Chapter XX - Novus Imperator

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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'After the Games' - (Games in more than one sense of the word...)
The afternoon, after the Ludi for Nymphidius, Marcus and Gracchus shared a meal in Gracchus' private triclinium.
"I hope, my boy, that this little incident has taught you how nerve-racking it can be to get involved in politics.", Gracchus said, between bites.
"Nerve-racking - and I think very dangerous.
I was very worried about Nymphidius and Petronius - but in the end Nymphidius was more keen on Petram.
And what do you think will happen to young Petram ?", Marcus asked, obviously concerned.
"I think that Petram will be all-right." Gracchus replied.
"As soon as I hear that things have settled down in Rome, I will send Terentius and one of the arena-slaves to collect him from the Castra Praetoria.
I arranged for the senior Praetorian Tribune to look after him, until they had sorted out Nymphidius." Gracchus concluded, reassuringly.
"So what's going to happen to Nymphidius ?", Marcus asked, obviously not aware of the deal that Gracchus had made with the Praetorians.
"Well ..... I don't think that you will be seeing Nymphidius again !", Gracchus replied, with a wicked twinkle in his eye.
"You mean the're going to kill him ?", Marcus asked.
"Probably.", Gracchus replied in an unconvincingly non-committal manner.
"And who will be the new Emperor ?", Marcus asked.
"Almost certainly Galba - but for how long, who can say ?"
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'Galba Adopts the Purple' - The Praetorians kept their word to Gracchus, and assassinated Nymphidius, welcoming Galba as the new Emperor.
However, things started badly for Galba.
As he approached Rome he was met by troops who brought petitions to him.
Galba's response was to have many of them killed.
Galba's primary concern during his reign was restoring the state finances, which had been ruined by the extravagances of Nero, and to this end he undertook a number of measures, which subsequently proved to be very unpopular.
The most dangerous decision that he made, however, was to refuse to pay the Praetorians the reward that he had promised them.
Galba scorned the notion that soldiers should be "bribed" for their loyalty (so why had he promised them money in the first instance ?).
He was notoriously cruel throughout the Empire, and according to the historian Suetonius, Galba levied massive taxes against areas that were slow to receive him as Emperor.


'Death of Nymphidius and the New Emperor' - Gracchus, however, was simply relieved that the threat of civil war now seemed to have receded
He still had faith in Apollo's Oracle, but the problem was that there was no time scale to the prophecy.
The prophecy stated that there would be four claimants to the Imperium.
The question was left open, however, as to whether Nymphidius could be counted as one of the four.
Nymphidius after all, had not actually 'taken the purple'.
Galba, on the other hand, had.
Galba as Emperor
So Galba was probably the first of the four - which would mean that there were three more to come, the last of whom would be the 'saviour from the east'.
Regardless, in order to stay on the right side of the new, elderly, and apparently 'ruthless' emperor, Gracchus asked Marcus to arrange for a public Ludi, in celebration of the accession of the 'Novus Imperator' - the 'New Emperor'.
So Marcus got together with Petronius to produce a spectacular Ludi.
It was unusual in that this was to be a 'public' Ludi, and normally Gracchus charged for attendance at his private amphitheatre.
This Ludi, however, was to be open to all the citizens (but only the citizens) of Baiae who wished to attend.
The amphitheatre had been closed for some time for renovation, and the Ludi for Nymphidius had been the first time the new, renovated features had been tested.
Due to the closure, there was also a 'backlog' with regard to public executions, which would therefore feature strongly in the celebratory Ludi.
This was no bad thing, as tortures and executions were particularly popular, especially with the 'plebs', who would undoubtedly make up a considerable part of the audience.
(In the normal run of things, most 'plebs' could not afford to go to Gracchus' private Ludi, and had to make the journey to the older, and smaller, public arena at Cumae.)
The first task was to get some new boys who could be quickly 'trained up' to fight in the arena.
Gracchus sent Terentius, along with the senior arena-slave - not to Brundisium, but to Ostia which was closer, to find some suitable lads.

The Harbour at Ostia
The Harbour at Ostia
Ostia may have been Rome's first colonia. According to the legend Ancus Marcius, the semi-legendary fourth king of Rome, first destroyed Ficana, an ancient town that was only 17 km from Rome and had a small harbour on the Tiber, and then proceeded with establishing the new colony 10 km further west and closer to the sea coast. During Julius Caesar's time one of his improvements to the city was the establishment of better supervision of the supply of grain to Rome. The town was further developed during the first century AD under the influence of Tiberius, who ordered the building of the town's first Forum. The town was also soon enriched by the construction of a new harbor on the northern mouths of the Tiber. The new harbor, not surprisingly called Portus, from the Latin for "harbor," was excavated from the ground at the orders of the emperor Claudius. Most slaves coming into Rome arrived at Ostia, and could be bought more cheaply in the port than in Rome itself.
Having bought some new slaves, Terentius, armed with a sealed letter from Gracchus, went to Rome, to the 'Castra Praetoria', to see if he could find, and arrange for the release of the slave-boy Petram.
The barracks of the 'Castra Praetoria' were built in 23 AD by Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the Praetorian Prefect serving under the emperor Tiberius, in an effort to consolidate the several divisions of the guards. The barracks were erected just outside the city of Rome and surrounded by solid masonry walls, measuring a total of 440 by 380 metres. Three of the four sides of the walls were later incorporated in the Aurelian Walls,

Much to Terentius' surprise, young Petram was alive and well, although rather 'chastened' by his recent experiences at the hands of Nymphidius.
The boy was overjoyed to see familiar faces, and the Praetorians were only too happy to return the lad to their recent benefactor, Gracchus.
With both his missions accomplished, Terentius then returned to Baiae, and Marcus and Petronius, having a new supply of gladiators, were able to start work on the proposed, forthcoming Public Ludi.
In addition, Terentius brought news of the death of Nymphidius at the hands of the Praetorian Tribunes (which was far more important than the return of Petram).
Gracchus considered it money well spent, although he was beginning to have his doubts about Galba.
(as has already been noted: Tacitus says 'all pronounced him worthy of the empire, until he became emperor' ("omnium consensū cāpax imperiī nisi imperasset").
Unlike everyone else, however, (except for Novius, Terentius and Marcus) Gracchus, with the aid of Apollo's oracle, knew that Galba would not last long.
What is interesting, in the light of Gracchus' reliance on the Cumean oracle, is the fact that someone else, (we shall discover who a little later), was being encouraged by astrologers (another kind of 'oracle') to overthrow Galba.

Greek influence played a crucial role in the transmission of astrological theory to Rome. Its initial influence was upon the lower orders of society. Among Romans, Babylonia, or Chaldea, became so identified with astrology that 'Chaldean wisdom' came to be a common synonym for divination using planets and stars.The first definite reference to astrology comes from the work of the orator Cato, who in 160 BC composed a treatise warning farm overseers against consulting with Chaldeans. The Roman poet Juvenal, in his satirical attack on the habits of Roman women, also complains about the pervasive influence of Chaldeans, despite their lowly social status, saying "Still more trusted are the Chaldaeans; every word uttered by the astrologer they will believe has come from Hammon's fountain, ... nowadays no astrologer has credit unless he has been imprisoned in some distant camp, with chains clanking on either arm". One of the first astrologers to bring Hermetic astrology to Rome was Thrasyllus, who acted as the astrologer for the emperor Tiberius. Tiberius was the first emperor reported to have had a court astrologer, although his predecessor Augustus had also used astrology to help legitimise his Imperial rights. Even though some use of astrology by the emperors appears to have happened, there was also a prohibition on astrology to a certain extent as well. In the 1st century Publius Rufus Anteius was accused of the crime of funding the banished astrologer Pammenes, and requesting his own horoscope and that of then emperor Nero. For this crime, Nero forced Anteius to commit suicide. At this time, astrology was likely to result in charges of magic and treason.
But to return to the matter of Nymphidius - Marcus, of course, was pleased when Gracchus told him the news about Nymphidius, and Petronius was understandably relieved that he would not be meeting that odious character again.


For Marcus, life was now very different, and it was only when things started to settle down, after the visit of Nymphidius, that Marcus began to get used to that fact that he was free, and was, in fact now the 'young master' of the villa, the amphitheatre, and all of Gracchus' other possessions.
Because of this, his relationship with Gracchus changed dramatically.
He no longer feared Gracchus, as he had done when he first came to the villa, but he still respected him deeply, and was now developing a true affection for the man who had taken the place of his father.
Marcus' father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius, had been distant and strict.
Gracchus was still strict, but far from distant, taking an interest in everything that Marcus did, and in particular in his studies with his tutors.
In addition, Gracchus had almost completely relinquished control of the amphitheatre, trusting Marcus, with the expert help of Petronius, to manage all the Ludi.
The only condition that Gracchus made about the arena was that Petronius would not appear in the arena (as he had done on some previous occasions), but would rather only take a supervisory role, helping and advising Marcus.

And so the preparation for the celebration Ludi went ahead.
Marcus and Petronius'  first task was to inspect the replacement slaves that Terentius had bought.
The boys were lined up in the training arena, clad in regulation blue loincloths.
Terentius, who had no particular inclination for boys, knew however his master's taste, and had been prepared to spend a little over the odds for attractive, reasonably well muscled lads.
As the fighters in Gracchus' arena rarely wore gladiator style helmets (gladiator helmets normally completely covered the face, leaving only eye-holes for vision - which Gracchus rightly maintained slowed down fighters, because they had very limited vision, and were heavy) -Terentius had been careful to ensure that these new slaves were not only attractive in bodily proportion, but were also bright eyed, and handsome, with attractive features and winning smiles.
Handsome fighters - that - Gracchus knew - was the way to attract an audience, and keep it - and now Marcus was learning the same lesson.
Unfortunately, for the new boys, unless they were very 'quick learners', their first ludi in Gracchus' arena would probably be their last, as they had very little time to be 'trained up'.
Petronius would undoubtedly do his best to get them prepared, but they would need plenty of natural ability if they were to survive a fight with lads who had been training for many months (in some cases even years), and who had the experience of numerous previous fights to help them.
Marcus and Petronius had discussed the possibility of a mythological presentation, but as they considered the various myths legends, and set pieces from Greek or Roman literature, they came to the conclusion that, with regard to Galba's unconventional methods of achieving the Imperium, they could all be misinterpreted.
They decided, therefore to keep to wrestling, boxing, gladiators and some executions - but they did risk one mythological tablaux - which Petronius had been 'itching' to try out for months, and one simple tableaux featuring 'Germania' which was the only military involvement that Galba ever seemed to have had,
The long planned story of Achilles, from the 'Iliad', (for which they were still seeking Gracchus' approval) they decided to leave until things in Rome settled down.
The date set for the Celebratory Public Games (Ludis pro Galba) was therefore 31st August, (August being Gracchus' favorite month - being named after Octavian Augustus), giving them just over a month to get everything ready.
Fortunately the Amphitheatre had been recently renovated, so little maintenance work needed to be done, and most of the preparation involved the planning of the 'pompa', rehearsals for a boy's choir to sing a celebratory ode (composed by Lucius - Marcus' Latin tutor), and the training of the newly bought boy-gladiators, which Terentius had recently acquired from Ostia.
The 'new boys' trained, seemingly, endlessly - and sometimes well into the night, going through their exercises with specially weighted gladdii, in the Ludus arena, lit with the flaring light of torches - and Petronius exhausted himself in his efforts to ensure that this first Ludi to be staged by the new Iuvenes Dominum, Marcus, would be perfect in every respect.
After a great deal of hurried preparation the day of the Ludis arrived.
The weather on the day of the Ludi was fine.
It should be noted that in general, during the period of our story the weather in Italy was somewhat warmer that during the present day, and the years 68-90 were particularly dry.
The 'Pompa', which had been well planned (see above), went off well, but during the singing of Lucius' 'Celebratory Ode' there was much ribald comment, as Galbas' reputation, in both financial matters, (Galba never went out, even for recreation, without taking a million sesterces in gold with him in a second carriage), and sexual matters, (his liking for mature men as sexual partners, rather than boys, was seen as particularly bizarre and reprehensible), had already become common knowledge among the 'plebs'.

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'Part One - Tableaux' - After the pompa,the Games opened with a tableaux
In the Roman arena, 'tableaux' were not static representations, but rather short, often violent and/or sexually explicit scenes acted out, and representing some mythological, legendary or historical event.
The only 'tableau' that Gracchus could suggest to Marcus and Petronius, that would not be open to misrepresentation by the audience (or any spies sent to the Ludi by Galba), was some sort of reference to Galbas' activities in 'Germania'.
Galba became Praetor in 20, and consul in 33; he earned a reputation in the provinces of Gaul, Germania, and Hispania for his military capability, strictness and impartiality. And that is about the only good thing that one can say about the new Emperor Glaba.
Fortunately, Terentius, when in Ostia, had bought a handsome little slave-boy with a somewhat Germanic look.
Tableaux - Galba Overcomes Germania
This lad was used to represent 'Germania', and one of Gracchus' most muscular, but not particularly 'bright' 'worker-slaves' was dragooned into representing Gracchus' Legionaries in 'Germania', wearing Servius' centurion's helmet (borrowed for the occasion), and some silvered arm guards.
The big muscular slave was otherwise naked.
The Germanic looking boy, also naked, was suitably chained up in the arena, between two somewhat 'phallic' looking, short stone pillars, set firmly into the new, renovated wooden floor of the arena.
The action of the tableau consisted of the slave, who was representing the Roman legions, first of all forcing his very large, erect penis into the chained boy's mouth.
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
The muscular slave, having ejaculated over the boy's face, then took the slave-boy, who was kneeling between the two pillars, from behind, and subjected him to anal rape.
Having raped the boy brutally, with the lad acting suitably distressed at apparently being forcibly raped, and the boy becoming nicely aroused, and erect, as his rectum got stuffed full of the older slave's huge penis, the muscular slave was then required to kill the 'horny' boy, by slitting his throat.
Petronius, however, wanted to use the boy (who had been an expensive purchase) on some future occasion, and so the lad was grasped by the neck, by the muscular slave (who was secreting a bladder of pig's blood in that same hand), while he made a show of dragging the blunted blade across the struggling slave-boy's neck.
The bladder was squeezed, and 'fresh' pigs' blood gushed, the boy collapsed, grunting and writhing, and the muscular slave rose, waving his blade in triumph.
The simulated death went off perfectly, and the supposedly dead, but still erect, 'Germanic' slave-boy was dragged naked from the arena - to live, and probably die, another day.
It was not a practice that Petronius really agreed with, but it happened often, in many arenas (and even in Rome), when slave supplies were restricted, or a particular slave was required at a later date for some other purpose.
Although the connection between the 'tableaux' and the supposedly military exploits of the new Emperor Galba, (such as they were), was lost on most of the spectators, the obviously 'aroused', and very attractive (in an 'exotic' kind of way) naked slave-boy was popular - and his brutal double rape, (mouth and anus), and subsequent apparent 'killing', was seen as a suitable introduction to the Games.
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'Part Two - Pancratium' - Some wrestling then followed the 'tableaux'.
The 'plebs' were always keen on the naked, Greek style wrestling, called the 'Pancatium', where no holds were barred (Marcus could never understand why these fights required a 'referendarius' (referee) considering the only forbidden move was 'eye-gouging'.
παγκράτιον (Pankration) was a sporting event introduced into the Greek Olympic Games in 648 BC and was an empty-hand combat sport with scarcely any rules. The athletes used boxing and wrestling techniques, but also others, such as kicking and holds, locks and chokes on the ground. The term comes from the Greek παγκράτιον paŋkrátion, literally meaning "all of power" from πᾶν (pan-) "all" and κράτος (kratos) "strength, might, power. By the Imperial Period (at the time of our story), the Romans had adopted the Greek combat sport (spelled in Latin as Pancratium) into their Games. Pankration itself was an event in the Olympic Games for some 1,000 years.
Not surprisingly, most fights ended with low blows, aimed at the testicles, and many of the fights ended with the death of the losing fighter, who was often strangled, or had his neck broken, while being raped.
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'Punishment' -  Supplicium was somewhat of a 'euphemism' - as it could mean 'punishment', but was also a term used for 'execution'.
Any punishment that occurred in the arena, however, inevitably led to execution.
So, there then followed a long series of executions, mostly with the victim being tortured before being killed.
These individuals were known as 'noxii', (the dregs of Roman, society who had no rights - even less than slaves), and were sent to the amphitheatre under an agreement between Gracchus and the local magistracy.
Surprisingly, Gracchus was actually paid to perform these executions, and they always proved very popular.
In the 'Ludus Gracchii' there were cell blocks, and the condemned prisoners were usually kept confined on a minimal diet
Ludis Pro Galba - Slow Castration with Weights
Impaled with a Pilum (Spear)
It was usually stipulated that the condemned criminal should undergo execution within a set period of time, usually being one or two months.
It was also possible for these criminals to appear in the arena prior to the last date stipulated for their execution, either to be executed early, or undergo a session of torture in the arena.
Of course, if the individual died as a result of torture then that was seen as the completion of the sentence of execution.
Normally, the magistrates did not stipulate the manner of execution, and so various methods were used, including combinations of crucifixion, impaling, disembowelling, castration and emasculation, decapitation (rare), burning, drowning and crushing.

(Note: Roman citizens could not be publicly executed)
Ludis Pro Galba - Crucifixion
and Emsculation
Gracchus did not keep animals for show, or to use in executions or hunts, in the arena (except on rare occasions - as you will see a little later), and so 'damnatio ad bestias' was not an aspect of the Games that he gave.
Castration, or more commonly emasculation (removal not only of the scrotum and testicles, but also the penis), was a common punishment for slave condemned for sexual crimes.
These punishments were particularly popular with the 'plebs'.
Of course, castration and emasculation were not immediately fatal, although eventually the victim would bleed to death.
Such a punishment was usually part of a crucifixion or an impaling (crucifixion and impaling often being combined).
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The second tableaux was a mythological subject that Petronius had been eager to stage.
Hopefully it would not be open to misinterpretation.
At least the 'plebs' would be unlikely to read anything into it that could be seen as critical of Galba.
Hopefully the more intelligent members of the audience might see a reference to the leading figure being Nero, and the tormentor of that figure (the eagle) representing Rome - in other words, Rome punishing Nero for his misguided ways.
The actual theme of the tableaux was 'Prometheus'.
In the Greek version of the legend (and there were many), Prometheus was supposed to have stolen fire from the Gods to give to mankind (read here -  possibly - Nero giving the Roman people the arts of Greece).
Zeus (read here Jupiter) then decided to punish Prometheus.
Prometheus (read here Nero) was chained to a mountain peak in the Caucasus, and an eagle, (representing Zeus, read Jupiter - Rome) came and devoured Prometheus' liver each day,although the liver regrew every night.
This torture, therefore, went on endlessly.

This type of complex and obtuse allegory (although having gone very much out of fashion in the 20th and 21st centuries) was well understood in the world of the Greeks and Romans. As a literary device, an allegory is a metaphor whose vehicle may be a character, place or event, representing real-world issues and occurrences. An allegory (in the sense of the practice and use of allegorical devices and works) has occurred widely throughout history in all forms of art, and public discourse, largely because it can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners. Allegory is typically used as a method to convey semi-hidden, or hidden meanings through symbolic figures, actions, imagery, and/or events, which together create a moral, spiritual, or political meaning. Many of the presentations in the Roman arena were of an allegorical nature - and the Ludi, as has been stated before, were not just displays of mindless, vicious killing and sadistic entertainment, but were events of an educative, political and religious nature.

So Petronius had an artificial mountain peak built, (just a 'rock' really), with concealed wheels, so that it could be easily maneuvered into the arena.
A small painted backcloth, representing the sky was placed behind the 'rock' (obscuring some of the action - but only for those in the stands reserved for the 'plebs'.
A young slave, who had already had his belly slit open - but only very slightly disembowelled, with just a little of his guts pulled out, was then chained to the 'rock'.
The Torture of Prometheus
Then one of Gracchus' eagles (Gracchus kept a magnificent, huge, gilded bronze aviary in the grounds of the villa, containing a collection of eagles - which were Augusts' favourite creature), was deftly attached to the 'rock', next to the chained, naked boy.
The eagle used at the beginning of the tableau was one of a couple which been deprived of food for some time, and being ravenous, quickly started making a meal of the screaming young 'Prometheus'.
The audience were surprisingly quiet as they watched the bizarre scene, possibly worried about frightening the huge bird away, not realizing that it was securely tethered, - just a securely as the unfortunate boy.
To begin with, the hungry bird started pulling the naked boy's guts out of the slip in his belly.
"Shit !... My fuckin' guts !......", the naked boy screamed, much to the amusement of the 'plebs'.
Having gobbled down some of the young lad's guts, the inquisitive bird started pecking at the naked boy's penis and testicles.
Almost immediately the lad, who had managed eventually to control his screams, started groaning pathetically as his penis became erect, as a result of the attention the bird was giving to his genitals
Soon, however, groans were interspersed by grunts, and loud cries of  "Fuck !.. Oh fuck !... My balls !", when the brainless bird pecked hard at the squirming boy's hefty, bulging testicles.
Eventually the bird was satiated, and in the brief pause, 'Prometheus' unable to control his full bladder any longer, sprayed urine over the rock, as blood trickled out of the now gaping wound in his belly.
At this point the foolish boy thought it was all over, and he would be quickly dispatched by having his throat cut.
He was wrong, however.
He was relieved to see an arena slave, wearing a thick leather gauntlet come to retrieve the bird, but horrified to see a second arena slave, carrying an equally large bird into the arena.
"No !..Please !..... No more !......, he cried out to the Editor's Box, where Gracchus, Marcus and Petronius were watching him.
They, however, were very pleased at the result of this unusual tableau, and Petronius was particularly gratified to see that all his work and planning was producing the intended result.
Disembowelled, Hanged and Impaled
The first bird, by then satiated, was removed, and the second, very hungry bird was attached to the rock, in the same position as the previous bird.
With the condemned boy's genitals now covered in blood, the eagle saw the twitching, jerking object as an 'tasty morsel', and began attacking first the boy's stiff penis, which the bird quickly pecked off and swallowed.
The bird then went for the terrified lad's hefty scrotum.
"Shit !... My bollocks !.....", the writhing boy squealed.
"Help !... It's eating my fuckin' bollocks !....", and the 'plebs, of course, were loving every minute of the boy's torture.
It took very little time for the huge, hungry bird to gobble up the writhing, naked boy's testicles - leaving him a helpless eunuch.
Having completely emasculated the naked slave, the bird was then removed.
The arena slaves then examined the mutilated, groaning boy, and seeing he was still alive, they erected an iron gibbet in the arena.
The naked, disembowelled and emasculated boy, was then unchained from the 'rock', and then hung by his feet and wrists, and impaled through his anus on a projecting iron spike.
"Shit ! My fuckin' arsehole !", the pathetic lad squealed, as the arena slaves repeatedly swung him so that he was effectively raped by the iron spike.
He was being killed very slowly - and the poor lad knew it.
He was then left to squirm and moan, until he died from loss of blood.


The Ludi to celebrate Galba 'taking the purple' ended with the ever popular gladiatorial contests.
(images and descriptions to follow soon)
At the end of those contests, the audience, as one, rose to acclaim Gracchus for the magnificent Ludi.
Gracchus, however, in a remarkable gesture, pushed young Marcus forward, and raise the startled boy's hand - indicating that he was the 'hero of the hour'.
Few in the audience had ever seen Marcus before, but rumours were soon rife, in Baiae, Cumae, Neapolis, Pompeii and Herculaneum, that Gracchus had an 'heir', and that great time lay ahead for the House of Gracchus.

'Trouble with the Praetorians' - After the successful 'Ludis pro Galba', all seemed to be going well, and then one morning, in January 69 AD, just before Marcus was about to set out for the amphitheatre, a young slave-boy, who was then helping Glykon at the main entrance, rushed up to the door-keepers outside Marcus' new apartments, demanding to speak to the Iuvenes Dominum.
The boy, having stated he was sent by Glykon, and having been searched for concealed weapons, was allowed to enter Marcus' atrium.
"Iuvenes Dominum, Glykon told me to see you, as there are men in armour at the main entrance  wishing to see the Dominus - but he's still sleeping.
Gylon didn't know what to do, and sent me to ask you if they should be allowed to enter the villa.", the boys said breathlessly, and obviously alarmed.
"Thank you !
I will come now !", Marcus answered, trying to look, and sound calm.
Marcus hurried down to the main entrance, with the panting slave-boy, and young Cleon following him.
On arrival at the hallway, Marcus found three Praetorian tribunes, looking dusty from their long ride from Rome, standing in the imposing 'prothyrum' (entrance hall) of the villa.
Glykon rushed up to Marcus, looking pale and frightened.
"Thank the gods you've come.
These 'people' are demanding to see Gracchus, and I was too frightened to disturb him, and Terentius is not here, so I sent for you !", Glykon gabbled.
"No problem !", Marcus replied, trying to calm Glykon.
"Gentlemen ! Welcome !", Marcus said, turning to the uniformed men.
"I am Marcus Octavianus Gnaeus, nephew and heir of the Dominus Gracchus.
How can I help you ?".
"Good morning, 'Iuvenes Dominum' !", the leading Praetorian replied.
"We would like to speak to the Dominus, urgently, if that is possible.
There are important matters of state to discuss."
"Enough !", Marcus replied, imperiously.
"This is not a private place.
Glykon - get your boy to clear the small atrium, and take our honoured guests there, while I speak to the Dominus."
The senior Tribune, obviously impressed with Marcus' authority, thanked Marcus, and then he and his two companions followed Glykon to one of the small atria, leading off from the 'prothyrum'.
Marcus then hurried to Gracchus' apartments.
"Good morning, Dominus !", Marcus began, respectfully.
"We have some visitors from Rome asking for an interview.
They are Praetorians.", Marcus added, ominously.
"So, Marcus, I was expecting this !", Gracchus replied, rising from his couch, where he had been dozing, and straightening his toga.
"When you bring them to me, stay with me, but say nothing.
We now have a dangerous situation.
My information is that Galba is unpopular - to say the least - in Rome, and this might be the beginning of a move to oust him - so we must tread carefully."
"I understand Dominus - at least I think I do.", Marcus replied, wondering how they could be back in a similar situation to the one they had just left after the death of Nero.
"Now go and bring these Tribunes to me, and we will listen to their requests.", Gracchus said, making his way to his study.

Once in the study, Gracchus seated himself at his ornate marble topped table, with Marcus standing to his side.
The Praetorians entered the study.
"Be seated, gentlemen !", Gracchus said, and slaves brought chairs for the three officers.
Then, with the flick of his hand, Gracchus dismissed the slaves.
Wishing to take the upper hand, Gracchus then began the interview.
"I would have wished that you had given me some warning of your visit.
Then you could have been appropriately greeted."
"Yes, Domine, but our visit is most confidential, and we had little time to forewarn you." the senior tribune tried to explain, somewhat taken aback by Gracchus' brusque manner.
"So....", Gracchus paused, "How are things in Rome ?".
"Well that is what we came to discuss with you.", the senior Tribune replied.
"We represent a certain person ....well party, in Rome that feels that, maybe.... our new emperor, is not perhaps, entirely.... suited to his new office.", the Tribune stumbled and stuttered, trying to find the right words.
Chaldaean Astrology
"And this person,", Gracchus continued, "much younger than Galba, 'taken' with the boy Sporus, and much influenced by Chaldaeans, imagines that he could wield the Imperium more effectively than the present incumbent - am I right ?".
"You seem, Domine, very well informed.", the Tribune said, taken aback by Gracchus' obvious knowledge of the situation in Rome, and the ambitions of one individual in particular.
Marcus, however, didn't have a clue as to what Gracchus was talking about.
While he and Gracchus had become very close, since Marcus had become free, and his adoption had been announced, Gracchus, in order to protect Marcus, had not revealed all that his contacts had told him about the political situation in Rome.
"And I suppose this 'person' is financially embarrassed, and needs some monetary assistance in order to gain support for his intended rise to power.", Gracchus continued, somewhat sarcastically.
"Domine, you seem to understand the situation very well.", the Tribune replied, smiling weakly.
"Well..... I have already given Nymphidius money for the Praetorians - and now, it seems, you wish me to give further money - yet again, - after only a few months, - and will this new individual last any longer than the previous holder of this supposedly 'sacred' office ?", Gracchus asked with resignation.
"Domine, we cannot say how permanent this new 'arrangement' will be, but in terms of finance it will be moderate.
The 'individual' we represent has practically no assets, but has excellent 'prospects'.
More to the point, he does not need funds for all the Praetorian guard.
He needs only funds to encourage twenty or so individuals to support him - a small sum for one as wealthy as you.", the senior Tribune replied, looking hopefully, from side to side at his companions.
"Well.... let's talk business." Gracchus said, rising from his chair.
Marcus Salvius Otho
"This individual, I would imagine, is Marcus Salvius Otho.
My close friend, Novius, informs me that he of an ancient and noble Etruscan family, descended from the princes of Etruria.
I have also been told that this person was originally a friend of Nero, but fell out with the Emperor, and took up with Galba.
Now, because he has subsequently been overlooked by Galba, he has thoughts about taking the Imperium for himself.
Am I not right ?.....". Gracchus asked, sitting down once again.
Marcus Salvius Otho was one of the most reckless and extravagant of the young patricians who surrounded Nero. This friendship came to an end in 58 AD because of his wife, Poppaea Sabina. Otho introduced his wife to Nero upon Poppaea's insistence, who then began an affair that would eventually lead to her premature death. After securely establishing this position as his mistress, she divorced Otho, and had the Emperor send him away as governor to the remote province of Lusitania. Otho remained in Lusitania for the next ten years, administering the province with a moderation unusual at the time. When in 68 AD his neighbor, Galba, the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, rose in revolt against Nero, Otho accompanied him to Rome. Resentment at the treatment he had received from Nero may have impelled him to this course. Otho then, encouraged by the predictions of astrologers, aspired to succeed Galba. He came to a secret agreement with Galba's favourite, Titus Vinius, agreeing to marry Vinius' daughter in exchange for his support, however, in January 69 AD, his hopes were dashed by Galba's formal adoption of Lucius Calpurnius Piso Licinianus, whom Galba had previously named a recipient in his will.
"You are right, Domine, and seem to know more about this 'person' than even we know.", the senior Tribune replied.
"It also seems now that the people in Rome are looking nostalgically back at their erstwhile Emperor Nero, and see in Nero's one-time companion, Otho, 'novus Neronis' (a new Nero).", Gracchus continued.
"The people are so fickle !", Gracchus reflected, looking towards Marcus.
"Well I think I can arrange a loan for your 'principal', - but a loan, mind you, to be repaid immediately on his accession to Imperium."
"Of course, Sir, and you and your young heir will be well rewarded, I can assure you.", the senior Tribune replied, gratefully.
Gracchus called for Terentius.
"My freedman, Terentius, will make all the necessary arrangements - but you will need to wait a short while, as he is out of the villa for a few moments.", Gracchus told the senior Tribune.
"Now I must leave you, gentlemen, as I have many other appointments - however, I will be coming to Rome soon, and I hope to see the money well spent.
Meanwhile my slaves will provide refreshments in the small atrium......
And give my regards to your master, Marcus Salvius Otho."
"Thank you, Domine !
We look forward to your visit - and may I thank you, on behalf of our master, for your invaluable help." the Senior Tribune concluded, ingratiatingly.
"Marcus Octavianus - when these gentlemen are finished with Terentius, see them out, and here's my ring to use, to seal the documents.", Gracchus said, dismissively.
And that, significantly, was the first time that Gracchus allowed Marcus to use his 'seal ring'.
And so, effectively, Marcus, by impressing the seal of the 'House of Gracchus' on documents relating to the loan to Otho, was responsible, eventually, for creating a Roman Emperor and unknowingly creating a problem that would lead to the death not only of Galba - but also of many others - with far reaching ramifications.......

'and the story continues -
Gracchus now gets two new Emperors for the price of one - and Marcus receives a present...
(Two for the Price of One - Anno Quattuor Imperatorum - Part V)

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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