Greek and Roman-Chapter I: A Visit to Rome
TITUS awoke from his deep slumber. He took in a deep breath of the salted air. He could hear the waves, as they fell upon the rocks. Even though he lived more than hour from the sea by walking, the sea seemed to surround the whole house.
As soon as his eyes were used to the brightness of the early morning sun, shining through his window, he saw his little five-year-old sister’s face. Zoe had her father’s light hair and her mother’s dark eyes. She seemed to be smiling for eternality until Titus stated:
Zoe pointed out of the doorway. “Father said that as soon as you wake up, you were supposed to speak to him.”
Titus asked, “How soon?” sitting up on his bed.
“As soon as possible,” Zoe answered.
Titus smiled at his sister. “Is that what Father said?”
Zoe giggled and nodded, her brown curls jiggling. “Yah-huh!”
Titus leapt off the side of his bed. “Alright, I’m coming. Hey Zoe, what’s for breakfast?” Zoe smiled.
“I’m not supposed to tell,” she let the “ll” in “tell” extend longer than necessary. Sisters, Titus thought to himself. His bare feet seemed to glide across the stone floor. He followed Zoe’s long hair till they entered their father’s study.
Their father, Antonius, was a Roman by birth. He was sent to educate sons of Roman senators in Athens . He was supposed to be stationed in Greece for only five years. But that was withheld after seeing a barker’s beautiful, and young, daughter. Antonius was twenty-seven at the time and young Selene was only eighteen. Antonius hastily arranged the wedding and in one month, the couple was wed.
Now, thirteen years later, they had two children. The eldest, Titus, age thirteen, and Zoe, age five. Antonius still lived in Greece, not only because it paid well but because Rome was getting very out of hand in the year 74 A.D.
Even though she was young, Selene soon learned how to manage several scores of servants and slaves. She only had a maid servant to cook for her and her father but now she had TEN times that! Titus and Zoe weren’t what you would say ‘spoiled’ since, like other children, they had occasions of tantrums as toddlers and infants but they were always disciplined in the right way.
However, Antonius was Roman; Titus barely remembered any of his father’s Roman background. As soon after he and Selene were married, Antonius fully absorbed himself into the Greek world. He even disposed his Roman toga and placed himself in his own designed himation.
The only time when their father would show even a hint of being a Roman was when they sacrificed their animals at the altar in the outer courtyard. Instead of calling the gods by their Greek names, Antonius would call them by their Roman names. For instance, the first time Titus witness the daily service was when he was seven years old. When Antonius gave burned offerings to Athena, Guardian of Athens, he declared:
“Oh great Minerva, Keeper and Guardian of Athens, I plead for your wisdom to come down on my dear son, Titus, and for him to use your wisdom for Rome.” When Antonius had finished the offering, Titus prayed earnestly to Zeus, the King of the gods, that if he would spare them from his father’s foolishness, he would never be naughty again! Zeus seemed to have heard him because they did not get struck by his legendary lightning bolts and Titus lived for six more years.
Although Antonius believed in the Roman gods, Selene still believed in her own gods. She even had two busts of Demeter, the goddess of wheat and barley and Apollo, the god of the Sun and Music. Every morning she prayed and bowed down to the busts for at least an hour without a rest. Titus never understood why she did this but it wasn’t him to question his mother.
Titus thought of this as he passed the same busts this morning as Zoe showed him to their parents’ room. Titus looked at Zoe and she looked at him. They waited for their parents to call them into their room. And so they waited. And waited. And waited till finally, the impatient Zoe called: “May we come in now?”
There was silence.
At last, a feminine voice came from within saying, “Sorry, dear. Please, come in.”
The two children scurried into the room which they occasionally entered. For some reason, every time they came into their parents’ room it seemed as if it was the first time. As they stepped into the room, the one and only thing that caught the young children’s eyes was a full sized statue of Athena. Her beautifully carved helmet on top of her head was first thing you see, then down a bit to her majestic eyes, which were stubborn but kind at the same time. Then down again to her shield which had an owl engraved. Her army sandals till you gazed at beautiful feet. The feet that were said to walk on Mother Earth and the same feet which ran across Mother Earth and fought against her own brothers and sisters in the Great Trojan War. Right at that moment Titus felt as if he was going to cry.
“I know. She is breath-taking,” said his mother.
Titus spun around and saw his parents watching their son beholding the magnificent statue of Athena. He looked at his father who he rarely saw. His dark curly hair was unlike Titus’s blondish-brown hair and dark brown color of his father’s irises were opposite of his son’s pure green eyes. But they also had similarities: like their broad shoulders, strong muscles and solid body. And the one that made them most alike were the way they talked. Many citizens of Athens stated that Antonius was the most moving speaker they had ever heard except for maybe Socrates. His tall Roman stature showed slaves his library of knowledge and to the rich, respect.
“Yes Mother, she is indeed!” Titus exclaimed.
Antonius nodded. “Yes indeed. Minerva is the most magnificent goddess
I’ve ever seen-”
“But you’ve never really seen her, Father,” Zoe butted in.
Antonius laughed. He placed his daughter on the knee of his himation.
“Alright, Minerva is the most magnificent goddess I’ve ever seen as a statue. Hm, Titus?”
Titus barely looked at his father. He was afraid that Athena would turn him into a goat with a thousand legs for calling her by her Roman name. But, Antonius was still intact when Titus looked his father in the eye again.
“Now,” said Antonius, “instead of talking about how the gods look let’s talk about their blessings!”
Titus watched his father questionably. “What do you mean?” he asked.
Antonius smiled. “The gods seemed to be pleased with my work; because I have been given a holiday since Delos has finally learned all of his Greek Alphabet by heart.” Antonius gave a very heavy sigh and muttered, “It took me long enough to teach that boy how to sit.”
“I know my Greek Alphabet!” Zoe leapt off her father’s lap, stood tall and ran through the whole Greek Alphabet:
“Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Nu, Xi, Omicron, Pi-” Zoe stopped to giggle, but stopped abruptly as Selene glared at her firmly. “-Rho, Sigma, Tau, Upsilon, Phi, Chi, Psi, Omega!” She shouted victoriously as Antonius and Selene clapped for her. She bowed as she had seen in a play once during a festival.
“Very good Zoe,” Antonius commented. He slowly stopped clapping as a serious grin crept on his face. Titus finally saw that this was the same expression he had when he had a—
“Surprise!” Titus exclaimed out loud. “You have a surprise for us!”
Antonius shook his head. “My son, it is very strange how the gods gave us different facial features but the same mind. Yes my child I do have a surprise-for you!” he said, pointing at Titus.
“Me?” Titus enquired. “Me only?”
“But Father,” Zoe whined, “Why not for me?”
“Because, dear darling, I have a surprise for you,” Selene stated, taking her pouting daughter into her arms. Zoe pricked her head so her pitiful eyes could plead into her mother’s eyes.
“W-W-What is it?” Zoe sobbed, rubbing her eyes.
Selene whispered something inside her daughter’s ear which lit up her eyes until they shown like Helios’s Fiery Chariot. Zoe leaped off her mother’s lap and a smile seemed to be stuck on her grinning face.
“Now, dear darling, could you leave so your father and I may talk to Titus?” Selene said, though it sounded more like an order. Zoe groaned, but left the room quickly.
Antonius turned his gaze to Titus. “Now listen here, Son. I need you to do me favor. Can you do it?”
“Alright. The favor is to pack your bags; I’m taking you to Rome!”
Titus’s mouth dropped till it felt like it hit the floor. He couldn’t believe his ears and it took him a while to process the exciting news. “W-We’re going to Rome? You and me?”
Antonius nodded, a smile sticking out of his face. Dimples the size of walnuts stuck into his cheeks and his eyes danced like Priestess of Demeter during a lavished harvest. “Yes and we’re leaving tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow! Really? Oh, thank you Father, thank you!” Titus was about to hug his Father when he suddenly stopped. “But why? Why are we both going?”
“Well, for two reasons,” said Antonius. “One, I haven’t been home for several years. I have recently received a letter from your Uncle Flavius to come and visit. And the second reason was for you to come with me, and experience the might and power of Rome.” Antonius gave Titus an amusing wink. “Well, what are you waiting for? Give your old father a hug!”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” Titus jumped up and down and ran over and embraced his father, kissed him on the dimpled cheek, then mooched his mother.
“Calm down, calm down.” Antonius held his child gently by his arms. “You should be thanking the gods, not me.”
“Yes, Father, I shall. I shall thank Hermes for his good fortune, and Athena, for giving Zeus wisdom to let us have this opportunity!”
Antonius smiled. “Yes,” he said, “Mercury and Jupiter have been good to us.” Antonius waited for Titus to go pale again, but the boy’s excitement overcame his fear for the gods. “Now, wash up and get ready for breakfast. Ceres, the goddess of Harvest has given your uncle’s fields much harvest this year. So today, for breakfast, we have cakes… with honey!”
“Honey cakes!” Zoe stuck her head inside the room. Titus and his parents knew she never left the door way. Since this was a happy occasion, Selene didn’t scold her. Instead, she felt happy and maybe even cheerful. She had a spring in her step, and her chiton spun around her like rain. Titus could even smell perfume on her.
After breakfast, Titus and Antonius left for school. There, Titus practiced his sentences and Latin and how to write Greek on his wax tablet. His teacher-which was his father-would usually pick him out of the rest of his students.
“Titus. What is ‘gray wolf’ in Latin?”
Titus didn’t even have to ponder about it and called back, “Canis lupus.”
“Correct,” Antonius smiled at his son. “Now, Delos, what is ‘the wolf sees the child’ in Greek?”
Delos jerked his head up from his daydreaming and stuttered, “Huh? ‘the wolf sees the child’? Um… ‘Ho lukos… lepeis… to tekou?’” Delos sighed as he saw Antonius sadly shake his head.
“No, no, no, no. You almost had it but it is exactly ‘Ho lukos lepeis to teknon.’ You said, ‘the wolf sees the children of’. You must learn your endings better next time. Understand?”
Delos pouted but nodded. Titus turned his head to face his father again. Even though Father may be strict, I know he’s really smart, Titus thought to himself as Antonius continued with his lesson. It’s a good thing I’m his son. My greatest luck is that I’m glad I’m half Roman. And half Greek too!
* * *
FOR Titus, tomorrow came a little too soon. Selene, the goddess of the Moon, seemed eager for her brother, Helios, to start the day so Antonius and Titus could begin their journey. Antonius and Titus started so early that it was before sun rose. Antonius packed a sac full of fruits, nuts and several cakes for Titus, himself and their two slaves, Lampon and Deucalion. Lampon was usually Titus’s paidagogos and also his tutor, and acted like an older brother to Titus. Antonius kissed his wife and daughter, which meant for Titus to do the same. Lampon and Deucalion said good-bye to their mistress and ‘little mistress’.
“Good-bye Mother. I’ll miss you,” Titus called as they left the doorway. Selene had several tears in her eyes but she didn’t let out any sobs. Zoe was too tired to think of anything but to go back to sleep.
And so the journey began to Rome.