Synopsis of the Story of Gracchus

a short explanation of a complicated, but fascinating, story
use the link on the chapter heading to go to the chapter
'The Story of Gracchus' is not about one individual called Gracchus, but is rather the story of the 'House of Gracchus' during a period starting towards the end of the reign of the Emperor Nero.
The story itself, however, does not begin with the House of Gracchus, but rather with events that befall a young teenage boy.
 Please note - the Story of Gracchus contains text and images featuring nudity, explicit sexuality and extreme violence.
Please do not view if you may be offended.

PREFACE - a brief survey of the culture, society and history of the Roman Empire at the period in which our story is set - with special emphasis on politics, economics, religion and sexual mores.

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CHAPTER I - 'Pirates' - Young Marcus is a Roman citizen, and is on his way from Athens to Rome, via Brundisium.
Marcus Gaius Aelius, we subsequently find out, is considered, particularly by his strict and ambitious father, to be a 'bad boy',
Although he is a Roman citizen (but not yet come of age'), he hangs around the gymnasion in Athens, showing off his youthful, lithe physique, and consorting with other 'street boys' - who are, by and large, Greek.
He is poor at his studies, and his Latin is spoken ungrammatically, and with a distinct Greek accent.
His father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius, who is a minor Roman official, is deeply concerned for his only son, and is relieved when he is recalled to Rome, as he believes that this can provide a new - and truly Roman - start for the wayward boy.
His relief is misplaced, however, as the ship on which they are sailing his attacked by Cilician pirates.
The ship is captured, and the boy's mother and father are killed, along with most of the crew.

CHAPTER II - 'Slavery' - Marcus and a slave troupe of dancing boys are taken to Crete, and from there to Brundisium (which was Marcus' original destination, on his way to Rome).
In Brundisium the pirates sell Marcus and the dancing boys to a high class Greek slave trader called Arion.
Arion spends much time questioning Marcus - trying to discover his 'true' identity, and eventually he makes a deal with a late night visitor - so that Markos (as Marcus is now called), will be quickly sold in a 'rigged' auction.
Marcus is subsequently put into an auction, and described as 'Markos' a Greek bilingual, attractive and educated slave-boy.
Many bids are made for him until one young man makes a phenomenally high bid (in gold), that no one else in the auction room can match.

CHAPTER III - 'In the Golden Villa' - Markos is then whisked away in a luxurious carriage, across country, to the exclusive sea-side resort of Baiae, on what is now called the Gulf of Naples, to a huge, magnificent villa.
There he is given a room, allowed to bathe, and has a silver slave-collar clamped round his neck to ensure that if he tries to escape - he will quickly be returned - to be punished.
He is then shown a graphic example of the kind of punishment that would await him if he tried to escape - a naked, crucified and impaled slave-boy being punished (and executed) for escaping fom the villa.
Later Markos eventually meets the owner of the villa, Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus.

CHAPTER IV - 'Meeting with Gracchus' - Gracchus is a childless, middle aged man, separated from his wife.
He is, however, fabulously wealthy, being reputed to be one of the richest men in the Empire.
Where his wealth comes from is not clear, although his freedmen are involved in numerous financial affairs, including the importation of fine art, building materials, wine and olive oil, food stuffs, and most importantly - slaves (Gracchus, being a Senator, is not permitted, by law, to be involved in any economic activity, and his Freedmen perform this function on his behalf.).
Markos (as he is now known) believes the loss of his family, and his subsequent his servitude to be a judgement by the Gods because he was a 'bad son', not respecting the traditional Roman ideals of his father, or caring about his education.
He therefore accepts his new situation.
On meeting his master (always referred to as Dominus - Latin for master or lord), Markos discovers that his servitude is to be far easier than he imagined.

CHAPTER V - 'All Work and No Play' - In the mornings he will be expected to assist a Greek slave-boy called Glykon.
Markos and Glykon become good friends initially, but subsequently the friendship sours, ending in a far reaching tragedy.
In the afternoons Gracchus expects Markos to take lessons in Greek and Latin with two tutors that he has bought specifically for the purpose, ('bought' because they are slaves - most teachers at this time were slaves).
Marcus is also expected to undertake physical training with a young centurion - Servius - that Gracchus has managed to second from the famous Thirteenth Legion, through the offices of one of his 'cliens', Tribune (and later Legatus) Marcellus.
All goes well for a while, and Markos, rather than living the unpleasant life of a slave, finds that he has a well appointed, beautifully decorated room, with fine furnishings, good food, bathing facilities, personal tutors, the attentions of Gracchus' own Greek doctor, and the use of a gymnasion and indoor pool - along with a 'coach'.
He is, in fact, far better off than many free plebeian boys of his age, and treated as well a many sons of wealthy patricians.
The only problem for Markos is that he never leaves the villa - and is not allowed to even use the extensive grounds and gardens, or the private beach - so he is not free.

CHAPTER VI - 'Love Finds Markos' - Markos also has one other advantage which is usual for a rich man's son, but not a slave.
Gracchus arranges, through his Chief Steward Terentius, (the freedman who originally bought Markos), for Markos to have a regular visitor to his room - a young Greek slave-boy called Cleon.
This boy is provided as a companion, but more importantly as a provider of sex for Markos.
In accordance with Roman custom, Cleon, being somewhat younger, is to be penetrated by Markos (but never the other way round).
This is a custom in wealthy Roman households, in order to ensure that young sons always take the dominant role, and do not indulge in masturbation, which is considered unmanly.
To begin with Markos and Cleon become firm friends, but before Markos can become emotionally and romantically attached to Cleon, another individual appears on the scene.

CHAPTER VII - 'The Sun and Freedom's Breath' - Servius, the young Centurion, who is responsible for Markos' physical training, obtains permission to take Markos to the private beach, belonging to the villa, for swimming lessons.
While on the beach, Servius finds what he believes to be a secluded area, and manages to sexually seduce Markos.
Servius, being much older than Markos, takes the dominant role, so for Markos it is a different experience to his sexual encounters with Cleon.
What they do not realise is that they are observed by Gracchus' guards, who regularly patrol the beach.

CHAPTER VIII - 'Ganymedes' Terentius (Gracchus' Senior Steward and Freedman) become concerned about Markos.
Not only is the boy unlike all the other slaves that he has come across, but he is also puzzled about Gracchus' strange treatment of the boy- and he voice his concerns to his master.
Gracchus can give no rational explanation - but realising that Terentius is also puzzled by the boy he decides to give Markos a further interview.
Gracchus compliments Markos on his studies, and his physical development, as a result of the work of Servius - and gives no hint of knowing about the sexual relationship existing between Markos and the young Centurion.
Gracchus then explains that he is a Philhellene - a lover of all things Greeks, making reference to the Emperor Tiberius, and justifies the fact that there are only slave-boys at the villa on this basis.
Gracchus then explains that there will be a party ('Convivium') at the villa, which will feature boys performing nude gymnastics and dancing and wrestling.
He suggests that Markos should be his 'cup-bearer' (special servant at the party), and compares this task to that of the mythical figure Ganymede, (boy lover of the Greek God Zeus [Jupiter]).
Markos considers that Gracchus is grooming him for a subsequent sexual encounter.
On his return to his room (cublicum), a very worried Markos is visited by young Cleon, and to calm his thoughts he indulges in a very vigorous and boisterous session of sex - followed by a lurid description by Cleon of gladiator fights at 'convivia' (parties) in the villa.

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

CHAPTER X - 'Munera for Augustus' - As the banquet comes to an end, the evening is concluded with a Munera which has been arranged by Gracchus' old friend, Novius, an expert in Etruscan religious rituals. The munera is the origin of the gladiatorial contests, and this munera is dedicated to Octavian Augustus (the first Roman Emperor as the day is his 'birth date'), and the three fights that take place are in effect 'human sacrifices' to the spirit of the dead emperor who was declared, on his death, to be a god. Markos later learned that the fights which comprised the munera had been 'fixed' on the orders of Gracchus - and this, it appeared, was not unusual for such contests.
However, one of the fighters, a boy called Atticus, had killed his opponent, Ferox.
Ferox should have won the fight, on Gracchus' instructions, and Atticus should have been emasculated and killed - and the result was that Gracchus was furious - and planned to take his revenge on Atticus during the next public Games (Ludi) in the 'Amphitheatro Gracchi' in Baiae.

CHAPTER XI - 'Rumours and Prophecy' - As a result of Markos' appearance at the 'convivium' a Gracchus' cupbearer, there were many rumours circulating among the slaves in the villa regarding Markos' relationship with the Dominus, Gracchus.
Gracchus himself, was increasingly worried himself about the future.
His marriage had been childless and he no longer lived with his wife, who was ensconced in Gracchus luxurious villa at Tibur, near Rome.
He was, therefore, concerned about the future of the 'House of Gracchus', particularly as the political situation in Rome was becoming increasingly unstable as the senate and the army concerned about the policies and behaviour of the incumbent Emperor, Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.
Gracchus, like most Romans - even those who were from the upper class and well educated was, by modern standard, very superstitious, and was not averse to using the services of astrologers and priests and Augurs, who would take the auspices - supernatural signs.
The Roman historian Livy stresses the importance of the augurs: "Who does not know that this city was founded only after taking the auspices, that everything in war and in peace, at home and abroad, was done only after taking the auspices?"
Gracchus decide to consult the Cumaean Sibyl - the most renowned oracle in Italy - taking Terentius and Markos with him.
Cumaean Sibyl was the oracle of the God Apollo, referred to in Virgil's 'Aeneid'.
Gracchus receives his oracle from the Sibyl, which consists of an outline of the political upheavals of the 'Year of the Four Emperors', along with a prophecy of the rise of Vespasian (who subsequently becomes the Emperor Titus Flāvius Caesar Vespasiānus Augustus - founding the Flavian Dynasty).
There is also a personal aspect to the oracle, where reference is made to a 'aurea puer ad mare' (golden boy from the sea), and a prophecy relating to Gracchus' death.
The 'golden boy from the sea' is later interpreted as a reference to Markos.
At this point in the story we first meet Novius - an old friend of Gracchus.
The two men share an interest in Roman and Etruscan Mythology and religion.
Novius is well versed in the skills of the Augurs, having been tutored by some of the last Etruscan priests, and is fluent in Oscan, the ancient language of many of the Italian tribes.
He is able to assist Gracchus in interpreting the scroll provided by the priests of Apollo, which contains the prophecies of the Sibyl.
It is at this point that Gracchus realises that Markos is to play a significant part in the development of the 'House of Gracchus', and that the boy needs to be prepared for his future role as the possible next Dominus.

CHAPTER XII - 'The Oracle' - At this point Gracchus reveals the true nature of the prophecy, and its implications to his senior Freedman and advisor, Terentius.
Terentius is not happy with the possible future position of Markos, and is unsettled by the prophecy of the possibility of civil war in the Empire.
Regardless, Terentius is dispatched to Brundisium to try to get some more information from Arion about Markos, and meanwhile Gracchus has a further interview with Markos in order to try and discover the true identity of the boy.


CHAPTER XIII - 'A New Dawn' - After receiving help from Novius in interpreting the prophecy of the Sibyl, Gracchus discusses the whole matter, and its implication, with Terentius.
Realizing that Markos may have an important part to play in the future of the House of Gracchus, Gnaeus arranges a further interview with his mysterious slave-boy.
Under Gracchus' intensive questioning Markos reveals that he is the son of Gaius Agrippa Aelius, and that he is a Roman citizen.
Gracchus, carefully leaves the matter there, and encourages Markos to work hard at his studies, and be patient - explaining that the Gods have revealed an important future for the boy.
Marcus is then dismissed.

Chapter XIV - 'The Amphitheatre' - Gracchus 'hobby' is running a small, but lavishly equipped amphitheatre in the town of Baiae.
His next step with Markos is to take the boy to the amphitheatre, as he has the vague intention of allowing the boy to assist the senior slave, Petronius' who runs the amphitheatre for Gracchus.
Gracchus now plays a little 'game', passing off Markos to the arena staff (who are completely separate from the villa staff), as his 'nephew'.
Petronius, who is undoubtedly a favourite of Gracchus, is let in on the ruse.
In this chapter we are given a considerable amount of detailed background information about the origins and development of the Roman Games (Ludi).

CHAPTER XV - 'A Day at the Games' - Gracchus takes Markos to the Editor's Box (later renamed the 'Pulvinar' when the amphitheater is renovated and enlarged).
From there he has the finest view of the events in the arena, and his first experience of the the Games.
While watching the Games, Markos sees a mythological re-enactment of the legend of Ganymede (to which Gracchus had referred to in Chapter VIII, prior to the Convivium).
During this balletic re-enactment, a young slave-boy, playing the part of Ganymede, is raped by a slightly older slave, playing the part of Zeus.
This is followed by Greek style, nude wrestling, and some gladiator fights.
The climax of the Games, however, is undoubtedly the 'fight' between Atticus and Petronius, which is, in reality, the execution of Atticus.
Atticus was able to kill Ferox by ensuring that he had a blunted gladius, and Petronius (with Gracchus permission) plays the same trick on Atticus.
Atticus quickly admits defeat, realising that his weapon is useless.
Petronius offers Atticus a quick 'clean' death if he agrees to humiliate himself in front of the crowd by publicly masturbating to orgasm.
Atticus who is infamous at the Ludus for sexually abusing the younger fighters and slaves, and is pathologically 'over-sexed' agrees - as Petronius though he would.
After amusing the audience with a lurid display of self-stimulation, arena slaves grab Atticus and fold him over, and Petronius inserts a spear into the helpless boy's anus.
The speaker is forced through Atticus' Body, and embedded into the floor of the arena.
Atticus is then left to squirm and scream for the remainder of the Games, while other fights take place.
Finally Petronius completely emasculates the impaled boy, and then cuts his throat, and Atticus slowly drowns in his own blood.
With the death of Atticus, the Games ended, and Petronius went to speak to Gracchus,
Gracchus congratulated Petronius on a well run Games, and both he and Petronius were suprised when Markos expressed his complete approval at the manner of Atticus death.
This fact made Gracchus believe that one day Markos could perhaps be entrusted with more that just the running of the amphitheater.
The day after the Games - in order to furher Markos understanding of the running of the amphitheater, Petronius took Markos to view the body of Atticus, which was still in the 'Spoliarium', awaiting disposal.

CHAPTER XVI - 'Marcus and the Gladiators' - There then follows a detailed and lavishly illustrated aside to the action of the story, in order to give a full and accurate account of the nature and origins of the Roman Games - as these Games will form an important aspect of much of the continuing story.


CHAPTER XVII - 'The Year of the Four Emperors - Part I' - The plot resumes in this chapter, which opens as the first part of the 'Year of the Four Emperors' - a year of civil war and political instability.
We see, in the opening action of this chapter, the first signs of Glykon's disenchantment with his young friend, Markos, which will prove to have extremely serious consequences in the future.
Markos is called to yet another interview with Gracchus, and he notices that Gracchus has started to take warmer and more avuncular tone with him.
As a result of this interview, Markos is taken off door duty, and is put into the care of Petronius, to assist him in preparing programs for the Games to be held in the arena.
Markos' academic studies are to continue, but Servius has been instructed to include weapons training in Markos schedule, (leaving less time for Servius to misbehave on the beach - of which Gracchus is fully, and disapprovingly aware).
The day after the interview Markos receives a package from Gracchus containing new clothing suited to his new position in the amphitheater.
This early morning consignment is followed by Petronius arriving to take Markos to the amphitheater.
Glykon, of course, noticed Markos absence as doorkeeper and, as Markos left the villa, also his fine set of new, and very expensive clothes.
For this first morning Petronius and Markos rode to the amphitheater (which was in the centre of the town of Baiae) by carriage, but they first stopped off at a 'thermopolium', (a kind of Roman cafe), for a morning meal, and a talk.
It was there that Markos first came up with the idea of mounting a mythological tableaux in the arena, depicting scenes about Patroclus and Achilles from Homer's 'Iliad'.
This was an excellent idea that, for numerous unforeseen reasons, took a very long time to come to fruition, much to Markos' annoyance.
Markos and Petronius then left the 'thermopolium' and continued in their carriage to the amphitheatre.
Petronius then sent for some boys who could possibly play parts in the tableaux that Markos had suggested.
This was the first occasion that Markos was addressed as 'Iuvenes Dominum' (Young Master), despite the fact that he was still, technically, a slave.
As the days passed, Markos continued to work hard at his studies with his tutors, and his physical training with Servius - although his relationship with Servius had 'cooled' considerably - and each morning Markos slowly learned all the intricacies of running an amphitheatre under the skilled guidance of Petronius.
In his brief moments of 'private time', in the evenings, Markos was still regularly visited by young Cleon, and so Markos was able to maintain what Gracchus considered to be a legitimate outlet for Markos' sexual needs.
At this point in the story, the outside world breaks in, as Gracchus starts receiving visits from Senators and Legati (Generals), as the crisis in Rome comes to a head.

CHAPTER XVIII - 'The Year of the Four Emperors - Part II - The Death of Nero' - the next chapter opens with the death (probably suicide) of the Emperor Nero.
To set the scene there is a review of the rise of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, originating with Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus, and ending with Nero.
As the crisis developed, Gracchus, through his complex business and financial interests, has a huge web of 'clientes' (who can act as 'informers') and the villa becomes the hub of much intrigue in the following months.
It was at this point that much of the prophecy received from the Cumean Sibyl started to make sense.
Gracchus, therefore decided to speak directly to Markos, regarding the nature of the prophecy, received from the God Apollo, through the Sibyl.
Gracchus gives Markos the scroll, prepared by the priests of Apollo at Cumae, to read.
Markos can make little sense of it, as it is written in a curious mixture of Latin and Oscan, but Gracchus gives Markos Novius' interpretation of the scroll.
This interpretation identifies Markos as the 'aurea puer ad mare' - (golden boy from the sea), and singles him out as Gracchus' heir, (and by definition his adopted son), on Gracchus' death, which is also prophesied to be not far distant.
Markos is horrified by both prophecies - feeling totally inadequate to take Gracchus' position as Dominus, and appalled at the prospect of losing his guide and protector - and a person for whom he only now realises that he has the greatest affection.
Marcus refuses to believe what he is being told - questioning why he should be 'chosen', but Gracchus makes it clear that what will happen is the will of the God (Apollo), and must be accepted.
There is then a proposed visit by a very dangerous individual, Nymphidius, who is the Praetorian Prefect (head of the Roman Emperor's personal bodyguard).
Concerned by this visit, Gracchus instructs Terentius to draft a will, formally adopting Markos as his son - thereafter to be known as Marcus (Latin spelling) Octavianus Gracchus.
As Gracchus' wife is dead, and he has no children or other surviving relatives, with the exception of a few personal bequests, all of Gracchus financial assets, including all his properties and business in all parts of the Empire are to be inherited by Marcus as Dominus (Lord) of the House of Gracchus, making Marcus Octavianus Gracchus one of the richest men in the Empire.
Then, before any further disruptive political developments can take place, Terentius was sent to Rome, with an escort of villa guards, to deposit Gracchus' Will in the College of the Vestals in Rome.
Later, Gracchus spoke to Lucius and Aristarchos (Marcus' tutors), and Servius and Petronius.
These individuals were informed of Gracchus' decision regarding the adoption and inheritance of Marcus, and were told that from then on Marcus would be referred to as 'Iuvenes Dominum' (Young Master).
Gracchus had a separate interview with Servius - who had previously been a Centurion on the Legio XIII (Thirteenth Legion).
Gracchus criticized Servius for his previous sexual encounters with Markos, informing him that such behaviour was no longer permissible.
In the circumstances of political and civil unrest, however, Gracchus required a Tribune (commanding officer), with some military experience, and therefore, and somewhat against his better judgement, he appointed Servius as Tribune.
Gracchus also had a separate interview with Petronius, during which he made clear his understanding of Marcus feelings towards Petronius, and warned Petronius not to do anything to upset or disappoint the boy.
Having spoken to all the senior staff who were involved, gracchus then publicly announced that Marcus had been given his freedom and full Roman citizenship, and was officially Gracchus' heir and adopted son.

CHAPTER XIX - 'The Year of the Four Emperors - Part III - The Crisis Deepens' - Gracchus then gives Marcus a lavish suite of newly decorated and furnished private rooms in the villa, in keeping with his new position as 'Iuvenes Dominum', and some slave-boys - Adonios, and Cleon.
Marcus now began to join Gracchus at his numerous meetings with officials from Rome, where he was always introduced as Gracchus' nephew and heir.
The situation in Rome was very fluid, but eventually Galba was declared Emperor.
Meanwhile, for Marcus life had changed considerably.
He still had lessons from his tutors, and session of physical training with Servius, but most of his time was spent with Petronius at the amphitheater - and when he went to the amphitheatre he usually travelled in his own carriage, with Adonios, Cleon and two grooms as outriders - (Petronius was also teaching Marcus how to ride a horse).
In the evenings Marcus almost always dined with Gracchus, in Gracchus' opulent, private triclinium (dining room).
Eventually the Praetorian Prefect, Nymphidius, arrived.
It was his intention to usurp Galba, and take the Imperium for himself.
In order to do this, however, Nymphidius need vast quantities of money - to bribe the Praetorian Guards - and the only person that he knew who had that sort of money was Gracchus.
Gracchus - with Marcus in attendance- and Nymphidius met to agree a sum that would be agreeable to both men as the basis of a loan.
As there were no banks, or money transfers as such at the time of this story, the loan had to be made in gold ingots, which Nymphidius would take, in a cart drawn by oxen, back to Rome.
The gold that was required was hidden away in a secret vault in the countryside, near Neapolis, and Terentius would organise the transfer of the gold to the transport provided by Nymphidius.
This would take some time, and while Nymphidius was waiting, he would be entertained by a private series of gladiatorial fights in Gracchus' arena in Baiae.
Nymphidius was an inveterate lover of boys, (he had already 'married' the late Nero's young, castrated slave-boy, Sporus), and so Petronius, having been forewarned, arranged fights between young and very attractive boys, to distract Nymphidius at the amphitheater. 
Without Nymphidius' knowledge, Gracchus had made an agreement with the Praetorian Tribunes, who accompanied him that, if they agreed to accept a reduced 'dōnātiō' (payment or bribe - reduced from the initial demand that Nymphidius had made), they could keep the gold for themselves, as long as they ensured that Galba remained Emperor, even if that meant killing Nymphidius.
Of course, for Gracchus, the gold was next to nothing, but for Nymphidius and the Praetorians it was an immense sum, and even Marcus was worried about Gracchus giving away so much of his (Marcus') inheritance, until Terentius explained to him that, compared to Gracchus total wealth, the wagon of gold was not worth worrying about.
So, with full boxes of gold stacked on empty boxes, the wagon was prepared, in the hope that Nymphidius would be too full of food and wine, and too taken with the naked boys in the arena, that he would not bother to check the wagon.
It was, of course, important that the Praetorian Tribunes could, on reaching Rome, acuse Nymphidius of not paying the guard enough gold, and then have an excuse for executing him, and getting the guard to support Galba.
The Fights in the arena were suitably bloody and explicit, with some of the boys only wearing what could be best described as the Roman equivalent of 'cock-cages'.
Young gladiators were decapitated, emasculated and raped for the amusement of Nymphidius.
One of the young gladiators particularly caught Nymphidius' attention.
This boy was Petram, who emasculated and killed Virga.
Nymphidius was more than pleased with what he had seen, and then surprised Gracchus by asking if he could 'borrow' Petram, and take him back to Rome for a while.
Gracchus had no option but to give his permission - and act that had the most profound and fateful repercussions for both Gracchus, Marcus, and a number of other players in this drama.
Fortunately, however, Nymphidius was so taken with his 'new' boy Petram, that when he returned to the villa he left for Rome without making any check of the contents of the wagon bearing the gold, much to the relief of Gracchus, Marcus, Terentius and Petronius.

CHAPTER XX - The Year of the Four Emperors - Part IV - A New Emperor' - After the return of Nymphidius to Rome, Gracchus makes arrangements for Terentius, on his next visit to the capital to rescue Petram - but the boy is not rescued quickly enough, as it turns out.
News from Rome, however, soon arrives that Nymphidius has been murdered by his Tribunes (as Gracchus wanted), and Galba has been officially declared Emperor, which appeared to put an end to the possibility of a civil war.
Gracchus therefore decided to have a Celebratory Ludi (Games), to mark the accession of the new Emperor, and the establishment of peace.
Meanwhile, Terentius had arrived in Rome, and through his many contacts (Gracchus' 'cliens'), had managed to locate Petram at the Castra Praetoria, where his was being 'looked after' by the Praetorian Tribunes.
Back at the villa, Marcus was getting used to his position as 'Iuvenes Dominum', and his first real task was to prepare the 'Ludis Pro Galba' (Games for Galba).
With Petronius' expert assistance Marcus was able to present and excellent Ludis, and Gracchus was very pleased with the result.
The Games began with some Tableaux - 'the Rape of Germania' - supposedly representing Galba's military prowess.
This was followed by a number of Hellenistic style contests - which were very much favoured by Gracchus - in the form of a series of Pancratium Wrestling bouts - all ending with the rape and killing of the defeated wrestler.
As with all Pancratium wrestling, the contestants fought completely naked.
There then followed a section of the Ludi entitled - 'Suppliciis' - (Punishments), where condemned criminals were tortured and executed - a section that was always very popular with the audience.
In this section a number of slaves were impaled, hung and crucified.
Usually the torture and execution was preceded by rape, when the unfortunate victim was sexually assaulted by a number of arena slaves, and all criminals condemned to the arena appeared on the sand completely naked.
The period of executions and torture was then followed by a further tableaux.
It was a common practice in higher class amphitheatres for combats and execution to be presented in the form of scenes from history, mythology or legend.
The most spectacular of these tableaux was a recreation of a mythological scene which had been devised by Marcus - which featured two of Gracchus' pet eagles, and an unfortunate slave playing the part of 'Prometheus' (see above).
The Games then ended with a series of gladiatorial contests, some of which, on this occasion, Petronius had arranged to be fought by naked fighters - in the style of Greek sculpture and vase paintings.
The date was now what we would call January 69 AD - (the Romans had a very different and cumbersome way of dating), and some Praetorian Tribunes arrived at the villa, demanding to see Gracchus.
The Praetorians represented Marcus Salvius Otho - an aristocratic patrician, who had been close to Nero.
Galba had proved to be very unpopular, and Otho thought that he could oust the somewhat old and decrepit ruler, and become Emperor himself.
All he needed in order to do this was money - and lots of it - as he was completely broke.
Gracchus, through his informers in Rome and elsewhere, knew this.
Gracchus, however, was called away as the deal was finalised, and gave his seal ring to Marcus.
Marcus then sealed the document that Terentius presented to him, authorising the loan to the Praetorians - and so, effectively, Marcus, by impressing the seal of the 'House of Gracchus' on document was responsible, eventually, for creating a Roman Emperor.

CHAPTER XXI - 'The Year of the Four Emperors - Part V - Two for the Price of One' - After the Praetorian left for Rome, Gracchus decided to explain to Marcus the complexities of high Roman politics from the time of Nero.
Much of the conversation centred on Sporus, the castrated slave-boy (eunuch) whom Nero had 'married', to be followed by Nymphidius.
Now it seemed that Otho was 'after' Sporus, and Gracchus suggested that, in some way, although the boy was technically a slave- he possibly had some 'blood-link ' with the Julio-Claudian' dynasty.
During the conversation Gracchus gave Marcus a fabulously expensive and beautiful 'pugio' (dagger) - a he felt that Marcus might be in some sort of danger as the political situation seemed to be deteriorating.
In addition, Servius had been instructed to train Marcus in the use of the dagger.
This dagger, however, subsequently proved to be 'ill-fated' - and apparently offered Marcus no protection.
On January 15th.(by our dating) Otho went with Galba to sacrifice at the Augustan Temple of Apollo in Rome.
Twenty-three Praetorians, paid by Gracchus, under the seal that Marcus had given, killed Glaba in the Forum, and Otho was immediately declared Emperor by the remainder of the Praetorian Guards.
That news quickly came to the villa.
Initially Gracchus had decided, after receiving the oracle, not to become involved in the political maneuvering which would inevitably be involved in the process of four individuals attempting to gain the Imperium.
Despite his best intentions, however, that is precisely what had happened.
Fearing civil unrest, Gracchus (somewhat against his better judgement) then confirmed Servius as Tribune to the House of Gracchus.
At the same time, Gracchus transferred the ownership of Petronius to Marcus, so that Marcus could have Petronius as his constant bodyguard.
At the same time, Gracchus allocated a new set of rooms, next to Marcus' private apartments, so that Petronius would always be 'on hand' for Marcus.
Gracchus also informed Marcus and Petronius that there would be no celebratory Games for the accession of Otho, as Gracchus was convinced that the reign of this new emperor would probably be even shorter than that of Galba.
At this point a new character emerges onto the scene - number three in the list of patricians aspiring to the imperium, as the oracle foretold.
This was Vitellius, who with his legions, opposed Otho.
The civil war - as it now really was - came very close to Baiae, involving the city of Capua, who sided with Vitellius.
Otho killed himself - following the example of Nero, - and the Senate in Rome proclaimed Vitellius as Emperor, (Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Augustus), however, even as that was happening the fourth and final claimant to the imperium emerged from the East, just as the oracle had predicted - and that claimant was Titus Flavius Vespasianus - 'Vespasian'.
Vitellius was yet another ambitious individual who 'took up' with young Sporus (see above).
Vitellius planned for Sporus to play the title role in a tableaux depicting the Rape of Persephone (the same theme of the finger-ring Sporus gave to Nero at the Calendas), for the viewing enjoyment of the crowds during one of the Ludi he was planning to stage in Rome.
Not surprisingly, young Sporus, in order to avoid being stripped naked and raped in public, committed suicide before the performance.
When Vespasian's troops entered Rome they found Vitellius and killed him, along with his brother and son, and Vitellius' head was paraded round the streets of Rome.

CHAPTER XXII - 'The Year of the Four Emperors - Part VI - Another Emperor' - So now there was yet another Emperor, but when Gracchus received the news at the villa he was not perturbed, as he knew Vespasian, (slightly) and believed him to be a 'safe pair of hands' for the Empire and, if the oracle was to be believed, Vespasian would survive for some considerable time as Emperor, giving the Empire a period of peace and stability.
Gracchus was keen, at this point, to travel to Rome and greet the new emperor, and take the opportunity to introduce his adopted 'son', Marcus to the Emperor.
Preparations were made at the palatial 'Domus Gracchi' (House of Gracchus) in Rome, and also at Gracchus' huge villa in Tibur.
This, however, was not to be, as Vespasian, unaccountably, lingered in Alexandria (in Egypt), like an ageing Mark Anthony (without a Cleopatra), or Alexander (without his Hephaestion).
In the interim, Gracchus spent much more time talking to Marcus, and giving him 'fatherly' advice.
One person, who was mentioned in these discussions was Titus (Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus) the eldest son of Vespasian.
Vespasian did have a younger son, Titus Flavius Domitianus, who had been very much sidelined, and was, not surprisingly, resentful, and possibly sufficiently resentful to murder his elder brother Titus, when Titus became Emperor after their father's death.
Titus is important as he appears later in this story.
While he was in Egypt, Vespasian claimed to have a number of supernatural, mystical experiences - and these experience subsequently led him, later in this story to favour Marcus.



CHAPTER XXIII - 'Games in Honour of the Accession of Vespasian' - So now that the threat of civil and social unrest seemed to have passed, Gracchus gave permission for a Ludi to be organised to celebrate the accession of Vespasian.
As the 'young master', and with the full authority of Gracchus, Marcus undertakes a renovation of the Amphitheater at Baiae.
The arena is not particularly large (smaller than the very old arena at Pompeii), but Marcus wants to make in the most magnificent amphitheater in Italy with regard to its design and decoration (remember, the 'Amphitheatrum Flavium' [Colosseum] has not been built yet - that's a job for Vespasian and Titus).
Marcus began by replacing the grey stone panels on the inside wall of the arena with slabs of 'imperial porphyry', and also setting up a row of porphyry obelisks on white Parian marble bases round the circumference of the arena.
These features were imported from Rome with the help of a client that Terentius knew in the capital.
In addition the facing of the lower balcony was replaced with grey marble, and gilded bronze decorative features, including a large gilded bronze Imperial Eagle in the centre of the balcony of the Editor's Box - designed and made in Neapolis, were added.
When Gracchus inspects the work, he is more than pleased, and proposed a pair of porphyry and gilded bronze perfume burners for the Editors' Box.
Just before the Ludi was to take place, Gracchus then decided to replace the wooden doors, giving entrance and exit to the arena, with sculpted, gilded bronze doors, and these produced in Neapolis, and fitted - only just in time. Marcus then had a bust made in Neapolis of of the new Emperor Vespasian - which would be mounted on a palanquin, to be carried into the arena during the pompa.
The bust would later be positioned in a place of honour in the Arena, below the Editor's box.
Petronius rehearsed those who were to take part in the grand 'Pompa' relentlessly, and when the day of the Ludi arrived all went well.
Before the Luudi itself there was one unpropitious event when one of the participants, (somewhat like Sporus), who was cast as the Minotaur in a tableaux, killed himself just before the Ludi, rather than allowing himself to be decapitated in the arena.
For the Games Petronius had been promoted by Marcus to 'de harena, Dominus' (Master of the Arena).
The Games were the first occasion when Marcus wore the armour of a Legatus, (at Gracchus insistence), and was accompanied by his slave-boys Adonios and Cleon, and Tribune Servius.
The Ludi were particularly memorable for the fine exhibition of Greek style Pancratium Nude Wrestling - which included boy-fights.
The 'Suppliciis' - (Punishments), were particularly interesting, as Petronius had devised a new system of using elegant iron frames (with decorative finials made in Neapolis), which were designed to make the victims struggles clearly visible to the audience.
Most of those who were executed were raped and then dispatched, stark naked, with a combination of crucifixion, impaling, emasculation and disembowelling.
There followed a number of Tableaux depicting Vespasian's victory over the Jews, with naked circumcised captives displayed, prior to emasculation, for the amusement of the Audience.

CHAPTER XXIV - 'The Shadow of Death in the Villa' - Gracchus was more than pleased with the 'Ludi Honorem in Vespasiani', and the whole town of Baiae was en fête for the Ludi, and the establishment of peace that had come with the accession of Vespasian.
As everything seemed to have settled down, after a year of crisis, Gracchus considered it time to have a public celebration of Marcus' 'coming of age' - a Roman custom when patrician boys in their late teens stopped wearing the 'bulla', donned the toga, and took on the responsibilities of manhood.
Gracchus had decided that the ceremony, and the attendant 'convivium' would be a surprise and so, when Gracchus and Marcus left the Amphitheatre to a triumphant fanfare, and arrived back at the villa, after the Ludi, they found the guests waiting to welcome them.
Marcus is invested with his toga and congratulated by the many guests on his coming of age.
On the conclusion of the celebration Gnaeus and Marcus accompany their guests to the main entrance hall of the villa, where Marcus id stabbed by the slave-boy Glykon.
Marcus survives, but appears to have fallen into a deep coma.
Glykon is immediately imprisoned and tortured in the Ludus, while Cleon, who has run away, is hunted down and found in the woods near Meapolis, where he is torture, mutilated and killed by Terentius and the villa-guards.

CHAPTER XXV - 'Return to Cumae' - This chapter marks the appearance of Aurarius - and important character in the story.
Terentius unfortunately need to travel to Brundisium on business, and meanwhile Servius - who has been acting as Gnaeus' Tribune, offers his resignation for the breach in security, which Gnaeus unwisely refuses.
Petram - a teenage gladiator who was associated with Nymphidius is also imprisoned and tortured in the Ludus as he is suspected of being involved in the plot against Marcus.
Marcus shows no sign of regaining conciousness, and Agathon, Gnaeus physician is at a loss as to what to do.
Novius and Gnaeus therefore decide to go once again to Cumae in order to ask the advice of the Sibyl.
The Sibyl provides a second oracle which suggests that the plot against Marcus was hatched in Rome, possibly by supporters of Nymphidius, and that the coma is the result of a form of enchantment related to the pugio (dagger) that was used in the attempt on the life of Marcus.
The oracle also mentions another 'golden boy' and 'brothers' - and a reminder that for Gnaeus time is running out.
Meanwhile, in Brundisium, Terentius has acquired a new slave-boy (called 'Boy') for Gnaeus.

CHAPTER XXVI - 'Many Meetings' - This is where things get complicated - Aurarius (known only as 'Boy' at this point) meets Gracchus.
During the initial conversation Novius joins Gracchus, and it is decided that 'Boy' shall be called Aurarius - in accordance with the oracle. Gracchus then assigned Aurarius to work under the authority of Adonios, assisting in caring for Marcus.
Novius then waited in one of the atria (with a lavish meal), while Gracchus had meeting with Servius and Petronius.
Servius reported little or no progress with the suspects involved in the attempt on Marcus' life, and Gracchus, for his part , informed Servius of the acquisition of Aurarius, and warned Servius severely not to make any advances towards the boy.
Gracchus then interviewed Petronius - and explains the situation regarding Aurarius to his ex-slave (Petronius now belonged to Marcus).
Gracchus then continued his discussions with Novius. On hearing that no progress has been made with Glykon and Petram, Novius, who is skilled the Etruscan ritual and magic, offers to use a 'secret way' in order to discover the truth about the plot against Marcus - and so it is arranged to use the method on the two boys the following evening. Petram is questioned first, followed by Glykon.
From the questioning it emerged that some in Rome wanted revenge for the death of Nymphidius, (a death blamed on the payment to the Praetorians sanctioned - in the absence of Gracchus - by Marcus) - and the leader of this group against the house of Gracchus was a senator called Marcus Sabinus - and it was the jealousy of particularly Glykon that had enabled this conspiracy.
It also emerged that there was a lead curse tablet hidden in the villa that was contributing to Marcus' coma - and that the curse tablet needed to be destroyed and sacrifices made, and  Marcus' pugio also needed to be destroyed (difficult).
On destroying the curse tablet, and making the sacrifices Marcus began to recover - but more needed to be done.

CHAPTER XXVII - 'Rome and Vesuvius' - Pleased with Marcus' rapid recovery, Gracchus sends Petronius on a mission to hopefully bring to an end the conspiracy against the House of Gracchus.
The plan was to go first the Pompeii - on the way to Rome - and dispose of Marcus' 'cursed' pugio (dagger) down one of the vents in the nearby volcano - Vesuvius.
On arriving in Rome, Petronius and Servius were then to make arrangements with Gracchus clients to have Sabinus quietly and discreetly murdered - and also pick up, and pay for a new pugio for Marcus, which had been previously ordered.
When they arrived at Pompeii, Servius went off the find a likely lad at the local baths to have sex with, while Petronius was left with the task of disposing of Marcus' pugio after a long climb up the slopes of Vesuvius.
The following day they arrive in Rome - blending in as ordinary tourists by spending the afternoon in a high class brothel with four boy prostitutes, cavorting in the pool attached to the brothel.
They then make their way to the Domus Gracchii, where they meet the steward - a freedman called Menelaus who, surprisingly, arranges the murder of Sabinus for them.
The following day Demetrios, a domus slave, guides them round Rome, where they collect the new pugio for Marcus.
That evening they dine with Menelaus who informs them that Sabinus has been murdered, and gives Servius Sabinus' ring as evidence.
On retiring, Servius takes Demetrios to his suite and has sex with the boy.
The next morning they leave the Domus and Rome, but on their way they meet Demitrios who then rides with Servius back to Baiae, against Petronius' wishes.

CHAPTER XXVIII - The next morning Servius and Petronius leave the Domus and Rome, but on their way they meet Demitrios who then rides with Servius back to Baiae, against Petronius' wishes.
On arriving at the Villa at Baiae they meet Terentius who is infuriated at the arrival of Demetrios.
Servius is then forbidden to see Demetrios until matters have been dealt with by Gracchus.
Petronius then goes to see Marcus, who is at the amphitheatre supervising the refurbishment.
Later, Petronius and Terentius have a long talk, during which Terentius reveals much about the history of the House of Gracchus, and the relationship between Gracchus and Demetrios.
Later Marcus and Petronius share a bath, and discuss recent events.
That evening Marcus and Gracchus dine together - and they also discuss recent events.
The following morning Terentius finally summons up the courage to tell Gracchus that Servius has brought Demetrios to the villa.
Gracchus, infuriated, decides to dismiss Servius as Tribune, while Servius, forbidden to see Demetrios,  sulks in his small villa in Baiae - while Demetrios is locked away in a room in the Villa Auream.
That night work stops on the refurbishment of the amphitheatre as a storm hits the gulf.
During the storm Marcus sees a mysterious figure in the peristyle garden, whom he takes to be Petroniu,s but then realizes that it is some kind of 'vision', and instantly fears that something terrible has happened.
Meanwhile Servius has quarrelled with Gracchus over the ownership of the slave Demetrios.


CHAPTER  XXIX - Almost immediately the murder is discovered as Marcus and Petronius go Gracchus' study.
Servius had rode off, taking Demetrios with him, to his small villa in Baia.
Immediately Terentius, who is already in Gracchus' study, invests Marcus with the seal ring of the House of Gracchus, making him the new Dominus.
Novius is sent for, and  villa-guards ride out to capture Servius and the boy Demetrios.
Novius then arrives and Marcus makes him Consiliarius.
At this point Glaux - and apparently stray owl - enters the story.
A conference is then held, when Marcus is informed of the true significance of Demetrios.
It is also revealed that Sabinus may not have been killed, and that Menelaus is at the centre of a further conspiracy against the House of Gracchus.
It is then decided to bring Menelaus to the Villa Auream to be questioned, while Nicander is to be appointed as Steward of the Domus Gracchii and the Villa at Tibur.
Novius then suggests that further questioning of the suspects should be undertaken using his 'Etruscan method' which had been used with Petram and Glykon, and Marcus agrees.
Marcus finally orders preparation to be made for the funeral of Gracchus.
The next morning Marcus supervise d preparation for Gracchus' funeral in the amphitheatre, while Petronius questioned Demetrios, who was being held in the villa.
On this morning Marcus grants Petronius his freedom, and appoints him Tribune.
That evening Novius uses his Etruscan 'magic' to question Servius, Demetrios and Menelaus (who had just arrived from Rome).
It was finally agreed by Marcus that all four conspirators - Servius, Menelaus, Glykon and Petram  should be killed - with only Demetrios surviving.

CHAPTER XXX - the night of Gracchus murder Marcus met with Novius to discuss the matter of Demetrios.
It is then that Marcus first suggests that Demetrios might become his heir.
The following morning preparations are made for the funeral of Gracchus.
On the same morning Novius works his Etruscan 'magic' in order to learn more about Demetrios.
Later Novius takes Demetrios to Baiae in order to get to know him better and to order suitable clothes for the boy to wear at the funeral.
On their return Demetrios meets Marcus for the first time.
Marcus has the boy's slave-collar removed, and gives Demetrios his own bulla
.Demetrios - from then on to be called Demetrius - is given into the care of Petronius.
On the morning of the funeral tragedy strikes as Gracchus favourite slave Ariston commits suicide.
At the funeral Marcus meets Titus (eldest son of the Emperor Vespasian), who has been invited in error by Quintus.
Also at the funeral Marcus meets Nicander, the new senior freedman at the Domus Gracchii in Rome.
Gracchus funeral then takes place, with Marcus giving a sensational funeral oration, and then Marcus and Demetrios together lighting the funeral pyre.
Finally marcus has a long interview with Nicander, while Titus picks Petronius brains with regard to Amphitheatre design, as Titus and his father are planning to build a huge amphitheatre in Rome - later known as the 'Colosseum'.

CHAPTER XXXI - On the night of the funeral of Gracchus a formal dinner party is held, during which Titus offers the possibility of a place in the Roman Senate for Marcus.
The following morning Marcus announces that he will soon have to travel to Rome to meet with The Emperor Vespasian - and so Nicander is ordered to make preparation at the Domus Gracchii in Rome.
During the morning the remains of the funeral pyre were removed from the amphitheatre in Baiae, and preparations were made for the Munera fro Gracchus to be held in the afternoon.
A lunch time Petronius takes Marcus to the thermopolium where they ate in the past when they were both slaves - bringing back old memories of happier days.
There they discuss how to deal with Demetrius - who seems very withdrawn.
On returning, Marcus warns Adonios about getting too friendly with Titus.
All the guests to the funeral then travel to the Amphitheatre in Baiae and attend to Funeral Games (Munera) for Gracchus.
There are only four fights between specially selected gladiators - an all the very violent fights are fought 'to the death'.
At the end of the day there is an Epulum - a special religious feast - at the villa, after which the gladiators killed in the Munera are cremated in the grounds of the villa.
The following morning Titus left for Rome, promising to return for the next Ludi.
The following day a funeral was held for Ariston, Gracchus' favourite slave, in the Amphitheatre in Baiae.

CHAPTER XXXI - After the funeral and the Munera for Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus, Marcus' next task was to prepare the next Ludi (Games).
Marcus and Petronius, with Demetrius, review the gladiators and wrestlers who are to appear in the Ludi.
Later they are told of the suicide of the slave who is to play the part of the Minotaur in a Tableaux representing the story of  'Theseus and the Minotaur'.
Presumably the slave had realised that he was to be decapitated in the arena. and preferred to die by his own hand. so that tableaux was scrapped'
Later the three go to the old Thermopolium which Marcus and Petronius used when they were both slaves.
There they plan the new Ludi (Ludi ad Auspicari Novam Aetatem) with two main highlights - the execution of the 'conspirators', and the long planned tablaux of 'Achilles and Patroclus'.
Later Marcus, Petronius, Demetrius, Adonios and Aurarius  all go to Neapolis to order and purchase various items for the Ludi.
At the same time the official period of mourning for the 'late Dominus' ends with the 'Cēna Novendiālis' (Feast of the Nine Days) - which was attended by Titus Vespasianus (eldest son of the new Emperor, Vespasian).
After the feast, final preparations were made for the Ludi, when Marcus chose the young condemned criminal (Varus) to play the part of Patroclus.

to be continued ......................... 
this page is under construction........


  1. I have designed and made a prototype of a slave collar very similar to the ones featured in the story. Is there some way to send a picture of this collar to the author or illustrator of the story?

    1. Thank you for contacting me.
      Sending an image is easy,.
      Just make a good photo - in JPG or PNG format, and attach to an email at this address -
      The slave collar used n the 'Story of Gracchus' is, in fact, real, and not digital, but I would be very interested to see your design.
      Most Roman slave collars that have survived were rather roughly made of iron or bronze - with an inscribed metal plate - usually requiring the return of the slave, and sometimes an offer of a reward.
      The slave collars used by Gracchus (because he was so wealthy and well known) were made of silver (Marcus later had gold slave collars made for his favourites),
      and bore a talisman of an eagle - as no identification was needed.

      Looking forward to seeing your design.
      Best wished....