Julian, 68

Constantius never meant me to take actual command of the province. I was to be a ceremonial figure, reminding the Gauls by my presence that Constantius had committed, if not a full army, at least his flesh and blood to the task of rallying a frightened people to the defence of the province. Florentius wielded all actual power. He was in direct charge of the army at Vienne and his personal courier service held together the various legions scattered about Gaul. Most of them, incidentally, were trapped in fortresses, for the Germans had laid siege to every sizeable town and military installation from the Rhine to the North Sea.

Only last year, in going through Constantius’s secret archives—a fascinating if at times depressing experience, rather like hearing what people say behind one’s back—I came across his instructions to Florentius. Now that I have read them I am more tolerant of the prefect; he was merely carrying out orders. Constantius wrote—I am paraphrasing, for the documents are all at Constantinople that this “dearly beloved kinsman the Caesar Julian” was to be looked upon as a cadet in the art of war and as a novice in the business of government. Florentius was to be that pupil’s dedicated tutor, to instruct, edify and guard him against evil companions and wrong judgments. In other words, I was to be put to school. Military matters were to be kept from me. I was to be watched for signs of ambitio, as the Romans say, a word no other language has devised, meaning that sort of worldly ambition which is injurious to the balance of the state.

My first year in Gaul did teach me a good deal, not only in the art of war but also in the arts of concealment and patience. I became a second Ulysses, hiding my time. I was not allowed to attend the military council. But from time to time I was briefed on the general military situation. I was not encouraged by what I was told. Though the army of Gaul was considerable, Florentius had no intention of committing it in battle.

We did nothing. Fortunately our enemy Chnodomar did nothing either; his promised offensive never materialized. He declared himself quite pleased to control the Rhine and our largest cities. I was eager to engage him, but I did not command a single soldier, excepting my doughty Italian bodyguard. I was also in need of money. My salary as Caesar was supposed to be paid by the quarter, but the Count of the Sacred Largesse was always late in making payments. I lived entirely on credit my first year in Gaul, and credit was not easily come by when there were daily rumours that I was in disfavour and might be recalled at any moment. I was also irritated to discover that the villa where I lived was not the palace of the Caesar but a sort of guest-house where official visitors were housed. The city palace was on the Rhone; and here Florentius and his considerable court were richly housed. He lived like the Caesar, I lived like a poor relation. But there were compensations. I had Oribasius with me, as well as Priscus, who arrived in March from Athens.

Priscus: I should add a bit to Julian’s account of his relations with Florentius. The praetorian prefect was avaricious but capable. More to the point, he was following the Emperor’s instructions to the letter. I always thought Julian was unduly bitter about him. Of course, on several public occasions the prefect humiliated him. I remember one military review when there was no place for Julian on the dais. So the Caesar was forced to watch “his” troops from the crowd, surrounded by old women selling sausages. That was probably Florentius’s revenge for Julian’s behaviour at their first meeting.

To Constantius’s credit… why is one always trying to find good things to say about the bad? Is it our uneasy knowledge that their version of us would be precisely the same as ours of them, from another viewpoint and a conflicting interest? In any case, Constantius was perfectly correct in not allowing a youth with no military or administrative experience to take over the direction of a difficult war which older and supposedly wiser soldiers had nearly lost. No one could have known then that Julian was a military genius, except possibly himself. I almost find myself believing in that Helios of his when I contemplate his Gallic victories.

But at this time he lived much as a student in the villa next to the city wall. His “court”, as it had to be termed, was no more than a hundred people, counting slaves. We dined meagrely. There was never enough wine. But the conversation was good. Oribasius kept us all amused as well as healthy. He was, even then, compiling remedies from every witch he could find, and trying them out on us. Eutherius was also an amiable companion.

I note with some amusement that though Julian mentions specifically my joining him at Vienne, he says nothing of the far more important person who arrived at the new year: his wife Helena. I was not present when she came to Vienne but I am told that she arrived with a luxurious suite of hairdressers, seamstresses, cooks, eunuchs, and wagon-loads of fine clothes and jewels. I don’t think she ever got over the shock of that cold depressing villa. But Julian was always very kind to her, though somewhat absent-minded. He would start to leave table without her, or openly make plans for a visit to a near by town and then forget to include her in the arrangements. I think she liked him a good deal more than he liked her. Not that he disliked her; rather, he was profoundly indifferent. I doubt if he performed his conjugal duties often. Even so, she was twice pregnant in the four years they were married.

My chief memory of Helena is her valiant attempts not to look bored when Julian was talking excitedly about those things which interested him and mystified her. Fortunately, she had learned the royal art of yawning without opening the mouth; but if one watched her very carefully, whenever there was talk of Plato or lamblichos or you, my dear Libanius (great triad!), one could see her nostrils dilate suspiciously from time to time. I am certain that we literally bored Helena to death.

Libanius: I cannot imagine anyone finding it remarkable that Julian should speak of Plato, Iamblichos and myself as being of a quality. But one can always trust Priscus to be envious. “Great triad!” indeed! Simply because he has failed as a philosopher and a teacher, he would like to bring down all his contemporaries to his own level. Well, he will fail in that, too.

Published in: on June 16, 2019 at 9:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Julian, 67

The next morning we continued our journey. The weather in the mountains was not yet cold, nor was there any snow except on the highest slopes. Even the soldiers, a remarkably complaining lot of Galileans, admitted that God must be with us. He should have been: they prayed incessantly. It was all they were good for.

When we crossed into Gaul, an interesting thing happened. All up and down our route my coming had been excitedly reported, for I was the first legitimate Caesar to be seen in Gaul in many years. I say “legitimate” because Gaul, traditionally, is the place for usurpers. There had been three in a decade. Each had worn the purple. Each had minted coinage. Each had accepted the oath of fealty. Each had been struck down by Constantius or fate. Now a true Caesar was at last in Gaul, and the people took heart.

Early one evening we entered our first Gallic village, set high in the mountains. The villagers were gathered along the main street to cheer me. As decoration, they had tied many wreaths of fir and pine between the houses on either side of the road. As Hemes is my witness, one of the wreaths broke loose and fell upon my head, where it fitted as close as a crown. I came to a dead halt, not certain what had happened. My first reaction was that I had been struck by a branch. Then I raised my hand and felt the wreath. The villagers were wide-eyed. Even my slovenly troops were impressed. Eutherius who was beside me murmured, “Even the gods mean for you to be crowned.”

I did not answer him, nor did I remove the wreath. Pretending that nothing had happened, I continued through the village while the inhabitants cheered me with a new intensity.

Oribasius said, “By tomorrow everyone in Gaul will know of this.”

I nodded. “And by the next day Constantius will know.” But even this thought could not depress me. I was now in a fine mood, reflecting the brilliant winter day, not to mention the love the gods had shown me.

My passage through the Gallic towns was triumphal. The weather held until we arrived at the gates of Vienne. Then black clouds rolled out of the north and a sharp wind blew. One could smell snow upon the air. Bundled in cloaks, we crossed the winterblack Rhone and entered the city at about the third hour. Cold as it was, the streets were crowded and once again there was the remarkable response. I could not understand it. Constantius inspired awe and fear, but I seemed only to evoke love… I do not mention this out of vanity but only as a puzzling fact. For all these people knew, I might be another Gallus. Yet there they were, cheering me as though I had won some important battle or increased the supply of grain. It was inexplicable but exhilarating.

Just as I came opposite the temple of Augustus and Livia, an old blind woman was thrust forward by the crowd. She fell against my horse. Guards pushed her back; she fell again. “Help her,” I ordered.

They got her to her feet. In a loud voice she asked, “Who is this?” Someone shouted, “It is the Caesar Julian!” Then she raised her blind eyes to heaven and in the voice of a Pythoness proclaimed, “He will restore the temples of the gods!” Startled, I spurred my horse through the crowd, her words still ringing in my ears.

I met Florentius in the main hall of the palace, which was to be my residence, though “palace” was hardly the word for this not very large villa. Florentius received me courteously. Yes, he received me, rather than the other way around, and he made it perfectly clear from the beginning that this was his province, not mine, even though I was Caesar and he merely praetorian prefect.

“Welcome to Gaul, Caesar,” he said. as we saluted one another. He had not thought it worth while to call in the city’s magistrates or, for that matter, any officials. Several military men attended him, and that was all. Oribasius was my only attendant.

“A warm welcome for a cold season, Prefect,” I said. “The people at least seem pleased that I have come.” I stressed the “at least”.

All of us are pleased that Augustus has seen fit to elevate you and to send you to us as a sign of his interest in the matter of Gaul.” Florentius was a small swarthy man with sharp features. I particularly recall his sinewy forearms, which were black with hairs, more like a monkey’s than a man’s.

“Augustus will indeed be pleased to learn that you approve his actions,” I said dryly. Then I walked past him to where the room’s single chair was placed on a small dais. I sat down. I could see this had some effect. The military men exchanged glances. Florentius, however, was imperturbable, even though I was sitting in his chair.

“Present the officers, Prefect.” I was as cool as my disposition ever allows me to be.

Florentius did so. The first officer was Marcellus, chief of staff of the army of Gaul. He saluted me perfunctorily. The next officer was Nevitta, a powerfully built Frank, blue-eyed, loud-voiced, a remarkable commander who serves with me now in Persia. But that day in Vienne, he treated me with such obvious disdain that I realized I would have to respond in kind, or lose all pretence of authority. Either I was Caesar or I was lost.

I turned to Florentius. I spoke carefully. “We are not so far from Milan that the respect due to the Caesar can be omitted. Field conditions do not prevail in a provincial capital, despite the reverses of our armies on the Rhine. Instruct your officers, Prefect, in their duty to us. Show them by your example what we are.” Constantius could not have done it better, and in truth I meant every word of this arrogant speech. I was convinced that I had come to Gaul to die, and I meant to die in the most honourable way possible, upholding to the end the great title that was mine.

Florentius looked astonished. The officers looked frightened. Oribasius was impressed… curious how much we enjoy those rare moments when we can by some public act impress an old friend.

In his confusion, Florentius took too long to react. So in careful imitation of Constantius, I raised my right arm and pointed with forefinger to the floor in front of me, and in a hard voice said, “We wear the purple.”

The military men with a clatter of armour dropped to their knees. Florentius, with a look of singular venom, followed suit. He kissed the robe. With that gesture, hostilities between us began. They were to continue for five years.

Published in: on June 9, 2019 at 10:24 am  Comments Off on Julian, 67  

Julian, 66

Caesar

X

At Turin, as I received city officials in the law court, a messenger arrived from Florentius, the praetorian prefect of Gaul. The prefect thought that the Caesar should know that some weeks ago Cologne had fallen to the Germans, and the Rhine was theirs. The military situation was, Florentius wrote with what almost seemed satisfaction, grave. The German King Chnodomar had sworn to drive every Roman from Gaul within the year. This was the bad news Constantius had not told me.

While the reception continued, Oribasius and I withdrew to the prefect’s office to study the report. For some inexplicable reason the only bust to adorn the room was that of the Emperor Vitellius, a fat porker who reigned several months in the year of Nero’s death. Why Vitellius? Was the official a descendant? Did he admire the fat neck, the huge jowls of the man who was known as the greatest glutton of his day? To such irrelevances does the mind tend to fly in moments of panic. And I was panicky.

“Constantius sent me here to die. That’s why I was given no army.”

“But surely he doesn’t want to lose Gaul.”

“What does he care for Gaul? As long as he can have his court, his eunuchs, his bishops, what more does he need?” This was not accurate; in his way, Constantius was a patriot. But in my bitterness there was no stopping me. I denounced Constantius recklessly and furiously. I committed treason with every breath. When I had finished, Oribasius said, “The Emperor must have a plan. It can’t be that simple. What are those instructions he gave you?”

I had forgotten all about the packet I had been given on the road to Turin. It was still in my wallet. Eagerly, I undid the fastenings. I read quickly, with growing astonishment. “Etiquette!” I shouted finally, throwing the document across the room. “How to receive an ambassador. How to give a dinner party. There are even recipes!” Oribasius burst out laughing, but I was too far gone to find any humour in the situation.

“We’ll escape!” I said at last.

“Escape?” Oribasius looked at me as if I had gone mad.

“Yes, escape.” Curious… I never thought I would be able to write any of this. “We can desert together, you and I. It will be easy. Nothing but a piece of cloth to throw away.” I tugged at the purple that I wore. “Then we let our beards grow, and back to Athens. Philosophy for me, medicine for you.”

“No.” He said it flatly.

“Why not? Constantius will be glad to see the end of me.”

“But he won’t know it’s the end of you. He’ll think you have gone to plot against him, raise an army, become usurper.”

“But he won’t find me.”

Oribasius laughed. “How can you hide in Athens? Even with a new beard and student’s clothes, you are the same Julian everyone met a few months ago with Prohaeresius.”

“Then it won’t be Athens. I’ll find a city where I’m not known. Antioch. I can hide in Antioch. I’ll study with Libanius.”

“And do you think Libanius could hold his tongue? His vanity would betray you in a day.”

Libanius:

I shall say here that I never found Oribasius particularly sympathetic. Apparently, he felt the same about me. He is of course very famous nowadays (if he is still alive); but medical friends tell me that his seventy-volume encyclopedia of medicine is nothing but a vast plagiarism from Galen. After Julian’s death, he was exiled and went to the court of Persia, where I am told he is worshipped by the Persians as a god; he must have enjoyed this, for he was always vain. Also avaricious: he once charged me five gold solidi for a single treatment for gout. I could not walk for a month after.

Julian Augustus

“Then I shall find a city where no one has ever seen me or heard of me.”

“Farthest Thule. Wherever you go, officials will know who you are.”

Complete disguise? A new name?”

“You forget the secret agents. Besides, how will you live?”

“I can teach, become a tutor…”

“A slave.”

“If necessary, why not? In a proper household, a slave can be happy. I could teach the young men. I would have time to write, to lecture…”

“From the purple to a slave?” He said it with slow cold wonder.

“What do you think I am now?” I exploded. I raged. I lamented. When I finally stopped for lack of breath, Oribasius said, “You will continue into Gaul, Caesar. You will put down the German tribes, or die in the attempt.”

“No.”

“Then be a slave, Julian.” It was the first time he had called me by my name since I had been raised to Caesar. Then he left me alone in the office, where I sat like a fool, mouth aiar, the hog-like face of Vitellius peering at me from above the doorway… even after three centuries in stone, he looked hungry.

I folded the letter into many squares, each smaller than the other. I thought hard. I prayed to Hermes. I went to the latticed windows and looked for the sun, my peculiar deity. I searched for a sign. At last it came. From the setting sun, light suddenly shone in my face. Yes, out of the west where Gaul was, Helios blazed darkgold in my eyes. I was to follow my god, and if death was what he required of me, then that would be my offering. If victory, then that would be our glory. Also, it was perfectly plain that I could not escape even if I wanted to. I had indeed been seized by purple death.

I returned to the citizens of Turin as though nothing had happened. As I received their homage, Oribasius looked at me questioningly. I winked. He was relieved.

Published in: on May 18, 2019 at 10:28 am  Comments (20)  

Julian, 65

At dawn on the first of December I left Milan for Gaul. I said farewell to Helena, who was to join me later at Vienne. We both behaved according to the special protocol the eunuchs have devised governing a Caesar’s farewell to his new wife as he goes to a beleaguered province. Then, accompanied by the newly arrived Oribasius, I went down to the courtyard of the palace to place myself at the head of my army.

Outside in the frosty air, some three hundred foot soldiers and a score of cavalry were drawn up. I took this to be my personal bodyguard. I was about to ask the whereabouts of the army of Gaul when I was joined by Eutherius. He was frowning. “I’ve just spoken to the Grand Chamberlain. There has been a last-minute change in plans. Your legions have been assigned to the Danube.”

I indicated the men in the courtyard. “Is this my army?”

“I am afraid so, Caesar.”

I have never in my life been so angry. Only the arrival of Constantius prevented me from saying the unsayable. I saluted the Emperor; gravely, he returned the salute. Then he mounted a black horse and I mounted a white one. His personal guard (twice the size of my “army”) fell into place behind him. My troops and household brought up the rear. Thus the Augustus and his Caesar launched the power of Rome against the barbarians. It was ludicrous.

The few citizens who were up and around at this hour cheered us dutifully. We made a particularly fine impression at the vegetable market which is just inside the city gate. The farm women waved their carrots and turnips at us, and thought us a brave sight.

Neither Constantius nor I spoke until we were out on the main road, the high Alps visible to us across the Lombard Plain. He had agreed to escort me as far as the two columns which stand on either side of the road midway between Lumello and Pavia. He had obviously decided this would give us sufficient time for a good talk. It did.

Constantius began with, “We have great confidence in Florentius, our praetorian prefect at Gaul.” This was an announcement; there was no invitation for me to comment.

Of course he has confidence in Florentius, I thought savagely, otherwise he would have had him murdered by now. But I said, “Yes, Augustus.” And waited. We rode a few more yards. Occasionally, our armoured legs touched, metal striking metal, and each would shrink instinctively from the other. The touch of another man has always disturbed me; the touch of my father’s murderer alarmed me.

We passed a number of carts containing poultry; they had pulled off the road at our approach. When the peasants saw the Emperor, they fell fiat on their bellies, as though blinded by the sight of that sacred figure. Constantius ignored them.

“We are fond of our sister Helena.” This was also launched upon the dry cool air in an oracular tone.

“She is dear to me, too, Augustus,” I replied. I was afraid he was going to lecture me on my marital duties, but he made no further mention of Helena.

Constantius was constructing a case. His occasional fiat sentences, suitable for carving in marble, were all part of an edifice created to contain me. I was to obey the praetorian prefect of Gaul, even though as Caesar I was his superior. I was to remember that Helena’s first loyalty was to her brother and ruler, not to her husbafid. So far, I understood him clearly.

“We have heard from your military instructor that you show promise.”

“I shall not fail you, Augustus. But it was my understanding that I was to go to Gaul with an army, not an escort.”

Constantius ignored this. “You have come to soldiering late. I hope you are able to learn what you will need to know.”

This was not optimistic, but not unnatural. There was no reason for anyone to suspect that a philosophy student should show any talent for war. Curiously enough, I had every confidence in myself because I knew that the gods would not desert me now they had raised me up. But my cousin had no way of knowing my feelings, or judging my capacity. He merely saw a young untried soldier about to go into battle against the fiercest fighters in the world.

“At all times remember that we are divine in the eyes of the people and sacred to heaven.”

I took the “we” to mean Constantius and myself, though he may have been merely reminding me of his own rank. “I shall remember, Augustus.” I always called him by his proper title, though he much preferred Lord, a title I despise and do not use for it means that one is the master of other men, rather than simply first among them.

“Control your generals.” Though he still sounded as if he were repeating maxims, I could tell that now he was on the verge of actual advice, if not conversation. “No officer should be admitted to senatorial rank. All officers must be under strict civilian control. Any governor of any province outranks any general sent to him. No officer must be allowed to take part in civil affairs. Our praetorian prefects are set over all military and civil officials. That is why the administration of the empire runs as smoothly as it does.”

Needless to say, I did not remark that the collapse of Gaul was hardly a sign of smooth administration. But in principle Constantius’s advice was good and I tend still to follow it. There is no denying that he had a gift for administration.

“In matters of taxes, take whatever is owing us. Show no mercy to the cities and villages which are delinquent in meeting payments. It is their nature to complain. Assume that your tax gatherers are honest unless proved otherwise. They are never honest, but no one has yet found a way to correct their abuses. As long as they return to you the larger part of what they collect, be satisfied.”

I was later to revise the system of taxation in Gaul, disproving everything he said. But all that in its proper place.

“Control the generals.” He repeated this suddenly as if he’d forgotten he had already said it to me. Then he turned and looked at me for the first time that day. It was startling. No longer was he the sun god on his charger. This was my cousin, my enemy, my lord, source of my greatness and potential source of my death. “You must know what I mean,” he said, sounding like a man, not an oracle. “You have seen the state disrupted. Our high place threatened. Provinces wrecked. Cities destroyed. Armies wasted. The barbarians seizing our lands, because we were too busy fighting one another to protect ourselves from the true enemy. Well, Caesar, remember this: allow no general sufficient power to raise an army against you. You have seen what I have had to suffer. Usurper after usurper has wasted our power. Be on your guard.”

“I will, Augustus.”

Then he said, very slowly, his eyes on mine, “As I am on my guard.” He looked away when he saw that his meaning was quite clear. Then he added for good measure, “We have never yet lost so much as a foot of earth to any usurper, nor will we ever.”

“As long as I live, Augustus, you shall have at least one arm to fight for you.”

We rode until midday. Then at the two columns we stopped. It was a fine brisk noon and, despite the chill in the air, the sun was hot and we were all sweating under our armour. A halt was ordered.

Constantius and I dismounted and he motioned for me to accompany him into a hard stubbled field. Except for our troops, no one was in sight. In every country peasants vanish when they see armed men coming: all soldiers are the enemy. I wish one could change that.

Constantius walked ahead of me towards a small ruined shrine to Hermes which stood at the edge of the field (a favourable omen, Hermes has always watched over me). Behind us, our men watered horses, rearranged armour, swore and chattered, pleased by the good weather. Just as Constantius entered the shrine, I broke a dead flower off its stalk. Then I followed him inside the shrine, which smelled of human excrement. Constantius was urinating on the floor. Even in this, he was grave and majestic.

“It is a pity,” I heard myself saying, aware as I spoke that I was breaking protocol, “what has happened to these old temples.”

“A pity? They should all be torn down.” He rearranged his clothes. “I hate the sight of them.”

“Of course,” I muttered.

“I shall leave you here,” he said. We stood facing one another. Though I deliberately stooped, I could not help but look down on him. He edged away from me, instinctively searching for higher ground.

“Whatever you need, you shall have. Call on me. Also, depend on our praetorian prefect. He represents us. You will find the legions of Vienne alert, ready for a spring campaign. So prepare yourself.”

He handed me a thick document. “Instructions. To be read at your leisure.” He paused. Then he remembered something. “The Empress has made you a gift. It is with your baggage. A library, I believe.”

I was effusive in my gratitude. I said words but Constantius did not listen. He moved to the door. He paused; he turned; he tried to speak to me. I blushed. I wanted to reach out and take his hand and tell him not to fear me, but I did not dare. Neither of us was ever able to face the other.

When Constantius finally spoke, his voice broke with tension. “If this should come to you…” Awkwardly he gestured at himself to indicate the principate of the world. “Remember…” Then his voice stopped as if a strangler’s thumb had blocked the windpipe. He could not go on. Words had failed him again, and me.

I have often wondered what it was he meant to say; what it was I should remember. That life is short? Dominion bitter? No. Constantius was not a profound man. I doubt if he had been about to offer me any startling insight. But as I think back on that scene in the ruined shrine (and I think of it often, I even dream of it), I suspect that all he meant to say was, “Remember me.” If that is what you meant, cousin, then I have, in every sense, remembered you.

Constantius left the shrine. As soon as his back was to me, I placed the withered flower on the profaned floor and whispered a quick prayer to Hermes. Then I followed the Emperor across the field to the road.

Once mounted, we exchanged formal farewells, and Constantius rode back to Milan, the dragon banner streaming in the cool wind before him. We never saw one another again.

Julian, 64

Editor’s note: ‘“Helena has her own money,” said Eusebia sharply. “She should use it. She owns half of Rome”,’ wrote Gore Vidal. When Rome was healthy, women could own no more than an ounce of gold. But in imperial times, especially after Christian takeover, in addition to the Imperial Church feminism undermined the hard Roman ethos of the now gone Republic. (See my first comment below, in the comments section.)

My wedding day… what a strange thing for a celibate to write! It seems impossible now that I could ever have been a husband. Yet I became one on 13 November 355. I shall not describe the atrocious Galilean rites. It is enough to say that I endured them, heavy with purple and glittering with state jewels which I later sold in Gaul to buy soldiers.

After the ceremony, there were the usual celebrations and games in our honour. Helena delighted in all the panoply of rank; in this she resembled her brother. I was merely dutiful and did what was expected of me. A few days after the ceremony I was summoned to an audience with Eusebia.

“What do you think of the world now?” Eusebia’s eyes gleamed with mischief.

“I owe it all to you,” I said warmly.

“And how do you find Helena?”

“She is my wife,” I said formally; again the conspiratorial look.

“She is very… handsome,” said Eusebia, with an edge of malice.

“Noble, I should say.” I almost burst out laughing. But there is a rule to these games.

“You will leave soon.”

“I’m glad,” I said. Then added, “Not that I look forward to leaving…” I could not say “you” so I said “Milan”.

She shook her head. “This is not your sort of place. It’s not mine either, but…” She left what was serious unsaid. Then: “You will go into winter quarters at Vienne. Money…”

“Will be scarce.” The Grand Chamberlain had already told me that I would have to maintain myself and household on my salary as Caesar. Additional funds could not be granted at this time.

“Luckily, you are frugal.”

“Helena is not.”

“Helena has her own money,” said Eusebia sharply. “She should use it. She owns half of Rome.”

I was relieved to hear this, and said so.

“It is my hope,” said Eusebia, “that you will soon have a son, not only for yourself but for us.”

I admired her boldness. This was the one thing Eusebia did not want me to have, since it would endanger her own position. Rather than accept my son as his heir, Constantius was capable of divorcing Eusebia and taking a new wife who could give him what he most desired.

“It is my hope,” I answered evenly, “that you will be blessed with many children.”

But she did not believe me either. The interview now turned painful. No matter what either of us said, it sounded false. Yet I believe she did indeed wish me well, except in that one matter.

Finally, we got off the subject and she revealed to me the state of Constantius’s mind. “I speak to you candidly.” An admission that neither of us had been speaking candidly before. The sad face looked sadder still, while her long hands nervously fingered the folds of her robe. “He is divided. He cannot make up his mind about you. Naturally, there are those who tell him that you wish to overthrow him.”

“Not true!” I began to protest, but she stopped me.

“I know it is not true.”

“And it never will be true!” I believed myself.

“Be tolerant. Constantius has had to face many enemies. It is only natural that he fear you.”

“Then why won’t he let me go back to Athens, where I am no danger?”

“Because he needs you more than he fears you.” She looked at me, suddenly frightened. “Julian, we are in danger of losing all Gaul.”

I stared at her dumbly.

“This morning Constantius had a message from the praetorian prefect at Vienne. I don’t know what it said. But I suspect the worst. We have already lost the cities of the Rhine. Should the Germans attack this winter, it is the end of Gaul, unless…” She held her hand above the flame of the alabaster lamp. The flesh glowed. “Julian, help me!” For a stupid moment I thought she had burned her hand. “You must be loyal to us. You must help us!”

“I swear by all the gods, by Helios, by…”

She stopped me, unaware that in my sincerity I had sworn by the true gods. “Be patient with him. He will always be suspicious of you. That is his nature. But as long as I live, you are safe. If something should happen to me…” This was the first inkling I had that Eusebia was ill. “Be loyal to him anyway.”

I forget what I said. Doubtless more protestations of loyalty, all sincere. When I rose to go, she said, “I have a gift for you. You will see it on the day you leave.”

I thanked her and left. Despite all that Eusebia did to hurt me in the next two years, I still love her. After all I owe her not only the principate but my life.

Published in: on April 21, 2019 at 11:02 am  Comments (6)  

Julian, 63

Editor’s note: ‘Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey’ wrote Gore Vidal below referring to Paul, of Constantius’ secret service.

Although Julian is only a novel, the author knew that the Roman courts after Constantine were plagued with Semites (as the secret service after Lenin was plagued with Jews): something that most white nationalists are still unwilling to acknowledge.

Vidal wrote:

______ 卐 ______

 
My first act as Caesar was to send for Oribasius, who was at Athens. He had arrived there only a week after my recall. I also wrote Maximus and Priscus, inviting them to join me. Meanwhile, I continued military practice. I also learned as much as possible about the administration of Gaul.

During this time I saw none of the imperial family, including my soon-to-be wife. Yet the day of the wedding had been set and the inevitable documents were brought to me to be studied. I was given a meticulous ground plan of the chapel and my position from moment to moment during the ceremony was precisely traced.

I had but one friend at court, Eutherius, the Armenian eunuch who had taught me at Constantinople. Every evening we would study various documents and memoranda. It was his task, he said, to make an administrator of me.

The night before my wedding, Eutherius came to me with the news that I was to leave for Gaul the first week in December.

“To what city?”

“Vienne. You’ll be there for the winter. Then in the spring you will take the field.” He looked at me closely. “Does it seem strange to you to be a general?”

“Strange!” I exploded. “Insane!”

He raised his hand in some alarm, indicating the shadows where guards stood and informers listened, always hopeful of catching me at treason.

I lowered my voice. “Of course it is strange. I’ve never seen a battle. I’ve never commanded a single soldier, much less an army. But…”

“But?”

“But l’m not afraid.” I did not say what I really felt: that I looked forward to military adventures.

“I am relieved.” Eutherius smiled. “Because I have just been appointed grand chamberlain at the court of the Caesar Julian. I go with you to Gaul.”

This was marvellous news. I embraced him warmly, babbling happily until he was forced to say, “Roman gravity, Caesar. Please. You are far too Asiatic.”

I laughed. “It can’t be helped, I am Asiatic…”

Suddenly, Eutherius was on his feet. With a speed which I would not have thought possible for one of his age, he darted into the shadowed archway just opposite us. A moment later he reappeared with a dark, richly dressed man.

“Caesar,” said Eutherius with grim ceremony, “allow me to present Paul, of the secret service. He has come to pay your greatness homage.”

I was hardly startled. I had been under surveillance all my life. The presence of the government’s chief secret agent merely reminded me that the higher I rose the more important it was for Constantius to have me watched.

“We are always pleased to receive the Emperor’s agents,” I said politely.

Paul was imperturbable. His eyes shone in the lamplight; his hook nose made him resemble some great bird of prey. He bowed. He spoke with a slight Spanish accent. “I was on my way to the east wing. To report to Rufinus, the praetorian prefect.”

“This is not the usual way to the east wing,” said Eutherius amiably.

“What can I say?” Paul spread his hands, bird’s talons ready to seize.

“You can say good night, Paul, and report to the praetorian prefect that you heard nothing useful,” I said.

Paul bowed. “I report only what I hear, Caesar.” He was carefully insolent.

“Stay longer,” I said, “and you will hear the beginning of your death.”

That shook him, though my boldness was perfect bluff. I had no power. One word from him and I could be brought down. Yet I knew that if I was to be Caesar I would have to assert myself or earn the fatal contempt of eunuchs and spies. Paul withdrew.

I turned to Eutherius. “Was I too Asiatic?” I teased him, though my heart pounded.

He shook his head. “Perhaps that is the wisest way to handle him. Anyway, you are safe for the moment.”

“But he is constructing one of his chains.”

“Perhaps he will trap himself.”

I nodded. Paul had been a prime mover in the plot which had destroyed my brother. That night in the palace at Milan I began my own plot.

Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 10:07 am  Comments Off on Julian, 63  

Julian, 62

Editor’s note: ‘They thought me a bookish fool who knew nothing of weaponry and preferred talk to war’ said Gore Vidal’s Julian in one of the most important days of his life. This is exactly what the Romans of yore would say of any white nationalist of our century that prefers talk to war:
 

______ 卐 ______

 

I was created Caesar 6 November 355, the year when Arbetio and Lollianus were consuls. I will say one thing for Constantius. He had an artist’s gift for ceremony. Though I like to think I surpass him in many ways, I know I shall never be able to create the sense of awful majesty he could whenever he chose. One knew this was the Augustus when he appeared before a crowd. When I appear, the people are not in the least impressed. I believe they have a certain affection for me, but I don’t in the least alarm them. They think I look like a professor of rhetoric. They are quite right. I do.

At the far end of the main square, a high wooden platform had been decorated with the eagles of Rome and the dragons of our house. The square itself was filled with soldiers in full military dress.

As I was led by the generals of the army to the platform, I was conscious that every muscle in my body ached, for I had been practising daily with sword and javelin. I was exhausted, and I’m afraid that my instructors had nothing but contempt for me. They thought me a bookish fool who knew nothing of weaponry and preferred talk to war.

Of course they were courteous to my face, but behind my back I often heard soft mocking laughter. Incidentally, I was surprised to discover how little I can endure mockery. One of the best consolations of philosophy is that it supposedly prepares one for the contempt of others. Some philosophers even revel in the dislike of the vulgar. Not I. Perhaps there is something to the idea of blood and inheritance. After all, I am descended from three emperors. To be thought weak and womanish by hearty young officers was unbearable to me. Grimly, I made up my mind to surpass them in every way. Unfortunately, at this moment my primacy was more wish than fact. I had done too much too fast. As a result, I was even clumsier than usual.

The moment I reached the base of the platform, horns were sounded. Cheering began, A path opened through the legions, and Constantius appeared in his gilded state carriage; he wore a dragonshaped gold helmet and the purple. As he passed me, I caught his eye and got a look as blind as Homer’s! In public, the emperor does not see mere men.

Slowly Constantius climbed the steps to the platform, his short bowed legs slightly diminishing the majesty of his presence. From the platform, he received the cheer of the legions. Then he motioned for me to join him. With a sense of one going to his own execution, I climbed the steep wooden steps and took my place at the side of Constantius… I almost wrote at the side of history, for I was now legend. For better or worse, I had become a part of that long chronicle which began with Julius Caesar and whose end none can foresee.

I looked out over the massed troops. This was my first look at an army, and I confess to revelling in the sight. All thought of philosophy went clear out of my head as the dragon pennants fluttered in the autumn wind, and the eagles below us dipped as the salute was given.

Constantius reached out and took my right hand in his. His grip was firm and callused. I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, conscious something was not right: he was half a head taller than I. I looked down and saw that he was standing on a footstool. Constantius neglected no detail which might enhance his majesty.

Constantius spoke to the legions. His high-pitched voice carried well. The Latin he used was that of the army, but it was easy to understand. He had memorized his speech. “We stand before you, valiant defenders of our country, to avenge the common cause. How this is to be done, I put to you not as soldiers but as impartial judges. After the death of those rebellious tyrants whom mad fury drove to seize the state, the savages to the north, thinking that this great empire was weak and in confusion, crossed into Gaul. They are there now. Only you and we, in perfect accord, can turn them back. The choice is yours. Here stands before you our cousin Julian, honoured for his modesty, as dear to us for that as for the ties of blood; a young man of conspicuous ability whom I desire to make Caesar if you will confirm him…”

At this point, though in mid-sentence, Constantius was stopped by various voices declaring that it was clearly the will of God, not of man, that I be raised to the rank of Caesar. I quite agreed, though the God they had in mind and the One who did indeed raise me up were not the same. Nevertheless, I admired the skill with which Constantius had staged the scene. The voices rang out as though spontaneous (actually, everything had been carefully rehearsed). Constantius remained very still while they spoke, as though listening to an oracle. My hand in his grew sweaty; but he never relaxed the firm grip. When there was silence again, he nodded gravely to the legions. “Your response is enough. I see that I have your approval.”

He let go my hand. He motioned for two generals to join us on the platform. One carried a wreath; the other a purple robe. They stood behind us.

“This young man’s quiet strength and temperate behaviour” (he emphasized the word “temperate” to reassure them that I was not Gallus) “should be imitated rather than proclaimed; his excellent disposition, trained in all good arts, I concur in by the very fact that I have chosen to elevate him. So now with the immediate favour of the God of heaven, I invest him with this imperial robe.” The cloak was put about my shoulders. Constantius arranged it at the neck. Only once did he look me in the eye as we faced one another, he on his footstool and I with my back to the legions. The look he gave me was curiously furtive and undecided, in sharp contrast to the easy majesty of his movements and the serene power of his voice.

Constantius was a man in terror of his life. I saw it plain in those great eyes. As he put the wreath on my head, he shut his eyes for an instant, like a man who flinches in anticipation of a surgeon’s knife. Then he took my right hand again and turned me around that I might face the legions. But before they could salute me, he raised his arm. He had more to say. Though he spoke as though to me, he looked straight at them. Not certain which way to turn, I looked half at him and half towards the soldiers in the square.

“Brother, dearest to me of all men, you have received in your prime the glorious flower of your origin. Yet I must admit you add to my own glory, for I seem to myself more truly great in bestowing almost equal power” (the “almost” was heavily rendered) “on a noble prince who is my kinsman than through that power itself. Come, then, to share in pain and perils, undertake the defence of Gaul, relieve its afflicted regions with every bounty. And should it be necessary to engage with the enemy, take your place with the standard-bearers. Go forth yourself, a brave man ready to lead men equally brave. You and I will stand by one another with firm and steadfast affection, and together—if God grants our prayers—we shall rule over a pacified world with moderation and conscientiousness. You will be present with me always in my thoughts, and I will not fail you in anything you undertake. Now go, with haste, with the prayers of all of us, to defend with your honour the post assigned you by Rome herself, and God’s appointment! Hail, Caesar!”

This last he said in a loud voice which was immediately echoed by the legions. It was like a burst of thunder. I had sufficient presence of mind to respond: “Hail, Augustus!” The men repeated this, too. I saluted Constantius. Then I turned and saluted the legions. This was against all protocol. Generals do not salute their men. The standards, yes; the legions, no. But my gesture was sincerely tactless. After the first astonishment, the legions roared their approval of me and struck their shields hard against their armoured knees: the highest tribute they may render a man. It is also the loudest. I thought I would be deaf forever as the clatter rang through the square. More terrible, however, is the army’s disapproval, when they roll their spears back and forth against their shields, as prelude to mutiny.

I could feel Constantius stiffen beside me. This was more than he anticipated. I am sure that he was positive that my gesture to the legions had been premeditated. But the deed was done. And I was Caesar.

Abruptly, Constantius left the platform. I followed him. There was a moment of confusion as he got into his carriage. He looked down at me for a long moment. Then he motioned for me to join him. I clambered in beside him and, side by side, we rode through the cheering legions. I felt a sudden affection for them all. We had been united as though in marriage, and like so many arranged marriages, odd though this one was, it proved to be happy.

The carriage moved slowly through the square to the palace. Constantius said nothing to me, and I dared not speak to him, unhappily aware that in this carriage there was no footstool and I was taller than he, a second bad omen. I murmured to myself a line from the Iliad: “By purple death I’m seized, and fate supreme.” Inside the palace courtyard Constantius and I parted without a word. I did not see him again for several days.

Published in: on April 7, 2019 at 2:34 pm  Comments Off on Julian, 62  

Julian, 61

Heliodorus the eunuch courtier.
Ink and watercolor (1975).

I believe it is true of most courts that the principal figures seldom see one another. This is partly due to choice. The fewer the meetings, the less chance of something untoward happening. But more to the point, it suits the courtiers to keep the great people apart, thereby increasing the importance of intermediaries who are then able to hurry from one wing of the palace to another, making mischief and policy as they go.

The court of Constantius was in many ways the worst since Domitian. The eunuchs were all- powerful. They kept everyone from the Emperor. If a man displeased a eunuch, he was doomed and Mercurius, “the count of dreams”, would be called in or Paul “the chain” (the one so called because he was a genius at finding obscure links to a never-ending chain of treason while the other specialized in the analysis of seemingly harmless dreams which, invariably, upon scrutiny, revealed treasonable intent). Since Constantius would listen only to the eunuchs, injustice flourished. No one was safe, including the great figures themselves, particularly those like myself who were blood heirs to the principate.

I have often felt when studying history that not enough is made of the importance of those intermediaries who so often do the actual governing. We tend to think of courts as wheels at whose centre is the emperor, from whom, like spokes, all those who serve him extend, drawing their power directly from his central presence. The truth is otherwise. Hardly anyone was allowed to come close to Constantius. Only the eunuch Eusebius saw him daily. As a result, factions within the court could form and re-form, irrelevant to the nominal power.

In reading accounts of those weeks at Milan, one would think that Constantius and I saw each other daily, discussing high policy, military strategy and sharing, as it were, a family life. Actually, I saw the Emperor only four times in one month. The first encounter I have described; the second was at my investiture as Caesar.

Published in: on March 31, 2019 at 11:27 am  Comments Off on Julian, 61  

Julian, 60

The palace at Milan is a large rambling building. Originally it was a military governor’s rather modest headquarters. In the last century when Rome ceased to be a practical centre for the West, the palace was enlarged to become an imperial residence. Because of the German tribes, the emperors had to be close to the Alps. Also, the farther an emperor is from the city of Rome the longer his reign is apt to be, for the populace of that city is notoriously fickle and arrogant, with a long memory of the emperors it has overthrown. None of us stays for long at Rome if he can help it.

Constantine enlarged the palace in Milan, building the state rooms, while Constantius added the second-floor living quarters through which we now walked. These rooms look out on a large inner court. I personally prefer the old-fashioned form of architecture with small private rooms arranged about an atrium, but Constantius was a modernist in architecture as well as in religion. I find such rooms too large, and of course ruinously expensive to heat.

Guards and eunuchs stood at every door, arrogant yet servile. A court is the most depressing place on earth. Wherever there is a throne, one may observe in rich detail every folly and wickedness of which man is capable, enamelled with manners and gilded with hypocrisy. I keep no court in the field. In residence, I keep as little as possible.

At the final door, Eusebius left me with a deep bow. Guards opened the door, and I stepped into the private dining room. Constantius reclined on one of the two couches within whose right angle was the table. Opposite him Eusebia sat in an ivory chair. I bowed low to both of them, intoning the proper formula.

Constantius mumbled his response. Then he waved me to the couch beside him.

“You look better without that damned beard.”

I blushed as I took my place on the couch. Eusebia smiled encouragingly. “I rather liked the beard,” she said.

“That’s because you’re an atheist, too.” My heart missed a beat. But it was only the Emperor’s heavy wit.

“She likes these high-sounding, low-living Cynics.” He indicated his wife with a knotty ringed hand. “She’s always reading them. Not good for women to read.” I said something agreeable, grateful to find him in a good mood. Constantius had removed his diadem and outer robes, and he looked almost human, quite unlike the statue he had appeared earlier.

Wine was brought me and though I seldom drink it full strength, this day I drank deep, to overcome nervousness.

“Who does he look like?” Constantius had been examining me curiously, like a new slave or horse. “Without that beard?”

Eusebia frowned, pretending to be thoughtful. One gives away nothing in dealing with a tyrant, even if the tyrant is one’s husband.

The Emperor answered his own question, “Constans. You look just like him. Just like my brother.” My heart sank. Constantius had always been thought to have had a hand in his brother’s death. But there was no significance to this remark, either. Constantius, at his ease, tended to be literal and rather simple.

I said that I had been too young to recall what my late cousin had looked like.

“Much the best of the three of us. Tall. Like our father.” Constantius was much concerned with his own shortness.

An elaborate dinner was served us, and I tasted everything, for to refuse any dish would show that one suspected the Emperor of treachery. It was an ordeal, and my stomach nearly rebelled.

Constantius led the conversation, as emperors are supposed to do—unless they are given to philosophic debate like me, in which case I must speak very fast at my own table to be heard.

I was asked about my studies at Athens. I described them, ending “I could spend the rest of my life there.” As I said this, I noticed that Eusebia frowned imperceptibly: a signal that I was not to speak of student life.

But Constantius had not been listening. He lay now flat on his back, belching softly and kneading his barrel-like stomach with one hand. When he spoke, he did so with eyes shut.

“I am the first Augustus to reign alone since my father, who was himself the first to reign alone in this century. But he never intended for just one of us to rule. Any more than Diocletian intended for any one of his successors to govern alone.” Constantius raised himself on one elbow and looked at me with those curiously mournful eyes which were his most attractive yet most puzzling feature. They were the eyes of a poet who had seen all the tragedy in this world and knows what is to come in the next. Yet the good effect of those eyes was entirely undone by a peevish mouth.

Who could ever know Constantius? I certainly did not. I hated him, but Eusebia loved him—I think —and she was a woman who would not have cared for what was evil. Like the rest of us, Constantius was many men in the body of one.

“The world is too big for one person to govern it.” My heart beat faster for I knew now what was to come. “I cannot be everywhere. Yet the imperial power must be everywhere. Things have a habit of going wrong all at once. As soon as the German tribes get loose in the north, the Persians attack in the south. At times I think they must plan it. If I march to the East, I’m immediately threatened in the West. If one general rises up against me, then I must deal with at least two more traitors at the same time. The empire is big. Distances are great. Our enemies many.” He tore off a roast duck’s leg and chewed it, all the time looking at me with those melting eyes.

“I mean to hold the state together. I shall not sacrifice one city to the barbarians, one town, one field!” The high-pitched voice almost cracked. “I mean to hold the state for our family. We won it. We must maintain it. And that is why we must be loyal to one another.” How that phrase from those cruel lips struck me! I dared not look at him.

“Julian,” the voice was lower now. “I intend to make you Caesar, and my heir until such time as I have a son.”

“Lord…” was all I could say. Tears unexpectedly filled my eyes. I shall never know if I wanted my fate. Yet when it came to me, a secret line snapped within and the perilous voyage began.

Eusebia congratulated me. I don’t recall what was said. More wine was brought and Constantius, in a jovial mood, told me how the astrologists preferred 6 November to any other day in the month. He also insisted that I study military strategy, while assembling a household suitable to my new rank. I was to have a salary. It would not be large, he said, understating the matter considerably: if I had not had a small income from my mother’s estate, I would have starved to death that first year. My cousin could never be accused of generosity.

Constantius almost smiled at me. “Now,” he said, “I have a surprise for you.” The surprise was his sister Helena. She entered the room with great dignity. I had never met her, though I had seen her at a distance during my first visit to Milan.

Helena was not an attractive woman. She was short, inclined to stoutness, with the short legs and long torso of Constantius. By one of those unlucky chances, her face was the face of her father Constantine the Great. It was most alarming: the same broad cheeks, the thin proud mouth, the large nose, the huge full jaw, an imperial portrait re-created in a middle-aged woman. Yet despite this unfortunate resemblance, she was otherwise most feminine with an agreeable soft voice. (I have always hated women with shrill voices.) She moved modestly, even shyly. At the time I knew nothing about her except that she was ten years older than I, and that she was Constantius’s favourite sister.

After formally acknowledging our greetings, Helena took her place in the vacant chair. She was obviously under considerable strain. So was I, for I knew exactly what was going to happen next. I had always known that something like this was apt to be my fate, but I had put it as much as possible out of my mind. Now the moment was at hand.

“We do you the honour,” said Constantius, “of bestowing our own beloved sister upon you as your wife and consort, a human and tangible link between our crowns.” He had obviously prepared this sentence in advance. I wondered if he had spoken thus to Gallus when he gave him Constantia in marriage.

Helena looked at the floor. I am afraid I turned scarlet. Eusebia watched me, amused but guarded. She who had been my friend and ally could now quite easily become my enemy. I was aware of this, even then. Or do I write now with hindsight? In any case, it was perfectly plain that should Helena have a child and Eusebia remain barren, my child would be Constantius’s heir. The four of us were now caught like flies in a spider’s web.

I have no clear idea what I said to Constantius. I am sure that I stammered. Helena later said that I was most eloquent, though unable to look at her during my speech of acceptance. Doubtless I was thinking of my conjugal duties. Never did a woman attract me less. Yet we would have to have a child. This sort of burden is the usual fate of princes and I daresay it is a small price to pay for greatness, though at the time it seems larger than it ought.

Helena was a good woman but our moments of intimacy were rare, unsatisfactory, and somewhat pathetic, for I did want to please her. But it was never pleasant, making love to a bust of Constantine. Though I could not make her happy, I did not make her suffer, and I think we became friends.

The dinner ended when Constantius swung his short bowed legs to the floor, and stretched till his bones cracked. Then without a word to any of us, he left the room. Eusebia gave me a half-smile. She put her hand out to Helena and together the two women withdrew, leaving me staring at the pheasant’s eggs which an artistcook had arranged in a beautifully leathered nest as final course. It was an extraordinary moment. I had entered the room a proscribed student. I left it as Caesar and husband. The change was dizzying.

Published in: on March 24, 2019 at 3:30 pm  Comments (2)  

Julian, 59

Constantius wore the purple. The robe fell stiffly to his crimson shoes. In one hand he held an ivory staff, while the other rested on the arm of the throne, palm upward, holding the golden orb. As usual, he stared straight before him, unaware of anything except what was in his direct line of vision. He looked ill. His eyes were dark-circled, and his face was somewhat blotchy, as though from too much wine; yet he was abstemious. On a throne at floor level sat Eusebia, blazing with jewels. Though she too played statue, she managed to suggest sympathetic humanity. When she saw me, the sad mouth parted slightly.

To left and right, in full court dress, were the members of the Sacred Consistory. All stared at me as I slowly crossed to the throne, eyes downcast. October light streamed through high windows. The odour of incense was heavy in the room. I felt a child again, and this was Constantine. For a moment, the room swam before my eyes. Then Constantius spoke the first line of the ritual greeting. I answered, and prostrated myself at his feet. I kissed the purple, and was raised up. Like two actors we played our scene impersonally until it was done; then I was given a stool next to Eusebia.

I sat very still, looking straight ahead, aware of Eusebia next to me. I could smell the flowery scent of her robes. But neither of us looked at the other.

Ambassadors were received, generals appointed, titles bestowed. The audience ended when the Emperor stood up. The rest of us dropped to our knees. Stiff-legged and swaying slightly from the weight of his robes and jewellery, Constantius marched off to the palace living quarters, followed by Eusebia. The moment the green bronze doors shut behind them, as though from a magician’s spell, we were all set free.

Courtiers surrounded me and asked a thousand questions: Would I be made Caesar? Where would I live? Did I need any service? I had only to command. I answered as demurely and non-committally as I could. Then my enemy Eusebius approached, his yellow moonface gravely respectful. Silk robes whispered as the heavy body bowed to me. “Lord, you are to dine with the sacred family.” An excited whisper went through the court. This was the highest recognition. I was exalted in all eyes. Though my own first reaction was: dinner means poison.

“I shall escort you to the sacred quarters.” Eusebius led me to the bronze doors through which the imperial couple had just passed. We did not speak until we were alone in the corridor beyond.

“You should know, Lord, that I have always, in every way, assured the Augustus of your loyalty to him.”

“I know that you have.” I lied with equal dignity.

“There are those in the Sacred Consistory who are your enemies.” He gestured for a guard to open a small oaken door. We passed through. “But I have always opposed them. As you know, I had hoped all along that you would take your rightful place here at court. And though there are some who think that the title Caesar should lapse because your brother…” He allowed that sentence to go unfinished. “I have urged his Eternity to make you Caesar.”

“I do not seek such honour,” I murmured, looking about me with some interest.

Published in: on March 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm  Comments (2)