Chapter XIII Aurora Novum

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Gracchus remained cloistered in his study for the rest of the day - seeing no one - not even Terentius.
He retired late, but was unable to sleep - his mind troubled by the disturbing contents of the prophecy that had been given to him by the god Apollo, through his oracle, the Sibyl.
Statue of Apollo
As the first rays of the morning sun turned the sky a delicate pink, Gracchus rose from his bed and went down, accompanied by two of his young bodyguards, to the peristyle where the almost finished statue of Apollo had been placed.
The marble was still in the process of being polished, and the god's lyre was still to be gilded, but it was almost complete.
The model for the nude statue of Apollo, holding a lyre, had been Gracchus' teenage slave-boy, Petronius.
As one of Gracchus' most handsome slaves, he was an ideal model for the most beautiful of all the Olympian gods.
As Gracchus stood and contemplated the magnificent statue, he said, quietly to himself, a prayer to the great god - patron god of the young Octavian - later known as the 'Divine Augustus' - asking for the god's guidance in the difficult future that undoubtedly lay ahead.

'Listen - the Holy One is near.
The rustling of cypresses announce him,
We sing to him our dark, resounding song,
We move around his white, pillared temple,

Look below where the cool streams run;
There all roam today in nakedness.
Blissfully they drink in the scents and sounds of the meadows,
And all gaze up into the blue heights.

And all rejoice, and all gather
This world's great blossoms of joy.
We, however, will bend down to take the fruit
that falls, golden, between dreaming and waking.

We bring it in silver bowls
To the temple, beside the spear and the shield.
Spread your fragrance,  and shine forth
to the world this glorified image !'

After having a little breakfast, Gracchus called for Terentius.
Terentius arrive at Gracchus study looking understandably concerned.
"I was worried, Dominus......", he began.
"After you saw Novius, you locked yourself away, and I was concerned about what the old gentleman might have said to you."
"Well, Terentius, I needed time to think.", Gracchus explained.
"And what did Novius have to say about the scroll, Dominus ?", Terentius asked.
"Well, he agrees with us about 'Caesaris astrum', but he says that it is meant to represent the desire to become Emperor - and this is where the contents of the scroll become dangerous for anyone, including you, who becomes aware of the meaning of the oracle.", Gracchus explained.
"I understand, Dominus.
My lips are sealed.", Terentius said, reassuring Gracchus.
"So it seems that there will be four individuals who will attempt, soon it seems, to become emperor, but only one will succeed - and this will probably result in some kind of civil war.", Gracchus continued wearily,
"Well, there's nothing we can do about that - except avoid getting involved.", Terentius said, wondering where all this would lead.
"The most worrying thing that Novius said was that that he foresaw my demise some time after the political upheavals - and that's where the strangest part of the prophecy lies.
It seems that the 'aurea puer ad mare' is our young Markos.", Gracchus went on.
"But that's doesn't make sense !", Terentius exclaimed, "He's only a slave-boy ! Why should he be included in a prophecy from the Sibyl ?"
"Exactly !", Gracchus replied, "And that's what I said to Novius, but the prophecy seems quite clear and quite specific."
"From the way that I read it, it appears that after my demise he should take my name, and position, and carry on my work.." Gracchus continued to an incredulous Terentius.
"But that's absurd !", Terentius blurted out, forgetting for a moment his position as Gracchus freedman.
"Absurd it may seem,", Gracchus replied, "But I knew from the beginning that there was something strange about the boy. His manner, his bearing - his speech. He was not a normal slave-boy. And what about that tale that Arion gave you - where the boy claimed to be the son of the Roman official killed by the pirates, and not the official's Greek slave-boy."
"Yes. But that's a story many slaves give, claiming to be freeborn." Terentius interjected.
"Yes - but they don't get a prophecy from an Olympian god to back up their claim !". Gracchus retorted.
There was silence in the room for a moment, as the implications of what Gracchus had just said became plain.
"I'm sorry, Dominus.", Terentius then said, quietly.
"I was forgetting myself.
You are quite right.
There is much more to this than appears on the surface, and you need to plan what you should do carefully.
And I swear to you that I shall help and support you in every way that I can." Terentius continued.
"Thank you Terentius.
I knew I could rely on you."
"So what shall we do ?", Terentius asked.
"About the men who would be emperor, and the civil war ? Nothing !", Gracchus replied.
"The god has given us a timely warning, and it should enable us to avoid becoming involved.
For our own safety we must say absolutely nothing about this.
As for my demise - that is in the hands of the gods.
As for Markos - that will need some thought." Gracchus continued.
"First you must go back to Arion, the slave trader, and question him thoroughly, but without letting him know the real reasons for your questions.
Say that your questions are prompted an inquiry from Rome.
Meanwhile I must speak carefully to the boy today - and start making plans
And before you go to Arion, see that the statue of Apollo is gilded and finished immediately, and then have a second statue made, with young Petronius as the model.
The original shall be dispatched as soon as possible to the temple at Cumae as an offering to the God.
And get the architect to design a shrine to Apollo in the main Atrium - opposite the shrine to Hermes, - and have him bring me the drawings as soon as possible."
"Of course, Dominus !", Terentius replied.
While Tarentius started his long and arduous journey to Brundisium, Gracchus called for a messenger-boy to go and collect Markos.
At the same time, he called for Quintus, as he wanted a record of his intended conversation with Markos.
Quintus bustled into the room, with his cerae (wax tablets) and stylii..
"Quintus - I want a record of my interview with this boy.
When he enters the study, see that he is seated, as I want him to feel comfortable.
In that way we may be more likely to get at the truth.", Gracchus said, as he tidied his desk.
"Yes, Dominus !" Quintus replied, as he prepared a chair for Markos.
Markos, as usual in the morning, was at the main entrance to the villa with Glykon when the messenger-boy found him.
"Gracchus wants to see you !", the boy said breathlessly.
Glykon raided his eyebrows, wondering what was afoot, while Markos looked worried.
Markos started to think about all the possible occasions, recently, when he may have said something untoward, that Gracchus might have taken exception to, especially regarding the trip to Cumae, but could think of nothing.
Reluctantly, he followed the messenger-boy to Gracchus' study.
As soon as he entered, Quintus offered him a chair.
This was very odd - as slaves never normally sat in the presence of their master.
"Don't worry, Markos.", Gracchus said reassuringly.
"Sit down.
I want you to be comfortable for our little chat."
Markos sat - by now very worried at this strange turn of events.
Meanwhile, Quintus settled himself in a corner, with his stylus hovering over his wax tablet.
"Thank you, Dominus !", Markos said nervously.
Markos noticed that Gracchus looked very tired.
"You have been here some considerable time, Markos - and I have been very pleased with your work, and your attitude towards your studies and your training.",Gracchus began.
"I have given you privileges, and special treatment because you are obviously intelligent - but also because you are already well educated.
Some have suggested that you are too well educated for an average slave - so there lingers in my mind the question of who you really are.
Well ?", Gracchus leaned back, leaving the question hanging in the air.
"You know who I am." Dominus, Markos said unsteadily.
"Arion, the slave dealer explained that to Terentius."
"Yes, but even Arion was unsure of his facts." Gracchus retorted.
Markos was by then panicking.
"But Dominus - if I say anything else, I may find myself being beaten, or something even worse !"
"If you tell me the truth, then no harm will come to you.", Gracchus said, reassuringly.
Markos began very quietly, and haltingly, frightened that at any moment Gracchus would loose his temper.
"My father was Gaius Agrippa Aelius, and my name, before I was captured, was..... Marcus Gaius Aelius.", Markos said slowly and with difficulty.
Marus in Athens
"I was born in Athens.
I never met any of my parent's family, and have no idea who they are.
My father saw that I was well educated, but I had problems with both my parents, and spent most of my time with my father's Greek slaves, and other Greek friends - which is why I have a Greek accent.
When my parents were killed, I deeply regretted being a bad son, and so as not to disgrace them any further, I allowed people to think I was my parents' Greek slave-boy.
Now I am happy here in your 'domus' (house).
The pirates could have killed me, but instead they allowed me a new chance in life - and although I am now a slave, I consider that Tyche has been kind to me."
Tyche (Τύχη) meaning "luck"; Roman equivalent: Fortuna - was the presiding deity that governed fortune and prosperity. She is the daughter of Aphrodite and Zeus or Hermes.
In literature, she might be given various genealogies, as a daughter of Hermes and Aphrodite, or considered as one of the Oceanids, daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, or of Zeus. She was connected with Nemesis and Agathos Daimon ("good spirit").
The Greek historian Polybius believed that when no cause can be discovered to events , then the cause of these events may be fairly attributed to Tyche. The constellation of Virgo is sometimes identified as the heavenly figure of Tyche, as well as the goddesses Demeter.
As Markos finished, he hung his head, as if ashamed - and there was a palpable silence in Gracchus' study.
"If you wish to beat me now, or do worse, then do so - if you think I have lied, but I swear to you that I have told you the truth.", Markos finally said.
"Leave us !", Gracchus said quietly to Quintus, "And say nothing of this to anyone !".
Quintus, obviously confused by what had transpired, bowed and left the room.
Gracchus was staring at Markos.
"Well, young Marcus, it looks like Terentius has made an unnecessary journey.
I sent him to speak to Arion, but I hardly think that is needed now.
", Gracchus smiled, but Markos (or was it Marcus ?) didn't realize, because he was still sitting shamefully, with his eyes lowered.
"So, young man - what are we to do with you ?"
"I do not know, Dominus.", Markos mumbled.
"For the moment, Marcus, nothing will change.
You will continue to be the slave-boy Markos - but I intend to give you further training in the work of my freedmen, such as Terentius.
" Gracchus said, and Markos nodded in acknowledgement.
"You will say nothing about our conversation, - nothing about your parents, and nothing about your time in Athens.", Gracchus continued.
"I will only say this to you - in confidence.
It has been given to me that the Gods, and one in particular, favours you, - and that there is a great future for you - if you can be patient.
Study hard - learn - and wait."
Gracchus sat back, waiting for a response - but there was none.
Markos was simply too confused by all the many things that had happened to him recently to take in , fully, what Gracchus was saying to him.
Gracchus of course understood.
"Just take your time, my boy, and think about what I have been saying - and if you have any quetions, or need any help, just speak to Terentius.....
You may go !".
"Thank you, Dominus !", Markos replied, quietly - and with that he left Gracchus' study - bewildered, but somewhat relieved.
'Favoured by the Gods' - the phrase kept ringing in his ears.
Which God, and why, and what would come of it......
But what Markos didn't realize was that, on that morning, the first rays lighting the dawning of his eventual freedom had began the illuminate an otherwise dark sky.

and the story continues -
'Gracchus, as a result of the prophecy from Apollo - decides to train Markos further, and introduces him to the world of the arena and gladiators.'

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

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