Greek and Roman-Chapter II: The Greek Meets the Roman
THE journey to Rome was most adventurous for Titus. It took several weeks at sea and Titus, being a Greek and living by the Aegean Sea, was an expert seaman. His father was also but Lampon and Deucalion were usually found having their breakfast and supper pouring into a bucket.
Titus always felt sorry for them. But what can I do? They’re only slaves, Titus thought to himself. After several days, Lampon and Deucalion only puked when they smelt either fish or strong wine. Just can’t take the smell, unlike we Romans, Titus laughed in his head.
When they finally reached the port of Rome, Titus couldn’t believe his eyes. People, many people, walked up and down the streets of Rome with their heads held high and eyes filled with dignity. Titus saw several boys his age walking from school. Their togas dragged on the floor and one boy even tripped over his.
“Father, why don’t I have a toga?”
Antonius’s eyes widened, which was very frequent. “Merciful Mars! I forgot to get you a toga!” Antonius and Titus walked off the boat, Lampon and Deucalion not far with luggage and gifts for Antonius’s brother. As soon as all of the items were off the ship, Antonius sat on a bench and breathed out a long sigh. Titus sat next to him and leaned his head against his father’s shoulder. Suddenly, Antonius’s back stood straight up and he stuck his forefinger in the air.
“Ah-hah!” He exclaimed. “Why didn’t I think of it before?”
“What? What?” Titus asked, almost jumping out of his seat.
Antonius stood straight up from his seat. “I think… I think I still have my toga from when my brother and I were boys. Would that be okay with you, Titus?”
Titus nodded. “Of course, Father. I don’t mind.”
Antonius clasped his hand on Titus’s back. “Great. Now, Titus, get ready-for Rome!”
It took about seven minutes to get to Uncle Flavius’s house. Even though Antonius hadn’t been in Rome for many years, he still knew his way around Rome. When the four persons entered the Forum, Antonius stopped in awe. Titus could even hear him whisper, “Oh, Forum, how I have missed you.”
Uncle Flavius lived in one of the richest houses in the city. When they got to the mansion, a doorkeeper stood at the door. He wore light armor and thick-leather sandal boots. He had no smile or pride in his eyes, just stubbornness and contempt.
Antonius walked up to the doorkeeper and said, “Good afternoon. I am
Antonius, formerly of Rome, currently resides in Greece—”
“I’m sorry but I can’t let you in,” said the doorkeeper stubbornly. “Senator Flavius is enjoying a lavish feast at this minute, and cannot see anyone right now. Please leave, or I will have to throw you and your companions out to the streets!”
“Junius? Who is that?” said a voice from within the mansion.
“Flavius? Is that you?” Antonius called from outside. “Please tell this dirty dog from the gutters that I am Antonius Julius Vinicius, son of Julius Vinicius-” Antonius eyed the doorkeeper and said more loudly “-And brother of Flavius Tullius Vinicius.”
There was a pause of silence. Titus wondered what was going through the doorkeeper’s head. His face was full of shock. Finally, a man—who almost looked identical to Antonius but much older—stepped from behind the door. He wore a white toga with purple borders and at the sides of his head his hairs were already turning gray.
“Brother?” he seemed to whisper.
“Yes,” Antonius answered.
The man stepped closer, then exclaimed: “Brother!” The man ran up to Antonius and gave him a big hug. Antonius hugged him back and they both laughed and cried. Titus couldn’t understand. Why would you cry after seeing a sibling? I wouldn’t cry if I hadn’t seen Zoe in thirteen years. Hmph! I wouldn’t even shed a tear!
* * *
AFTER the ‘touching’ reunion, Flavius invited his guests inside his house. The walls were gigantic and the hallway was decorated with paintings and beautifully carved busts of Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus and even one of Flavius himself. Uncle Flavius smiled as he passed his own likeness. Conceded, Titus thought to himself.
But that was nothing compared to the dining room. There were dozens of dishes of food: bread, cheese, hare, pig, beef, goat, chicken, fish, pigeon, fruits, nuts, wine and many more that Titus had ever seen.
Sitting on couches where men in togas, also bordered in purple. They ate, drank and acted richly, as if they had been doing this all their lives. They had been talking until the guests entered the room. A man smiled and said drunkenly:
“And who is this, Flavius?”
Flavius cleared his throat and announced, “This is my younger brother, Antonius, who has come home for a holiday from Greece. He has been teaching there for quite some time and has now returned for several weeks with his son, Titus. They will be staying here during their stay in Rome.”
All the men nodded as if this seemed well with them. The man who looked the most drunk of them all pointed in Titus’s direction. “Hey, I think I have a daughter your age. She’s with the women in the ladies’ room. Cassia, darling, would you be a dear and fetch the girl for me.”
“Yes, Sir,” said the pretty slave girl, who had been playing music until her current instructions. She quickly left and headed past Titus. He could smell perfume strongly on her as she passed by.
Awe great! Titus moaned. Now I have to have a playmate. And a girl for one. At least at the Academy, we boys are allowed to tussle and wrestle; but a girl, nuh-huh! Titus sighed out loud.
“Tired, my boy?” Antonius asked. Titus nodded.
Flavius threw both arms around his brother and nephew. “Now, dear brother, please sit, sit. As soon as Titus leaves with Manlius’s daughter, I will bring in the singers and dancers for our entertainment.” Flavius muffled a laugh by putting his hand over his mouth, what he actually tried to conceal, was vomit. But, his hand didn’t serve its
purpose and vomit fell all over the floor.
“Ewe!” Flavius cried at his own lunch. “SLAVES! Bring me some towels, this instant!”
“Yes, Sir,” said the male slaves as they hurried their master away from the dining room.
Antonius looked at Titus. “Son, why don’t you stand out in the hallway,” he said. “I don’t want you to do the same, right?”
“Yes, Father,” said Titus. As if I wanted to stay, he thought as he walked down the hall.
When he had reached a place where the smell of vomit had decreased, he placed his back against the wall. He breathed slowly and then slumped to the ground. He did this until he saw a shadow overhanging him. He lifted his head and saw the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.
Her hair was dark and thick, her eyes a deep chestnut. Her skin was oiled and the color of olive, and her smile seemed to peek out of those small dimples. Titus forgot how to speak.
“Hello,” she said.
“H-H-Hello,” Titus managed to let out. The girl giggled.
“You’re the boy my father wanted me to attend, right?”
“Well it’s good to meet you. I’m Flora, by the way.”
Titus stood on his feet. He even tried going tippy-toe. “My name is Titus.”
Flora laughed. “Titus? Well that’s a funny name.”
Titus’s face turned red. “Not as funny as Flora.” Now his face was even deeper red. Flora laughed once more. “Actually, it means ‘flower’, which in my terms is very pretty.”
“Sorry,” Titus apologized. “I was just embarrassed. It is pretty. Almost as pretty as—”
“Anyway,” Flora continued, “my Father wants me to take you around your uncle’s garden. Will that be alright with you?”
“Yes,” Titus nodded, “Very alright, indeed.”
“Great!” Flora clasped her hand in Titus’s. “We’ll be back before they know it.” I hope before I know it, Titus thought to himself as he was pulled along by Flora’s strong hand.
“So… Do you come here often?” Titus asked as they walked past different halls. Flora stopped walking—to Titus’s relief—and placed her finger on her chin.
“Um… not really… Just when my father visits his friends. I always go with the ladies and all they ever do is talk and gossip as if they have nothing better to do.” Kind of like the men and their drinking, Titus thought. “When I was little, my mother would always let me play with Flavius’s son, Lucius.” Flora stopped talking and whispered. “And if you don’t mind me saying, he’s a real spoiled brat!”
Titus smiled. This girl had some spunk in her.
* * *
WHEN the two of them had entered the garden, Titus felt as if he were on Mount Olympus. The garden looked as if the gods had made it with their own hands. Flowers, many flowers, were planted on each side. And trees— lots of them. Some Titus had never seen. All he needed was for Zeus and Head gods of Olympia to float down in front of them and Titus would be sure that Flora was an angel and she had taken him to Heaven.
But, no Olympians or gods floated down into the garden, nor did Flora spread majestic wings and her hair turn gold. But it didn’t matter to Titus. He looked at Flora, who was also looking at him.
“Yes,” she said, “The garden is beautiful.” Flora walked ahead to a stone bench, reminding Titus that Flora wasn’t holding his hand. She sat with her hand on her lap. “So, what do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” Titus said. “Weren’t we supposed to just stay around here?”
Flora laughed. “Yeah, but don’t you want to, you know, get out?”
Titus looked confused. “I don’t get what you mean?”
“Like, you know, get out. Of this garden so you can see more of Rome.”
Titus breathed out a sigh. Whew! I thought she wanted to sneak inside Uncle Flavius’s room or something like that! “Okay. Let’s go!”
“Great.” Flora walked over to the wall which surrounded the garden. She walked along the wall till she came to a bush by the corner of the wall. She bent down and started pulling away the leaves. What is she doing? Titus thought. Flora kept doing this until the bush was almost bare. Then, Titus saw the hole which seemed to escape the sight of Flavius or his slaves.
Before Titus could say a word, Flora ducked inside the hole. Titus didn’t know what to do and so he waited. And waited. And waited until Flora’s olive face peeked out of the hole.
“What are you waiting for?” she said as he grabbed a hold of his arms and pulled in thru the wall. It didn’t take long for you to be uncomfortable but it was over before Titus knew it. In about half a second, Titus was standing out in the warm Roman sun, and people were walking around him. Titus stood there as Flora covered the hole with extra stones that stood in the street. When she had finished, she smiled and said:
“So, where do you want to go to? The Forum? Colosseum? I’ve even been to the Circus Maximus.”
Titus’s eyes grew wide. “Really?” Flora nodded. “My father told me all about it. He said he went there once when he was boy.” Titus looked on ahead as if he could see the Circus Maximus from where he stood.
Titus continued, “He said the horses were muscular and their manes were fair. The charioteers were richly dressed with tunics, capes and their family colors.” Titus sighed. “I wish I were a charioteer.”
Flora nodded. “It sounds exciting.” Her face suddenly became worried. “Of course, because I’ve been there and seen all of the charioteers and their horses… Anyway, why don’t we visit the Forum?” Flora quickly bolted down the street, leaving Titus. She turned her head, her hair spinning in the air.
“Come, Titus. Don’t be a slow-poke!”
Titus grinned. “Don’t worry, I’m coming!”