Chapter XXXII - Marcus Vindicta

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016

warning: this section features nudity, violence, explicit sexuality and language, in images and text - do not view if you may be offended
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© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
this Chapter is at present under construction

After the funerals and the Munera there was a distinct sense of relief at the villa in Baiae.
Marble Cinerary Urn
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Preparations were then made by Novius and Terentius for the Cēna Novendiālis (Feast of the Nine Days) - to be held at the villa.
In one of the Peristyle gardens in the villa, (in the absence of the Mausoleum to be built at a later date) a temporary altar was erected, on which was placed a marble cinerary urn, (designed and carved in Neapolis) containing the ashes of the late Dominus.
At the Cēna (feast), prayers and a libation would be made to the Manes at the temporary altar, and that would conclude all the ceremonies of mourning.
Gaius Julius Caesar
reproduced with permission from
the Roman Principate
Later, when Marcus visited Rome, a more elaborate and 'precious' Cinerary Urn would be ordered, created in Parian marble with gilded bronze decorations.
Meanwhile, Petronius, somewhat relieved that all the funerary events were coming to an end, and feeling very satisfied with the highly successful 'Munera pro Gracchus' that he had organised (almost single handedly), was busy preparing the 'Ludi ad Celebra Recuperatione Marcus' - which was to be the vehicle for Marcus' revenge on those who had conspired against him, and brought about the death of his adoptive father, Gnaeus.
Temple of the Divine Julius - Rome
reproduced with permission from
the Roman Principate
Marcus knew his history well, thanks to his tutor Lucius and, having been given the name 'Octavianus', he, like Gnaeus before him, actively modeled himself on the first 'Princeps' - the 'Divine Augustus' - whose patron, like Marcus, was the God Apollo.
Also like Marcus, Octavian was the adopted son of a great, wealthy and powerful man, in his case, Gaius Jullius Caesar (who had been declared a God, 'Divus Iulius', in 42 BC, by the Roman Senate), and who had been murdered as the result of a conspiracy.
Octavian had subsequently taken his revenge, running down and viciously killing the conspirators (the so-called 'Liberators').
Despite his youth, like Marcus, (he was only nineteen years old at the time), he had taken the revenge expected of a true Roman son.
Eventually, in 42 BC, Octavian had defeated Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus (who both wisely committed suicide, rather that being executed by Octavian), at the Second Battle of Philippi.
So, in a similar, but lesser manner, the new 'Octavianus' - Marcus, was intent on revenge.

Cleon - Emasculated and Impaled
Glykon - Awaiting Execution
Already the leader of the conspiracy against the House of Gracchus had been poisoned, and the slave-boy Cleon had been raped, emasculated and impaled, and left for dead in the woods between Baiae and Neapolis.

That left the four, who were still imprisoned in the Ludus.
Undoubtedly, like Cassius and Brutus, their minds would have turned to suicide, but they were carefully guarded, and would have to meet their end in the full public glare of the arena.

Petram - Awaiting Execution
Servius - Awaiting Execution
Menelaus - Awaiting Execution
Petronius' task was to devise various suitable ways of executing the four remaining conspirators.
In addition he would have to organize a suitable 'Pompa', one or two tableaux, a series of wrestling bouts, and of course the essential gladiatorial contests.
To begin with, Petronius could get little assistance from Marcus, as his 'Dominus' was still recovering from the stress caused by the death of Gnaeus, and the funeral, - combined with the suicide of Ariston, and then the Munera and also the subsequent funeral for Ariston.
And to make matters even more difficult Marcus, during that time, had to 'play the perfect' host to Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian, along with numerous other guests.
There was also one other matter worrying Marcus, which was Demetrius.
Since the funeral for Ariston, Demetrius had spent most of his time with Petronius.
Petronius and Demetrius
at the Beach in Baiae
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
In the morning he would accompany Petronius to the Ludus (although he was never allowed to see the imprisoned conspirators, who were awaiting execution), where Petronius was making preparations for the 'Ludi ad Celebra Recuperatione Marcus' (a name that would later be changed), and, in the afternoon, Petronius would take the boy to the public Gymnasion in Baiae (as he wanted Demetrius to mix with other boys from outside the villa), and to the beach - as Demetrius was by then able to swim - after a fashion.
In the evening Demetrius would have lessons with his Greek and Latin tutors, and would later eat with Petronius, and then sleep in his own cublicum (Petronius was not 'predatory', unlike Menelaus and Servius)
The problem with Demetrius, however, was the fact that he was very withdrawn, and all the tumultuous events that had recently occurred seemed to provoke little response from him.
Novius put this down to the fact that Demetrius had been almost totally isolated when he was younger, at the Domus in Rome, and had obviously been badly abused for some considerable time by Menelaus, and then later, briefly, by Servius.
Having allowed Marcus a number of days to come to terms with all the recent tumultuous events, Petronius finally asked if Marcus was willing to acompany himself and Demetrius to the Ludus, and also to their favourite  thermopolium in Baiae.
Much to Petronius' relief, Marcus agreed.

In Thermopolium et Ludus

Early in the cool of the morning Marcus, Petronius and Demetrius went to the main entrance of the villa, where the  Magister Equitum, and his grooms were waiting for them with appropriate horses. - large and pure white for Marcus, large and pure black for Petronius, and a moderately sized Sorrel for Demetrius.
Where and when Demetrius had learned to ride, and who taught him no one had yet discovered - for , as has been noted, he was disturbingly reserved.
Interesting fact - the Romans did not use stirrups - as far as we know - so, to get on a horse it was necessary for a slave to go down on hands and knees, so that the rider could step on his back in order to mount, or alternatively some sort of stool or step could be used. For this reason, Romans were not keen on long equine journeys. 
It was, however, not a long journey - the road was wide, and they rode three abreast to the town of Baiae.
Marcus and Petronius were well known in the town - Marcus being the most affluent, prominent and influential of all the residents.
(Little did many of the inhabitants also realise that Marcus was their landlord - as all legal documents were handled and signed by Terentius on Marcus' behalf - and, of course, when they went to the beach, the beach, and therefore the sand - used often in the arena - was also owned by Marcus.)
Arriving at the Amphitheater, Marcus briefly inspected the condition of the structure - which was good, as most of it was refurbished and new, and the went through to the Ludus, and Petronius' office.
"So, how far have we got ?", Marcus asked Petronius, while slaves busied themselves laying out drawings and lists, and bringing wine, cheese, bread and olives.
"The gladiators and wrestlers have been selected - Lucius is preparing a  suitable panegyric - about you (at that point Petronius started grinning).
A panegyric is a formal public speech, often written verse, delivered in high praise of a person, and is a generally highly studied and undiscriminating eulogy. In Athens such speeches were delivered at national festivals or Games. The Romans generally confined the panegyric to the living, and reserved the 'funeral oration' (see Gracchus' funeral) exclusively for the dead. One may be able to understand, considering the close,intimate relationship between Petronius and Marcus, why Petronius should consider a panegyric praising Marcus to be somewhat amusing.
Then, attempting to look more serious, he continued, "Arrangements are being made for the executions - but I will speak with you about that later.", Petronius explained - nodding towards Demetrius.
"So.... that all sounds good.
Excellent - now let's see the gladiators, and the wrestlers.", Marcus said, handing his goblet to one of the slaves.
They then went back to the arena, where the senior arena-slaves were marshalling two groups of young men and boys - the gladiators and the wrestlers, into two rows.
The gladiators (facing Marcus from the right), were lined up, wearing only their wrist guards and brief loincloths.
The wrestlers, divided into two groups - boys and young men, (facing Marcus from the left), and were completely naked, apart from silver slave-collars.
Marcus had decided to continue Gnaeus' tradition of including boy wrestlers in the Pancratium.
The Pankration (known to the Romans as the Pancratium) was first introduced at the thirty-third Greek Olympics in 648 BC. One of the interesting facts about pankration is that there weren’t weight divisions, as is the norm for every modern combat sport; there were no time limits either and, like gladiatorial fights, a contest would not finish until one of the two opponents surrendered or was killed. The wrestlers used techniques from boxing and wrestling, but also other techniques, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground. The only things not acceptable were biting and gouging out the opponent's eyes. The boy's pankration officially entered the Greek Olympic Games in 200 BC. In Greek practice boys always fought against boys, but in Gracchus' Roman arena boys were often required to fight fully grown men - and usually lost the fight. The Pankration wrestlers were low status performers in the arena, - looked down on by the gladiators as they fought naked, and often the losing wrestler was publicly raped before being killed.
As regards the line of naked wrestlers, by this time young Demetrius seemed to be unaffected by male nudity.
Domus Gracchi - Rome
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
As far as could be judged, he had never attended any Ludi held in Rome while he was living at the 'Domus', and so had not seen public displays of nudity, or killings or executions, for that matter.
Equally, being kept practically in 'incommunicado', Demetrius was not allowed to attend the public baths, where nudity was commonplace, but instead used the lavish bathing facilities at the 'Domos Gracchi'.
The first time that Demetrius encountered male nudity (apart from when forced to have sex), was when Petronius took him to the beach at Baiae, to teach him to swim, and when he went to the Baiae public gymnasion, where most of the boys followed the Greek practice of exercising naked (hence gymnasion - meaning in Greek a place to exercise naked).
For Marcus, having been brought up in Athens, and spending much of his early years 'hanging around' the Athenian gymnasia, male nudity was of no consequence, and Petronius, being responsible for the training of the gymnasts, wrestlers and gladiators was equally unfazed.
As for the combination of nudity and violence, Demetrius had been present at the 'Munera pro Gracchus', and equally seemed unaffected by what he had witnessed.
Of course, it should be remembered that Demetrius, at that stage, had very little understanding of who Gnaeus Gracchus was or, for that matter, the man's significance, apart from the scant information that Novius had given him.
All that, however, was for the moment behind them, and it was Marcus' task, while Petronius and Demetrius looked on, to approve the individuals that had been selected to appear in the new 'Ludi'.
Some of the boys parading were no older than Demetrius, but all being well, there was a good chance that many of them, along with the older combatants, would survive these 'Ludi' as, unlike previous the 'Munera', the contests in the Ludi were not 'ad mortem' (to the death).
It was only the executions, and possibly some tableaux that would involve any killing.
"So what about the tableaux about the story of Achilles and Patroclus, that we planned so long ago ?
Paris 'Practices' with a Slave-Boy for
'The Rape of Ganymede'
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Do we still have enough lads for the Greeks and the Trojans ?", Marcus asked, as he turned away from the lines of arena fighters.
"Yes, sir,", Petronius replied
"So it's just a case of finding a young condemned slave who's handsome enough to play the part of Patroclus ?", Marcus asked.
"Yes, I'm sure we can find one, and we can use the dancer, Paris - remember, he played the part of Zeus in the tableaux of Ganymede.
He's ideal - 'well-hung', and an excellent 'performer'.", Petronius said, grinning.
(Demetrius, of course, knew nothing of the tableaux of the 'Rape of Ganymede', staged in the arena in happier times - before the death of the late Dominus)
Arrachion - as the Minotaur
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"But remember, Petronius, the boy who is to take the part of Patroclus must not be told about his fight with the Trojans, or what happens to him as a result of the fight.
We don't want another suicide like Arrachion, the pankration wrestler, who was to play the Minotaur - remember ?
Make sure that he does not know his Homer - and keep him isolated, but well trained and looked after until the Ludi.", Marcus warned.
"Of course, Dominus.", Petronius replied.
"Well, that's settled..... So let's go and have something to eat !", Marcus concluded.
Leaving the Amphitheater, the trio walked to Petronius' favourite thermopolium in Baiae, close to the beach.
The manager, who was also the owner, (and actually a tenant of Marcus - although he did not know it), greeted them with much deference, as they were so finely dressed, referring to them as 'dominis pullos' ('young masters' in slightly 'common' Latin).
He had served them often (more recently Petronius and Demetrius) but, not being one of Baiae's brightest citizens, did not realise who Marcus was - and if anything, thought that Petronius was the 'boss' (princeps) of the group.
And on that subject Marcus had something to say to Demitrius.
"Please remember, Demetrius, that here in Baiae, outside the villa, you don't call me Dominus - or the people here will think that you are a slave.
Just call me sir.",
"Yes, sir.", Demetrius said, obediently.
"And do you feel about seeing the new Ludi ?", Marcus asked, while Petronius, who always dealt with the manager, ordered the food.
"I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be good.", Demetrius replied, quite enthusiastically.
"And what did you think of the Munera ?", Petronius interrupted, leaving the manager waiting for the next part of the order.
"It was good - and I'm glad that the late dominus got his dead fighters to help him to the next world - but I think it's better when you can see the fighter's faces - otherwise they all look the same.", Demetrius thoughtfully replied.
"That's good - but you need to understand that the 'Munera' is different from the 'Ludi'.
At the 'Ludi' the audience can favour and cheer for one fighter against the other.
The Munera, however, is a 'religious' event - and the only thing that matters is that one of the fighters is killed - and it doesn't matter which one, so they all wear helmets, so they all look the same - you understand ?", Marcus asked.
"Yes sir ", Demetrius replied, nodding, as the manager brought goblets and a flask of wine to the table.
"So what about the Ludi ?
Do you want to join us in the Pulvinar for that ?",Marcus asked.
"Yes sir, very much !", Demetrius replied.
"And you know that Servius, and your previous master, Menelaus, will be executed during the Ludi ?", Marcus asked.
"Yes !", Demetrius said, remarkably fiercely.
"I want to see them die - painfully !", Demetrius then added.
Marcus and Petronius looked at one another - surprised.
"You do understand that I have told Petronius to ensure that the executions of the four conspirators - that will include Servius and Menelaus - are to be particularly unpleasant - involving torture, emasculation, disembowelment and decapitation ?", Marcus continued.
"If I may say, sir - I think that it is all that they deserve !", Demetrius said, trying to be cold and formal.
And then he became emotional, and with tears in his eyes, he continued.....
"They both lied to me, and badly treated me, and hurt me - and I want them dead !"
"That's enough, Demetrius... We understand." Marcus said gently, trying to calm the boy down.
"I just wanted to be sure that you would not get upset, or faint, or be sick, or do something shameful at the Ludi.
You must remember that you are a Roman boy - and in the Pulvinar everyone can see you - and you must set an example."
"Don't worry, sir. I will be good !", Demetrius said firmly.
"That what I wanted to hear.
Now you just get on eating, as Petronius and I have some things to talk about.", Marcus said, pushing a plate of succulent meat in front of the boy.
"So Petronius - I think it would be good to change the title for the Games.", Marcus began.
"Such as ?", Petronius queried, raising an eyebrow,
"Well... as it is now quite some time since I 'recovered', I don't think that it's really appropriate for it to be a Ludi giving thanks for my recovery - I think that we could think of a title which would look more to the future - and perhaps reflect people's feeling about the reign of our new emperor, Vespasian.", Marcus explained.
Banner 'Vexillum' with a
Portrait of Marcus
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"So what do you suggest.", Petronius asked, hoping that Marcus would get to the point.
"I suggest 'Ludi ad auspicari novam aetatem'", Marcus said grandly.
('Games to Inaugurate a New Era')
"Yes....very clever, and very apt.
What can I say ?", Petronius said, sitting back and taking a swig of wine.
"You agree ?", Marcus asked, with boyish enthusiasm.
"Of course - but it will mean all the posters being changed.", Petronius replied.
"No problem !", Marcus replied.
Ludi (among other events) were publicised with either paintings made directly on the walls of buildings, or paintings on canvas, stretched on frames, and attached to walls or columns. Very few good examples survive, Many examples, of very poor quality, come from Pompeii. Most of the work was executed by Greek slaves employed by Roman entrepreneurs.
"Now the next thing is the banners (Latin - 'Vexillum').
Have they been delivered from Neapolis - and are they ready to be put up round the Amphitheater ?", Marcus asked.
Eventual Design of Gladiator's
Loincloth in Cloth of Gold.
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"To both your questions, sir, the answer is yes.", Petronius answered, grinning.
And then there is the equipment for the fighters.
We need Greek style helmets for the Trojans and the Greeks - so they need to be ordered from our Greek supplier in Neapolis.
We can go there tomorrow, and see some designs, and make an order.
We also need some different loincloths for the gladiators.
The black leather ones were good for the Munera, but we need something more festive for this Ludi
I suggest something in 'cloth of gold' to match the banners.
Perhaps we could order them from the same suppliers."
Yes - the Romans had gold (and silver and bronze) lamé - known to them as 'cloth of gold' or 'gold cloth' ('aureum panno'). It was  a fabric woven with a gold-wrapped or spun weft - referred to as "a spirally spun gold strip". In most cases, the core yarn is silk wrapped (filé) with a band or strip of high content gold. In some instances, fine linen and wool is used as the core. True lamé is a type of fabric woven with thin ribbons of metallic fiber, as opposed to 'guipé', where the ribbons are wrapped around a fibre yarn. It was fabulously expensive in Roman times - but then Marcus, - as he was beginning to discover - was fabulously rich. The decorations on the mourning tunics and cloaks of Marcus' associates were cloth of gold, and also the banners - to be put up all round the amphitheater (both inside and outside) for the 'Ludi ad auspicari novam aetatem', and also the decorations on the arena-slaves tunics, and the loincloths to be worn by the gladiators.
Paris - 'Standing Out'
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"And we need a special helmet for Achilles - so he stands out." Marcus enthused.
"Well I certainly think our Paris will 'stand out' !", Petronius said, grinning and taking advantage of the (probably unintended) 'double entendre' in Marcus words.
"Yes.... well enough said.", Marcus replied glancing at Demetrius to see if he had 'caught on' - which it seemed he probably hadn't - but then the boy hadn't see Paris 'in action'.
"And perhaps we can have some of the gladiator helmets gilded ?", Petronius suggested.
"I don't see why not.", Marcus replied, relaxed now after a meal and after sorting out various aspects of the upcoming Ludi.
"So - you enjoyed your meal ?", Marcus asked, turning to Demetrius.
"Very much, sir.", Demetrius replied.
The boy then continued.
"I hope you don't mind me asking, but could I come with you when you go to Neapolis ?"
Marcus, Petronius and Demetrius Leave the Thermopolium
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"You can ask for anything, my boy - and most of the time you shall get it." Marcus replied, rather over generously perhaps, but then he was so pleased to see Demetrius beginning to respond to things around him in a more 'natural' and 'healthy' way.
"And I think that Petronius and I would very much like you to come to Neapolis with us."
"Thank you, sir." Demetrius replied shyly.
"And now, Petronius - pay the man the bill, and I think that we should collect the horses from the amphitheater, and make our way back to the villa.", Marcus concluded.

Ultima Apparatus

Final Preparations - So Demetrius did go the Neapolis with Marcus and Petronius.
On that day Glaux, the owl, was left quietly 'snoozing', with his little talons deftly clinging to the back of one of Marcus' chairs.
While Marcus, Petronius and Demetrius rode in a comfortable carpentum (carriage), Adonios, Aurarius, who would be doing all the fetching and carrying, larked about on the back of a plostrum (cart).
Marcus had given up any pretense of sitting around, unshaven and fasting, for nine days (the prescribed mourning period, as he felt that he had fulfilled all his obligations to the late Dominus by the ceremonies that he had arranged for the funeral and munera, and the additional funeral for Ariston - and such ceremonies (and such immense expenditure) were unheard of in even the most patrician of families - and in addition his architect, Lucius Septimius Severus, in Rome, had already received a commission from Terentius to build an immense and lavish mausoleum ('Mausoleo Domus de Gracchi') for the late Dominus.
'Chariot Race'
Alexander von Wagner
Roman Quadriga in a Triumph
Rome HBO Series I
Now just in case you think that they should be travelling in a chariot, as is seen in so many films and TV series - this would not be the case. The chariot, for the Romans, had associations with Homer and the early, heroic Greeks, and only appeared in two definite situations in Roman life - in the Circus, when racing, and for triumphal processions. The chariot had originated as a mobile 'weapons and fighting platform', and was not suitable as a normal means  transport as it provided no protection from the elements, and required those using it to stand (and keep their balance) for the whole journey. The Roman 'quadriga' - four horsed chariot - was difficult to drive, and too large for most Roman roads in towns. Marcus did own chariots, however, but they were the equivalent of modern, two seat 'sports' or racing cars.
Terentius had previously sent fast-riding messengers to Neapolis, to the Greek craftsmen and artisans that were commonly used by the villa and amphitheatre for supplies, while at the same time ordering wood from local suppliers for the funeral pyre for unlucky boy who was to play the part of Patroclus.
So when Marcus' carriage, along with the accompanying wagon arrived in Neapolis there were numerous tradesmen ready for what they hoped would be lucrative orders.
On arrival at the armorers, for the Greek style helmets and other weapons, all was going well until Adonios and Aurarius decided to stage their own gladiatorial combat, picking up swords and helmets, in the confines of the shop - (Demetrius had waited in the carriage - still nervous and shy)
Soon helmets, breastplates, spears and swords were collapsing in heaps, and the whole shop was on the verge of becoming a ruin.
The boys, after being confined in the villa for so long during the, solemnities of mourning, were understandably frisky, but Marcus thought that things were getting out of hand.
With an angry shout, (unusual for Marcus), and a smart smack on the head for both lads, Marcus soon put them in their place.
While the alarmed staff slowly put things back in place, and Adonios and Aurarius desperately hoped that the floor would open up and swallow them, Marcus proceeded, to carry on as normal, as if nothing had happened, ordering some new lightweight, gilded gladiator helmets to match the silver helmets already held in the Ludus 'Armamentarium' (armoury).
(These were not the ornately decorated, heavy 'parade' helmets - as were recovered from the ruins of Pompeii - but lightweight fighting helmets)
Also Marcus bought a number of greaves (leg armour) - both in silvered and gilded metal.
Sketch for the Helmet for Achilles
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
Finally Marcus and Petronius had a discussion with the Greek workshop owner about a design for a special Greek helmet.
This was to be the helmet for Achilles.
Carefully the Greek armourer sketched out a design, making alterations here and there.
Most of the discussion was with Petronius - who spoke 'Koine' Greek well, rather than the educated Greek that Marcus had recently been taught by Aristarchos, his tutor.
Eventually a design was agreed, and a fair copy was made to be given to Marcus as an indication of the final piece of work.
In this way the sketch acted as a form of contract - (this was the system used by Terentius with the second 'pugio' (dagger) made in Rome for Marcus.)
It was then time to agree a price, and again Petronius handled this matter.
Koine Greek - from Koine ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος, "the common dialect"), also known as Alexandrian dialect, common Attic or Hellenistic Greek, was the common supra-regional form of Greek spoken and written during Hellenistic and Roman antiquity. It evolved from the spread of Greek following the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and served as the 'lingua franca' of much of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East during the following centuries. It was based mainly on Attic and related Ionic speech forms, with various admixtures brought about through dialect leveling with other varieties - Petronius, Adonios and Aurarius all spoke Koine, as well as many people in southern Italy (that part of Italy originally having been a Greek colony). Marcus had spoken some Koine when he lived in Athens, by had been encouraged to abandon it by his Greek tutor, under the influence of the late Dominus. In the Roman Empire more people spoke Koine  than Latin.
Finally a price was agreed for the other, less valuable items (less costly because they came from 'stock'), and Adonios and Aurarius were then handed bundles of spears, and later swords and helmets and greaves, to load onto the (carefully guarded) cart standing outside the shop.
The next stop was at the tailors, where Marcus and Petronius spent time looking at the cloth of gold fabric, and selecting a suitably brief and erotic style of loincloth for the gladiators - accompanied by some rather risqué, whispered remarks from Adonios regarding the sizes of gladiator's genitals (see above).
The tailor was then told to arrive at the villa the following morning with both gold and silver material to deal with sizes (regardless of what Adonios had said) and fittings of the slaves in question.
The gold and silver thongs were to match the gold and silver helmets.
κλίνη - kline
The final stop was a furniture workshop, where a suitably large and robust - and essentially Greek style couch (κλίνη - kline) was ordered for the erotic scene between Paris, (playing Achilles), and the slave-boy playing Patroclus - and Adonios had already been warned by Marcus not to make any further comments.
With the boys loading the couch onto the wagon, Marcus and Petronius checked with one another, to see if they needed any other items.
Finally, a quick standing snack at a beach-side thermopolium, and it was back onto the wagon and the carriage for the journey to the villa.
The following day, (after the trip to Neapolis), preparations continued at the Ludus - while, at the villa, there was still a sense of reverential quiet as the end of the period of mourning rapidly approached.
As usual, Petronius left his senior arena-slave, Theon, to manage affairs at the Ludus, while he took Demetrius to the villa pool and gymnasion for a fitness session, as there was not time to go to the public gymnasion or beach at Baiae.
Meanwhile, Marcus was giving Adonios and Aurarius a 'dressing down' regarding their 'high spirits' the previous day at Neapolis, while a rather sleepy, Glaux, from the vantage point of Marcus' shoulder, glowered at them disapprovingly.
The point of his talk was that, while high spirits were natural in boys of their age, they should remember that firstly they were the special slaves of a renowned Dominus, and secondly that they were still officially in a period or mourning, and wearing mourning clothes, which made their behavior appear inappropriate.
The boys, of course, were penitent, and more than grateful that Marcus did not have them punished.
Marcus then held discussions with Terentius and his clients, before going to the amphitheater.
Having rode out to the amphitheater, accompanied only by two villa-guards, Marcus (who had left Adonios and Aurarius, under the watchful eye of Glaux, to clean his private apartments as a penance for their behavior the previous day), arrived at the Ludus to oversee the arrival of various items from Neapolis and Baiae.
The tailors from Neapolis were already busy at work, measuring up the prospective gladiators for their new loincloths, which they were practically 'sewn' into - as Petronius was insistent on an almost 'skin-tight' fit.
The Romans used iron, bronze, and by the time of our story, steel needles. The impression that we have of loosely draped, un-tailored garments is mainly the result of the Roman obsession with traditional forms (the totally impracticable toga, for instance - only worn as a result of punitive government legislation), and tailored (sewn) clothes and leather-work were created where necessary. The loincloths (subligar or subligaculum) worn in the arena - as often portrayed in films and TV series (strongly resembling babies nappies) are unlikely to have been worn in reality, as they were almost certainly unconformable, restrictive to movement, and would probably have come loose and fallen away as soon as any violent activity was undertaken. All clothing in Roman times was expensive, and items of clothing were often worn until they literally fell apart. Sewn garments, in particular, were extremely expensive, and it was only the very wealthy, like Marcus, who could afford sewn clothing, expensively dyed in exotic colors, and highly decorated and embroidered, and made of expensive fabrics such as silk and cloth of gold.
The armour and weapons were checked for quality, and the helmets for fit.
Tableaux of Achilles and Patroclus - Sketch
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
While in Neapolis, Marcus had seconded a Greek artist from Neapolis, with whom he then discussed the setting for the tableaux of Achilles and Patroclus, while the 'kline' (Greek style couch) was inspected.
The problem with staging a scene like the tableaux of Achilles and Patroclus was the fact that the action - a sexual encounter between the two warriors, would normally occur in a tent in the Greek camp.
Such a setting would hide the action from the audience, and even a tent positioned somewhere in the arena - with the action occurring outside the tent (unlikely), would still block some of the view for some of the audience.
So Marcus' clever Greek (who was also working on the new posters advertising the Ludi) composed a detailed sketch in which the 'kline' (couch) was positioned inside some rough cut stones, set in a circle, to suggest the confines of a tent or hut.
And Marcus was very pleased, because it looked good and uncluttered, communicated the right information, and allowed a full view of Paris (playing the part of Achilles) and his young slave boy (playing the part of  Patroclus) - which hopefully would interest the audience.
Subsequently, so pleased was Marcus with the young Greek's  work, that Marcus took on the young man, (with the approval of Petronius and Terentius), as his 'in-house' painter and designer.
This previously peripatetic artist called himself Apelles, (obviously wanting to associate himself with the famous painter),
Unusually, Apelles was not a slave, but was taken on as a an independent individual, and was paid a handsome retainer, and given accomodation at whatever Villa or Domus at which Marcus was staying.
Soon after being contracted to work for Marcus, Terentius arranged Roman citizenship for the young man.
'Porta Libitinaria'
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
On the same day that Marcus received his first designs from Apelles at the Amphitheater, Marcus also supervised the installation of a new sculpture over the Key-stone of the 'Porta Libitinaria' (Gate of Death).
Previously the sculpture had been a representation in grey marble of a Gorgon's head.
The new sculpture was a gilded bronze wreath, surrounding a pure silver grinning skull.
Marcus thought that such an image would be a suitably horrific reminder to the conspirators who were to be executed (Servius, Menelaus, Glykon and  Petram) of their eventual fate.
Finally the wood arrived from Baiae, which puzzled many of those working in the Ludus.
They thought it very unlikely that the 'conspirators', who were to be executed, would be given any funeral rites, let alone be cremated, and were unaware that the corpse of the slain slave-boy, (playing the part of Patroclus), would be given a Greek style funeral and cremation, as part of a tableaux, while supposedly 'Trojan' prisoners were sacrificed around his burning pyre.

Finis Luctum

The End of Mourning - Eventually the 'Cēna Novendiālis' (Feast of the Nine Days) arrived.
On that day all work in the Ludus and the Arena came to a standstill, and the slaves and freedmen, for once, got a 'day off'.
At the villa, however, work went on as usual, as the banqueting hall was prepared for the 'Cēna', and one of the peristyle gardens was made ready, with six temporary altars for the final sacrifices.
On this day, in the morning, the chief magistrate of Baiae came to the villa to oversee the ceremony where Terentius formally gave Marcus the documents relating to his his vast inheritance.
By his side at this ceremony was Tribune Petronius, Counselor Novius, Demetrius, Adonios (with Glaux on his shoulder) and Aurarius.
And so, on that day, Marcus was finally and truly 'Gracchus Domo Domini' (Master of the House of Gracchus).
In the late afternoon the feast (Cēna) was held in the banqueting hall, and Lucius (Marcus Latin tutor) made a third reading of the eulogy to Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus.
At the end of the Cēna, Marcus and the guests made their way to the starlit peristyle garden, where six altars stood.
Four of the altars, each holding a cinerary urn of one of the Munera fighters, flanked the altar on which stood the cinerary urn of Ariston.
In the center, in front of the row of five altars stood a larger altar, on which stood the magnificent urn containing the ashes of the late Dominus.
Prayers were said, libations to the 'Manes' were made, and incense was burned - and so the funerary rites for the late Dominus, and his favorite slave, were completed - and the 'Novam Ætatem' (new era) - 'ad aetatem Marcus Octavianus Gracchus' - was begun.

Adventum Titus Vespasianus

Adventum Titus Vespasianus - On the day after the nine days of mourning ended there was frantic activity in the amphitheater in Baiae, and in the villa.
Imperial messengers had arrived from Rome, giving the news that Titus and his suite was following close behind - he was obviously holding true to his promise to visit the first Ludi after the conclusion of the funeral rites for the late Dominus.
And so preparations had to be made for his accommodation at the villa, and the imperial eagle had to be put in place on the balcony of the Pulvinar in the arena.
It had been arranged by courier that, after his arrival, Titus would be given three days to relax before the Ludi.
One day would be taken up with reviewing possible sites for his intended new villa, one day would involve a visit to Cumae, to see the temple that had been renovated by the 'Divine Augustus', and one day to relax before the Ludi.
So Petronius had only three day to prepare everything for the Ludi.
Fortunately the advertisements, painted on canvas, had been completed by local artisans, under the supervision of Apelles, and were in place all over the town, and some had even been placed in Cumae and Neapolis - and Apelles was also busy supervising the setting for the main tableaux.
'Poster' for the Ludi
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
The text for the poster reads: 'The Games to Inaugurate a New Era' - Marcus Octavius Gracchus presents in the Amphitheater of Baiae - in the presence of Titus Vespasianus - Gladiators, Wrestlers, Boxers, Executions and Tableaux. As the date of the event was dependent on Titus - 'stickers' were added daily to the advertisements by arena-slaves stating 'MOX ADVENTU' - loosely translated as 'coming soon' - and then, 'CRASTINUS DIES' (tomorrow), and eventually HODIE (today !).
Equally, old Vulcan, the villa metal worker, was busy constructing some fiendish contraptions, designed by Petronius, to be used for the torture and execution of the condemned prisoners.
Titus arrived, as he had promised, boyishly excited by the prospect of buying land for a villa by the sea, and the prospect of what he anticipated would be an excellent Ludi.
Although they had first met only a couple of weeks before, Titus treated Marcus as an old friend, and was eager to renew his acquaintance with Adonios and Aurarius - but more particularly Glaux - (and Marcus was pleased to note that it was the owl, and not his slave-boys that were the real attraction for Titus - Marcus did not want a repetition of the situation with Nymphidius and Petram.
Marcus, who was still busy with the preparations for the Ludi, put Titus into the care of Terentius and Adonios, who gave the son of the emperor a trip round Baiae, and then a series of discussions with land owners in the local area (clients of Marcus), who were only too willing, and honored, to offer the heir to the Imperium land on which he could build a villa.
Marcus had decided to take Aurarius with him to the amphitheater.
Marcus had been thinking that he had been somewhat neglecting Aurarius.
The boy had originally been bought by Terentius for the late Dominus, and had been subsequently been 'dumped' with Adonios - to 'learn the rope's.
Marcus now felt that it was time for him to build a stronger relationship with the boy, and decided to encourage the lad to take an interest in the amphitheater.
They rode out to Baiae, following the carriage containing Titus, Terentius, Adonios and one of Titus' Praetorian tribunes.
They then turned off, into the Ludus entrance of the amphitheater.
Petronius was already hard at work with Theon (the senior arena-slave), supervising the final preparations.
Marcus and Petronius greeted one another, and Aurarius, who was somewhat in awe of  Petronius, gave the Tribune and Master of the Arena a slight bow.
"Today we must decide on who is to play the part of Patroclus.", Marcus began.
"It's difficult, because we need a very handsome boy, but one that we can afford to lose."
Petronius looked to Theon.
"Well, Theon has suggested a lad.
He could be ideal, because he's been condemned to be executed - so we couldn't use him in the future anyway, and he is very good looking.", Petronius replied.
Map of the Bay of Neapolis
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"And where's he from ?", Marcus asked.
"We don't want a popular local lad being outnumbered by a group of fighters, killed and stripped, and his corpse then publicly burned - it might cause a bad reaction.", Marcus warned.
"According to the information from the magistrates, he's from Stabiae.", Theon explained.
"Good ! That's far enough away.", Marcus replied.
"So let's see him - naked of course.", Petronius ordered.
An arena-slave was then sent off to fetch the boy.
Moments later the boy was brought for inspection.
He was, as Theon had suggested, very handsome, and in his late teens - well, but elegantly muscled, and 'well-hung'.
"What's your name, boy ?", Petronius asked.
"Varus, Dominus." the boy replied.
Petronius smiled.
"I'm not the Dominus !
"This,", gesturing to Marcus, "Is the Dominus", Petronius said quietly.
"I'm sorry !", the boy stammered, blushing.
"Do you speak Greek  - and can you read, Varus ?", Petronius continued.
"I only know Latin, and I only read little, sir", the boy replied, obviously surprised at the question.
"Do you know anything of Homer, or the Iliad ?", Petronius asked.
"I'm sorry sir, I don't understand these questions.", the boy answered, obviously getting flustered.
"No problem.", Petronius replied.
"So can you handle a sword ?", Petronius asked, perusing his interrogation.
"Yes sir, a little.", the boy replied, more confidently.
"Well, young man, we are going to give you an opportunity.
First you must do some acting - and then you must fight - and who knows, if you win, you could go free.
For the acting you will have to portray the boy who is loved by a Greek hero - you get what I'm meaning ?", Petronius asked coyly.
"You mean I'm gonna get fucked ?" the boy replied nervously.
"Exactly, Varus - and then you get to fight your way - possibly - to freedom.
"Can you do that ?", Petronius explained, ending with a question.
"Well yes - I've been fucked many times, and I will put up a good fight if I'm given a sword - and it's better that getting impaled on a cross, with no chance to be freed ..... and I've not got any choice really - have I ?"
"Precisely !", Petronius agreed.
Petronius and Varus
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016
"I'm glad you are willing to co-operate.
In the end it will be best for you.", Petronius concluded, and then gestured for the boy to be taken away.
"An ideal choice, I think.", Marcus reflected,
Petronius turned to Theon.
"Get the boy and Paris to have a couple of 'run throughs' - and use the 'kline'.
They're supposed to be lovers, so we don't want the fuck to look like a rape.
And at least the boy can enjoy it, before he's killed.
And give the lad some practice with a sword - he's supposed to be a Greek hero, not a 'street boy'."
"Of course, sir", Theon replied, and then followed the arena-slave and Varus back to the Ludus.
This interview, of course, was in no way typical of the interactions between masters and slaves.
Normally it was simply a matter of orders being given to slaves.
In this case, however, Petronius knew that a certain amount of subterfuge was require if he was to get the result he needed - a live slave giving a convincing 'performance' - and he remembered all too well the disastrous outcome with Arrachion - who was well aware of the eventual fate of the Minotaur, and chose a private, dignified end, rather than a humiliating death in front of the amphitheater audience.
While Aurarius, who was not as yet well educated, knew nothing of the story of Achilles and Patroclus, he had guessed that the good looking boy, who was just a little older than himself, was being tricked into being raped and killed in the arena - and as a slave, he could imagine himself in a similar situation.
He was brave enough to tell Marcus, later, that he felt sorry for the young lad.
Normally Marcus would have been annoyed by such, as he saw it, 'weak' feelings, but as he was keen to develop a good relationship with the boy he took time to explain the situation.
"You must understand," Marcus explained, "that while this boy seems pleasant, he is, in fact a runaway slave who survives by being a 'rent-boy', - a boy who 'gives himself ' for money.
His first crime was to run away from his master.
His second crime was to lure a man with an offer of cheap sex, and then kill the man and rob him.
For this he was condemned to the arena to be executed.
Now there are many ways to be executed.
Most of them are, quite rightly, appallingly humiliating and painful.
For this boy, as he was prostituting himself, it seems appropriate that he should be sexually abused in the arena - although, in his case not painfully or unpleasantly.
His death, also, will be quick and easy - and Petronius has ordered that his throat should be cut, and he should not be mutilated, either before or after his death.
His body will finally be cremated - although not with all the usual rituals - so he will at least be sent off in reasonable style to the next world.
So I think that it is unwise to waste your pity on him."
Marcus looked to Aurarius for a response.
"I understand, Dominus. I did not realize.
Thank you for explaining it to me.", Aurarius answered - chastened by Marcus' careful explanation.
The next day, which was fine and sunny, Marcus and Novius accompanied Titus, traveled by carriage, to Cumae, to view the Augustan temple, and the statue of Apollo that the late Dominus had donated to the Temple.
Titus was impressed with the statue, commenting favorably on the likeness of the statue to Petronius.
Although they did not seek a favor from the Sibyl, they entered the caves, and during their time there Marcus recounted his experiences when he had visited Cumae with the late Dominus - and it all seemed to Marcus so long ago, and part of another life.
19th Century View of the 'The Bay of Baiae' - J M W Turner
Novius then went on to explain to Titus the significance of the prophecies, and in particular the first oracle which referred to Titus' father, Vespasian, coming from the East to take the Imperium.
As a result of these conversations Titus promised that further endowments and embellishments would be made to the temple, by himself and the Emperor in the very near future.
There was then just one day to go before the Ludi.
Titus and some of his Tribunes went riding in the surrounding area, getting a feel of the beautiful coastline surrounding Baiae, while Marcus and Petronius made the final checks on the various aspects of the upcoming Ludi.

more images to be added.......

'and the story continues -
Marcus finally presents his 'Games to Inaugurate a New Era' - in the presence of Titus Vespasianus.
The Games provides him with the opportunity to stage the executions of what are now known as the 'Coniurati' - the conspirators - and also his long awaited tableaux - 'Achilles and Patroclus - planned to end with a magnificent conflagration.
Also featured are gladiators, boxers and wrestlers, and dancing and mime in the intervals.

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2016

Chapter XXXIII
The Games to Inaugurate a New Era

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


  1. /Reading Petronius task-oriented but devious preparation of the handsome condemned boy to play Patroclus (and Marcus gentle explanation of the situation to Aurarus) even before there are images available is a great turn-on! I'm eager to experience the tableau in description and pictures (and assuming that this street-smart robber/murderer doesn't have some plans of his own). The idea of starting with passionate male love and ending with rape and spectacular death as an entertainment from the distance of 2000 years has a strong appeal for me. Will Achilles get full revenge with Hector? Will it end with an actor playing Paris killing an actor named Paris but playing Achilles? Or will the sacrifices of a dozen teenage Trojans be sufficient climax? (I think Paris is unworthy of killing Achilles - but Homer didn't consult me - and he eventually dumps Helen, anyway. Ten years of war caused because an over-sexed brat couldn't keep his pecker in his pants. The story is loaded with ironies, and I like it that Marcus and Petronius are aware of the ironies but still focused on producing thrilling bloody and sexy spectacle for their loyal audience.)

    1. Thanks for your positive response to the long awaited tableaux of Achilles and Patroclus.
      As you previously raised the matter of interactions between slaves and masters in terms of getting them to 'do the business' I though people might be interested in how Petronius and Marcus went about the matter.
      The boy Varus, as Marcus explains to Aurarius (who will start taking a more prominent part in the story) the deal is not as bad as it might seem for Varus - taking into account the Roman concept of morality and justice.
      As for a introducing Hector and Achilles - maybe for a later Ludi - but these re-enactments of legendary events in the arena were, as far as literary evidence indicates, usually quite brief.
      And - sorry to spoil things for you - but this has been so long in preparation that we cannot let Varus escape the consequences of his actions.
      The real climax of this Ludi, however, is the torture and execution of Glykon, Meanlaus, Petram and - in particular Servius - who have all been languishing in cells in the Ludus - awaiting their fate.


  2. suggestion - while Titus is out looking at the landscape, you might use JMWTurner's 19th century painting of the ruins of Baiae. Descriptions of the place in Marcus' time are exciting - a setting for a Roman Great Gatsby

    1. Thanks very much for the advice. While I am very familiar with Turner's work, (a truly great artist) I can't quite place the image - but I will check it out as soon as possible.