Elysium: The Elder War
II Republican Glories
And the Republic comes to birth: a government for our city intended to survive on the merit of its officials. Centuries pass. Rome has a Senate now, and its members are the best of Rome's nobility.
Each year, the senators elect officials, and their term of office is for one year only. The Quaestors manage the treasury. The Aediles maintain the fabric of Rome's buildings. The Praetors administer justice and command small armies. The Censors keep the census and govern the moral standing of the people. Two Consuls hold final authority for the affairs of Rome, each with the power to veto anything the other does, with the hope that one man could not ever seize power again. A Consul must have served as Praetor, and a Praetor must have first served a term as a Quaestor. Only Consuls and Praetors can command Roman armies; after they serve their terms of office, they have the right to govern one of Rome's growing number of provinces. In an emergency, the Senate can suspend their business and elect a Dictator, who will lead our city through the darkest times and lay down his power when he is done.
Later, civil unrest leads the Senate to allow for the election of Tribunes of the People, who are born of common lineage and who will have power to veto any law passed by the Senate and to pass laws through votes taken at vast assemblies of the plebs, the commoners of the city. It will be the closest the Romans ever come to democracy, and for a time, it works, through times of foreign invasion, civil strife and imperial expansion.
Gauls sack the city, and the Dictator Camillus saves it, and the Republic endures.
The mercenary-king Pyrrhus of Epirus defeats Rome on the field, but loses so many of his men that he loses the war. The Republic endures. Rome takes cities and nations under its wing as puppet-states, and they becom so numerous that the city's resources creak under the strain, but still the Republic endures.
Fragments: The Inconnu Founded
From the Res Gestae Juli Senis of Horatius Calvus, Propinquus, II. 5:
Aulus Julius, although he wore the semblance of a youth, was given the name Senex by the Propinqui as a mark of respect for his seniority in age and wisdom. Senex instituted a Senate hourse of his own in that first cave at the base of the Tarpeian Rock. He named it Inconnu, for it was, he said, a Small Chamber to complement the great hall of the Senate House.
From The History of the Camarilla by Eutherius Secundus, Propinquus, I. 97:
He claimed no official role of his own, but took pride of place in the Small Chamber, and woe to the member of the Ala Senecta who dared to pass any law without Senex's approval. After a while, the Ala Senecta and the Old Man became, for the dead, the same word, and to this day, the Council that rules in Senex's place are called Senex.
Julius Senex and the magistracies he created for our society of the dead demand far less of the Propinqui than the traitor clan and the Striges had ever done. In the center of Necropolis, Julius Senex declared a region he called Elysium, as a sardonic nod to the peaceful afterlife denied us. The tradition remains. In Elysium, no violence is tolerated.
On Julius Senex
Elysium is not only a safe ground. It is the Forum Propinquorum, where the vampires of Rome meet and decide how they will govern themselves and, if they deem it necessary, influence the society of the living. Julius Senex approved of the Kindred desire to influence the ways of the living and encouraged the Propinqui to bend the society of Rome to do their bidding. He understood the need of the vampire to strive for power, but knew also that it was a way for the Kindred to remain close to the living. To the Roman Kindred, vampires are nefasti. They do not share the right of the living to inherit the Earth.
The people of Rome live as long as the Empire endures by omens and auguries. They fear werewolves and witches. They do no business on inauspicious days. They fear to linger too long at a crossroads and flee from the screech of the owl. Every Roman family with a mind for pagan tradition has its Lares and Penates, hereditary spirits and beneficient ancestors who guide the conduct of the good Roman and watch over him from the afterlife. And every family has its Lemures and Manes, the ancestors who didn't get to the right afterlife, the malevolent, unfortunate and inauspicious ones who bring disaster if the right propitiation was not made. These are the Propinqui. They are the dead. They are hungry shades. They are ghosts bearing flesh.
Senex knows that for all the supernatural power of the Kindred, they will always be less than the living, because the Kindred are not alive, and because they have not died with true honor, and they have been denied the afterlife. He works carefully to craft an institution that will endure, long after he has gone. Senex understands what it is to be a monster. He is a fine example of a fiend himself.
He feeds on the blood of children and grown men. He casually destroys those who disagree with him. He keeps close to the human clan from which he has come. To the Julii, who will one day bring forth Caesar, he is both Lar and Manes. Senex takes a secret hand in guiding the ambitions of this most ambitious and debauched of noble families.
To the Julian patriarchs who know about him, he is the family devil, the guiltiest secret in a line that already has more than its share of hidden sins. They are his slaves. He owns their blood; his chains extend to their minds. As time grows on, the Julians gain a reputation for immorality, for strangeness.
The ancient Manes manipulates them, working the rods like the puppet master in the Forum. He dispenses advice on all subjects, from finance to marriage; his relatives have no choice but to take it, and prosper through it. He says a word, he waves a hand. They forget his face until the next time he comes; they remember his advice. He slakes his passions on Julian sons and daughters, none of whom will ever remember more than a nightmare on waking — if they awaken.
There is a Julian paterfamilias who tries to break free of the family curse. He falls ill and dies without anyone knowing why. He keeps trying to tell his family something as they wait beside his deathbed, but he goes blank, forgets his words, as if some hole has been gnawed in his mind. He dies, and his eldest surviving son discovers exactly what he wanted to say one month later, when the old Family God returns.
A great-grandson of that rebellious Julian finds his beloved children eaten by feral dogs one morning; the slave who, blank-eyed, let the animals in, has fallen on a kitchen-knife.
This man's grandson tells the Family God that he will not prostitute his children to a dead senator whom Senex wishes to please. The grandson awakens in his bed beside his virgin daughter, a child but no longer a virgin. He does not remember the act. The family leaves the child in the street to die.
Sometimes, Senex torments them because he is angry. Sometimes he plays with them out of whimsy. If a Julian feeds his dinner guests a stew made from the flesh of slave children, it amuses Senex. It pleases him. He takes delight in playing with memories and desires, driving them to suicide and madness. Julius Senex plays with his human kin, and the Propinqui follow his lead, throughout their history.
Sometimes the family serves his purposes. That same Julian hosts feed his guests, on three different nights, a most delicious blood sausage imbued with his own Vitae; adn two future Consuls are his.
Senex demonstrates the things he can do to them, torments them any way he wishes, even as he shows them how to advance themselves among the society of the living. He loves them. He hates them. He wants the best of them. But one night, he simply stops visiting his relatives and does not return.
More than 300 years after his incomplete death, Julius Senex falls into torpor. The Propinqui, who still describe the leaders of the Inconnu as "the old man" in his honor, sometimes whisper that there is a solitary columbarium somewhere deep in Necropolis where he lies and whence he might be awakened. Some of the elders of the Inconnu might even know where that is. They never tell if they do. Most of the Propinqui think that it is for the best.
The Inconnu survives without him for more than seven centuries, and the groundwork he laid ensures that the Inconnu remains strong. Only when the Christians seize the Empire does the Inconnu begin to weaken.
Delenda Est Carthago
Hypocrites: this is the charge laid against the Romans by all who know the fate of grand Carthage, doomed Carthage. This is the charge, but few press it for fear of meeting the same fate.
The Carthaginians, the Poenici, have gathered an empire now as grand as Rome, and have learned pride to match. This is enough, for it is inevitable that two expanding powers in the same arena will clash. And clash they do, over the question of who controls the island of Sicily. But Sicily and Spain are just a rationale. This First "Punic War" happens simply because two nations get in the way of each other. The Romans win, by land and sea, and they make the Carthaginians suffer. The Romans humiliate the conquered.
The Carthaginians cannot see the end of the first war as final. There is a highborn child who sees his people lose control of the Mediterranean; his name is Hannibal, son of Hamilcar, a general who lost the first war. When he comes of age, he raises an army, screaming for vengeance against the Romans. He invades Spain.
He brings with him a host of war-elephants; the Romans fear nothing so much on the battlefield. Hannibal annihilates three Roman armies, killing hundreds of thousands of men. Sicily and Gaul declare for Hannibal.
The fighting continues for years. Eventually, two Roman generals of unusual talent and imagination, Fabius Maximus and Cornelius Scipio, drive Hannibal back to Carthage and make peace. Scipio becomes a great hero of Rome. They call him Africanus. Hannibal returns to his own people, but the nobles of Carthage grow tired of his honesty and his declarations against corruption, and they drive him into exile.
YES, YOU BOTH GO IN, FOR I SHALL SUMMON A MEETING OF THE SENATE IN MY MIND, TO DELIBERATE ON MATTERS OF FINANCE, AGAINST WHOM WAR MAY BEST BE DECLARED, SO THAT I CAN GET SOME MONEY THENCE.
— PLAUTUS, EPIDICUS
The Romans break the treaty. Barely 50 years after Scipio Africanus finally defeated Hannibal, Carthage falls upon hard times. An invasion from nearby Numidia, a kingdom allied with Rome forces the Carthaginians to raise an army. The Romans begin to worry. In the Senate, the calls for war begin. Chief among those baying for Punic blood is Marcus Cato the Censor, Cato the arbiter of morality, Cato the miser. Such is his fear and hatred of the Carthaginians that at the end of every speech he gives in the Senate, he adds the same words: and also, I believe that Carthage must be destroyed. And the Romans destroy Carthage.
Scipio Aemilianus, heir to Africanus, burns the city to ashes. His men massacre the Carthaginians or take them as slaves. And when the fires have stopped, the Romans plow up the earth and sow the furrows with salt so that nothing will ever grow there again.
And the other nations of the Mediterranean see this, and wonder which of them might be next.
Sweet Hellenic Sins
And now the people of our city enter an age of prosperity. The Romans know that the world is theirs for the taking, if only they have the courage and skill to seize it.
They do. The tribes of Italyl fall to the Romans now, and the people of Spain. The Romans conquer Greece, trampling the lion-standards of once-mighty Macedon beneath their sandaled feet, putting Athens, Sparta and Corinth to the torch and plundering their ancient treasures. A new class arises in the city, the equites, the knights, and they profit greatly from the Empire's wealth. Although not senators born, they are the proof of the adage: money is power.
Wealth brings a flood of slaves from Africa, Asia and especially Greece into Rome. The Greeks bring with them the arts: history, poetry and song. A senatorial family maintains its standing in society through the purchase of an educated paidagogos, to teach the children classical culture. The Romans become known for the parties they throw. They roast whole pigs and stuff them with fruit and blood sausages. The Romans pickle dormice. They serve up raw fish alive, allowing them to die at the table. Most prized of all, the Romans learn the secret of garum, a rich paste made from the entrails of raw, rotting fish.
This is the age of the hetaira, the highborn slave courtesan, who entertains with intelligent conversation and skillfully played music, whose mouth and hands are experienced in the arts of song and flesh. Roman women secretly begin to learn the same skills, try to elicit the same wild desire from their men, all the while undermining the traditional strictures of Roman womanhood. Senators keep the outward semblance of their ancient dignity, but common is the noble who keeps near his bedchamber a beautiful boy with oiled ringlets and pale limbs, stolen from his parents and trained in the art of feeding Roman desire.
"Captive Greece captured her wild captor," is how the poet Horace puts it, but he is wrong. The Romans disdain the Greeks for their lax morals, but in truth they are no worse than the Romans. It is an idea of Greece that lures the Romans into depravity, stories of sweet Hellenic sin far more attractive than any reality. They are ready to abandon the virtues they have long espoused, and they create a fiction of Greece that can accomodate them.
This is the age in which the Roman hypocracy reaches full flower.
Fragment: The Knight and the Hetaira
This story appears in one early manuscript of the Florida, a collection of anecdotes compiled by the philosopher, jurist and with Apuleius of Madaura sometime during the reign of Hadrian or Antoninus Pius.
A Roman equites, a youthful man, fond of leisure and luxury, held a dinner party for three of his friends. They received an unexpected guest, a hetaira whom no one remembered buying, a Greek woman whose skin was marble-white, the darkness of her shining hair matched only by the darkness of her eyes. An evening of wine and laughter preceded a night of unearthly pleasures for the three men and their wives.
In the morning, all except the host were bloodless corpses. His wife, his friends and their wives were all dead, and more: every slave in the household was dead, and so were the knight's three children. The equites could find no one to offer him succor in his grief. His contemporaries knew hm to be tainted with ill omen, and they would not receive his visits, or acknowledge him in the street. His enemies could find no worse fate to bestow upon him, and left him to suffer. He consulted the haruspices, and they would not tell him the signs they saw in the entrails of the ox.
One night the hetaira came back to him. She asked him to leave with her, telling him that he had no family to shame. He freed his remaining slaves, one of whom was the freedman who told me this story and who was present at this last conversation. The equites left with her, no one knows where. His friends, meanwhile, never spoke his name again.