostles in our mind’s eye-Peter who, because of wicked envy, had to undergo not one, not two, but many sufferings and, having thus witnessed to our faith, went to the glorious place appointed for him; and it was because of jealousy and strife that Paul became an example of the reward to be won by patient endurance: for he was imprisoned seven times, driven into exile, stoned, became a preacher in both the East and the West, and thereby gained the noble renown which was the reward of his faith, after teaching goodness to the whole world and going to the very farthest West. And so, having witnessed to our faith before the authorities, he left the world and went to the holy place-having proved a splendid example of patient endurance.
    These saintly men were joined by a vast number of the chosen who, being victims of jealousy, through many humiliations and tortures set a magnificent example among ourselves. And women who were persecuted through malice and underwent cruel, unholy tortures as Danaides and Dircae, safely attained the goal in the race of faith and, even though weak in body, won a noble prize.
Clement of Rome-Epistle to the Corinthians I: 5, 6.



    My wife’s suggestion turned out to be true, insofar as two years elapsed before Nero dared to think seriously of divorcing Octavia. On his return to Rome after the death of his mother, he considered it politically more, prudent to send Poppaea away from Palatine and to spend his nights with her in secret. He pardoned many exiles, reinstated dismissed senators to office and distributed the colossal fortune he had inherited from Agrippina as bribes. Agrippina’s property, possessions and slaves, however, were not gready sought after by the Roman aristocracy. Nero gave the larger part of them to the people at the great circus performance at which he had lots cast out at random among the spectators.
    To ease his conscience and win the favor of the people, Nero went as far as to suggest to the Senate that all direct taxation should be abolished. Naturally he himself realized this was impossible, but the Senate was placed in an ignominious position in the eyes of the people since they were forced to reject the suggestion immediately.
    Considerable reforms were made on the levying of taxes, certain purchase taxes were lowered and most important of all, in future everyone was to have the right to know how, and why and on what sum he was to be taxed. The tax collectors grumbled bitterly, for they had lost their former right to extract their own bounty over and above the taxes, but the merchants stood to gain, as they could keep their prices the same and pay less purchase tax.
    Nero also appeared in public before the crowd as a charioteer, for, according to his own statement, driving a team of horses had in the past been a sport of kings and gods. To set a good example to the aristocracy, he appeared in the great games on the Greek pattern as a dramatic singer, accompanying himself on the cittern. His voice had grown strong since his mother’s death, but for safety’s sake and to avoid demonstrations, Burrus ordered a troop of Praetorians to the theater to keep order and to applaud Nero. He himself set an example by clapping, although as a warrior he was deeply ashamed of the Emperor’s conduct. Presumably he also thought that Nero might well have taken up even more shameful pursuits.
    The result was that Greek fashions finally conquered Rome. Most of the senators and the members of the Noble Order of Knights took part in Nero’s games. Noble girls performed Greek dances and even elderly matrons demonstrated the suppleness of their limbs in the circus. I personally had nothing against these amusements, for they saved me much trouble and expense, but except for the races, the people did not like them very much. In their opinion, professional singers, musicians, dancers and actors performed incomparably better than amateurs. The disappointment was great when no wild animals were displayed in the intervals, not to mention gladiators. The older generation among the nobility was appalled, for they considered gymnastic exercises, hot baths and effeminate music to be weakening Roman youth and their capacity to fight at a moment when Rome needed experienced tribunes.
    Like an evil omen, war again broke out in Armenia, and a dreadful woman called Boadicea united the British tribes in a devastating rebellion in Britain. A whole legion was annihilated, two Roman towns were razed to the ground and the Procurator lost control to such an extent that he had to flee across to Gaul.
    I think Queen Boadicea would never have won so many adherents in Britain had the legions not been forced to live off the country, and had the interest on the loans made by Seneca to the British princes ever been paid, for the barbarians still did not understand the present monetary system.
    The younger knights turned out to be reluctant to volunteer to be impaled and burned by Boadicea, but preferred to play their citterns in Rome, clad in Greek tunics and wearing their hair long. Before the situation had clarified, Nero even suggested to the Senate that the legions should be withdrawn altogether from Britain, where there was nothing but trouble. The country was devouring more than it produced. If we abandoned Britain, three legions would be released to lessen the pressure from the Parthians in the East. The fourth had already been lost.
    During the violent discussion in the Senate which followed, Seneca, the spokesman for peace and love of humanity, made a brilliant speech in which he referred to the god Claudius’ triumphs in Britain.
    An Emperor could not refute his adoptive father’s conquests without ruining his reputation. Actually, Seneca was of course thinking of the enormous sums of money he had invested in Britain.
    One of the senators asked whether it had been absolutely necessary to murder seventy thousand citizens and allies and to plunder and burn two flourishing towns to ashes just to protect Seneca’s profits. Seneca turned very red and assured the Senate that the Roman money invested in Britain went toward civilizing the country and to fostering trade and buying power. This could be confirmed by other senators who had invested their money there.
    “The omens are alarming,” someone called.
    But Seneca defended himself and assured them that it was not his fault if some untrustworthy British kings had used the money from loans for their own private purposes and the secret acquisition of arms. The conduct of the legions was the main reason for the war, so the commantlers should be punished and reinforcements should be sent to Britain.
    To abandon Britain completely was of course much too bitter a pill for the Senate to swallow. That much of Rome’s former pride at least remains. So it was decided not to evacuate the country, but to send more troops there instead. Several incensed senators forced their grown sons to have their hair cut and take up service as tribunes in Britain. They took their citterns with them, but the ravaged towns and the cruelties and shrill war cries of the Britons soon caused them to throw them away and fight courageously.
    I have special reason for dwelling on the events in Britain, although I myself did not witness them. Boadicea was the Queen of the Icenis. After her husband’s death the legions had interpreted his will so that his land became Roman hereditary property. Boadicea was a woman and cared nothing for the law. We ourselves needed learned lawyers to interpret wills correcdy. When Boadicea contested the decision and appealed to the Britons’ law of inheritance on the distaff side, she was flogged by the legionaries, her daughters were raped and her property looted. The legionaries had also turned many Iceni noblemen out of their estates and committed murder and other atrocities.
    Legally, right was on their side for the King, who had not been able to read or write, had in fact had a will drawn up in which he left his land to the Emperor, thinking that in this way he was securing the position of his widow and daughters against the envy of the Iceni noblemen. The Icenis had from the beginning been allies of the Romans, although they had no special love for them.
    After the arrival of the reinforcements, a decisive battle was fought and the Britons, led by this vengeful woman, were defeated. The Romans avenged Boadicea’s brutalities to Roman women, whom, because of the insult she had suffered, she had allowed her people to treat abominably. Soon a stream of British slaves began to arrive in Rome-admittedly only women and half-grown boys, for adult Britons are useless as slaves-and much to the people’s disappointment, Nero had forbidden the use of prisoners-of-war in the battles in the amphitheater.
    One lovely day I was visited by a slave dealer who was dragging a ten-year-old boy by a rope. He behaved secretively, winking repeatedly at me in the hopes that I would send any witnesses out of the room. Then he lengthily complained of the bad times, his innumerable expenses and the shortage of willing buyers. The boy looked around with angry eyes.
    “This young warrior,” explained the slave dealer, “tried to defend his mother with his sword when our incensed legionaries raped and killed her. Out of respect for the boy’s courage, the soldiers did not kill him but sold him to me. As you see from his straight limbs, his fine skin and green eyes, he is of noble Iceni descent. He can ride, swim and use a bow and arrow. Believe it or not, he can even write a little too and he speaks a few words of Latin. I’ve heard it said that you might like to buy him and pay me more than if I offered him for sale in the slave market.”
    ‘Whoever told you that?” I exclaimed in surprise. “I’ve more than enough slaves. They make my life intolerable and deprive me of my own freedom, not to mention real wealth, which is solitude.”
    “A certain Petro, an Iceni physician in the service of Rome, recognized the boy in London,” said the slave dealer. “He gave me your name and assured me you would pay me the highest price for the boy. But who can trust a Briton? Show your book, boy.”
    He cuffed the boy over the head. The boy rummaged in his belt and drew out the remains of a torn and dirty Chaldaean-Egyptian book of dreams. I recognized it as soon as I touched it, and my limbs and joints dissolved into water.
    “Is your mother’s name Lugunda?” I asked the boy, although I knew the answer. Petro’s name alone confirmed that the boy was my own son whom I had never seen. I wanted to take him in my arms and acknowledge him as my son, although there were no witnesses available, but the boy hit me in the face with his fist and bit my cheek. The slave dealer’s face darkened with rage and he fumbled for his whip.
    “Don’t hit him,” I said. “I’ll buy the boy. What’s your price?”
    The slave dealer looked at me appraisingly and again spoke of his outlays and losses.
    “To be rid of him,” he said finally, “I’ll sell him at the lowest price. A hundred gold pieces. The boy is still untamed.”
    Ten thousand sesterces was an insane price to pay for a half-grown boy when bedworthy young women were on offer in the market for a few gold pieces. It was not just the price, for naturally I should have paid an even higher one if necessary, but I had to sit down and think hard as I looked at the boy. The slave dealer misunderstood my silence and began to speak for his goods, explaining that there were several rich men in Rome who had acquired eastern habits and for whom the boy was of a choice age. But he lowered his price, first to ninety and then to eighty gold pieces.
    In fact I was only wondering how I could make the purchase without my son becoming a slave. A formal purchase would have to be made at the tabellarium, where the contract would be confirmed and the boy would have to be branded with my own symbol of ownership, MM, after which he would never again be able to gain Roman citizenship, even if he were freed.
    “Perhaps I could have him trained as a charioteer,” I said at last. “The Petro you mention was in fact a friend of mine when I was serving in Britain. I trust his recommendation. Couldn’t we arrange it so that you give me a written certificate to say that Petro, as the boy’s guardian, has assigned to you the task of bringing him here for me to look after him?”
    The slave dealer gave me a sly look.
    “I am the one who has to pay the purchase tax on him, not you,” he said. “I can’t really knock off any more from the price.”
    I scratched my head. The matter was very involved and could easily have appeared to be an attempt to circumvent the high tax on slaves. But I might as well benefit in some way from my position as son-in-law to the City Prefect.
    I put on my toga and the three of us set off for the temple of Mercury. Among the people there, I soon found a citizen who had lost his rank of knight and who, for a reasonable sum, agreed to stand as the other necessary witness to the oath. Thus a document could be drawn up and confirmed with a double oath.
    According to this, the boy was a freeborn Briton whose parents, Ituna and Lugunda, had been killed in the war because of their friendship for Rome. Through the mediation of the physician Petro, they had sent their son to the security of Rome in good time, to have him brought up by their guest and friend, the knight Minutus Lausus Manilianus.
    In a special clause it was stipulated that I, as his guardian, should hold a watching brief for his inheritance in the Iceni country when peace was finally declared in Britain. This strengthened my case to some extent, for the Mercury priests took it that I had something to gain from the boy at the distribution of war spoils.
    ‘What shall we put down as his name?” asked the notary.
    “Jucundus,” I said. It was the first name that came into my head.
    They all burst into relieved laughter, for the sullen boy was anything but a picture of sweetness. The priest said that I was going to be hard put to make a good Roman of him.
    The drawing up and sealing of the deeds and the customary gift to the Mercury priests came to a considerably larger sum than the purchase tax would have done. The slave dealer began to regret the deal and took me for a cleverer purchaser than I in fact was. He had already taken his oath, however, but in the end I paid him the hundred gold pieces he had at first asked, just to be rid of him without further ado.
    When we finally left the temple of Mercury, the boy unexpectedly thrust his hand into mine as if he felt lonely in the everyday noise and bustle of the street. I was seized with a strange feeling as I held his small hand and led him home through the josding city of Rome. I thought of the possibility of acquiring Roman citizenship for him when he was older, and then adopting him if I could persuade Sabina to agree. But those problems would come later.
    Nevertheless, I had more trouble than joy from my son Jucundus. At first he would not even speak and I thought the horrors of war had turned him dumb. He smashed many objects in the house and refused to wear the clothes of a Roman boy. Claudia made no headway with him at all. The first time Jucundus saw a Roman boy of his own age outside the house, he rushed at him and beat him over the head with a stone until Barbus managed to intervene. Barbus suggested a severe beating, but I thought one should try more gende methods first and spoke to the boy myself.
    “I’m sure you are mourning your mother’s death,” I said. “You were dragged here with a rope around your neck like a dog. But you aren’t a dog. You must grow up and become a man. We all wish the best for you. Tell us what you would like to do most?”
    “Kill Romans!” cried Jucundus.
    I sighed with relief, for at least the boy could speak after all.
    “You can’t do that here in Rome,” I said. “But you can learn Roman customs and habits and one day perhaps I can make you into a Roman knight. If you stick to your plans, you can return to Britain when you are older and kill Romans in the Roman way. The Roman art of war is better than the British, as you yourself have seen.”
    Jucundus sulked, but my words had perhaps some effect on him.
    “Barbus is an old veteran,” I went on craftily, “even if his head does shake. Ask him. He can tell you about batdes and warfare much better than I can.”
    So, Barbus once again had the opportunity to tell the story of the time when he had swum fully equipped across the Danube between the ice floes with a wounded centurion on his back. He could show his scars and explain why unconditional obedience and a hardened body were the inescapable foundations for efficiency as a warrior. He acquired a taste for wine again and he wandered about Rome with the boy, taking him to bathe in the Tiber and teaching him to express himself pungently in the Latin of the people.
    But Barbus was also troubled by his wild temper and one day took me to one side.
    “Jucundus is a bright boy,” he said, “but even I, hardened old man that I am, am horrified by his descriptions of what he is going to do to both Roman men and women one day. I’m afraid he witnessed terrible things when the Britons’ rebellion was crushed. The worst of it is, he keeps rushing up the slopes to shout curses over Rome in his barbaric language. In secret he worships gods of the underworld and sacrifices mice to them. It’s quite obvious that he is possessed by evil powers. Nothing will come of his upbringing until he is freed of his demons.”
    “How can we do that?” I asked doubtfully.
    “Cephas of the Christians is a great one for driving out demons,” said Barbus, avoiding my eyes. “He’s the cleverest man I’ve ever met at that sort of thing. At his command, a raving man becomes as gende as a lamb.”
    Barbus was afraid I would be angry, but on the contrary, I thought that for once it might prove of some use that I put up with Christian meetings and meals in my house and allowed my slaves to believe what they liked. When Barbus saw that I was in favor, he eagerly began to tell me that Cephas, with the help of his pupils who knew Latin, was teaching children humility and obedience to their parents. Many citizens who were troubled by young people’s increasing lack of discipline sent their children to their holy day school, at which, in addition, the instruction was quite free.
    Several weeks later, Jucundus came running up to me of his own accord, seized my hand and dragged me into my room.
    “Is it true?” he said. “That there’s an invisible kingdom and that the Romans crucified the king? And that he’s coming back any time now, and then he’ll throw all the Romans into the fire?”
    I thought the boy showed sound judgment in not immediately believing what he was told, but coming to me for confirmation. At the same time, however, I was put in an awkward position.
    “It’s true the Romans crucified him,” I said cautiously. “On a notice on the cross it said that he was the king of the Jews. My father saw it happen with his own eyes at the time and he still maintains that the sky darkened and the mountains were rent when he died. The leading Christians think he’ll come back quite soon. And it’s about time, for it’s over thirty years since his death now.”
    “Cephas is an Archdruid,” said Jucundus. “He’s more powerful than the Druids of Britain, although he’s a Jew. He demands all sorts of things, just like the Druids. One must wash oneself and wear clean clothes, one must pray, tolerate insults, turn the other cheek if someone hits one, and he’s got other tests of self-control too, just like Petro. And we have secret signs too, by which the initiated recognize each other.”
    “I’m sure Cephas does not teach you any ill,” I said, “and the exercises he asks of you demand great strength of will. But you must realize that all those are secrets. You mustn’t talk about them to anyone.”
    Pretending the utmost secrecy, I took my mother’s wooden goblet out of the chest and showed it to Jucundus.
    “This is a magic goblet,” I told him. “The king of the Jews himself once drank from it. Now we’ll drink from it together, but it is so secret that you mustn’t ever tell anyone, not even Cephas.”
    I mixed wine and water in the goblet and we drank from it together, my son and I, in the dimly lit room. I had the impression that the liquid did not lessen in the goblet, but it was only an illusion caused by the poor lighting. I was seized with a great tenderness and I suddenly realized, as if in a vision, that I must tell the truth about Jucundus to my father, in case anything should happen to me.
    Without further ado, we set out for Tullia’s fine house on Viminalis. Jucundus behaved perfectly and looked around with wide-open eyes, for he had never seen such a magnificent private house. Senator Pud-ens, who was Cephas’ patron, lived in an old-fashioned way and I had not made any alterations to my house on Aventine, although it had become very cramped over the years. To rebuild it would have upset Aunt Laelia.
    I left the boy with Tullia and shut myself up with my father in his room to tell him all about Jucundus. To tell the truth, I had not seen my father for a long time. I felt pity for him when I saw how bald and round-shouldered he had become, but of course he was already over sixty. He listened to me without comment and without once looking straight at me. Finally he spoke.
    “The destinies of fathers appear in distorted forms in their sons,” he said. “Your own mother was a Greek from the islands and your son’s mother was a Briton from the Iceni tribe. In my youth, I was dragged into a shameful scandal of poisoning and falsifying a will. I have heard such terrible things about you that I cannot really believe them. I have never been especially pleased about your marriage to Sabina, even if her father is the City Prefect, and I have no desire to go and see the son she has borne you, your Lausus, for reasons I need hardly explain to you. What spark of wisdom made you have Jucundus brought up by Cephas? Cephas and I have been acquainted since the days of Galilee. He is less brusque and excitable than he was then. What plans have you for the boy’s future?”
    “It would be best,” I said, “if I could get him into the school on Palatine where famous orators and pupils of Seneca train the sons of our allied kings and the provincial nobility. His wretched Latin would not attract attention there. He could make useful friends among his contemporaries, if only Cephas can subdue him a little first. When the administration of Britain is reorganized, there will be a need for a new Romanized aristocracy. The boy is of noble Iceni stock on the distaff side. But for some reason, Nero does not want to see me at the moment, although we are friends.”
    “I am a member of the Senate,” said my father after a moment’s thought, “and I have never before begged a favor of Nero. I have also learned to keep my mouth shut in the Senate, which is more due to Tullia than to me, as I have lived with her during all these years and she has always had the last word. The situation is very confused and the records in Britain have been destroyed, so a clever lawyer could easily find evidence that the boy’s parents had received Roman citizenship in return for their services. It should be even easier as his father is not known. And it wouldn’t even be distorting the truth if you once went through a British form of marriage with his mother. Your own mother has a statue outside the Council House in Myrina. You could pay for a statue of your Lugunda in the Claudius temple when Colchester is rebuilt. I consider you owe that to the mother of your son.”
    The strangest thing of all was that Tullia meanwhile had become quite enchanted by Jucundus and could not do enough for him. In spite of her strenuous efforts, her plump beauty had begun to fade and her chins had become a wrinkled bag. When she heard about the sad fate of Jucundus’ mother, she burst into tears and swept him into her arms.
    “I can see from his mouth, nose and eyebrows and also from his eyes, that the boy is of noble birth,” she cried. “His parents must have possessed every merit except discrimination, since they’ve appointed a man like Minutus as his guardian. Believe me, I can tell gold from brass at a glance.”
    Jucundus patiendy endured her caresses and kisses like a sacrificial lamb. Cephas’ training was already bearing fruit.
    “The gods never allowed me children of my own,” Tullia went on sadly, “only miscarriages which I went to great trouble to arrange in my youth and during my two marriages. My third husband was sterile because of his great age, even if he was otherwise rich. And Marcus wasted his seed on a Greek pleasure-girl. But enough of that. I do not wish to offend the memory of your mother, my dear Minutus. This British boy I see as a good omen in our house. Marcus, you must save the handsome Jucundus from your feeble son’s guardianship. Who knows, otherwise Sabina might turn him into an animal trainer one day. Couldn’t we adopt him and bring him up as our own child?”
    I was paralyzed with surprise and at first my father did not know what to say either. Now that I think about it, I can only imagine that there must have been some supernatural power within my mother’s wooden goblet.
    In this way I was relieved of a heavy duty, for at that time I was not really fit to bring up anyone, no more then than now. This I have learned from you, Julius. For many reasons my reputation was not a good one, while my father was regarded as a good-natured fool. He had no ambitions and no one thought he would ever willingly become involved in political intrigues.
    As an expert in Eastern matters, he had filled the office of Praetor for two months for the sake of form. He had once, from sheer good will, been proposed as Consul. If Jucundus became his adoptive son, the boy would have incomparably better prospects than he would under my protection. And as a senator’s son he could be written into the rolls of knights as soon as he had shed his boy’s clothes.

    Shortly after I had solved this problem, I heard that the Praetorian Prefect Burrus had developed a boil in his throat and was dying. Nero hastily sent his own personal physician to attend him. When Burrus was informed of this, he drew up his will and sent it for safekeeping to the Vestal temple.
    Not until then did he allow the physician to paint his throat with an infallible remedy on a feather. The next night he was well and truly dead. Presumably he would have died in any case, for blood poisoning had set in and he had begun to be delirious with fever.
    Burrus was buried with great ceremony. Before the pyre was lit on Mars field, Nero proclaimed Tigellinus Praetorian Prefect. This former horse dealer did not have sufficient judicial experience, so Fenius Ru-fus, a man of Jewish descent, formerly very widely traveled in his capacity as State Inspector of the grain trade, was appointed to deal with external cases.
    I walked the whole length of the goldsmiths’ street to find a sufficiently worthy gift. Finally I decided on a multistringed necklace of faultless pearls and with it I sent the following letter to Poppaea Sabina:
    Minutus Lausus Manilianus greets Poppaea Sabina: Venus was born from the foam of the waves. Pearls are a worthy gift to Venus, but the most faultless radiance of these humble Parthian pearls cannot compare with the shimmer of your complexion. I can never forget it. I hope these pearls will remind you of our friendship. Certain signs and omens show that the prophecy you were once pleased to reveal to me is about to be fulfilled.
    Obviously I was the first to interpret the omens so skillfully, for Poppaea sent for me at once, thanked me for the beautiful gift and tried to find out how I could have known that she was pregnant, when she herself had known only a few days before. I could only point out my
    Etruscan heritage, which sometimes helped me with unusual dreams.
    “After his mother’s death,” said Poppaea, “Nero was upset and tried to push me to one side. But now all is well again. He needs his real friends who will stand by him and support him in his policies.”
    This was indeed true, for after he had publicly reproached Octavia for barrenness and informed the Senate that he was thinking of separating from her, violent disturbances had broken out in the city. To test the feelings of the people, Nero had a statue of Poppaea erected in the forum near the Vestal Virgins’ well. A crowd threw it down, garlanded the statues of Octavia and then made their way up to Palatine, so that the Praetorians had to take to their arms to persuade them to go away.
    I suspected that Seneca’s clever fingers were in this game, since the uprising and demonstration had been so spontaneous and apparently well planned. Nero, however, was badly frightened and at once recalled Octavia, who was on her way to Campania on his orders. Jubilant crowds followed her sedan and offers of thanksgiving were made in the temples of the Capitoline when she was back in Palatine.
    The following day, for the first time in two years, I received an urgent summons from Nero. One of Octavia’s servant girls had accused her of adultery with an Alexandrian flute player called Eucerus. The trial was held in secret and had been arranged by Tigellinus. Octavia herself was not present.
    I was heard as a witness, as I knew Eucerus. I could only say that flute music itself is inclined to give people frivolous thoughts. I had with my own eyes seen Octavia sighing, her melancholy gaze on Eucerus as he played at dinner. But, I added for the sake of justice, Octavia sighed on other occasions too, apd was of a melancholy temperament, as everyone knew.
    Octavia’s slaves underwent interrogations that were so painful I began to feel slightly sick as I watched. Some of them were prepared to confess but could nqt explain when, where and how the adultery had taken place. Tigellinus intervened in the interrogation, which was not going as he had wished, and impatiently said to a pretty girl, “Wasn’t this adultery a subject of general conversation among the servants?”
    “If one believed everything people say,” the girl snapped back in reply, “then Octavia’s private parts are incomparably more chaste than your mouth, Tigellinus.”
    The laughter was so great that the interrogation had to be broken off. Tigellinus’ vices were well known. He had now also revealed his legal ignorance by using leading questions to make the slaves admit something which was obviously not true. The judges’ sympathies were with the slaves and they would not allow Tigellinus to cause them lasting harm against the injunctions of the law.
    The court adjourned until the following day. Then the only witness to appear was the Commantler of the Fleet, my old friend Anicetus. With feigned embarrassment he related, carefully giving time and place, how Octavia, while in Baiae to bathe, had shown a surprising interest in the fleet and had personally wished to make the acquaintance of the captains and the centurions.
    Anicetus had misunderstood her intentions and had made approaches to her, which Octavia had nevertheless definitely rejected. Then Anicetus, blinded by criminal lust, had drugged her with a narcotic drink and used her, but later had bitterly regretted his deed. He could now only plead for the Emperor’s mercy, for his conscience had made him confess his crime.
    That Anicetus had a conscience at all was news to everyone, himself included, I should think. But the divorce was confirmed by the court, Octavia was exiled to the island of Pandataria, and the faithful Anicetus sent to the naval base in Sardinia. And Nero managed without Seneca’s help to compose an eloquent account of what had happened for the Senate of Rome and the people. In this he implied that Octavia, relying on Burrus, had thought that she had the Praetorian Guard on her side. To win the support of the navy, she had seduced the naval commantler, Anicetus, but had become pregnant and, in the knowledge of her own depravity, had criminally caused an abortion.
    This statement bore an authentic ring to those who did not personally know Octavia. I myself read it in wonder, for I had been present at the secret trial. But I realized that a certain exaggeration was necessary, because of Octavia’s popularity among the people.
    To avoid demonstrations, Nero immediately had all the statues of Octavia destroyed. But the people withdrew indoors as if in mourning, and at the Senate there was not even a quorum, so many stayed away. There was no discussion on Nero’s statement, for it was not a bill but only a directive from the Emperor.
    Twelve days later Nero was married to Poppaea Sabina, but the wedding celebrations were not particularly gay. Nevertheless, the wedding presents filled an entire room in Palatine.
    As usual, Nero had a careful list of the gifts made and saw to it that every donor received an official letter of thanks. Rumor had it that he had also had a special list drawn up of those senators and knights who had not sent a gift or who on account of illness had not attended the wedding. So, simultaneously with gifts from the provinces, there poured in a number of late presents together with many explanations and apologies. The Jewish Council in Rome sent Poppaea goblets made of gold and decorated with grapes, worth half a million sesterces.
    Statues of Poppaea Sabina were erected all over Rome in place of those of Octavia. Tigellinus had the Praetorians guard them day and night so that some people who, in all innocence, wishing to garland them with wreaths received a jab in the face from a shield or a blow from the flat of a sword for their pains.
    One night someone pulled a sack over the head of the giant statue of Nero on the Capitoline. The news soon spread all over Rome and everyone realized what lay behind it. According to the laws of our forefathers, a patricide or a matricide shall be drowned in a sack together with a snake, a cat and a cockerel. As far as I know, this was the first time anyone had publicly implied that Nero had killed his mother.
    My father-in-law, Flavius Sabinus, was very worried by the oppressive atmosphere which lay over Rome. When he heard that a live adder had been found on one of the marble floors at Palatine, he ordered the police to keep their eyes skinned for every possible demonstration. This was how the wife of a rich senator came to be arrested for carrying her cat with her on her evening walk. A slave on his way to the temple of Aesculapius with a cockerel he was to sacrifice for his master’s health was flogged. This provoked general merriment, although my father-in-law was only acting in good faith, with no ill intentions. Nero, however, was so angry with him that he lost his office for a while.
    For all of us who could think reasonably, it was as clear as daylight that the rejection of Octavia was being used as an excuse for a general blackening of Nero’s name in every way. Poppaea Sabina was more beautiful and much cleverer than the fastidious Octavia, although this was her third marriage. But the older generation did everything they could to stir up trouble among the people.
    In fact I felt my throat many times during those days and wondered what it would be like to lose one’s head. A military coup was imminent, for the Praetorians did not like Tigellinus, who was of low descent and a former horse dealer, and who maintained discipline ruthlessly. He soon quarreled with his colleague in office, Fenius Rufus, so that they could no longer remain in the same room together. One, usually Rufus, always left.
    We who were Nero’s friends and honestly wished him well, gathered at Palatine in a solemn council. Tigellinus was the eldest and the one with the strongest will, so however much we disliked him, we still turned to him and he spoke seriously to Nero.
    “Here in the city,” he said, “I can guarantee order and your safety. But in Massilia there is the exiled Sulla who has Antonia’s support. He is poor and prematurely gray from his humiliations. I know from reliable sources that he has connections in noble circles in Gaul, people who admire Antonia because of her own great name and because she is Claudius’ daughter. The legions in Germany are also so near that Sulla’s very presence in Massilia is a danger to the State and the common good.”
    Nero admitted this and said in despair, “I cannot imagine why no one loves Poppaea Sabina as I do. At the moment she is in a delicate condition and must not be exposed to the slightest excitement.”
    “Plautius is an even greater danger to you,” Tigellinus went on. “It was a great mistake to exile him to Asia, where it was unruly enough without him. His grandfather was a Drusus. Who can guarantee that Corbulo and his legions will remain loyal to you? His father-in-law, Senator Lucius Antistius, has sent one of his freedmen there to urge Plautius to make the most of the opportunity. This I have from trustworthy sources. In addition he is very wealthy, and with an ambitious man, that is just as dangerous as poverty.”
    “I know the situation in Asia quite well,” I put in. “I’ve heard that Plautius only keeps company with philosophers. The Etruscan Muso-nius, who is a good friend of the world-famous Apollonius from Tyana, voluntarily went into exile with him.”
    Tigellinus struck his hands together triumphantly.
    “You see, my lord!” he cried. “Philosophers are the worst advisers of all when they whisper their outrageous views on freedom and tyranny into young men’s ears.”
    “Who can even suggest that I am a tyrant?” said Nero indignandy. “I have given the people more freedom than any other ruler before me. And I meekly submit all my proposals to the Senate for their approval.”
    We hurriedly assured him that as far as the welfare of the nation was concerned, he was the mildest and most liberal ruler one could imagine. But now it was a matter of what was best for the State and there was nothing more terrible than civil war.
    At that moment, Poppaea Sabina came rushing in, scantily dressed, her hair hanging loose and tears pouring down her cheeks. She flung herself down in front of Nero, rubbed her breasts against his knees and pleaded with him.
    “I don’t mind for myself,” she said, “or my position, or even for our unborn son, but this is a matter of your life, dearest Nero. Trust Tigellinus. He knows what he is saying.”
    Poppaea’s physician had agitatedly followed her in.
    “There is a risk of a miscarriage if she does not have peace of mind,” he said, gently trying to disengage her from Nero.
    “How can I ever have peace of mind as long as that loathsome woman plots away on Pandataria?” wailed Poppaea. “She has insulted your marriage bed, she practices the worst kind of witchcraft and has several times tried to poison me. I’ve been sick several times today, just because I’m so frightened.”
    “He who has once chosen his way can no longer look back,” said Tigellinus with conviction. “I appeal to your magnanimity as our friend, if you won’t think of your own life, Nero. You are putting all our lives in danger with your indecisiveness. The first to be swept away in the coup will be those who wish you well and are not just pressing their own advantage, as Seneca is, for instance. Faced with the inevitable, the gods themselves must bow down.”
    Nero’s eyes filled with tears of sorrow.
    “Be my witnesses,” he declared, “you who can confirm that this is the most burdensome moment of my life, when my personal feelings must give way for the State and the common good. I comply with what is politically unavoidable.”
    Tigellinus’ hard face lit up and he raised his arm in greeting.
    “Now you are a true ruler, Nero,” he said. “Trustworthy Praetorians are already on their way to Massilia. I have sent a whole maniple to Asia with the possibility of armed resistance in mind. I could not endure the thought of those who envy you using this opportunity to overthrow you and injure the fatherland.”
    Instead of being angry at his high-handedness, Nero let out a sigh of relief and praised him as a true friend. Then he absentmindedly asked how long it took a courier to get to Pandataria.
    Only a few days later, Poppaea Sabina asked me secretively, “Would you like to see the best wedding present I’ve had from Nero?”
    She led me to her room, lifted a brown-flecked cloth from a willow basket and showed me Octavia’s bloodless head. Screwing up her delightful nose, she said, “Ugh, it’s beginning to smell and collect flies. My physician has ordered me to throw it away, but looking at this wedding present now and again convinces me more than anything else that I really am the Imperial consort.
    “Just think,” she went on. “When the Praetorians came to put her in a hot bath so that her veins could be opened painlessly, like a little girl who has broken her doll, she cried, ‘I haven’t done anything.’ She was, after all, twenty years old. But she must have been backward in some way. Who knows with whom Messalina conceived her? Perhaps simply the deranged Claudius.”
    Nero demantled that the Senate should decide on thank-offerings in the temples of the Capitoline for the averting of the danger to the State. Twelve days later, Faustus Sulla’s prematurely gray head arrived from Massilia and the Senate voluntarily decided to continue with the thank-offerings.
    In the city a stubborn rumor spread that Plautius had started a rebellion in Asia. Civil war and a defeat in the East were considered so likely that the price of gold and silver began to rise and a number of people hurriedly sold both land and city apartments cheaply. I took the opportunity to make some very profitable deals.
    When Plautius’ head eventually arrived from Asia after some delay caused by storms, public relief was so great that not only the Senate but also individual citizens made thank-offerings. Nero made the most of the situation and reinstated Rufus in his former office as Inspector for the grain trade and at the same time promoted him to Procurator for the State Grain Stores. Tigellinus weeded out the Praetorians and pensioned several off early to the veteran colony in Puteoli. For my part, I was at least five million sesterces richer after these events.
    Seneca took part in the festive processions and thank-offerings, but many people noticed that his legs were unsteady and his hands trembled violently. He was already over sixty-five and had become considerably fatter, his face swollen and his cheekbones blue. Nero kept out of his way as much as possible and avoided being left alone with him so as not to have to listen to his reproaches.
    But one day Seneca applied for an official audience. For safety’s sake, Nero gathered his friends around him, hoping that in spite of everything, Seneca would not accuse him in public. But Seneca made an elegant speech in his honor, praising him for his foresight and the determination with which he had preserved the fatherland from the dangers which had threatened it, dangers which Seneca’s own aging eyes had not been able to discern. After this meeting, Seneca ceased to receive anyone who wished to meet him, dismissed his guard of honor and moved out into the country to his beautiful estate on the road to Praeneste. He put forward his poor health as a reason and explained that he was occupied with a philosophical treatise into the pleasures of denial. It was said that he held to a strict diet and avoided people, so that he did not have much pleasure from his great wealth.
    I was given the surprising honor of being appointed Praetor Extraordinary in the middle of a term of office. For this appointment I presumably had Poppaea’s friendship to thank, as well as Tigellinus’ opinion that I was a weak-willed man. Troubled by the atmosphere the political murders had created and the tension over Poppaea’s pregnancy, Nero felt the need to show himself as a good ruler by clearing up all the foreign lawsuits which had accumulated to an inexcusable extent at the Praetorium.
    I think that Nero’s self-confidence was strengthened by an unexpected omen. During a sudden thunderstorm, a flash of lightning knocked a gold goblet out of his hand. I do not think the lightning in fact struck the actual goblet, but probably struck so near him that the goblet fell out of his hand. The event was hushed up, but it was soon generally known in the city and was interpreted, of course, as an ill omen.
    But according to the Etruscans’ ancient lore of lightning, a person who is struck by lightning without being killed is holy and dedicated to the gods. Nero, who willingly believed in omens, now seriously began to regard himself as a holy man and tried for a while to behave accordingly, as long as the political murders still burdened his oversensitive conscience.
    When I took up my appointment at the Praetorium, Tigellinus put at my disposal a room choked with a dusty collection of documents. All of them were lawsuits in which Roman citizens resident abroad were appealing to the Emperor. Tigellinus put some of them to one side.
    “I have received considerable gifts to hurry these on,” he said. “Prepare them first. I have chosen you to help because you have shown a certain flexibility in difficult matters of some urgency and also because you yourself are so wealthy that your integrity need not be doubted. The other opinions expressed about you in the Senate at your appointment were not flattering. See to it then that rumor of our integrity is spread all through the provinces. If you are offered gifts, refuse them, although you may indicate that I as Prefect might possibly hurry the matter on. But remember that the final verdict of the Praetorium cannot under any circumstances be bought. Only Nero himself pronounces the verdict, guided by our advice.”
    He turned to leave, but then added, “We have had a Jewish magician here under arrest for two years. He must be released, for during Pop-paea’s pregnancy she must not be exposed to any witchcraft. Poppaea favors the Jews all too much. I do not want to meet him myself. This Jew has already bewitched several of his guards among the Praetorians, to the extent that they are now useless as guards.”
    My task was not quite so difficult as I had first thought. Most of the cases stemmed from Burrus’ day and were already marked with reports by a more knowledgeable lawyer than I. After Agrippina’s death, Nero had avoided Burrus and pushed the lawsuits to one side, to expose him to general dissatisfaction over the slowness of litigation.
    Out of curiosity, I immediately went through the papers concerning the Jewish magician. To my surprise, I saw that they were about my old acquaintance Saul of Tarsus. He was accused of insulting the temple in Jerusalem, and to judge by the papers, he had been arrested there when Felix had been relieved of his office because he was Pallas’ brother. The new Procurator Festus had sent Paul to prison in Rome and I saw that he really had been under arrest for two years.
    Nevertheless, he had permission to live freely in the city, while he himself paid for his guard, and among the documents was a statement from Seneca recommending his release. I did not know that Paul was wealthy enough to be able to afford an appeal to the Emperor.
    Within two days I had sorted out a number of cases in which Nero could show his mildness and generosity, but with my knowledge of Saul-Paul, I considered it wisest to visit him in his quarters beforehand so that at the Imperial court he did not make the mistake of wasting Nero’s time with unnecessary talk. His release was already decided on.
    Paul was living quite comfortably in two rooms he had rented in the house of a Jewish fancy goods merchant. He had aged considerably. His face was lined and he was even balder than before. According to the regulations he was, of course, in shackles, but his double guard of Praetorians allowed him to look after himself, receive guests and send letters wherever he wished.
    Two pupils lived with him and he also had his own physician, a Jew called Lucas from Alexandria. As far as I could make out, Paul was quite well off, since he could afford such comfortable quarters and benevolent guards instead of the stinking communal cells of the public prison. The worst prison, the Mamertine carcer, would not have been in question for him, for he was not a State criminal.
    In the documents he was naturally called Saul, which was his legal name, but to put him in a friendly mood I greeted him as Paul. He recognized me at once and returned my greeting so intimately that I thought it best to send my clerk and both lictors out of the room to avoid being suspected of recusance in the court.
    “Your case is being attended to,” I told him. “It will be settled in a few days’ time. The Emperor is in a good mood before die birth of his heir. But you must control yourself when you appear before him.”
    Paul smiled the smile of a man who has endured a great deal.
    “I am commantled to preach the good message,” he said, “whether the moment is suitable or not.”
    I asked him out of curiosity why the Praetorians considered him a magician. He told me a long story about how he and his companions had been shipwrecked on their way to Rome. The physician Lucas filled in the story when Paul grew tired. Paul assured me that the charge of insulting the temple in Jerusalem was a false one and without foundation, or at least due to a misunderstanding. Procurator Felix would have unhesitatingly released him if he had agreed to pay enough.
    He had nothing but good to say of the Romans, for by taking him from Jerusalem to Caesarea they had saved his life. Forty fanatical Jews had sworn neither to eat nor drink until they had put him to death. But it was unlikely that they had starved to death, Paul said with a smile and without rancor. In fact he was grateful to his guards, for he was afraid that otherwise the faithful Jews in Rome would murder him.
    I assured him that his fears were groundless, for during Claudius’ reign the Jews had had a sufficiendy stern warning and now avoided violence against the Christians within the city walls. Cephas had also had a calming influence in Rome and had persuaded the Christians to keep away from the Jews. I also added that this had been made much easier by the adherents of Jesus of Nazareth, who had now, thanks to Cephas, increased considerably in number and included very few circumcised Jews among them.
    Both Lucas the physician and Paul looked sour when Cephas’ name was mentioned. Cephas had shown great friendliness to the prisoner and had offered the services of his best pupil and Greek interpreter, Marcus. Paul had evidently abused this confidence and sent Marcus on long journeys with letters to the assemblies he had founded and over which he still watched like a lion over its prey. This was probably why Cephas was no longer pleased to see the Christians in his own flock going to listen to Paul and his involved teachings.
    Lucas told me that he had taken two whole years to journey around Galilee and Judaea, gathering information on the life of Jesus of Nazareth, his miracles and teachings from people who had heard him themselves. He had meticulous notes on it all in Aramaic and was seriously considering writing his own account of Jesus’ life in Greek to show that Paul knew it all just as well as Cephas. A wealthy Greek called Theophilus, whom Paul had converted to Christianity, had already promised to publish the book.
    Inasfar as I could judge, they received handsome gifts from the Christian assemblies in Corinth and Asia, which Paul jealously guarded to keep them away from both the faithful Jews and other sects among the Christians. I saw that his time was filled with writing admonitory letters to them, since he did not have many followers in Rome.
    I also had a feeling that he would have liked to remain in Rome after his release, but I knew only too well of the everlasting disturbances that occurred wherever he appeared. In gaining his release, which was sure to be granted, I should also be drawing the wrath of the Jews on my head, and the disunited Christians would also be at each other’s throats if he stayed in the city. So I made a cautious suggestion.
    “There is not room for two cocks on the same dunghill,” I said. “For your own sake and for mine as well, it would be best if you left Rome as soon as you are released.”
    Paul’s face clouded, but nevertheless he admitted that Christ had made him into an eternal wanderer who could never stay in the same place for long. Thus, to him, his imprisonment had been a testing time. He had been commantled to make everyone into disciples of Christ and was now thinking of going to the province of Baetica in Iberia, as he had earlier planned. There were several harbor towns there of Greek origin in which Greek was the main language. I urged him to travel as far as Britain if necessary.
    But of course, despite my well-meaning request, Paul was unable to keep his mouth shut when he was eventually brought before Nero in the Praetorium. Nero was in a good mood and as soon as he saw Paul, he exclaimed, “Oh, the prisoner is a Jew, is he? Then I must release him. Otherwise Poppaea will be angry. She’s in her last month now and she respects the god of the Jews more than ever.”
    Nero benignly allowed the water clock to be set up to measure the length of the speech for the defense and then became completely absorbed in the papers of the cases that were to follow. Paul considered himself fortunate to have this chance of clearing himself of all the charges and asked Nero to listen with patience, since the customs and religious disputes of the Jews were perhaps not familiar to him. He began from Moses and also told his own life history, describing how Jesus of Nazareth had appeared to him in the form of Christ after he had been persecuting the holy Jesus.
    I slipped a report to Nero which Procurator Festus had attached to the case papers, in which he explained that he personally considered Paul a harmless fool whom too much learning had made weak in the head. King Herodes Agrippa, who understood the beliefs of the Jews best, had also suggested that Paul should be released. Nero nodded, pretending to be listening, although I do not think he understood a word of what was said.
    “So I could not prevent myself from obeying the heavenly vision,” Paul said once again. “Oh, if only your eyes could be opened and you could be turned from the darkness to the light and from Satan’s kingdom to the kingdom of God. If you believed in Jesus of Nazareth then your sins would be forgiven and you would. have an inheritance among holy men.”
    At that moment the water clock tinkled and Paul had to stop.
    “My good man,” said Nero firmly, “I do not by any means wish you to include me in your will. I am not out to acquire the inheritance of others. Such things are but slander. You can tell the other Jews that too. You would be doing me a service-if you would take the trouble to pray to your god for my wife Poppaea Sabina. The poor woman seems to put great trust in the same god you have so convincingly just told me about.”
    He ordered Paul’s shackles removed and said that they should be sent as a votive gift to the temple in Jerusalem as evidence of his good will toward the Jewish faith. I imagine the Jews were quite annoyed. For the costs. of the case, Paul himself as the appellant was responsible.
    In a few days we cleared up a vast heap of unsetded lawsuits. Most of the verdicts were acquittals. The only cases left were those in which Tigellinus considered it financially advantageous that the defendant should die of old age before any verdict was pronounced. Two months later, I was relieved of my office as Praetor, my industry and incorruptibility were praised in public and I was no longer so abused behind my back as before.
    Paul’s case was not one of great importance, but the trial became historically significant because of the murder of Pedanus Secundus, which caused a sensation all over Rome. Only two months later, he was brutally murdered with a dagger by one of his own slaves as he lay in his own bed. The real reason for the murder was never discovered, but I can honestly say that I do not believe my father-in-law was involved in any way.
    Our old laws prescribed that if a slave murders his lord, all the slaves Under the same roof shall be put to death. This is a necessary law dictated by long experience and the demands of public security. But Pedanus had over five hundred slaves in his household and the people began to protest and obstruct their passage to the place of execution. The Senate had to be summoned to deal with the matter. The most astonishing thing, and also the clearest evidence of the decay of our customs, Was that several senators seriously wished to obstruct the law in this case. Several of Seneca’s friends said openly that in their view a slave was also a human being and that it would not be proper to punish the innocent alongside the guilty. Senator Pudens and my own father rose to their feet and opposed such cruelty. Even the slave was excused on the grounds that he had only avenged old injustices.
    It was then said, with some justification, that in that case who could feel themselves safe in their own houses if Pedanus’ slaves were to be pardoned? Our forefathers had laid down the laws and had, with good reason, mistrusted even slaves born in the household and attached to their masters since childhood. Nowadays there were also slaves from wholly differing peoples with alien customs and alien gods.
    Now, for the first time, it was openly intimated that in the Senate itself there were men who had secretly gone over to an alien religion and who were now trying to defend their fellow believers. At the vote, fortunately for Rome, the adherents to the law were victorious.
    The crowds that had gathered about Pedanus’ house picked up stones and threatened arson. The Praetorians had to be called out to help the city police, and Nero made a stern proclamation. A double line of soldiers flanked the streets along which the five hundred were driven to the execution place.
    Stones were thrown and insults shouted, but there was no real riot. A considerable number of Pedanus’ slaves seemed to be Christians, for other Christians mingled in the crowd, warning people against violence and explaining that their teaching did not allow evil to be met with evil.
    One good thing about all this was that my father-in-law, Flavius Sa-binus, retrieved his office of Prefect. The Senate and the people were given something else to talk about; Poppaea’s pregnancy began to arouse a certain compassion among fainthearted people.
    Nero wanted his child to be born in Antium, where he himself had been born. Perhaps he thought that such a happy event would cleanse the estate he had inherited from Agrippina of its sorrowful memories. Certainly he considered Rome in the heat of summer and with its many smells an unhealthy place for the delivery.
    Before Poppaea went to Antium, I had the pleasure of meeting her again. Pregnancy had not spoiled her beauty, and her eyes had a gentle brilliance which gave her a mild and feminine expression.
    “Is it true,” I said carefully, “that you’ve begun to worship the Jewish god? That’s what they say in Rome. They say you’ve made Nero favor the Jews at the expense of others.”
    “You must admit,” replied Poppaea, “that the Jewish prophecy has come true. When things were at their most difficult for me, in order to secure my position I promised always to respect their god, who is so powerful that there is not even an image of him. And Moses too. I’d never even dare go to Antium for the delivery of our child if I couldn’t take a Jewish physician with me. I’m taking several wise old Jewish women, too, and of course a trained Greek and Roman physician as well, for safety’s sake.”
    “Have you heard mention of Jesus of Nazareth, too?” I asked. “The king of the Jews?”
    “I know there are several different kinds of holy men among the Jews,” said Poppaea. “They have strict laws, but a devout woman in my position doesn’t have to bother about the laws so much as long as I just acknowledge the horned Moses and don’t drink blood.”
    I realized that her ideas about the Jewish faith were just as vague as those of most other Romans, who quite simply could not imagine a god without an image. A weight fell from my heart. If Poppaea had known that the Jews hated Paul like the plague, she would hardly have thanked Nero and me for releasing Paul to continue causing bitter dissension among the Jews.
    So Poppaea went to Antium and I hoped her child would be born soon, for Nero was a trying companion during the period of waiting. When he sang, he had to be congratulated. When he drove his chariot, he had to be praised for his skill. He began meeting Acte again in secret and had temporary relations with noble ladies who were not very particular about the sanctity of marriage. Tigellinus introduced him to his favorite boys. When we discussed this, Nero pointed to the example of the Greeks and justified his actions.
    “When the goblet was knocked from my hand,” he argued, “I became a holy man. It was an omen that I shall be proclaimed a god after my death. The gods are bisexual. I shouldn’t feel myself completely godlike if I could not love handsome boys for amusement. Anyhow, Poppaea prefers me to play about with boys, if I must, rather than with ambitious women. Then she feels she needn’t be jealous and always afraid I’ll go and make someone pregnant by mistake.”
    I saw my son Jucundus only seldom. Barbus had moved from my house and settled at Tullia’s, as he considered himself the boy’s mentor. This was necessary, because Tullia spoiled Jucundus and let him do whatever he wanted. He became more and more of a stranger to me.
    I was tolerated in my wife Sabina’s house only when she wanted money. Little Lausus was a stranger. He was surprisingly dark-skinned and curly-haired. I felt no desire to take him in my arms and play with him and Sabina reproached me and said I was an unnatural father.
    I remarked that the boy seemed to have more than enough fathers to play with among the animal trainers. This was true. If I ever expressed a desire to see the boy, Epaphroditus at once appeared and came forward to show how much Lausus preferred him. Sabina turned pale with rage and demantled that at least in the presence of others I should not make such unsuitable jokes.
    She had her own circle of friends among the noble ladies who took their children with them to see the animals and the bold tricks of the animal trainers. It was fashionable in noble households to keep gazelles and leopards, and I had a great deal of trouble with unscrupulous rogues who contravened my sole rights and imported these animals into the city to sell at lower prices. Wild British bloodhounds were also brought to Rome and I received good prices for their puppies.
    In the end, Poppaea gave birth to a well-formed daughter, and Nero was just as delighted as if he had had a son. He smothered Poppaea with presents and behaved in every way like a young father dazed with happiness.
    The whole of the Senate went to Antium to present their good wishes, as did everyone who thought himself of importance in Rome. The river boats and the ships from Ostia were packed. The wretched road from Aricia to Antium was so choked with vehicles and sedans that the traffic moved intolerably slowly. One of my freedmen made a fortune by setting up temporary accommodation and catering places along the roadside.
    The infant was given the name of Claudia and also the name of honor, Augusta. At the wine-goblet ceremony some simple-minded person happened to suggest that Poppaea Sabina should be honored in the same way and no one dared oppose the suggestion, as Nero himself was present. Poppaea Sabina sent some sacred articles of gold as a thank-offering to the temple in Jerusalem and her Jewish physician received Roman citizenship.
    For my part, I had been prepared well ahead. During the days of thanksgiving, we arranged such a brilliant display of animal fights in the wooden theater that in the eyes of the people, they for once outshone the races in the great circus, although I say it myself. The Vestal Virgins honored my displays with their presence and I heard people say that I had developed the training of wild animals to a fine art.
    Sabina drove around the arena dressed as an Amazon in a gilded chariot drawn by four lions, receiving on my behalf the overwhelming applause of the spectators. With tremendous difficulty, I had managed to acquire some giant hairy apes in place of the ones that had died. I wanted to have them when they were quite small, and they were reared and trained by yellow-skinned dwarfs who in darkest Africa live with the giant apes.
    These apes could use stones and cudgels when they fought against each other. The most teachable of them were dressed as gladiators, and some of the spectators thought they were men and not animals. There were quarrels about it in the stands, which ended in a brawl in which one citizen was killed and a dozen or so injured. So the whole performance was as successful as one could have wished for.
    This time I at last received compensation for the money I had laid out and lost. Seneca no longer kept his miserly eye on the State treasury nnil Nero neither understood finance nor was entirely clear on the difference between the State treasury and the Emperor’s fiscus. So I charged them both and, with the help of my freedmen, put the money into apartments in Rome and land in Caere.
    But Nero’s happiness as a father did not last long. It was a wet autumn and the Tiber rose alarmingly, its poisonous vapors spreading a throat infection all over the city which was not fatal for adults but from which infants died in great numbers.
    Even Nero sickened of it, became so hoarse that he could hardly say a word and feared that he had lost his singing voice for ever. Sacrifices of atonement for his voice were made in all the temples, both by the State and by individuals. But hardly had he begun to get better when his daughter fell ill and died within a few days, in spite of the doctors’ efforts and intercessions by the Jews. Poppaea was dazed with lack of sleep and grief and furiously accused Nero for embracing and kissing his child all day and every day, in spite of his sore throat.
    Nero was under the superstitious impression that the public and private sacrifices had not been sufficient to appease the gods and save his voice. The gods had also demantled his daughter. This strengthened his conviction that it was intended that he should become the greatest artist of his time, and this lessened his grief.
    The shaken Senate immediately bestowed the rank of goddess on Claudia Augusta, with the accompanying cushion at her funeral. They also decided to build a temple in her honor and formed a special pontifex priesthood for the purpose. Nero was secretly convinced that it was in fact his voice which was to be worshiped in the new temple and that the sacrifices would make his voice even finer.
    So the new priesthood had a special secret ritual, over and above the official sacrifices, which was not allowed to be revealed to outsiders. Nero’s voice did in fact become much stronger, just as it had after Agrippina’s death, and it now sounded both resonant and as sweet as honey so that audiences were deeply moved. I myself was not deeply moved when I heard him, but I am just repeating what more knowledgeable judges than I assured him.
    Nero put on weight and let his cheeks and chin fill out when he was told that the strongest tenor voices needed plenty of flesh on the bones to withstand the strain of singing. Poppaea was only too pleased that he spent his time on singing exercises rather than on more dissolute activities.
    After the death of his daughter, Nero concentrated all winter on training his voice, to the extent that matters of State became merely an unnecessary worry to him. He neglected the meetings of the Senate because he was afraid of catching cold on the icy floor of the Curia. When he arrived at a meeting, he came with his feet wrapped in wool and usually on foot, and he always rose humbly from his place when the Consul addressed him. After his first sneeze, he left hurriedly, leaving important matters to be settled in the Senate committees.
    One day during the winter, shortly before the feast of Saturnalia, Claudia said that she must see me, for she had an important matter to discuss which was for my ears alone. When I had completed my daily business with my clients and freedmen, I allowed her to come into my room, fearing that once again she was going to start talking about repentance and Christian baptism.
    But Claudia was wringing her hands.
    “Oh, Minutus,” she wailed, “I am prey to contending feelings. I am flung hither and thither and feel like a piece of chewed string. I’ve done something which I’ve not dared tell you about. But look at me first. Do you think I have changed in any way?”
    To be honest, she had at times been so repugnant to me because of her intolerable chatter and her Christian knowingness, that I had not even wanted to look at her. But warmed by her submissiveness, I now looked at her a little more closely and saw to my surprise that the sunburn from her time as a slave had vanished from her soft-skinned face. She was well dressed and her hair was set in the latest Greek fashion.
    I clapped my hands together in surprise and cried with genuine flattery, “You look like the most noble of Roman ladies with your figure and fine posture. I suspect you’ve been bathing your face in ass’s milk in secret.”
    Claudia flushed deeply.
    “It’s not from vanity that I’ve looked after my appearance,” she said hurriedly, “but because you have entrusted me with your large household. Modesty and unpretentiousness are a woman’s best adornment, but your clients and the meat traders of the Basilica don’t wish to believe that. What I meant was, do you see any resemblance to Emperor Claudius in my face?”
    “No, of course not,” I said at once, to calm her. “You needn’t worry about that. Old man Claudius’ looks were nothing to boast about. But you’ve grown into a beautiful woman, especially now you’ve had your eyebrows plucked.”
    Claudia was obviously disappointed by my words.
    “You’re wrong, I’m sure,” she said sullenly. “Aunt Paulina and I have secretly been to-see my younger half sister, Antonia, out of pity for her lonely existence. Claudius had her first husband murdered and Nero her second, so no one dares to be seen with her now she has returned from Massilia. Her sufferings have taught her to see things from another viewpoint now. She offered us mead and fruit tart and gave me a gold hairnet. As things are now, she would perhaps be prepared to acknowledge me as her legal sister. She and I are the only genuine Clau-dians left.”
    I was appalled when I saw that because of her feminine ambitions she was still attached to her imaginary vanities. She looked at me with her strangely glowing eyes, sighing deeply so that her full bosom rose, and then she seized my hand in both hers so I backed away in alarm.
    “What is it you really want, unhappy Claudia?” I asked.
    “Minutus,” she said, “you must know yourself that your life cannot go on as hitherto. Your marriage to Sabina is no real marriage. You are stupid if you’ve not grasped that. All Rome laughs at it. In your youth you made a certain promise to me. Now you are a grown man, the age difference between us is no longer as great as it seemed then. In fact it is scarcely noticeable. Minutus, you must separate from Sabina for your own standing’s sake.”
    I felt like a wild animal trapped in a corner of the cage and threatened with red-hot irons.
    “You can’t be serious,” I protested. “The Christian superstition must have confused your head. I’ve been afraid of this for a long time.”
    Claudia stared at me. “A Christian must eschew all surface life. But Jesus of Nazareth himself is supposed to have said that a man who looks at a woman with desire commits adultery with her in his heart. I heard that quite recently. This knowledge is like a festering sore in my heart, for I realize that it is also so for a woman. So my life is becoming intolerable for me when I see you every day and cannot do so without feeling desire in my heart. At night I twist and turn without rest in my bed and I bite my pillow with yearning.”
    I could not help but be flattered by her words. I looked at her with quite new eyes.
    “Why have you said nothing before?” I asked. “Out of sheer mercy I would have come and slept with you any night. But such a thought never occurred to me because of your own disagreeable attitude.”
    Claudia shook her head violently.
    “I don’t need your mercy,” she said. “I should be committing a sin if I went to your bed without the bonds of marriage. To suggest such a thing shows how you’ve hardened your heart and how little you value me.”
    I could not in all decency remind her of how low she had sunk at the time when I had found her, and her ideas were so insane that I was struck dumb with alarm.
    “Antonia,” she went on, “would swear the most sacred oath before the Vestals that I am the legitimate daughter of Claudius and of the same blood as she. She’s almost certain to be willing to do that, if only to annoy Nero. Then a marriage with me would not be entirely worthless to you. If we had a child, the Vestals would know of his noble descent. If the situation changes, a son of ours could rise to the highest office in Rome. Antonia is very sad that she was childless in both her marriages.”
    “How can a dead tree put out new shoots?” I cried. “Remember what you’ve been through.”
    “There’s nothing wrong with me as a woman,” said Claudia indignantly. “My own body tells me that each month. I’ve told you, I am cleansed of my past. You too could convince yourself of that if you only wished to.”
    When I tried to flee from the room, she seized hold of me and I do not know how we came to touch each other as we struggled together, but old wounds irritate and I had not slept with a woman for a long time. Within a short time we were kissing, and once Claudia had me in her arms, she lost control of herself completely. Afterwards she did cry, but nevertheless held on to me hard.
    “My lack of virtue shows that I am of the depraved Claudius’ blood,” she said, “but now you have once again caused me to sin, you must make amends. If you are a man, at least you’ll go straight to Sabina and speak to her about a divorce.”
    “But I have a son with her,” I protested. “The Flavians would never forgive me. Sabina’s father is the City Prefect. My position would be untenable in every way.”
    “I don’t want to defame Sabina,” said Claudia quietly, “but there are Christians among the employees at the menagerie and Sabina’s loose way of life there is a subject of general conversation.”
    I had to laugh.
    “Sabina is a cold and sexless woman,” I said contemptuously and confidently. “I should know best. No, I couldn’t find a single tenable reason for divorce, for she doesn’t mind in the slightest if I satisfy myself with other women. And more than anything else, I know that she would never part from the lions in the menagerie. She’s more fond of them than she is of me.”
    “But nothing need prevent her staying on at the menagerie,” said Claudia. “She’s got her own house there, which you seldom go to nowadays. You can be friends, even if separated. Tell her that you know everything, but you want a divorce without a public scandal. The boy can keep your name, as you once legitimatized him in a weak moment and now can’t retract.”
    “Are you trying to imply that Lausus is not my son?” I said. “I didn’t think you were so wicked. Where is your Christian good will?”
    Claudia lost her temper completely.
    “Every single person in Rome knows he’s not your son,” she shrieked. “Sabina has slept with animal trainers and slaves and probably with the apes too, and she’s involved other noble ladies in her depravity. Nero laughs at you on the sly, not to speak of your other nice friends.”
    I picked up my toga from the floor, swept it around me and arranged the folds as carefully as I could with my hands trembling with rage.
    “Just to show you how much your malicious talk is worth,” I said, “I’ll go and speak to Sabina. Then I’ll come back and have you beaten for being a bad housekeeper and a poisonous gossip. You can go to your Christians in the same slave rags you came here in.”
    I rushed straight off to the menagerie with my toga flapping, as if pursued by furies, so that I neither saw the crowds in the street nor returned any greetings. I did not even have myself announced to my wife, but just burst straight into her room without taking any notice of the efforts of the slaves to stop me.
    Sabina freed herself from the arms of Epaphroditus and rushed up, raging like a lion and her eyes flashing.
    “What a way to behave, Minutus!” she cried. “Have you lost the last shreds of your reason? As you saw, I was just taking a mote out of Epaphroditus’ eye with my tongue. He’s half blinded and can’t begin training the lion we’ve just got from Numidia.”
    “I saw with my own eyes,” I snapped back, “that it was more likely he was looking for a certain place in you. Fetch my sword and I’ll kill this shameless slave who has spat on my marriage bed.”
    Hiding her nakedness, Sabina hurried over to shut the door and order the slaves to go away.
    “You know we always wear as little as possible when we’re practicing,” she said. “Flapping clothes only irritate the lions. You saw wrong. You must beg Epaphroditus’ pardon at once for calling him a slave. He received his freedman’s stave a long time ago, and his Roman citizenship too, from the hand of the Emperor himself for his exploits in the amphitheater.”
    Only half convinced, I went on calling shrilly for my sword.
    “I here and now demand an explanation from you for the shameful rumors about you going around Rome,” I said. “Tomorrow I shall appeal to the Emperor for a divorce.”
    Sabina stiffened and looked meaningly at Epaphroditus.
    “Strangle him,” she said coldly. “We’ll roll him up in a rug and take him out to the lions’ cages. Others besides him have had accidents playing with the lions.”
    Epaphroditus approached with his huge fists outstretched. He was very powerfully built and a whole head taller than I. In the middle of my righteous rage, I began seriously to fear for my life.
    “Now, don’t misunderstand me, Sabina,” I said hastily. “Why should I want to insult the father of my son? Epaphroditus is a citizen and an equal. Let us settle this between us. I’m sure none of us wants a public scandal.”
    “I’m a hard man,” said Epaphroditus appeasingly, “but I don’t really wish to kill your husband, Sabina. He has always overlooked our relationship and he probably has his own reasons for wanting a divorce. You yourself have many a time sighed for your freedom, so be sensible now, Sabina.”
    But Sabina mocked him.
    “Are your knees shaking at the sight of a lame old battle-scarred ruin, you great man, you?” she said scornfully. “Hercules save us, the best thing on you is greater than your courage. Don’t you see it’d be better simply to strangle him now and inherit what he’s got, than be disgraced for his sake?”
    Epaphroditus avoided my eyes and carefully grasped my neck in such an iron grip that it was pointless to struggle. My voice choked and everything began to swim before my eyes, but I tried to indicate that I wished to bargain with them over whatever my life was worth. Epaphroditus slackened his grip.
    “Naturally you can keep your property and your position in the menagerie,” I managed to croak, “if we separate like sensible people. My dear Sabina, forgive my hasty temper. Your son will bear my name and receive his share of the inheritance from me in time. Because of the love which once bound us together, I don’t wish to make you guilty of a crime, for in some way or other you would be found out. Let us have some wine brought in and take a conciliatory meal together, you and I and my foster brother-in-law, the strength of whose limbs I have the greatest respect for.”
    Epaphroditus suddenly burst into tears and embraced me.
    “No, no,” he cried. “I could not possibly strangle you. Let us be friends, the three of us. It will he a great honor for me if you really wish to eat at the same table with me.”
    I too had tears of pain and relief in my eyes.
    “It’s the least I can do,” I exclaimed. “I have already shared my wife with you. So your honor is also mine.”
    When Sabina saw us embracing so intimately, she also came to her senses. We had the best the house could provide brought out, drank wine together and even called in the boy so that Epaphroditus could talk to him and hold him in his arms. Now and again a cold shiver went down my spine as I thought of what might have happened because of my own stupidity, but then the wine calmed me again.
    When we had drunk a good deal, I was seized with melancholy.
    “How could everything end like this?” I asked Sabina, “when we were so happy together at first and I was so blindly in love with you?”
    “You’ve never understood my inner nature, Minutus,” said Sabina. “But I don’t reproach you for it and I regret my wicked words that time I insulted your manhood. If only you’d blacked my eye occasionally as I did to you the first time we met, if you’d whipped me sometimes, then everything might have been different. Do you remember how I asked you to take me by force on our wedding night? But there’s nothing in you of the ravisher’s wonderful overwhelming masculinity, that does as it likes however much one struggles or kicks or bites or threatens to scream.”
    “I’ve always thought,” I said, dumbfounded, “that what a woman wants of love more than anything else is tenderness and security.”
    Sabina shook her head pityingly.
    “That delusion,” she replied, “only goes to show how childish you are when it comes to understanding women.”
    When we had agreed on necessary financial measures and I had repeatedly praised Epaphroditus as a man of honor and the greatest artist in his line, I walked to Flavius Sabinus’ house, fortified by the wine, to inform him of the divorce. To be honest, I was almost more frightened of his anger than of Sabina.
    “I have long noted that all was not well with your marriage,” he said, avoiding my eyes. “But I do hope you’ll not let the divorce influence the mutual respect and friendship which has developed between us two. I’d be in a dilemma, for instance, if you foreclosed the loan you have made me. We Flavians are not so wealthy as one might wish. My brother Vespasian is said to be supporting himself by dealing in mules. As Proconsul in Africa, he became poorer than ever. The peo-pie there seem to have bombarded him with turnips. I’m afraid he’ll be forced to leave the Senate if the Censor notices he is not fulfilling the conditions of wealth.”
    Nero had unexpectedly gone to Naples after taking it into his head that Naples was the place for his first great public appearance as a singer, since the audience there is of Greek descent and thus more sympathetic to art than the Romans. Despite his artist’s self-confidence, Nero was panic-stricken before every performance and trembled and sweated to such an extent that he had to have his own paid applauders who could lead the audience in the first liberating rounds of applause.
    I hurriedly traveled after him, which was necessary anyway to my office. The lovely theater in Naples was full to bursting and Nero’s splendid voice sent the audience into ecstasies. Several visitors from Alexandria were especially noticeable, for they expressed their delight in their own countrymen’s way by clapping rhythmically.
    In the middle of a performance the theater was shaken by a sudden earth tremor. Panic began to spread in the audience, but Nero continued to sing as if nothing had happened. He received much praise for his self-control, for the audience took courage from his fearlessness. He himself told me afterwards that he had been so absorbed in his singing that he had not even noticed the tremor.
    He was so delighted with his success that he appeared at the theater for several days running and finally the city council had to bribe his singing tutor to warn him against overstraining his incomparable voice, for the daily life of the city and trade ai\d sea-trade were being disrupted by his appearances. He rewarded the Alexandrians for their sound judgment by giving them presents as well as Roman citizenship, and he decided to go to Alexandria as soon as possible and appear before a public which was worthy of him.
    When at a suitable moment I praised his brilliant artistic success, Nero asked me, “Do you think that if I weren’t the Emperor, I could support myself as an artist anywhere in the world?”
    I assured him that as an artist he would certainly be both freer and in some ways wealthier than as Emperor, for as Emperor he had to fight for every Sta’te grant with his miserly Procurators. I said that it was my duty after my time as Praetor to pay for a theater performance for the people, but that in my opinion, there was no sufficiendy good singer in Rome. So with a feigned shyness, I made a suggestion.
    “If you would appear at a performance,” I said, “which I would pay for, then my popularity would be assured. I’d pay you a million sesterces as a fee and naturally you can choose the play yourself.”
    As far as I know, this was the highest fee ever offered any singer for a single performance. Even Nero was surprised.
    “Do you really mean that you consider my voice worth a million sesterces,” he asked, “and that you’ll win the favor of the people with its help?”
    I told him that if he would agree, it would be the greatest mark of favor I could think of. Nero frowned and pretended to meditate on his many duties.
    “I must appear dressed as an actor,” he said finally, “with cothurni on my feet and a mask on my face. But to please you, I can of course have the mask made to look like myself. Let us test the artistic tastes of Rome. I won’t announce my name until after the performance. I’ll accept your invitation on those conditions. I think I’ll choose the part of Orestes, for I’ve long wanted to sing that. I should think the pent-up strength of my feelings would shake even the hardened audiences of Rome.”
    His vanity as an artist drove him expressly to perform this role of a matricide, to allow his own feelings to run high. In some ways I understood him. By writing an amusing book, I had freed myself of my experiences as a prisoner which had driven me to the borders of insanity. For Nero, the murder of Agrippina had been a perturbing experience of which he was trying to free himself by singing. But I was afraid that I had exposed myself to considerable danger by inviting him to do this. It could happen that the audience would not recognize Nero and would not show their appreciation sufficiently.
    Worse could happen too. A mask resembling Nero in the part of a matricide might result in the audience misunderstanding the intention. The performance might be taken as a demonstration against Nero and it could sweep the audience away with it. Then I would be lost. Other people might begin to believe the rumors about Nero, and then the result would be a riot with many people killed.
    So there was nothing else to do but secretly to spread it about that Nero himself was thinking of appearing as Orestes in my theater performance. Many of the more old-fashioned members of the Senate and the Noble Order of Knights refused to believe that an Emperor would degrade himself to the level of a professional jester and thus knowingly make a fool of himself. The choice of program also made them look on the rumor as an ill-considered joke.
    Fortunately Tigellinus and I had mutual advantages to be gained in this matter. Tigellinus ordered a cohort of Praetorians to keep order in the theater and applaud at certain times in the performance, carefully following Nero’s own professional applauders’ example. Several young knights who understood music and singing and would not make the mistake of applauding in the wrong places were appointed leaders of the groups. All the applauders had to practice humming with delight, clapping with cupped hands so that it echoed, making loud claps and sighing wistfully in appropriate places.
    Rumors of a political demonstration brought a huge audience who otherwise would hardly have bothered to honor my office of Praetor with their presence. The crowd was so immense that several people were trampled underfoot at the entrances, and some of the older senators’ powerful slaves had to fight their way through to carry their masters to the Senate’s seats of honor. It was just like one of the best days at the races.
    Nero himself was so nervous and tense that he was violendy sick before the performance and kept dosing his throat with drinks recommended by his tutor to strengthen his vocal cords. But I must admit he gave a brilliant performance once he was onstage. His powerful voice rang through the theater into a good twenty thousand pairs of ears. He was so engrossed in his cruel role that some of the more sensitive women fainted from emotion in the crush.
    The humming, the sighs and clapping came in the right places. The usual audience joined willingly in the applause. But when Nero rushed onto the stage at the end with bloodstained hands, the sounds of loud catcalls, crowing and uproar came from the seats of senators and knights and not even the loudest applause could drown it. I thought my last moment had come when, with shaking knees, I staggered backstage to accompany the unmasked Nero on to inform the people that it had been the Emperor himself who had appeared before them. But to my great astonishment, Nero was weeping with joy as he stood there, drenched with sweat and his face distorted with fatigue.
    “Did you notice how I got the crowd with me?” he said. “They catcalled and crowed at Orestes to bring the penalty for matricide down on his head. I don’t think such complete entering into the spirit by an audience has ever happened before.”
    Wiping the sweat away and smiling triumphantly, Nero stepped forward to receive the applause, which swelled to thunderous proportions when I announced that it had been the Emperor in person performing in the play. The crowd shouted as one man that he should sing again.
    I had the honor of taking Nero’s cittern to him. He sang willingly and accompanied himself to show his skill on the cittern until it grew so dark that one could no longer discern his face. Not until then did he reluctantly finish, but he had it announced that he would appear before the people in future, should they so wish it.
    When I handed him the money order for one million sesterces, I told him I had arranged for a thank-offering to be made to his own genius, to his dead daughter and also, for safety’s sake, to Apollo.
    “Though I think you’ve already surpassed Apollo and no longer need his support,” I added.
    While he was still overflowing with joy, I made a passing request that he should quietly dissolve my marriage, on the grounds of irreconcilable incompatibility between Sabina and myself, who both wished for a divorce and had our parents’ approval of it.
    Nero said with a laugh that he had long since realized that it was only from sheer depravity that I had for so long continued my strange marriage. He asked inquisitively if it were true that Sabina had sexual intercourse with the giant African apes, as it was said in the city, intimating that he himself would have no objection to watching such a performance in secret. I asked him to consult Sabina directly on the matter, since she and I were so hostile that we did not even wish to speak to one another. Nero asked that, divorce notwithstanding, I should allow Sabina to continue to perform in the amphitheater for the entertainment of the people. I received the divorce papers the following morning and did not even have to pay the usual fee for them.
    My reputation became one of a bold and unscrupulous man, as Nero’s performance as Orestes aroused surprise and endless discussion. At this time, Nero’s enemies began to invent ugly stories about him founded on the same basis he himself had used when he had announced Octavia’s adultery: “The greater the lie, the more easily it will be believed,” he had said.
    This was a truth which turned back on himself, for the more shameless the invention about Nero, the more willing the people were to believe it. True accounts of his many good deeds aroused little interest.
    Not that Rome’s rulers had not lied to the people before. The god Julius was forced to establish a daily written proclamation to counteract his lack of esteem, not to mention the god Augustus whose handsome burial inscription fails to mention innumerable crimes.
    By staking my life to acquire a divorce, I nevertheless landed myself in a dilemma. The divorce offered relief in that I was free of Sabina’s domination. But naturally I could not even consider marrying Claudia. In my own opinion, she exaggerated absurdly the significance of the bagatelle that we had happened to sleep together by chance attraction in the days of our youth.
    I told her straight out that I did not consider that a man had to marry every woman who of her own free will fell into his arms. In that case, no sane relationship between human beings would be possible. In my opinion, what had happened was neither sinful nor degrading to her.
    Not even Christ himself during his life on earth had wished to judge an adulteress, for he said that those who accused her were as guilty as she was. I had heard this said of him. But Claudia was angry and said that she knew the stories about Christ better than I did, having heard them from Cephas’ own mouth. She had fallen once and sinned with me, so she was sinful and felt even more sinful every time she saw me.
    So I tried to avoid her as best I could, so that she would not be forced to see me too much. I devoted my time to new business deals to further my own position and calm my fears. One of my freedmen made me realize that the really great fortunes lay in the grain trade and the importation of cooking oil. Compared with these fundamental needs, silk from China, spices from India and other luxury goods for the rich nobility are mere trivialities. Thanks to my dealings in wild animals, I already had good trade connections with Africa and Iberia. Through my friendship with Fenius Rufus, I received a share in the grain trade, and my freedman himself traveled to Iberia to set up a buying office for olive oil.
    In connection with these matters, I often visited Ostia and I saw that a whole new and beautifully built town had grown up there. I had long been irritated by Claudia’s accusations that I made criminal profits out of my tenements in Subura and on the circus side of Aventine. She considered that the tenants there lived in inhumanly crowded, dirty and unhealthy conditions. I realized that the poor Christians had been complaining to her to have the rents lowered.
    If I had lowered the rents, the rush to my properties would have been even greater and all the other landlords would have angrily accused me of unfair undercutting. I could also see that the buildings were in wretched condition and to repair them would have meant great expenditure at a time when I needed all my ready money and had to apply for loans to finance my grain and oil enterprises. So I made a swift decision, sold a great many blocks of tenements all at once and instead bought several cheap empty sites on the outskirts of Ostia.
    But Claudia reproached me bitterly and said that I had put the tenants in an even worse position than before. Their new landlords made no repairs but simply raised the rents to retrieve the huge sums they had paid me for the buildings. I told Claudia that she had not the slightest grasp of finance, but just wasted my money on charity which did not bring in anything, not even popularity. The Christians consider that it is natural to help the poor and they themselves thank only Christ for the help they receive.
    Claudia on her part reproached me for wasting enormous sums of money on godless theater performances. She did not even differentiate between drama and animal displays in the amphitheater and she would not even listen to me when I tried to explain that it was my duty because of my rank of Praetor and my father’s position as senator. The favor of the public was necessary for a man in my position. The Christians are mostly slaves and rabble without citizenship.
    I could not silence Claudia until I told her she was obviously not a genuine Claudian. Her father had been so passionately fond of displays in the amphitheater that he would not even go and take a meal while the wild animals tore the condemned to pieces, although respectable people usually went out for a meal at that time and left the amphitheater for a while. Nero, who was more humane, had early in his reign forbidden the throwing of the condemned to the animals and no longer allowed the professional gladiators to fight to the last drop of blood.
    I admit that I occasionally used Claudia’s womanly weakness to silence her eternal talk. I closed her mouth with kisses and caressed her until she could no longer resist the temptation and laughingly threw herself into my arms. But afterwards she was more melancholy than ever and even threatened me with the anger of her half-sister Antonia if I did not expiate my sins by marrying her. As if Antonia’s anger had any political significance any longer.
    When we were together in this way, I gave no thought to taking precautions. I knew about Claudia’s experiences in Misenium even if I did not wish to think about them, as I had been in some way responsible. But if I thought about it at all, it was in terms of the proverb which says that no grass grows on public ways.
    So my surprise and horror were all the greater when on my return from Ostia one day, Claudia took me secretively to one side and with her eyes shining with pride, whispered in my ear that she was pregnant by me. I did not believe her and said she was a victim of her imagination or of some woman’s sickness. I hastily summoned a Greek physician who had studied in Alexandria, but did not even believe him when he assured me that Claudia had not been wrong. On the contrary, he said, her urine had swiftly caused a grain of oats to germinate, a sure sign of pregnancy.
    When I returned home to my house on Aventine one evening, in a reasonable mood and quite unsuspecting, I found in my own reception rooms both Claudius’ daughter, Antonia, and old Paulina, whom I had not seen since my departure to Achaia. She had grown very thin from so much fasting and was still dressed in black as before. Her old eyes shone with a supernatural brilliance.
    Antonia presumably felt uncomfortable meeting me, but she retained her haughty poise and held her head high. While I was wondering whether I should offer belated condolences for her husband’s sudden departure, Aunt Paulina suddenly spoke.
    “You have neglected your duty to Claudia,” she said sternly. “In the name of Christ, I demand that you immediately undergo legal marriage with her. If you have no fear of God, then you shall fear the Plautians. The reputation of the family is at stake.”
    “I cannot admire your behavior toward my half sister,” added Antonia. “Neither would I wish for such an undesirable husband for her. But she is pregnant because you have seduced her, and so it can’t be helped.”
    “Do you believe that insane story of her descent too?” I said in surprise. “You, who are a sensible woman. Claudius never legitimatized her.”
    “That was for political reasons,” said Antonia. “My father Claudius separated from Plautia Urgulanilla in order to marry my mother, Aelia, who was Sejanus’ adoptive daughter, as you know. Claudia was born five months after the divorce and out of consideration for my mother, Sejanus considered it unsuitable to give her the legal position of daughter of the Emperor. You know how influential Sejanus was then. It was to win his favor that Claudius married my mother. I remember that she many a time deplored my father’s behavior. But there was much talk about Claudia’s mother. I was much too proud even to acknowledge Claudia as my half sister in secret. But there is little left of my pride and so I feel the need to make good the injustice I did Claudia.”
    “Have you too become a Christian?” I asked sarcastically.
    My question made Antonia blush.
    “I am not yet initiated,” she said, “but I allow the slaves in my house to worship Christ. I understand you do the same. And I do not wish the ancient line of Claudians to die out with me. I am prepared to adopt your child if necessary, if you are not content with less. It might give Nero and Poppaea something to think about.”
    I realized she was doing this more from hatred for Nero than from love of Claudia.
    “On her deathbed,” put in Aunt Paulina now, “Urgulanilla swore the most solemn oath that Claudia was truly Claudius’ daughter. I was not a great friend of Urgulanilla, because of her depraved life in later years. But I do not believe any woman on her deathbed could perjure herself on such a serious matter. The difficulty from the very beginning has been that you who are of the Noble Order of Knights did not consider that you could marry a bastard. For the same reasons and for fear of Claudius, my husband refused to adopt Claudia. But in fact Claudia is legally both a Roman citizen and was born in wedlock. That would be incontestable if she hadn’t been the Emperor’s daughter.”
    Claudia now burst out weeping.
    “I don’t think my poor father even really hated me,” she cried. “In his weakness he was probably so influenced by the luckless Messalina, and then by the wicked Agrippina, that he dared not acknowledge me as his daughter even if he had wished to. In my heart, I have forgiven him that.”
    When I in all seriousness considered the legal complications of the matter, I remembered how ingeniously I had made Jucundus into a Roman citizen by birth.
    “Claudia was forced to live hidden in a country town for many years,” I said thoughtfully. “It would not be utterly impossible to have her name put on the roll of citizens in some distant town as daughter of a deceased father A and mother B, if one chose a town in which, for instance, a fire had destroyed the archives. There are millions of citizens in many different countries, and we all know that several unscrupulous immigrant Romans maintain they possess citizenship without being charged, because these things are nowadays difficult to prove otherwise. In that way, I should be able to marry Claudia.”
    “Don’t try any alphabets on me,” said Claudia angrily. “My father was Tiberius Claudius Drusus and my mother was Plautia Urgulanilla. But thank you for agreeing to marry me. I accept your word as a proposal. And I have two respected witnesses to your suggestion.”
    Paulina and Antonia hurried smilingly to congratulate me. I realized I had fallen into a trap, although I had really only been speaking theoretically about a legal problem. After a brief struggle, we agreed to draw up a document referring to Claudia’s descent, and this Antonia and Paulina would deposit as an unconditionally secret paper in the archives of the Vestals.
    We decided that the wedding would take place quietly without sacrifices or festivities, and in the citizens’ roll Claudia’s name would go down as Plautia Claudia Urgulanilla. It was left to me to see to it that the registration authorities did not ask any unnecessary questions. Claudia’s position would in itself not change, for she had already managed my household for a long time.
    I agreed to everything with a heavy heart, for I could hardly do otherwise. I was afraid I had now involved myself in a political intrigue against Nero. Aunt Paulina almost certainly had no such idea, but with Antonia it was different.
    “I am several years younger than Claudia,” she said finally, “but Nero will not permit me to marry again. No man sufficiently noble would dare to marry me if he remembers what happened to Cornelius Sulla. Perhaps everything would have been different if Sulla had not been such a fumbling idiot. But he could not help himself. So I am glad on Claudia’s behalf that she as an Emperor’s legal daughter may marry, even if in secret. Your cunning, my dear Minutus, your unscrupulous-ness and your wealth will perhaps compensate for the other qualities I should have wished to see in Claudia’s husband. Remember that you are binding yourelf to both the Claudians and the Plautians by this marriage.”
    Paulina and Claudia asked us to pray together with them in the name of Christ for the blessing on our marriage. Antonia smiled contemptuously.
    “A name is a name,” she said, “if you believe in the power of it. I myself support him because I know how bitterly the Jews hate him. The Jews are in favor at the court at this moment to an intolerable degree. Poppaea helps them into office and Nero showers insane gifts onto a Jewish pantomimic, although he insolently refuses to appear on Saturdays.”
    The proud Antonia in her bitterness obviously had no thought for anything but opposing Nero by every means. Even if she had no influence, she could be a dangerous woman. I thanked my stars that she had had the sense to come to my house after dark in a sedan with drawn curtains.
    But I was so oppressed that I humbled myself to the extent of taking part in Christian prayers and praying for forgiveness of my sins. I thought that I needed all the heavenly help I could get in this matter. Cephas and Paul and several other holy Christian men had been able to perform miracles on the strength of the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I went so far that together with Claudia, after our guests had gone, I drank from my father’s goblet before we went to bed, for once reconciled with each other.
    After that we slept together as if we were already married, and no one in the household took much notice. I cannot deny that my vanity was flattered by sharing my bed with the daughter of an Emperor. So I was attentive to Claudia and submitted myself to her caprices during her pregnancy. The result was that the Christians got a firm foothold in my house. Their cries of praise echoed from morning to night so loudly that our nearest neighbors were disturbed.

Book IX


    No rain had fallen for a long time, apart from thunderstorms, and Rome was tormented by the heat, the dirt, the smell and the dust. In my garden on Aventine, the leaves on the trees were covered with dust and the grass rustled dryly. Aunt Laelia was the only person to enjoy the heat. She, who because of her age was usually cold, had herself carried out into the garden where she sniffed with an experienced air.
    “Real fire weather in Rome,” she said.
    It was as if for a moment her head had cleared. She began to relate for the hundredth time the story of the fire which had ravaged the slopes of Aventine many years ago. My father’s banker had bought the burned-out sites cheaply and had had the apartments built on them which provided me with the whole of the income required for the Order of Knights, until I sold them the previous winter.
    When I sniffed the air I could smell the smoke, but it did not worry me, for I knew that the fire brigades in all sections of the city would be on the alert in this heat, and that it was forbidden to light a fire unnecessarily. It was not even windy. The air was still and suffocating from the early hours of the morning onward.
    From somewhere far away came the sound of horn signals and a curious murmuring, but not until I was on my way into the city did I see that the side of the great race-course facing Palatine was in flames. Huge clouds of smoke were billowing up from the wax, incense and cloth booths. These highly inflammable small buildings had no firewalls at all, so the fire had caught on and spread like lightning.
    People were seething like ants all around the fire. I thought I saw fire brigades from at least three sections of the city clearing wide firebreaks to stop the raging sea of flames from spreading. I had never seen such a large fire before. It was an oppressive sight, but nevertheless did not worry me overmuch. In fact, I thought that the fire brigade from our part of the city should not have gone down there, but should have stayed and guarded the slopes of Aventine.
    I sent one of my men to warn Claudia and the household, and on the way to the menagerie I looked in at the City Prefecture to ask how the fire had started. A messenger had been sent on horseback to fetch my former father-in-law back from his country estate, but his next-in-command seemed to have things well in hand.
    He blamed the Jewish small traders and the circus people in the shops at the Capua gate for carelessness, but he was confident that their highly inflammable goods would burn up quite quickly. In fact he considered keeping order a much more difficult task than confining the fire, for slaves and other rabble had at once hurried to the spot to make the most of the opportunity by plundering the circus shops.
    After inspecting the menagerie, which was suffering badly from the heat, and consulting the veterinary physician on the preservation of our perishable meat supply, I ordered extra rations of water given to all the animals and saw that water was poured over their cages. I spoke to Sabina in all friendliness, for since our divorce we had been on much better terms than before.
    Sabina asked me to go at once to the superintendent of the waterworks to ensure that the water supplies to the menagerie were not cut because of the fire. I assured her that there was no need to worry, for all the heads of noble households would probably be there already on the same errand, to ensure the watering of their gardens in the hot weather.
    At the waterworks they told me that the blocking of the aqueducts could certainly not be revoked without a decision from the Senate or an Imperial command. The usual water-rationing would thus remain unchanged, for the Senate could not be summoned together for several days since it does not meet during-the summer unless the State is threatened. Nero was in Antium at the time.
    Feeling in a better mood, I went up to the Palatine hill, walked past the empty palace buildings and joined the crowd of spectators gathered on the slope facing the race-course. They were mostly slaves, servants and gardeners from the Imperial household. No one seemed worried, although the whole of the hollow below us was one great burning, billowing furnace.
    The fire was so violent that it formed whirlpools in the air, and the hot blast constandy blew across our faces. Some of the slaves indifferently stamped out smoldering patches of grass and someone swore when a spark burned a hole in his tunic. But the watering apparatus was working in the gardens and no one looked very concerned. There was nothing to be seen in the watchers’ expressions except excitement over the spectacular scene before them. When I tried to look across to Aventine through the swirling smoke, I noticed that the fire had spread to the slope and was slowly but surely beginning to eat its way up toward my own part of the city. I suddenly made haste. I told my following to go home by themselves and then borrowed a horse from Nero’s stables, as I saw a messenger galloping along the via Sacra over by the forum.
    There the most cautious were already bolting and barring their shops and only in the large market halls were housewives still making their purchases as usual. I was able to make my way back to my own house by a roundabout route along the banks of the Tiber, and on the way I saw many men slinking along in the smoke, carrying either plunder or things they had rescued from near the race-course.
    The narrow streets were packed with anxious crowds of people. Mothers in tears were calling their children, while heads of households stood anxiously outside their doors and uncertainly asked each other what they should do. No one is particularly willing to leave his house empty during a big fire, for the city police would then find it impossible to keep order.
    Many people were already saying that the Emperor should return from Antium. I too began to feel that emergency measures were now necessary. I could only thank my good fortune that my menagerie lay on the outskirts of the city on the other side of Mars field.
    When I arrived home, I immediately ordered sedans and bearers out and told Claudia and Aunt Laelia to go to the fourteenth district of the city on the other side of the Tiber with the household staff. As many of our most valuable possessions as could be carried would have to be taken too, for there were no vehicles available during the day.
    Only the doorkeeper and the strongest of the slaves were ordered to remain behind to protect the house from looters. I left them weapons because of the unusual circumstances. But it was important that they all hurry, for I guessed that others would soon follow suit and the narrow streets of Aventine would be choked with refugees.
    Claudia protested violendy and said she first had to send a warning to her Christian friends and help the weak and old among them to flee. They were redeemed by Christ and so worth more than our gold and silver vessels, she said. I pointed at Aunt Laelia.
    “You’ve an old person there to protect,” I cried. “And you might at least give a thought to our unborn child.”
    At that moment Aquila the Jew and Prisca came panting into our courtyard, sweat pouring from them as they carried their bundles of goat-hair cloth. They begged me to allow them to leave their possessions in the security of my house, for the fire was already approaching their weaving-sheds. Their shortsighted foolishness angered me, for Claudia, trusting them, said there was almost certainly no danger to us yet. Aquila and Prisca could not go over to the Jewish part of the city on the other side of the Tiber, for the Jews knew them by sight and hated them like the plague.
    During all this talk and women’s chatter, much valuable time had been lost. Finally I was forced to slap Aunt Laelia and forcibly push Claudia into a sedan. So eventually they all set off and just in time, for then some Christians with smoke-blackened faces and burns on their arms came rushing in to ask after Aquila.
    With their arms raised and their eyes staring, they cried that with their own ears they had heard the earth and the sky rend asunder and knew that Christ in accordance with his promise was about to come down to Rome. So all Christians should throw down their burdens and assemble on the hills of the city to receive their Lord and his new kingdom. The day of judgment had come.
    But Prisca was an experienced, sensible and restrained woman and she would not believe such news. In fact she cried out to the newcomers to be silent, for she herself had had no such vision and anyhow, the only clouds in sight in the sky were clouds of smoke.
    I also assured them that although Rome appeared to be threatened by a great misfortune, a fire in two or three sections of the city did not mean the ruin of the whole city. Those who were frightened were mosdy poor and were used to believing-people of higher standing. The narrow red band on my clothes convinced them that I knew more about the situation than they did.
    I thought that the time had now come to call out the Praetorians and declare a state of emergency. I was not knowledgeable in that quarter, but common sense told me that it would be necessary to clear as wide a fire-break as possible across the whole of Aventine, without sparing the houses, and then light counter-fires to dispose of the buildings which were doomed anyhow. It must be considered as only human nature that I calculated my own house in the area which could be saved.
    I rode off to consult the triumvirate in my part of the city and said that I would take the responsibility for any measures taken, but in their anxiety and obstinacy they shouted back that I should mind my own business, for there was no real emergency yet.
    I rode on to the forum, from where one could see only the clouds of smoke above the rooftops and I was ashamed of my exaggerated anxiety, for everyone seemed to be behaving much as usual. I was calmed by assurances that the Sibylline books had been taken out and the college of High Priests was hastening to find out to which god one should first make sacrifices in order to stop the fire spreading.
    A jet-black garlanded bull was led into the Volcanus temple. Several old men said that, to judge from previous experiences, it would be better to make offerings to Proserpina as well. They said confidently that the guardian spirits and ancient household gods of Rome would not allow the fire to spread too far, once infallible evidence had been found in the Sibylline books on how and why the gods had been angered.
    I think the fire could have been limited if definite and ruthless measures had been taken that first day. But there was no one who dared take the responsibility, although Tigellinus’ second-in-command did in fact on his own responsibility send two cohorts of Praetorians to clear the most threatened streets and to keep order.
    Prefect Flavius Sabinus arrived that evening and at once ordered all the fire brigades to protect Palatine, where crackling flames were already dancing in the tops of the pine trees in the garden. He demantled battering-rams and siege-machinery, but they were not put to use until the next day, when Tigellinus returned from Antium and with the Emperor’s authority firmly took command. Nero himself did not want to interrupt his holiday because of the fire and did not consider his presence in the city necessary, although the frightened crowds were calling for him.
    When Tigellinus saw that it was going to be impossible to save the buildings on Palatine, he considered it time for Nero to return and calm the people. Nero was so anxious about his Greek works of art that he rode all the way from Antium without a pause. Senators and important knights also came in great numbers from their country places. But Tigellinus’ authority could not bring them to their senses and every one of them thought only of his own house and valuables. Against all the regulations, they brought with them ox-teams and carts, so that the streets became more choked than ever.
    Nero set up his headquarters in the Maecenas gardens on the Esquiline hill, and he showed inspired resolution in the moment of danger. Flavius Sabinus could do little but weep from then on. As I was piloting refugees, I myself had once been surrounded by the fire and had received several burns.
    From the Maecenas tower, Nero could see the terrible extent of the fire for himself, and he marked on a map the threatened areas which according to Tigellinus’ advice had to be evacuated at once and burned as soon as the fire-breaks were ready. The measures were now more coordinated and the patricians were driven out of their houses, battering-rams began to pound the dangerous cornshops to pieces, and neither temples nor fine buildings were spared where the fire-breaks had to run.
    Nero thought it more important to save human lives than treasures, and he sent out hundreds of heralds to pilot the thousands of refugees to those areas which it was hoped would be spared. Those who tried to remain in their condemned houses were hunted out by armed men, and the transporting of furniture and other bulky articles was forbidden in the narrow alleys.
    Nero himself, smoke-stained and soot-flecked, hurried together with his life guard from place to place, calming and giving instructions to the anxious people. He might take a weeping child into his arms and hand him to his mother, as he told people to seek safety in his own gardens on the other side of the river. All public buildings by Mars field were thrown open as quarters for the refugees.
    But the senators who tried to save at least their family masks and household gods could not understand why soldiers chased them out of their own houses with the flats of their swords and then set fire to the building with torches.
    Unfortunately this huge fire gave rise to a violent wind which flung flames and sparks right over the cleared protective area, the width of a whole stadium. The firemen, exhausted after several days’ exertions, could not stop the fire from spreading and many of them collapsed from exhaustion at their posts in the duty-chain and fell asleep, to be consumed by the flames.
    Another and even wider fire-break was cleared to protect Subura, but Tigellinus was no more than human and was tempted to spare the ancient trees in his own garden, so the fire, which on the sixth day had almost died down, flared up again in them and spread to Subura, where it rushed through the tall, partly timbered buildings with such speed that the people in the upper stories did not even have time to get down to the street. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were burned alive.
    This was when the rumor began that Nero had had the city set on fire deliberately. The rumor was so insane that there were at once people who believed it. There were, after all, innumerable witnesses who had themselves seen soldiers with torches setting buildings on fire. The general confusion due to lack of sleep and the exertions of the people was so great that some people also believed the rumor the Christians had spread about the day of judgment.
    Of course, no one dared to tell Nero about this allegation. Excellent actor that he was, he retained his calm and while the fire was still raging, he summoned all the best architects in Rome to plan the rebuilding of the city. He also saw to it that food supplies were brought in to the needy in Rome. But on his daily round of inspection of the extent of the fire, at which he made encouraging promises to those who had lost everything, there were more and more threatening cries, people threw stones at the Praetorians and some distracted people blamed Nero for the destruction of the city.
    Nero was deeply offended, but kept a good face.
    “The poor people must have lost their senses,” he said with compassion.
    He turned back to the gardens of Maecenas and finally gave the order for the aqueducts to be opened, although this would mean a drought in the remaining parts of the city. I hurriedly rode to the menagerie to tell them to fill all the water-tanks in time. At the same time I ordered that all the animals should be killed if the fire spread as far as the wooden amphitheater. Such an event seemed impossible just then, but with my eyes smarting and my burns stinging, I was prepared to reckon on the total destruction of the city. I could not endure the thought of the animals getting free and roaming among the homeless and fleeing people.
    That evening I was awakened from the deepest sleep I had had for a long time by a messenger summoning me to Nero. As soon as I had gone, Sabina issued a counterorder to the effect that anyone who tried to harm the animals would be killed on the spot.
    As I walked to the gardens through the city illuminated by the flames, a wet mantle wrapped around my head for protection, a feeling that the end of the world had come predominated in my tired mind. I thought of the terrible prophecies of the Christians and also of the undent philosophers of Greece who had maintained that all things had once sprung from fire and would perish by fire,
    I met some shouting babbling drunks who, for want of water, had slaked their thirst in an abandoned wine shop and were dragging women along with them. The Jews, packed in tight crowds, were singing hymns to their god. At one street corner I bumped into a confused man who, his beard reeking, embraced me, made the secret signs of the Christians and demantled that I should do penance and repent, for the day of judgment had come.
    At the Maecenas tower, Nero was waiting impatiently for his friends. To my surprise, he was dressed in the long yellow cloak of a singer and had a wreath on his head. Tigellinus was standing respectfully beside him, holding Nero’s cittern.
    Nero needed an audience and had sent messages to all the highly placed people he knew were in Rome. He had also ordered a thousand Praetorians to come and they were eating and drinking, seated on the grass under the well-watered trees in the gardens. Below us, the burning parts of the city glowed like crimson islands in the darkness, and the great swirls of smoke and fire seemed to reach right up into the sky.
    Nero could wait no longer.
    “In front of us lies a sight such as no mortal man has seen since the destruction of Troy,” he said in ringing tones. “Apollo himself has come down to me in a dream. When I awoke from this dream, stanzas came welling out from my heart as if in divine madness. I shall sing to you a verse I have composed on the burning of Troy. I think these stanzas will reverberate through the years to come and will make Nero immortal as a poet.”
    A herald repeated his words as Nero climbed up the tower. There was not room for many people but naturally we did our best to get as near to him as possible. Nero began to sing, accompanying himself. His powerful voice rang out high above the sound of the fire and reached his hearers in the surrounding gardens. He sang as if bewitched and his poetry secretary supplied him with stanza after stanza which had been dictated during the day. But during the song, Nero composed new ones and another scribe was kept fully occupied writing more and more stanzas.
    I had been to the theater to hear the classical drama often enough to know that he was quoting freely and had changed well-known verses either unconsciously in the moment of inspiration or using the license an artist is entitled to in such things. He sang for several hours on end. The centurions were hard put to keep the exhausted Praetorians awake with their batons.
    But the experts kept saying that they had never heard such brilliant singing against such a splendid background. They applauded loudly in the intervals and said that what they had just experienced would be something to tell their children and grandchildren in times to come.
    In the back of my mind, I wondered if Nero could possibly have become mentally deranged to choose to perform on a night like this. But I comforted myself with the thought that he had probably been deeply hurt by the accusations made by the people and so had transferred his great burden to artistic inspiration to relieve his feelings.
    He stopped when the smoke forced him to and he began to cough and blow his nose. Then we took the chance to call out as one man, begging him to preserve his divine voice. But afterwards he was still scarlet in the face and radiant with sweat and triumph, promising to continue the following evening. Here and there on the edges of the fire, great clouds of steam rose into the sky as the aqueducts were opened and the water poured out into the smoking ruins of the city.
    Tullia’s house on Viminalis lay quite near at hand, so I decided to go there and get a little sleep during the hours of the morning. I had not been worried about my father hitherto, for their house was safe for the time being. I did not even know whether he had come in from the country or not, but I could not see him among the other senators in Nero’s audience.
    I found him alone, guarding his almost abandoned house, his eyes inflamed by the smoke. He told me that Tullia, with the help of a thousand slaves, had on the first day of the fire moved all the articles of value from the house out to a country property.
    Jucundus, who had had his boy’s hair cut in the spring and had a narrow red border on his tunic, had run off to look at the fire with his friends from the Palatine school. Both his feet had been badly burned when a stream of molten metal had suddenly poured down a slope from one of the burning temples. He had been carried home and Tullia had taken him with her into the country. My father thought he would be a cripple for life.
    “Then your son at least won’t have to do military service,” he added, stammering a little, “and spill his blood in the deserts of the East somewhere beyond the Euphrates.”
    I was surprised to see that my father had been drinking too much wine, but I realized that he was very shaken by Jucundus’ accident. He saw me looking at him.
    “It doesn’t matter that I am drinking wine again for once,” he said angrily. “I think the day of my death is approaching. I am not grieving over Jucundus. His feet were much too swift and had already taken him along dangerous paths. It is better to find the kingdom of God as a cripple than to let your heart be destroyed. I myself have been a spiritual cripple ever since your mother’s death, Minutus.”
    My father was already well over sixty and he liked to return to the past in his memories. One thinks about death much more at his age than mine, so I did not take much notice at the time.
    “What were you muttering about the deserts of the East and the Euphrates?” I asked him.
    My father took a large gulp of the dark wine in his gold goblet and then turned to me.
    “Among Jucundus’ school friends,” he said, “are the sons of kings from the East. Their parents, who are friendly to Rome, consider the crushing of Parthia absolutely vital to the East. These youngsters are more Roman than the Romans themselves, and Jucundus will soon be the same. In the Senate’s Eastern committee the question has been brought up many times. As soon as Corbulo has achieved peace in Armenia, Rome will have support there and Parthia will be caught between the two.”
    “How can you think about war now when Rome is suffering a disaster?” I cried. “Three whole sections of the city lie in ruins and six others are still burning. Ancient landmarks have vanished in the flames. The Vesta temple has been burned to the ground, the tabularium too, with all the law tablets. Rebuilding Rome alone will take many years and will cost such an enormous amount that I can’t even imagine it. How can you think that a war is even possible at all?”
    “Just because of that,” my father said thoughtfully. “I neither see visions nor have revelations, although I have begun to have such premonitory dreams that I must think about their contents. But dreams are dreams. Speaking logically, I think the rebuilding of Rome is going to mean heavy taxation in the provinces. This will arouse discontent, for the wealthy and the merchants usually let the people pay the taxes. When this discontent spreads, the government will be blamed. According to the greatest statesmanship, a war is the best way to provide an outlet for internal discontent. And when the war has once started, there is always money to keep it going.
    “You yourself know,” he went on, “that in many quarters there are complaints that Rome has grown weak and that her warlike virtues have vanished. It is true that the young laugh at the virtues of their forefathers and perform parodies of Livy’s historical tales. But they still have wolf blood in their veins.”
    “Nero does not want war,” I protested. “He was even prepared to give up Britain. Artistic laurels are all he strives for.”
    “A ruler is always forced to follow the will of the people when necessary, otherwise he won’t stay long on his throne,” said my father. “Of course the people don’t want war, but bread and games in the circus. But underneath it all, powerful forces lie hidden who think they’ll do well out of war. Never before in history have such huge fortunes been made as are being made by individuals today. Freed slaves live more sumptuously than noblemen in Rome, for no traditions bind them to care for the State more than themselves. You don’t yet know, Minutus, what enormous power money has when it is combined with more money to reach its own objectives.
    “Talking of money,” he said suddenly, “there are fortunately some things which are worth more. You have your mother’s wooden goblet in safekeeping, I suppose?”
    I felt violently agitated, for during my quarrel with Claudia I had completely forgotten about the magic goblet. As far as I knew, my house had long since been lost and the goblet with it. I rose at once.
    “My dear father,” I said, “you are more drunk than you know. It would be best if we forgot your fantasies. Go to bed now, for I must go back to my duties. You’re not the only one being attacked by furies tonight.”
    In the mawkish way drunkards have, my father appealed to me not to forget his presentiments when he was dead, which would not be long now. I left his house and headed toward Aventine, skirting the edges of the fire. The heat forced me to cross the bridge into the Jewish section of the city and then have myself rowed back across farther up-river. Everyone who owned a boat was making a fortune ferrying refugees across the Tiber.
    To my surprise, the Aventine slope on the river side seemed still quite untouched. Several times I went astray in the clouds of smoke, and among other things I saw that the Moon temple and its surroundings were nothing but smoking ruins. But just beside the fire area, my own house stood unscathed. There was no other explanation except that the wind, which elsewhere had had such a devastating effect, seemed to have kept the fire away from the top of Aventine although there was not even a proper fire-break. Only a few houses had been deliberately demolished.
    The eighth morning of the fire dawned on the desolation. Hundreds of people lay tightly packed in my garden-men, women and children. Even the empty water-tanks were full of sleeping people. Taking long strides over them, I reached the house, into which no one had dared to go although the doors were wide open.
    I rushed to my room, found the locked chest and at the bottom of it the wooden goblet in its silk cloth. When I took it in my hands, I was seized in my exhaustion with superstitious fear, as if I really were holding a miracle-performing object. I was struck by the terrible thought that the secret goblet of the Goddess of Fortune, for which my father’s freedmen in Antioch had also shown such respect, had protected my house from the fire. But then I could not think anymore, and with the goblet in my hand, I sank onto my bed and at once fell sound asleep.
    I slept until the evening stars came out and was awakened by the Christians’ songs and loud cries of joy. I was so dulled by sleep that I angrily called for Claudia to tell her to be quieter. I thought it was morning and that my clients and freedmen were waiting for me as usual. Not until I had rushed out into the courtyard did I remember the desolation and everything that had happened.
    The flaring lights in the sky showed that the fires were still raging in the city, but nevertheless the worst seemed to be over. I picked out my own slaves from the crowd and praised them for their courage in remaining behind to risk their lives guarding my house. I urged the other slaves to go and find their masters at once to avoid being punished for desertion.
    In this way I managed to reduce the crush in my garden a little, but several small traders and craftsmen who had lost everything they possessed begged to be allowed to stay for the time being, since they had nowhere to go. They had their old people and infants with them and I had not the heart to turn them out into the smoldering ruins of the city.
    Part of the temple on the Capitoline could still be seen, its colonnade still undamaged against the flaring light of the sky. Where the ruins had had time to cool, people were risking their lives searching for melted-down metals. The same day, Tigellinus issued an order for the burned-out areas to be barricaded off by soldiers to avoid disorder in the city, not even the owners being permitted to return to the ruins of their houses.
    In the menagerie my employees were forced to use spears and bows and arrows to keep the crowds at a distance from our water-tanks and provision stores. Several antelope and deer which had been free in their enclosures were stolen and slaughtered, but no one had dared touch the bison.
    As all the thermal baths had been destroyed by the fire, Nero crowned his second poetry reading by bathing in one of the sacred pools. It was a risky venture, but he put his trust in his swimming ability and his physical strength, for the polluted water of the Tiber would not do for him. The people did not approve of this and whisperingly accused him of sullying the last of the drinking water, after first setting fire to Rome. He had, of course, been in Antium when the fire had broken out, but who among those who wished to stir up the people would take the trouble to remember that?
    I have never admired Rome’s strength and organizing ability more than when I saw how swiftly her inhabitants were helped and how purposefully the clearing work and rebuilding of the city were undertaken. Cities from far and near were ordered to send household goods and clothes. Temporary buildings were erected for the homeless. Grain ships which were empty had to load up with rubble and unload it onto the swamps of Ostia.
    The price of grain was lowered to two sesterces, the lowest anyone had ever heard of. I was not affected by this, for the State had guaranteed the grain merchants a higher price. Former hollows in the ground were filled in and slopes leveled. Nero himself took possession of the whole of the area between Palatine, Coelius and Esquiline, where he wished to build a new palace, but otherwise sites and wide streets were marked out in the ruined areas regardless of earlier plans of the city. Loans from the State treasury were granted to those who were able and wished to build their houses according to the new building regulations, while those who did not consider they were able to build within a definite time limit lost their right to do so later.
    All houses had to be built of stone and the maximum height was three stories. The houses had to have a shady arcade facing the street and every courtyard had to have its own water cistern. Water supplies were arranged so that the wealthy could no longer use as much as they wished for their gardens and baths.
    Naturally these necessary compulsory measures aroused general bitterness, and not only among the nobility. The people complained as well about the new wide and sunny streets, which though healthier than the former winding alleys gave no shade or cool in the heat of the summer, nor hiding places for lovers at night. It was feared that when lovers were driven indoors within four walls, then premature forced marriages would become much too numerous.
    Cities and wealthy individuals in the provinces naturally rushed to send voluntary gifts of money for the rebuilding of Rome. Nevertheless, these did not go very far, and the result was increased taxes which drove both cities and individuals almost to the verge of bankruptcy.
    The rebuilding of great circuses, temples and theaters according to Nero’s brilliant plans seemed destined to impoverish the entire world. And then his plan for a colossal building on a scale never before imagined was made public, and when it was possible to see what huge areas he intended to keep for his own use in the center of the city, the people’s discontent was finally aroused. He was to take over the whole of the area where the grain shops which had been knocked down by battering-rams had stood, so it was even easier to believe that he himself had set the city alight to acquire space for his Golden Palace.
    Toward the autumn, several tremendous thunderstorms washed the worst of the soot from the ruins, and day and night, teams of oxen hauled building stone to Rome. The continuous noise and thumping from the building activity made life intolerable, and to hasten the work, even the traditional feast days were not celebrated. The people, used to entertainments and processions, free meals and circus shows, thought their lives had become dreary and outrageously strenuous.
    The widespread destruction, the fear and the danger caused by the fire remained like a thorn in the side of every citizen. Even men of Consul rank related publicly how they had been turned out of their houses and how drunken soldiers, acting on instructions from the Emperor, had set fire to their properties before the fire had come anywhere near them.
    Others told of how the Christian sect had demonstrated their joy quite openly and had sung hymns of thanksgiving during the fire, and ordinary people did not see any difference between Christian and Jew. Indignant references were made to the fact that the Jewish section of the city on the other side of the Tiber had been spared from the fire, as had certain other areas inhabited by the Jews in the city itself.
    The isolation of the Jews from other people, their ten independent synagogues and the jurisdiction which their Council had over their own tribes, were things which had always irritated the people. The Jews did not even have to have an image of the Emperor in their prayer-houses, and innumerable accounts of their magic became common.
    Although Nero was thus blamed, both openly and under cover all over the city, for being the original cause of the fire, the people realized only too well that as Emperor he could not be punished. To blame him gave everyone a malicious pleasure, but the misfortune Rome had endured was so great that some other expiation of guilt was demantled as well.
    Members of noble and ancient families who had lost their souvenirs of the past as well as their wax death masks were Nero’s chief accusers. They received support from the newly rich, too, who feared they would lose their fortunes in taxes. The people, on the other hand, appreciated the speed and care with which their sufferings had been alleviated. Nor did they have to pay for this help.
    Traditionally, the people looked upon the Emperor, who was also the people’s tribune for life, as the protector of their rights against the nobility, and his person as inviolable. So it was only malicious pleasure that was felt when the wealthy had to give up their city sites to the Emperor and had their privileges circumscribed. But the rancor against the Jews and their special position was of old standing.
    It was said that the Jews had prophesied the fire. Many people remembered how Claudius in his day had banished the Jews from Rome. It was not long before it was implied for the first time and then said openly that it had been the Jews who had started the fire so that their own prophecy would be fulfilled and they could make capital out of the people’s distress.
    Such talk was, of course, very dangerous, so several distinguished Jews turned to P