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Lucius Laurentius:Bishop of Rome
Lucius Laurentius: The Bishop of Rome
?“Lucius! Lucius over here,”
?I turned around, clutching onto my Bulla. It had protected me all these years. Today was the big day, the Liberalia, the day I would become a man, a citizen.
?“Darius, what are you doing here? You know that you could be killed for leaving the domus,” I exclaimed.
?Darius frowned, glancing down at his hands. The angry red blisters almost looked like they were bleeding. Perhaps they were. Father worked Darius very hard, and I feared that he would run away if it weren’t for me. Mother didn’t treat Darius with high regard either.
?“Don’t hurt me, master,” he mumbled. I sighed. I’d already told him that I didn’t want him calling me master. We had grown up together and it was not suiting to me. It was a nervous habit he had, I know, but it still irritated me.
?“Darius, don’t call me master. You know it’s Lucius,” I grumbled. I looked at the brown tunic he wore. It was filthy with the sweat and grime.
?“Sorry, ma…Lucius,” he replied, wiping the tears from his eyes. I shook my head. When would he learn?
?“Do you go to the ceremony? It’s almost six,” he asked, sucking in the snot.
?I looked up at the pink-orange figure in the distance and decided it was time to go. Father would be very upset with me if I missed the ceremony. I flinched at the thought of the next punishment. My knuckles were already raw.
?“Why did you come here? Why did you risk Father catching you,” I questioned. The boy had better answer my question. I was already agitated at the look of guilt he had on his face. He was lower beneath me, a mere slave. I loved the kid, but sometimes he overstepped.
?“I…I didn’t want to see…m-master punished again,” he stuttered. My heart slowed. I should’ve known that he wouldn’t have done it unless it was for my sake. How could I have been so stupid?
?I sighed and motioned for him to come over to me. I was worried about those nasty blisters. I’d only just turned sixteen, I had to give him a break.
?“Let me see your hands,” I commanded. Darius slowly walked to me, holding out his hands and bracing for pain. I snorted, turning his hands over.
?The blisters were indeed bleeding. It looked as though he had dirt stuck in it too. I could just feel the throbbing in my hands.
?“You shouldn’t let the blisters get this bad. Next time, take a break. If Father sees I’ll talk to him, we can’t have my personal slave injured, can we,” I said, pouring a bit of water onto the wounds.
?“Yes, yes Lucius. I’ll keep that in mind, sir,” he said, sighing at the touch of water.
?“Soothes, don’t it,” I grinned. He nodded slightly, easing himself up. I’m sure the blisters worsened at the touch of brick.
?“Well, Darius, I think we’d better return to the domus before Father gets angry,” I said. He sniffed the air, relaxing. I chuckled. It was amazing how fast Darius could go from one emotion to the other.
?I didn’t know how he could relax at the sound of the merchants just around the corner. I preferred the sound of the waters rushing, the wind whipping past me and the view of the hill from here. The villa was much more soothing the house in the market area. The atrium of the house, where everyone visited, was my favorite room. You could hear the water rushing, see the beautiful paintings, the marbled walls and the outstandingly beautiful plants.
?“Your father was just awakening when I stepped out of the house,” he said. I bit down on my lip. Surely, he was looking for me.
?I looked down at the white bordered toga. It was about time to get rid of the thing. It’d been through many a war.
?“Race you there,” I exclaimed, taking off down the corner. It was rare that we raced rather than played with the seeds and rocks.
?“Lord Mars, please accept these crops for our Lucius, the newest citizen of Rome,” father said, holding his head high, looking up to the ceiling.
?I frowned, looking to Darius. He held a bowl near my head, waiting for the usual vomit. I took one more gulp of the wine and turned to him. Father had insisted on Darius helping tonight. He said that it was mandatory for all the slaves to work at the Liberalia. I should be happy right now, but I wasn’t.
?I couldn’t stop thinking about the great disgrace Darius was going through right now. I wondered if Father would be outraged if I left.
?“I don’t think you’re going to need that,” I whispered to Darius. He quickly glanced around the room, eyes darting.
?“Master, it is disgraceful for you to talk to a slave as so,” he mumbled. I shrugged. As soon as the ceremony was over, I planned on carrying on the way it was before we left.
?The altar stood tall in the room high. Father had it placed when he became the head of the household, the Bishop of Rome. When he retired, I was supposed to take it over. I had also been offered the role of a soldier or a member of the court, but none of them seemed interesting to me.
?I wanted to be a gladiator, but that wasn’t possible for me. No son of a son ventured outside their fathers’ class. I wanted to be though. Father didn’t see the point in fighting, he was a bishop, a person of the senate.
?I looked around the peristylum, the plants, trees and shrubs scattered around the open court room.
?Looking down the table, I watched as drunken men splashed their beers around, bellowing and belching. They were Fathers most honored lowerclassmen, the citizens from church.
?To the right of the table, the noblemen delicately picked up the cups of wine and chatted casually. Mother had said it right when she said that this wouldn’t work. The lowerclassmen and the noblemen did not mix. I could already see the disgust in the noblemen’s eyes.
?Father never listened to mother. He told me that I’d better not ever listen to a woman. It was dishonorable to a man. Women were never allowed to make the decision, nor were they able to work outside the domus.
?“To Lucius Laurentius,” Father exclaimed. That was definitely the end of the celebration. All the guests would soon leave, and Father would expect me to bid them farewells. One obstacle after another.
?I looked down at the white tunic; the two wide crimson stripes ran down it, unlike the white tunic I had worn before. The purple color brought more energy to it.
?I looked up from the tunic. It was almost flabbergasting to think that I was now officially a citizen in Verona. A citizen of Rome.
?Father motioned for me to hurry. The guests were already rushing out the door. To my surprise, I found that Father was walking away from the crowd. He was not interested in anybody, but one man that stood apart from the rest. I gasped when I realized who it was.
?The senator, Cassius. He was a part of the praetors and was held in great respect among the people. It would be a pleasure to meet him. I didn’t know how Father knew him though, he was only a bishop, sometimes allowed into the council.
?His latus clavus, full of purple, hung on him proudly, as his short curly hair laid on his hair neatly. His bright blue eyes illuminated the room more than usual. I’d only seen him a few times, but never in our domus.
?“Lucius is a very good boy, Praetor Cassius. Very strong too,” Father said.
? Praetor glanced my way, as I stopped in front of him, standing tall. Father would disown me for such embarrassment. I could not make him look like a fool in front of a praetor.
?Praetor Cassius smirked, sizing me up. I was surprised he even smiled. I let go of a deep breath. It seemed as though he didn’t disapprove.
?“You have a good set of shoulders, don’t you? You’d be a very good addition to the senate, you know. I’m sure your father has taught you of the politics here in Rome,” he finally said.
?I gulped. The senate could be very harsh and I was under the impression that Father wanted me to carry on in his footsteps. Who else would carry on the family tradition?
?“Yes, yes sir. I know a lot of the politics here. Father told me of them in case I pursued something outside of the class,” I replied.
?Father opened his mouth to protest. His eyes showed panic. I didn’t think he knew of Praetor Cassius’s plans.
?“But Praetor, Lucius is going to be a bishop, to carry on the family tradition. We talked about this,” Father protested.
?Praetor Cassius raised a brow in shock. I’m sure he had never been reasoned with. It was a praetor’s job to make their decisions higher than any other class’s. He was dignified in doing so.
?“He is not going to far from the clergy, Bishop. He is just going to train with me, like we discussed these few months. Don’t you remember the agreement,” he told Father.
?I sucked in a breath, my heart speeding up. I had never traveled too far from Father or mother. They were my family. They taught me everything I knew. They brought me up to be a bishop or somewhere in the clergy.
?“Yes, Praetor Cassius, I remember. I-I will let you decide what happens to my young man. He is training with you for the year,” he nodded.
?Praetor Cassius licked his lips, looking down at me. He had to at least be 6’0 foot. What had my father gotten me into?
?“I will see you in a few days, Lucius,” he said, turning towards the servants.
?“Grapes. Oh, and chicken for the road,” he told a servant. The poor teenage girl nodded, falling all over herself. She must’ve been new in the kitchen.
?“Here you go, Praetor Cassius. Your grapes,” another servant said. Praetor Cassius looked down at the platter in disgust.
?“I said, chicken too! Get it right,” he snapped, spitting on the servant.
?I felt my face harden. No one had the right to treat servants like that! They worked for hard for us!
?“Praetor, that isn’t…” I started. I held my tongue. Father would be very upset if I insulted the praetor. Not only would he be insulted, but he’d probably disown me.
?Praetor Cassius looked over at me with a look of surprise, rearing back as though I had pushed him or something.
?“Pardon,” he asked. I licked my lips and stood tall.
?“Nothing, Praetor. Maybe you could just a little bit calm down, is all. The servants here do their best,” I mumbled.
?Praetor Cassius’s nostrils flared, folding his arms behind his back.
?“You will learn in time, Lucius, that disrespect is intolerable. Learn to hold your tongue,” he spat, glancing towards the door.
?The servant walked in carrying another platter, this time full of chicken and grapes. The servant extended his arms, holding out the platter for Praetor Cassius. He held his head up high, stepping away from us, gesturing for the servant to follow him.
?I clenched my jaw, waiting for Father’s disapproval. I knew it was coming.
?“Lucius,” he said beside me. I closed my eyes, sighing.
?“Yes, Father,” I replied.
?“Go to your cubicula nocturna,” he ordered. I nodded, knowing what I had to do.
?“The life of a child in Rome wasn’t as easy as it was today. This journal describes a child whom was destined to be a Bishop, but turned to slavery once his father was executed for preaching of Christianity. This was found in the ruins of Verona in Rome about 30 years ago,” I told the tour.
?“The kid had been in training like the normal kids did, with Praetor Cassius, for a few months before finally being captured. Later, he grew up to be one of the most famous gladiators, almost like the story of Spartacus, but not as successful. Although, slaves were very low in the social pyramid this kid had been held in great honor. Any questions,” I continued.
?A man in the back of the twenty or so people here raised his hand. His blue eyes were glued to the digital pages on the tablet next to the pedestal. His hair stood up as he moved his arm in the air restlessly.
?“Yes sir, what’s your question,” I asked. He stopped bouncing around and remained silent for a moment.
?“How do you know so much about this kid? I was watching you and you went into things that weren’t on the page,” he questioned.
?I grinned. The things people would ask.
?“I know the lot of this because Lucius Laurentius is my ancestor,” I replied. The exchanged look of surprise flashed across the groups’ faces.
?“For being an ancestor I received a free copy of the journal and even have a family book with detail about this young man,” I continued.
?I looked back down at the journal, thinking about what it would’ve been like back in the day when Lucius was around.
?“If this boy was such an important part of the gladiators, tell us about him,” a lady in the front challenged. I shrugged and looked down at the journal. The thoughts of a boy entered my head.
?“I’ll miss you, my son,”
?I wiped the tears from my face. The lump in my throat wouldn’t subside. I wasn’t sure if they were tears of joy or tears of fear. I wanted to stay here with Father and mother. I wanted to be here when my little brother turned sixteen. That was in a year, but I would be gone.
?Father bent down, holding out his hand. His pointed hat drooped down as he did so. The bags formed under his eyes endlessly. These few nights had been rough for us. Father had expected me to follow in his footsteps, that had been the original plan, but Praetor Cassius had different plans.
?“Take this, Lucius. May it help you in your journey,” he told me. His palm opened up, bearing a necklace. I cocked my head, studying it. I had never seen anything like it before. Two lines over lapped, the vertical line longer than the horizontal.
?The lines were chipped onto a small pendent The white gold glittered in the light coming from the atrium.
?I grabbed the necklace, pulling it over my head. Father’s face hardened.
?“You must not let anyone see this, my son. They won’t understand,” he said. I frowned. Why did it sound like he was saying goodbye for the last time? It was only a year I’d be there.
?“May God bless you,” he muttered under his breath. Didn’t he mean gods? Or a name of a god?
?Galloping came from behind me, I heard as it thumped against the stone. That could only mean that Praetor Cassius was here. I clenched my eyes shut and waited as his strong, bulky hand grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. They were ready for me. There was no way back.
?“Come, Lucius. The other boys are waiting for you,” he commanded. I gulped. Other boys? Since when did that come to be true?
?“I thought that it was just me going to be there,” I said. He shook his head, his tunic flowing behind him. Two horses stood behind him. Were we going to his villa?
?“No, Lucius. Training does not consist of just one person. There has to be at least four others,” he replied.
?“Farewell, my son. May thee gods protect you,” Father bid me farewell. I gazed up into his big brown eyes. The freckles spattered his face in red clumps. His black shaven hair hid under the hat.?If only I could stay a while longer.
?“Goodbye, Father. I will see you in just a year,” I replied.
?Praetor Cassius gave a look of displeasure and grabbed ahold of my rest. My heart stopped.
?“Get up on the horse, Lucius. You have a lot to learn, you’re already far behind the others,” he hissed.
?I swallowed, looking up at the horse in front of me.