Chapter IX - Convivium in Villa

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As it happens, there was a Convivium arranged at the time, about which Gracchus had spoken to Markos - a 'Convivium' to celebrate the birth date of Octavian - the 'Divine Augustus' (Imperator Cæsar Divi Filius Augustus) one of Gracchus' favourite heros.
In addition to the Convivium, Gracchus was to hold an indoor Munera.
Such Munera, which were rarely held at the time of this story, were commemorations and sacrifices to the dead, in which young swordsmen fought, 'ad mortem', (to the death) - the losing gladiator being considered as a form of 'human sacrifice'.
This was an ancient Etruscan custom, from which developed the concept of gladiatorial combat, and the whole culture of the arena and the amphitheatre.
Gracchus was deeply interested in ancient Roman and Etruscan traditions, along with his old friend, Novius, and Gracchus even had a private amphitheatre in the nearby town of Baiae.
All through the Convivium, and the Munera, Markos stood beside Gracchus as his 'cup-bearer' - but he was shocked by the overtly sexual exhibition put on by the slave-boy dancers and the boy gymnasts, and the extreme violence of the fighting, and the brutal deaths of the combatants.
After the Munera and the Convivium, Petronius, one of Gracchus' favourite slaves, invited Markos to the cremation of the slain young fighters.

The day of the 'convivium' (banquet) dawned.
Banqueting Hall - Villa Auream
Called, in general terms, a 'convivium' (or banquet), the Romans also distinguished between specific types of gatherings, such as the 'epulum' (public feast), the 'cena' (dinner, normally eaten in the mid-afternoon), and the 'comissatio' (drinking party). Dinner parties took place in private residences, in which the host entertained a small group of family friends, business associates, and clients.  Elite, private banquets, were designed to be a kind of feast for the senses, during which the host strove to impress his guests with extravagant fare, luxurious tableware, and diverse forms of entertainment, all of which were enjoyed in a lavishly adorned setting. A Roman dinner  party included three courses: the hors d’oeuvres (gustatio), the main course (mensae primae), and the dessert (mensae secundae). At the Roman banquet, wine was served throughout the meal as an accompaniment to the food.  At the Villa Auream a banquet required an elaborate table service comprising numerous vessels and utensils that were designed to serve both functional and decorative purposes. 
Roman Silverwre
The most ostentatious tableware was made of costly materials, such as silver, gold, bronze, or semi-precious stone (such as rock crystal, agate, and onyx). The final component of the banquet was its entertainment, which was designed to delight both the eye and ear. Musical performances often involved the flute and the lyre, as well as singing. Active forms of entertainment could include troupes of acrobats, dancing, gladiatorial fights, mime, pantomime, and even trained animals, such as lions and leopards. There were also more reserved options, such as recitations of poetry (particularly the new Roman epic, Virgil’s 'Aeneid'), histories, and dramatic performances. It was normal for the staff and slaves of the house to be incorporated into the entertainment: singing cooks performed as they served guests, while young, attractive, slave-boys provided an additional form of visual distraction. At the Villa Auream each guest (and they were usually only male) was allocated a slave boy to attend to his needs during the evening - which could include sexual services in one of the cubicula reserved for such purposes.
Markos awoke, and Cleon had already left - as was his usual way.
For a change there was a lot of bustle and noise in the villa, as supplies arrived and rooms were prepared.
In the corridor where Markos had his room (cubiculum), there was a lot of activity, as the other cubicula, which were normally empty, were cleaned and prepared.
These rooms would have to be ready, in case any of Gracchus' guests wished to have some intimate time alone with the slave-boy that had been allocated to them.
After a quick 'bite' to eat, Markos hurried down to the entrance hall, where Glykon was busy answering the door, sending various individuals with deliveries to the slave's entrance, and explaining to clients (presumably those who had not been invited to the banquet later in the day), that the master was not available until the following day.
"So Markos - you have been given the task of 'cup-bearer' - congratulations !", Glykon said cheerfully, between giving instructions the grumpy trades-men.
"And what will you be doing - during the banquet ?", Markos asked.
"I will be here as usual - answering the door.
Then , later, I will come and help clear the dishes, and maybe watch the gymnastics and wrestling - or gladiators - if Gracchus is having them today.
Then, when it's all over, I will see them out, and check that they haven't left anything behind - or, more to the point, that they are not trying to smuggle out any of the table ware, or a cute slave-boy !"
As they were talking, Terentius came over to speak to Markos.
"So, Markos.... this is an important day for you.
Your first appearance, if you like, in public !".
"Yes, Domine,", Markos replied respectfully.
"I hope that I am a credit to my master !", he continued, laying it on a bit thick.
"I am sure that you will be, my boy !", Terentius replied in a strangely familiar manner.
"Today,", he continued, "as it is a special day, you can miss your session with your tutor, and may spend the afternoon with Servius.
After that I want you to spend a lot of time in the baths, have a long massage, and instruct the slave to leave a reside of the olive oil on your skin, to give it a darker, gleaming sheen - after all, you must look your best for our guests."
"So excuse me sir, but why is this a special occasion ?", Markos asked.
"Well I'm surprised that a well educated boy like you doesn't know." Terentius replied, looking a little shocked.
"It's the birthday of the 'divine' Octavian Augustus."
"I knew his birthday, Domine, but I lost track of time after I left Athens.", Markos said, trying to excuse himself.
"Ah, that explains things," Terentius continued.
"Well, your master Gracchus has little interest in politics, as you may realize - which has probably kept him alive all these years - when so many rich men have died - for reasons I am not able,  yet,  to go into. 
By living away from Rome, and not running for any public office, he has managed to live quietly, and amass substantial wealth.
But he has always had a deep respect for Gaius Octavian, after whom he is named - a self made man - albeit one who inherited a name and wealth.
There had been four emperors since Augustus had died - (Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius, and the present emperor, Nero). When Augustus died the Senate unhesitatingly pronounced him 'divus' - the 'deified' one - a god. The deification of Augustus cemented the Princep's position as not merely one of the greatest men to have ever lived, but as something more; something eternal, ethereal, indissoluble and, literally, supernatural.
 for more information about Gaius Octavian - (Augustus Caesar) - go to
Terentius continued, as if he was one of Markos' tutors, - 
"Today's celebrations will therefore begin with a sacrifices to Mars Ultor, the Divine Augustus, Venus - from whom Gaius Julius Caesar, and by adoption, Gaius Octavian Augustus were descended, - Apollo - Augustus' patron god, and of course, Gracchus' own patron deity, Mercury."
Mars Ultor
Augustus created the cult of Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger) to mark two occasions: his defeat of the assassins of Caesar at Philippi in 42 BC, and the negotiated return of the Roman battle standards that had been lost to the Parthians at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. 
Temple of Mars Ultor,
The Temple of Mars Ultor, dedicated in 2 BC in the centre of the Forum of Augustus, gave the god a new place of honour. Some rituals previously conducted within the cult of Capitoline Jupiter were transferred to the new temple, which became the point of departure for magistrates as they left for military campaigns abroad. Augustus required the Senate to meet at the temple when deliberating questions of war and peace. The temple also became the site at which sacrifice was made to conclude the rite of passage of young men assuming the toga virilis ("man's toga"), around age 14. On various Imperial holidays, Mars Ultor was the first god to receive a sacrifice, followed by the 'Genius' of the emperor. At the Villa Auream the sacrifice will be an 'intact' (un-castrated) ram. The Temple of Apollo Palatinus (Palatine Apollo) was a temple on the Palatine Hill of Rome, which was first dedicated by Augustus to his patron god Apollo. It was only the second temple in Rome dedicated to the god, after the Temple of Apollo Sosianus.
Terentius continued - "Later, in the festivities, there will be a 'Munera'.
Three pairs of gladiators will fight - and three will become sacrifices to the 'genius' of the Divine Augustus."
Munus (plural: Munera), describes a commemorative sacrificial duty owed the 'manes' of a dead ancestor by his descendants. The Munera was therefore a 'sacrificium' in the strict sense of the word. The presentation of gladiatorial contests, initially at funerals, developed because there was a common Roman belief that "souls of the dead (Manes) were propitiated by sacrifice and human blood...". For this reason, true Munera, unlike the non-funerary 'Ludi', required the gladiators to fight to the death. In Roman religion, the 'Di Manes' are chthonic deities, (relating to or inhabiting the underworld) representing souls of deceased loved ones. They were associated with the 'Lares', 'Lemures', 'Genii', and 'Di Penates' as deities (di) that pertained to domestic, local, and personal cult. They belonged broadly to the category of 'di inferi', "those who dwell below," the undifferentiated collective of divine dead. In the case of Augustus, because he had been deified on death, the munera ( commemorative sacrificial duty) was dedicated to the 'genius' of the Divine Augustus. In Roman religion, the 'genius' (Latin: plural geniī) is the individual instance of a general divine nature that is present in every individual person, place, or thing. The Greeks called their genii, daemons.
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Terentius then gently took Markos' shoulder, and said, "Now I think Glykon is managing here quite well, so before you go off for you training with Servius - if you come with me - I will show you the reception hall where you will be working this evening."
Terentius then took Markos down some very beautifully decorated corridors - which he had not seen before, - which ended in set of large, ornate bronze double doors, guarded by two tall slave-boys.
The boys smiled and bowed to Terentius, and opened the doors.
Markos was amazed at the size of the hall.
Like the rest of the Villa, the Reception hall had been designed by the prominent Roman architect, Lucius Severius.
Surprisingly, despite his philhellenism, Gracchus had chosen a Roman architect rather that a Greek for his magnificent villa by the sea.
The reason, of course, was that Gracchus wanted some large areas, uncluttered with columns.
Greek architects, unfortunately had a habit of inserting rows of columns in any large internal space, - which was not what Gracchus wanted at all.
So Gracchus had chosen an architect who was a master at creating magnificent spaces using concrete.
The Reception Hall was large enough to accommodate over one hundred people, and had no internal columns, as it was roofed with a coffered, concrete barrel vault.
Doors to the Banqueting Hall
The vault was finished in white stucco, with plaster ornamentation finished with gold leaf.
The doors to the hall were masterpieces, cast in bronze, enormously heavy, and then lacquered, and ornamented with the most tasteful gilded decoration, which included Gracchus' monogram on each door.
All the walls of the hall were veneered in the most expensive off-white, veined Greek marble.
And the floor was finished in marble mosaic, polished with olive oil.
As he had approached the huge bronze doors Markos had heard the muffled sound of wood smacking against wood.
Sparring in the Banqueting Hall
Markos was puzzled, but soon he was able to understand.
As the doors were swung open by the tall slave-boys, he not only saw the magnificent hall, but also two practically naked, older slave boys, sparring with wooden swords, in the centrer of the mosaic floor.
"The fair-haired boy is Pretonius.
He was the Dominus' 'maximi gladiatori' (star gladiator), but now he supervises the Ludus and the arena, and only takes part in private 'exhibition' combats." Terentius explained.
Apart from the usual silver slave collars, each boy was only wearing a leather thong, leather wrist guards and gloves.
"These boys are preparing for tonight's munera." Tarentius explained.
As Markos watched them, he wondered which one of them would be dead before the end of the night.
When the sparring boys saw Terentius enter the hall with a young slave-boy (Markos), they respectfully stopped their training,and bowed to Terentius.
"Salve, Domine !", they both said in unison.
"Salve ! - And salve Petronius", Terentius replied, giving his special attention to the blond boy.
"I trust that you would put on a good display this evening."
"It will be an honour for us !", the older, and slightly taller boy replied - who Terentius had identified as Petronius.
Bust of the Divine Augustus
Terentius nodded in acknowledgement, and then turned to Markos.
"There, at the end of the hall, on the dais, the slaves have already set a gilded bust of the Divine Augustus.
When the celebrations begin, a couch and a table, where your master will sit, will be placed in front of the bust, and it is there that you will serve him during the feast."
Terentius and Markos then turned to leave the reception hall.
As Markos reached the door, he turned and looked back - and noticed that Petronius was watching him intently, and smiling.
As they moved into the corridor, they could hear once again, the noise of the two boys vigorously sparring with their wooden swords.
Terentius then took Markos to his study, and went over some final details regarding the events at the banquets.
He then dismissed Markos, who went off to have some midday food, before going to the gymnasion to train with Servius.

'At the Pool' - Terentius then dismissed Markos, who went off to have some midday food, before going to the gymnasion to train with Servius.
Servius was waiting for Markos, as usual, in the gymnasion.
They swam in the pool and did some stretching exercises.
"So are you going to this banquet tonight ?", Markos asked, trying to be casual.
"Well, I'm obliged to.
You see I have to come as Tribune Marcellus' side-kick.
It was the tribune who got me this rather nice duty ", Servius said, smiling at Markos, and ruffling his hair.
"Presumably you will be there - on duty, perhaps ?", Servius continued, obviously eager to know if he would see Markos that evening.
"Yes." Markos replied, a little wearily.
"It's all a bit weird.", he continued.
"Gracchus saw me in his study, and said that he wanted me to be his 'cup-bearer'.
Then he went on about Ganymede and Jupiter.
He says that being 'cup-bearer' is and important position, but as far as I can see I'm just going to be a glorified 'waiter'."
"Not quite." Servius interrupted.
"It is a special position, and will show to everyone that he holds you in high regard - although I think that most people round here know that already."
"Well what worries me is that, from what I've been told about Jupiter and Ganymede, I might end up having to sleep with him tonight !", Markos said, rather despondently.
"I don't think so." Servius said very slowly.
"I don't think he thinks of you like that at all."
"Then what's he playing at ?" Markos asked petulantly.
"I think that he's just trying to raise your profile.
You're a very clever boy - and I think he's got some plan for you.
I don't know what it is - but if he just wanted you as a 'catamite', I think he would have 'had' you, right at the beginning." - Servius thoughtful replied.
"Well, I hope you're right.
But I have to go now - 'cause Terentius wants me to take some time getting ready - so.... see you tonight !".
And with that, Markos, still looking concerned, left to go to his cubiculum.


'At the Banquet' - Roman banquets usually start in the late afternoon - (what we would call about 5pm), and go on until when-ever..... in fact, Roman banquets sometimes lasted for 10 hours.
Starters might involve cheese, olives, eggs, mushrooms, sausages, and other finger foods; after that would come a selection of legumes, boiled or pickled vegetables, stewed greens, or salads (which were quite dense and mushy, not a side salad). The main course would consist of meat - usually pork, boiled or roasted and served with a dizzying array of sauces; and as for seafood, the Romans ate just about anything they could pull out of the ocean. They also ate poultry and fowl, game like deer and rabbits, and goats or sheep if they were plentiful (if not, they'd be saved for non-food purposes, which is why the Romans almost never ate beef). Bread was present throughout the meal, and all courses included a variety of condiments, the most popular being olive oil, vinegar, and a fish sauce called 'garum'. Romans were enormously fond of sauces and seasonings, as well as chutneys, relishes, dips, and spreads. The beverage of choice was wine diluted with water or fruit juice; flavoured wines were popular, as were mixed punches and herbal tisanes. Desserts were based on fruits, nuts, cheese, honey, and baked goods, all served with warm spiced wine. (Incidentally, Romans did not make a habit of vomiting up food to make room for more - and the so-called 'vomitarium' is in fact the Latin name for an exit in an amphitheatre - these are Christian attempts to make the 'pagans' appear thoroughly unpleasant). 
Ἀρίστων (Ariston)
Ανδώνιος (Adonios)
Having changed into a new white, Greek Style tunic, Markos went to see Terentius before entering the Aula de Convivium (the Banqueting Hall).
There he met the two slave boys who would assist him in serving Gracchus - Ανδώνιος (Adonios) and Ἀρίστων (Ariston).
Being now, apparently, junior to Markos, the two boys were dressed in only a white loincloth, and white leggings.
In addition to Markos' new Greek-style tunic, Terentius had further indicators of Markos' new status.
These consisted of a gold filigree headband, and two woven bracelets, with gold filigree clasps.
"These are gifts from your master, Gracchus, in recognition of the progress that you have made in your studies and your training.
You are permitted to wear them on all formal occasions within the villa."
Markos was surprised - but also very pleased.
"Please thank my master !", he replied respectfully.
"There will be no need," Terentius said, "as you may thank him yourself at the convivium, later."
Adonios and Ariston seemed non too pleased to have their positions taken over by a usurper - a new slave who had only recently arrived at the villa.
As Markos was later to learn, Ariston was a particular favourite of Gracchus, despite being a surly looking boy, and it was rumoured that the relationship between Gracchus and Ariston was more than just 'master and slave'.
Adonios, although not Gracchus' favourite, doted on his master, looking to him as some kind of substitute father - and Gracchus indulged the boy, who not only had cute looks, but also a sweet, endearing character.
Not surprisingly, it was it was Adonios who gave Markos help and advice as he tried to perform his duties during this, his first convivium.

And so Gracchus finally arrives at the convivium - accompanied by two muscular villa-guards, Adonios, Ariston, and Markos, his 'cup-bearer'.
Previously, Gracchus had made a sacrifice to his patron God, Hermes, in the permanent shrine situated in the main Atrium of the Villa Auream.
Hermes - (Mercury in the Roman Religion) - Messenger of the Gods, transgressor of boundaries and taboos, God of mysteries, bringer of sleep, dreams, and visions, Psychopompos (guide of the dead), patron of herdsmen and heralds, God of Luck and Unexpected Fortune, God of translation and language, God of gymnasia and athletic youth, God of logos, or world order, God of trade and commodities. Hermese, however, was often also seen as a 'trickster' - and perhaps Gracchus had chosen this God as his patron unwisely......?
Meanwhile, some local priests, who were also clients of Gracchus, made sacrifices to the three main deities to be honoured at the feast (conviviusm).
Those deities, (as has already been mentioned), were Mars Ultor (Mars the Avenger - patron of the Divine Augutus), Venus (from whom the Divine Julius Caesar was descended) and the genius (spirit) of the Divine Augustus.
The sacrifices were made in one of the peristyles of the villa, where temporary plinths had been set up to take the three statues of the deities.
The priests, and some of the more pious guests then returned to the banqueting hall.
Markos, who's place was just behind Gracchus, ready to serve him, was surprised that Gracchus did not recline, like the other guests - but apparently he found such a posture too undignified for a person his his status, and preferred to 'sit' in what was almost 'imperial state' on a vast, throne like couch of heavily gilded, ebonized wood.

Gracchus at the Convivium

The other strange fact that Markos noticed was that no one else sat anywhere near Gracchus, so it seemed a rather lonely banquet for Markos' 'lord and master'.
Terentius, of course, was there, and brought up various guests to greet Gracchus, and among the guests was the Tribune Marcellus, and his young companion, Servius - looking very smart in very fine 'parade armour'.
First the  'gustatio' (hors d’oeuvreweres) was served, (Markos noticed that Cleon was one of the boys serving the food), followed by the 'mensae primae' (main course) and while the guests, who all seemed to know one another, chatted, there was an accompaniment on the κιθάρα (Cithara) played by a particularly attractive older slave-boy wearing a white silk χιτών (khitōn) - the Doric Chiton, which the Romans called a 'tunica' -  a Greek style of dress, favoured by Gracchus for his boys.
κιθάρα  - Cithara
The cithara or kithara was a professional version of the two-stringed lyre. As opposed to the simpler lyre, which was a folk-instrument, the kithara was primarily used by professional musicians, called kitharodes. The kithara's origins are likely Asiatic. The kithara had a deep, wooden sounding box composed of two resonating tables, either flat or slightly arched, connected by ribs or sides of equal width. At the top, its strings were knotted around the crossbar or yoke (zugon) or to rings threaded over the bar, or wound around pegs. The other end of the strings was secured to a tail-piece after passing over a flat bridge, or the tail-piece and bridge were combined. Most vase paintings show kitharas with seven strings, in agreement with ancient authors, but these also mention that occasionally a skilful kitharode would use more than the conventional seven strings.
On finishing the gustatio, the guests were then served with 'mensae secundae', (dessert)
Once all the guests had had their fill, they then settled back and started to pick at the various bowls of 'finger food', which Gracchus' young slave boys brought round.
Occasionally a guest would take a liking to one of the slave-boys, and would suggest that the lad shared his couch - and in some cases this 'sharing' lasted the rest of the evening.
Early on Markos noticed that his young 'boy-friend', Cleon, had been quickly 'picked up' by a rather older man - whom Markos recognized as a regular morning visitor to the villa - one of Gracchus' long term 'clients' - and Markos was somewhat relieved that all he had to do was to see that Gracchus's wine cup was kept filled, and that there were always tender morsels available for him to eat.
Once the guests were relaxed and chatting it was time for some entertainment.
The first diversion was a number of young slave-boys who performed some 'artis gymnasticae' - a Latin euphemism for erotic, and often blatantly sexual 'dancing'.

Note - if you don't like reading explicit descriptions of all male sex, 
then you are advised to scroll down to the next section - 

As the name suggests, ('gymnazein' - to exercise naked) the boys performed completely nude.
The boys had been carefully trained by Gracchus' coaches, and were able to put on a show that was not only very skilful and athletic, but was also intensely erotic.
The eroticism, of course was facilitated by the fact that the boys were nude.
Agathon (Gracchus 'in-house' Greek physician) also enabled the boys to perform erotically by providing them with a mixture of a red-leafed root in the orchid family' called, appropriately, 'Satyrion', combined with the juice of an exotic tuber called 'Skirret' - which together formed a powerful aphrodisiac.
In Greek mythology, a satyr - σάτυρος (satyros)  is one of a group of ithyphallic male companions of Dionysus often displaying permanent erections.  In Roman Mythology there is a concept similar to satyrs - the faun. In classical drama there is a form known as the 'Satyr Play', which was usually a short, light-hearted drama performed in Athenian festivals honouring Dionysus. Roman fauns were conflated in the popular and poetic imagination with Latin spirits of woodland, and with the rustic Greek god Pan.
More prosaically, most of the boys were fitted with silver rings, which were worn round the base of the penis, behind the scrotum, and which constricted the flow of blood from the penis, thus ensuring a strong and long lasting erection.
One of the most startling performances on this particular evening was one involving a young slave-boy, who was enormously well-endowed, in an act of 'auto-fellatio'.
This was about as immodest and salacious as one could get in Roman terms.
In Rome, at the time of our story,'fellatio' was considered profoundly taboo. As was explained in the preface, sexual acts were generally seen through the prism of 'submission' and 'control'. This is apparent in the two Latin words for the act: 'irrumare' (to penetrate orally), and 'fellare' (to be penetrated orally - from which is derived the term 'fellatio'). Under this system, it was considered to be abhorrent for a male to perform fellatio, since that would mean that he was penetrated (controlled), whereas receiving fellatio from a woman or another man or boy of lower social status (such as a slave) would not be considered humiliating. The Romans regarded oral sex as being far more shameful than, for example, anal sex - and known practitioners were supposed to have foul breath, and were often unwelcome as guests at a dinner table.
All this was well understood by the guests, but the act of 'auto-fellatio' was not only an obvious form of 'self-abuse' (and extreme form of masturbation), but was also a remarkable feat of flexibility and self control - and boys who could perform in that way had to be trained to do so from an early age.
The Latin term 'masturbari' was only one among half a dozen terms that Romans used for the act. Originally it meant only to 'rub by hand' or to 'agitate', without negative connotations. Over time, however, the term gained associations of disturbance and defilement. Some authors came to associate the term with 'manus sinistra', meaning the left hand, indicating uncleanliness, since the Romans linked the left hand with elimination functions. Masturbation, in itself, was not considered to be bad, but was, however, associated with male slaves, as male teenage Roman citizens had a 'concubinus' (slave boy), and adult Roman citizens had wives, prostitutes (male and female), slave-boys and slave-girls. An adult who had to resort to masturbation was considered to have no status, and was looked upon as a social failure.
The slave-boy on the night of the banquet who demonstrated 'auto-fellatio' to the guests, as part of the erotic gymnastic performance, was assisted by the insertion of an extremely large dildo into his anus, and by wearing a tight silver penis ring behind his scrotum, and another, smaller silver ring behind his 'glans' (Latin for 'acorn').
The final result was that the boy released his 'member' at the moment of ejaculation, and swallowed the greater part of his semen - much to the amusement of the guests.
Markos watched all this with a certain amount of 'fascination'.
Roman Bronze of Priapus
Interestingly, the English word 'fascination' derives directly from the Latin, 'fascinus', which in ancient Roman religion and Roman magic, was the embodiment of the divine phallus (erect penis) - (the word derives also from Latin related verb 'fascinare', "to use the power of the fascinus" - (the erect penis'). The Vestal Virgins tended the cult of the 'fascinus populi Romani', the sacred image of the phallus that was one of the tokens of the safety of the state (Sacra Romana). It was thus associated with the 'Palladium'. As a divinized phallus, the God 'Fascinus' shared attributes with the imported Greek God 'Priapus'. In Greek mythology, Priapus (Πρίαπος, Priapos) was a fertility god, protector of livestock, fruit plants, gardens and male genitalia. Priapus was described as the son of Aphrodite by Dionysus. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent erection, which gave rise to the modern medical term 'priapism'. Priapus became a popular figure in Roman erotic art and Latin literature. He features strongly in the 'novel' by Petronius 'The Satyricon. Phallic charms, were ubiquitous in Roman culture, from jewellery to bells and wind chimes to lamps and graffiti.
Like almost all Roman boys of his age, Markos was very familiar with masturbation, and since entering the Villa Auri, he had had sexual experiences with Cleon and Servius.
Something like fellatio, and even more surprisingly, 'auto-fellatio', however, were beyond his experience.
Finally, however, the slave boy gymnasts came to the end of their performance with a fitting finale from two particularly attractive youngsters.
Meanwhile, Gracchus' teenage gladiators were being prepared by slave-boys, supervised by Petronius, in the nearby 'coluisse locus', or more accurately 'apodyterium' (locker-rooms or dressing-rooms), for the coming 'munera'.
Petronius Prepares for the Munera
Petronius is a teenage Greek slave, (named by Gracchus 'Pretonius' - a Latin name -  - meaning 'of the countryside' - or 'rural' - because the boy was believed to have come from Arcadia  - yes - it's a real place - in the Peloponnese). He is, not surprisingly, a favourite of Gracchus, (mainly for his looks and physique - being seemingly a rather unsophisticated 'yokel' - but there is more to Petronius than meets the eye), and it is presumed that he will be matched against a poor fighter, as Gracchus will not want to lose a remarkably attractive slave-boy.
It should be noted that many of the contests arranged by Gracchus were, what we would now consider, 'rigged'. This was in some cases for personal reasons (as in this case), or for ritual reasons, if the contest was part of a 'munera', or because the contest was presented as a 'dramatic enactment' - 'good' against 'evil' or such-like).
'and the story continues
after the boy gymnasts there is a short pause in the festivities before the start of the Munera
and it is here that Markos learns of Gracchus' intense interest in Gladiators.
(Munera for Augustus)

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