Chapter XLI - Noctem Stellas - II


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 vittoriocarvelli1997@gmail.com and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.
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the Chapter 'Noctem Stellas' is long - so it has been divided into two parts - with the second part including the aftermath of the day after.


 MARCVS  ET  TITVS

There was a lot of clearing up to do, so the curtain (now a deep shade of blue) was raised, while Domus-slaves removed Glaucus' corpse, shovelled up the sand that he had fouled in his final moments, along with most of the remaining sand.
What had been the combat area was then quickly and efficiently covered with boards, stained dark blue - to provide a firm surface for the slave-boys to 'perform' on.
Roof Gardens Colonnade
Meanwhile, Petronius had been dispatched to the basement in order for him to ensure that there were no more problems with the now wet and sodden slaves.
In the pavilion, Marcus invited Titus to 'stretch his legs', while the preparations for the second part of the evening were made.
As they slowly strolled round the finely proportioned Ionic colonnade that surround the 'entertainment' area, the soft sound of music - along with the scent of sandalwood wafting from marble and gilt bronze burners, filled the warm evening air.
"I see you have a ὕδραυλις.", Titus commented, showing off his Greek.
ὕδραυλις - hydraulis
ὕδραυλις - hydraulis - water organ was invented by Ctesibius (the first head of the Library of Alexandria) in the 3rd century BC. The hydraulis was the world's first keyboard instrument. Ctesibius devised several different kinds of pumps, and used one to pump air at a constant pressure through the organ. Air is pumped (by an assistant) into the box on the bottom, then released through the pipes when the player presses a key. The water portion of the organ is used to regulate the pressure, so that the organ produces a consistent tone and volume.
"Yes - I have one here, that I brought from Baiae, and I also have had one installed in the amphitheatre in Baiae.
I like the sound very much - I find it very soothing.", Marcus explained.
"You see .... it's those dammed Greeks - so clever !", Titus said, obviously now relaxing after the excitement of the combats.
"I do hope that you were not too disappointed by the wrestlers and gladiators, such as they were.", Marcus said apologetically.
"Not at all, Marcus.
You know you get so bored by these professional chaps, coming out with the same repeatedly rehearsed moves - and then one 'takes a dive', and because the fighting looks so good, you have to let him be spared.
The problem is, it's not real fighting - and I should know.", Titus replied.
"Indeed....", Marcus agreed, aware that Titus had years of experience of real fighting leading his legions.
"Now your boys had little or no training - but knew that they had to really fight as well as they were able - and the winners did really well - and even the boys who were killed managed to 'take it' - without too much pleading and crying -  very good.....
No - I enjoyed the entertainment you put on ..... excellent !",Titus said enthusiastically, slapping Marcus on the back.
It had been a long time since anyone had slapped Marcus on the back with boyish enthusiasm.
The last time had been when he had been with his young Greek friends in Athens.
Now that he was Dominus, he was effectively 'untouchable' - except when he was having sex with a slave, and then the touching was 'mannered' and deferential, even if it was intimate and sexual.
But then perhaps it was only a person of Titus' status who could relate at a level of 'equality' with Marcus, as his friends in Athens had done.
Marcus and Titus then returned to the pavilion.
By then Terentius and Novius and Demetrius had tactfully withdrawn - allowing Marcus and Titus to engage in private discussion.
Terentius and Novius stayed close by, in case Marcus required their advice on any matter arising from his talks with Titus
Demetrius had been provided with an elaborately decorated Hellenic style chair and small table by slaves, so that he could take refreshments while watching the dancing troupe, and Aelius stood nearby, ready to provide any service that his young master might require.
Echelaos, the boys' dancing master, also stood, unobtrusively, nearby - making discreet, and apparently pre-arranged hand gestures, which he used to guide his troupe in their steps and 'activiies'.
Echelaos - Choros Magister - Dance Master
The dancing style common in Rome was based on Greek dance (χορός) -  which was referred to by authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch and Lucian. The dance that had taught to the boys by Echelaos, for this occasion, was the Κόρδαξ 'cordax', which was a provocative, licentious, and often (by modern standards) 'obscene' dance. In his play  Νεφέλαι - (The Clouds),  Ἀριστοφάνης - (Aristophanes) complains that other playwrights of his time try to hide the feebleness of their plays by bringing dancers onto the stage to dance the 'cordax'. He notes with pride that his patrons will not find such 'gimmicks' in his plays. Petronius (the Roman author- and not the character in this story) in his Roman novel the 'Satyricon' has Trimalchio boast to his dinner guests that no one dances the 'cordax' better than his wife, Fortunata (?). The nature of this dance is described in the satires of Decimus Iūnius Iuvenālis - (Juvenal), who says 'the dancers, encouraged by applause, sink to the ground with tremulous buttocks.' The Roman poet Horace, and the Roman playwright Plautus refer to the same dance as 'iconici motus' (iconic movement). Not surprisingly it was a very popular dance - but only ever watched by patricians, and never danced by them - patricians did not dance - only slaves - or debauched women like Trimalchio's wife - hence the joke.
Boy Dancer
Kithara
By this time Petronius had returned from the basement, and was standing with  Adonios, who had Glaux on his shoulder (Glaux, wide awake, was twittering along with the music).
Petronius was watching the boys, and Echelaos intently - considering how he could use them in the Amphitheatre in  Baiae.
The entertainment began with just a single boy dancer, completely naked and with his slim young body gilded.
His movements were slow and sinuous, matching perfectly the rhythmic notes of the kithara (the instrument of the God Apollo), which was now leading the gentle accompaniment of the (now muffled) hydraulis.
"So......", Marcus began, trying to sound casual, "how is your father finding it being emperor ?".
Titus took his eyes of the gilded boy, and turned to Marcus and smiled.
"Difficult !", Titus replied.
"You see, he never wanted to be emperor.
He had seen what being emperor had done to Nero - and so did I - and it was not good.
Nero was not too bad in the beginning - like Caligula - but the the power went to his head.", Titus replied.
"But your father - so I have been led to believe - is a very different kind of man.
You said yourself he's 'hands on', and he's a reputation for being 'down to earth'", Marcus countered.
"That's true - but the problem is that Nero almost bankrupted the empire - and the fire in Rome and the Civil War didn't help - so now there's no money - but much needs doing.
It will mean heavier taxes - and many in the Senate are opposed to that."
Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus - Rome
The Fire of Rome was an urban fire that started on the night between 18 and 19 July in the year 64 AD. It caused widespread devastation, before being brought under control after six days. Differing accounts either blame Emperor Nero for initiating the fire or credit him with organizing measures to contain it and provide relief for refugees. The Civil War - during the Year of the Four Emperors - also caused a lot of damage, particularly to the building on the Capitol - including the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus - which, because of its importance, Vespasian nee to rebuild almost immediately.
Then, strangely, Marcus felt as if Gnaeus Octavianus was guiding his words.
"So that's where I come in.", Marcus said, remarkably bluntly.
"Well - you certainly come to the point." Titus said, obviously flustered and embarrassed.
"Look, Titus - I'm no politician, and I don't have time for lots of 'delicate' chat.
I'm no tough general like you - but I have - with Gnaeus, dealt with tough generals, and Praetorian Prefects - and I understand what is going on here."
Titus shifted uneasily in his chair.
"I can help you - and I will help you - if Terentius thinks it is possible and advisable - and if your father makes me a senator, I will support him in the Senate - but I will do this only because I believe that the Flavians are the best chance that the Empire has.
And before I do this - I must first meet your father - in order to assure myself that I am making the right decision." Marcus concluded, sitting back and waiting for a reply.
"Well...Marcus - that's what I wanted to hear - and so much like my father - straight to the point." Titus replied.
"So I'm sorry if I may seem rude or blunt, but that's  the way I am.......
Probably still an Athenian street-boy."
Marcus, as he spoke, glanced over to where Petronius was standing.
Petronius was looking directly at Marcus, and smiling broadly, but Marcus was sure that Petronius couldn't have heard what he was saying to Titus - so perhaps it was something Adonios had said, or maybe the fact that Glaux was twittering.
"That's good !", Titus said firmly - "and I will send a message to you tomorrow letting you know when my father can see you."
Marcus then rose from his seat, and called over a slave - and whispered an instruction into the slave's ear.
"And now, my honourable Titus, I have a gift for you, to thank you for gracing us this evening with your presence.", Marcus announced formally, gesturing to the other guests to come forward.
And so Petronius, Terentius, Novius, and Demetrius all stepped forward to see two burly slaves carry the most elaborate and costly looking tripod over to the pavilion to present to Titus.
Titus, rising from his seat, couldn't hide the look of surprise.
Tripod for Titus
"But it's magnificent !" he said, gazing in awe at the priceless gift.
"So....just an Athenian street-boy ?
Well - when anyone asks me who gave this to me, I will reply, with a grin, 'Just Athenian street-boy' !.

"I can't thank you enough.", Titus continued, obviously moved.
A sacrificial 'tripod' is a three-legged piece of religious furniture used for offerings or other ritual procedures. As a seat or stand, the tripod is the most stable furniture construction for uneven ground, hence its use is universal and ancient. It is particularly associated with (well - who else ?) Apollo and the Delphic oracle in ancient Greece, and the word τρίποδο (tripod) comes from the Greek meaning "three-footed". Tripods are frequently mentioned by Homer as prizes in athletic games, and as complimentary gifts; in later times, highly decorated and bearing inscriptions, they served the same purpose. They appear also to be precious gifts for guests, (as in the case of the Phaeakes, who offered a cauldron and tripod to Odysseus). In the ancient world the tripod was considered to be the 'ultimate' gift.
"You don't have to thank me - you're a friend !", Marcus replied
"So be seated, and lets watch the boys, and drink some more wine.", Marcus said, making it clear that the evening was far from over.
And while Marcus and Titus had been negotiating, and while Marcus had been presenting Titus with gilded bronze tripos, the slave-boys had continued to dance - but quietly and modestly - in order not to create any distraction.
Dancing Boy
Once Echelaos had seen that Marcus and Titus had resumed their seats, and were once more concentrating on the 'entertainment', he gave a subtle signal to the lead dancer and the musicians.
Another boy then joined the first lad, and then two others, and the pace of the music quickened.
More wine flowed, along with jokes and ribald comments, as the five original guests, plus Petronius gathered in the pavilion to watch the performance.
The dancing then gradually speeded up, and became more animated - and even frenetic.
After a fast yet, highly erotic dance, eventually the naked boys, very skilfully, but as part of the performance, feigned tiredness - sunk to the floor and slowly melted into each other's arms - entwined and exploring one another, as the music, which had one again slowed, invited a sensual and overtly sexual display.


Marcus turned to Terentius.
"You know these boys were Aurarius' idea.....
We were in the 'Graecostadium', and Aurarius spotted these boys, and suggested buying them, and luckily we had Novius with us - who got them at a good price - but not as low as you could get - obviously.
But seeing them perform I would say that they were worth their weight in gold.", and Marcus grinned at his own joke - (not only was Aurarius' name derived from the Latin for gold - but the boys had also been 'gilded' for the performance)


While the erotic dalliance on the part of the gilded boys continued, finger food was passed round by dutiful young slave boys, and the wine flowed, and the conversation became relaxed.
Marcus found that Titus, once he had let his guard down, was good company, and he hoped that Titus' father would be equally agreeable, when he eventually met him.
Glaux had cleaned up any leftovers on the plates, and was looking decidedly full - a good indication that the evening should be brought to an end.
Equally, the gilded dancing boys had run out of interesting variations with which to amuse and titillate their guests.
In order to drop a gentle hint to Titus, Marcus gave instructions for Nicander to provide Echelaos with a purse of coin for himself, and another purse to be distributed equally to the boys, on behalf of Titus.
Echelaos and the boys then obediently lined up to bow to their Dominus, and his honoured guest.
"So Marcus - a fine evening !", Titus said, rising from his ornate seat.
At the same time Demetrius, Terentius, Novius and Petronius all rose respectfully.
Nicander quickly gestured to slaves to prepare to transport the gold tripod, by way of the elevator, to the main entrance of the Domus.
At the same time tables and chairs were moved away to make suitable passage for a 'stately' exit.
Slave-boys with torches also lined up at the portico to the roof gardens, ready to escort the guests down the wide, white marble staircase to the grand atrium, while Titus' tall Praetorian Tribunes clanked into position alongside their master.
On reaching the grand atrium Titus made his farewells.
"I must thank you Marcus, for your wonderful gift, and a superb evening's entertainment.
In a few days I am sure that my father will invite you to visit him.
Unfortunately we are simple 'country folk', and will not be able to accommodate, or entertain you on the lavish scale that you have provided tonight, but I'm sue that the evening shall be to your advantage.", Titus explained, knowingly.
Marcus grinned at Titus' attempt to paint a picture of 'rough' provincials.
Although Vespasian came from very ordinary stock, well away from Rome, he was far from being a 'country yokel', but he liked to present himself as a 'man of the people'.
"Now Titus - you know that all this (Marcus gestured to the vast marble and gold atrium), is not of my doing - but I am stuck with it - and it is now expected of me.", Marcus declared innocently.
"I know, Marcus - but I cannot help but joke when I find you living in a better palace than Nero's Domus Aurea !".
Marcus shook his head.
"So - I will write - giving you the date - and many thanks !", Titus said, waving grandly to Demetrius, Terentius, Novius and Petronius, as his Tribunes led him out of the huge gilded bronze doorway.
Marcus then turned to his associates.
"So - many thanks to you all.
It all went well - apart from those cursed new slaves, but we can deal with them tomorrow.
So let's all get to bed.
It's been a long night !....."
AD MANE

'In the Morning' - It was an early start, although it seemed that no one was keen on getting up and getting to work.
The life of a wealthy patrician, like Marcus, was not all relaxation and play.
A Roman patrician - particularly if he was a 'paterfamilias', (the male head of a Roman family or household), was required to fulfil numerous onerous tasks and obligations on a daily basis.
In fact, Marcus, on becoming Dominus, discovered that he was required to work much harder than when he had been 'Markos the slave-boy'.
Marcus first task was to check with Nicander regarding the general running of the Domus, and review the times for deliveries from various suppliers, and lists of expected guests.
Nicander would also raise any problems with regard to matters relating to slaves.
(On the morning after the visit of Titus there were obviously some serious matters regarding the minor revolt in the evening by some of the recently acquired slaves.
At such a meeting Aurarius would always be in attendance, as it was probable that at some time in the future he would hold a similar position to Nicander (if not in the Domus, then in one of Marcus, other properties).
It was in such a manner that slaves were instructed in duties that they may be expected to undertake on their possible promotion.
After his meeting with Nicander, Marcus would then hold discussions with Terentius, mainly relating to financial matters, and this would precede the 'Salutatio', where Marcus would briefly meet with some of his local clients.
If a particular client had a serious matter to discuss, this could involve a separate discussion with either Terentius or Novius - and would usually require a final decision from Marcus.


TEMPELUM APOLLONIS ULTORIS

'The Temple of Apollo the Avenger' - On this particular morning Marcus was scheduled to have a meeting with Severus, Marcus' 'in-house' and rather eccentric architect.
Proposed Temple of Apollo Ultor - Baiae
Having executed all those conspirators associated with the attempt on his own life, and the murder of Gnaeus Octavian Gracchus, Marcus had vowed to construct and dedicate a temple to the God Apollo Ultor (Apollo the Avenger).
Obviously Severus had been given the commission, on the understanding that the building was to be a very pure, Greek style, Ionic Amphiprostyle hexastyle temple - built of white pentelic marble, and surmounted by a gilded bronze quadriga (four horse chariot) carrying an image of Apollo.
This was not Severus' usual style, as he favoured concrete domes, vaults and arches, (veneered in marble).
Apelles had created the initial drawings - and Severus would then be expected to work them up into practical form capable of being satisfactorily constructed.
On completion the Temple would be the largest temple in Baiae, and probably the largest temple in southern Italy.
"So Marcus, - first a huge mausoleum, and now a Temple to Apollo.
It's just as well that Octavian Augustus is not still around....
You're really stepping on his toes !"
Severus chuckled, as he slapped Marcus playfully on the back, (something that no one else - except perhaps Petronius or Aurarius, in private, would ever dream of doing.)
"Yes, but do you like it ?", Marcus asked, deferentially.
"It's looks superb - but I think that Terentius will baulk at the price !
And by the way - when you're finished with Apelles, he can always come and work for me - he's really good !".
Marcus was pleased.
He had carefully instructed Apelles as to the style and appearance of the design, and Severus' approval indicated that Marcus had chosen well - and he had no intention of letting Apelles work for anyone else.
After meeting with Severus, Marcus was taken down to the main atrium by Terentius.
There Diodoros was waiting nervously, after he had been retained by Nicander.
Diodoros had by this time recovered from his recent illness - (you may remember that Adonios had convinced himself that he was responsible for Diodoros' illness because he had threatened Diodoros with a curse from Apollo for disrespecting Glaux - and Adonios had only been brought to his senses by Petronius).
"You wished to speak to me, Dominus ?",  Diodoros asked fearfully.
"Yes - but there is no need to be alarmed.....",Marcus replied, trying to be as friendly as possible.
(Still it seemed that Marcus had not realised that gossip and rumour, not only here in Rome, but from the towns on the coast were portraying him as a vengeful and powerful individual, of whom people should be wary - maybe even fearful.)
"I have, for you, a new and very profitable commission."
Marcus asked for a copy of the drawing that Apelles had made, which Terentius was holding.
"I intend to build a Temple in Baiae - as you can see, it is surmounted by a quadriga, driven by the God Apollo - and you will create the quadriga, horses, and the statue of the God.", Marcus explained.
"But Dominus..... !", Diodoros stuttered.
"I do not have the skill...!"
Marcus put both his hands on Diodoros' shoulders.
"Yes you do !..... and this work will make you one of the greatest sculptors in the Empire !", Marcus insisted forcefully.
Diodoros smiled weakly.
"If you say it is so... then it will be so.
Nothing, it seems is impossible once you have made a decision!", Diodoros answered.
"Good.... now you begin to understand.
Remember, we are favoured by the God."
"Indeed...." Petronius added, having just arrived in the atrium with Adonios, and a suspiciously alert Glaux.
Marcus looked at Glaux intently.
"That bird worries me when he's so frisky this early in the morning."
"That's no 'bird', Dominus.... that's Glaux !", Adonios piped up.
Marcus ignored  Adonios' interruption.
"Now Diodoros, later today I will send you Apelles, who will make more detailed drawing for you, and I have sent for some Greek experts in bronze casting from Neapolis, who will arrive in two days to help you with the casting techniques.
And don't worry - there's plenty of time - the foundations haven't even been laid."
With that, Nicander escorted Diodoros to one of the smaller atria to make suitable arangement swith him for the commencement of the work.

ASPERA IUSTITAE

'Rough Justice' - Marcus then turned to Petronius - who was smiling - alarmingly, and so early in the morning.
"So now, Petronius, we have to deal with those stupid slaves.", Marcus said wearily.
"And how do you wish me to deal with the matter ?", Petronius queried.
On sensing a confidential discussion, Adonios wandered off and busied himself fluffing and arranging Glaux's beautiful feathers - which was exactly what Glaux wanted.
Petronius thought for a moment - but he was only acting a part (putting on a puzzled expression) - he had, of course, already worked out a scenario of which he knew Marcus would approve.
"I think it would be appropriate for the victors in last nights' combats to 'punish' an equal number of recalcitrant slaves." Petronius suggested.
"That sound reasonable.", Marcus replied - almost being non-committal.
"And how should we select the slaves to be 'punished' ?". Marcus added,
"After all - if we execute all of them Terentius will complain about us wasting money - ,and they did cost money.....".
"Best if we select them by lots - short straws.", Petronius replied.
"Fine..... I leave it up to you.
Just let me know when you are ready and we can arrange the punishment session while the sanded area on the roof garden is still in place - and get Nicander to organise an audience of slaves to be present - to ensure that this has some deterrent value."
Leaving Petronius to get things organised, Marcus called Aurarius to his side, and they made their way up the wide marble steps to Marcus' private apartments.
STUDIUM

'Studies' - Marcus, of course, was well aware that he was still young - in fact many had commented on the fact that as time passed he seemed to retain his very youthful good looks.
Being young, Marcus was well aware that he was inexperienced, and that his education was far from complete.
Much to the surprise of many, Marcus still retained his tutors, both in Latin and Greek, - and not only for his favourite slaves, and for Demetrius, - but also in order to further his own education.
Daily he would put aside time for lessons, not only in grammar and public speaking, but also in the 'classics' of Greek and Roman literature, and also in instruction in philosophy and the sciences.
In addition, Novius had acquired, in consideration of the fact that Marcus would soon be a senator, the services of a respected, retired Senator, in order to acquaint Marcus with the history of the Republic, and the customs and traditions of the Roman Senate.
All of this obviously took time, and so Marcus would only be able to spend a token period of time attending the 'punishments' that were to take place on the roof   gardens in the afternoon - however, Marcus would ensure that he would be available to give short, but suitably forceful speech to the assembled slaves in order to deter any further occurrences of non compliance on the part of his slaves.
Fortunately Petronius was, as always, available, and would ensure that the 'punishment', which were, in effect, executions, would effectively and efficiently conducted.

SUPPLICIUM

'Punishments' - The punishments took place on the roof gardens.

The boarded area - where the slave by had danced so seductively the previous evening, had been re-sanded, and iron frames - used to restrain those to be punished - had bolted securely to the wooden framework.
At the smae time a large group of slaves had been sent up to the roof gardens in the elevators in order to witness the 'punishments'.



to be continued..........



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