Chapter XL - Noctem Stellas - I

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'Prelude to the Evening' - So ... Adonios and Titus began their walk up the very long flight of marble steps to the roof garden.
Glaux could fly, but he was still a little sleepy, and preferred to sit on Adonios' shoulder and take it easy.
"So how are you, Adonios ?", Titus began, trying to make friendly conversation.
"Very well, Sir - thank you." Adonios replied, trying to remember to be very polite.
"And Glaux ?", Titus continued.
"Oh he's very happy.
He's now got a special doorway - so he cane visit me from the Dominus' apartments - whenever he feels lonely.", Adonios said enthusiastically.
Titus looked puzzled, but thought better of asking Adonios to explain any further.
"And your Dominus ?", Titus queried.
"Oh, I think he likes it here.
He does a lot of shopping - which he doesn't do much in Baiae or Neapolis - and I think he likes it here because it's where he came from.
It's his home."
"I see.", Titus said thoughtfully - having discovered something - perhaps significant - about Marcus.
"And where do you come from, Adonios ?",Titus asked, as he pondered on Marcus' origins.
"I don't know, Sir - somewhere in Greece, I think.", Adonios replied.
"That's a shame - it's good to know where we belong.", Titus said - thoughtfully.
Like many slaves, Adonios was sold into slavery when he was very young - and so he had no memory of his family or where he came from. Fortunately for Adonios he was bought by Gnaeus - who became very much a second father to him, which was not an entirely unusual relationship between slaves and those masters who were humane - by Roman standards.

'Greetings' - Finally they arrived at the roof gardens.
"Magnificent !", Titus exclaimed, unprepared for the beauty and extent of the gardens.
Almost mediately Marcus, accompanied by Terentius and Novius approached, while Adonios slipped away with Glaux, and returned to the basement and Petronius.
"Salve Domine !", Marcus said in greeting.
"Salve Marcus ! - but enough of this 'Domine'.
We are friends - so just call me Titus.", Titus said cheerfully.
Terentius and Novius looked a one another, knowingly, trying to work out if his was genuinely meant, of if Titus was just trying to put Marcus off his guard.
Regardless, Marcus turned to his two companions.
"Doubtless you remember my High Steward, Terentius, and my Consiliarius, Novius.", Marcus said, somewhat formally.
"Indeed.", Titus replied, as Terentius and Novius bowed.
"So, Marcus, I have seen the Domus Gracchii from the city many times, but I never imagined for a moment that there were these beautiful gardens on the roof.", Titus said.
"Well, it came as a surprise to me, also - as this is the first time that I have visited."
"But ... Adonios told me that you came from Rome, so I assumed that you lived here with Gnaeus Octavian.", Titus said, looking somewhat confused.
"Oh no - I always lived at the villa at Baiae, and before that in Athens - Greece.
Adonios was right, though, as I was born in Rome, but left as a very young child, and have no memory of it.", Marcus explained.
"Ah.... I see." Titus said, looking around.
"And where is that fine young man I met in Baiae who organised those spectacular Ludi.", Titus asked.
"You mean Petonius.
Yes, he's down in the basement, preparing the performers for you entertainment for this evening.", Marcus replied.
"So what has young Petronius prepared for us tonight - may I ask ?", Titus enquired.
"Well, that's a bit of a problem....", Marcus said nervously.
"We have some gladiators, wrestlers and dancing-boys, but unfortunately we weren't able to bring them from Baiae, and instead we bought them here, in Rome - so there has been very little time to prepare them.
So I hope that you will not be disappointed by what we have to offer.", Marcus explained.
"That's no problem, Marcus.
I think that you are worrying about nothing, - and with Petronius organising the show - well, I'm sure that it will be excellent." Titus said, patting Marcus on the back.
Although Titus had retained a youthful appearance, he was considerably older that Marcus, and behaved toward Marcus very much as an older brother to a younger brother.
Probably he would have wished that his own younger brother, Domitian (probably sulking at home as he stabbed flies), was a little more like his affable friend Marcus.
As they walked towards the magnificent pavilion, set up near the colonnades in one corner of the gardens, Titus spotted Demetrius and Aurarius standing some distance away.
The two boys had been trained to keep out of earshot when adults were conferring, and normally followed such instruction carefully, (which was more than could be said for Adonios - who, with the best will in the world, always seemed to end up right in the centre of things).
"Now these two lads I remember !", Titus said, striding over to the two (by then) rather nervous boys.
"You...are Demetrius - Marcus' nephew, I believe", Titus said, putting his hand on Demetrius' shoulder, "And you are Aurarius !", Titus said, putting his other hand on Aurarius' shoulder.
Both boys bowed deferentially.
With all the introductions seemingly over, Marcus led Titus over to the pavilion, where they settled on some exquisite chairs (inlaid with ivory, ebony and gilded bronze).
The vast Domus was filled with the most expensive and elaborate furnishing - furnishings that had lain unused and neglected for many years, wrapped in voluminous dust covers. Little did Demetrius realize that all this neglect had, in the main, been caused by his presence in the Domus, and that the spell had only been broken (unknowingly) by the appearance of the now dead Servius, and his subsequent involvement in the plot against Marcus.
Much to Marcus' relief slave-boys, presumably sent up by Nicander, appeared with gold trays laden with refreshments.
Undoubtedly what was needed at that point was wine - so that everyone could relax.


'The Sacrifice' - A priest from the Temple of Apollo then approached, and asked permission from Marcus to carry out the required sacrifice, in order that the evening's events could proceed.
After Marcus had given his permission, a temporary altar was set up, and two goats were sacrificed to the God Apollo, and two goats to the God Janus.
In the Roman religion Iānus - (Janus) - whose origins lie in the Etruscan religion - and has no Greek counterpart - is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past.  Janus had a ubiquitous presence in religious ceremonies throughout the year, and was ritually invoked regardless of the main deity honoured on any particular occasion. Janus presides over the access to Heaven, and to other gods: this is the reason why men must invoke him first, regardless of the god they want to pray or placate. He is the initiator of human life, of new historical ages, and financial enterprises.
Novius Takes the Auspices
Then, in deference to Marcus, the priest asked Novius to 'read' the livers of the sacrificed goats.
After inspecting the entrails, Novius returned to the pavilion.
"Dominus, the signs from the Gods are excellent, both for the entertainments, and for your discussions with our honoured guest.", Novius reported.
"So, you have a Consiliarius who can read the future.", Titus, - suitably impressed, - said to Marcus.
"Yes indeed.
Novius is a renowned authority on divining, and all aspects of our Roman religious traditions, and those of our predecessors, the Etruscans.", Marcus explained - wondering, as he spoke, - about the certain way that Petronius had insisted that the auspices would be positive.
Marcus and Novius, however, could be treading on dangerous ground with their interest in divining the future.
While haruspicy was legitimate when practised as part of a conventional religious rite, an attempt to discover the nature of future events, by any form of divining (and particularly astrology) was at most times seen by the Imperial authorities as leading to conspiracies, and even treason.
Fortunately for \marcus and Novius, their closeness to the benign oversight of the current incumbent of the Imperium mean that they were, at present at any rate, protected from any taint of 'lese-majesty', however, as Novius well knew, they needed to be on their guard.

On the left is a bronze Etruscan model
of a liver used for training  haruspices.
In Roman rligion, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina) the inspection of the entrails (exta) of sacrificed animals. The Roman concept is directly derived from Etruscan religion, as one of the three branches of the 'Disciplina Etrusca'. The art of haruspicy was taught in the 'Libri Tagetici'. The Libri Tagetici were translated into Latin and employed in reading omens - and had been studied and commented upon by Novius. The continuity of the Etruscan tradition among the Romans is indicated by several ancient literary sources, perhaps most famously in the incident related by Suetonius, in which Julius Caesar was warned to beware the Ides of March. The emperor Claudius was a student of the Etruscan language and antiquities, and opened a college (attended by Novius) to preserve and improve the Etruscan art of divining.
And speaking of Petronius, as the slaves removed the temporary altar, and the dead goats, Petronius and Adonios appeared - after being whisked up from the basement on the elevator, (which Glaux enjoyed).
The 'performers' had been secreted away in the colonnades - out of sight until they were required, while Petronius made his 'grand entrance'.
"Slave, Domine !", Petronius said in greeting, smiling and bowing low, as Titus rose to take his hand.
At the same time, Glaux, who was now fully awake as it was getting dark, fluttered over and perched on Titus' right shoulder (a good omen, according to Novius).
"Well, the bird certainly seems to remember me !" Titus said, as Glaux busily nibbled the ear of the heir to the Empire.
"Yes, Sir !", Adonios piped up.
"He doesn't like many people - but he likes you.", Adonios added.
Titus didn't quite know how to take that remark - but decided to interpret it as a compliment.


'Concubinus' - Then, just before the pancratium boys made their way to the sanded combat area, Titus noticed Aelius standing near to Demetrius.
"Tell me Marcus, who is that boy standing next to Demetrius." Titus asked, obviously interested.
"Yes - I thought you might notice him.", Marcus replied.
"That's Aelius.
He's a slave that I bought for Demetrius.
As Demetrius is now on the verge of manhood, I thought he needed some outlet for his erotic feelings, so I bought him this boy as his concubinus.", Marcus explained.
Some Roman patricians gave their sons or teenage relatives a male concubine (concubinus, "bed-mate"). Within the hierarchy of household slaves, the concubinus was regarded as holding a special or elevated position. The relationship with a concubinus might be discreet or more open: male concubines could attended dinner parties with the individual whose companion they were - as in the case of Demetrius and Aelius. The role of a concubinus was regularly compared to that of Ganymede, the Trojan prince abducted by Jove (Greek Zeus) to serve as his cup-bearer.
"The problem now is that Demetrius thinks that he's 'in love' with Aelius." , Marcus continued
"Well...don't worry, he'll soon get over it - it's probably just the novelty.", Titus suggested.
"Yes... I do hope so.",Marcus sighed, thinking to himself of all the problems that infatuated boys had caused him in the past.
Roman men - at least conventionally - had a very poor opinion of the emotion of 'love'. It was considered acceptable to be 'infatuated' with  a boy - as long as the infatuation was relatively brief. Adolescent boys were expected to 'fall in love', but such feelings were viewed with rye amusement by their elders. The emperor Tiberius' infatuation with his wife Tiberius Vipsania Agrippina practiclly ruined his reputation - not only with Augustus but also his peers, as it was considered 'unmanly' and un-Roman to be obsessively 'in love'.
"Expensive - yes ?", Titus queried - still looking at Aelius.
"Well, Terentius thought so.", Marcus replied.
Terentius, who had been listening to the conversation, smiled.
"So....", and Titus sighed, "Demetrius is a very lucky lad !".
"Very lucky to have a guardian as generous as Marcus." Terentius gently interjected.
"Enough !", Marcus said, obviously embarrassed.
Titus was surprised at Marcus' reaction.
It was the sort of sudden change in Marcus that others had noticed.
At one moment Marcus would be boyish, amenable - and even playful - but in other situations he could be very much the severe Dominus and 'Pater Familias'.
Roman Law and the 'tradition of the ancestors' (mos maiorum) established the power of the 'Pater Familias' within the community of his own extended familia. He was the eldest living male, - the 'father of the family'. He held legal privileges over the property of the 'familia', and authority over his dependants. These dependants included his wife and children, certain other relatives through blood or adoption, clients, freedmen and slaves.  If they angered him, he had the legal right to disown his children, sell them into slavery or even - in extreme cases - kill them. Only the 'Pater Familias'  could legally own property. Whatever their age, until their father died, the sons would only received an allowance, or 'peliculum' - as Marcus had, after he was adopted by Gnaeus Octavian.
The actions of Marcus with regard to those who had conspired against him, at the time of the murder of Gnaeus Octavian, were well known, not only in Baiae, and the surrounding area, but also in Rome.
The fact that he had managed to have all the conspirators killed, or executed, had left him with the rather grim sobriquet 'Marcus Ultor' - Marcus the Avenger - although no one had ever dared to tell him.
Undoubtedly it was this ability to be severe, and harsh, that had initially attracted Titus to Marcus, as the vicious world of Roman power politics was no place for 'weaklings' - but like many people who knew Marcus, that aspect of his character sat uneasily with the other more gentle aspects of his personality.
However, it was not just Marcus' ability to be ruthless that attracted 'the great and the powerful', but also his enormous wealth, but before anyone could make use of any of Marcus' seemingly endless resources they had first to deal with Terentius, and as Titus had realised, as he chatted with Marcus in the pavilion on the roof garden, Terentius deferred, in all things to his master, Marcus Octavianus Gracchus.


The Latin title for this section can be translated as 'entertainments' or 'diversions'.
It was not unusual for dancers, musicians, singers, actors, and even wrestlers and gladiators to provide diversions at private banquets.
Of course, to hire such 'entertainers' was extremely expensive, and only available to wealthy patricians - and only the exceptionally wealthy, like Marcus, would possess their own troupes of 'entertainers'.
Usually such 'diversions' were relatively innocent - although often straying into areas that people today would consider erotic, or even obscene.
It should be remembered here, however, that the Romans had no concept of 'obscenity' as we accept it, and considered sexuality as a natural and healthy outlet, (within certain definitely delineated boundaries).
So, for instance, it was quite acceptable for examples of painting and sculpture to be on display in respectable private houses that now would be considered as examples of extreme pornography.
In 'entertainments', we also find that the underlying, and ever present institution of slavery was an important factor.
For slaves, (often very young), to indulge in staged 'performances' of all forms of sexuality was considered quite acceptable, as it was held that such activity reflected in no way on those, (the guests or audience), who were observing such activities.
Equally, we may find the inclusion of wrestling and swordsmanship - often resulting in the death of one of the participants, very difficult to accept in the setting of a 'civilised' meal.
There are two equally relevant explanations.
In a society where there was no mass media available in private venues (the home) - with no television, cinema, DVDs etc, the only way the Romans could experience exciting 'diversions' was either in the Circus, Amphitheatre or Theatre - but these were not available on a regular,  (nightly - or 24/7), basis - as today, but only on specific festivals - and patricians were often loath to accept the inconveniences of attendances at public venues - also attended by the smelly, noisy 'plebs'.
So - there was nothing better, for the truly wealthy - than a private 'arena show'.
(and consider how many individuals get shot, blown up, mangled and otherwise killed - not for 'real', of course (?), in an average night's TV, cinema or DVD viewing.)
But for the Romans, if they were being serious, there was another aspect to any shedding of blood (as has been explained in previous chapters).
This 'Night under the Stars' was not just any fancy banquet - and this was made clear by the fact that it was preceded by sacrifices to the God Apollo and the God Janus (Apollo, because Apollo was Marcus' protecting deity, and Janus because this banquet would involve the 'opening' negations which would prove to be of some considerable significance, both for the Flavians, and the House of Gracchus, and Janus was always invoked at the beginning of any endeavour.
Therefore, the blood of the combatants, who would open the 'diversions', would be seen as simply a continuation of the initial sacrifices to the presiding Gods, and the later erotic scenes enacted would, by celebrating 'youth' and the 'vital life force', be seen enhancing the newly created relationship between the Falvians and the Gacchii.
So... the Romans - it must be understood, lived in a mythicmagical and symbolic world, well before the so called 'Enlightenment', and our recent obsession with factuality and logic - and this magical view of the world informed all their actions - which to the modern reader may seen strange, and at time , even perverse.
So .... on with the diversoriis....


'The Wrestling' - Now, however, the less gentle aspect of Marcus' character was on display in the 'miniature' Ludi that he had arranged for the 'diversion' of his guest Titus - prior to their initial negotiations.
Titus, Marcus, Terentius, Novius and Demetrius sat together in the pavilion, with Adonios (with Glaux on his shoulder), standing behind Titus, Aurarius standing behind Marcus, and Aelius standing behind Demetrius.
Petronius stood outside, and to one side of the pavilion, supervising the proceedings.
While the guests were working through the delicacies being proffered by young slave-boys, a wide red curtain, on long bronze poles, was raised by 'arena-slaves', obscuring the combat area.
After a few moments the curtain was suddenly lowered, (aulaea premuniuntur), and two naked boy wrestlers were revealed.
The curtain used in staged presentations was known as the aulaeum. The 'aulaeum' could be lowered to the performing area to reveal a scene: 'aulaea premuniuntur', (the curtain is lowered), when the action begins - and 'aulaeum tollitur', (the curtain is raised), when the action is ended - which is the opposite of most modern practice. The 'aulaeum' - usually made of a rich material - was not only used for theatrical presentations, but also, on occasions, in the arena - or in this case, at a private function.

'The First Fight' - The two boys were of Asiatic origin.
Marcus actually preferred Greek slaves, but these two were part of a 'job lot', bought in the 'Graecostadium', (in the city), by Terentius and Petronius.
Regardless of what might happen, at the end of this contest Marcus would only have one Asiatic slave - as the loser would be dead.
The main types of foreigners in Ancient Rome were, by and large, slaves from Gaul and Hispania, Central and Eastern Europe, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, North Africa and Jews, although some slaves were brought into Rome as a result of trading with the Far East. Many of those, however, who came from outside of Europe were ethnically Greek, while Jews were never fully assimilated into Roman society. Also, foreigners (especially slaves) had higher mortality rates and lower birth rates than natives and were sometimes subjected to mass expulsions. Foreigners not having Roman citizenship were often liable to summary expulsion. Although there was a certain amount of xenophobia within the Roman upper classes, expulsion was only used in certain circumstances: to deal with the actual or potential misdeeds, or bad influences, often of a religious nature, spread by specific groups.
Marcus, of course preferred Greek slaves, mainly because he had been brought up in Greece, and spoke fluent  ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος (Koine Greek) even better that his Latin (although Lucius - his Latin tutor - had eventually caused him to loose the Greek accent that had affected his spoken Latin, so that he eventually sounded like a 'born and bred' Roman patrician).
Also Marcus' adoptive father, Gnaeus Octavian, was a 'philhellene', who lived in the Hellenised area of the Bay of Neapolis, in a villa situated in the 'Greek' town of Baiae.
Marcus' sexual tastes also inclined him to fair haired, fair skinned boys who were, in almost all cases, Greek.
The two boys who were about to fight were both dark haired and olive skinned, and obviously not Greek, although they did speak some 'Koine', which was practically an 'international' language.
The boys, not being Greek, had no experience of clasical wrestling, although in the few days allowed Petronius had taught them some basic pancratium holds.
Significantly, by the time the boys appeared before the guests Drakon and Heron (Dragon and Hero - Greek names given to them by Petronius), were beginning to show the effects of the stimulants that Agathon had given them.
In addition to teaching the boys some holds, Petronius had told the boys that there were no rules to this kind of fighting, with the exception of no 'eye-gouging', and the fight was 'ad mortem' (as the boys spoke no Latin, Petronius translated that to 'μέχρι θανάτου' (to the death).
In addition, the victor, before killing his defeated opponent was expected to subject the loser to a 'futuo victoria' - (a victory fuck).
The boys appeared a little surprised at the form the combat was required to take - but of course, being slaves, they had no option but to comply, and by then were becoming eagerly aggressive, and also somewhat 'horny'.
Drakon and Heron, when the curtain fell, were surprised to find such a small audience, and were equally surprised to see that their audience were enjoying a meal, and talking to one another casually, and hardly seemed to have noticed that a pancratium fight was about to take place.
Modern readers may well be equally surprised at the lack of attention and concern shown to a fight to the death, but for patrician nobles, (such as Titus, Marcus and Novius), a fight between two inexperienced and totally unknown young slave-wrestlers would only merit the occasional glance - until such time as the futuo victoria, and the following kill.
It should be remembered, also, that, as slaves, the boys were considered to be simply 'possessions'  of Marcus, (it was, in fact, their legal status), and therefore were classified as identical to the goats  - which had also been 'possessions' of Marcus, that had previously been sacrificed.
As with all Marcus' possessions - including his 'familia' (see above), he was at liberty, under Roman Law, and the 'mos maiorum', to dispose of all those 'sub manibus ipsius' (under his hand) as he felt was 'dignum et iustum'  (right and proper).
Therefore, the blood that was spilled when any of the fighters were killed that night were seen as simply a continuation of the sacrifice to the ever demanding Apollo, to whom the evening's entertainments had been dedicated.
Equally the defeat of the various combatants would be viewed as yet another demonstration of the dominant and legitimate superiority of the Roman Imperium.


'The Wrestling Match' - The initial part of the fight between Drakon and Heron consisted of a lot of scrabbling on the sand, much of it, if the guests had bothered to look, being quite erotic, with both boys being completely naked, and both sexually aroused.
When they had the chance to glance over at the guests, it was obvious that the boys' attempts to use some of the holds that Petronius had taught them were only being met with condescending smiles, and the boys, who were becoming increasingly aggressive, were also becoming frustrated that their attempt to put on a 'good show' did not seem to be being really appreciated.
Getting up off the sand, the two boys then seemed to be starting all over again, ducking and weaving and circling one another.
Heron, obviously the smarter of the two boys, having had time to think, worked out that if any and all moves were permitted, (except for eye-gouging), then that presumably meant that 'low-blows' (to the groin), were permitted.
As such he decided to take the risk, and simply kicked Drakon forcefully in the balls.
Drakon - not being so smart - hadn't understood that such an attack was a possibility.
When he was kicked, he squealed - uttered some profanity in his own language and, bringing his knees together and clutching his mangled testicles, bent forward, and rather comically waddled round the sanded combat area, obviously in such pain that he didn't know what to do with himself.
Petronius, in order to give Heron some encouragement started politely clapping, and the guests, including Titus started to take an interest in the proceedings - and even Glaux stopped eating a particularly fat dormouse.
Drakon was obviously completely incapacitated, with tears running down his cheeks.
Heron, remembering Petronius' instructions, took his pathetic opponent by one arm, and guided him over to where the row of spiked gilded bronze stakes had been placed.
He then managed to get Drakon, who was bent over, to spread his legs, and hold on to one of the stakes with one hand  (to steady himself) - Drakon's other hand was still clutching at his ruined testicles.
Heron then came up behind Drakon and rammed his huge, firm penis into the helpless boy's anus.
Drakon had no choice but to take it, looking wide eyed (and wild eyed), and with his mouth open and dribbling saliva.
Now the boys had everyone's attention as Heron starting furiously thrusting into Drakon.
Drakon was moaning and, despite having had his testicles mangled, had a huge erection, and was dribbling copious quantities of 'pre-cum'.
Almost without realizing, Drakon fumbled with his fee hand, and finally caught hold of his wildly jerking, stiff 'member'.
He pulled on his straining foreskin, desperately trying to 'relieve' himself by masturbating.
There was little need, however, for any extra stimulation as, because he was being raped so hard by Heron, poor Drakon very quickly got a 'climax', and moaned loudly as he squirted a huge spurt of semen over the sand in front of him.
Heron and Drakon
The spasms of Drakons's tightening anus quickly brought young Heron to his own climax.
Then the surprise came - although Petronius had been hoping that at least some of the fighters might 'take the bait'.
As Heron pumped his hot, creamy 'seed' into Drakon, and Drakon splattered the sand with his own semen, Heron grabbed hold of Drakon's head and pushed it down forcefully onto the spiked stake.
Drakons' mouth was open, and the spike entered it, went into the back of his mouth, and up into the struggling boy's brain - eventually emerging from one side of the naked boy's skull.
The guests applauded, and Drakon starred in horror and apparent disbelief down at the sand.
He spluttered as blood gushed from his mouth, but surprisingly the thrust into his brain did not kill him.
Heron Triumphant
Instead, he had yet another intense orgasm, squirting even more of his thick 'semen' over the sand.
He then started jerking in repeated violent spasms, while Heron held him by the hips.
Heron was confused, and didn't know what to do.
Heron was certain that his action would have killed Drakon outright, and instead, Drakon was still alive, impaled through his mouth - bent over the stake, stark naked, and ejacuating copiously.
Reluctantly - it seemed - Heron held up an apparently victorious fist - although he looked away from his pathetic struggling opponent, whose arms were flailing as he tried, unsuccessfully to support himself in his intolerable position as he continued, surprisingly,  to splatter his hot 'seed' over the sand.
Whether the unfortunate lad was concious of what he was doing was hard to tell but it seemed that he was far from dead.
Eventually Petronius had to intervene - leading Heron over to where Marcus and his guests were sitting.
'Καλά κάνει - αγόρι' ('Congratulations !' - loosely translated), Marcus said, greeting the young victor.
Aurarius then handed Marcus a fresh green laurel wreath, (Aurarius was looking after the supply of laurel wreaths for the evening).
κότινος - kotinos
Of course, the significance of the laurel wreath was lost on Heron as he was an Asiatic - and not familiar with Greek and Roman customs - or the considerable honour that receiving the wreath in the presence of the Emperor's heir conferred.
A laurel wreath is a circular wreath made of interlocking branches and leaves of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), an aromatic broad-leaf evergreen. In Greek mythology, Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head as the laurel is sacred to Apollo. In Greece wreaths made of wild olive leaves, known as κότινος - (kotinos), were awarded to victors in athletic competitions, and in Rome they were symbols of victory.
Heron still looked confused, but bowed as he also received  a small leather pouch of coins from Terentius - on behalf of Marcus - (a patrician would never soil his hands with money on a public occasion), and then a Domus slave led the dazed, and still massively 'aroused' boy away.
"May I speak to the lad ?", Titus interjected.
Heron was made to return to be questioned by the 'guest of honour'.
"Latine loqui tu, puer ! (You speak Latin, boy ?)" Titus asked.
Heron shook his head.
"ἡ κοινὴ διάλεκτος - (Koine - Greek) ?", Titus suggested.
"Ναί, ὀλίγον τι - κύριος - (Yes - a little, Lord)", Heron replied.  (we will now translate - it's easier).
"So, boy. where do you come from ?", Titus asked.
"Antioch." Heron said in a thick Eastern accent - but one that Marcus and Titus could well understand - both having had contact with Eastern Greek speakers.
"And were you born a slave ?". Titus continued.
"Yes - Kyrios (lord).", Heron replied.
By this point Petronius arrived, interested to hear what his 'protégé' had to say.
"So how come you were bought here in Rome ?", Titus asked, intrigued.
"My other master sold me - and I was brought here.", Heron explained - but not very helpfully.
"And have you ever wrestled in public before, boy ?", Titus said, getting down to the crux of the matter.
"Never, Kyrios.", Heron replied.
"And did you enjoy the fuck !", Titus, in his down to earth way, asked.
Marcus and Titus smiled.
Heron, however, looked down, - embarrassed.
"Yes, Kyrio - but I couldn't help myself .", Heron added, in way of explanation - or as a possible excuse.
"And tell me - what gave you the idea of forcing your opponent's head down on the spiked shaft.", Titus asked, with a faint smile flickering across his lips.
"My ιδιοκτήτης (Dominus in Greek) told me that the only thing we couldn't do was gouge out our opponent's eyes, so I thought, why not  push his mouth onto the spike ?", Heron explained.
"Excuse me for interrupting, Domine - ", Petronius interjected, speaking first to Titus, - and then to Heron - "but your Dominus is sitting beside the person who is questioning you - and I am not your Dominus - just your trainer."
"I'm so sorry, Dominus !" - (using the Latin title), Herom spluttered to Marcus, already nervous, and now terrified.
"I did not know - forgive me !", the poor boy whined.
"Don't worry, Heron - most people think that my Tribune is the Dominus - it's just his manner.", Marcus said, smiling.
Not only was Marcus smiling, but Titus was grinning, and slapped his thigh so hard that Glaux nearly fell off the back of the chair on which he was perched.
"All right, young Heron - you may go - and well done !" , Titus concluded - and Heron, clutching his wreath and purse of money - and even more confused - was led away.
Titus turned to Marcus.
"I think you should keep the boy - he's got some pluck, and his final move was clever - and very effective !....
And now what are you going to do with the other lad ?
He's obviously not dead !" Titus inquired.
"Don't worry - Petronius will deal with it." Marcus replied.
Drakon - Decapitated
And poor Drakon obviously was not dead, but was gurgling horribly, and slowly sinking to the sand as his legs completely gave out, - but his head was still impaled on the stake.
Petronius then called over a Domus guard, and quietly instructed the guard to separate Drakon's head from his body.
Drakon - still jerking about, with his head impaled on the stake - didn't see the blow coming.
Once the blade sliced through the naked boy's neck, the twitching body slumped to the sand, leaving Drakon's head, with its shocked and surprised expression, still impaled.
Drakon's corpse was quickly dragged away, before the bowels could be voided - in order to avoid any unpleasant odours that might disturb the diners.
As Novius commented, - at least the young lad died quickly - in the end - while he was still fully 'aroused' - and after all, there were many worse ways to die....
Titus sat back and relaxed.
"So...Marcus, that was interesting.
Perhaps not very skilful wrestlers, but at least the young lad who won .....what was his name again ?"
"Heron." Marcus interjected.
"Yes...Heron - he produced a spectacular finish."
"Indeed." Marcus replied - pleased that his guest was pleased.
"So what happens to the other boy's severed head ?" Titus asked, looking across at the staring boy's head, impaled through the mouth on a stake.
"That's up to you, Titus.", Marcus replied, a little puzzled at the question.
"Well, I think we could leave it there - perhaps it might encourage some of the other fighters to impale their opponents.", Titus replied, smiling, as he fed Glaux yet another tasty morsel.
"So where did you get those boys from ?", Titus asked, passing Glaux to  Adonios, and then taking a sip of wine.
"Oh, they came as a 'job lot', bought in the 'Graecostadium', by Terentius and Petronius.
The other lad, Heron, - well I may get Petronius to 'get rid of' - as I am not keen on these Asiatics - they can have a bad influence on the other slave."
"Yes." Titus concurred, "That was the problem with all that trouble in  Iudæa." - (that's not a 'typo' that's the way the Romans spell it)
"And how would Petronius 'get rid' of the boy." Titus asked.
"Oh, that would be simple - he would put him up against a well trained gladiator.", Marcus replied, nonchalantly.
"Well remember what I said before,Marcus - it might be a good idea to keep him.", Titus said.
Marcus nodded.
At that point Petronius came up to the pavilion.
"A good show, Petronius !", Titus enthused.
"Many thanks, Domine !", Petronius replied.
"And next would you wish to see another wrestling match, or would you prefer to alternate with some gladiators ?", Petronius asked.
"I think another pair of pancratium wrestlers - and perhaps the match could take a little longer this time ?".Titus requested.
Petronius bowed, and then disappeared behind one of the many crimson curtains, obviously with the intention of giving the next two wrestlers some firm instruction on making sure that they gave 'good' value' with a fight of reasonable length - with a reasonably spectacular 'finish'.
And so, while the curtain was raised, Petronius positioned two new young wrestlers, - appropriately posing.
The curtain was then dropped, and the two lads, whom Petronius had carefully primed, began circling one another.
To begin with the two boys had the full attention of the guests, as the lads were carefully assessed, not only for their undoubted 'charms', but also for their prospective fighting potential.
For this fight, the adult guests, (that excluded Demetrius), had decided to gamble on the outcome - and placed their bets, (although, of course, no money would actually change hands until at least the following day) under Petronius' supervision, after the two boys had finished their initial sparring.
Petronius, of course, was excluded, as he almost certainly knew which boy would win, as he had 'coached' the lads, even if for a very short time, and watched then wrestle previously.
The Romans were inveterate gamblers. All classes participated, from slave to Emperor, artisan to Senator. During the time of the Republic, gambling was prohibited except during the festival of the 'Saturnalia', which was held in December of each year (the origin of the modern Christmas). The Saturnalia was a celebration in honour of the God Saturn. According to Roman myth, there existed a time when Saturn reigned over the earth and provided a bounty for mankind, who lived in a state of innocence. The festival was an attempt to relive that time by turning convention on its head. The divine Augustus was a regular gambler, and made a practice of playing during all Roman festivals.
Marcus was pleased to see that both these boys, at least by their facial features, and the fact that they were uncircumcised, were almost certainly Greek.
However, as has been previously explained in earlier chapters, slaves were very rarely allowed to retain their original names, and for 'Greek style' Pankration wrestlers - ('Pancratium' in Latin) - Petronius almost always chose Greek names - often abbreviated, nicknames related to some aspect of the slave's characteristics (such as Aurarius - meaning 'golden' describing his hair) - so the boy's names were no absolute guide to their origins.
The one type of name that was not used for slaves were 'Theophoric' names, which were derived from the names or titles of the Gods.

'The Wrestling Match' - The boys for this fight were named Kallon (from κάλλος - meaning beautiful - as often applied to 'ephebes' - [young teenage boys], doubtless because the lad was very attractive), and Andrippos (presumably a humorous comment by Petronius, in reference to the lad's large penis - related to the modern slang - 'hung like a horse' - ἀνδρός [andros] meaning man, and  [ἵππος] meaning horse.)
Kallon and Andrippos were 'bright boys', both of who had wrestled before - if only in an 'amateur' way.
Kallon and Andrippos
Petronius had impressed upon them that if they sought the favour of the guests who would be their audience, they would have to indulge in plenty of what, in Latin, was termed 'opus areæ' (floor work), which would give their fight a professional competent appearance.
Petronius had taken time to demonstrate what he had meant, and when the boys came to 'perform', and had finished their 'formal' sparring, they quickly got down to 'grappling' on the sand.
By and large, the fight went well, and with some money 'riding' on the boys, there was more interest in the wrestling - rather than the food.
Andrippos was undoubtedly favoured to win as he was a little larger, and in one respect larger than usual, and the guests were looking forward to watching him defeat, and then inevitably rape of the unfortunate Kallon.
And as the fight went on, Kallon seemed to be getting the 'raw end' of the deal, taking a number of punches, and some holds that undoubtedly weakened him.
In the end the foolish lad (or was he so foolish ?) surrendered - which was suicidal, as this was a contest 'ad mortem'.
Now at the start of this contest, it was said that these were two 'bright boys', but that was to prove untrue, at least in as far as Andrippos was concerned.
When Kallon 'surrendered', he was kneeling on the sand, unable to stand (apparently), after having been kneed in both thighs by  Andrippos.
Andrippos, either from sheer stupidity, or perhaps as a result of the aphrodisiac effects of Agathon's potion then demanded that Kallon fellate him before being raped, and then 'finished-off'.
The guests were grinning, wondering if young Kallon had the intelligence to take advantage of the situation - after all, the last thing a fighter should do would be to place his penis in his opponent's mouth.
Kallon complied with Andrippos' demand, and began sucking his opponent's huge, stiff penis, and Andrippos looked very please with himself.
The guests enjoyed watching the performance, but were wondering what might happen next - after all, they had bet on Andrippos winning.
After a very short while, Andrippos got hold of Kallon's head, and while pulling the boy towards himself, began thrusting with his hips, turning the session of fellatio in a session of what the Romans called 'mouth-fucking' - a form of male rape.
The practice of fellatio in ancient Rome was perceived (as with all other sexual acts) in terms of active and passive. The active one in the case of fellatio was  the person receiving fellatio - the virile male. The passive one was the one giving fellatio or, to understand it more clearly, the one receiving the penis. Today, of course, it’s usually considered to be the other way around. In Rome, however, to give fellatio was a passive act, a submissive act. For example, to punish a person who stole, or punish a prisoner of war, or a recalcitrant slave, the individual might be obliged to give fellatio. 
Irrumatio - 'mouth-fucking' - is Latin for the act of thrusting of the penis into the mouth or throat. In the Roman sexual vocabulary, 'irrumatio' is strictly a form of  'os impurum', 'oral rape', in which a man forces his penis into someone else's mouth, almost always that of another man or boy. Latin erotic terminology actually distinguishes two acts. First, 'fellation', in which the man’s penis is orally excited by the fellator. Second, 'irrumation', in which the man (the irrumator) ... engages in motions by moving his hips and body in a rhythm of his own choice. Andrippos, in this situation, was indulging in 'irrumation' - a thoroughly reprehensible act.
Now, just like the guests, you probably have a good idea of what would happen next - and of course Andrippos should have realized what was about to happen, but he seemed to be too caught up in his own enjoyment of the moment, as he savoured the sexual stimulation that he was receiving, along with the sensation of total dominance over his kneeling opponent.
Kallon and Andrippos
Scheming Kallon then purposely allowed Andrippos' engorged penis to penetrate deep into his mouth, gagging on the huge 'glans' - and then he bit down -hard.
"Shit !...", Andrippos squealed, looking down, and trying to pull back.
Kallon, realizing that he had not bitten the full way through Andrippos' massive, tough 'tool', held on for a second, and then, the instant that Andrippos stopped trying to pull his penis out of Kallon's mouth, simply because it was too painful, Kallon bit down again, even harder, and felt Andrippos' penis loose in his mouth.
Blood gushed, splattering over Kalon's face.
Kallon nearly vomited, but managed to spit out Andrippos' bloody severed penis onto the sand.
Andrippos, horrified at what had been done to him, fell back, and ended up sitting on the sand, searching with his trembling hands for his penis.
His penis, of course, still partially erect, was lying on the sand beside him, where Kallon has spat it out
All the squealing lad then had left, however, was a small stump and a bulging, useless scrotum - and the stump  was squirting out blood at an alarming rate.
Maybe it was the sheer audacity of Kallon, or the surprising turn of events - but what ever, the previously silent guests started applauding - despite the fact they they were, by and large, losing most of their bets.
Glaux, startled by the clapping, took flight, and decide to perch on one of the struts supporting the pavilion.
Petronius, who had been watching carefully, quickly took command, and went over to where Kallon was still kneeling, wiping Andrippos' blood from his face.
"Excellent, boy - and now you must 'finish him'."
"But how, Domine ?" Kallon asked, trembling from excitement.
"Break his neck or throttle him - he won't resist now !", Petronius said forcefully.
"Yes, Domine !", Kallon replied, mechanically.
Kallon approached Andrippos from the rear, on his hands and knees.
Kallon Strangles Mutilated Andrippos
He then grabbed Andrippos by his neck,
Weakly, Andrippos grabbed Kallon' hands, trying to stop him, but the sobbing boy knew it was pointless.
"You bit off my fuckin' cock - why ?", Andrippos moaned, pointlessly, as Kallon began to tighten his grip.
"No !.... Please no !...", Andrippos begged pathetically, as Kallon squeezed Andrippos' neck.
Kallon was an attractive, slim boy, but was much stronger than he looked, and Petronius began to suspect that the lad may have deliberately lured his opponent into a trap.
Very quickly Andrippos was finding it difficult to breath as Kallon, seemingly without too much difficulty, began to crush the mutilated boy's windpipe.
"Fuck !....", Andrippos managed to splutter, as he uselessly wasted his energy struggling.
The usual effect of such suffocation was that the victim developed a prominent erection, and often, as he began to loose awareness, masturbated mechanically, 'ejaculating' as he died.
Andrippos, however, no longer had a penis, so the blood that would normally have produced a strong erection, simply squirted ever more forcefully from his mutilated stump of his penis.
With his breathing restricted, and losing blood very fast, Andrippos' elegantly muscled body started to go limp, his eyes crossed and lost focus, and although he had no penis, semen squirted from his bloody stump.
Moments later blood dribbled from his nose and mouth, and there was an audible crunch as Kallon finally crushed the boy's windpipe.
Kallon, realizing that Andrippos was dead, released the boy, who instantly flopped over onto his side, spraying steaming urine over himself.
The guests then politely applauded, (but not to loudly, so as not to startle Glaux, who had joined them once again).
Kallon rose to his feet, and bowed modestly, continuing to wipe Andrippos' blood off his face.
Petronius had been watching carefully, and now the guests called to him, asking him why they had not been warned that Kallon was an obvious winner, even although he didn't appear to be such.
"You have to take your chances.", Petronius replied, philosophically, as he guided Kallon to where Marcus and Titus were seated, while arena-slaves stuffed Andrippos' severed penis into his gaping mouth, and dragged the naked lad away.
'Congratulations !', Marcus said, greeting young Kallon with a wry smile, as Aurarius handed Marcus a fresh green laurel wreath to present to Kallon.
"Quite a performance !", Titus added, "'snatching victory from the jaws of defeat' - or should I say using your jaws to snatch a victory !", and Titus giggled at his own joke.
"Now my friend, I think young Kallon is embarrassed enough." Marcus said gently to Titus.
"But I think it was a clever trick." Novius added.
"And was it ? - A trick ?", Marcus asked Kallon, as he was approached by Terentius.
"I don't understand." Kallon said nervously.
"Well perhaps you 'encouraged' the lad - Andrippos I think he's called - to let you  - how shall we say - 'stimulate' him, with the intention of rather unpleasantly mutilating him.", Terentius said, holding the purse over Kallon's outstretched had, but seemingly not intending to release it until he got an answer.
"No domine - I do not do such things !", Kallon said emphatically, trying (but quite unsuccessfully) to defend his honour - after all, he was only a slave.
" matter.", Terentius said, dropping the purse into the boy's hand.
"And that is from your Dominus.", Terentus added, in way of explanation.
"There's no problem, Kallon.
It was an interesting and an unusual contest, and Andrippos is dead, and you are alive, and the victor, and your honour is assured.", Marcus said soothingly.
"I am grateful, Dominus.", Kallon said, bowing, as Petronius led him away.

"So what now ?", Titus asked, settling back in his chair, and obviously enjoying the entertainments so far.
Marcus looked up at Petronius.
Petronius, realizing the question was, in reality, addressed to him, quickly responded.
"We have some gladiators ready, if it would please you to see them, domine.", he replied to both Marcus and Titus.
"Yes indeed...lets see some sword play !", Titus replied enthusiastically.
Titus, having been in the military for most of his adult life, appreciated skilful sword fighting.
"Now, my friend,", Marcus said carefully, "These boys are, as yet, untrained - fresh from the slave market... so, in the general mood of our evening under the stars, you must not take their 'sword play' too seriously."
"Of course..... I understand.
And it may well turn out to be amusing, or even surprising - like that last wrestling bout.", Titus replied.
Titus, as a Legatus, had often watched raw legionary recruits training, so he was quite aware of what might transpire.

Epitomes and Leontios - Waiting
'The Third Combat' - The two boys, whom we had observed earlier being lectured by Petronius, were at this point got ready for their appearance before the guests.
They were to be equipped with protective leather belts, Cingulum - (protective waist belt), wrist-guards, ocrea (greaves - see below), traditional Thraex Θράκη (Thracian) helmets (as they were supposedly Greek boys - Thrace is in the extreme north eastern corner of Greece ), and loincloths, and each would be armed with a gladius (sword) and a parmula: (small, light shield).
The primary purpose of greaves is to protect the tibia from attack. The tibia is a bone very close to the skin, and is therefore extremely vulnerable to just about any kind of attack. Furthermore, a successful attack on the shin  results in that leg being rendered useless, greatly hampering one's ability to manoeuvre in any way. Greaves were used to counteract this. Greaves usually consisted of a metal exterior with an inner padding of felt. The felt padding was particularly important because, without it, any blow would transfer directly from the metal plating to the shin, rendering the piece of armour almost useless
Epitomes and Leontios
So, they would look like gladiators - even if they were not gladiators - or if they were, then they had only had a few days training - but this was not in an arena, in public, but just a bit of 'fun' - in front of some very rich and influential friends.
Petronius was always one for a little humour, and so he had named the tallest boy  Επικτητος - Epitomes, (somewhat of a mouthful for a non-Greek speaker), which appropriately means 'newly acquired'.
The smaller lad Petronius had named  Λεοντιος  - Leontios, meaning 'lion' - humorous again, as the boy was somewhat timid.
'Timidity' was seen by Romans as a sign of effeminacy. Also taking an inappropriate sexual position, passive or "'bottom', in same-gender sex was considered effeminate and unnatural - although what we would consider to be male homosexuality was not (in general) considered effeminate - in fact, quite the opposite. Long hair in men and boys, (hence the Roman short haircut for Aelius), and shaving body hair was considered effeminate (with the exception of male slaves). Roman consul Scipio Aemilianus questioned one of his opponents, P. Sulpicius Galus: 'For the kind of man whose eyebrows are shaved off; who walks around with plucked beard and thighs and who, when he was a young man, reclined at banquets next to his lover, wearing a long-sleeved tunic-  : can anyone doubt that he has done what cinaedi (effeminate males) are in the habit of doing?'.
Λεοντιος - Leontios
Roman orator Quintilian described, 'The plucked body, as a sign of one who is soft [Latin - mollis] and not a real man.' Gladiators and wrestlers managed (usually) to maintain their masculinity, despite having a 'plucked body' (shaved), because they fought to the death. For Roman men 'masculinity' also meant self-control, even in the face of painful emotions, illnesses, or death. Cicero says, 'There exist certain precepts, even laws, that prohibit a man from being effeminate in pain,' -   The Roman author Lucian, refers to the relative merits of girls and boys as vehicles of male sexual pleasure. Far from being effeminised by a sexual predilection for boys... such an inclination renders a man hypervirile... sexual desire for boys makes a man more of  man; it does not weaken or subvert his male gender identity but rather consolidates it. In contrast, an erotic preference for females has the corresponding effect of effeminising a man. - Leontios, being judged 'timid', is considered effeminate, by Roman standards, and is given a pink (Latin - rosea) loincloth, with a matching plume in his helmet, (rosea was a colour the Romans associated with femininity). Like Laetitia, during the, 'Ludi ad Auspicari Novam Aetatem', Leontios would be purposefully matched against a more aggressive and virile opponent, and would be subsequently emasculated before being killed..
While the guests waited for the boys to be readied, they were served their third course, and also some more wine.
The curtain was raised, and Petronius gave his final instructions to the two understandably nervous boys.
The curtain was then dropped.
The two boys bowed respectfully to the guests, and Marcus signalled to Petronius - and Petronius ordered the boys to fight.
As they began, it was obvious that they found their equipment cumbersome.
Neither boys had worm bronze greaves before - and this made them heavy on their feet.
In addition they were each wearing a wide, metal reinforced Cingulum (belt), and were carrying in the left hand a shield, and in the right hand a sword - however, Petronius, being aware of their inexperience had provided them with small shields and short swords.
The shortness of the swords was not only to ensure that they were lighter, but should also encourage the boys to keep closer together (because of their limited reach), which was advisable as the sanded combat area was relatively cramped.
The boy's biggest difficulty was the Thracian helmets.
They obviously could not be too small as they had to fit the boys' heads, so they were inevitably quite heavy.
The main problem, however, was the limited range of vision, as the boys were obliged to peer through the numerous piercings of the face mask.
They had practised a few times before - with Petronius' guidance - but were now on their own, and fighting for their lives.
Petronius had a shrewd idea as to who would be the victor in this fight, but had told both boys that whoever won - the winner would be expected to bring the fight to a spectacular conclusion - as time was passing, and the guests may be becoming a little 'bored' by the proceedings.
(Petronius was hopefully thinking that a 'spectacular' kill might make up for a 'lack lustre' fight.)
Leontius' loincloth (such as it is), is what the Romans would call 'rosea' (rough translation into English - 'pink'). Even in Roman times this was considered to be a 'feminine' colour, and it is quite possible that Petronius, (who was responsible for 'kitting out' the performers), was sending a 'covert' - and slightly 'humorous' message to the guests, to help them in their betting. As it happens, Leontius, who was younger, smaller and less aggressive than his opponent, was badly beaten and killed. (of course - 'political correctness' would not allow us to make such distinctions with regard to gender stereotypes today ?)
The fighting was slow and cumbersome.
Gladiators who trained for many months, or even years with heavy (blunted) weapons, and heavy armour soon developed the strength and stamina to fight vigorously and with alacrity.
These untrained boys were simply weighed down by their cumbersome equipment.
That, of course, had not been a problem for the wrestlers, as they were stark naked, and carried no weapons - offensive or defensive.
And so the two boys plodded on, with the clanging of swords resounding in the roof gardens, as they gamely thrust and parried, deflecting blows with their shields, and receiving some blows on their Thracian helmets as they stumbled round the combat area.
Eventually Epitomes, using his shield, gave Leontios a resounding smack on his helmet, which he immediately followed up with another blow with the flat side of his gladius.
Leontios staggered - badly stunned.
This was the crucial moment.
"Disarm him !", Petronius shouted in Greek to Epitomes, fearful that the excited boy might simply 'finish' his opponent with a lucky thrust.
Leontios had already dropped his gladius, and it was a simple matter for Epitomes to knock his opponent's shield from his left hand.
Bereft of his weapons, Leontios put his hands to his helmet, almost as if he was intending to remove it.
Obviously the double hits to his helmet had severely disorientated him, and probably also badly hurt him, causing him to stagger unsteadily.
"Help ! I can't see !",  Leontios moaned, obviously badly concussed.
Realizing that Leontios couldn't possibly fight back, Epitomes dropped his gladius and shield, grabbed hold of Leontios' shoulders, and kneed him in the groin.
"Fuck ! My bollocks !", Leontios groaned, staggering backwards under the force of the blow.
The row of spikes on stake were directly behind him, and as he fell backwards, he inevitably, and quite usefully - as far as Epitomes was concerned - impaled his crotch on one of the stakes.
"Shit !",  Leontios squealed, as the sharp stake began to enter his anus - and he obviously caught the attention of all the guests.
The unfortunate boy suddenly became very still - terrified that any movement might make his appalling situation even worse -  if that was possible.
Petronius then went over to  Epitomes - who was unsure what to do next.
"Now....take off his helmet, strip him, and cut him make a good show.", Petronius said quietly and coldly.
Epitomes did exactly what he had been told, being incredibly grateful that he was not the one impaled on the stake.
Carefully he unbuckled Leontios' bulky helmet, and lifted it off  Leontios' head.
Blond Leontios looked pale and terrified - and also very young.
He said nothing to his erstwhile companion, but his eyes were pleading, - whether to be released and possibly saved, or whether to be 'finished off' quickly it was difficult to tell.
Epitomes then reached down to the tiny pouch of Leontios' loincloth - such as it was.
"Fuck... No !", Leontios grunted, as Epitomes roughly pulled down the tiny pouch.
Leontios' groaned, and his pens jerked up, obviously 'hardened' by the stake penetrating his anus.
While the now naked boy's left hand clutched at his spasmodically flexing left buttock, his right hand moved tentatively to his unruly and swollen, jerking 'cock shaft'.
His well lubricated foreskin had slid back, and his prominent, purple glans was dribbling what seemed to be a mixture of 'pre-cum' and urine.
Aware that everyone was intently looking at his obvious nakedness, Leontios took hold of his shiny, exposed 'cock-head', and tried to pull it to one side to make it less prominent.
Meanwhile,  Epitomes, who was standing in front of his helpless opponent, was wondering what Petronius had meant by 'cut him up'.
He then made his decision, - and grasped his gladius firmly in his right hand, knocked away Leontios' hand, which was trying to cover the jerking penis, with his left hand, and then, with the same hand, grabbed Leontios' genitals by the 'root'.
"No ! Not that !", Leontios groaned, obviously realizing he was about to be mutilated by being 'unmanned'.
As Epitomes firmly held his opponent by the root of Leontios' scrotum and his penis, the young helpless boy groaned loudly.
"Fuck No !", he begged, and in his terrified excitement violently squirted his thick seed over the sand.
With one quick cut, and a strangled scream from Leontios, Epitomes' young opponent was gelded.
('Gelding' is a term often used regarding to animals, and can refer to either castration [removal of the testicles] or emasculation [removal of the testicles and the penis]. In the case of Leontios, he had his penis and testicles removed - which was the usual treatment of defeated enemies in warfare, or in the arena at this time - symbolizing the complete loss by the defeated individual of his masculinity - the ability to penetrate and inseminate - and therefore the loss of his potency and power.)
Before  Leontios could eject his second spurt, Epitomes pulled the horrified boy's genitals away from his bloody crotch, and dropped the severed parts onto the sand.
Leontios then began to sink, very slowly, onto the stake.
Leontios - Dead
As Leontios sagged, he continued to groan and ejaculate, but was reduced to squirting his spunk from the bloody stump that was all that was left of his once, proud penis.
Then, almost pointlessly, Epitomes stabbed Leontios in his heaving, smooth, sweaty lower belly.
"Finish me ! Please !......", Leontios  moaned, as Epitomes twisted the blade.
A second thrust by Epitomes pierced Leontios' navel, and Epitomes then drew the blade downwards, effectively disembowelling his opponent.
"Shit ! My fuckin' guts !" Leontios moaned, as his guts slowly spilled out.
Then Leontios started screaming, but not for long as, with a wide, dramatic stroke Epitomes sliced through Leontios' neck, and the naked, disembowelled and emasculated boy's head toppled off his shoulders onto the sand, as blood sprayed upwards.
Leontios' headless body jerked convulsively, then sagged and flopped forwards, as his life's blood drained fitfully onto the sand.
The guests applauded, and Epitomes, as if coming out of a trance, raised his bloody gladius high in triumph.
After Epitomes had made his victorious gesture, a domus-slave wasted no time in relieving the winner of his gladius, so that he could be presented to the guests, and awarded his laurel wreath and small purse of money.
Before accompanying Epitomes to the pavilion, Petronius instructed the domus-slaves to tidy up the combat area, in preparation for the final fight.
Drakon - the dead pancratium wrestler's severed, impaled head, which despite the fact that it was evening, had already attracted some flies was removed from it's spike.
Leontios' slumped and badly mutilated corpse was removed from the spike, where it was impaled.
Leontios' Severed Head
The boy's severed head was recovered from the sand, and the severed genitals were stuffed into the mouth.
As a final act of humiliation visited upon the unfortunate loser, the head was raised high for the benefit of the guests, before being removed from the combat area.
The Romans generally held the belief that the 'spirit' of a dead person did not go to the underworld immediately, but remained in close proximity to the corpse, and it was for this reason that the bodies of the 'honoured' dead were treated with reverence, and given formal funerals, accompanied by sacrifices. These 'spirits' were generally referred to as 'Manes' who were souls of the deceased. 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'. Apuleius wrote that the 'spirits' of men are demons, and that men become 'Lares' if they are good, 'Lemures' if they are bad, and 'Manes' if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill. Being a slave, and obviously abandoned by his Gods, as he had suffered a humiliating defeat, Leontios would receive neither a formal funeral nor sacrifices. In addition his humiliation would extend beyond his death, as it was believed that his 'spirit' would be aware of the humiliation meted out to him by having his severed head displayed with his genitals inserted into his mouth - a form of 'Irrumatio' - 'mouth-fucking' - an ultimate humiliation for a Roman male.
While the bloodied sand was being replaced, and fresh sand was being raked smooth, Petronius accompanied Epitomes to where Marcus, Titus and the other guests were politely applauding.
Marcus handed Epitomes his wreath, and Terentius gave the boy his purse of money.
"So, Epitomes - I think that you may have a future with us as a gladiator.....
That was quite a performance that you gave us......
Have you ever fought in public before ?" Marcus questioned.
"No Dominus.", Epitomes answered softly, apparently trying to appear servile, after his obvious display of dominance.
Titus then spoke up.
"You seemed particularly aggressive towards your young opponent.
Tell me... was there any grudge involved - any problem between the two of you ?", Titus queried.
"He was 'effeminate', Dominus. I don't like boys like that - and he made..... (here Epitomes paused, looking embarrassed) - he made 'advances' towards me - so I was angry with him."
Marcus intervened - not wanting the conversation to develop along 'personal' lines.
"Yes.... understandable - but you should realize - as I am sure that the Master of the Arena, Petronius, will tell you - that an 'angry' fighter is prone to make mistakes, and you should always remain in complete control of your emotions in the arena." Marcus explained - and Petronius nodded in agreement.
"Thank you for your advice, Dominus.
I will always keep that in mind.", Epitomes replied obediently.
"And I think, Petronius, that you should change his name - as he is no longer 'newly acquired'.", Marcus concluded, dismissing the young fighter, as Petronius grinned.
Titus turned to Marcus.
"I think that you have a good fighter there - a useful investment." he said quietly, not wanting the boy to hear.
Marcus nodded.

'The Fourth Combat' - So now there were two new combatants - Glaucus - (Latinised from the Greek  Γλαυκος) and so named by Petronius because of the colour of his eyes - bluish-grey', and Nicon (Latinised from the Greek - νικη) - meaning 'victor' - which was a good hint to the guests regarding the outcome of the fight.
While these two combatants were being prepared, however, a rather flustered Nicator appeared, and approached Marcus with a perfunctory bow.
He then whispered in Marcus' ear:
"There is trouble in the slaves' quarters in the basement.
What should I do ?".
Marcus looked shocked, rose from his seat and turned to Titus to excuse himself.
"What are you talking about ?", Marcus asked, quietly , but obviously angry.
"The slaves - you bought for the arena - they say they won't fight....!"
"What.. !" Marcus hissed through gritted teeth.
"Won't fight - and the Domus-guards say they can only take orders from you or Petronius !", Nicator blubbered.
Marcus dragged his freedman to one side, and then returned to the pavilion to make his explanation to Titus.
"I'm very sorry, Titus ! There seems to be a problem with the plumbing in the basement, and my freedman doesn't seem to be able to deal with it.... so I must go down there... but I will return soon.", Marcus explained as calmly as possible.
Titus started laughing.
"Just like my father - always 'hands on' !", he replied.
Marcus quickly went over to Petronius and explained the situation.
"But we have the last two fighters up here already ! - and the dancing troupe are already up here - 
so what's the problem ?" Petonius said, looking dismayed.
"I don't know - but you get on with this fight, and I will sort out the slaves.", Marcus said as he sprinted toward the lift, and got himself whisked down to the basement.
When Marcus arrived at the slaves' quarters he found that they had barricaded themselves in.
Domus guards were at the doors, and were obviously relieved to see Marcus.
"What's the problem ?", Marcus asked the senior guard.
"They have seen the bodies of the boys who have been killed, and are fearful the same thing will happen to them, and refuse to open the doors.", the guard replied with military precision.
"Tell me, this area is right next to the bathing facilities...
Is there a way to divert water to the slaves' quarters ?", Marcus asked, quickly 'sizing up' the situation.
"Yes Dominus.",  the senior guard replied.
"All that's needed is the for one of the stopcock valves in the bathing area, which is used when washing out the floors, to be opened, and the rooms will be gradually flooded."
"Then do it !", Marcus ordered.
"But they'll drown !", the guard replied, looking shocked and surprised.
"Too bad..... if they surrender, and allow themselves to be chained in the punishment block, then you can turn off the water.
Otherwise, let them drown.", Marcus said coldly, turning on his heel and taking the elevator up the the roof gardens.
Marcus had a few moments to control his anger as the elevator took him up to the top of the building.
He then returned to his seat beside Titus.
"Is it sorted out ?", Titus enquired.
"Yes.... no problem.... but it will need checking in the morning.", Marcus replied, trying to be nonchalant.
Petronius looked over, obviously concerned.
Marcus nodded and smiled - and Petronius was reassured.


'The Final Combat' - The curtain was raised - and the two new fighters took their places on the sanded combat area (but hidden - for the moment - from the guests).
Petronius gave his final instructions to the two understandably nervous boys.
Of course, they knew nothing of the drama unfolding in the basement, but instead were only to aware of the drama that they were about to enact for the benefit of the guests. 
The curtain was then dropped.
The two boys, Glaucus and Nicon, bowed respectfully to the guests, and Marcus (deeply worried, but managing to look calm and relaxed) signalled to Petronius - and Petronius ordered the boys to fight.
Because of the confined nature of the combat area, it was impossible to use pila (spears), or fuscina (tridents), so the two fighters were armed, as in the previous combat with 'gladii Hispaniensis' (short swords).
They were also equipped with Thracian helmets, ocreas (greaves), Thracius galeati (Thracian helmets), and metal reinforced cinguli (belts).
Glaucus wore a blue plume in his helmet, and a matching loincloth, and Nicon wore a red plume and matching loincloth.
The combat began, very much in the manner of the previous fight, with the clanging of swords resounding in the roof gardens, as the two inexperienced and almost completely untrained fighters gamely thrust and parried, deflecting blows with their shields, and receiving some blows on their Thracian helmets as they stumbled round the combat area.
Nikon and Glaucus
Little progress was made, and Marcus, still annoyed by the disturbance in the basement, called over Petronius.
"This is not going well !", he complained to Petronius, angrily.
"I'm sorry Dominus - but we needed more time.", Petronius explained.
"I know - it's not your fault.", Marcus continued
"Don't be concerned, gentlemen - I'm quite happy." Titus intervened, - but Novius and Terentius looked worried, having realized that something was happening that had obviously upset Marcus.
"So - Petronius - stop the fight, and take away their shields and swords, and give them daggers.
A 'pugio fight' should put a bit more life into it - and get them scrabbling on the sand.", Marcus ordered.
"Yes, Dominus !", Petronius replied, immediately ordering the combatants to cease fighting.
Petronius then ordered domus-guards to disarm the two fighters, and issue them each with a pugio.
Petronius then entered the sanded combat area, and started the fight for a second time.
Having no choice but to come in close to each other, the fight immediately livened up.
No longer weighed down by shields and gladdii, and using knives that, to a great extent, required less skill than swords, the two boys started 'grappling' with one another, and were soon down on the sand.
Each boy had hold of his opponent's right wrist (the arm that was holding the dagger), in a continuing attempt to prevent himself being stabbed, and they rolled around, back and forth on the sand, struggling and grunting.
Because they were each holding each other's arms, most of the actual blows were delivered with the boy's feet and knees.
Eventually the inevitable happened, and the boys concentrated on bringing a knee up into their opponent's groin.
However, in the scramble to deliver a disabling blow, both boys managed to deliver a vicious knee to their opponent's crotch at practically the same moment.
The result was that both boys released the wrist of their opponent, and used their free hand to clutch at their crushed genitals.
So both combatant were in a position to deliver a possibly fatal knife thrust, but both combatants were in so much pain that they were more concerned to writhe on the sand, clutching at their crushed testicles.
And so, despite his previous worries, even Marcus had to laugh (just a little), as the two groaning boys helplessly wriggled on the sand.
"You stupid cunt !", Nicon grunted, blaming his opponent for their predicament.
"Now we're both finished !".
Presumably Nicon imagined that having both been incapacitated, Domus-slaves would move in and just finish them off.
Instead, Petronius, intrigued by the situation, just left them - to see what they would do next.
And Petronius and the guests didn't have long to wait.
Nicon, the older and more aggressive lad, blaming blue-eyed Glaucus for their humiliating and painful predicament, managed to get onto his hands and knees, while still clutching at the pouch of his loincloth.
Glaucus, foolishly, didn't see his opponent rise and, despite what he knew had occurred in the previous fight, and what he had previously been told by Petronius, was unprepared for what happened next.
Both Nicon and Glaucus had seen the mutilated corpse of Leontios as it was dragged to the elevator, before being taken down to the basement, and Petronius had made it clear to both of them what was expected of them if they overcame their opponent.
Nicon, taking note of what was expected of him, and grasping this fleeting opportunity, put his hands under Glaucus' armpits, and dragged him over to where the spiked stakes were positioned.
Fortunately for Nicon, Glaucus was too busy trying to ease the pain in his scrotum to resist.
Nicon did not have the strength at that moment, (as he was still recovering from the knee to his crotch), to impale his opponent, so instead he simply left Glaucus sitting up, with his back against the spiked stake.
Nicon, for a split second, looked over at Petronius, and saw him nod.
Nicon then grabbed hold of his pugio, and kneeling and facing Glaucus, straddled one leg of his semi-recumbent opponent.
"No !... Please !".....", Glaucus shrieked, imagining what was about to happen.
Then, with one lightning move, Nicon plunged the Pugio into Glaucus' taught, muscular belly - straight through his navel.
The pugii being used were long, and there was a dull thud as the Nicon's blade hit the wooden floor of the combat area - so it was obvious that Glaucus'glistening belly was skewered.
Glaucus grunted.
Stabbing someone in the belly, however, was unlikely to kill them, at least in the short term, so Nicon would have time to mutilate and 'finish off ' his opponent in the manner expected of him.
Nicon knew that he would have to literally  'unman' his opponent before killing him - but it might be problematic - as he had (obviously) never performed such an act before.
Before doing anything else, Nicon removed Glaucus' helmet (again following Petronius' instructions).
Then, leaving his own pugio protruding from Glaucus' heaving belly, Nicon found the pugio that Glaucus had dropped on the sand earlier.
He then returned to his helpless opponent.
"No ! Don't do it !", Glaucus grunted, as he grasped at the blade and handle of the pugio that penetrated him, in a vain attempt to pull it out, and free himself.
"Don't cut 'em off !", Glaucus pathetically and pointlessly pleaded - presumably referring to his genitals.
With his left hand, Nicon grabbed hold of the cloth pouch covering Glaucus' bulky 'privates' - which were soon not to be 'private' at all - but would be on display to one and all.
Nicon pulled hard, but the pale blue cloth simply bunched into the crack of Glaucus' firm, taught buttocks, giving some slack, but did not rip or come away.
There was enough slack, however, to expose Glaucus' fat penis - lying on his lower belly -  and his bulky testicles, nestled between his muscular slightly spread thighs.
"No ...!", Glaucus grunted, as Nicon slid the blade of the pugio between Glausus' muscular left thigh and his terribly vulnerable genitals.
Nicon looked to Petronius.
Petronius nodded, and Nicon then viciously slid the blade sidewards and upwards.
"Shit !", Glaucus squealed, as his severed genitals flopped downwards, between his thighs.
Nicon then finished the job by slicing through the
cloth pouch, exposing Glaucu's now mutilated, bloody groin.
Glaucus head then flopped to one side, and his delicate eyelids fluttered closed as he fainted.
As his body flopped, he noisily voided his bowels.
Maybe it was the best thing for young Glaucus not to be concious in his final moments.
Nicon then went behind his emasculated opponent, and squatting by the spiked stake, lifted Glaucus' head and slit the boy's throat.
Glaucon's body stiffened and shuddered, convulsed repeatedly, and then went limp as blood sprayed out over his chest and belly.
Nicon stood up - looked down at the lifeless, sexless corpse, and turned to Petronius - waiting to be told what to do.
While Nicon stood there, Domus-laves relieved him of his pugio, stuffed Glaucus' scrotum and penis into his mouth, and dragged the mutilated lad's corpse away.
Titus turned to Marcus.
"Another good fighter  - for the future - I would suggest."
"Yes." Marcus replied,
"After a silly mistake halfway through, he made a good end to the fight."
Marcus congratulated young Nicon - gave him his laurel wreath (the last one that Aurarius had been looking after), and Terentius, smiling, gave Nicon his purse of money.
At that moment Adonios approached Marcus diffidently.
"Excuse me , Dominus.", he said in almost a whisper, "but a slave-boy from the atrium gave me a message to say that the problem in the basement has been solved."
"Excellent !", Marcus replied, looking instantly more cheerful.
Marcus then excused himself again, and went to speak to Petronius.
"Sort things out with Nicander.
The surviving combatants up here cannot go back down to the slave quarters in the basement, so get Nicander to allocate them other quarters - and get him to find some way to dispose of the bodies of the defeated combatants.
And get the scene set for the boy dancers and start the music - softly - and get them performing." Marcus explained.
"Of course, Dominus.
All shall be done as you wish." Petronius replied, smiling in an attempt to get Marcus to relax.
And so the first part of the evening ended.

Images for Pugna Logos adapted - with permission - from Ruslahka

more images under preparation

for more information about 'real gladiators' go to:

'and the story continues -
Marcus negotiates with Titus while the dancing troupe 'entertain' under the stars - and the following morning there are executions on the roof gardens
('Night Under the Stars' - Part II)

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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