Chapter XXIV Umbrae Mortis In Villa

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The Ludi came to an end with a flourish of trumpets (tubis), and the audience rose as one to give a standing ovation.
The most important musical instrument in the Roman Military was the tuba (not to be confused with the modern instrument of the same name) or straight trumpet. The tuba/trumpet was usually made from copper or iron, and was a conical bore straight tube about 120-140 cm in length and came in three pieces with a mouthpiece. The tuba/trumpet was used at sacrifices, processions, triumphal processions and funerals. The use of 'tubis' (trumpets) in Gracchus' arena was the result of Servius taking over the organisation of the 'pompa'.
How many of the audience realised that the magnificence and opulence of these Ludi was down to Marcus, or equally that the organisation and smooth running, and staging of events was down to his 'Dominus de Harena' (Master of the Arena), Petronius is debatable.
As far as the audience were concerned Gracchus had enabled the town of Baiae to mark the accession of the new Emperor, Vespasian, with appropriate celebration and ceremony - thus maintaining the dignity and reputation of the town.
Having left the editor's box, the group consisting of Marcus, Gracchus, Servius, and the two slave-boys made their way to the 'prothyrum', where more refreshments were made available.
Cleon and Adonios stood respectfully to one side, the refreshments were obviously not for them.
Meanwhile, Marcus, Gracchus and Servius stood together discussing various aspects of the Ludi while they waited for Petronius (who would be returning with them to the villa), to finish giving instructions for the 'clean-up' which always followed the end of the Ludi.
Soon a very satisfied looking Petronius returned to the 'prothyrum'.
"I hope, Dominus, that you were pleased with the work of the arena-slaves." Petronius said respectfully to Gracchus.
"Very much !",Gracchus replied, smiling, "But even more, I was pleased with all that you have done to make this a truly magnificent Ludi - you, and of course, young Marcus !", Gracchus continued, putting his hand gently on Petronius' shoulder.
Petronius blushed, and bowed his head.
"Without Marcus ... "Petronius stammered, "It would have been impossible." Petronius muttered.
Marcus shook his head, finding it difficult to accept the compliment.
"Well both of you did a magnificent job - so lets go home - it's been a long day.", Gracchis concluded.

(The Banquet to Celebrate Marcus' Coming of Age) - The group all returned to Gracchus' carriage, with Servius and Petronius 'mounting up', to serve as ceremonial 'outriders' for the short journey to the villa.
When they reached the villa, the whole place seemed ablaze with light, with carriages and litters parked by the main entrance.
Much to Marcus' surprise, it appeared that a party ('convivium') was taking place.
Secretly, Gracchus had arranged for a small 'convivium' to be held, not only to celebrate the successful Ludi, but also to celebrate Marcus' 'coming of age'.
Marcus' 'coming of age' was important, as he needed to be officially an adult male citizen to inherit from Gracchus - as there was no male relative to act as his 'guardian'.
The 'coming of age' ritual for the young Roman male involved shaving his beard (however, marcus was not shaving yet) and taking off his 'bulla', an amulet worn to mark and protect underage youth, which he then dedicated to his household gods, the Lares. Larēs, (archaic Lases, singular Lar), were guardian deities in ancient Roman religion. Their origin is uncertain; they may have been hero-ancestors, guardians of the hearth, fields, boundaries or fruitfulness, or an amalgamation of these. They originate in the Etruscan religion.
Bulla, is an amulet worn like a locket, was given to male children in Ancient Rome nine days after birth.  A bulla was worn around the neck as a locket to protect against evil spirits and forces. A bulla was made of differing substances depending upon the wealth of the family. Before the age of manhood, Roman boys wore a bulla, a neckchain and round pouch containing protective amulets (usually phallic symbols), and the bulla of an upper-class boy would be made of gold. Other materials included leather and cloth. A boy would wear a bulla until he became a Roman adult. His bulla was carefully saved, and on some important occasions, like his becoming a general and commanding a parade, the bulla was taken out. He would wear the bulla during the ceremony to safeguard against evil forces like the jealousy of others.
The young man, at the ceremony of his 'coming of age', assumed the plain white 'toga virilis' ("toga of manhood"). Traditionally, the ceremony was held on the 'Liberalia', the festival in honor of the god Liber, who embodied both political and sexual liberty, but other dates could be chosen for individual reasons.
The 'convivium' was not grand - not like the Munera for Augustus - and there were no entertainments - the day had already been very full with the 'Ludi for Vespasian. (see previous chapter).
It was simply an opportunity for for many of the individuals directly involved with Marcus to congratulate him on his 'coming of age'.
Convivium for Marcus' Coming of Age
who's who; (from left to right) - Villa Slave-Guard,  Ariston (Gracchus personal slave),
Terentius (Senior Freedman), Gracchus, Tribune Servius, Marcus, Petronius
(Master of the Arena), Adonios (Marcus' personal slave), Villa Slave-Guard
As a special gift, Gracchus had a bust sculpted in marble of Marcus, and this took pride of place on the dais.
There Gracchus and Marcus 'sat in state' (with Marcus looking most uncomfortable in his new and very bulky plain white 'toga virilis', which Gracchus had draped ceremoniously, and not very skillfully on the boy, now become a man).
The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of 6 metres (20 feet) in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen. The toga was worn almost exclusively by Roman men, whereas women were expected to wear the stola.
At the same time, Gracchus removed Marcus' 'bulla' (which had in fact been given to him by his natural father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius), - and was actually 'proof' - if such was still needed, that Marcus was 'freeborn'.
Gracchus gave the bulla to Terentius for safe keeping.
A number of Gracchus' clients, including the priests of Apollo, some military Tribunes, and of course Novius, came first to offer congratulations.
Then many of the freedmen and senior slaves approached the 'domini' to offer congratulations, before the meal itself began.

The Goddess Fortuna
Fortuna (Latin: Fortūna, equivalent to the Greek goddess Tyche) was the personification of luck and fate in Roman religion. She might bring good or bad luck: and came to represent life's capriciousness. She was the goddess of Fate: as Atrox Fortuna, she claimed the young lives of the princeps Augustus' grandsons Gaius and Lucius, prospective heirs to the Empire. The two earliest temples mentioned in Roman Calendars were outside the city, on the right bank of the Tiber (in Italian Trastevere). The first temple dedicated to Fortuna was attributed to the Etruscan Servius Tullius, while the second is known to have been built in 293 BC as the fulfilment of a Roman promise made during later Etruscan wars. Fortuna's identity as personification of chance events was closely tied to 'virtus' (strength of character). Sallust uses the infamous Catiline as illustration – "Truly, when in the place of work, idleness, in place of the spirit of measure and equity, caprice and pride invade, fortune is changed just as with morality". During the early Empire (the time of this story), an amulet from the 'House of Menander', in Pompeii (close to Baiae), links her to the Egyptian goddess Isis, as 'Isis-Fortuna'. Her father was said to be Jupiter and like him, she could also be bountiful (Copia)
Later - after much talk, wine and food - and good company, Gracchus and Marcus rose from their seats on the dais.
Immediately all the guests rose, and Gracchus and Marcus, accompanied by Terentius, Servius and Petronius, and the two slave boys, Adonios and Ariston, processed, - accompanied by other slave-boys carrying torches, - and all the guests, to the main entrance of the villa.
There the guests, in a group, began to say their 'goodbyes', and final congratulations.
Suddenly there was a commotion in the middle of the crowd.
There was muffled cry, and Marcus slowly fell to the marble floor, blood staining his pristine, white toga.
Guests starting shouting, and Servius caught hold of a slave-boy, while Petronius grabbed the bloody knife that the boy was holding.
The boy instantly released the weapon, which fell to the floor with a heavy clang.
Gracchus instantly bent down over young Marcus.
"You stupid boy ! What have you done to my son ?", he cried out, in anguish, looking up at the young slave.
(and for the first time, Gracchus, in public, called Marcus 'my son').
"Why ?", Gracchus moaned.
Meanwhile, Terentius called for Agathon to come to the 'prothyrum', with a couple of his assistants (you last met Agathon - Gracchus' personal Greek physician - in Chapter V).
By then the slave boy had been identified in the flickering light of the torches.
It was Glykon !
"Why ?", Gracchus shouted at the trembling boy, who was now firmly held by Servius.
"He has everything - and he's just a slave, like me !
It's not fair !", Glykon sobbed.
"Never ever say that again, boy !", Gracchus stormed.
The guests, riveted to the spot by the appalling drama, were shocked at the sheer violence of Gracchus' words.
Gracchus calmed himself, as Petronius put his hand on his master's shoulder.
"Marcus is as free-born as I am - and anyone who says otherwise will pay dearly for such a lie - with his life - as you will, Glycon !", Gracchus announced, carefully controlling his anger and despair.
Marcus groaned - it was the first sign that he had survived the attack.
"Lie still, Marcus.", Petronius said, kneeling and brushing the boy's hair out of his eyes.
"Yes - It's going to be all right. 
Agathon is coming.... and he will put everything right." Gracchus said, going down on his knees, beside Marcus.
Terentius now started to guide the guests to the huge bronze doors, assuring them that Marcus was not badly hurt - he said this just to calm them, and encourage them to leave.
Agathon then appeared, with two assistants, and started working on Marcus.
Petronius then got to his feet, and went over to where Servius was standing. 
By then two villa slave-guards were holding Glykon.
Petronius then showed Servius the knife that he had wrestled from Glykon's hand.
"You see the knife ?". Petronius asked Servius.
"Yes - it belongs to Marcus.
It was a gift to him from Gracchus.", Servius replied, puzzled.
"So how did Glykon have it ?", Petronius asked.
"Marcus was not wearing it tonight, and so it would be in his private apartments - and only myself, and Cleon and Adonios are allowed in those apartments.", Petronius explained.
Petronius then  quickly looked around.
"And where is Cleon ?", asked, knowingly.
"He was not at the convivium - so where ?"
(Marcus first met Cleon in Chapter VI)
While this conversation was taking place, Agathon had arranged for his assistants to carefully take the stricken boy to Marcus' private apartments.
Gracchus and Novius, (Gracchus' long time friend and adviser) followed.
Meanwhile, Servius sprang into action.
"Terentius - this is an emergency ..... call as many of the villa slave-guards as you can find, and instigate a thorough search for the boy Cleon."
He then turned to the villa slave-guards holding Glykon.
"Take this boy (referring to Glykon) to the punishment area.
Strip him, and chain him up.
You do not need to be gentle with him !".
The guards grinned, and dragged off the sobbing Glykon.
(for information about the punishment area - next to Vulcan' workshop - see Chapter III).


'In the Apartments of Marcus' - Gracchus and Novius made their way to Marcus' private apartments.
Marcus had been put to bed by Agathon's assistants, while the Greek doctor hovered over the stricken boy.
Gracchus immediately approached his private physician.
"How is he ?", Gracchus asked impatiently in Greek. "Will he survive ?".
The Greek physician looked at the Dominus, quizzically.
"The bleeding is under control.
Whoever attacked him was a very incompetent assassin.
The knife was not thrust in far enough to do any real damage.
As long as there is no infection - and the wound seems clean - then the boy should recover."
"Thank the Gods !", Gracchus sighed.
"But there is something amiss, Dominus." Agathon continued.
Young Marcus is a strong, fit boy, but.... he seems to have entered a 'κῶμα' (coma).
I cannot account for this. - Do you know why this should be so ?"
"I'm not sure what you mean.", Gracchus replied, looking puzzled and concerned.
"It is not natural, with such a wound - and I fear this may be more than just a physical problem.", Agathon explained.
"It seems that the boy was not wearing his bulla. Agathon explained. (see above for the significance of the bulla)
So he did not have the protection of the amulet - and neither the protection of the amulet (Jupiter's Eagle) on his slave collar (which he had worn previously).
If someone had laid some kind of a curse on this night, or on the dagger, then this might account for the 'κῶμα'.
As for the unnaturally deep 'sleep', I cannot say how long it will last - and I am unsure how to treat it- it seems to be beyond my skill.
The answer may lie in a κατάδεσμος  - 'tabella defixionis' - (curse tablet) - if one can be found."
Tabella Defixioni
A 'curse tablet' or binding spell is a type of curse found throughout the Greco-Roman world, in which someone would ask the gods, spirits, or the deceased to perform an action on a person or object, or otherwise compel the subject of the curse. Texts were typically scratched on thin sheets of lead, then often rolled, folded, or pierced with nails. These bound tablets were then usually placed beneath the ground: either buried in graves or tombs, thrown into wells or pools, sequestered in underground sanctuaries, or nailed to the walls of temples.
Gracchus looked appalled and, leaving  Agathon, went over to Novius, and sat down heavily on the couch, beside his old friend.
"Did you hear that ?", Gracchus asked Novius.
Novius nodded.
"Magic.... curses.... unnatural sleep !.... What is going on, Novius ?"
"And a seemingly good and loyal slave boy, who suddenly turns into an assassin !", Novius added.
"And what about young Cleon ?
It seems that he has disappeared."
Most Romans  lived in constant fear of supernatural powers and forces that they believed in but did not understand. This made them pay magicians frequent visits in order to buy amulets as protection against spells, against the evil eye, against the power of spirits and demons, and against evil fortuna in general.
At that moment Petronius came into the atrium, with Adonios.
The boy has obviously been crying, and Petronius had his hand on the boy's shoulder.
Adonios ran over to Gracchus and went down on his knees.
"Dominus - I swear I knew nothing about this - spare me - please !", the almost hysterical boy blurted out.
"I know, Adonios.
No harm will come to you - I promise." Gracchus said quietly, trying to calm the young lad.
"But Dominus... how is my master ? Will he live ?", Adonios asked, still tearful.
"That no one knows.
But now I have a task for you, my young friend.
Go and sit with your master, and if he stirs, or speaks, go straight to Petronius and tell him - and he will tell me."
Adonios brightened a little and went over and sat beside Marcus' bed.
Gracchus then turned to Novius.
"And what is your view about all of this ?", he asked.
"It is a strange situation.", Novius replied.

"I think that Agathon may be right in what he says.
Maecus' Pugio
From my knowledge of Etruscan magic, I think it was important for those involved in this deed to have Marcus's pugio (dagger) - and to impart to it some evil power - and I would suggest that Cleon obtained it for Glykon from Marcus' apartments - and that is why Cleon has gone missing.
Such a weapon need not do any real damage, which is why Agathon said that Glykon was an incompetent assassin.
But in a way he wasn't !
All he needed to do was to touch Marcus with the dagger - in order to impart it's evil influence.
The wound itself is neither here nor there.
A little loss of blood for a young man is nothing.
But this 'κῶμα' is a work of powerful magic."
"So what do you suggest that we do ?" Gracchus asked, looking quite overwhelmed.
"First you must go to the Temple of Apollo, at Cumae, and make sacrifices to the god for Marcus' recovery.
Then we can talk to the priests and ask their advice about Marcus' condition.
"And perhaps... ", and here Novius paused, "we could ask the advice of the Sybil.
In a more practical way, we need to know who is behind this - and it is the two slave-boys who hold the key to that."
"Good !", Gracchus replied, at last having something tangible to do.
He called Petronius, (who had been watching over Adonios and Marcus), to him.
"What has happened about the two slave boys ?" Gracchus asked.
"Well, at this very moment, Dominus, Servius is  overseeing the torture of Glykon.
He's a weak boy, and we should have some answers very soon.
Terentius has gone out with some riders to try to track down Cleon, as he does not seem to be in the villa.", Petronius reported.

"Good ! Well keep me informed !", Gracchus replied, his mood seeming to improve as he was able once again to take command.

Glykon had been bundled into a waiting wagon by two tall, muscular villa guards.
Very soon they arrived at the Amphitheater, and a very frightened Glykon was taken to the Spoliarium in the 'Ludus Gracchii'.
The room Glykon was taken to had stone walls and a stone floor, and was cold and intimidating.
"Right son !.. Strip off !", the senior guard growled.
Glykon took off his tunic and his sandals, and waited meekly, wearing just his tiny white loincloth. "Take off everything !", the guard shouted.
"We can't fuck you if you're wearing a loincloth - now can we ?", the guard continued, sarcastically.
Hesitantly Glykon took off his loincloth, and arranged it in a neat bundle with his tunic and sandals.
The senior guard turned to his assistant.
"We're gonna have fun with this one !", he said, leering, as he stepped forward and pulled on Glykon's flaccid penis.
"He's a well hung little fucker." the other guard replied.
"Right !..." the senior guard said, gruffly."You go first !"
The second guard pulled out his already stiff penis, and approached Glykon.
"No please !... Don't fuck me !..... I'll tell you whatever you want !"....Glykon pleaded.
"Yes !.... a pack of lies, probably.", the senior guard interjected.
"But this is not part of the torture, son.
This is just us having a bit of fun before the Tribune arrives."
As he was saying this, the guard with the prominent erection grabbed hold of Glykon and bent him over.
"No !.... not up my fuckin' arse !....", Glykon moaned, as the guard's huge penis forced its way into Glykon's tight little hole.
"Shit !..... you're too fuckin' big !", Glykon moaned, as the guard's thick, heavily veined shaft disappeared inside him.
"Thanks for the compliment !", the grinning guard grunted, as he started violently thrusting.


'In Marcus Appartments' - While Glykon was being repeatedly raped, prior to being tortured and interogated, Novius  was speaking to Gracchus into the adjoining atrium, well away from Petronius and Adonios.
"Now Gnaeus, we must be very careful here.
This is not the work of a couple of jealous slave-boys.
In my view they have been used.
I feel that it is likely that they have been paid - and Servius needs to find out where the money is.
But I think that this has been organised by someone in Rome.
Someone very powerful, who does not want Marcus to become Dominus - and then maybe have further political ambitions, as he gets older..
I think that we have been too open about what is happening here, and we need to be much more circumspect.", Novius said quietly and confidentially.
"I agree." Gracchus replied.
"Your advice is always excellent."
"But in this case maybe it comes too late.", Novius concluded.
"Personally, I think that this attempt on Marcus' life is connected with the death of Galba - after all, Marcus was quite closely involved in the deal with the Praetorians," Gracchus said,
"And I think that this might have something to do with Petram, the young fighter that Nymphidius took back to Rome, and was subsequently rescued by  Terentius.
Gracchus paused, and called over Petronius.
"Petronius, we think that Petram might be involved in this matter.
Send some villa slave-guards over to the amphitheatre, and have Petram taken to where Servius is questioning Glykon - and get information from Petram - by any methods !
And then come back here, and tell me how the interrogations are going."
"At once, Dominus,!", Petronius replied, and immediately left the room.
As Petronius left, Terentius came into the room, breathing heavily after a hard ride.
"Well, Terentius ?", Gracchus asked.
"We found him - and now he's dead." Terentius said flatly.
"He was on the road to Neapolis, with a pouch full of gold coins - here they are, Dominus."
Terentius handed Gracchus the bulging leather pouch.
"There's a lot of money here." Gracchus said, knowingly hefting the heavy pouch.
"How did he come by it ?" Gracchus asked, intrigued.
"Apparently, Glykon gave it to him, in return for Marcus' Pugio.", Terentius replied.
"And how come he's dead ?", Gracchus asked.
"I hope that you don't not think that I did wrong," Terentius said, nervously, "but in the circumstances, after getting all the information from him that we needed, and considering he was in such a bad way after, may I say, being persuaded to talk, I thought it was best to 'finish' him - as he was no further use to us."
Cleon in the Forest
In the process of interrogating Cleon, Terentius (at a later date) revealed to Gracchus that the boy had, been repeatedly raped, and then, piece by piece had been emasculated, and impaled before he finally gave the required information. Having lost so much blood, and having been hopelessly mutilated, Terentius had ordered the senior villa guard to kill Cleon by cutting the boys' throat.
"No, Terentius, you did right.
He deserved nothing better.", Gracchus sighed.
"So here is his silver slave collar.
We don't want anyone who finds him knowing about his master.", Terentius said wisely.
"And where is the body ?",  Gracchus asked.
"Deep in the woods, between here and Neapolis." Terentius replied.
Still intrigued by this turn events, Gracchus continued to question Terentius.
"Before he died, did Cleon say how Glykon came by the money ?"
"Yes, Dominus.
He said that two patricians came to the villa very late one night, and asked if he could get for them a Pugio or Gladius belonging to the young master - and he offered him a great deal of money.
Glykon knew that he couldn't get the weapon himself, but realized that if he used some of the money to give to Cleon - who had access to Marcus' private apartments, he could get the pugio that Marcus regularly wore.
Glycon guessed that the patricians wanted Marcus killed and, by then he so hated Marcus that he was happy to help them - particularly as he imagined that he would have enough money to make good his escape, and be free.
Gracchus interrupted.
"But why did Cleon get involved - apart from the money ? I thought that Cleon and Marcus were 'lovers'.
That's why I gave Cleon to Marcus as his slave."
Terentius nodded.
"They were, to begin with," Terentius lowered his voice, "but then Marcus became infatuated with Petronius - although I don't think they are actually 'lovers' - yet.
So Cleon felt that Marcus was simply using him for sex - which I think he was - if you will excuse me saying so, Dominus, and took a strong dislike to his master.", Terentius explained.
"Well in that case Cleon is a fool.", Gracchus replied.
"Slaves should know that they are expected to provide sex for their master, and are stupid if they think that means that they and their master are 'lovers'."
"I agree, Dominus, but Cleon was a young, infatuated and spurned boy, who was offered a huge sum of money to betray his master - it is only to be expected that he would take the money - and now he has paid the price, and is dead.", Terentius replied.
"Well, we'll see what Servius has to report tomorrow.
I have given instructions for him not to kill Glykon - I want that boy to die in the arena - after we get all the information we can from him - and the same with Petram.", Gracchus said.
Gracchus then turned to Novius, "So, my friend, will you be willing to come with me to Cumae tomorrow.
We could take Petronius and Servius with us - so it should be quite safe."
"Of course, Gnaeus - that would be good !", Novius replied.
Gracchus rose from his couch.
"Well gentlemen, that is enough for one very difficult night.
And I won't say sleep well."
Gracchus then went into Marcus' bedroom - tousled young  Adonios' hair, and took a fond look at Marcus -who seemed to be sleeping peacefully.
Agathon was by Marcus' bed.
"I will remain here for the night, Dominus - so you need not worry.", Agathon said, calmly.
"But I am worried." Gracchus replied, "But I appreciate what you're doing."
Glykon Tortured
Gracchus turned and left , along with Novius and Terentius.
On their way out, they met Petronius who had returned from the Amphitheater, where Glykon and Petram were being tortured and questioned.
"Later !", Gracchus said to Petronius.
"Tell me later, Petronius.
I am just too tired for any more discussion.
Come and see me in the morning."
"Of course, Dominus.", Petronius replied.
Petronius then remained in Marcus' apartments, apparently to keep Adonios company - but in reality to guard his 'sleeping' master - Marcus.
And so the night, which should have been an occasion of celebration, ended sadly and quietly.

and the story continues -
Marcus becomes a man - (coming of age) - the shadow of death and torture hovers over the villa -
Chapter XXV
(Return to Cumae)

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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