Greek and Roman-Chapter VI: The Sword
TITUS looked at his Uncle Flavius. He was excited and scared; excited from seeing a real trial and scared because his Uncle Flavius would act differently when he that Judge Senator Flavius.
Several servants carried Uncle Flavius in a sedan. A curtain covered him on both sides so no one could see him. The sedan moved towards the Rostra, a platform for speakers to address the crowd. It was also used for trials. When Flavius stepped out of the sedan, the mob started to quiet down after hearing that a ‘Christian’ was about to go on trial. Uncle Flavius stood where he was, the end of his toga was held by his arm.
“Isn’t this exciting?” asked Marcus. He, Titus, Flora, Quintus and Drusus were all there, waiting for the trial to commence. “I can’t wait to see what happens. How about you, Titus? Have you ever seen your uncle as a judge?”
“No,” Titus answered.
“Me neither. I guess this is a new experience for both of us. Look, the announcer is about to speak—”
“Romans, foreigners, freeman. Stepping forward is the Outlawed Christian, Claudius Gaius.”
Flavius looked down at Claudius. His eyes narrowed and looked distastefully at the rugged-looking man. “Claudius Publius Gaius, you have been convicted of being a Christian. This means that you have not given burnt offering and incense to the Roman gods and Cæsar. It also means that you have been sheltering other fugitives and outlawed refugees. How do you plead?”
The whole Forum became silent. There was a long pause and it seemed as if the whole world was watching Claudius. Titus believed he could see perspiration flowing from his brow to his cheeks.
Titus saw that Uncle Flavius was getting impatient and his belief was correct because Uncle Flavius abruptly barked: “Mr. Gaius, would you please tell us how you plead or else I will have to take matters into my own hands.”
“My plea is,” Claudius interjected “is guilty.”
A wave of horrified moans soared from the crowd as the Aegean Sea on the Athenian cliffs. Angry voices flew from the crowd like fiery darts and it seemed that the mob would start to riot. Uncle Flavius held his hand. His voice sounded as if he were trying not to yell in anger, but talk in gentle tones. His eyes were closed and he didn’t even look at Claudius. Titus saw veins sprouting out of his neck and his face turn fiery
“Now, now, wait a minute. Claudius,” Uncle Flavius eyed the man mysteriously, “why do you plead guilty?”
Claudius turned towards the crowd behind him and said defiantly: “Senator Flavius, Romans and fellow Christians, who I know are here. I plead guilty because it is true that I have not burnt any offerings to the pagan and heathen gods or to Cæsar—” the crowd gave a horrified shriek “—and I am a Christian. Claudius swiftly twirled himself around and he said in a solemn way, “I was going to say not guilty for being called an outlaw. But then, I remembered why I’m really here and my final decision is to plead guilty.”
A hush seem to float over the crowd. Titus turned from Claudius to Flavius. That was when Titus realized that Uncle Flavius’s face was as red as blood. His fist was clenched and his teeth were grinding against their fellow brethren.
“HOW DARE YOU!” Flavius screamed. He walked down the steps with hard stomps. He leaned over and stuck his face in-front of Claudius. Flavius sneered in Claudius’s face and gave him a deadly stare until Claudius lifted his eyes and looked dead straight into face of the Senator. “You should be ashamed!” Flavius whispered deadly. “Do you know what we do to those who are bold?” Flavius looked toward the crowd and shouted:
“Do you know what we do to those who defy Rome and Cæsar?”
The crowd seemed to refuse to answer.
“We send them to the lions, don’t we?” Flavius shouted. The crowd roared with horrific shock and delight. “Don’t we? Of course we do! We throw them into the lions!”
The mob shouted their agreements: “Yes we do!”
“Feed the lions! Deliver the Christians into their jaws!”
“Take him away,” Titus heard someone near to him cry.
“No! No! Leave him alone,” Flora screamed. She tried to stick her head out from the crowd.
“Leave him alone!” she looked at Titus next to her. “Titus, do something,” she said earnestly.
“Like what? What can I do?” he asked.
Flora stopped for a moment. “Help me by shouting for his release.”
Titus nodded, and they continued to yell for Claudius to be free: “Stop, Senator Flavius! Please withhold your condemnation.”
“What are you, Titus, a professor? Just give him the facts. Leave him be!” Flora cried. But Uncle Flavius didn’t hear her, and he walked off and sat in the sedan. The slaves began to walk away by the Via Sacra.
♦ ♦ ♦
IN a couple of hours, the mob had begun to settle. The band of children had left the scene and each were now going home. Only Titus stayed with Flora and Marcus as they walked back to their mansion.
Flora had been silent for the whole time they walked home until they reached the mansion’s door. She turned towards Titus, hugged him, and said, “Thanks Titus, but… well, don’t send any more servants, okay? I just want to be left alone.”
Titus nodded. “Agreed.”
Marcus waved good-bye to Titus for his sister and himself, and in a heartbeat they were gone through the door.
♦ ♦ ♦
IT was a week before Titus saw Flora again. He was going out in the garden for some for some quiet time after talking with Uncle Flavius and Father. He was even thinking of doing a little bird watching when she appeared to be sitting on the stone bench.
“Flora?” Titus said with disbelief. “What are you doing here?”
Flora put her finger to her lips. “Shh!” she said quietly, “No one’s supposed to know I’m here."
Here,” she said giving Titus a scroll. Titus placed the scroll he was going to read on the ground and took the scroll that Flora had given him. He unrolled it and gasped when he saw that it said:
To Euangelion kata Markon*
The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
As it is written in the prophets,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the━
“Flora!” Titus quietly cried, rolling the scroll quickly before anyone else could see. “How did you get this?”
Flora shrugged. “I found it in a wall.”
Titus looked at her in a way he never had before: angrily. “Flora. What. Wall?”
Flora stood up, walked up to Titus and said in the same way, “In. A. House. Mister. Myst-er-i-ous.” She turned around and dropped herself back on the bench in a defiant manner. Titus strolled up to the bench and sat next to her. He could see that she was hurt by his hostility. He had to make up with her before this went too far.
“Listen, Flora, I’m sorry. It’s just… Well, if people found out you were a Christian—”
“Who said I am?” Flora’s eyes flashed.
“No one,” Titus answered abruptly. “Only if you say so yourself.” Titus turned to look at a bird which landed on a nearby branch. “Honestly, Flora. You have been acting strange for the past couple of weeks. Fainting, anger, depression.” What’s going on with you! Titus wanted to scream but he didn’t for the sake of Flora’s privacy.
Flora heaved a sigh. “I guess I have been acting weird. I guess I’m just confused. It’s just, I’ve never realized how gruesome we Romans are, you know? Sentencing death, mocking boldness; murdering children and killing adults.” Flora shook her head slightly back and forth. “It doesn’t make any sense.” Flora shifted her gaze to Titus. “Does it.”
Titus shrugged. “I… I don’t know Flora… I really don’t know.
♦ ♦ ♦
FOR the rest of the day, Titus and Flora explored his uncle’s mansion. There must have been more than a hundred rooms in that large house and at least twenty baths.
“If I had all of these baths, I bet I could set up my own bathing business,” said Flora.
“How much do you have?” Titus asked.
“Eighteen,” Flora answered.
Titus let out a low whistle. “That’s a lot. We only have two in my house; one for my family and one for the slaves.”
Flora picked up a strand of her brown hair and flicked it behind her ear. “Well, that’s how things are in Rome. Anyway, let’s keep exploring.”
“No, I’m going back to my room before we get caught.”
“Just because… I don’t want to get caught.”
Flora’s eyes pranced mischievously. “Oh, come, softy cat. Don’t be so scared.” All of a sudden, Flora looked at her friend seriously. “Is there another reason why you don’t want to be seen with me?”
Titus could feel himself panicking. “No, no, no! It’s not that! It’s only that… well; I don’t want you to get in trouble, especially when you were with me.” He slightly hung his sand-colored head, embarrassed that he told her that. Titus almost jerked when he felt Flora put her hand on his shoulder and say:
“Thanks, but I can take care of myself. Okay?”
Titus nodded and grinned. “Sure,” he said. “Anyway, I still think I should get back; just in case Father comes home early from the visiting his old ‘chums’.” Titus turned his heels and quietly walked down the hall away from Flora. He quickly glanced from his side eye and saw Flora looking unhappy, and then see that unhappiness turn into annoyance.
“Oh alright, I’m coming,” Flora said. Titus smiled, and the two children continued down the hall.
As Titus and Flora walked back to his room, he stopped to look at a magnificent tapestry. It showed the story of Zeus (or Jupiter) fighting alongside his brethren, Poseidon (Neptune) and the grim Hades (Pluto). Zeus was in front, holding a grand lightning bolt, ready to strike his father, Cronus and the Titans. Behind him first was Poseidon, his magical trident was made to shake the earth on land and waters on the sea. Last and the very least was Hades, the miserable brother of the two Olympians who supposedly was down in the Underworld, waiting for the Three Fates to send an unfortunate soul down into the pits of the Underworld.
Titus shuddered at the thought. He remembered after he first heard of the Underworld and Hades’ evil three-headed dog named Cerberus when he was eight years old. It was during a festival, and an old man told the adults and children stories about the rise and falls heroes and the grand and noble Olympians. Titus remembered waking up, shivering and screaming because he had had a nightmare of Hades telling Cerberus to bite his throat . Selene and Antonius had hurried to his room and tried to comfort him. They told him that Cerberus was killed by Heracles years before and that if he were good, he would not go to the Underworld. Instead, he would live up high with the Olympians. But still, even after a week, Titus still couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was going there.
To stop thinking about it, Titus, looking at Zeus, said: “Amazing. It’s kind of unbelievable that these three men are still alive and watching over us. Right, Flora?” Titus turned towards Flora, who was looking at Hades. She silently gulped, as if he and she both were trying not to think of the dark world that lay beneath them. Titus was about to tell Flora that they should continue down the hall when he suddenly thought he saw something that was interesting. A curtain door was blown by a gentle, and yet mysterious breeze in the mansion. The curtain was blown, and a room was revealed. Titus squinted to see what was within.
Inside was a filthy room that looked as if it were a sort of nursery. In it was a dusty cluster of boys’ toys, a propped up bed, a painting of young Antonius and even a window which overlooked the garden. Titus slowly walked into the room, not thinking of Flora, watching at him. He dipped his head behind the doorway, and a cobweb attached itself unto the shoulder of his toga. Titus didn’t care. He strolled over to the window and stuck his head out, and then turned to look at Flora, who had entered with him.
“This is my father’s nursery,” Titus said, looking directly at her. His face was quiet and his voice hushed. “He used to play in here. Probably never dreaming that he’d become a schoolteacher and live in Greece. Maybe he thought he would become a soldier or maybe even a senator.” Titus smiled and looked distantly. “At least I know for sure, that since my father went to Greece, I can be certain that would have met you.”
Flora’s eyes, mouth and face beamed. The sun shone through the dark room, making her hair shine a deep auburn. She smiled a deep and rich grin. “Thanks, Titus,” she whispered. “Thanks very much.”
There was a hush that seemed to hover over the two children. Titus looked to the right and saw something interesting.
“It’s an old sundial,” Titus realized. “Come on; I want to see if it still works.” Titus moved towards the old time-teller, move it slightly towards the left, letting the sun hit the dial at its precise spot. The sundial showed that it was exactly four minutes passed twelve o’ clock.
“Oh no,” Flora suddenly exclaimed. “I better get home before Lucia and Martha start to worry about me again.”
“Lucia and Martha?”
“Oh, sure. Let’s go,” Titus said.
The two children were leaving the room, when Titus noticed something wrapped up in the corner of the room. It was a yard tall, wrapped in a piece of cloth and was standing upright in the corner of the nursery where Titus nor Flora could not have seen it.
Not usually being curious, Titus thought nothing of it, but a strange feeling told him to go and investigate. Without saying a word, Titus slowly walked toward the standing object and picked it up by the head. He turned to its side and placed its side in his other hand. Titus ran his fingers against the smooth cloth. It was dusty and a little tattered, but the object was otherwise hidden under the cloth.
“Is it what I think it is?” Titus whispered to himself. He knelt on the ground, his knees against the cold floor. The light from the sun crept into the room, like burglar, and warmed the whole nursery.
“Titus?” Flora walked over to where he knelt. “What is it?”
Without answering, Titus threw off the cloth, showing a brilliant old sword. It’s handle was made of hard wood, the hand-guard of silver and the blade of iron. The sword gleamed in the bright morning sun as Titus lifted it up to the see the spectacular weapon, being appraised in its former glory.
“What a beautiful sword,” Flora said with awe.
Titus smiled. “Yes it is. It was my father’s.”
Flora looked surprisingly at Titus. “Really?”
He nodded and answered, “Really. This seemed to be his first sword he ever had; the one he’d practice with as a boy of fourteen, training with his brother and my Grandfather Ambrose.”
“I’d never suspect your father as a warrior type,” Flora commented.
Titus shrugged. “Yeah, but that’s alright. He’s wise, intelligent, charming and really knows how to inspire people. I’d do anything to become as wise as him.”
Flora said, “You really look up to your father, don’t you?”
Titus nodded. “Yeah.” Then he sighed. “But the problem is, I barely ever see him; He’s always teaching in the Elementary while I train at the Academy.” Titus suddenly choked and felt his throat feel like a mountain of pebbles. “And even though I’m fourteen… I still miss him. I still miss my Father.” Titus felt his eyes begin to burn and his cheeks becoming wet. His insides began to churn, and for the first time in years, Titus began to cry. Not as in loud screams with gasps for air, but silent trickles of tears, small sniffles and quiet thoughts within oneself.
For a moment, Titus thought Flora had left the room then he felt someone leaning their weight on his shoulder. Titus looked to his side and saw Flora, sitting down with her arms clasped around her legs which were pulled against her. She was looking up at the ceiling and breathed a deep sigh, wondering what Titus wouldn't do for Antonius.