Chapter XXVI - Multi Conventus

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
(Many Meetings)
© 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
Gracchus and Aurarius 

Aurarius was having this amazing dream about visiting Rome, when he was suddenly woken up by a loud banging on his door.
He jumped out of bed, and opened the door.
To his disappointment it was Nerva.
"Get dressed boy !
The Dominus wishes to see you !", Nerva barked.
"My name's not 'Boy' - it's Aurarius !", Aurarius said angrily, as he pulled on a loincloth and a tunic.
"Well, as a slave you'd better get used to being called 'boy' !", Nerva said, concerned to have the last word.
However, he struggled to reply politely, as he only too well remembered the previous occupier of the room, who was now the 'Young Master'.
Aurarius and Nerva padded down the silent corridors until they came to the imposing doors of Gracchus study.
There Nerva left Aurarius - and went back to his business elsewhere - as he had no business speaking to the Dominus.
The slave-guards opened the doors, and Aurarius quietly entered Gracchus study.
Gracchus was deeply immersed in some letters and scrolls, and did not even seem to notice Aurarius come in.
Aurarius coughed, hoping to get Gracchus attention.
Gracchus looked up.
"You have a cold, young man ?", Gracchus questioned, sarcastically.
"No, Dominus. I was just clearing my throat.", Aurarius replied nervously.
"And how do you like your accomodation ?", Gracchus asked.
"It's amazing !", Aurarius replied, rather too enthusiastically.
"That's good - but don't settle in too much - I might well move you soon."
"But Dominus - I'm quite happy where I am." Aurarius pleaded, fearful that he might be transferred to some dingy basement, or cold attic.
There was a pause - long enough to make Aurarius uncomfortable.
"Let me try to explain some things to you." Gracchus said - thinking that it would be a good thing to let the boy know a little of how things stood at the villa.
"Some of what I am about to say you might find difficult to understand or believe - but do your best.", Gracchus began, gently.
"I will try, Dominus." Aurarius replied wondering what might come next.
From the previous night he had already concluded that the people in this villa were a bit crazy - but at least, so far, they seemed harmless.
"I have recently consulted the oracle of Apollo at Cumae." Gracchus began.
"Have you ever heard about the Sybil of Cumea ?"
"No Dominus." Aurarius replied, looking thoroughly confused.
"Have you ever heard of the God Apollo ?", Gracchus continued, getting somewhat exasperated.
"Yes of course, Dominus, I'm not stupid.",Aurarius replied, forgetting himself for a moment.
"I certainly hope not - for your sake !", Gracchus retorted, somewhat menacingly.
"Well - the God prophesied that a 'nova aureus puer' would come to the villa." Gracchus paused, seeing the look of complete incomprehension on the young lad's face. - "I'm sorry, I forgot that your Latin is not very good -  'νέο χρυσό αγόρι'".
Aurarius' expression brightened.
"That's me !"
Aurarius - in Gracchus' Study
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"That's me !", he said, grinning - "like my hair !".
"Well possibly.", Gracchus said cautiously - continuing in Greek.
Gracchus could see that dealing with this boy was going to be difficult.
The boy's enthusiasm, and naivete were extremely attractive - but if he was unable to be sufficiently circumspect he could be dangerous in certain situations.
Unfortunately the boy had a smile like Petronius, - which was totally disarming.
At that moment there was a quiet tap on the door.
"Come !", Gracchus called.
A villa slave poked his head round the door.
"Excuse me, Dominus, Novius has come to see you.", the tall, muscular slave boy said defferentially.
"Well - show him in !", Gracchus replied, obviously pleased.
"Be very respectful to this gentleman. He's a very old friend of mine, and very wise and knowledgeable." - Gracchus said quietly, as an aside to Aurarius - in the hope that the young lad would not blurt out anything inappropriate.
Novius entered Gracchus' study, and immediately looked at Aurarius.
"So - you've got your 'nova aureus puer' - and very nice too.", Novius said, approvingly.
"Yes, said Gracchus." smiling, "but he's very rough round the edges."
"What was the God thinking, - landing me with a boy like this ?", Gracchus muttered under his breath - to Novius.
"If you want to talk to him - do it in Greek - his Latin is not so good.", Gracchus told Novius.
"My Latin's quite good !", Aurarius retorted,
"It's just when you use big,  funny words I don't understand."
"Aurarius !", Gracchus raised his voice.
"I've told you before - don't speak unless you are spoken to !"
"I'm sorry, Dominus - I forgot.", the chastened lad replied.
"I see what you mean about 'rough round the edges' - but it's quite engaging.", Novius commented, smiling.
"Alright, Aurarius, we'll talk in Greek.", Novius said, trying to placate the boy.
"So - where do you come from,  Aurarius ?" Novius asked.
"Greece, sir.", Aurarius replied, trying to be very polite.
"A village near Athens, sir - but I was too young to remember much, sir.", Aurarius continued.
"Terentius got a little information from Arion.", Gracchus interjected.
Pueri Delicati
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
from The Roman Principate
reproduced with permission
"It seems that he was sold into slavery as a child, to pay for his family's debts, and spent the rest of his childhood and youth as a 'pueri delicati' to an elderly man.
On his master's death, he was sold by the man's brother to help cover his dead master's debts.
He had been so badly cared for, that his true worth was not apparent, and it was only when Arion cleaned him up  - and fed him up - that it became clear to Arion that he was a valuable piece of property.
Arion showed him to Terentius, knowing that Terentius would give a good price for the lad - and he was very expensive - but then look at him !
But - and here's the problem - his training has been non-existent.
He speaks 'Street-Greek', very little Latin, and his knowledge is limited to the run down little villa where he served a decrepit master - so we have a lot of work to do."
Novius listened carefully.
"And tell me Aurarius - how old are you !"
"Don't know, sir.", Aurarius replied.
"And what was your original name ?"
"Don't know, sir.", Aurarius replied again, trying not to appear to be being difficult.
Aurarius' lack of knowledge about himself was not unusual. In an age when there were no 'birth certificates' of personal records (also no cameras, and in an age when a large proportion of the population could not read or write), many people had little personal information. Also, the trauma of slavery wiped clean the memories of many individuals - and it became easier for them to ignore whatever past they might have had, and simply live in a 'present', that was completely controlled by their masters. It should be remembered, at this point, that in Roman law a slave was property, and not a person.
"So what are you going to do with him, Dominus ?", (Novius was careful not to address Gracchus by his first name in front of the boy).
"Well - according to the prophecy he is supposed to help and support Marcus, so I think that I will move him into Marcus' private apartments - but I will have to explain things a little more to him before that.
While I do that, could you ask one of the slaves outside to get Terentius for me ?"
"Of course, Dominus.", and Novius left the study.
"Now listen to me carefully, Aurarius.
I have a son, Marcus, who is very sick, and your first task is to help another slave, Adonios to look after Marcus.
While you are doing this you must obey Adonios in all things.
If there are any problems you must immediately speak to Terentius - the freedman who bought you in Brundisium.
You will have a cubiculum in Marcus' apartments.
Is that all clear ?",Gracchus concluded, looking at Aurarius sharply.
"Yes, Dominus - that is very clear.", Aurarius replied.
"Good, now wait here until Terentius arrives."
Moments later Terentius did arrive.
"Good morning, Terentius !", Gracchus said cheerfully.
"I have been speaking to young Aurarius here, and I think that he understands the situation.
I want him to be moved to Marcus' private apartments - where he shall have his own cubiculum - and he shall be under the authority of  Adonios - for the moment.
Speak to him regarding his 'involvement' with other individuals in the villa - I don't want any problems like we had with Cleon.
Then have Novius settled in the small atrium, with food and drink, and tell him - with my apologies - that we will talk soon - after I have attended to some business - and then get me Servius and Petronius."
"Of course, Dominus !". Terentius replied, pushing Aurarius out of the door, and leaving Gracchus alone, with his correspondence and scrolls.
As Terentius led Aurarius to Marcus' apartments he spoke to him quietly and confidentially.
"Now Aurarius, you must understand that as you are a very attractive young man, some people here at the villa might approach you wanting sexual favours. You must understand that you are the property of Gracchus, and no person may use you in any way without his consent. If you are found to go against this rule you may be flogged - or worse.
Remember that the Dominus owns an arena and a Ludus, and you could be consigned there to suffer a very cruel fate - so do not be tempted, either by kind words, gifts or gold.
Always remember, your body belongs to the Dominus - and to no one else."
Terentius paused, waiting for an answer.
"I understand, sir." Aurarius replied.
"You need not worry about me." the boy said, reassuringly.



Gracchus and Servius

Meanwhile, back in Gracchus' study Servius had arrived.
"How are things going with Glykon and Petram ?", Gracchus asked, as Servius walked into the study.
"I'm sorry to say we are not getting any further forward.
They just keep saying the same things, and we dare not increase the torture  - otherwise we will permanently mutilate them."
"Well - we will have to try and find another way.
But that is not really what I wanted to speak to you about....
We have a new slave-boy - a lad called Aurarius.
Despite his faults - and there are many, as you will find out - I need to keep him, for reasons connected to our recent trip to Cumae - but I can't go into details."
"I understand...",Servius replied, obediently.
Well - I don't think that you do, but no matter.", Gracchus replied.
"The important fact is that the boy is very attractive.
Now I respect you greatly, Servius, but I remember what happened with you and Marcus, so I am warning you - leave him alone - at least in that way.
But when all this has calmed down, I would like you to organise some exercise for him, to build a bit of muscle, because he's very - how should I put it ?.... well 'skinny'.
I also want him trained in self-defence, and the use of weapons.
Can you do that for me ?", Gracchus asked.
"Of course, Dominus.
And I will remember your warning.... so please don't worry.", Servius concluded, hoping to put Gracchus mind at rest.
He knew that Gracchus had enough problems at the time, and he had no intention, however attractive or willing the new boy was, to give his master any more cause for concern - after all there were plenty of high class boys in the brothels in Baiae, and with the money that Gracchus paid him, he had no need to cause any problems with his master's slave-boys.
So Servius found himself dismissed - and wondering about the new slave-boy - Aurarius.


Gracchus and Petronius

As Servius left, Petronius arrived.
"Good to see you, Petronius !", Gracchus said, resuming his seat after dismissing Servius.
"I'm glad to see that you're looking well, Dominus, and seem more cheerful.", Petronius said, smiling disarmingly.
"Could you tell me...... how is Marcus ?", Petronius asked, looking far more serious.
"No change .... I'm afraid." Gracchus replied quietly.
"I asked to see you because there is a matter that I need to talk to you about.
Before I begin, I need to say that I do not want you to be offended in any way by what I say, but considering recent events I think that it needs to be said."
"I see.", Petronis replied, now looking very serious.
"I am sure, however, that you could not say anything that might offend me - and if it is a criticism for something that I have done wrong, then I am sure that I deserve your criticism.", Petronius added.
"No, my boy - you have done nothing wrong.
It's about this new slave-boy, Aurarius.
He's inexperienced - a country lad, - like you were, when you first came here, - and he often says things which - well... are unwise and open to misinterpretation.
Also he does not - yet - understand the situation here.
In addition he is very good looking, and I do not want you to become attracted to him, and spark off any jealousy among the other slaves.", Gracchus sat back, and rubbed his chin, obviously finding it difficult to explain things to Petronius.
"At the moment he is helping Adonios to look after Marcus - and he will have a cublicum next to Adonios in Marcus' apartments.
I need you to keep an eye on the boy, and ensure that everything goes smoothly.
Perhaps if we had done this with Cleon, he would still be alive.", Gracchus continued, looking incredibly sad when he mentioned Cleon.
"I understand." Petronius said gently.
"May I ask, what might be an impertinent question ?", Petronius then asked.
"Of course, my boy.", Gracchus replied, looking very interested.
"Why have this boy, if it seems that he might be a problem ?"
"Well....", Gracchus sighed.
"It's the oracle - again !
When you came with Novius and I to Cumae, the oracle said there would be a 'golden boy' - to be called, appropriately enough, Aurarius - and this boy has golden hair.
He would become a helper for Marcus, and you, my boy, would be Marcus' leading guide."
"Me !", Petronius looked startled.
"What would the God want with me ?". Petronius said, obviously very disturbed.
"Probably more than you could imagine !", Gracchus replied.
"The important thing that comes from this is that implies that Marcus will recover.
Now you, my dear friend, must say nothing of this to anyone.
Only Novius and Terentius know about this.
Now I think that you had better go and meet this 'aureus puer' - and be careful with him !
And go to the small atrium, on your way, and send Novius to me."
"Yes, Dominus.", and Petronius left perturbed and wondering.


Novius Suggests a Novel Solution

Gracchus returned to his documents, and some moments later the doors of his study swung open, and Novius entered.
"So - Novius, have you eaten well ?"
Gracchus asked, as his old friend took a seat close to Gracchus' marble topped table.
"Very well, thank you, Gnaeus.
And are you finished with your business ?"
"Yes, indeed," Gracchus replied, "And I am sorry to have kept you waiting."
"No problem." Novius answered.
"And how are you getting on with the interrogations  of the two miscreant slave-boys.", Novius asked.
"Servius is getting nowhere.
He can't torture them any further, as I want them for the arena - in one piece - and they are not providing us with any leads.", Gracchus replied, despondently.
"Well there is another way - a sly way.
A way which can use the same powers that were the source of all this trouble." Novius paused, weighing up if he should go further.
"I mean ....enchantment".
"What are you getting at ?", Gracchus asked, intrigued.
"When I was a young man," Novious began, settling in his chair, "I studied with some of the last remaining Etruscan priests - and they initiated me into the 'Greater Mysteries'.
To do this they used an 'enchantment' which called on the God Hypnos - the son of Nyx and the brother of Thanatos.
This enchantment was able to take an enlightened man out of his 'normal' mind, and enabled him to communicate with the 'powers' - somewhat as the Sybil does, when she communicates with the God Apollo."
"Go on.", Gracchus said slowly, even more intrigued by what his old friend was telling him.
"If this invocation' is made with an ordinary mind, however, then the person's mind is laid open, and all their innermost secrets can be drawn out of them.
Perhaps this technique can be used with these two boys - after all, their minds are weak, and it would be a simple matter to extract the truth from them, with little or no harm coming to them.", Novius continued.
Novius - Master of Magic
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"And you could do this ?", Gracchus asked, incredulously.
"I think so, - but first I will have to prepare some  κυκεών - kykeon. which will take a day - so we can try this tomorrow evening, if you agree, Gnaeus - night is always best for such an invocation - Hypnos is a God of the night."
The barley used in  kykeon (from κυκάω, "to stir, to mix"), is parasitized by ergot, and  the psychoactive properties of that fungus trigger an experience of depersonalisation which intensifies the hypnotic trance associated with it. The use of hypnotic states originated in ancient Egypt, and the knowledge was passed on to the Greeks, and by them to the Etruscans. Such states were exemplified in the ancient practice of oracles – individuals employed by temples to divine the future. Like 'Sleep Temples' in Egypt and Greece, individual expectation and 'overload' were essential ingredients for both the oracle and the subject.
These were accomplished through preparatory processes including the drinking of herbal mixtures (kykeon). 
The result of this process was a heightened suggestibility in the mind of the subject, creating a receptive environment for a profound emotional experience.
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
In the Greek Mythology, Hypnos is the son of Nyx ("The Night") and Erebus ("The Darkness"). His brother is Thanatos ("Death"). Both siblings live in the underworld (Hades) or in Erebus, another valley of the Greek underworld. According to rumors, Hypnos lives in a big cave, which the river Lethe ("Forgetfulness") comes from and where night and day meet. His bed is made of ebony, on the entrance of the cave grow a number of poppies and other hypnotic plants. No light and no sound would ever enter his grotto, so that he may not be awakened by the creaking of hinges. According to Homer, he lives on the island Lemnos, which later on has been claimed to be his very own dream-island. His children Morpheus ("Shape"), Phobetor ("Fear") and Phantasos ("Imagination, Phantasy") are the gods of the dream.  He is said to be a calm and gentle God, as he helps humans in need and due to their sleep, owns half of their lives.

Reports from Rome

Now Gracchus has always been fascinated by mythology, and Greek, Roman and Etruscan religion, but he had only a faint recollection of the use of  'κυκεών' in the 'Greater Mysteries', performed near the town of Eleusis - which, by a strange coincidence, was where Aurarius - (νέο χρυσό αγόρι') was born.
"I think that this may be a way forward !", Gracchus said, hopefully.
"You go and prepare your potion, and I will have the two miscreants here, and ready for you at sunset tomorrow.", Gracchus said, rising from his seat.
"I will do that, Gnaeus, but remember, I cannot promise anything - it all depends on the two boys."
Novius warned, as he left Gracchus' study.
For the rest of the day Gracchus, after visiting Marcus' apartments, perused the many letters and reports that had been coming in from Rome, with Terentius at his side.
There was much information, - about the Palatine, practitioners of the magical arts in Rome (most of them obvious charlatans), and some of the remaining associates of Nymphidius and Galba.
Both Nymphidius and Galba were now deceased, of course, but that only meant that those who had been close to them were eager for some sort of revenge, or recompense.
One name, however, Marcus Sabinus, a prominent Senator, repeatedly appeared in the reports.
Gracchus had been told by Novius to make a detailed list of the questions that he wanted to put to the two miscreant boys - and as Terentius compiled the list, the name of  Sabinus was included.


A Night of Questions

As the sky darkened, Gracchus told Servius to bring the two boy who were to be questioned from the Ludus to the Villa.
Once in the villa, the boys were taken to the communal slave baths, and cleaned up.
Clad only in loincloths, and shackled, the two boys were then taken, under guard, to one of the small atria, and made to wait until Gracchus and Novius were ready to see them.
Each boy was in a separate atrium, so they would not know what was happening to their colleague, and would not be able to communicate.
Novius arrived, just as the sun was setting, and the sky was clouding over, threatening an evening storm.
He had brought with him a stoppered bottle, containing the essential κυκεών - kykeon, and also a scroll, on which was inscribed the appropriate invocation - in Oscan - to the God Hypnos, and an ancient pendant - which he would later use to induce in his subjects a suitably deep trance.
"So - Gnaeus, if you could get your slaves to give the first boy, say Petram, a goblet of this kykeon, and then we can wait for a bit  for it to take effect.",Novius said.
While they waited, Novius lit a small incense burner, and prepared a chair for Petram to use.
The sky had darkened considerably, and as if to set the scene perfectly, there was an ominous roll of distant thunder.
"I think that the slave can bring Petram in now." Novius said softly.


Novius Questions Petram

Moments later Petram came into the study.
He seemed a little unsteady on his feet, and was smiling blandly.
Gracchus was standing in a corner of the study, barely visible in the shadows.
"Who are you ?", Petram asked, his speech very slightly slurred.
"My name is Novius, and I am here to ask you some questions.",Novius replied.
Petram instantly looked afraid, presumably expecting further torture.
"There is no need to be concerned.
Nobody is going to hurt you.
We can just have a nice little chat, so sit down here (Novius indicated the chair that had been prepared), and relax."
"Truly, sir ?", Petram questioned, sitting down and looking round the room.
Presumably he had not noticed Gracchus.
"Truly." Novius answered.
"And I have something here - rather special - that I would like you to look at."
Novius picked up the gold pendant from Gracchus' desk.
The glint of gold instantly caught Petram's eye.
"It's very old - from the time when Rome was founded.
Very....very...... very old.", and as Novus said this, he began to swing the pendant in front of Petram's eyes.
"Very.... very .....very old.", and each time he said 'very' he swung the pendant.
Gracchus watched, fascinated, but was careful not to look directly at the pendant, as he was well aware of what Novius was doing.
Then, appropriately, as Petram's eyelids fluttered, there was another rumble of thunder.
In a matter of moments Petram's eyes had glazed over and, it seemed, he was seeing nothing.
Novius then read in Oscan the short invocation from the scroll.
By then Petram's chin had dropped down, and his mouth was open, and his eyes had slowly closed, although the lids still trembled.
"That's good, Petram.
Petram and Novius
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
You've had a hard time, so just take it easy.", Novius said very quietly, as a single tear rolled down the boy's cheek.
"Where are you now, Petram ?", Novius asked.
"I don't know.", Petram replied, sleepily.
"I want you to go back to Rome, where you are with Nymphidius.", Novius suggested.
"I don't like him...he wants to fuck me.... every day !", Petram said, with a hint of anger and disgust in his voice.
"And where do you spend your time, in Rome ?", Novius asked.
"In a villa - I was told it was on the Palatine Hill.
Nymphidius had another boy - well not a boy - but a eunuch named Sporus."
"So what happened - go on...", Novius asked, encouragingly, as Gracchus nodded.
Sporus
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"One day a new Praetorian Prefect arrived, and told me that a new place had been found for me to stay.
As for the eunuch boy, Sporus, I never saw him again - and I never saw Nymphidius again - which was just as well.
A room was found for me in the Castra Praetoria, and I spent a lot of time with the Praetorian Tribunes.
They often took me to grand villas in Rome, and introduced me to various patricians, as a 'boy-gladiator' - and I was quite popular."
"And did anyone take a particular interest in you, after Nymphidius ?" Novius asked, guessing  - but not saying who that might be.
"Yes, there was a senator called Marcus Sabinus - and he was always asking questions about my master in  Baiae, and the Villa.
There was not much, apart from 'villa gossip' that I could tell him, as I knew little about Gracchus."
"So what did you tell him ?",Novius asked.
Nymphidius, Petronius and Petram
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"I told him that my master was very rich - had lots of dealings with Nymphidius, and also some Praetorian Tribunes, which is how I came to Rome, and has a favorite slave - a boy that he freed and adopted called Marcus."
"And was he interested in this ?", Novius continued to question.
"Yes, he was very interested - and often spoke to me about it, whenever I went to his villa."
"That is interesting.", Novius said, in a 'matter of fact' tone.
"Now, when I click my fingers you will forget everything that has happened since you sat down in that chair.
Is that clear ?", Novius said forcefully.
"Yes, sir.", Petram answered mechanically.
Novius then clicked his fingers, and Petram opened his eyes and looked around, a little confused.
"So what are we going to talk about ?", Petram asked.
"Oh - nothing in particular !", Novius answered, casually, and smiling.
"You may go now !"
Petram, looking confused, got up, and left the study to where a guard was waiting for him in the corridor.
"Well - Novius - well done !", Gracchus said, barely able to conceal a grin.
"It worked !", he added.
"Yes it often does, especially with the weak minded.", Novius replied.
"And he will remember nothing of what happened ?", Gracchus asked, incredulously.
"Nothing ! Ever !", Novius confirmed.
"So he won't know that I know.", Gracchus asked.
"Not in the slightest - for him it is all still a secret." Novius said.
"You're a marvel !" Gracchus said, obviously impressed.
"So we are getting there - and I think that we have probably got our man." Gracchus said excitedly.
"Possibly...." Novius said, carefully, "But I think we can give the other boy some kykeon now.
And remind me .....what's his name ?".
"This one's called Glykon.", Gracchus replied.
"Now his situation is different to that of Petram.", Gracchus continued.
"As you have seen, Petram was involved in all of this only accidentally.
Nymphidius saw him fight and kill another boy in the arena - and took a liking to him and I,  foolishly, let Nymphidius  take Petram to Rome.
Glykon, on the other hand, worked with Marcus (or Markos, as he was then called - because he was still a slave), as a door-keeper.
Glykon's problem is that he seems to be insanely jealous of Marcus - and this has probably encouraged him to get involved in this strange plot.
So it might be wise to keep that in mind when you question him."
"I will." Novius replied.

 
Novius Questions Glykon

At this point the doors to Gracchus' study opened and a guard escorted Glykon into the room.
"Come in, Glykon !", Novius said in a welcoming tone.
"Sit down here. !"
Gracchus, so far unnoticed by his slave, backed off into the shadows.
Glykon took a seat, looking somewhat bemused.
"There's nothing to worry about.
All I want to do is to ask you a few questions.
Nothing difficult.", Novius continued in an affable manner.
Glykon looked both apprehensive and puzzled.
Over the last few days he had been asked many questions, and suffered a great deal of pain at the hands of Servius and his guards.
Now he was facing someone who seemed to be a friendly old man.
In addition, Glykon had no idea where he was - and equally the Ludus had been completely foreign to him, as he had never been there before, although it was very close to Gracchus' villa.
Neither Glykon or Petram, like most of the slaves in the villa, had ever been inside Gracchus' study.
"Now, before we begin, I have something very unusual that I would like to show you." Novius began.
Gracchus, unseen by Glykon, smiled.
Novius then picked up the gold Etruscan pendant from Gracchus' desk.
Glykon looked at it, puzzled.
"It's very old - from the time when Rome was founded.
Very....very...... very old.", and as Novus said this, he began to swing the pendant in front of Glykon's eyes.
"Very.... very .....very old.", and each time he said 'very' Novius swung the pendant.
Glykon blinked, apparently trying to stay 'awake', and then his eyelids began to flutter, and his eyes slowly closed.
Novius then read, in Oscan, the short invocation to Hypnos from the scroll.
"That's good, Glykon
So rest."
Glykon's body visibly relaxed.
"Now, Glykon ..... where are you ?", Novius asked, gently.
"I don't know.", Glykon replied, sleepily.
"I want you now to go back to the first time that you met the slave called Markos.", Novius suggested.
"Yes.", Glykon said, with practically no emotion in his voice.
"Tell me about it ?", Novius said encouragingly.
"Terentius came to the main entrance with this handsome, golden haired slave-boy - a new slave-boy he had just bought. (see Chapter III)
I liked Terentius, as he was very friendly to me, even if he was important - and this new boy he had bought was very attractive.", Glykon continued, enthusiastically.
"So what happened next.", Novius asked.
"Some time later Nerva brought the new boy back to the main entrance where Terentius was telling me about his time in Brundisium.
I was then told by Terentius that Markos - the new slave-boy - was to help me at the main entrance - as an assistant 'door-keeper.
I also helped Markos to get his meals, and find his way to the baths, and back to his cublicum."
"So you helped him, and became good friends ?", Novius asked.
"Yes, but there was something strange about this boy.", Glykon said, sounding a little upset.
"Well not about the boy, but about the way he was being treated."
"Strange ? In what way ?", Novius asked.
"Well - I shared a dormitory with six other slave-boys, but Markos had his own cublicum in one of the 'guest wings' of the villa, and I later found out, from my friend Cleon, that it was beautifully furnished and decorated - even with wall-paintings !
But that was not all !.......
Some time later I was told that Markos had lessons in Greek and Latin from tutors in the villa, and he also had a young centurion from one of the Legions giving him physical training, and teaching him how to use weapons !", Glykon continued, getting more excited.
Cleon
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Cleon Dead in the Woods
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"But the thing that upset me most was that Terentius had told my friend Cleon to go the this new slave's room every other day, in the evening - so that the new boy could have a fuck.
So my mate, Cleon, became this new slave's 'bed-boy' - but they were both slaves !......
It just wasn't fair ! (it was not clear from what Glykon said if he knew that Cleon was now dead)"
"So you were angry and annoyed, and perhaps even jealous ?", Novius suggested.
"Fuck...yes !", Glykon said, angrily.
"That's alright. " Novius said quietly.
"Now just calm down." - Novius was concerned that if Glykon became too emotional, and angry, he might break out of the 'enchantment'.
Markos as Cupbearer to Gracchus
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"So what happened next ?" Novius said, quietly.
"There was then a convivium - the first for a very long time - and this young Markos appeared next to the Dominus as his cup-bearer ! (see Chapter IX)
Of course, I was just stuck at the main entrance - ignored !", Glykon continued.
"And then Markos met Petronius, during the Munera ad Augustum (see Chapter X).
Petronius Sparring
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Now all the younger slave-boys look up to Petronius, 'cause he's so handsome, and he fought in the munera, and spends most of his time in the Amphitheatre - but somehow Markos got Petronius as his special friend.
Then Markos stopped helping me at the villa entrance, and started going with Petronius to the Amphitheater every morning (see Chapter XVII)."
Petronius
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"So Markos didn't help you anymore ?" , Novius said, reflectively.
"No, - and then he started dressing like a 'master', instead of a slave, with no slave collar, and finally I was told that Gracchus had given him his freedom, and named him Marcus - and even adopted him - and why ?"(see Chapter XVII), Glykon continued, getting agitated, once again.
"I understand.", Novius said quietly.
"So now, let us go forward in time to when you had a visit from some people from Rome.", Novius suggested.
"It was very late at night ..... raining ......and these two men came to the main entrance.
At that time ther were no guards at the doors - just me.
They didn't ask to see the Dominus - but said they wanted to talk to me - if my name was Glykon.
I was happy to talk to them, as by then, no one was talking to me - not Terentius or Markos - and only occasionally Cleon."
"And what did these men look like ?", Novius asked, realizing that they had now come to the important part of the story.
"Each was wearing what looked like a sagum or possibly a paludamentum, so I took them to be either officers - maybe tribunes, or rich patricians.
They were quite young, about twenty or thirty at the most, and spoke well." Glykon explained slowly.
"And what did they speak about ?", Novius asked, realizing that the questioning was beginning to tire the boy.
"They wanted to know about Marcus - and said that he had cheated some important people in Rome - who were looking for revenge, and did I want to help them.
They explained that I would be well rewarded, and if I would injure the boy, they would take me to Rome, and give me my freedom."
First, though, I had to get Marcus' knife - it seems that it was important that he was stabbed with his own knife.
I told them that I had a friend who was close to Marcus, who could get the knife for me, but I would have to pay him - that way I thought I could get some more money.
And they gave me a sheet of lead, that had been folded many times - wrapped in black cloth. (a Tabella Defixionis - see Chapter XXIV).
They told me to wrap the knife and lead in the cloth for a day and a night - and then the knife would be ready to use.
So I did that - just before the Ludi for Vespasian.
I had no trouble getting the knife from Cleon, as he was keen to have the money.", Glykon explained breathlessly - as if relieved to get the whole story out into the open.
"But you knew that you would get caught - so why did you attack Marcus."
"Well - by then I hated Marcus - so even if I was caught I would not care, but also I thought that maybe these powerful people would rescue me - and give me my freedom."
"And where is the lead Tabella Defixionis now ?".Novius asked, pertinently.
"It's under the mattress on my bed in the dormitory.", Glykon replied.
At that revelation Gracchus looked startled.
"That is all very interesting.", Novius said.
"Now, when I click my fingers you will forget everything that has happened since you sat down in that chair.
Is that clear ?", Novius said firmly.
"Yes, sir.", Glykon answered mechanically.
Novius then clicked his fingers, and Glykon opened his eyes and looked around, obviously dazed and tired.
"So what were you going to ask me, sir ?", Glykon asked.
"Oh - nothing really !", Novius answered, casually.
"You may go now !"
Glykon, looked very confused, got up, and left the study to where a guard was waiting for him in the corridor.
"Tell Tribune Servius to see me immediately - and keep the two boys separated, and don't allow them to speak to one another !", Gracchus instructed the departing guard.
"Yes, Dominus "!, the guard replied, briskly.
Gracchus turned to Novius,
"So now things are becoming clearer, but we need to see the  Tabella Defixionis, and why Servius did not search the boys' possessions and dormitory, and find it before I just cannot understand."
"Yes, but you must remember that he had no idea that such a thing existed." Novius said, trying to justify and protect Servius.
Tabella Defixionis
Tabella Defixionis, -  Greek: κατάδεσμος katadesmos - curse tablet or binding spell - is a type of curse found throughout the Greco-Roman world, in which someone would ask the gods, place spirits, or the deceased to perform an action on a person or object, or otherwise compel the subject of the curse.  Such texts are typically scratched on very thin sheets of lead in tiny letters, then often rolled, folded, or pierced with nails. These bound tablets were then usually placed beneath the ground: either buried in graves or tombs, thrown into wells or pools, sequestered in underground sanctuaries, or nailed to the walls of temples. Tablets were also used for love spells and, when used in this manner they were placed inside the home of the desired target. They are sometimes discovered along with small dolls or figurines, which may also be pierced by nails. The figurines resembled the target, and often had both their feet and hands bound. Curse tablets also included hair, pieces of clothing or objects - in this case a pugio (dagger). Such tablets almost always include the name of the person making the spell, and the name of the person to whom the spell is directed. The texts on curse tablets are typically addressed to infernal or liminal gods such as Pluto, Charon, Hecate, and Persephone, sometimes via the mediation of a dead person (in this case Nymphidius). Some texts do not invoke the gods, however, but merely list the targets of the curse, the crimes or conditions upon which the curse is valid, and/or the intended ill to befall them. Some tablets are inscribed with nothing more than the names of the targets, leading to the supposition that an oral spell may have accompanied the manufacture of the curse. Spells were usually written in Greek, Latin, Etruscan or Oscan - but also often contained inscriptions in an unknown and untranslatable 'Demonic Language'.
"Would you mind stepping out of the study for a few moments, Novius, as I wish to have a few private words with Tribune Servius ?", Gracchus asked.
"Of course not, Gnaeus - but do not be too harsh on the boy.", Novius said, as he left.
While Gracchus was waiting for Servius to arrive, he ordered one of the slave-guards to search the boy's dormitory where Glykon slept, - particularly under the mattresses.
Some time later, the guard returned with an object wrapped in black cloth.
"We found this under the mattress of the bed belonging to the boy called Glykon.", the guard said smartly.
Gracchus nodded.
The guard then placed the obviously heavy object on Gracchus' marble topped table.
Gracchus carefully removed the black cloth revealing what appeared to be a metal scroll.
Gracchus did nothing to the object, preferring to wait, and let Novius undertake to difficult task of unrolling it.
A short while later Servius arrived looking nervous.
"So....Tribune Servius.
You never thought of searching to boy's dormitory, and looking under his mattress ?" Gracchus said, accusingly.
"No, Dominus." Servius said sheepishly, looking down at the marble floor.
"Well ..... we've found this - a lead Tabella Defixionis !
"Do you know what that is !"
"Yes, Dominus.", Servius replied, weakly.
"It's the curse tablet which was wrapped round the pugio !", Gracchus continued.
"Now.... If you want to put yourself right with me, you will go to Rome - after Novius and I have translated this damned thing - and visit Marcus Sabinus, and force him to tell you who made the Tabella Defixionis - and when you have got that information you and Petronius will arrange for this foolish Senator to be killed - quietly, secretly and without any fuss.
I that understood ?"
"Yes, Dominus.", Servius replied, obediently.
"Go now, and tell Novius to come and see me !", Gracchus said, obviously still very angry.
Moments late Novius came into the study.
"Ah, now this is what we want !", he said, approvingly, and taking the black bundle in his hand.
Tabella Defixionis
"Now all we need to do is unroll it, and see what it says.", Novius continued, removing the black cloth.
"So .... fortunately it has not been folded too tightly, or for long - so it should be easy to unroll and read, as long as it is in a decipherable language."
As he siad this Novius carefully unrolled the lead scroll.
"There !", Navius said, with an air of satisfaction -
"And it looks like Latin - and is quite legible."
"And what does it say ?", Gracchus asked.
Well, it's quite simple, and very much as I expected:
'Nymphidii in nomine et virtute spiritus infernales numina obligamus nos et M. Octavius Gracchum sempiternum dabo potestatem hanc pugio - Marcus Octavius Gracchus tactu impertire huic ligare carmine dicto - ut non videant oculi tui, et aures audire, loqui verba labiorum suorum et non commouit - Morpheus regnum habitationem. - Quod est perpetua una dormienda ultionem ut Nymphidii nostro'."
Novius slowly read out the Latin invocation.
'In the name of Nymphidius - and with the power of the infernal deities - we bind the spirit of Marcus Octavian Gracchus to an eternal sleep - and we give to this pugio the power - by a touch - to impart to the said Marcus Octavian Gracchus this binding spell  - that his eyes shall not see - his ears shall not hear - his lips shall speak no words - and he shall not move as  - he dwells in the realm of Morpheus - as revenge for the eternal sleep that has come to our friend Nymphidius.'
"But this has not been made by some backstreet purveyor of magic trinkets and spells.
The quality of this Tabella Defixionis - and its precise wording, indicates that whoever made it was skilled in the arts - a master, or more likely a mistress, of the dark arts - and it has already been suggested that this originated from somewhere on the Palatine.", Novius said as he admiringly examined the lead scroll.
"So how do we 'undo' this spell ?", Gracchus asked, impatiently.
"Well..... we could simply get your Vulcan to melt the lead.
My understanding of such things is that if the words 'disappear' then the spell would disappear.
Unfortunately, though, that might not be the end of the matter.
The pugio was 'charged' with the 'spell' when the lead scroll was wrapped round it - so the way that I see it is that the pugio would still be lethal for Marcus - but, hopefully, only for Marcus - even if the scroll no longer existed.
Marcus would recover from the enchantment when the scroll was melted, but he could be struck down again if he ever came in contact with the pugio on another occassion."
"So why not dispose of the Pugio ?", Gracchus asked.
"Yes - but it must be truly disposed of, so that Marcus could never ever come into contact with it again."
"So what about Οὐεσούιος - Vesævus ? Just throw it into a fissure .", Gracchus suggested.



Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano in the Gulf of Neapolis. It is one of several volcanoes which form the Campanian volcanic arc. Vesuvius consists of a large cone partially encircled by the steep rim of a summit caldera caused by the collapse of an earlier and originally much higher structure. Mount Vesuvius is best known for its eruption in AD 79 (the year in our story is now 70 AD) that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and several other settlements.
That eruption ejected a cloud of stones, ash, and fumes to a height of 33 km (20.5 mi), spewing molten rock and pulverized pumice at the rate of 1.5 million tons per second. Vesuvius has a long historic and literary tradition. It was considered a divinity of the Genius type at the time of the eruption of 79 AD. At the time of our story Vesuviu did not have a large crater, but rather had numerous fissures from which vapours and occasional flame erupted - killing the odd, unwary sheep or goat.
"That is perfect !", Novius replied.
"So when shall we dispose of the Tabella Defixionis ?", Gracchus eagerly asked.
"Maybe tomorrow night, if 'Vulcan' is available (Vulcan is the Villa metal worker and smith).
Firstly I need time to consult some scrolls, for a suitable invocation to Morpheus and the infernal deities - and for such gods it is always best to approach them in the darkness of the night.
You should also acquire a couple of black dogs to be sacrificed, and have some slaves dig a shallow trench in one of the peristyle gardens, to receive the blood from the sacrifices.", Novius explained.
"Of course, I can have all that arranged." Gracchus replied eagerly.
"And if Marcus shows signs of recovery, then the following day the pugio can be taken to Οὐεσούιος - Vesævus - and cast away.
Do not touch the pugio yourself, as you and Marcus bear two names in common.
I think that maybe this young man Petronius, who is close to young Marcus, could well be trusted to bring a fitting end to this unfortunate episode.
You must, after all, remember that the pugio is extremely valuable - being of the finest workmanship and costly materials - and many would be loath to destroy it, but rather keep it, and maybe sell it - but it contains a profound danger within itself, and must be destroyed.
And I think that we can trust Petronius, out of love for Marcus - to do that.", Novius explained.
"You are right !", Gracchus agreed.


The Unbinding of the Curse

Gracchus was waiting impatiently for darkness to fall.
Unlike the storm of the previous evening, the night promised to be cloudless and fine.
Only three other people knew of what was planned for the night, and they were Novius, Terentius and Petronius.
Petronius had left early in the morning for Neapolis, with the difficult task of purchasing the dogs for the sacrifice.
They were to be pure black (with not a hair of any other color on them) male, and in perfect condition.
Terentius organised the digging of the trench in one of the villa's enclosed gardens, and presumably Novius was at his own, modest villa, consulting his various documents and scrolls.
Vulcan, the old blacksmith and armourer, had been instructed to keep a good heat going in his furnace.
Meanwhile Marcus had shown no change - and was 'sleeping', apparently peacefully, in his apartments.
The lead Tabella Defixionis lay on Gracchus' marble topped table, still covered in its black cloth.
The apparently cursed 'pugio' had been placed, the previous evening, by Novius, in a secure chest in Gracchus' study, under a stout lock.
Petram and Glykon were each in solitary confinement, in the Ludus - neither boy being aware of the events that were now unfolding as a result of the information that they had given to Gracchus the previous night - in fact both boys were puzzled that they had no memory of the previous night.
As Gracchus pondered the recent events, he comforted himself with the thought that, all being well, it should now be just a matter of time - and then, perhaps all would be well once again.
That afternoon Petronius returned  with two dogs, which were immediately consigned to the ground floor slave quarters - to await their unpleasant fate.
As the sky darkened, Novius arrived, clutching his valuable and ancient documents.
Together, Gracchus and Novius went to inspect the trench that had been dug that morning by slaves in one of the peristyle gardens.
Gracchus then visited Vulcan, who was told that he would be required to melt a lead scroll in his furnace later that evening.
He appeared a little puzzled, but he knew that it was not his place to question anything that the Dominus wanted done.
Then, as the light faded, Petronius organized the slaves that would be required for the sacrifice.
Two boys were to lead the dogs to the trench, two more boys were to bring amphoras of wine, and one boy was to carry the Tabella Defixionis, wrapped in its black cloth.
When all was ready the various individuals involved assemble on the finely manicured turf.
Di Inferi
The 'di inferi' or 'dii inferi'  - "the gods below" - were a shadowy collective of ancient Roman deities associated with death and the underworld. The epithet inferi is also given to the mysterious Manes, a collective of ancestral spirits. The most likely origin of the word Manes is from 'manus' or 'manis' (more often in Latin as its antonym immanis), meaning "good" or "kindly," which was a euphemistic way to speak of the inferi so as to avert their potential to harm or cause fear. Offerings are  made to  'di inferi' by means of 'foci' - a pit. The infernal gods receive burnt offerings (holocausts), in which the sacrificial victims are burnt to ash, because the living are prohibited from sharing a meal with the dead. The animals offered are considered to be inedible, such as horses and dogs. Secret ritual practices characterized as "magic" were often holocausts directed at underworld gods, and dogs were a not uncommon offering, especially to Hecate. 'Di inferi' were often invoked in 'binding spells' (defixiones), which offer personal enemies to them. The infernal gods were also the recipients on the rare occasions when human sacrifice was carried out in Rome.
The ritual was quite simple.
The slave-boys brought the dogs on chains to the trench, where Petronius cut the throat of each animal, allowing the blood to flow into the trench.
While this was happening, Novius recited an invocation, asking the 'dii inferi' to grant that the binding spell, contained on the lead 'Tabella Defixionis', be lifted in return for the blood of the sacrifice.
Strangely, as the blood of the dogs flowed into the trench, the earth seemed to tremble slightly, which Novius took as a good sign that the gods below were content with the sacrifice.
Earth tremors were not unusual in the area around Neapolis, Baiae, Herculaneum and Pompeii.
In 62 AD an earthquake occurred on 5 February, and the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were severely damaged. The earthquake was undoubtedly a precursor to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 Ad that destroyed the same two towns. From 62 AD onwards there were regular tremors, which built in ferocity, until the 79 Ad eruption.
Slave boys then poured libations of wine, and the carcases of the dogs were burned.
The party then processed to Vulcan's workshop (the same workshop where Marcus had been fitted with a 'slave collar' the day that he arrived at the villa), where the still wrapped 'Tabella Defixionis' was cast into Vulcan's flaming forge - and destroyed.

At this point Gracchus was exceedingly nervous.
He knew that the next step was to go to Marcus' apartments - to see if the ritual had any effect.
If Marcus was still in his strange 'coma', then Gracchus would be at a loss as to what to do.
Petronius dismissed the slave boys, and then Gracchus, Novius and Petronius mounted the stairs to the corridor that led to Marcus' apartments.
As Gracchus opened the door, Adonios bounded up, and flung his arms round Gracchus' neck.
"He's awake !", Adonios cried, in obvious, and apparently uncontrolled excitement.
Gracchus was taken aback.
The boy's enthusiasm had quite overwhelmed him.
"I'm sorry , Dominus." - Adonios said, remembering his place - "But it's wonderful !"
"Yes it is - of course !". Gracchus replied, ruffling the excited lad's golden hair, as he made his way to where Marcus was sitting up in his bed.
"And how are you, my boy ?", Gracchus said, warmly but hesitantly.
"Very, very hungry, sir !", Marcus replied, grinning.
"Get the boy some food !", Gracchus said loudly, smiling broadly, and turning to Adonios, - and the boy ran off to the kitchens.


  
'and the story continues - In Rome they sample the attractions of a Roman Brothel, go sightseeing, and collect Marcus' new Pugio - they also arrange for a double killing - while Servius falls for 'forbidden fruit' - one of Gracchus' slave-boys

go to the link below to continue the story
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Chapter XXVII
'ROMÆ ET VESUVIO'
(Rome and Vesuvius)
warning: this section features nudity, explicit sexuality and extreme violence in images and text - do not view if you may be offended

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016


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