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"Set the price!" [FAC PRETIUM.] Cuparius
Rufus to Longinus: Hello. I was in the FORUM yesterday, really enjoying some "sausages" [HILLAE] with hot baked plums, making my way through the afternoon crowds. All of a sudden, a thunderous heavy late-September shower sent people birding for cover. Old men's chests pumped for all they were worth. Young women quickly gathered up their hems. Children squealed. Ladies shrieked, vainly protecting their carefully-applied hairdos, wigs, or expensive clothes. Rouged faces started melting. Big heavy drops formed into puddles, here and there, so that other drops could have a safe place to fall and make their short-lived little circles. Domestic rain drowned out the foreign perfumes. Some of these bodies haven't been this intimate with water for days. Some of these spirits for years! I wondered at the time about what kinds of rain it would take to rinse a spirit squeakyclean and let it start fresh again? Merchants carried on regardless. Strangers squeezed together for a little piece of roof. That IUPPITER is quite an equalizer. What if, in the stormy confusion, these bodies all suddenly found themselves in the wrong wet clothes? the past just washed away? the present just "a new and sudden dream" [SOMNIUM NOVUM ET SUBITUM]? Would that thin slave become a jovial and fat Senator within XII Epicurean months? Would the former Senator's heart be broken within a month of plying his trade as a piss-collector? as a "eunuch" [SPADO] to some eastern goddess? Or would the still-honourable Senator just carry his new burden stoically? How would that pretty "little wife" [UXORCULA] pay for her household supplies now---now that the daughter of a fuller, or a farmer, or "an innkeeper" [CAUPO] has to actually earn her bread and wine, all by herself? I would bet that at least half of these ladies would succeed quite admirably, rise to the challenge with terrible untested resources.
That "suburbanite" [SUBURBANUS] there. How would he ever enjoy sleeping in the space above his master's tannery? Living and working in the same room until he was too old to be of any further use to anyone? How will that former Knight, so easily virtuous, proud, pious, resolute, and charitable, face his new world as a naked man, "alone" [SOLUS], "hungry" [IEIUNUS], "sickly" [INFIRMUS], "unknown" [INCOGNITUS], and "soaked" [ELIXUS]? Would the charity still flow as easily? Would his patriotism still move him to fine speeches and generous civic acts? Would he thank the gods every day for one more sweet breath of life? Would there even be an ounce of virtue accessible to help him resolutely face the uncaring world, when morning came, this time? What would the distinguished matron's spoiled daughter be praying for now, as she spins wool, day after night after day, in her lonely desolate work-hut somewhere on a rocky mountain-side. Would that drenched banker last even one fight as a gladiator against a lion or a fellow murderer? Would that gladiator evolve into an "honest and successful" [SINCERUS ET FORTUNATUS] banker? And that loud old whore: how would she plan the up-coming battle in a far-off German forest? Would the former Consul's friends still invite the new freedman, selling his sharp knives, to a politically-important expensive dinner? If that loud garlic-dealer were now passing out promotions in the armies of the Empire, who would dare to refuse his merest whim? his inquiring eye? "his drunken hand" [SUA MANUS EBRIA]? his warped tastes? Could that former barber now bear the heavy burdens of governing the AEGYPTUS of Cleopatra as a Roman Knight, as the Prefect of AEGYPTUS, and as a close personal friend of the Emperor himself? This rain doesn't care or judge on whom it falls. Nor does "fate" [SORS]. But I'd bet all of ROMA---that the barber could do the job. "Easily." [FACILE.] I sincerely hope that this answers the doubts in your last letter to me. "Good-bye." [VALE.] [date unknown]
"A new friend is a new spring." [AMICUS RECENS VER RECENS.] A part of anything born in the springtime must be offered back to the giving gods. Cuparius
"Darius to Clarus: Hello." [DARIUS CLARO SALUTEM DICIT.] I hope that my yearly letter from the cold province finds your family well. "It's been a long while." [TEMPUS LONGUM FUIT.] We're all fine here, surrounded by frost, snow, ice, and the cold air. I miss ROMA's "action" [FACINUS] and roaring noises every time it starts to snow here. In winter, everything here slows down, like the little rivers (and the people too). But the snow blinds me so; you know my poor eyes. If old Winter is coming hard, then at least I know that Spring is on its way also. I do enjoy the melting: ice and snow into water. And perhaps the people will soften a bit and flow a little bit more than before. I'm sorry to write that Petrus died a few months back. He was walking to visit his son's family early in September when he just disappeared. He was found dead about a month after he had set out. I think that his back went out and he got stranded in the woods. He was complaining about his "bad back" [TERGUM MALUM] viciously just before his trip. I checked into the story "personally" [CORAM], just in case. Romans are not loved dearly everywhere, you know, especially near a border. XXIV years of hard army service! He gives them the prime of his life, they reward him with a Roman citizenship, "and now what" [ET NUNC QUID]? I guess that he was one of the few people in this dusty old world who could stand up proudly and say: "I am a Roman Citizen." [EGO SUM CIVIS ROMANUS.] Not only proud, but free and exclusive! I can still hear him as he faced any problem with that silly grin of his: So, where's the problem---and where's my sword? May his shadow fade slowly in his holy Hell.
I've been hanging around an old Celt who lives nearby. His name is Votaretorix and he speaks Latin poorly. I think that RIX is their version of our REX. He wears "the twisted wire necklace" [TORQUES]. He must be a hundred with this long long moustache and his silver-white hair swept back as if he's forever facing into a secret wind. He lives alone as if he were left there as a beacon. He claims that he's not just a Druid but "a Prophet" [VATES] which apparently women weren't allowed to be. He belonged to the same class as the Druids though. He's hard to understand sometimes and hard to believe most of the time. He lived quite the life though, he says---no taxation, no soldiering, no slaving away for someone. The Druids and Fighters were "The Masters" [DOMINI] and all the rest of the Celts were "the Slaves" [SERVI] on the bottom. And there were lots and lots of Slaves "at the bottom" [APUD RADICE]. As we walk around, he kicks the leaves and other dead things so that they end up underneath a passing tree. He also has this pointed walking stick and every once in a while he stops under a tree and pokes as many holes as he can in the ground under the branches before he moves on. He has vines all over his little house and his gardens. But the names he uses for the oak, birch, elm, and yew! He would say: A birch tree loves a good strong wind! "An oak tree" [QUERCUS] has different names depending on the height, the acornsize, the color, the season, or what is being celebrated. I asked him if the oak was his favourite tree and he answered: No. He said that his favourite was the big river-willow that cries in the summer and, in the winter: It's simply the ugliest tree in the world. He showed me his secret birth-tree. He also showed me a tree that he said was over eight hundred years old---even older than ROMA herself. He would put both of his hands around a tree trunk and say that it was a young man, XX years old, if his hands were full. If the trunk filled his outstretched arms then it was an old man and LXXX years old. He makes me his Druid-potions of willow bark, birch leaves, and other things that I haven't identified yet. He also keeps bees. I first met him when I tried to buy some of his honey.
He said that we all have our personal animals inside us, like a snake, sheep, eagle, dog, or cow, but the plants and trees are pure and unadulterated: pure life and pure magic. He said something odd about birds knowing some great dark secret. Their feathers are a clue---I couldn't exactly see what he was aiming for with this idea. He tries to attract and live among birds, "butterflies" [PAPILIONES], little "bats" [VESPERTILIONES], and toads. He'd point out his bats to me as darkness set in: they like to hang upside down, cloak themselves, and walk upside down along the tree limbs. He didn't like me explaining MITHRAS to him, although he liked the Sun-idea, the water-idea, and the soul-idea. He said that any bit of water, to Druids, is a doorway from the other world and any bit of life is a window to this world (for the spirits on the other side). Although I couldn't see how a bush or a fish could be a window. He believes in an eternal soul too. His eyes stared at mine coldly when I described the ultimate goal: "the star trip" [ITER STELLAE]. A barbarian-poet who never knew an alphabet and he thinks that he can teach me about the real world! I tried to look deep into him once, into his good eye, to try and tell if he had ever tasted human flesh, but he was beyond my skills. He washes with soap and water! He makes this soap out of beech ashes and goat fat. He sells that to the locals and also the best candles in the region. He wears a short tunic and "trousers" [BRACAE]! Actually, in the winter so do I. After so many of my roots and onions, his acornsquirrel soup isn't that bad or his fried oak-grubs. Just like in the army, salt will improve anything. His smoked and salted ham goes so well with his powerful barley-beer. He even burns barley in a horn--also laurel and moss and other things. "Mistletoe" [VISCUM] cures everything apparently, but not a "hang-over" [CRAPULA]! It's a strange plant, without roots in the ground---Like us mortals. :he said. He told me that plants and trees sense that their god is green and that's why they prefer that color. He calls this green: GLOS. Or perhaps it's GLAS. He celebrates IV times a year but instead of on the solstices and equinoxes (like we do), he celebrates "exactly" [ACCURATE] in between those four days---for his own special four days! "Imagine that!" [FINGE ILLUD.] On one of these IV sacred days, late in the evening, precisely between the winter solstice and the autumn equinox, he took me along to celebrate with his "dead" [MANES], "ghosts" [LARVAE], and "shadows" [UMBRAE]. He extinguished all the fires in his little thatched round hut on a hill, built around the trunk of an ancient huge oak tree, and we went to a piece of wooded lowland where he built this huge fire in the open as if he were afraid of something. The crackling fire was somehow his sun in the darkness.
He built everything here himself. He has a maze of stoned walls and shrubbery spreading around his hut. He bricked. He stuccoed the walls. The steep roof is "thatch" [STRAMINA]. He laid the tree-trunks over his dirt floor. His hut has three rooms, but they're only accessible by outside doors. One is for sleeping, another is for storage, and the last is for eating. There is a northern windbreak of tall firs for the winter wind. There are also two wooden platforms above in the tree--one just over his hut and a smaller one high up, near the top of his oak tree. He calls his round white hut, with a slight yellow tinge to it, his egg. I think that he also has a secret word-code for things and ideas like we do, so that when he says tree, star, water, bat, or egg, he has a secret ritual meaning as well as the ordinary meaning to these special words. "An ancient screech owl" [STRIX PRISCA] was watching us for the longest time. It reminded me of those scary children's tales about "the owl-headed creatures" [STRIGAE] who attack children in their sleep and drink their blood. Which reminded me of stories about men turning into wolves or myths about half-creatures-half-men. Which reminded me of an old statue of a god with two horns on his head, back in the Druid's dark hut. He keeps mentioning a Mother-Goddess of the Underworld quite often. This was the end of his year at sundown, but the new year didn't begin until sunrise. Meanwhile, for this special evening, we were in no-time. He'd step into the tremendous fire every so often to rearrange the huge logs: a sight to behold as he emerged out of the fire with his head hooded, like some unearthly creature that fire couldn't even touch! I pointed out the constellations PERSEUS and TAURUS above us in the middle of the night and tried to explain their importance. He would point out some constellation of his. Sometimes we would fight about where the center of our feelings is: he would then point stubbornly to the head and I would point logically to the heart. I can still hear the little bells stitched to his cloak of many shapes and colors. I asked once if the bells were to keep away the dead and he whispered out a no. They were there to remind him that he was still alive and well, and still in this world. I'm sending your dear wife some amber beads, which better arrive with this letter "or else" [AUT]! Where are the youthful days, my friend, when we used to take up the whole sidewalk just as some rich old pudgy wined-up Senator came rolling by within accidental striking distance? Once a centurion, always a centurion. Legion XIII GEMINA is as strong as ever. Their IUPPITER and lion emblems are comforting to behold. But not all of us got out on X years service like you did. "Too bad" [MALE] my brother wasn't smart enough to become a consul like yours. "Anyhow" [QUOQUOMODO], I'm sure that an old soldier like you is still fighting for his place in line and for a better life. The 25th of December will soon be here once more: "The Unconquered Sun!" [SOL INVICTUS.] This "Persian" [PERSES] wishes you: "Peace!" [PAX.] And "stay away from redheads" [VITA RUFAE]! "Good-bye." [VALE.] On the 18th day of December. In 4 A.D.. MURSA, PANNONIA.
"He lived by handfuls and mouthfuls of time." [BUCCELLIS MANIPULISQUE TEMPORIS VIXIT.] Cuparius
Gemellus to Appollonius: Hello. They say that when pirates captured him near CILICIA, they tried to ransom him for XX TALENTA. Insulted, he suggested that they ask for L and then promised to come back and hunt them down like wild animals. He was only about XX years old then, but he did come back after they got their money, in force, tracked them down to the island of PHARMECUSA, crucified them and, some say, cut a few of their throats himself. "I believe it." [ID CREDO.] This man never accepted any injury to his "honourable rank" [DIGNITAS]. "He borrowed freely and he spent freely." [THIS PART IN GREEK] When he left for HISPANIA to be Propraetor, he was in debt, owing twenty-five million SESTERTII. He came back after his tour of duty and easily paid all his debts off, somehow. But I doubt if he borrowed any money while there. He can't be trusted with your wife or with what he writes. His purple toga surely reminded people of kingship. They were strange bedfellows: Pompeius, a Pleb siding with the Patricians, and Caesar, a Patrician siding with "the masses" [PLEBES]. Shall we be governed by ability or by birth? Shall we be governed by laws everyone votes for or by men nobody votes for? Democracy or the Republic? Caesar or the Senators? the filthy mob or the filthy rich man? ROMA's constant and eternal dilemma! The widespread rumour was that, on the 15th day, the Senate would be asked to make Caesar king. He was already dictator-for-life. On the 18th day, Caesar was to leave for PARTHIA to conquer her and put more provinces under the power of ROMA. The assassins waited with daggers, little swords, razors, and hidden knives. He entered the Theater of Pompeius escorted by their man, Decimus Brutus, to attend the Senate and they flocked around him as the statue of his dead enemy Pompeius looked on and on. Pompeius had had the misfortune to be assassinated V years earlier on a foreign shore. Caesar must have been shocked to recognize Marcus Brutus and Gaius Cassius, as he fell to the ground. There were rumours that Marcus Brutus was really Caesar's son, but neither one of them ever stepped forward and said anything in public. They say that Casca struck the first of XL blows. He says so "proudly" [SUPERBE] anyway. They say that LX of the Senators were originally in the plot. All the Senators then scurried to the safety of their homes "like rats" [UT MURES], too scared to declare for Democrats or Patricians, overwhelmed by the assassination. It looked like civil war, again. An amnesty was declared on the 17th day, but "mobs" [VULGI] were forming and rioting. "He was very popular." [VALDE POPULARIS ERAT.]
Maybe you're right: the Republic was a combination of monarchy, democracy, and aristocracy that worked. The consuls and dictators were kings, the upper-class were senators in power, and the other people were democrats with their elected tribunes and their little votes. The Republic as a three-way balance! But there seems to be a natural progression there: one man-king to a group of senators to all the democrats. And without violent force, it's hard to get a king or a senator to share the wealth and power. Although like Titus says: Most people in a democracy are not virtuous. What would happen if everyone got an equal vote? Murderers and thieves voting equally with bakers and philosophers! Drunks and pimps deciding who should run the city! Petty criminals and mixed-up liars weighing the issues carefully and with intent! In his will, he had left every Roman citizen CCC SESTERTII. Always a politician that man, even in death. When it was declared that his adopted son and heir was to be his eighteen-year old grandnephew if Caesar didn't have a legitimate son of his own by then, I think that Antonius became embittered---after his initial rage wore off. The will was made back in September, last year. Decimus Brutus was the back-up heir---Caesar must have been a little surprised to see his knife among the assassins. Marcus Antonius was the trustee of the will. In the middle of April, Cleopatra packed up and left ROMA as quickly "as an Egyptian in the night" [UT AEGYPTUS NOCTE]. I'll miss those red fingernails. And those blue-and-green eyes. And her royal stiff insolent manner. What would the soldiers say? Caesar's elite Tenth Legion? A huge crowd of people wouldn't leave his burning funeral bier in the FORUM throughout the night of the 20th day. Gradually they threw everything moveable in the FORUM onto the angry fire. It was very ugly: a slow wild fury. Helvius Cinna was in the crowd when someone started attacking him, yelling: "Assassin!" [SICARIE.] It was the wrong Cinna however! Cornelius Cinna was the one that they wanted in their righteous hands. Murdered for another man's crime! The innocent guy was a poet, wasn't he? They literally tore him apart. I stayed there watching and thinking throughout the night. We were overwhelmed by the funeral incense and spices in the air. The FORUM used to be an ancient cemetery long ago in our historical past, didn't it? Someone was making a political point, now. The mob, the next day, erected a XX-foot column of Numidian marble on his funeral spot inscribed neatly with: "To The Father of The Country" [PARENTI PATRIAE]. Someone had been well prepared.
After the civil war, Caesar had only really ruled for about a year without a major war on his hands somewhere. All governments are run by the few: army, heredity, wealth, priests, race, or business. Caesar was more democratic, more cosmopolitan though. More citizens were admitted and also more citizens were created from barbarians, soldiers, and slaves. Roman colonies were integrated, new colonies were set up, and even new-citizen Gauls were installed into the Senate. More barbarians were made gladiators. Land was given to soldiers and to proletarians. The recolonizing of CARTHAGO and CORINTHUS was a personal political symbol. Everything he did and said was a political declaration of war. He had "the daily records" [ACTA DIURNA] put out in the FORUM for all to see and sent to the legions and provinces: a remarkably open precedent. ROMA was his home and he was her father now; only a god was higher, more dignified. He beat the nobility politically and militarily, but he was lenient. He'd lie treacherously to a Celtic or German tribe and then massacre them down to their last woman and child. He always travelled with bodyguards in foreign lands, but not in ROMA. He was always lenient to a fellow Roman and his fellow Romans were the ones who got him in the end. But then, even the wise Socrates wasn't killed by strangers. Perhaps it wasn't really a choice of democracy or republic, but of army or aristocracy: the war of the soldiers against the SESTERTII. In the end, the Senate, ROMA, the barbarians, and the world only had respect for Caesar if there was an army to back his speeches. I wonder if you'd listen to my opinions and thoughts obediently, with Caesar's army to back me up? If it could happen like this to Caesar, then it can happen to anyone of us. We all have our Brutus, or some Ides out there waiting for us. I would claim that a million people (that's a lot of ones) died in Caesar's wake as he passed his way through this world. Quite a legacy! Maybe that's the only real summation of any man: How many dead ghosts are silently pointing their fingers directly at you as you still walk the human streets? Maybe you're right that it never really was a Republic in the first instance, but it surely was evolving into one before all the Caesars showed up.
One side accuses the other of tyranny and claims loyalty to the Republic while the other side cries out against anarchy and claims loyalty to the Republic. And they all cry: "Liberty." [LIBERTAS.] But Liberty is a step above anarchy and Liberty is also a step above tyranny. Their concept of Liberty is too childish, too limited, too selfish, too dead. Liberty has to be defended by the sword, but she cannot profit by the sword. Or as you would say it in your practical business way: Liberty can profit by the sword, but she cannot profiteer by the sword. Old "Ninety-Nine" [IC] married "five times" [QUINQUIES], but his only legal son died early and his only legal daughter died a young woman: that would be a kinder summation of the man. When he stood up too quickly he was grabbed by dizziness, so he was mortal and vulnerable like any other man. His dreams scared him to death. He was bald and vain about it. He loved himself and he loved ROMA. His chair of gold at his Temple of VENUS is empty now. A spectacular "Julian comet" [SIDUS IULIUM] is seen in the skies for VII nights and people cry: It's an omen of Caesar! As if he were still in the city! Some, whose eyes are better than mine, see a bloody-red comet. I just nod my head. His birthday on the 12th day of QUINTILIS is celebrated like a god's festival. The Caesar "Games" [LUDI] are celebrated with extra care and sanctity this year. People believe what they want, as usual. I believe that he was just another penny drowning "in a sea of wax" [IN MARI CERAE]. "It's turning into morning" [IN MANE MUTATUR] as I write and what will our precious Republic turn into? What will the laughing gods give us in the years to come? "What we were, we shall be!" [QUID ERAMUS ERIMUS.] On the 30th day of "July" [QUINTILIS]. ROMA. He even knew when to laugh at the right time. [44 B.C.]
"The more cats, the more mischief." [PLUS FELIUM PLUS MALEFICII.] Cuparius
Flaccus to Priscus: Hello. Tourists! They should all be crucified! Their "graffiti" [INSCRIPTIONES] is polluting my city. They scratch names and opinions everywhere. As if they were dogs passing by. As if the whole city should care deeply about what they have to say: "Aristocles was here" [ARISTOCLES HIC FUIT] "IUPPITER is dead" [IUPPITER MORTUUS] "eat my shorts" [COMEDE SUBLIGACULUM MEUM] "the Germans are coming" [GERMANI VENIUNT] "real men don't wear togas" [VIRI TOGAS NON GERUNT] "ROMA is love" [ROMA AMOR] "for a good time come see Iulia in the FORUM" [OB TEMPUS BONUM VENI IULIAM IN FORO VIDERE] "I came, I saw, I laughed." [VENI.VIDI.RISI.] "drink and then think" [POTA DEINDE PUTA] "think and then drink" [PUTA DEINDE POTA] "vote for Valernius, he'll set you free" [SUFFRAGARE VALERNIUM.TE LIBERABIT] "what, me, to worry? [QUID EGO CURARE] "poor lions" [LEONES MISERI] "animals are not slaves"[BESTIAE SERVAE NON SUNT] "Claude and Portia" [CLAUDIUS ET PORCIA] "Hannibal slept here" [HANNIBAL HIC DORMIVIT] "Roman bitchs do it for a penny" [CANES ROMAE OB ASSEM ID AGUNT] "cry and then cry again" [LACRIMA ATQUE LACRIMA ITERUM] "Celts rule" [CELTAE REGUNT] "go to school" [I IN LUDUM] "go to hell" [I IN MALAM REM] "ROMA doesn't hold me" [ME ROMA NON TENET] "she holds no love" [TENET NON AMOREM] "have your penny ready" [PARA ASSEM] "the Arab Emperor" [AUGUSTUS ARABICUS] "just say no" [DENIQUE DIC NON] "show me" [MONE ME] "little ants everywhere" [PARVAE FORMICAE UBIQUE] "what did I do?" [QUID EGO EGI] "I serve the same to everyone" [EADEM OMNIBUS PONO] "go home" [I DOMUM] "no time" [NIHIL TEMPORIS] "file it" [CONDE ID IN SCAPO] "sh! sleepyheads!" [ST. DORMIENTES]
Just because you speak Latin however, doesn't necessarily make you a Roman. Just because you read and write, does not mean that you are literate and well-mannered. These temporary invaders don't work in the city, or supply it with any lasting trade. These parasites don't give. They only take and run. These ghosts can't respect a living breathing city. They aren't at home now and they'll never value someone else's home. Why are they here? Is it that bad in their own homes? Do they dress and act this way in their own towns and villages and farms? Just because they kiss the family cow before they go to sleep or relieve themselves in any old lane when they're at home, they figure that they can do it here too! Thank the gods, this anniversary only comes around once! But there’s always another anniversary, another birthday, another death-day, another fabricated artificial reason to bring people together so that they’re not alone in their same old garbage. New garbage is a diversion from the real garbage. And the real garbage is their old garbage. These staring questioning people think that there's gold in these mean streets. And at least fifty thousand prostitutes agree with them. Not to mention the part-time ones! I guess that there's always a certain price to pay, when you're the center of the world. VALE. [248 A.D.]
Don't let "what-they-say-you-are" [QUOD DICUNT TU ES] become "what-you-are" [QUOD TU ES]. Cuparius
Marcus to his beloved mother: The Warmest Hello. I hope that brother or sister reads this to you faithfully, as they always have before. I pray that my dear father, brother, and sister are healthy and happy. Your brother's ship, LARA, sailed into ALEXANDRIA on the 22nd day of May. We talked about business and I got so carried away with our plans that I decided to see the rest of AEGYPTUS and then ARABIA. Uncle was very interested that I report back everything to him. He especially wanted to know about ARABIA and rare "spices" [CONDIMENTA]. The people here talk of its riches and wonders. Uncle will have to look after the books and accounts himself, while I'm away. He and I met with the new Roman administrators. Octavianus is still here getting ready finally to return to ROMA. He wears a ring with the head of a SPHINX on it. He seems like a simple sort of man. It's a good thing that busts don't show height (or the lack of it). They say that they can hold AEGYPTUS with III Roman legions. The plan is definitely not to include any Egyptians in the armies. The Egyptians may not be surprised to see all the soldiers, but they will be stunned when they see all the legions of tax collectors that follow behind the soldiers! There must be well over a half million taxable-people in ALEXANDRIA. But then again, maybe they're used to it by now after centuries of over-taxation. C.Cornelius Gallus will certainly command AEGYPTUS well. He is famous both as a poet and as a soldier. That's different anyway! He gave me a copy of his book "Loves" [AMORES]. His elegies are powerful, although it's not my favourite style of writing. The PHARUS Lighthouse is here: CCCC feet high. I managed to get inside once. Wonderful and titanic! It rises first in a square shape, then the middle becomes a hexagon shape, and the final part on top is round. A ship can see it from a full day's sail away. I guess that it was made to impress the visitors, both new and old. It sure stays in the mind while you're in the city. I used my measuring-stick to guess its height. Cleopatra is spoken of as if she were a goddess. When she had lost her wars, she tried to make a run for it to INDIA with her family-treasury to start a new dynasty, but they outmaneuvered her and cornered her. They say that Octavianus became the richest man in the world when he seized her three hundred-year old treasury. She still has a hold on this city even though she killed herself last year at the age of XXXVIIII. My guess is that the Egyptians are still more impressed with her and her lovely image than with a simple Roman soldier like Octavianus.
ALEXANDRIA, the City of Alexander (or the City of Dinocrates, Alexander's city-planner) is a truly cosmopolitan city, second only of course to your ROMA, with a hundred-foot-wide main street and classic heavy columns everywhere. Although, there are many who would call her the greatest city of all time. There are mainly Egyptians, Jews, and Greeks here, but also some Italians, Persians, Arabs, Libyans, Ethiopians, Bactrians, and of course Syrians. They all like to stay on their own streets. It's more like a little world, all to its own. They all treat the Egyptians as the lowest class. The Greeks and Jews appear to be at each other's throats! With all these people crammed in here, misunderstandings are bound to happen. So exotic and yet unlike ROMA. Near the middle is the temple of ISIS. Her priests are bald, chaste, and bare-foot. They worship the cow, but refuse to eat sheep or pig. The luxurious temple of SERAPIS, an underworld bull-man-god, is magical. It is full of wonderful paintings, great columns, and huge majestic statues. There is also a Sanctuary to PAN. There is a small wild statue there with two horns on its head, two goat ears, two goat legs and goat feet, and a huge Star on its chest: a fear-inspiring PAN and yet a thoughtful silly PAN. Maybe it's that we feel odd about our animal parts and our animal parts feel very odd about our non-animal parts. I'm not sure if he appears very old to me or very young. I could have stayed for years in the Library and the Museum with its lectures, gardens, theater, zoo, and observatories. Ever since I first read Euclides, I've been in love with ALEXANDRIA and "numbers" [NUMERI]. Euclides led me to Pythagoras: "One" [UNUS] is a point, "two" [DUO] is a line, "three" [TRES] is a surface, and "four" [QUATTUOR] is a solid, a real thing. That ordered idea has always stayed with me. Pythagoras and his music led me to Plato. Unless you knew geometry, he wouldn't even talk to you. Why does IUPPITER take exactly one year to travel through each of the twelve signs of the zodiac? What is the square root of II? Why is Pi so imperfect and yet the circle so perfect? Why did the ancients love the number LX? Why are musical harmonies related mathematically? Why do prime numbers not occur in a pattern? (Or do they)? "I love Mysteries!" [MYSTERIA AMO.] Where I bumped into Archimedes and why I started reading him, I don't remember, but I like the way he thinks; it's so different from the people I normally meet. He's a god that I can understand. These particular books that I have collected are my oracles. The Egyptians even say that writing is a gift from the gods--the language of the gods.
Oh yes---Pythagoras also taught me to privately confront my conscience, every single day, "fearlessly" [IMPAVIDE], "truthfully" [VERE], and "hopelessly" [DESPERANTER]. I suppose that here, as in ROMA, we all have our gods. Are the gods real or are they symbols, like numbers are symbols? People speak in myths wherever I go. But we, Romans, don't have all these half-animal half-human types of gods that Egyptians do. The Roman wolf and eagle are simply symbols. That's Roman progress, I suppose. Although we do still have our PAN lurking around our ROMA. They love to eat their bread, lentils, and beans here. Also onions, cucumbers, pomegranates, grapes, watermelons, figs, dates, and olives. They also eat things like crane, "pigeon" [COLUMBA], hippo, ostrich, gazelle, and all kinds of seafood. Usually, I have coarse Egyptian bread with some sesame or poppy seed in it and Egyptian beer. But to eat one of their huge lobsters with some terrible Egyptian wine: that's my lingering memory of ALEXANDRIA. Cleopatra doesn't need it anymore! I don't think that she'll ever get a pyramid of her own, now. Cleopatra liked to dress up and call herself ISIS and parade through the streets or on the NILUS. Alexander is buried here but others say that he's really buried in BABYLON, MACEDONIA, OASIS, or even in MEMPHIS. They're hiding his body somewhere. I would bet on where he actually died, myself. His gold sarcophagus is long gone: "Times are tough all over." [TEMPORA UNDIQUE SUNT DURA.]. Was he Macedonian, Greek, or eventually Persian? They tell me that he was a god. They tell me that his body was mummified in white honey! People say a lot of things. There's what-they-say and there's what-they-think. And there's always also what-is-real-and-true: the Source of the other two! In ALEXANDRIA, Uncle picked up linen, papyrus, pepper, cinnamon, silks, jewellery, incense, and ivory for their trips back. Life tastes better "with pepper" [PIPERE] and everything we do just goes better "with incense" [THURE]. Visitors, here, will buy anything with a crocodile, cat, or bull shape, or insignia. I like the little glass pyramids that they sell in the happy shape of a fat cat, myself. Your Latin is not as useful here as the Greek you taught me. My poor Egyptian tongue has introduced me to some unexpected friends. I am taking their ship tomorrow on the 10th day of "June" [IUNIUS] to start on my long way to ARABIA. We'll sail up the NILUS for XIV or XV days and here I am, thinking of the thousands of years of history here on this river! The Egyptians must be the oldest people in history. What will people see of us thousands of years from now. And what will they say? "Take care of yourself." [CURA UT VALEAS.] [29 B.C.]
He said: "Don't eat your heart!" [NOLI EDERE COR.] And I knew then that I wasn't alone. At the end of the day, you can add up, for yourself, all the people who might have whispered your name today for some reason or other---but you'd be wrong---it was many more people than that. Cuparius
Marcus to his beloved mother: The Warmest Hello. That ALEXANDRIA like that ROMA is only a memory now. After old MEMPHIS we entered the NILUS Canyon, no more flat open delta! Plato spent XIII years in MEMPHIS, learning Egyptian secrets and history. Pythagoras, himself, spent XXII years in Egyptian temples and schools. They discovered, I suppose, the sacred secret knowledge and the eternal fact of death: "Mathematics and medicine!" [NUMERI ET MEDICINA.] Meanwhile, ivory enough to fill ROMA comes floating down the NILUS along with wild animals and slaves. They pointed at the famous "Pyramids" [PYRAMIDES] up high, as we sailed by on the river. Some days, it's such an exciting mysterious world! We were simply sailing along and then suddenly: "Wham! Bang!" [TUXTAX.] "It's a whole, new World!" [EST MUNDUS TOTUS ET NOVUS.] They are huge and eternal and unbelievable. They sure don't move much, just slowly rotate. "They might in the end have been nothing more than a project to keep all the poor people occupied. Some pharaohs built pyramids and some built wars. They say that there are a hundred pyramids in all, but no one has bothered to count all the wars up. The Egyptian stones are marvellous: limestone, granite, sandstone, and marble. But they're for the city-people. The other people use mud-bricks. Even their homes come from the River. They take the mud out of their River and throw in some straw before they give it a quick bake. Why straw? They don't know why, or so they tell me. They lay a wall with these dull bricks, then thatch or tile it for a nice flat roof. It never rains here so they are free to enjoy the outside world. The straw-part still has me wondering. The straw is such weak stuff---unless you push on the end of it---ouch!" [THIS WHOLE PART IN GREEK]
Mud-bricks are good enough for me anyway. The poor man’s barleybeer is good enough for me too. Unlike ALEXANDRIA, mainly, I see farms and villages. Oh, yes, lots of mosquitoes and flies. They have these stone gauges that measure the height of the floods---whether there will be a famine that year. They measure here in cubits, palms, and digits. My friends chew "the papyrus" [PAPYRUS] and then spit out the pulp. "Strange customs" [MORES MIRI] in strange lands! They have three seasons: Spring, Summer, and Flood. They even start their New Year with the flood, just after the Ides of July, when the star SIRIUS, which they call SOTHIS, first rises. Their fourthousand-year-old calendar is simple: XII months of XXX days, plus V feast-days, plus one-quarter day. The dark land along the river, as it snakes through AEGYPTUS, is like a long wonderful garden or oasis but the rest is boring desert. The NILUS is their greatest god, whatever myths they may tell me. If it wasn't for the flooding, it would all be death and desert. It must rain heavily way up high where the NILUS starts, in whatever mountains that must lie up there somewhere. We sail at our leisure by crocodiles and palm trees, by hippos and farmers, by swallows and storks. I remember sailing on the MARE INTERNUM once when a cloud of storks flew by us. They love to fly really low to the water. Hundreds of storks stormed by---but they respectfully avoided our ship. They're born up north somewhere and then they travel southwards for the winter-food. But they always try to return home again. I wondered at the time if these birds might have half-stork half-man gods? To manage the precious liquid, there are canals and dikes all along the river. Whoever controls the water, controls the people. Just before THEBAE we took a canal to COPTUS, then a camel-caravan for XIII nights of torture. You can notice hyenas, jackals, and vultures on the edges, waiting for a camel to fall. The days are so hot and the nights cold. Sleep and rest were all we can barely endure at some wellplaced station on this ancient route. The wind in "the desert" [ARENAE] blows constantly against you---you're always fighting it--which is an odd complaint from a sailor. One tremendous sandstorm was a deadly disaster. The air became hotter and hotter just before the sandstorm hit. The flying sand is so hot that you have to hug a nearby camel for protection and shelter. Drowning in the sand, I felt so helpless. This world may struggle against terrible floods and earthquakes and plagues, but it will surely someday finally end by drought. And then, there will be no more sailors.
They told me that some poor tribes live out here all the time, in the hill-caves. XXXXVIII camels and me, soberly moving through the Egyptian desert-night---not exactly the stuff of poetry, I know, but there we were! They told me to watch out for snakes and scorpions. The sand-fleas are everywhere. The smell of camels is something that I will never forget, though I've tried! These animals are not just horses with a hump. They're one-humped monsters! They can carry five hundred pounds easily, so they have their value. They go for XX to XXV miles a night. The front feet of the camels are tied loosely when they're not loaded down by business. There are II or III camels to each human-handler. My friends insisted that I ride on a camel, so I obliged at times, but I preferred walking because it seemed more real to me. They milk them, burn their dung, and eat them. Camel-meat is too tough for me and the smoked hump---I didn't even want to look at it. I liked the camel-liver. They told me: You haven't lived until you've had "camel-heel soup" [IUS CALCIS CAMELI]. Well, they're wrong! My friend said that if we're lucky, we'll taste some hyena. But it doesn't sound too lucky to me, never mind for the hyena and his family. Let me tell you though, if ever a male camel is frothing at the mouth, then, well, just stay out of its way! Move quickly and calmly in the opposite direction! Their milk is whitish. These animals drink and drink rivers of water if you let them and nothing if they can't find water! Fresh water is constantly a problem in my life, whether I'm at sea or in the desert. The tents are of camel-hair. The camels are like super-mules, or like dragons that some dragon-goddess somewhere had personally created...but she forgot the wings and claws, had a hump added, and had the legs stretched, in a drunken fit of humour. The proof they offered me was that camels (and cats) move their feet the same way as dragons when they walk: they move the back leg just before the front leg on the same side, then the same pattern on the other side, and so on. Did I mention that a camel's stink could kill? Flies have been known to drop dead if they innocently passed too close to a camel's breath! We arrived in BERENICE on the 5th day of July, according to my diary. More Arabs and Indians are to be found here. My Egyptian friend here told me that an Egyptian ship sailed from here to AETHIOPIA once and then further south, around the land's end, back northwards to HISPANIA and onward to ALEXANDRIA. His friend jumped in and claimed that they went past ALEXANDRIA by canal to BERENICE again to complete the circuit. I spent XXXX days meeting different Indian and Arab traders. I had to pick the most trustworthy one. "Trust" [FIDES] is a funny word, a funny string, and a funny goddess. There were V good Arabian cities for me to pick from.
I arrived a month later in OCELIS, ARABIA, on an experienced Egyptian trading ship instead. She loaded up with incense, myrrh, cinnamon, ginger, gums, "laudanum" [LADANUM], a lot of precious stones, and jewellery. Just like in ROMA, I try to earn more than I spend. The people are so strange and wonderful. "I live and walk in a dream." [IN SOMNIO VIVO ET AMBULO.] Would they be as impressed with ROMA? Words fail me, like they do a child, until I can get more experienced with the exotic people and things here. There are even some stars that I've never seen before. The star Polaris is very, very low in the sky here! And the sun is so high in the burning sky. The moon also! The stars, planets, moon, and sun seem to be in a secret ancient harmony. I can almost hear it, when I'm not distracted by something down here, where we are. The stars are surely the oldest gods. But, in the end, they don't seem to care. They give us life as a present and then they cruelly take it back again, for themselves. On your birthday, I offered some salt, wine, and incense as my celebration-sacrifice for my Sunshine. But I finally decided to keep on going: INDIA is "on my mind" [IN ANIMO MEO]. The trade comes from there! They told me that there are thousands of cities, thousands of tribes and languages, and thousands of gods. BACCHUS was supposedly born in NYSA, somewhere in INDIA. And there are "the Chinese" [SERES] still further on and the-gods-know-what-else past them. I keep writing in my little diary and taking my sundial measurements for my map-drawing. I have my little bag of gold coins and I have your words of experience. I also have my thin gold necklace in case of any real disaster. I sent this letter back with the Egyptians from OCELIS along with a sack of incense for you and a whole load of "bananas" [ARIENAE] for my Egyptian friends as my personal gift to them. On the 11th day of "August" [SEXTILIS]. In 29 B.C.. "Take care of yourself." [CURA UT VALEAS.] [29 B.C.]
"She listened gently to his stories and he listened respectfully to hers ---a kindness in return for a kindness." [EA CLEMENTER FABULAS EIUS AUDIVIT ET IS REVERENTER FABULAS EIUS AUDIVIT.GRATIA PRO GRATIA.] Cuparius
Amanda to Flavius: Hello, again. "If I had a million" [SI EGO M HABUI] words I'd buy "your love" [AMOR TUUS] "with visions" [VISIBUS] and "with stories" [FABULIS] and with days spent only on adjectives. If I had a merchant-ship filled with kisses I'd buy from you your love with sweet feelings and quick touches. If I had "a city full of wishes" [URBS PLENA OPTATORUM] I'd buy your love with all the things I really want in this world and I'd wish for your every desire. If I had a million days I'd spend them on you, "hopefully" [CUM SPE] (not to mention a million nights). I'd borrow every hour I could to buy your love. Now if I had "a river of ducks" [FLUMEN ANATUM], hmmm... or "a war of slaves" [BELLUM SERVORUM] or "an army of hands" [AGMEN MANUUM]..."yes, hands" [IMMO MANUS] or maybe perhaps, a CIRCUS of smiles I would love to buy your love. "If only" [SI SOLUM] you had something to buy "my love" [AMOR MEUS] with.... On the 1st day of January. In 218 A.D.. CAPUA.
If they ever ask you any funny questions, you just go ahead and answer them with "a funny question" [INTERROGATIO INSOLITA], "right back" [RURSUS]. Cuparius
Alfius to Quintilius Mutilus: Hello. I hope that this letter stirs up some of the Roman fire still in you, in that wilderness you now call home, and makes you miss ROMA. I know that she misses you. I also hope that you enjoyed my last letter, touring around the CAMPUS MARTIUS. So do that "Roman Thing" [RES ROMANA]: put some incense on, maybe a few flowers like painted roses or fresh blossoms nearby, some laurel burning, some rosemary in sight, some basil and pepper on your breath, some hot wine within easy reach....and read on. My dear old mother told me constantly to be careful with the company I keep: Friends share their troubles but hoard their profits. My father was a little more practical: Believe the best of friends and the worst of enemies. (And don't believe anyone else!) But I think that you logically buy a lot of hidden and implied "luggage" [SARCINAE] when you buy into a friendship. I strolled between "the Colosseum" [AMPHITHEATRUM FLAVIUM] and the CIRCUS MAXIMUS as I watched these people of ROMA. It must be almost 500 easy paces in one direction. It's just another street in ROMA. It's about the seventh hour; my lunch was superb but a bit too much! I never buy any meat on the streets, just a drink now and then. Just because they call it chicken or pig doesn't mean that it hasn't been called rotting pigeon or alley-cat previously. People are funny with their words: Of course, I was in the CIRCUS all day, honey! And inwardly: After all, life is a CIRCUS and an hour does seem like a day sometimes (and honey does come from stinging bees, you nosey old....). "Filthy little children" [LIBERI SORDIDI ET PARVI] are playing around the Colosseum. The older ones are charged with watching over the younger ones. But we all get lost a little in "the passion of playing" [FERVOR LUDI]. Have children always played like this: with meagre toys, balls, sticks, earth, rocks, nuts, large beans, each other, the nearby wall, some ants, watching the clouds, ignoring passing adults, chasing each other, hiding, crying, laughing? "A teacher" [LITTERATOR] is drilling some young students in the alphabet and syllables, loudly! Every once in a while, a roar is heard from inside the amphitheater. I wonder if the kids realize what the yelling means? Of course, as usual, they know perfectly well about what's going on around them. They're so accepting---if we all happened to walk sideways and to run around screaming every second word wearing only blue hats, well, it would be fine with the little people. They don't care what the rules are; they just want to get on with the game and start playing.
A child's love must be ideal. They love unreservedly. They haven't even seen their parents yet, but they come into the world ready to love them whether they're young or old or stupid or cute or rich or barbarians or murderers or slaves. Then again, the poor parents are equally ready to start loving, so maybe there is a trade-off of sorts. And most babies are born so dirt-ugly that I'm sure that the gods are trying to tell us something. It's strange how as we grow up and away from our parents, we naturally start looking for a mate to restart that family-feeling. Some teenaged boys are horsing around, semiviolently, trying to impress some girls nearby. The giggling girls, meanwhile, are strutting around and chattering excitedly about nothing at all, trying to impress the boys. It seems so obvious and silly when someone else is doing it. I spot Quadratus heading my way. I haven't spoken to him in years. I look past him and ignore him, even though he does still owe me C SESTERTII. He does the same. I think it was him; my eyes seem to be getting weaker this year. Yes, that was his silly hunched style of walking, I'm so sure of it, "the dirty rat" [MUS SORDIDUS]! His "girlfriend" [AMICULA], the Giraffe, never did return that book of mine that she had begged and begged to borrow for just one little month. I hate lending my books out. An old lady coughs, spits, and snorts past me, not caring whom she might offend, as if she were the only real person in the rude inhuman city full of young idiots. After her display, I begin to notice a lot of other people with their own particular sneezes, yawns, scratches, hums, drools, wheezes, spits, licks, sweat. Some people are sensitive to the city around them and to what other people may think of them, and some are sensitive only to their inner selves. Some old men are correcting each other's birdcalls on the corner: That doesn't sound like a dove, it's more like a crow. A crow? Yes, a crow...a crow dying...slowly! The old men cackle, and criticize and smile at each other as they pass their time away.
I go through the crowd playing that old children's game in my mind: "Ilike-it/I-don't-like-it." [MIHI PLACET.MIHI DISPLICET.] A mother, dressed in her finest colours, hurries quickly by with her curly-headed daughter in her pretty clean TUNICA, probably visiting relatives and shopping for dinner. Their matching "hairpins" [CRINALIA] are a nice touch. A boy in a goat-drawn chariot disappears into an alley of shadows. There's the old salesman's trick of sizing people up by their "transportation" [VECTURA]: horse or walking, donkey or stallion, litter or cart, slaves or not, expensive shoes or barely-hanging-on sandals. They might as well carry signs on their backs, written with their worth in SESTERTII! I could set up a booth here and tell them their fortunes: You were injured in the war, have XII SESTERTII in your pocket and have no future prospects. You're worth sixty thousand SESTERTII and your wife is unfaithful (what are the odds!). Your back is very sore. You just lost your best friend. You think you've got happiness by the privates. And: You over there, you love to eat. You stand ready to die for love. You live for your children. I could talk away nonchalantly about their health, luck, love, virtue, money---and make them all a little bit happier. A chubby slave-girl walks away from me in her bare feet---her dirty cracked heels off to their next assignment. I'd bet that she's taken "the long way home" [VIA LONGA DOMUM] quite often in her lifetime. Her dark dark TUNICA hides any food or stain or other dirty accident. A cloud of perfume rolls by with her pet weasel; "why is she hiding" [CUR LATET] in that sweet imported smell? Sometimes, we should just be grateful and not inquire too much! Children love their pets: dogs, birds, weasels, cats, hares, snakes, turtles. Some adults love them too, but it must be a childish "obsession" [STUDIUM]: playing at parenting! And the youngest pets are the favourites. There is a certain type of short-man, who walks with his legs far apart, his arms swinging just a little wider than normal, his torso swaying sideways as he tries to claim more than his fair share of the citystreet. I suppose that we all compensate for something physical that we feel we have too little or too much of.
Among the unwashed and unlettered comes a big fat swine in his Senator-TOGA with its "wide crimson stripe" [CLAVUS], protecting his wealth with overt and covert violence: covering the city in weapons, guards, police, lawyers, soldiers, judges, slaves, laws, wills, walls. Adrift in a sea of would-be robbers, poor baby! All the other rich and the want-to-be rich are after him relentlessly. The crimson border on his TOGA must be a proud symbol of his blood (or somebody's blood). He moves at the center of bodyguards, slaves, flunkies, relatives, hangers-on. They all want jobs, money, and dinner invitations. Off to the FORUM for some entertainment and laughs! A chubby ancient beggar gives the noble Senator the famous "finger" [DIGITUS] as he's ignored and passed over. The beggar gives the back of someone else's TOGA "the horn" [CORNU]. "I didn't look back" [NON RESPEXI] after I passed him by. A scream catches my attention, as a barber butchers his vain victim at a fountain decorated with stone cupids and eternal birds. A little old lady plods by trying to keep her head up as high as possible today, her too few teeth trying to avoid each other. A loud idiot rants on the corner at the uncaring world. People love giving away their wellconsidered opinions. Poor stinking beggars are on every second corner. One ranter catches my ear and eye with his yelling. The phrase that grabs me at first is: Walking Bellies! He moans that we were all innocent children of some great father-god until the evil came into our "garden" [HORTUS]---and that evil was the discovery that some of us creatures could be eaten. He screams out: "You animals!" [VOS BESTIAE.] "Cannibals!" [ANTHROPOPHAGI.] "Do not murder!" [NON OCCIDES.] "You!" [TU.] He seems sincere and ominous and also a little bit scared. I pass a pregnant girl, with face bloated and feet splayed out for a better balance in an unsure world. They say that a pregnant woman has a certain glow. Well, the mystery of motherhood does have a wonderful glow to it, but her fragile body is sure taking a beating. This one seems to be walking, breathing, and eating for two! Perhaps she'll find some time in her busy schedule to smile for two. A mean little adolescent deliberately goes out of his way to step on a wayward beetle as it tries to cross the hot littered sidewalk. He'll make for a good soldier someday. Wherever he's headed to, he doesn't want to go there. But he's going anyway because somebody gave him an order. And orders make life easier for him. I avoid a couple of begging Egyptian priests with their little cymbals and also step around a dead little carcass in my way (probably a squirrel). A charioteer steps through the gathering crowd like a HERCULES, smiling and raising his hands up to his sweet heaven. The crowd goes into a controlled "orgy" [COMISSATIO]! Too bad they couldn't get that excited about liberty, honour, or goodness. His silk hem has some gold-coloured material and glass sewn in. As if it were he, himself, who pulled that heavy chariot, with all four horses in it, across the finish-line. Ah well, some get "the credit" [FAMA] and some get "the sweat" [SUDOR]. Some drunks dressed as Greeks dance by chanting what sounds like: "Win! Win! Win!" [NICA.NICA. NICA.]
You know, I hate "the lower-class" [INFAMI]. They stink worse than animals. But they don't want to change. They don't know any better, but they don't want to learn. They have better things to do, apparently. They bore you to sleep within moments of any so-called conversation. And they speak "in Latin" [LATINE], but I don't understand half of what they say. No, the AVENTINUS Hill is not my home. But "the upper-class" [SUMMI], well, I hate them even more. The PALATINUS Hill is not my home either. I am neither ROMULUS nor REMUS. How much meat can one man eat? How many slaves does he need to dress himself properly? How much must his thieving ancestors have amassed, so that today he is better, more cultured, and of better race and character than all the other people with their non-thieving ancestors? Who does he think he is, anyway? And those two groups pale in comparison with the brainless and heartless "middle-class" [MEDII]! If money is the primary way you relate to the world, then why are you so, so offended by a little word like "whore" [SCORTUM]? Where are the truly classless people? There are millions of citizens throughout the Empire and who knows how many other slaves, barbarians, and foreigners! Where are the ones like me? "I really need the company." [PROFECTO SOCIETATIS EGEO.] Sometimes, I feel like "I'm hanging by a thread" [PENDEO FILO]. Once in a while though, you meet someone who is not weighted down by his wealth or his poverty and who is not blinded by his birth or position. I don't much like the god I picked this year. Next year I think that I'll live "à la BACCHUS" [AD BACCHUM]. "Women and wine!" [VENUS ET VINUM.] Those are the two streets that you'll find me on, my friend, for all of next year! Is it my impression only or are there a lot of old people out and about, lately? I like being polite in public: "Ladies first" [PRIMUM DOMINAE], and all that. But these old people! You try to act "deferentially" [REVERENTER]. But there comes a point where you treat them all the same---male or female has no consequence. They even start looking alike. They're almost a third sex. You're forced to treat them with a strict politeness (until they mouth off too much and then "all's fair in self-defence" [IN DEFENSIONE OMNIA AEQUA]). A squad of dangerous-looking Germans plows through. Wild red hair surrounding their quiet blue eyes. But that's not wonder that I notice in their clear bold barbarian eyes. A couple of Syrian street-musicians play their flutes and drums. Some music just tugs at your insides and helps you think of eternity and lost loves. But it's never been a crime to be lonely in ROMA. Do you remember Catta from AQUILEIA? I wonder what ever happened to her? One of us should have married that pretty face, you know that's true! This odd foreign woman walks by. She has that half-pretty look. There's something just plain ugly about her. But her attitude, or her walk, or maybe it's her will, is so striking and attractive. "A loudmouth" [LOQUAX] passes by her with some obscenities. She's been in that city before though---no reaction from her. She walks steadily at her own pace, through the breadsoaked air. He shuts up and moves on. Yes, a very attractive woman! Yes, she has something. "But I don't know what." [SED QUID NESCIO.]
This old old lady stops me abruptly and says: As a matter of interest, I was born just over that hill, but the farm is part of the city now. Purely as a matter of interest, you know! A laugh seizes me. There is something friendly about her lonely manner and her fragile human frankness. I joke about how things change and then let her go on her way. It's a quick polite moment in the busy noisy storm of quicktalking people. Now's a good time for a pause from all my sketching and for some "hot wine, watered-down and spiced-up" [CALIDUM]. Sometimes I dress up and sometimes I dress down, carry a bag full of money or go about without a coin in my pocket. I like to feel what it's like for all these different people, to see a little of what they might see. Sometimes we feel that a bucketful of coins is necessary for a strong sense of security and at other times we feel independently poor--truly a feeling of real freedom. Today, I have a few small coins with me. Just another poor man in the big city. ROMA offers many different perspectives, if we care to grab a taste. She has many wonderful buildings and people and many terrible "temptations" [PROBRIPERLECEBRAE]. But no dinner for me today. I've been over-indulging lately. Most people fast only one day per month, but I fast twice per month. I have to lose a little weight; I've made up my mind. It seems to be getting harder to keep the weight off as we get older, though. This "over-stuffed belly" [SAGINA] has been too faithful and constant a companion; I've made up my mind! At an intersection near the CIRCUS, a wagon full of roofing tiles plows into a pedestrian, a big pedestrian. The mule stops, is urged on, and nudges the pedestrian again. The two men start yelling, back and forth, and then together. The driver plainly didn't see the pedestrian and seems surprised and very defensive. Then the confused driver runs his mule into the poor guy, again! The big one attacks now and they start "to eat fists" [PUGNOS EDERE]: "Eat this!" [EDE HIC.] The mule doesn't budge. They wrestle over a wet dirty rag and some rotting eggs that someone had dropped. People are staring and starting to notice the turn of events. The driver is taking a real pounding now. I seem to have more in sympathy with the mule than with the fighters or the audience. If we want to judge people rightly, we have to ask ourselves which of these two are acting in justifiable self-defence? And which one of these two do we want our city to be full of---as our close dear neighbours and as our fellow-soldiers? But in this case, I have to say that their justice is too unimportant and trivial to bother judging rightfully. The city will survive in either case. The dopey driver ends up in a fountain, headfirst. The pedestrian walks away, his dignity intact---but he should have been looking down instead of up to the sunny sky. He steps in some half-solid horse "manure" [MERDA], wheels around, and drops partly into a sewer-hole. From the shrieking, I think that he broke some bone in his foot or badly scraped his "shin" [TIBIA], "but I move on" [SED EGO PROGREDIOR]. The mule doesn't seem to care about this man's tears either.
It's getting late; all sorts of vehicles are rushing into the streets now. Those damn mule-drivers! They must have an idiot-test for any new recruits: Are you too young? Do your dumb friends call you stupid? Do you like to get drunk? Can you shout louder than any squeaking wheel? Can you see anything more than five feet away from you? Do you have the soul of a mule? the smell? the look? Well! Congratulations, boy, you start at sunset! Why don't they just hire some women as drivers and have done with the whole damn city! I love my walks around ROMA, but not when these stupid lazy drivers are on the streets. The sight of the Aquaduct again, reminds me that it's time to go back up the street to "the Hot-Baths of Titus" [THERMAE TITI] where I can put my sketches together into a readable letter for you. "I love my water hot and my oil warm." [MEAM AQUAM FERVENTEM ET MEUM OLEUM CALIDUM AMO.] I prefer the new parts of the city. The old parts have their charms. And they have a way of putting the rest of the city into a longer meaning. But they're generally run-down and the fix-ups are poorly done. They're such "a mess" [SQUALOR]. Some of the new buildings are even a worse mess. Buildings have a life-span like people and words. Then they just don't work well anymore. Some of them never did work right or well in the first place. But some go on and on. Some buildings seem shy and some seem bold, just like people. But shyness in a person, to me is so boring, just a sign of their selfcentered preoccupation. And boldness is also a boring sign of a person's extreme selfishness. We have to skilfully rope-dance between these ugly extremes of ourselves. A lot of these women are dressed formally, in STOLA, jewellery, and hair-dos. Then I slowly and seriously remember that "Married-LadiesDay" [MATRONALIA] is coming on the 1st day of March. All the wives and mothers will dress themselves up and receive little presents, tokens, and flowers in honour of IUNO LUCINA. (If we're lucky enough to still have a wife or mom.) Her temple on the ESQUILINUS Hill should be worth the walk to see that special celebration. That date was of course also New Year's Day in the old ROMA. It made so much more sense to have it nearer to Spring. I think that I'll celebrate it there anyway (unless someone has passed a law that I haven't heard of yet). But I don't think that anyone will come along on that date to present me with a little broom or a lamp. An old couple, hand in hand, moves along at their own speed like II wild ducks out for still another stroll. They probably cursed each other judiciously all through their youthful years together and now they barely hang on to each other, grateful for something that's both familiar and comforting. He has "a staff" [VIRGA] to help him along and she hangs onto him. A gorgeous Roman beauty struts by, cutting a path through the crowds---slower and prouder and firmer than the other mortals out today.
Which reminds me---why are so many of these crazy people rushing and hurrying themselves into an early grave? If they're an hour late, what possible difference could it possibly make to the world. Now, if they were rushing home to some gorgeous blonde intelligent virtuous lady---why, I would yield the right-of-way and urge them on to quicken their pace "cheerfully" [LIBENTER]. But this can't be the case for all of these wild rushing inconsiderate bulls. Or for all the busy cows either! "Why the rush, you fools?" [FATUI.CUR IMPETUS.] "Where's the fire?" [UBI EST INCENDIUM.] When I was younger, I assumed the best. People with more money worked harder and were smarter than the rest. People in love lived happier and forever. People with culture and manners were just better people. But now, "I simply call them as I see them" [MODO EOS VOCO UT EOS VIDEO]: Greed kills, "love lies" [AMOR MENTITUR], and learning is sophistry. My old father-in-law used to tell me: The more educated they become, the ruder they become! If you assume the best, you're only hurt and surprised when the worst shows up repeatedly, again and again. But if you assume the worst, well then you're only pleased and surprised when the best shows up occasionally, once in a while. I like to think that I don't assume either anymore: "Show me it!" [OSTENDE ID MIHI.] Yes, my darling woman, I hear what you're saying, but can you show me also! Yes, sir, I do hear you, but I also see what you've done so far in your life. You and I have both been "around the FORUM" [CIRCUM FORUM] and down the battle-line. We know what kind of things are happening in this city, today. We're just not sure of the exact houses and their particular names this time around. This letter has helped me too, because we don't think often enough about the people around us. We don't ask questions very often enough. Surrounded by mirrors, we get a better look at ourselves. So write to me soon about the barbarians you see around you, where you are now. After all, ROMA is everywhere and we are everyman. On the 24th day of February. In 96 A.D.. VALE.
"Oh for sure" [O CERTO], "with pepper" [CUM PIPERE] in his rectum and "a little cheap wine" [PAULUM VAPPA] down his throat, anyone can sell that tired old horse. Cuparius
Ti.Caelius Quirinius to D.Marcius Nero: Hello. As Quaestor, since the 24th day of September, I have looked carefully into this affair for you on behalf of the Senate. "Luckily" [FAUSTE] I was in NARBO when the Senator, C.Martius Barbatus, was murdered on that date, sometime before sunrise. He was neatly killed in a private apartment that he had rented, with a long thin knife left at the scene. It was left in his back. He had arrived early the day before. He was here with only two slaves: a Greek girl and a former gladiator. His personal things and money bags seemed untouched. I hope that it's not "the secretary" [SCRIBA] or "bodyguard" [CUSTOS]. They say that he had over CC slaves in all! I'd hate to see them all slaughtered just because of one slave's murderous act. I faithfully remembered the first three rules of any investigation that you taught me way back when we first met. Number One: "Everything's a clue (to a certain extant)!" [OMNIA INDICIUM QUADAM TENUS.] Number Two: "Everyone's a liar (to a certain extent)!" [OMNES MENDAX QUADAM TENUS.] And Number Three: "There are no more rules." [NON SUNT PLURES LEGES.] So, I went to work. These two slaves spoke innocently and poorly. All their clues pointed to true conditions and all their lies pointed only to their private little fears. They feared discovery of their "love affair" [AMORES], and they feared their probable torture and possible slaughter as the slaves of a murdered Roman master. They have cooperated, so far. For some reason, according to the secretary, the former Senator had deposited his will with the Vestal Virgins in ROMA. If you could check that out, it might prove interesting. Not for what's in the will, but for when he last rewrote it. The Senator was healthy, they all said, and he looked all right to me, considering.
While here, a cohort of soldiers arrived in town with the looting and spoils of Q.Servilius Caepio, a name I'm sure that your friend Manlius Maximus would recognize. They had gathered all their many Celtic treasures at TOLOSA, armied their way to here, and were on their way to MASSILIA in C ox-carts and on CCC army mules like a huge "wooden caterpillar" [ERUCA LIGNEA]. It made me wonder if Greeks were secretly hiding somewhere inside. For some reason, it was very neatly divided up: gold in the carts and silver on the mules, C and CCC. "Very neat!" [VALDE MUNDUS.] And only the five hundred soldiers! They arrived here on the 2nd day of October. At, say, three hundred pounds per mule and a thousand pounds per cart, that would work out to roughly one hundred thousand pounds of gold and the same of silver. The Legatus was a particularly bureaucratic tight-faced onion-head by the name of M.Minucius Flaccius. Wasn't his uncle one of the consuls, a few years back? The Roman soldier must be the best--with leadership such as this idiot and we still manage somehow to succeed! I inspected, but informally. I used your name as Praetor to worm my way in. I can only report seeing boxes and carts and bags. They refused to show me their treasure. Under orders till they reach ROMA, apparently! Just before he left NARBO, I told Flaccius, in the presence of some of his men, that there should be no problem when he at last arrived triumphantly in ROMA and formally presented the treasure of the Consul Caepio to the Senate, as long as he himself had seen exactly what was in each and every box and bag. They wanted to move on "as soon as possible" [QUAM PRIMUM]. It sounded as if they had a very definite schedule. From MASSILIA, he wouldn't tell me, but I think that he intended to sail to ROMA. Or he might have been meeting someone on the road to MASSILIA. He couldn't be taking the land route all the way! It being October, I strongly questioned him. He formally ignored me. He's under orders, remember? He was willing to take the two slaves of the dead Senator with him, so I transferred them into his custody with a letter. Since it was obvious that he intended to sail from somewhere soon, I strongly suggested that he sail in two ships, along the coast. Sailing with such a valuable cargo at this time of year! Maybe the gods didn't want him to ever arrive. I'm surprised that he wasn't jumped by Celts, or even by Romans, on his long trip getting here. He should reach ROMA in two or three sailing days, so the earliest he could possibly arrive would be on the 6th day of October.
One thing about being a Quaestor, I can force anyone in this town to talk to me, but they don't have to listen to me. I really have met the most interesting people and situations in this town. There also seemed to be a lot of former Spanish soldiers in that treasury-guard. Maybe I should gaze into a pool of Egyptian blood or at a flock of birds as it divides itself to figure out the truth. The truth is hard work compared to some quick and easy lies, but things seem to work out and everyone is satisfied, to a certain extent. Things come together into a comforting routine. And that's when I've learned to apply your Rule Number Four: "There are always more rules (see Rule Number Two)". [SUNT SEMPER PLURES LEGES.VIDE LEGEM NUMERUM DUO.] The story? Well, the Senator was here to meet some people. They killed him. They were very good at what they did. Soldiers or perhaps politicians. Probably Romans. He was in some dirty business with them or he found out something about them and he wanted a share. He wanted more than his fair share, so they killed him. The knife was left as an obvious clue. It looks like a false clue to me, although it remains an effective warning to others. And the whole thing was about money, of course. They weren't desperately fighting over whose turn it was to feed the many orphans of NARBO---I feel quite confident on this point. I don't think that we'll ever find out who did it unless someone from the other side starts talking to us. But I do know that someone will be hung with this crime because of the Senator's position and name. There will have to be a person, an assassin, a name that can be delivered to the Senate. I know that I've had some success in my career, but this political world is not for me, my friend. "I'm a simple man" [VIR SIMPLEX SUM] with very strong honest tastes. This is not what I call living. "Life is too short." [VITA NIMIUM BREVIS.] Sometimes, now and then, because of all your hard work, an opportunity presents itself. You're very good at what you do, and success is forced to give you a little taste of itself. I want to retire from politics to the brick-business on my wife's side of the family, on the outskirts of VEII. I feel that an opportunity waits for me there. It's time that their operations were expanded anyway. And I'm just the man for the job! XXXI is a ripe enough age. Please consider this to be my formal resignation for my term of office coming due. You've taught me well, my friend. You have to learn from the best, if you want to be the best. I could never have gone as far or as quickly as I did, without your encouragement, experience, and complete confidence. "I'm in your debt." [TIBI DEBEO.]
Which reminds me of your Rule Number "Five" [QUINQUE]: "I don't know." [NESCIO.] It's the only sane answer sometimes! You're stuck with a handful of hypothetical guesses in a sea of incomplete doubtful information. You're trying to walk on swampy wet land. You take your best shot, but you know that it's just not good enough this time. And still, you have to try to win some little victory or you lose by default! Unfortunately, you never get the truth, sometimes. There is just not enough information! And there's nothing you can do about it. A lot like life itself, no? That's my report, but knowing you as well as I do, I figure that you have more rules that you haven't told me about yet in Nero's Jury School. I should be in ROMA on the 12th day of October, if you have any questions. I have some unfinished and personal business here that's almost wrapped up. On the 3rd day of October. In 106 B.C.. NARBO.
And if the horse is nearly dead to this busy little world, well, pepper and a little cheap wine will still sell "that old horse" [ILLE EQUUS SENEX]. Cuparius
D.Marcius Nero to Ti.Caelius Quirinius: Hello. I have delivered this letter to your home here in ROMA personally. I expect you to report to me on the morning after you arrive home, early! You and the sun and I, at a private little meeting! I also expect a complete and final resolution or I will have to investigate the Barbatus affair, myself. It might pose enough of a challenge to keep me interested and entertained. Crimes are not lonely creatures. They hunt in packs and they can use all the friends that they can find as they travel down their dangerous path. This particular crime we can both recognize. It is not a totally alien thing to either one of us. That must mean that it involves other Romans, fellow-creatures like ourselves. You're too good, my friend. I can't afford to just let you walk away. I want you on my team. The question is: Do you want me on yours? I have plans and like my father, a simple old farmer, I don't like to lose a harvest. Actually, you're right, there is a Sixth rule: "Bait the hooks." [INESCA HAMOS.] Don't just stand there and wait for it all to come to you! The fish won't come unless you bait the hooks---and with the right bait. According to "two stooges" [DUO SCURRAE] of Caepio who arrived yesterday, that simplistic Legatus, M.Minucius Flaccius, was not given command of the cohort, but was the second-in-command. Another Legatus, Castrus, was given the over-all command by Caepio himself. Castrus and Flaccius apparently had a bitter and argumentative history. The stooges say that Castrus was also found with a sword through his back just outside of TOLOSA, so they are here to investigate. My brother in NARBO sent me a letter. He mentioned a local Celtic tribe and their odd method of execution: one Celt distracts you in front while another thrusts a sword into your back, straight through your heart. They call it the "Hello-And-Good-Bye" [AVE ET AVE].
You might also like my rule Number Seven: "Who's got the money?" [QUIS PECUNIAM HABET.] Money always leaves a trail and money, as you know very well, is merely the language of power. By the way, we're still waiting for the treasury to sail into port. It's only a few days late. I say that Caepio's got the money---and I say that proving it will be very difficult. That man is plain "dangerous" [PERICULOSUS]---he plans everything: fighting, loving, eating, talking, breathing. Those two assassin-slaves of yours, of course, are obviously not here either. I've ordered some ships to start searching: one backwards to NARBO, two northwards and one southwards. But if it were me, I would have headed for life and liberty---and straight for AFRICA. "But if it were me..." [SIN EGO ESSET.] is, of course, Rule Number Eight. If it were me, I would have offered someone a good portion of the gold to further muddy up the waters---to talk and to talk and to talk--and to put ideas into people's heads. Some people are spreading stories that the soldiers, with or without the Onion-Head, decided to keep the gold and silver and make a run for it. I, myself, say that Flaccius never had the gold! I say that your words stirred in the little mind of Flaccius and in his men. They eventually inspected their cargo closely---and then they had some difficult decisions to make while gazing at their dirty old rocks or nails. They had the choice to show up here and tell their story, trusting in Roman justice, or to make a run for it. Anyone who resisted would have been thrown overboard, onion-head or not. They were in too deep, they were playing with the big-money boys and they didn't even know that they were playing in a deadly game until it was far too late. I always feel some pity for innocent people who don't even know what serious games they're playing in. Every game needs some "pawns" [LATRONES]. But I may be wrong---they may show up yet.
Rule Number Nine is: "Who's zooming whom?" [QUIS QUEM FACIT.] Take a long look at all the actors and dancers and picture them with different roles and histories. It was I who placed you in NARBO on the 1st day of September to bring my brother there some important letters and supplies, wasn't it? So what do you say? "Are we on the same team?" [SUMUSNE IN FACTIONE EADEM.] I don't mind people on my team belonging to other teams as well---that is an unavoidable fact of life. Ahh, my young friend, one of my many pleasures in life is watching the young run around joyfully and get constantly, relentlessly surprised by life. I notice that your lovely wife has ordered, on credit, some very expensive dresses and also an emerald necklace to match her eyes. I'm reminded of a young neighbour of mine. He was invited to a fancy dinner recently. The host, claiming a bad back, suggested that the honourable young man come by and use the family-horse anytime he so desired. All the host asked was that the young man treat the horse tenderly. Well, the young man was ecstatic; he loved riding. The friends and family of the host bought the young man "drinks" [POTUS] whenever they bumped into him in the big city. They were quite happy to buy since the old host was secretly paying. The host, of course, had two young not-so-cute marriageable daughters. And you know the old story of the young "barbarian" [BARBARUS] arriving in ROMA and meeting up with some thieves who treated him as if he were a distant cousin. He told them that he could never be "a thief" [FUR] no matter how poor he was, and they didn't seem to mind, so he would hang around them at times in this strange city. One day they drilled a lot of holes into a particular tree. And a month later, they chopped it down. They removed the bark and then planed it down. And before you knew it, there it would be in the dirty courtyard, ready-to-raise: an elegant well-made "cross" [CRUX]. In both cases, the story didn't turn out that well but, then again, this city is full of stories.... Ahh, yes, I almost forgot my last and final rule, Rule Number Ten: "Be very careful whenever you say yes ---and be very, very careful whenever you say no." [ES VALDE CAUTUS QUANDOQUE AIS ET ES VALDE VALDE CAUTUS QUANDOQUE NEGAS.] On the 11th day of October. In 106 B.C..
"I prefer yours." [MALO TUAM.] Cuparius
Cynthia to Orbia: Hello. Remember that guy that I had a deep keen crush on? Dalmatius? He was divine. He was a dream. I couldn't keep my muddy little eyes off him, he was so pretty. But then one day, I noticed that he was only ever seen in the company of ugly women. Was it an accident or did he have a plan of attack for his life. And then I found out that he ate no meat. He ate "beans" [FABAE] and breads. And vegetables and sometimes fruit. He drank only water. Imagine the fun that he would have provided for a real woman like me. "Pleasure" [GAUDIUM] is a practical skill, like any other. One doesn't become "an expert" [PERITUS] overnight. He liked to eat soups! He walked everywhere---no carts, litters, or horses for him. No theater or CIRCUS races. No amphitheater Games or dinner-shows. Except for that, he was perfect. What people look like and what they really are--those are two different wines, let me tell you, "by Castor" [MECASTOR]! A good woman never lost a good man. :as our blessed mother used to repeatedly tell us. Well, two husbands later, I'm thinking of him again! "My quack-doctor" [PHARMACOPOLA MEUS] tells me that "my way of life" [VICTUS MEUS] has been killing me slowly. No more meats for a while and I must exercise more and drink less wine!!! More "leeches" [HIRUDINES] and less excitement are in my future. I say to the quack: What about beans? He quickly nods: Yes. And lots of water? :I suggest. He says: "Yes, indeed." [IMMO.] And maybe some peas with my water? :I joke. Soups are the best thing for you, my dear. :he says, as serious as an undertaker. Doctors have their little ways of acting serious and all-knowing. But if they really knew it all, they certainly wouldn't tell anybody. I know that I wouldn't.
So, I think back on Dalmatius. And I go calling on his sister, Crispina, in BENEVENTUM. They should change the name of this little village back to MALEVENTUM, as far as I'm concerned. She has plenty of wrinkles, but still a young girl's big bright eyes. She says that he's fine. Just became a widower as a matter of fact! (As if I hadn't heard!) "By Castor!" [ECASTOR.] You know how black and white that witch, Terra, is about everything, well, "this little honey is even worse" [HAEC MELLILLA ETIAM PEIOR EST]. So, she suggests a dinner some night for some of my family and some of hers. "I nod discreetly." [PRUDENTER ANNUO.] I feel like we're playing this game so well, like experienced gladiators, this woman and I. I suggest a vegetable-bean combination as part of the menu. She says: "Oh no!" [OH MINIME.] I say: No? She says something like: No, Dalmaticus wouldn't be pleased with that beggar-food. I say: What! He's into wines, exotic meats, and pastries. :she says! I repeat: Pastries? Yes, once he settled into his marriage---well, he slowly and gradually changed and now he lives high and fat. And then, she goes into a wide-eyed whisper: You wouldn't recognize him, my dear. So, then I ask: Does one toga still fit him? "He wishes!" [VULT.] :she laughs and goes into a spitting fit. Her children call him Dalmatia, after the province! She calls him "my little Dolphin" [MEUS DELPHINULUS]. I sit stunned and wonder if she means the animal or the constellation! The woman is so stupid, you know, she thinks a dolphin is a fish. She says that he and I should get on just fabulously. Well, I don't know what to tell you, my sister. But I say quietly to myself: "All bets are off." [PIGNORA OMNIA SUNT DELETA.] And to her: Good-bye, my dear, we'll see about the dinner-party.
"A woman has to know her limitations." [SCIRE SUOS FINES FEMINA DEBET.] I drag my earthly belongings back home to where they belong. The way back home on the VIA APPIA is all downhill, so my retreat isn't too taxing, just long and lonely. Imagine that---dieting for all those years and now he's even worse than the rest of us! Like that old cook, Barbara, always says: Timing makes the dinner! My pretty young Dalmatius, our oars were never ever in the water at the same time! "Ah, shucks, he's history, now." [AH.EI.NUNC EST HISTORIAE.] As Barbara also says: "Every house has a mouse." [DOMUS OMNIS MUREM HABET.] That's just the way things go. So, accept it or get out of the house, "by Castor" [ECASTOR]. Well, my sweet sister Orbia certainly doesn't need that "little bitch" [CANICULA] for a sister-in-law. You wouldn't like her, I'm sure. Her hair's burned and twisted, with powder on her face, and she smells of roses, but I don't think that she was born that way! Her dress is folded to cover-up, not to honestly advertise. And her underclothes hold her breasts in such a position that the goddess of breasts herself couldn't honestly vouch for their authenticity. Perhaps, I'll just lie low for a few months and let this "diet-andexercise" [INEDIA EXERCITATIOQUE] nonsense do its worst. The gladiator's diet: beans and barley! Barbara now highly recommends the bath-diet: eat a little and bath a lot. Have we really progressed so little in all these years---we might as well live on a barbarian farm eating beans and chasing the sheep all day long. Once I'm down to my hunting weight, well, then we'll jump back into the Games. I have my pride and at my age, I know what I want. I'm no "jumper" [DESULTRIX]. I've never been "an easy woman" [FACILIS]. And I won't start now. I realize that marriage is a lot like business: everything's fine until the tough lean times come scraping along. Or until the rich fat years come rolling along. Then, in either case, everything is tried and tested to new limits.
But I like marriage. Marriage is "a chain of pleasures" [CATENA DELICIARUM]. Passion should be constant: a fire that won't completely satisfy and a fire that refuses to burn out. "Passion is very nice." [CUPIDO VALDE EST BELLA.] But the added taste of love makes everything cook even better. Love is the fruit of life itself. Like you've always told me: "A fruit's a fruit and everything else is just another vegetable." [FRUCTUS FRUCTUS EST ET RELIQUUM EST MODO ALIUD HOLUS.] "So, act accordingly." [AGE IGITUR ITA.] So, here I am---not very eager or happy to enjoy this diet that I find myself on. "Please, no more." [SIS NON MAGIS.] Cold baths! All the water that I could ever desire! Uncooked vegetables sprinkled with a dash of vinegar! I see beans covering me, drowning me, and laughing at me in my restless dreams. I walk around all day, as if I had a wolf by the ears---and so now, what do I do? I do what everybody else does. Everybody else does what I do. It’s trite, but true. We live a pattern. A myth exists for a reason. We run our course as best as we can and as best as possible for the best and highest hours and days we can possibly squeeze out of it. Tomorrow is the 4th day of October, a fast day, sacred to CERES, so the whole world will be joining me (like I could possibly care less). My poor stomach has had "enough" [SATIS] of diets. My poor little soul has had enough of all these stupid sacrifices. And I know that not all of my "bellyaches" [TORMINA] are due to my food famine. There are other stupid diets in our lives, my dearest sister. "By Castor!" [ECASTOR.] CAPUA. VALE.
The people around you are only right, "if you say so" [SI TU SIC DICIS]. And by the way, enjoy "your journey" [ITER TUUM]! What other choice do you have? Cuparius
Gallus to Porcius Iosephus: Hello. I'm sending you some excerpts of "the debate" [DISCEPTATIO] 9 days ago, in the Greek library as part of the festival. It's normally noisy in here, with all their mumbling and hissing as they read along. My "shorthand"[NOTAE] is earning me quite a number of orders for copies, even the two speakers wanted their own copies of themselves speaking. People entered slowly in the afternoon, beside the hundred-foot marble Column of Traianus---his bronze statue on top and his ashes in the golden urn in the base. A coloured marble scroll spreads its story around and up the Column. What was Traianus trying to tell us? That this scroll-column points to the heavens? That this is the center of ROMA? That he has a column in this city but others don't? By the way, I counted the steps inside it again, and "you're still wrong" [TAMEN ERRAS]: there are CLXXXVII steps, not CLXXXV steps! With the barrel vault overhead and the doubled-up Corinthian columns surrounding us, the Stoic and the Epicurean debated. I'll call them Zeno and Epicurus, as they insisted that I should. They both agreed that I was "impartial" [AEQUUS]. After all, I'm a Sceptic like you and when anyone needs an impartial judge, and they can't sneak the job to one of their own brothers, then they come running to a Skeptic as a compromise-candidate! The rules of the debate were simple and polite: 1. Only two speakers and the judge. 2. No moving around. 3. No weapons, tools, props, or books---only words. 4. No quoting the other speaker. 5. Speak only to the audience---never to each other directly! 6. The judge's decisions are final because he represents the audience and the audience is the ultimate judge.
Zeno: Surely "happiness" [FELICITAS] is everyone's goal. Epicurus: Happiness is a universal god. Zeno: ...and "passions" [FERVORES] lead directly to unhappiness. Epicurus: Superstitions lead to unhappiness. Zeno: Accept your fate bravely. Epicurus: The fear of death is no way to live---do not fear any man, any god, or any sky, and you will be a happy man. Zeno: But we all have a piece of the Divine Spark in us. The World has a Soul, so tender and bright you can feel it sometimes. And we are its sparks.... Epicurus: The gods don't care! Don't be a complete fool: the gods have their own problems! They have no time for each one of you little people and your strange little requests. Enjoy your life and have done with it. Zeno: ...that makes us all brothers... (Some girl in the crowd: "And sisters!" [ET SORORES.]) (Some gross innuendoes are then passed around the crowd....) Epicurus: The world is just some "atoms" [ATOMI], indivisible little things, moving constantly. There are no absolutes. Everything is atoms! Bread to flesh to ground to plants to bread! All these many things are all the same simple thing---merely different collections of atoms. Different constellations. Zeno: There is of course a Divine Nature, a Divine Law, a Divine Hand, or why do we live and how do we live? Epicurus: "I live fine!" [VIVO BELLE.] There is plenty of pleasure all around you. Pleasure is the only effective god, the only real understandable reachable god! (A lot of hoots and whistles and waving of handkerchiefs.) Epicurus: Desires are low pleasures and the mind has the best pleasures---for a total complete harmony! Zeno: "Virtue" [PROBITAS] is the road to happiness and virtue is a sign of the Divine god. This whole world is just one huge living Creature, a creation of Reason. Epicurus: ..."plain living" [VICTUS SIMPLEX], moderation, virtue, and "friendship" [AMICITIA]...these are the treasures. These are the pleasures. Zeno: ..."a natural life" [VITA NATURALIS]... becoming more and more virtuous...getting as close to the Source as we possibly can... with practice, effort, and reason! Like smelting down some rocks of gold and then continually remelting it into purer and purer gold....
Epicurus: Use your senses. They're good guides: what you see, hear, and taste, and touch! But don't be fooled---that solid marble is just atoms like you are! (Some murmuring about wives, husbands, mothers-in-law....) Zeno: Of course, a column is real and solid! It came from somewhere! "It has a purpose." [CONSILIUM HABET.] Some of you are rocks and some columns. Epicurus: Life is opinion. Death is annihilation. Don't be a "social prisoner" [CAPTIVUS SOCIALIS] to politics, parties, marriages, family, friends, games, bankers, landlords.... Rebel and be free! Say: No! Say no to them and yes---to yourself. Zeno: Families are to be enjoyed. And friends and nature. In order to be a complete man! Prayer can't change the world or the gods, but it will surely change you! Every day! Epicurus: "This is it!" [HOC EST ID.] There is nothing else. Enjoy your little soul's ride! Forget that boring porch and enter my wonderful garden. Zeno: The more virtue---then the happier, the human spirit. Evil people are very unhappy. (Someone in the crowd: They look pretty happy to me!) Epicurus: Evil people are fearful. They fear death, the gods, witches, the wife... Zeno: Evil people are ignorant. They don't know any better. Reason is all! Epicurus: Pleasure is all! Zeno: Ignore all the things you can't control. Submit to Nature and your beautiful little soul will be free. "With inner peace!" [CUM PACE INTERIORI.] Epicurus: My personal constitution does not recognize your laws, your politicians. Animals are natural. Children are natural. You adults are not. Don't you remember your youth? Free yourselves, again! Pleasure is my freedom. The only freedom. Be like little children again! Zeno: Virtue is freedom and virtue is the proof of god. Be free from the outside world that you cannot control and accept your destiny. Animals are ignorant. Children are too. A real adult man seeks happiness in virtue. The freedom of a peaceful spirit. A spirit striving constantly for excellence, while surrounded by vices that can only destroy your precious freedom and happiness.
Epicurus: The only happy man is a free man. The only beauty is pleasure! Zeno: The only healthy man is a wise man. The greatest beauty is virtue. Epicurus: Stop wasting your time here! How much time do you think you have left? What are you idiots doing here? Go have some fun while you can! Zeno: Didn't you ever have the feeling that you carried a piece of the gods deep inside you---deep inside you somewhere, just waiting to be fed? Epicurus: Didn't you ever feel "The Emptiness" [VANITAS]. The Emptiness of this crazy world---and The Emptiness inside you? Zeno: It's all "destiny" [FATUM]. Epicurus: It's all "an accident" [CASUS]. Zeno: "I take what the world presents." [CAPIO QUOD MUNDUS DONAT.] Epicurus: I take what the world presents. That's the gist of the debate. It's only about a quarter of the full edition of the debate. They tend to ramble and repeat themselves a lot. But you can have a complete copy if you like. Some win like Traianus "by the sword" [ENSE], or like these two "by the voice" [VOCE], but I win "by the pen" [STYLO]. I'm thinking of organizing other debates: a Cynic against a Skeptic, a Diogenes against a Pyrrho, SINOPA against ELIS. Or ROMA against ATHENAE, a Plato against a Socrates, a Caesar against a Pompeius, a Druid against a German, a Cicero against a Seneca. I could use the business, so tell me what you think about this plan. On the 29th day of April. In 121 A.D..
"It depends" [PENDET] on who owns the jails, "the police" [MILITIA], the laws. Just because some criminal says "you're guilty" [ES SONS] doesn't mean that you truly are guilty. Cuparius
Festus to Carbo: Hello. I guess that every age has its slaves, its servants, and its servers. Aristoteles said that a slave is a living tool. Slavery is a suspended death sentence (your life is forfeited in war). A slave is legal moveable property. Some say that slaves are the children of ROMA. I'm a "slave of school children" [PAEDAGOGUS] and sometimes I help out the baker or the cook. I like my life. I'm not the lowest slave there is: a mining slave without a family life, sleeping underground, eating food that pigs wouldn't touch, working hard for as long as he’s awake, wearing a rough worn tunic. Yes, I'm a slave, but I'm better off than that soldier-slave with his "uniforms" [SAGA], under constant orders, with his XX to XXX years of encagement. Or that free woman who is "chained" [CATENATUS] for life to her tyrant-husband. Or that poor man, heckled and nagged to an early grave by his over-bearing loud wife and then grateful for the welcome relief of silence. Or those emperors with their half-year or two of power before they're butchered by the next slave-to-be. Or that drunk: "the jug" [CADUS] gives simple elegant "orders" [MANDATA]. Who wouldn't prefer being a rich slave rather than a destitute citizen or an ignorant barbarian or a hungry animal? Or that unemployed freeman who can't compete with slave-labour, so he starves near the end of every month. Cicero said: The very wages the labourer receives are a badge of slavery. Or that illiterate farmboy trying to make sense of the world. Or that slave to his "vices" [VITIA]. And aren't we all slaves to "death" [MORS]? Slaves have been flooding into ROMA for over X generations now. Everyone must have slave-blood in them by now---"and so what" [ET ITA QUID]? Who is now better than whom? Yes, there have been chains in all the ages and in all the cities, but some of us prefer to be blind and maybe don't like to have a couple of our chains pointed out to us so harshly. Some slaves are forceful and violent, but some of us are forceful and subtle. And some, like your friend from ATHENAE, don't mind being slaves as long as they have a few slaves under their power. In the end, nobody that I've ever met has ever been even close to owning complete freedom. I have never met a free man! I have never been introduced to a free woman. We can never shake off all the masters that we might have. "Everybody has a master." [OMNES DOMINUM HABENT.] Some of them are very nice. It's a lonely dangerous world out there, Carbo. VALE. [81 A.D.]
"Half-free is like half-dead." [SEMILIBER EST QUAM SEMIVIVUS.] Cuparius
Carbo to Festus: Hello. What does he care if the dinner has to be made "three times" [TER] before it's perfect or her hair is made up "ten times" [DECIENS] before it's beautiful? The work is "cheap" [VILIS]. The more slaves they have, the freer they are. So, I play along, play dumb, escort their young brat to school, and then wait for him as pretty girls pass by my world, slowly and deliberately. I won't tell his parents what trouble the little monster gets into---it's the worst thing I could do to him! I deliver their letters (through pretty parks and refreshing gardens), suffer the matron's advances, and Antonia's winks. I'm just waiting for the right time, when the master's away and the mistress is off to her boyfriend's. I'll steal my money back and then head for home. These Romans may have won the war, but new battles always await. I want to start life over again, a new fresh day, but first I want to go see what's left of my home, my city. Thankfully, I have your letters to read and write back to. I've really polished up my Latin here and now my Greek and Latin are better than anyone's in this whole backward stinking "household" [FAMILIA]. "This city is cursed." [THIS PART IN GREEK] That fire last year was a terrible omen. Their holiest temple went to ruin. I didn't drop a tear. In fact, I slept a little easier. The year before, VESUVIUS erupted and their Emperor died. Last month the new Emperor died. I can't stay here, in this accursed prison. "Freedom!" [LIBERTAS.] These Romans sure value their own freedom. But even the master whispers that name as some pretty young thing smiles his way---and how many other daughters sob silently, like Antonia, into their blankets in the middle of the night: "I want to be free!" [VOLO LIBERA ESSE.]
Slaves aren't the best workers anyway: a little resistance here and there, some insubordination, minor sabotage, some well-chosen spit in the soup, a fly in the wine, theft, laziness, lying, vandalism, playing dumb, savouring his best wine, pissing on her violets, and so on. When they buy slaves, they joke: "Yes, she cost MD sesterces" [MD ETIAM SESTERTIIS CONSTAT], but the elm rods were extra! It's unbelievable to see these free people: freemen, freedmen, citizens, and foreigners walking around totally oblivious to the beauty and power of their precious freedom. They don't value it because they don't know how to use it. They whine and moan and sigh: I'm poor! I'm miserable! I'm so, so unhappy! They're not poor! All the really poor around "the Mediterranean" [MARE MEDIUM] would gladly switch places with them. All the truly miserable would happily exchange their chains with them! If they lived like the truly poor, hungry, imprisoned, or sick for a year, then I think that at least some of them would never complain or whine again. You can't give an idiot a gift like that. If you gave an idiot all the gold in the city, he'd squander it, lose it, waste it, drool on it, trade it for some pretty sand, and then cry all day: I'm so poor and unlucky! A slave by law is not even a person. If they don't recognize me as a man, then why would I act like one to them? Yes, all cities in all times have their slaves. They just change the word slave into another word to protect the slave-owners. Well, since I'm a slave by warfare, then I am still and forever at war. But every slave silently knows the word that carries hope and red fire in the belly: "Freedom!" [LIBERTAS.] And some succeed. We destroy the slavery by open rebellion or we just refuse to recognize the slavery, deep within ourselves. Either way, "our hunger" [FAMES NOSTRA] is satisfied. My freedom is as precious as life itself to me, but I do recognize that it has very little value to the rest of this city. One more letter, dear friend, and then no more! "I shall be free." [EGO ERO LIBER.] On the 19th day of November. VALE. [81 A.D.]
"Every politician has his own gang." [OMNIS CANDIDATUS CIVILIS TURBAM SUAM HABET.] Cuparius
Stephanus to Petronius Largus: Hello. Here I sit and lie down alternately, on the saddest day of the year; the sun has entered CAPRICORNUS. On 20th day of December, they celebrated and threw the body of the Emperor Vitellius into the TIBERIS River. I was in the crowd, watching, taking it all in. On the 1st of January, some months back, the legionaries in Germany had voted their general, Vitellius, in as the new Emperor. He almost lasted the full year. Today, the Senators are proclaiming their allegiances loudly and swearing their most solemn oaths to the new Emperor, C.Vespasianus. However, oratory is a lost art; I have no need to personally see and hear these "sad puppets" [PUPAE MISERAE] performing their same old lines. That's the fourth Emperor this year and we still have a few days left for any new candidates to jump up. They just don't grow emperors like they used to. Going back to Augustus himself, I don't think that even one of the subsequent emperors has yet died a natural and honourable death. I was in the FORUM supervising some of my shops and apartments on the 16th day of January while privately nursing a bloody throbbing tooth. "I remember it too well." [NIMIS BENE EIUS MEMINI.] The Praetorian Guard made a big show of marching and shouting. A crowd had collected attentively behind them. Meanwhile, the thencurrent Emperor Galba was being carried through the FORUM in his entourage, enjoying his noble power and presence. The Guards surrounded him, said something curtly, and cut off his head right there and then. The poor old man didn't put up a fight or even a protest. They delivered his head to Otho who apparently paid them very handsomely out of his new wealth as the new Emperor of all the Romans. The Emperor Galba collected the taxes efficiently but he didn't spend it very freely for himself, the Legions, the People, the Senate, or the Praetorian Guard. The son of an old upper-class family, he should have been satisfied as the Governor of HISPANIA and should not have listened to his ambitious troops. If he became the Emperor, then they surely were in for some new wealth and power. I then went into one of my taverns for some wine and to hear the latest "gossip" [GERRAE], "opinions" [SENTENTIAE], and "rumours" [FAMAE] firsthand. It was breaking news and red-hot history that we had just witnessed. We heard graphically how Senator Piso, the adopted son of Galba, was dragged out of hiding in the sacred Temple of VESTA and forced to eat the swords of Otho's soldiers. Otho, who was a close dear friend to Emperor Nero, came from mighty Etruscan ancestors. On the 20th day of April, he committed suicide, after the troops of the new Emperor Vitellius defeated the troops of the old Emperor Otho. No, Otho and his toupee didn't last very long on top of the Roman Pyramid. Vitellius was the general of the Lower German Legions, the best and finest troops in the Empire. When they voted for an Emperor, or for anything else, others listened softly. The man, himself, was quite simply "a drunk" [EBRIOSUS] and "a glutton" [HELLUO]. Every meal was another fantastic feast: "eat" [EDE], "drink" [BIBE], "vomit" [VOME]...eat, drink, vomit...and so on. To really, really celebrate, he would gobble down 1000 (silver) plates of chicken!
Vitellius had entered the city in civilian clothes as a gesture. And a new gang of bureaucrats and non-Roman soldiers followed him in. I recognised Germans and Gauls, but there were plenty of strange soldiers too. There were also new soldiers not in uniform--milling about in taverns and FORUM's, collecting information and hearsay. This year's emperors will make their friends very rich and make their allies citizens. The army is a shining example of democracy. Each of the sides had named their own senators, generals, governors, judges, priests, accountants, whores, street-cleaners. There were 4 different ROMA's this year. And each side claims to be cleaning up the old city and getting rid of the cheats and liars and incompetents. I wonder if other cities have these problems? One man, Roscius, lasted as Consul for one whole day before they dragged his disinterested carcass away. Some of the eastern Legions had cast their precious votes for Mucianus, the Governor of SYRIA. He declined and suggested Vespasianus instead. On the 1st day of July, Vespasianus was elected Emperor by the eastern Legions. Vitellius expelled all the magicians and witches and astrologers out of ROMA on the 1st day of October. Luckily, you and I have never had any use for emperors and witches and such things. Eventually the troops of Vespasianus stormed the troops of Vitellius in ROMA. I joined the scattered spectators watching the battles and street skirmishes. There was killing, beating, burning, pillaging, raping--perhaps the saddest ROMA that there ever was. They even burned down the Temple of IUPPITER the Best and Greatest with its records and tablets! Roman soldiers! IUPPITER, IUNO, and MINERVA must have raised an eyebrow. ROMA sacked! A lot of these soldiers were Danubian, I can vouch for that. It seems that a lot of the poorer citizens had joined in on the general looting. And it all seemed to be a natural progression from the suicide of that "sick" [AEGER] Nero. Some have even babbled about how they still miss him! At least, the Races ran on time. :they whispered. Every cause in the city has its supporters. Some people will always be idiots. As you, yourself, have said: There is "the Good" [BONUM] and "the Bad" [MALUM], and "the Ugly" [TURPE]. The death of Nero marked the end of Caesar's long grip on ROMA.
Before these victorious troops had conquered ROMA, they had practised, on their way down the whole of northern ITALIA. My aunt and uncle moved themselves and some few small valuables into one of my apartments here, a few days ago. It represented the pitiful remains of all their years of work and struggle. They're still living in quiet shock, as if they were "thunderstruck" [ATTONITI], as if they were only half here---and half still back there in the ruins of their home. They had left their home in CREMONA and struggled to reach me in ROMA. The armies of Vitellius and Vespasianus had earlier raced for the strategic city of CREMONA. The army of Vitellius won and the citizens whole-heartedly welcomed the first army that they saw. The slower army coiled around the city. My uncle said that the besiegers had one legion from PANNONIA, another from MOESIA, another was Celtic, and there were others that he didn't recognize. He told me that the fields around the city walls were full of the attackers' dead friends and fallen comrades, but the army of Vespasianus maintained their siege. When the city was finally forced to give in, the victors had to pass by the heaps of their own dead, as they made their victorious march into CREMONA---the massacre started slowly. It was not meant to happen at first. Fifty thousand armed men entered the city and for IV days and nights there were no laws, no gods, no defence. The only resistance was when two soldiers saw the same thing that they both wanted. CREMONA had seen many years of Roman life since becoming a colony in 209 B.C., but never anything like this. The city's only crime was being caught between two armies. My uncle guessed that there were at least fifty thousand dead Roman people. One per soldier. That's what happens when you live in a town on a border. They took what they wanted and they left the blood. It was a rich city as I, myself, remember it. I imagine that the ghosts of the former Gaul inhabitants of CREMONA from long ago would not have enjoyed being invaded again and displaced by so many new Roman spirits, again. He keeps repeating softly and absent-mindedly: "CREMONA's burning." [CREMONA ARDET.] And I keep echoing to my inner self: "ROMA's burning, too." [ROMA QUOQUE ARDET.]
The Emperor Vitellius was finally captured and dragged from street to busy street as some sort of lesson. They beat him "as an animal" [UT ANIMAL] would be flogged and in the FORUM, they ended up beating him to death. They hacked off his head and threw the rest of him into the TIBERIS. I saw this "with my own eyes" [MEIS OCULIS]. These emperors are like competing "spiders" [ARANEI]. They each spin "a web" [ARANEUM] across the juicy city and across "the Mediterranean Sea" [MARE NOSTRUM]. A web formed with lines of soldiers. The Emperor Vespasianus has yet to show up in his ROMA. Flavius Sabinus, Vespasian's older brother, was killed here in all the confusion, then dumped into that river, and the Emperor's younger son, Domitianus, barely escaped with his skin. The son of a tax collector becomes a general and then an emperor! They say that Vespasianus hates music, the theater, and any useless decorations. A tax collector, my gods! How does he measure things? What does he want to do in the end? What will he do later when he starts feeling stronger and stronger? Where will it all end when the beginning is so violent and reactionary? What about his little flunkies? What will they try to do when nobody is looking? Who will really be in charge and what will be paid? Everybody wants a proper share of a good thing. This could get ugly---very ugly! I'm in a terrible state. I have my properties still, but the rents and the customers' cash are hard to come by these days. "I'm broke" [SUM FRACTUS], but things could be worse, I suppose. VALE. [December 21, 69 A.D.]
APPENDIX The nice-and-easy (down-and-dirty) guide to Latin pronunciation. (Ready, set, and...away we go, BRUTUS....) [A E I O U] NOTES: hint Try and pronounce the vowels stronger than you do the consonants and keep those vowels nice and tight unlike English vowels that usually contain more than one simple vowel sound. And NO pausing there for extra emphasis: hello-o-o-o-o. And try to keep those syllables: consonant-first+vowel-second, if you can. That applies to the whole sentence as you would in French, Italian, or Spanish. long vowels In the long-lost letters, long vowels are underlined: ROMA nouns + adjectives In the long-lost letters, if a word or phrase is translated out of context (not as a complete sentence), then it is usually just translated in a nominative to simplify things. word order: The final word in a series is very emphatic: The dog the cat in the kitchen bloody saw. CANIS FELEM IN CULINA CRUENTUS VIDIT. You start stringing words out in a line and in the end you arrive at the final word (verb) that puts the puzzle together for you (hopefully). The verb "to be" is an exception and is used like in English. Normal word order is: subject object verb. Girls songs sing. PUELLAE CANTUS CANTANT. Helping words: subject+helper object+helper helper+verb. girls songs sing. Girls pretty songs Roman slowly sing. PUELLAE PULCHRAE CANTUS ROMANOS TARDE CANTANT. If you change the normal word order THEN you're emphasizing something (adding more information into the statement): Ship my well sails. NAVIGIUM MEUM BENE NAVIGAT. MY ship well sails. MEUM NAVIGIUM BENE NAVIGAT. "MY" well ship sails. MEUM BENE NAVIGIUM NAVIGAT. (A bit too much emphasis, but there it is....) Questions usually start with the important question-word first. vowels can be long or short A mA mAma E mAde mEt I mE mIss O mOle mOb U mOOn mOOr
AMARE (to love) PEDES (feet) FILIUS (son) PORTO (I carry) BRUTUS (heavy)
Y is an odd vowel: like a French U: TU aimes ça? (but you can be lazy and say it like the Roman vowel U, if you like) diphthongs (2 vowels pronounced as one) AE mIne AES (bronze) AU mOUse CAUSA (cause) OE mOIst MOENIA (castle)
consonants B's are b's (except before S or T when they are p's) URBS (city) C's are k's like in "Cap" CIRCUS (circle) G's are g's like in "Gap" (it never sounds like a j: "Gin") GLOBUS (ball) R's are a rolling trill (like a Spanish R) ROMA S's are s's as in "cloSe enough" (not as z's in "cloSe the door") CASA (cottage) T's are simple t's as in "Tea" (not as the English t in "Tree") NOSTER (ours) V's are w's (except for Roman Catholics then it's a v) VESTER (yours) X's are the sound of two Roman letters: CS NEXUS (bond) Z's are like the English word "adds" but don't pronounce the "a" ZONA (belt) (really two English letters: DZ like the z in the Italian word: "Zero") CH,PH,TH are two separate consonants (both pronounced) CHARA (wild cabbage) (but they stick together in any syllable) PUL-CHRA (beautiful) Any consonant doubled-up is pronounced as two separate sounds PHI-LIP-PUS (Philip) (but in two separate syllables) I's at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel IUNO or in between vowels are consonant y: "Yes" MAIUS (May) U's after any Q are consonant w: "qWick" QUIS (who) (A J or a V is written for the consonant-sound, to make it clearer.) JUGULAE (Orion's Belt) (I personally don't like using the J but I do use the V.) VACCA (cow) syllables and accent There are as many syllables as vowels or diphthongs in a word A-GRI-CO-LA (farmer) and syllables try to be consonant-first+vowel-second. SO-RI-CI-NA (squealing) An L or R following a B, C, D, G, P, T stay in the same syllable PE-TRA (rock) and QU stay together in the same syllable too. LI-QUET (it's clear) The accent is (almost) never on the last syllable of a word. (One-syllable words don't usually have any accent.) NON (no/not) In two-syllable words, the first syllable has the accent. SO-DES (please) (The accent is often the second-last syllable, E-DU-CA-TRIX (nurse) but sometimes it is the third-last syllable.) FA-TA-LI-TER (by fate) The Rule for whether-the-second-or-third-syllable-has-the-accent is: The second-last syllable has the accent if it has a long vowel, DE-CO-RE (gracefully) a diphthong, CO-MOE-DUS (comedian) or there's a short vowel followed by 2 or more consonants. DO-CU-MEN-TUM(example) (R, L, or H after a consonant (as per above) DON'T add up to two consonants for this rule...they stick together in their own syllables. E-LE-CE-BRA (snare) (Q+U together count as one consonant for this rule too.) A-LI-QUID (something) OTHERWISE give the accent to the third-last syllable by default. PRO-BA-BI-LIS (probable) finally: If you ever get into trouble with any of these rules (or any other rules): just go for it---it's better to have talked and lost than never to have ET CETERA. The people who use a language, define a language. A language will have variations; jazz, punk, southern, cockney, sign-language, pidgin, low, or high Latins can all exist (as in any other language) for a free person in a free country with a free soul (as long as the intent is a common human meaning). There are also other legitimate Latins today with their own pronunciations: church, botanical, zoological, medicinal, scientific, legal, literary, gangs, and others. VALE.
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