A brief tour of Roman Britain as told by those lost to history.
| I am Clodion of Lyons; I am traveling on commission given to me by the historian and philosopher Orpheus of Lycia who at this very moment is compiling a history of the common man. He has sent me to Britannia to interview several of the personalities common to the region. He says this is important, not only because it is rumored that the Romans are withdrawing from the island in a few years hence, thus interrupting the contiguous flow of history, but also because nobody records the view point of the average man in the street. Orpheus feels that the common man has as much right to contribute to the historical record as anyone else, and that sentiment I leave to the viewpoint of history itself.
My first selection is Saul Amasa of Jerusalem, a merchant that dabbles in the slave trade. He is a tall man, long facial features his hair is thinning on the top and claims to have been trading on the island for years. I interview him as he is feeding six barbarians destine for the markets, all affixed to a cart pulled by oxen. I record his words verbatim;
"See? I feed them better than others would...Cost me a bundle. No, I feed them well because this might be the last meal that's worth anything. Since nobody is going to know what I say I will be honest. I hate myself for doing this, I was raised better than this, but the monies too good to quit. Every time I think I am getting out something happens. I invest in a caravan of rugs and silks from Persia, you know what happens? It gets robbed. I invest in a ship of oil and gold baubles from Constantinople destine for Naples, a storm sinks the ship. No matter what I do I end up degrading myself by peddling flesh here in this God forsaken land. I drink myself into a blackout almost nightly just so I can sleep. When I return home, I haven't been home in about seven years what I do have I blow on pretending I'm a big shot. Last time I went home I returned to the island almost broke...yet again. I lie to my mother and father over what I do. They have no idea I'm a slaver. God, I hope the next deal is a big one. The one that let's me out. This way I can go home and pass off all the lies as true that I made a killing in Chinese silk garments, Persian rugs, oils, and perfumes for the ladies in places like Rome and Naples. I don't even tell them I'm in this cesspool of an island. Truth is I hate myself for doing it but there's no other way out, it's all I got to fill my chest up. Maybe the next deal will get me over that hump and I can quit. All the money I have isn't worth the amount of hate I have for myself but you need money to live, right? Even in this shithole of an island."
My second person is a form Gladiator at Titus Flavius' of London's Arena. It's more or less, a day's travel outside of London itself and is a former roadside tourist trap. Titus Flavius is dead, and most refer to him as a crook, nary a kind word for him. I spoke with Germanicus Maximus, who besides being one of the few men to survive Titus's Circus Curio, once served as a Centurion of the Second Rank in the Twentieth Legion however they sold him to Saul Amasa as punishment for refusing a lawful order. His military record saved him from execution. I'm speaking to him at the style of his thatch cottage common to the area, he is there with his first wife, a former slave and has sheep. He recently bought the land he works. They have ten children and another on the way. These are his words;
"Titus Flavius was, is and will always be a sorry excuse of a human being, my wife bought me from him before that puke closed up shop...Knowing him he would've left me there to starve before freeing me just out of spite. Don't ask me where the old lady got the cash, the only thing going on at that time is she sold beats and we had a strong mule. My first slave woman had just given birth...For the record I freed her and she chose to leave. She came from the Black Sea area, but my second woman, we did marry, comes from north of Hadrian's Wall. And my name is Germanicus Maximus, everyone I ever met name Titus or Flavius was an asshole, and the last was a double asshole. Originally, I was the bastard son of a Roman Senator and a red-haired Marcomanni woman. I was raised and educated in the Port of Ostia, my Uncle Gnaeus saw to my formal schooling and my Roman name was Arius Rufus Antonine. I was gang pressed into service when I was about fourteen. I got my legion name because of my size and my mother's brother was a gladiator name Germanicus Oceanus, he died in the Coliseum. Big man, one of the biggest you ever met. My slave woman's name was Varvara Russ a Sarmatian, I bought her during a tour of Hebron. I just became a Centurion of the First Rank; the Legion was my home and well... I didn't see a reason to play the stupid social games that go on with married couples in the Legion. Well people were talking, my masculinity accused so I bought her. Kept her twelve years and she was the loudest foul mouth hoyden that ever bawled for beads and a downright nastier slut never walked the ground. The longer we were together the more obstinate she became. Then came my wife, Seonag Aberdeen I won her in a crumby game of dice in the Londinium bowery, and for a while I had two women. Varvara and she were at each other's throats for a while...Any way the Legions moved out to The Wall, I spent a year in Londinium before they placed me, and I have to say that was probably the happiest year of service. The bowery burned down a day before I shipped out and we didn't loose anything of worth. So, I had a bit of trouble at The Wall, got sold into slavery which almost trumps being beaten to death and Seonag bought me out from that double asshole Titus. She and Varvara kept together, and finally after fourteen years my Sarmatian gave birth about the same time Seonag did. Well, we had the farm going none of which I'd have if it wasn't for Seonag and I released Varvara. She left our son here, said it was for the best and hoped he wouldn't remember her, and I have to say she did if for him. I gave her her inheritance, a horse, a sword, and a mule with a goodly amount of supplies and a pouch of coin...She left for her home about ten years ago. Not a word. But Seonag did teach her to read and write Latin and whatever passes for language around here during their year in the bowery. Now I and my wife have four daughters and six sons not to mention sheep, goats and I'm buying oxen. Couldn't do any of that with out her...Truth is she's the brains of the outfit. Sometimes I think about selling it all and going to Ostia but I don't know anyone there anymore and the last I heard my only relative passed away sometime ago. I don't recommend being a Gladiator it taught me to be hateful toward people more than anything else and didn't do my personality any favors either...I tell you that's a sport for some really depraved animals, gladiatorial combat people who call that fun are savage bastards. Today I live here, I have a good life and the best thing is I never have to pick up a fucking sword."
Before he turned to take charge of a domestic situation involving an obstinate and hence highly spirited goat, he sent his wife for a care package. There is enough food in it that it lasted me two days and I had enough to share my breakfast with a wandering lunatic that was starving. However, I did take a few minutes before the necessities of rustic life required her attention. These are the words of Seonag Aberdeen Maximus.
"Germanicus Maximus sounds like Gary Mathews so we poke fun at him by mispronouncing his name. Yes, he did win me in a game of dice...My last name is Aberdeen because that's where I'm from, it's north of The Wall. I was a house made for a Charles Hawks and being a klutz, I was always dropping expensive tableware and owing him money. He charged me so much I worked for nothing and went further and further into debt. Well, he took me to downtown Londinium on business with some shady crooks and gave himself to drinking and gambling like he always did. Well, good for him, he lost everything to a group of Roman Centurions that included me. Well Gary won me and when Charles tried to run his lip and accuse him of cheating, he didn't back down from him or his crooked friends. Romans don't back away from anything by the way. What impressed me is Gary tried to buy me off him and Charles was so taken with the piss he refused the money tried to start a fight with Gary. The fight was broken up and the he tells me to get lost and go home. Well I can't really go back to Aberdeen in disgrace and at that point I knew Gary was my man. So, I kept him, what surprised me is how he handled Varvara. He only smacked her once from running her lip at him...Knocked her off her feet. I've seen women like her killed for far and I mean far less than what she did, she got just a cuff up side the head. It did teach her manners, she stopped running her lip after that.
The Bowery was a step up. We actually had meat to eat regularly and I learned why the Romans live so well. I had a steady supply of soap and wood, then coal in the winter. We missed out on the plague that went around almost. Varvara got the sniffles like a bad cold but the neighbors were dropping like flies because they drank away what they had instead of eating clean food and having a soapy bath once or twice a week. We actually had a Roman style bed there! It was the first bed Varvara ever slept in and she kept hiding food underneath it. When I talked to Gary over it, he made excuses saying it was because she didn't have enough to eat when she was smaller and it was because she was afraid. I had to learn to rotate the food stuffs so it wouldn't rot out and attract rats. You know I miss Varvara...When she got birth sick I wet nursed our oldest alongside mine. You know what else? Gary treats Robert, her son as well as ours even though he's home born, I think that's something. Most men aren't like that. I also think he had Charles killed...I know he couldn't have done it himself personally because he was with me but the magistrate either didn't believe me because I come from north of The Wall or he just wanted hush money from the Romans. Gary is a proud man that doesn't put up with much guff from people, don't give much guff to people either..."
These are the common men that inhabit the area south of Hadrian's Wall. After a year of traveling I returned to my master. However, I wintered in the Caucasus where I had the blessing to meet Varvara Russ. Orpheus of Lycia stated that I had collected so many fine examples he found it difficult not to include all of them. Her story did not make the final edit and I retained my notes and her words for my own use. Perhaps in the future I will publish them as an addendum to my master's codex. Until then, I thank you for reading these tales that have escaped the main stream of the Histories of Orpheus of Lycia.