Chapter XXV - Revertere ad Cumas

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
(Return to Cumae)
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016


warning: this section features nudity, explicit sexuality and extreme violence in images and text - do not view if you may be offended

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© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016

Glykon - Tied Up
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
It had been a busy and exhausting night for Servius.
He had got most of the information from Glykon that would be of any use, and he had left the boy, still tied up, for the guards to 'play with' - on the understanding that the boy was not to be seriously hurt, or killed - as Gracchus had told him that Glykon was, at a later date, to be killed in the arena.
Cleon - Dead in the Woods
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Meanwhile, Gracchus had returned to his apartment.
Unable to sleep, he was wracked with guilt at the thought that he had brought Marcus and Cleon together (see Chapter III) - and that, if he had not, then Marcus might not now be in some strange coma, and Cleon would not be mutilated and dead in the woods.
It was quite impossible for him to sleep, and do he tried to read - but he could not concentrate.
He then left his apartment, accompanied by his two bodyguards, and walked in the moonlit garden, finally resting, and dozing on one of the marble seats.


Eventually morning came.
One of his bodyguards gently woke Gracchus up, and the tired and despairing Dominus returned to his study.
Terentius
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Although it was very early, Terentius gently tapped on the door of Gracchus' study (the door keepers would normally open it for him, but they were very nervous to disturb Gracchus after the previous night's events).
"Come in, Terentius !", Gracchus called, guessing who would come to him so early.
"Good morning, Dominus, not that it is very good !", Terentius said, carefully.
"I agree Terentius.
Now we have a lot of work to do.
Things cannot stop, just because Marcus is 'unwell', and we have had two 'bad apples' among the slaves.", Gracchus continued, trying to make the best of an apalling situation.
"There is a shipment of marble and bronze statues coming in from Piraeus and, now that the slave market is back to normal, you must get a new batch of best quality slaves from Brundisium.
While you are doing that, I will go with Novius and Petronius to Cumae, - and I will tell you what happens when you get back."
"Of course, Dominus.
I will try to return as quickly as possible."
As Terentius' carriage, accompanied by a number of wagons, left for Brundisium, Servius and Petronius rode in from the Amphitheater, where Glykon and Petram were being held.
After leaving their horses with grooms, they both entered the villa (where Glykon, for once, was not there to greet them - instead there was a new slave-boy, who didn't even know who they were, but also a villa guard, with drawn gladius, who instantly recognized and saluted Tribune Servius).
They then entered the main Atrium, sat down and waited for a slave to bring them refreshments.
"Well - I never thought I would be torturing slave-boys when I agreed to be Gracchus' Tribune.", Servius said, taking a gulp of cool wine.
"No - it's a bad business this - and I'm wondering where it will end.", Petronius replied.
"So, I'll go up and see how Marcus is, and get out of theses stinking clothes.
That'll give you a chance to report to the Dominus, and then I had better see him."
"That's good ! See you later !", Servius said, as he handed his wine goblet to the waiting slave-boy, and made his way up the marble stairs to Gracchus' apartments.
Petronius entered Marcus' private apartments.
He quietly went to his cubiculum, washed in the marble basin , and changed his clothes.
He then went into Marcus' bedroom.
Adonios was draped over the bed, fast asleep - obviously unable to leave his master, and Agathon was dozing in a chair nearby.
Marcus was lying in the bed, apparently peacefully asleep.
Petronius decided not to disturb anybody.
Marcus was still alive - if seemingly 'dead' to the world, and young Adonios was at last getting some rest after his terrifying night.
Petronius, saddened by what he had seen, but at least hopeful as Marcus was still alive, then walked on to the private apartments of Gracchus.
Servius
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
While Petronius had been visiting Marcus apartments, Servius had reported to Gracchus.
"I think, young man, it has been a tiring, and difficult night for you.", Gracchus began.
"I think not as tiring and difficult a night as it has been for you, Dominus.", Servius replied.
"I would now like to offer my resignation.
It is my duty to guard the safety of you, your family and the villa.
I failed, last night in that duty.", Servius said stiffly, standing to attention.
Gracchus smiled.
"My dear boy.... nobody could have foreseen what happened.
It was not your fault in any way, and your response has been superb.
And now I need you, - more than ever.
So I refuse your resignation - and let's hear no more of such nonsense !", Gracchus said, gently, as he leaned  back in his chair.
Servius relaxed a little.
"Thank you, Dominus !"
"So what have you learned from Glykon ?", Gracchus asked, changing the subject.
"Well, he eventually told us about two patricians, who came late one night, a few weeks ago, and offered him money for a weapon belonging to Marcus."
It was such a large sum, that Glykon - who was deeply jealous of Marcus (they had both worked together as door slaves), saw no reason not to take it.
Marus' Pugio
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
The problem was that he had no access to Marcus' apartments but, by paying his friend Cleon, he was able to obtain the Pugio, and the patricians returned, and only kept the weapon for one day.
Cleon, cleverly, placed the Pugio in a conspicuous place in the Amphitheater, so that Marcus would find it, and presume that he had absentmindedly left it there the previous day.
That same day, the patricians returned and, promising Glykon his freedom and their protection, and even more money, persuaded the boy to attack Marcus with the Pugio, which they explained had been given an evil power to put Marcus into a permanent sleep.
And in the confusion at the end of the convivium Glykon stabbed Marcus - ineptly - and because he thought there would be someone at the convivium who would protect him, he made no effort to escape - unlike Cleon."
At the end of Servius' report Gracchus, rose from his chair.
"What a stupid - and evil - little boy !", he muttered coldly.
"At least Cleon had the good sense to try to run away - not that he go very far.", Gracchus added.
"And what became of Cleon, Dominus ?" Servius asked.
"I haven't had time to speak to Terentius.", Servius then added.
"Oh, Terentius and his riders caught Cleon on the road to Neapolis.
He tried to buy them off with the money that Glykon gave him - but Terentius simply took it off him - and later gave it to me.
They then took him into the woods, stripped him, raped him a few times, and tied him between two trees.
When he refused to talk they emasculated him - and that quickly loosened his tongue.
They then impaled him, hacked off his slave collar - so he could not be identified as one of our slaves -  and left him to bleed to death.
As you can see Terentius is a man not to be trifled with - that's why he is my senior freedman.
You could, perhaps, learn some things from him"
Sitting once again, Gracchus looked up and smiled knowingly at Servius.
"Thank you Servius !", Gracchus then said, politely dismissing his Tribune.
When Servius left, he found Petronius in the vestibulum (ante-room), waiting to make his report.
"Good luck !", a red faced Servius mumbled as he hurried past his associate.
Petronius knocked and entered.
"Good Petronius !" Gracchus said, briskly, "I've been wanting to see you."
"Yes, Dominus.", Petronius said nervously.
"I have heard from Terentius about young Cleon, and Servius has just given me a lot of information that he garnered from Glykon.
Petram is Tortured
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
So what about Petram ?", Gracchus asked, with a quizzical look.
"Well, as you know, Petram was taken to Rome by Nymphidius (see Chapter XIX).
There he 'serviced' Nymphidius, until Nymphidius' own Praetorians killed Nymphidius
After that he became the 'pet' of the Praetorians, and spent most of his time in the Castra Praetoria.
According to him, - and he was very thoroughly tortured by myself and Servius -  he never met Galba, but he did become the favourite of a number of senators.
It seems he did a lot of 'blabbing'  - I mean loose talking, Dominus, - about you, Marcus and the Villa - mainly 'villa gossip', but most of it very dangerous - particularly what he said about Nymphidius and you and Marcus.
The boy was trying to 'get on the right side' of those whom he took to be in authority, as he felt that was the best way for him to stay safe.
He didn't realize that Terentius was coming to 'rescue him'.
I think that he is the cause of the patricians bribing Glykon - but that is just my uninformed view."
"And I think that you are right, Petronius.
Very good !", Gracchus said, slapping the palm of his hand on his marble topped table.
"Thank you, Dominus !", Petronius said, bashfully.
"Now today, when the sun gets a bit higher, (remember the Romans don't have reliable clocks) I want you to come with myself, Novius and Servius to Cumae.", Gracchus continued.
"Novius believes that we need to make sacrifices, seek the guidance of the priests of Apollo, and maybe - if it can be arranged - ask for help from the Sybil." - (see Chapter XII)
Will you tell Servius about this, as I want the two of you to be 'outriders' to the carriage ?".
"Of course, Dominus.
Everythig shall be arranged as you have ordered.
Is that all ?", Petronius asked, flashing one of his endearing smiles.
"Yes !", Gracchus answered.
"That's good, Petronius. 
You have reminded me to cheer up - and I think that I will go now and see how Marcus is getting along."
Gracchus' turned to Petronius at the doors to his study.
"When you are all ready come to me - I will be in Marcus' apartments."
"Of course, Dominus.", Petronius answered.
And give him my best wishes."
"Better than that - I will give him your love.", Gracchus said, with a twinkle in his eye, as he left.
Petronius blushed heavily.
Gracchus had already told the slaves and the guards at the main entrance that no one was to be admitted to the villa - apart from Novius.
Gracchus spent much of the morning sitting beside Marcus' bed, while young Adonios busied himself, and tried to distract himself, by tidying up the apartment.
Agathon, the Greek physician, was also trying to look busy by obviously searching through various scrolls that his assistants brought him, in a vain attempt to come to some understanding of what ailed Marcus.
Agathon spoke first.
"This is a strange condition, Dominus.
Most patients, when they enter into a 'κῶμα', (Gracchus and Agathon always spoke to each other in Greek), lose the ability to swallow.
As a result they usually die quite quickly from αφυδάτωση - 'siccitatibus', (dehydration - Agathon translated the word into Latin, as it was an unusual Greek word), from lack of water.
Now, in Marcus' case this has not happened.
Today, Adonios has been sitting Marcus up in bed, and 'spoon feeding' him with lenticulae elit (lentil soup) - however Marcus, even when sitting up seems to be 'asleep'.
But this is a good step forward, as he can be fed and given liquid, and kept hydrated.
But I simply do not understand it !", Agathon concluded, despairingly.
"Some say that the Divine Augustus suffered from periods when he was unable to move or speak - almost as if he was unconscious, or asleep - and that this happened often, when he was a young man, in very stressful situations - (this is a fact).
I wonder if this is in anyway similar ?
After all he is Marcus Octavian Gnaeus", Gracchus mused.
"It is possible."Agathon replied, warily.
At that moment there was a knock on the door.
"Enter !", Gracchus called.
"Dominus - excuse me for interrupting you - but Novius, Tribune Servius and Arena Master Petronius are here to see you.", the villa guard explained nervously.
"Show them in !", Gracchus said, visibly brightening.
"Good to see you again, Novius !" Gracchus exclaimed.
"We are now going to take your advice, Novius, and go the Cumae !
Is everything ready, Tribune ?", Gracchus asked, enthusiastically.
"Yes, Dominus !", Servius replied, smartly, and opened the door.
The party then left Agathon and Adonios - and the 'sleeping' Marcus.
"I leave Marcus in your hands, Adonios !", Gracchus said, as a parting remark to the boy who, it seemed, had turned out (apart from Petronius), to be the most loyal of Marcus' slaves.

REVERTERE AD CVMAS

Temple of Apollo - Cumae
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Map showing Cumae, Baiae and Neapolis
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As you can see from the map, the journey from Gracchus' villa at Baiae  to Cumae is short and easy (just follow the purple - not 'yellow brick' - road) - and being a Roman road, it was fairly straight and flat.
The day was fine, and Novius was obviously enjoying a ride out in the country.
Servius and Petronius - on horseback, however, were feeling the strain of earlier rides, and all the effort of the previous night.
However, it did not take long to reach the Temple.
LUNCH IN CUMAE

The town itself was small and run-down.
Visitors simply went to the Temple and the Oracle, and rarely patronised the businesses in the town.
Gracchus, however, decided to have a meal at a local thermopolium (eating establishment) - Gracchus enjoyed 'slumming it' occasionally.
Novius was not so much impressed, but both Servius and Petronius had not eaten that morning, and were grateful for some freshly cooked, hot food, and some wine.
However, both Servius and Petronius, after the events and revelations of the previous night, were nervous about Gracchus sitting openly in a public place, and kept a watchful eye on the other customers, and passers by.
"So, Gnaeus - what do we do now ?", Novius asked, (both Servius and Petronius looked surprised - the had never heard anyone address the Dominus by his first name).
"We enjoy our meal !", Gracchus replied, grinning.
"Early this morning I had a courier take a letter, and some money, to the temple, instructing the priests to purchase the appropriate animals to sacrifice, and informing them that we would be coming later in the day - so, hopefully they will be ready and all prepared for us when we arrive at the temple.
View of the Sea at Cumea
So relax, enjoy the sunshine and your food."
Petronius was very much relieved to see that Gracchus was much calmer now, after the previous night's awful events, but he suspected that Gracchus was, to some degree putting a 'brave face' on a difficult situation.
Undoubtedly it was good for them all to get away from the villa for a while, and the beautiful scenery around Cumae had a calming and relaxing effect.
"The last time that I was here, Novius, I came with Marcus." Gracchus said, sadly.
"At the time, he seemed so young......
And you know what the result was of that visit, Novius."
Novius nodded.
"But you lads," Gracchus continued, "don't know exactly what the oracle told us - although Novius, Terentius and myself - and also Marcus, of course, have been struggling with that mysterious prophecy ever since."
Petronius and Servius both looked puzzled.
"Let's hope that if the Sybil grants us another message from the God, that it will be clearer." Gracchus sighed.
"So let's finish up here, and go to the temple.", Gracchus said, rising from his seat.
Petronius immediately got up and went over and paid the owner of the thermopolium, (Petronius always had a daily allowance from Gracchus to pay for any incidental expenses.
With a lot of 'bowing and scraping' the rather overawed owner escorted his obviously very important and influential customers from the premises (both Petronius and Servius were wearing body armour, and Gracchus was wearing a senator's toga).
Petronius and Servius 'tipped' the thermopolium slaves who had been holding their horses, and mounted up, while the owner helped Novius and Gracchus into their carriage.
THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO

Apollo was the patron god of Octavian Augustus, and the Sibyl was the prophetess of Apollo.
Virgil's 'Aeneid', which refers specifically to Apollo, Cumae and the Sibyl, is written partly in praise of Octavian Augustus.
After 36BC, Augustus refurbished the temple of Apollo at Cumae, and also the cave of the Sibyl.

'Then to Apollo, a temple of solid marble shall I found,
and holy days, in the name of Phoebus*.
For you, too, there awaits a great shrine in our kingdom,
and here I shall place your oracle, and the riddling prophecies spoken to my people,
and to your service, O gracious one, I shall dedicate chosen priests.
Only do not consign your words to leaves,
to be confused and mocked by every wind that blows,
Sing them in your own voice, I beg of you.'
Virgil - 'Aeneid'

It was only a few minutes drive to the temple, and the priests were gathered at the steps waiting for Gracchus' arrival.
Cella of the Temple of Apollo - Cumae
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
While Petronius and Servius waited outside, with their horses, Gracchus and Novius went into the Temple to view the 'cult statue' of Apollo (modeled on Petronius - see Chapter XIII), that Gracchus had recently given to the temple.
A cella (from Latin for small chamber) or naos (from the Greek ναός, "temple") is the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture. In Roman temples the cella is a room at the centre of the building, usually containing a cult image or statue representing the particular deity venerated in the temple. In addition the cella may contain a table or plinth to receive votive offerings such as votive statues, precious and semi-precious stones, helmets, spear and arrow heads, swords, and war trophies.
Novius was suitably impressed as Gracchus showed him the likeness of Petronius (in a suitably enlarged version in the depth of the Temple cella.
The two old friends then returned to the front of the temple for the sacrifices.
Sacrifices, in the Roman religion, were usually made in the open air, in front of a temple.
Petronius and Servius watched from a distance as the sacrifice took place.
The most important part, of course, was the reading of the auspices, where the sacrificed animals were cut open and the internal organs examined.
The auspices were good, and the priests were more than happy to discuss matters with Gracchus and Novius, while they prepared for a visit by their honoured and 'auspicious' guests to the Sybil.
The Cave of the Sibyl - Cumae
The Cave of the Sibyl - Cumae
Not surprisingly, the priests had little or no advice to offer regarding Marcus' strange condition, but they felt confident that, as the God had already favoured Gracchus with one prophecy, there was a good chance that he would 'graciously' bestow another prophecy on his obviously generous 'devotee'.
The priests then accompanied Gracchus and Novius to the Sybil's cave, and Gracchus beckoned Petronius and Servius to follow them.
Petronius came, but Servius, who was sceptical (and maybe somewhat nervous) of such supernatural and mystical matters, elected to stay behind with the carriage, and look after the horses.

IN THE CAVE OF THE SYBIL

Petronius had no choice but to follow and protect Gracchus, but he too was quite nervous as he entered the strange, dimly lit, dank and echoing grotto of the Sibyl.
Gracchus and Novius guided by one of the priests soon walked on ahead, and Petronius, unknowingly, found himself sitting on the very same stone bench where Marcus had sat when he accompanied Gracchus and Terentius to the Sybil's Cave.
And just as Marcus had done, Petronius could hear a voice - a woman's voice - muttering and moaning, as if troubled by dreams.
The voice echoed strangely, and Petronius was unable to distinguish any words, in either Greek or Latin.
"A spacious cave, within its far most part, was hew'd and fashion'd by laborious art Thro' the hill's hollow sides: before the place, a hundred doors a hundred entries grace; As many voices issue, and the sound of Sybil's words as many times rebound."
Virgil - 'Aeneid' 

This, in fact, was the answer to Gracchus' question, but it would need the priests to interpret it.
It would then be written out on vellum, and given to Gracchus.
The muttering and moaning seemed to go on endlessly - and then there was silence.
Petronius got up and started walking round the labyrinthine caves, in an attempt to locate Gracchus and Novius.
Petronius lost all track of time, but finally he found Gracchus and Novius with another priest - and the three men were poring over a small scroll.
As soon as they became aware of Petronius approaching them, Gracchus took the scroll, and concealed it in the voluminous folds of his toga.
"Ah ! ... There you are !", Gracchus exclaimed, obviously trying to be casual.
"There is much to do - and we need to see how Marcus is getting along, so let's get back to the villa !", Gracchus said briskly, taking his leave of the priest.
Then, taking Novius by the arm, Gracchus hurried to the entrance to the cave.
Petronius was puzzled - why was Gracchus in such a hurry ?,  he pondered.
They quickly got into the carriage, and Servius and Petronius mounted up.
Before they set off Servius maneuvered his horse next to Petronius.
"Well - did they get an answer from the Sybil ?", Servius asked.
"Oh yes !" Petronius replied, grinning, "And Gracchus is now in a real hurry to read it, and talk to Novius about it."
And Petronius was quite right.
And so the carriage set off for the villa, with Petronius and Servius riding either side.
THE ORACLE I

An this is what the scroll contained - written in a strange form of Latin, which Novius had previously explained was badly translated from the original Oscan - although why Apollo should prophesy in Oscan, Novius could not explain.
'Civitatis magnae septem montes sunt
Primum est ubi telum haeream
per vestigia nymphae
Tollere rettu - tangere puer
et bene habebunt

An nova aureus puer ascendat
cum seniorem fratrem eius dextram
aurea puer ad sinistram
Semper - usque ad consummationem saeculi

Aurarius nomen puero

Gracchus - Deus veniet cito'
Oscan is an ancient Indo-European language of southern Italy. The language is also the namesake of the language group to which it belonged. As a member of the Italic languages, Oscan is therefore a sister language to Latin and Umbrian. Oscan was spoken by a number of tribes, including the Samnites, the Aurunci (Ausones), and the Sidicini. The latter two tribes were often grouped under the name "Osci". The language was spoken from approximately 500 BC to AD 100. Oscan had much in common with Latin, though there are also many striking differences, and many common word-groups in Latin were absent or represented by entirely different forms. 
"So, Novius..... what does it mean ?, Gracchus asked, scrutinising the parchment.
"Well, the 'seven hills' of the 'great city' must obviously refer to Rome." Novius began.
"Yes, I can see that.", Gracchus agreed.
"The next line tells us that Marcus' pugio had a spell put on it on the first hill - and there we have a problem.
Which is the first of the seven hills of Rome ?", Novius continued, looking very puzzled. 
Gracchus, of course, knew Rome well, as he had a large town villa on the Esquiline Hill - even more sumptuous than his villa at Baiae,.

"As you say - the problem, of course, is - which is the first ?
The Seven Hills of Rome
It all depends on from which direction you are looking at them.", Gracchus said, obviously frustrated.
"Yes Gnaeus, but you are thinking about the hills in space, but what about in time ?", Novius answered.
"There, my dear Novius, you have lost me !"
Gracchus replied, even more frustrated.
"Well - which was the first to be settled - or perhaps the first in importance.
Think back to Romulus and Remus and the beginnings of Rome."
"I see !", Gracchus replied, fascinated by his old friend's agile mind.
"That would be the Palatine !"
The Seven Hills  of Rome are:
Aventine Hill (Latin, Aventinus; Italian, Aventino)
Caelian Hill (Cælius, Celio)
Capitoline Hill (Capitolinus, Campidoglio)
Esquiline Hill (Esquilinus, Esquilino)
Palatine Hill (Palatinus, Palatino)
Quirinal Hill (Quirinalis, Quirinale)
Viminal Hill (Viminalis, Viminale)
The Vatican Hill (Latin Collis Vaticanus) lying northwest of the Tiber, the Pincian Hill (Latin Mons Pincius), lying to the north, and the Janiculum Hill (Latin Ianiculum), lying to the west, are not counted among the traditional Seven Hills.
Tradition holds that Romulus founded the original city on the Palatine Hill, and that the seven hills were first occupied by small settlements that were not grouped nor recognized as a city called Rome. The seven hills' denizens began to participate in a series of religious games, which began to bond the groups. The city of Rome, thus, came into being as these separate settlements acted as a group, draining the marshy valleys between them and turning them into markets (fora in Latin). Later, in the early 4th century BC, the Servian Walls were constructed to protect the seven hills.
"So, we need to go to Rome and find someone living, or working on the Palatine who could cast a powerful spell on a pugio." Gracchus said, imagining he had already solved the puzzle.
"Yes, but there's more to the prophecy than that, and we are coming to the Villa, so you go and see Marcus, and I, if I may, will go to your study, and look at this scroll more carefully.", Novius said.

AT THE VILLA

The Carriage pulled up, and Gracchus quickly got out, and went round to where the horses of Servius and Petronius were standing, panting and chomping at the bits.
Holding Servius horse by the reins he quickly, and confidentially spoke to his Tribune.
"I have some information !
Question Glykon and Petram - particularly Petram - about Rome and the Palatine Hill.
Get some information out of them.
I don't care how you do it - except that I don't want them killed or castrated.
Is that clear ?
"Of course, Dominus !", Servius replied, and he and Petronius rode off to the Amphitheater where the two slaves were being held.
When Gracchus arrived in Marcus' apartments Marcus was still apparently 'asleep'.
"Any change ?", Gracchus asked Agathon, but with little hope in his voice.
No !", Agathon replied.
"He 'sleeps', and Adonios feeds him soup, and that is all.
Did you get any help at Cumae ?"
"Maybe." Gracchus replied, "But Novius needs time to work out the meaning of the prophecy."
"Well, I'm just a physician - and I have no knowledge of the will of the Gods - but I would be interested to know what you eventually find out." Agathon said, returning to his scrolls.
Gracchus, seeing that there was nothing for him to do in Marcus' room, quietly left,and made his way to his study.
There Novius was carefully studying the scroll.
Novius
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Novius e looked up.
"How is the boy ?" he asked.
"No change.", Gracchus said flatly.
"Well, the way I see it the prophecy says - the weapon was enchanted by a follower of the 'Nymph'.
That I take to be a follower or supporter of Nymphidius.
It goes on to say - very simply 'To remove the spell - touch the boy and all will be well'.
Presumably if the spell is removed from the pugio, then touching Marcus with it will take away the enchantment."
"Yes, but first we must find out who cast the spell, and then make them remove it from the wretched weapon." Gracchus replied.
"So use your many clients in Rome to find out about the supporters of Nymphidius, and any dealing they might have had with a practitioner of magic. - It can be done !", Novius said, emphatically.
"Yes, your right." Gracchus replied, sounding weak and tired.
"But the prophecy is in two parts.
The second part appears to assume that Marcus recovers - which is good news.",Novius said excitedly.
"Yes, that sounds excellent.", Gracchus agreed.
"So what does it say ?" Gracchus asked, his interest piqued.
"And a new golden boy is to come - With an older brother at his right hand - The golden boy shall be at his left hand - Always - until the end of time."
"Strange !" Gracchus said, rubbing his chin. "Whose left hand, and whose right hand ?".
"I take it to be Marcus' right hand - and the older brother to be Petronius - as Marcus has no real older brother, but Marcus looks to Petronius like an older brother, and Petronius treats Marcus like a little brother who needs protecting.", Novius explained.
"Interesting, and possible.", Gracchus mused.
"But who is this new 'nova aureus puer' - 'new golden boy' ?", Gracchus asked, somewhat agitated.
"This all started with 'aurea puer ad mare' - the 'golden boy from the sea'.
"Now I don't want you to misunderstand me, - I love Marcus deeply, but my whole life has been turned upside down ever since he appeared here at the villa - so can I cope with another 'aureus puer - another 'golden boy' ?"
"Well that's the first time I have ever heard you say that you 'love' Marcus - and perhaps it's about time that you told him yourself !", Novius said forcefully.
There was a prolonged silence in the study as Gracchus considered carefully what Novius had said.
"Yes." Gracchus answered softly.
"You are right, and I have been a fool."
"I'm sorry Gnaeus - but it had to be said.", Novius explained, putting a hand on Gracchus' shoulder.
"I don't know who the 'nova aureus puer' is - but it seems that he will be a good friend to Marcus - unlike Cleon.
"Perhaps Terentius will bring him from Brundisium - who knows."
"Perhaps.", Gracchus said with resignation.
"And his name is to be 'Aurarius'." Novius concluded.
"Well why not ?
He is supposed to be a 'golden boy'", Gracchus said with a smile on his lips.
"The very last sentence of the prophecy is addressed to you - my friend.
It is, I think, a timely reminder.
'Gracchus - Deus veniet cito' -
'Gracchus - the God will come soon !'", Novius said, gently.
"Yes I know.
"My time is running out."

The next day, with little change in Marcus' condition, Gracchus was busy with Quintus, sending out innumerable letters to his clients in Rome, requiring them to make detailed inquiries about the various supporters of Nymphidius.
In addition they were to make investigations into any practitioners of the magical arts who might operate from the Palatine.
In the early days of the Roman Empire, the word “magic” carried negative connotations. From ancient Roman law, we can tell that magic rituals often involved brutal and violent practices. These laws portray magic as something to be restricted. The Roman emperors tried to suppress the ‘other’ sciences, such as magic practices and astrology, because these allegedly attempted to undermine the imperial claim to be the sole authority and interpreter of history. The emperors felt it necessary to squash any cultural or religious force that would dilute or corrode any power or influence they had over their people and other surrounding cultures, and the penalty for what appeared to be successful magical practice was execution. As the Roman empire grew and ritualistic practices became common place in temples, magic and superstition became more commonplace in the culture. Many spells and incantations of ancient Rome were intended to leave the victims powerless, not to harm them (as in the case of Marcus). There are believed to be approximately 1,600 written curses still surviving from Roman times. While the majority are Greek, some Roman accounts of curses have been found. Most curses seek to 'bind' their victims. They are often inscribed on lead, which is then rolled or folded and nailed, in additional symbolic acts of twisting and restraint. These actions were said to be carried out by spirits of the underworld and were most commonly concerning issues of choral or athletic competition; trade; love and sex; and prayers for justice.
Then, after the letters had been sent,  all Gracchus could do was wait - wait for some improvement in Marcus' condition - wait for information to come to him from Rome, - and wait for Terentius to return from Brundisium.
IN BRUNDISIUM

Meanwhile, Terentius had been busy in Brundisium.
He had gone to see his old friend Arion (the slave dealer form whom he had bought Marcus some considerable time before see Chapter II), as Gracchus had instructed him to get some good quality slaves, and Arion could be relied upon to provide the best.
Before the auction began Arion allowed Terentius to pre-view some of the slaves on offer, and to possibly make a pre-auction deal, as Arion knew that Terentius would pay the best prices.
Terentius and the Slave Boy
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
One boy, in particular, caught his eye.
The boy was not only attractive, and well built, though slim, but was also well spoken (in Greek), and appeared to be very intelligent.
To Terentius it almost seemed like a re-run of his previous meeting with Markos.
There was no 'background story' to this boy, however - which was probably a good thing..
He was just a Greek slave-boy, who had come in with a batch of slaves, nameless, and unnoticeable until he was cleaned up, oiled and given a nice Roman haircut.
Then he stood out.
He was not well educated - but then few slaves were - and simply answered to the name 'boy'.
Terentius was unsure, however.
There was enough trouble at the villa without bringing in a new slave who might trigger feelings of attraction and jealousy.
After all, Cleon had been a pretty blond slave-boy, and because of his jealousy Marcus had ended up in a 'coma', and Cleon himself was now dead.
In the end, however, Terentius decided to buy the boy - at least it might cheer up Gracchus, and if there were problems, he could always sell the lad on, or send him to one of Gracchus' villas in Rome.
THE JOURNEY TO THE VILLA

Having paid for the 'boy', (in gold), and another ten slaves, Terentius had them loaded onto one of his wagons, but took the 'boy' with him in his carriage.
'Boy' on the Way to the Villa
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Of course, one of the problems with buying a slave was that they usually didn't come with any clothes - so the 'boy' was sitting quite happily, stark naked, opposite Terentius.
As the journey started, Terentius felt obliged to make some conversation.
"Tell me... 'Boy' ..... how come you are called 'Boy' ?", Terentius asked, hoping to find out something about the boy's origins.
"Well, I was sold by my parents 'cause they had no money, when I was very little, to this rich old man.
At first I just worked around his villa, cleaning and carrying, and doing odd jobs - and it was always 'Boy' do this, or 'Boy' do that, or 'Boy' come here, so gradually I forgot my original name, and just became 'Boy'.
When I got a bit older, the old man wanted me as his 'bed-boy', but by then he was too old to fuck me, so he just liked to watch me 'jerk-off' - which was alright. - but I didn't like him 'pawing. me in bed.
Eventually he got ill, and died.
His brother, needing money 'cause the old guy had got into a lot of debt, sold me, and I ended up with this Arion - and then you came along and bought me.
So will you want to fuck me, master ?"
Terentius thought that the boy seemed incredibly open, if  little vulgar, an obviously did not understand what was happening.
"Look, 'Boy'... I'm not your master.
I am a freedman. 
My name is Terentius, and you should always call me 'sir'.
And no, I'm not going to fuck you, and don't go around asking people that question - it could get you into a lot of trouble.
The Dominus who bought you is very rich, and very strict, and you should be very careful what you say to him - the less the better."
"So you're not my master ?", the boy said slowly, taking in the implications.
"No, and it's just as well, because I think that you may be 'trouble'.", Terentius said, forgetting himself for the moment.
The 'boy' looked shocked.
"I'm sorry, sir.
I didn't mean to say anything out of turn.
It just that I don't really know what's going on.
I've only ever had one master - and now he's dead - and everything's changed."
The 'boy' looked on the verge of tears, and Terentius regretted being quite so harsh.
"That's alright.", he said, reassuringly, and patted the 'boy' on the knee.
AT THE VILLA

It was early morning, and the carriage had arrived.
As if to answer 'Boy's' unsaid question, Terentius announced, rather formally, 
"This is Baiae."
Now 'Boy' had never heard of Baiae, and in fact, until recently, he had never been to Italia, so Terentius statement had little meaning for him.
Gracchus' Villa - Baiae
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
The carriage drew up in from of the entrance to a huge, magnificent villa.
Terentius got out of the carriage first, went up the the impressive bronze double doors, and using one of the large bronze rings, knocked.
The sound of bronze on bronze echoed with dull reverberations, - a sound as if coming from lofty halls and long marble corridors - which, of course, it was.
Meanwhile, 'Boy', apparently unconcerned that he was still naked, got out or the carriage, all the while looking entranced at the dazzling marble facade of the huge Villa.
Slowly the door opened, but there was no young, smiling Glykon to greet Terentius - only a rather sullen looking villa guard.
Glykon, of course, was still undergoing appalling torture in the Ludus, as Servius attempted to get every drop of information from the unfortunate lad.
Terentius dropped 'Boy' off at one of the smaller atria, setting him on a couch, and then called for a slave boy.
"Get me Nervaa ! - and some wine !", Terennius ordered.
The slave-boy hurried off and, after some minutes, Nerva appeared (you previously met Nerva in Chapter III).
The slave boy handed Terentius a goblet of wine, and then stood waiting for further orders.
"How's Marcus ?", Terentius asked Nerva, quietly and confidentially.
"No change, apparently, I'm sad to say." Nerva replied.
"This boy,", Terentius began, pointing at 'Boy'," is new to the villa - so I'd like you to wait near by, until the Dominus has had time to speak to him, and then I will bring him back, with orders from the Dominus about how you are to settle him in."
"Of course, sir. I'll be waiting,", Nerval dutifully replied.
Entrance to Gracchus' Study
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Terentius then told the waiting slave-boy to inform Gracchus that he was intending to come up to Gracchus' study.
Terentius then turned to 'Boy'.
"Come with me boy !", he said, quite sternly.
"And be careful when you speak to this man, as he is your real master."
Together they mounted the marble steps, and walked through, what seemed to 'Boy' to be interminable marble lined corridors, eventually arriving at the imposing bronze, guarded doors leading to Gracchus' study.
"Wait here !", Terentius ordered.
Silently the doors opened, and Terentius disappeared into the study.
'Boy' was left outside, with the two villa guards eying him warily.
The doors then opened again, and Terentius ushered in 'Boy'.
'Boy' stood uneasily on the threshold of the study, as the bronze doors closed behind him with a thump.
"And so, what have we here ?", Gracchus questioned rhetorically.
Aurarius - In Gracchus' Study
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"I'm 'Boy' !", 'Boy' replied, foolishly.
Gracchus rose from his seat, looking rather menacing.
"You do not speak, boy, unless you are spoken to !
I was not speaking to you but to Terentius ! - and speaking rhetorically - so I did not need an answer.".
"Yes, sir !", 'Boy' replied, taken aback.
"And never call me 'sir' - always 'Dominus' !", Gracchus said, obviously getting quite annoyed.
"I'm sorry if I did the wrong thing, Dominus, buying this lad, but I thought it might cheer you up.",Terentius explained.
"I appreciate that, Terentius, but really, I have too many good-looking young slave boys on my hands - two being tortured by Servius, one left in the woods by you (and quite rightly, may I add,) and one permanently asleep !" Gracchus aid wearily.
"Yes Dominus, I should have thought.", Terentius replied.
'Boy', unable to work out what the two men were talking about, (it didn't help that his Latin was poor) simply folded his arms, and looked at them both as if they were crazy.
Gracchus looked over at the puzzled young lad and smiled.
"But while you were away, I was able to get a new prophecy from the Sibyl." Gracchus said excitedly.
"It not only leads away to solving the problem with Marcus but, and this is very strange, mentions this lad. 
Look here !", and Gracchus unrolled the scroll for Terentius to read.
"So - my servant of Apollo, you bring me the 'nova aureus puer'.
An so we have a name for him - after all, we can't call him 'Boy'.
His name is to be 'Aurarius' as the prophecy says - 'semper - usque ad consummationem saeculi'."
Gracchus paused - taking a long look at he newly named Aurarius -
"Alright - take Aurarius to Nerva, and tell Nerva to give him Marcus' old cublicum.
I want a silver collar on him - and I will see him in my study, clean and tidy, tomorrow morning !"
"Thank you Dominus !", Terentius replied, and nudged Aurarius in the ribs.
"Thank you, Dominus !", Aurarius finally 'parrotted', realizing what was expected of him.
"I must speak to Novius abut this one - I am not sure about him.", Gracchus mused to himself.

Terentius took Aurarius back to the small atrium, where Nerva was waiting for him.
After Terentius had spoken to Nerva, relaying Gracchus' instructions, Nerva took Aurarius up some stairs to a corridor, lined with a number of doors.
The door they stopped at had a bronze plaque inscribed 'MARKOS'.
"Don't worry about the name - that was for the previous slave who used this room.
A new plaque will be made for you." Nerva said.
Aurarius' Cubiculum
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Nerva opened the door.
"This will be your cubiculum.
Remember always that you may not invite anyone else into your room.
Terentius, or myself, may enter to inspect the room, and of course my lord may enter any room in the villa - invited or not.
Here you will keep your clothing in the chest, and any other items provided for your work, and here you may sleep. You may not bring food or drink into this room.
Do you understand what you have been told ?"
"Yes sir." Aurarius replied respectfully, rather surprised by the spaciousness of the room, and the fine quality of the furnishings.
In the villa of the old man he just had a dirty little room with an old mattress on the filthy floor.
"So now, I will take you to the bath.", Nerva said, wearily.
They returned down the staircase and turned into another corridor, and through a door.
The bath - even the bath for the high ranking slaves -  in the Villa Auri was as palatial as the rest of the building, and Aurarius wondered what the bath used by the owner of the villa would be like.
So Aurarius relaxed in the bath, and after about half an hour Nerva returned and took him to another room, where a young slave gave him a massage.
Then Aurarius was taken down a narrow passage-way.
Unlike the other passages and corridors, this passage-way was not sheathed in marble veneers or decorated, but instead it was just plastered.
Coming up the passage-way was the smell of smoke, and as they came to the end of the passage they came out onto what appeared to be a metal working shop.
There were swords, spears and pieces of armour lent against, and hanging from the walls.
There was a fire, with bellows for heating metal, and an anvil, and a big muscular slave, stripped to the waist, and bearded, who Aurarius later discovered was called Vulcan (you have met Vulcan before in Chapter III).
Vulcan fixed a heavy silver slave-collar round Aurarius' neck.
"If my lord ever deigns to free you, then Vulcan - or if Vulcan is no longer here, then his apprentice, will remove it safely, and it will be a gift to you.
Remember, Aurarius, the villa is well guarded, so it would be foolish ever to try to leave without the permission of my lord or Terentius.
Recently a slave-boy called Cleon ran away.
He was found in the woods, between here and Neapolis, and tortured and killed by the guards of the Dominus - so be warned."
Tomorrow a slave will take you from your room to speak to the Dominus, and he shall decide what work you should do.
Now go to your room and wait for someone to bring you a meal."
And so Aurarius spent his first afternoon and evening, alone, in the comparative luxury of his cubiculum.


  
'and the story continues - Aurarius has an interview with Gracchus and then joins Adonios in looking after Marcus.
Gracchus has serious discussions with Terentius, Servius, Petronius and Adonios - and Novius takes a hand in interrogating Glykon and Petram - and reveals an unknow. aspect of his character.
The scene then changes to Rome.....

go to the link below to continue the story
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Chapter XXVI
'MVLTI CONVENTVS'
(Many Meetings)
warning: this section features nudity, explicit sexuality and extreme violence in images and text - do not view if you may be offended

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