Elysium: The Elder War
The History of Rome
Do what you will with your days. I will rewrite the facts of your time on Earth a hundred times over the next thousand years. — Severus the Shadow of Thrace
This is Rome: the fount of all glory and pride, the shining gem in the vast diadem of Empire. This is Rome: the most corrupt of all cities, the heart of all hypocrisy. this is Rome: all that is good about humankind, and all that is evil walks these pungent streets. But Rome's glories are fading. this city is the heart and womb, but not the seat of empire, and the old rituals and the old gods have been displaced by a new faith that does not recognize the heritage of Romulus and Augustus.
Know that this decade we will see the death of the bloodline of Constantine, last great Emperor of Rome, and the beginning of the long fall. The chi-rho of the Christians has replaced the eagle as the standard of Rome. The Catholic and Arian churches fight over who will decide the future course of the history of the West, pushing the old religions to one side as an irrelevance. Julian, last champion of pagan Rome, will try to restore the Empire's ancient rites and fight back against the rule of the Christians. He will fail, and with his failure, the old ways will begin to fade and crack and crumble like painted fresco left in the open wind.
By the time this decade is over, 11 centuries will have gone by since Romulus crushed his brother's head with a shovel and made this city's name his own. The Propinqui, the Romans' dead "Kindred," like to believe that they walked in the nights of antiquity as the living Romans walked through the days, sharing in the nights of Rome's imperial destiny ever since that day.
The Propinqui are Rome's sin. They are nefasti, the inauspicious ones, walking, hungry signs of Rome's shame. They are the secret sins that exist in the dark of Rome's glorious day.
The time came when, by day, Brutus the Liberator threw down the last of the Tarquins, and founded a republic, and when the Republic grew old, Caesar ended it. Caesar died, but through is death he laid the foundations for Empire. The Senate dwindled in authority, but its dark complement, the Inconnu, the Small Senate of the Propinqui, waxed and grew in influence, becoming the final authority under which the Kindred existed, the ultimate rule by which Kindred existence was measured.
For two centuries, the Empire endured. Some Emperors were competent and imaginative; some were corrupt or inept. Some deserved lasting infamy; others were truly great. Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and Domitian ruled Rome, but so did Vespasian, Trajan, Antoninus and Marcus. The Inconnu's vampires continued the way they had for centuries, in times of war and peace and civil strife alike.
A third century of monarch brought collapse. A succession of barbarian invasions, usurpation, civil wars and costly foreign conflicts brought the Roman Empire close to ruin. Plagues, wars and natural disasters cut down swathes of the population. The great public works that had made the Empire the envy of the world fell to ruin. Sewers clogged up. Baths fell derelict. Aqueducts filled with silt. Armies grew smaller. Lines of communication snapped, never to be repaired. The stakes became greater and smaller at the same time, and a succession of common soldiers took on the mantle of Emperor, only to die in battle or to fall victim to murderous conspiracies. And the Propinqui suffered, too. Some vampires survived only through warping their blood to draw their sustenance from the victims of the endless run of plagues. Others became as the carrion crow, following the constantly moving armies of the day, preying on the wounded and dying on a hundred fields of battle.
When Diocletian came to power and brought order to chaos, the Roman Emire was barely recognizable. But the Inconnu continued. The Propinqui endured. The Eternal City may not be the capital of the Empire anymore, but Rome is the heart, and every Roman, from Anatolia to Eboracum, knows it. The same is true of the Propinqui.
But in this eleventh century since the foundation of Rome, things have changed in a way no one could every have imagined. A religion that denies the ancestral gods of Rome has become ascendant, a sect outlawed since Nero and nearly extinguished under Decius and Diocletian became, under the tutelage of the victorious Constantine, the religion of the state. It seems that they take their revenge on their former persecutors in a thousand different ways, and although so many of the people of Rome still cling to the old gods of the land and the Empire, it seems that the old ways will soon die. Increasingly, the pagans look to history. Through understanding where they have come from, they understand who they are and where they are going. They take the example of history, the good and the bad. Unable to truly act with originality, they use the great and terrible Romans of the past as exemplars of virtue and vice. They use these tales of war and liberation and sin and death as models for their own nightly tragedies and comedies. To the Kindred, the history of Rome exists in an eternal unbroken present. The past is forever now.
But a growing number of the Propinqui look to the God of the Christians and the certainties of the Lancea et Sanctum, and when Julian falls, they see it as a sign that the pagan Inconnu is finished. The Inconnu falls, splintering into small, fractious covenants.
The Kindred will not see the Inconnu's like again.