Chapter XXXV - Romæ

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017

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

  to view images full size open in a new tab

© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017

On arrival back at the villa everyone was just anxious to settle down in a nice warm bath - and then have a change of clothes, and a brief moment to relax.
It had been a long, hot, dusty and tiring day.
Fortunately, as the Ludi came to and end, the sun was low in the sky, and on the verge of setting.
Adonios and Aurarius soon discarded their formal clothes and then, stripped down to their loincloths, were busy preparing tasty little morsels for Marcus, along with some wine (well diluted with water) - while he relaxed in his luxurious, marble lined bath.
Of course, as soon as there was some food around, Glaux was 'tiptoeing' around, (do owls have toes ?), trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, as he tried to discover if there were any tasty morsels left unguarded.
This, however, was only a brief interlude for Marcus and the others in the villa, as there was a banquet arranged for the evening with, of course, Titus as the guest of honour.
Even if Titus had not been a house-guest, however, it was the custom at the villa to have a celebratory meal on the evening after a successful Ludi.
And undoubtedly this Ludi had been successful, as Marcus had achieved two important 'goals'.
The first, and the most important, was to have enacted his public retribution on those who had conspired against the 'late Dominus', and himself.
They had all been publicly humiliated, tortured and very painfully executed - and that should be sufficient warning to anyone else who may wish to take action against the House of Gracchus.
The second goal, dating back to the days when Marcus had first met Petronius, when they were both slaves of the 'late Dominus', was to stage a tableaux based on episodes from Homer's 'Iliad'.
With these two goals achieved - one 'political' and one 'personal', Marcus could now, hopefully, relax - and concentrate on taking control of the vast assets that the 'late Dominus' had bequeathed to him, and developing his 'political' standing in the capital.
As soon as everyone had bathed, snacked and changed their clothes, in response to requests from slave-boys sent to their rooms, they made their way down to one of the large Triclinia for the 'cena'.
A Triclinium, (from the Greek τρικλίνιον) , as its name suggests, describes a dining room consisting of three (tri) couches.
Each couch (κλίνη, klinē) was large enough to accommodate three diners - so an average Triclinium would allow for nine guests.
By the time of our story, however, dinner parties often numbered many more guests, so some of the Triclinia at Marcus' Villa were quite large, and accommodated large groups of diners.
For the 'cena' to celebrate the Ludi Marcus had invited Titus, Terentius, Novius, Petronius, Demetrius, the legate Marcellus,Vespasian's two senior Tribunes, two priests from Cumae, and two magistrates from Baiae.
This number of guests required a number of couches and, of course, certain individuals could not share couches.
The priests, for instance, needed their own couch, as did the tribunes, and Marcellus and Petronius would share a couch.
Titus, of course, would be given his own couch, and Marcus would share his couch with Demetrius
Terentius and Novius would share a couch - being of similar (and very high status), and so would the magistrates.
There was also the question of how the couches were arranged, and Marcus' couch would be next to Titus, and Terentius and Novius would be next to Marcus on the opposite side - etc.
As always, the Romans were obsessed with status.
Marcus was served exclusively by Aurarius, as he was generally generally considered to be the most attractive of Marcus' many slave-boys, (although Adonios was Marcus' favourite), - and by this time Aurarius' manners had become decidedly more 'polished'.
Titus was served by Adonios (with Glaux), to whom Titus had taken a particular liking.
After the meal there would be the 'comissatio', when drinks would be served, and individuals could move around the room and indulge in more private and personal conversations.
The Triclinium opened out onto a beautiful Peristyle garden, with flower beds, and two fountains, and many of the guests, after the meal, took their drinks with them into the cool of the flower scented evening - while the slave boys waited in the shadows, between the columns, ever watchful of the guest's needs.
It was during the 'comissatio' that Novius diffidently approached Marcus.
The Peristyle Garden
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017
Marcus was looking out over the Peristyle garden, deep in thought, remembering the night that he had - what he had come to believe was - a vision of the god Apollo.
That 'vision' had been on the night that the 'late Dominus' had died, and the night that Marcus had felt that he had been finally left alone in the world.
"I think that I know what you are thinking - Dominus....", Novius said, quietly.
"Am I that easy to read ?", Marcus replied, smiling at the old man.
"It would be easy to read the mind of anyone who was in your position - and had gone through all the events that you have experienced since the day that I first met you - when you were a frightened young teenager.".
Marcus smiled again.
"Yes, Novius, I suppose it might be easy.".
There was a momentary silence.
"May I be frank with you, Marcus ?", Novius asked, dropping the title 'Dominus', and using Marcus' first name.
"Of course." Marcus replied, "You are my most trusted adviser."
"More trusted than Petronius ?", Novius asked, pertinently.
"Petronius is young, as I am.
I trust him implicitly, but he has not lived long enough to have a deep knowledge of the world.
You, however, are like Gnaeus."
"You mean your 'father' - ", Novius interrupted.
"Yes - of course... My father." Marcus quickly responded, correcting himself - and stammering with embarrassment.
"So, Marcus - my dear friend, if i may call you such - I sense that you feel that you are very alone."
Marcus nodded, shifting his gaze to the statues in the centre of the moonlit garden.
"You had young Cleon.
Your first love, I believe.
And he relived you of your anxiety and loneliness, and helped you to deal with the pain of losing your parents - and your loss of  freedom."
But when you became free, young Cleon turned against you - and now he is dead."
"Yes...", Marcus replied, almost choking on the word.
"And then there was Petronius,", Novius continued, "but when you gained your freedom you then felt you needed to free Petronius, and so your love remained 'unconsummated' - I believe - as it would not be proper for you to have a relationship with your own freedman - a boy of the same age as yourself - although many do follow that path - to the derision of their peers."
"Yes." Marcus nodded.
"And now you are 'dominus'," Novius continued, "and will go to Rome, and become a senator - and a friend of Titus, and his father, Vespasian - and people will gossip and wonder - why has this young man no wife - or even any female slaves to satisfy him."
Marcus looked at Novius startled, and it was obvious to the old man that his dominus had not thought of this matter.

Roman Version of a Hellenistic Faun
© Copyright Vittorio Carvelli 2017
adapted - with permission - from original
images by Zac Sawyer © Copyright 2016
"So you see, Marcus, even if you prefer handsome young fauns to nymphs, for the sake of propriety you must take a wife - from a good patrician family, and one that will cement your standing in the senate, and Roman society."
Fauns - (derived from the Greek σάτυρος satyros) - were conflated in the popular and poetic imagination with Latin spirits of woodland, and with the rustic Greek god Pan. As Dionysiac creatures they are lovers of wine, and they are ready for every physical pleasure. In the period of our story the terms Faun and Nymph were classical euphemisms for boys and girls - in the sexual sense. It was the common view among (mainly Greek) physicians, and the Roman upper classes in general, that it was essential for a healthy, virile male to indulge himself with both nymphs and fauns - for the sake of his health.
"Now, my boy, when you take a bride, which I strongly advise, there is no need for you to 'over exert' yourself with this young girl, particularly if you find the task less than attractive - and remember that you will still have your pick of attractive young slave-boys."
By then Marcus was listening with rapt attention.
"Which brings me to Adonios and Aurarius.
Marcus sat on one of the pale marble benches placed conveniently round the garden.
"I have known many attractive slave-boys in my long life, for I too am attracted to young fauns, but I have never come across such beautiful boys as those two.
But - it has been rumoured - that you never use them for your pleasure - and the poor boys think that they do not please you.
You also are very young to be their master - and are, as I remember from when I first met you, very attractive.
The boys, and particularly Adonios are besotted with you - but they see the ghost of young Cleon forever standing in their way.
And here you are, feeling alone - with all your feelings unexpressed, and yet in your very own private apartments is the answer to your loneliness and frustration.
So, if I may advise you on so personal a matter, let these boys show their love for you, and take your pleasure with them - and if they do not meet with your approval - which I doubt - then in Rome you will surely find beautiful young fauns who will undoubtedly satisfy your needs."
Novius stood back hesitantly, hoping that he had not abused his position as adviser to his dominus.
"You speak very truthfully, and wisely, Novius.", Marcus replied, after a few moments thought -
"And I will undoubtedly act accordingly - but I shall require your further advice with regard to choosing  wife - as I have no knowledge of such matters."
"Of course, Dominus.
My advice is always available to you on all matters within my competence.'
At that moment Terentius approached Marcus, which was just as well, as the conversation between Marcus and Novius had a reached a somewhat embarrassing pause.
"Dominus...", Terentius interjected hesitantly.
"I am sorry to interrupt your conversation with Novius, but I simply wanted to congratulate you on the magnificent Games that you staged today - a truly appropriate event to mark the beginning of a new era."
"Well, it is far from all my own doing,", Marcus replied, somewhat embarrassed.
"As you doubtless know, I always lean very heavily on the Master of the Arena, Petronius.", Marcus explained.
"Of course.", Terentius replied, "So please pass on my congratulations to Petronius."
"Indeed I will.", Marcus replied.
"But now, Dominus, I am afraid I will have to leave this gathering as I need a good night's sleep - as there will be much to do tomorrow when we leave for Rome."
"Of course.", Marcus replied.
"And I too must get my sleep, so goodnight to you both."
And with that, Marcus gave his farewells to Titus, and his other guests, (and pasing on to Petronius Terntius congratulations as he did so), and accompanied by Adonios (with Glaux) and Aurarius, he made his way to his private apartments.
As soon as Marcus left, the party broke up.
No one, not even Titus Vespasianus, would 'party on' once Marcus had retired - as from then on silence would rule in the vast villa complex until it was known that Marcus had awoken.

Now Marcus was far from 'stupid', and it took very little thought for him to realise that Adonios and Aurarius had obviously spoken to Novius.
Of course they would not have approached Terentius.
While Terentius was a most loyal friend to Marcus, his exalted position made him, to some considerable degree, unapproachable to everyone except Marcus and Petronius.
Novius, on the other hand, was more like a respected 'uncle' and, superficially at least, kind-hearted and amenable.
He would have sympathised with the boy's situation, and would have been concerned to avoid any of the jealousies and frustrations that had (probably unintentionally) led to the deaths of Cleon and Glykon, (not to mention Servius).
All three had been enamoured of Marcus - he simply had that effect on people.
All three felt they had been thwarted, and all three had turned against Marcus - which then resulted in their eventual downfall.
But because of this, Marcus had shut himself off from all emotional attachments - even including his beloved Petronius - and now this was eating away at him - body and soul.
Novius had seen all of this, and had, for that reason, accepted the request of Adonios and Aurarius to speak to their master.

to be continued.....

No comments:

Post a Comment