Epilogue: love

[this is the final section of this collection of stories, a single-story epilogue titled Love]

I remember sitting at the Hill of Ares in the great city of Athens. The wisemen of the city were there too, famed for their love of learning. So how surprising for us to hear a commotion one day coming from a Jew! He seemed to be peddling some god or another. Here and there you could see the furrowed brows and the puzzled looks as the greybeards humoured him and heard him out, this strange man. Continue reading “Epilogue: love”

sacrifice pt 3: the freedom of Verginia

Old Father Tiber has one more story to tell.

After the heady days of struggle against the tyrants, Rome grew fat. Our people had loved truth and freedom, now we lusted for coin, power and prestige. And so the ten decemvirs took power in our city. They were once good men who loved justice, but the taste of power poisoned the lot of them. The best and worst of them was the decemvir Appius Claudius. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 3: the freedom of Verginia”

sacrifice pt 2: …and a hand

Porsena’s men never did take our city, but they did surround her. After the stand at the Sublician Bridge, the bronze-clad ogres decided to surround us with siege works.

Now as you remember a siege camp is a dreadful place. Men sit around, waiting for the enemy to starve, while themselves starving in boredom. On the other side of the camp, in Rome herself, the men were also bored and not a little desperate. So one young man, Gaius Mucius, hatched a daring plan: to steal into the Clusian camp alone and murder dread Porsena. But fearing that the City Fathers would charge him with desertion were he found beyond the Roman lines, he informed them of the plan. With the City Fathers’ blessing he tucked a knife inside his robe and sneaked into the Clusian camp. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 2: …and a hand”

sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…

[This is the first of four parts in the penultimate chapter, titled Sacrifice.]

Now laws and oaths, as I have said, are hungry. Some gave their lives to uphold them, others gave slightly less. But laws and oaths are hungry.

Tarquin’s shadow came to Rome for the third and final time just one year after Brutus was slain. After his defeat at the forest of Arsia the old tyrant fled to Clusium. There he begged King Porsena to help him retake the seven hills. Now in your day King Porsena’s name is but a memory, but at that time it was a fearful name. King Porsena’s wisdom and military power were the stuff of legend. So you can imagine the fear which gripped our city! Finally Tarquin, through much effort, persuaded Porsena to march on Rome. The fearful Clusian army marched out, thousands in their gleaming armour, rumbling toward our city. Continue reading “sacrifice pt 1: a buttock for Rome…”

law pt 3: the oath of Brutus

Now this Brutus who had accompanied Collatinus to his house was a strange one. He became a great man, yet his early life had been one of trouble. His real name was Lucius Junius, and not many remember that he was King Tarquin’s nephew.

Now the proud King had a vicious streak in him, and among the many people he murdered was a brother of young Lucius. So Lucius, not wanting to draw unwanted attention, pretended from then on to be a harmless idiot – so gaining the nickname Brutus. Continue reading “law pt 3: the oath of Brutus”

law pt 1: the wolves’ law

[This is the beginning of the next chapter, called Law, containing three parts]

In the rocky land of Greece, men loved to quarrel: farmers, heroes, kings, cities. No two cities hated each other more than Argos and Sparta.

Proud Argos bred farmers and traders. The land was rough, but food came in from beyond the sea and from the sweat of good men working the soil. They ruled the plains of southern Greece. Continue reading “law pt 1: the wolves’ law”

fate epilogue: tradition is the king of all

I was at the busy port of Halicarnassus one day, when I stopped at the city square to listen to a storyteller. He told grand tales of the magnificent kings of Persia who dwelt in gleaming palaces, who demanded tribute from thousands of kinds of people: gold from the Indians, warhorses from the Medes, jewels from the Aghans, silver from the Egyptians, soldiers from the wildmen of the north. These great kings never showed their faces to the common people, and even the princes and nobles at his court could not laugh or spit in his presence. They had to cover their mouths when they were around him, in order not to pollute the air that the Great King breathed. Now I myself take these fairytales lightly. If no one has ever seen the king, where do these stories come from? But one particular story struck my fancy. Continue reading “fate epilogue: tradition is the king of all”

fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos

When Polycrates, ruler of Samos died, a victim of his own greed, his power and riches passed to his steward Maeandrius.

Now Maeandrius was a good man, who wanted nothing more than justice for the Samians. He assembled them and said to them, “People of Samos, you know that all the authority held by Polycrates has passed on to me. If I wanted to, I could rule all of you as he has done. But I do not wish to, for I refuse to lord it over people equal to myself. I will proclaim everyone equal before the law. All I ask in return is a share in Polycrates’ riches, and the right for my family and I to serve as priests.” Continue reading “fate pt 6: the ruin of Samos”

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