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Ian Miller

Athene's Prophecy

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Prologue

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N. K., 

Greetings, O ugliest one of all! You are no doubt aware of how you got to this point, you have a vague idea how Gaius and Lucilla got here, but you do not know why you got here. Gaius promised to explain everything, but I have written this for him, and, for that matter, I have written it for other reasons that will become clear. This is the first of three such volumes; the others will follow shortly. 

I have had to draw on memories and accounts that may or may not be distorted, and I confess to having filtered these a little, removing much that had little bearing on what happened. I have used English for simplicity, and I have anglicized Timothy's name. In fact, Gaius still does not know his original name. Obviously, Gaius had no word for certain scientific concepts, but we can leave out the complications that follow from the introduction of words that you have never heard before nor will hear again. I have also reported distances in kilometres for you. Oh yes, before you start thinking Chapter 1 is logically inconsistent, I obtained the details through a computer linkage with the temporal satellite's logs, with some dramatizing from me. 

M. 

Chapter 1

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Pallas Athene was in disgrace, but she felt that it was worth every gram of it for she had immortalized herself, starting over three thousand years before she was born. Yes, she knew that her career as a serious classical historian was over, and being consigned to this miserable cell was not exactly a career highlight, but on the bright side the cell did not have a means of evacuation. If it had, and if there were even a remote possibility that such an evacuation could have been reported as accidental, she was quite certain she would have been consigned to the depths of space. Instead, all they could do was to put her in a shuttle and return her to Earth tomorrow. They would also make certain that she would never be given permission to use the temporal viewer again.

The temporal viewer was one of the great triumphs of twenty-fourth century science, although it depended on theory established by Lansfeld in the late twenty-third century. Prior to Lansfeld, time had a rather peculiar status in physics: it was considered a coordinate, just like distance, which meant you could travel either way on it. The trouble was, you couldn't. One explanation for this problem was that going forwards was simply growing old or being in suspended animation, but going backwards defied conservation laws and the second law of thermodynamics.

The conservation laws arose because one piece of otherwise empty space was as good as another, and one piece of time was as good as another. If you were a footballer trying to kick a goal, if you gave exactly the same kick under exactly the same conditions, the ball would go on exactly the same trajectory whether you were playing at home or away, whether you were kicking towards north or south, or whether you did it today or tomorrow. If energy were not conserved, it could come and go as it pleased and the ball could dribble away for a few meters or go completely out of the field on the same kick. Sport would be impossible, as, for that matter, would be life for there would be no planets and no molecules. Travelling back in time implied that energy and matter were suddenly destroyed in the present and created in the past, in direct violation of conservation laws.

The second law of thermodynamics was an even worse problem. That law said that entropy must always increase with time, which, loosely speaking, meant that things always became more disordered as time increased. Since heat was random motion, ordered energy eventually turned to heat. Molecules never aligned their motion; your dinner never became slightly colder and left your plate to smear itself over the ceiling; a bag of footballs spilled over the field never rolled back together and piled themselves in a nice heap. It was impossible to send an object into the past because it contained heat, and by so sending it, entropy would be transferred from the present to the past, in direct violation of the law.

What Lansfeld's work had shown was that passive observation of the future was relatively easy, although there was a catch. Following the multiverse interpretation of quantum mechanics, every time a decision was made, a time-line followed for each choice. For most choices, this made little difference to the future, and instead of a narrow line, a band was seen that broadened into the future, however some decisions were critical, and the future forked. The net result was the future was so difficult to interpret.

The past, however, was different. While quantum mechanics allowed an enormous range of possibilities for any given action, once it influenced something those possibilities collapsed into one singular event, at least on that timeline. On our timeline, Napoleon always invaded Russia, and this always led to his demise. It may be different in other Universes, but we have no mans of knowing. Where Lansfeld's work was so important was that he showed that provided past energy transmission vectors remained unchanged and all energy consumption was realized in the present, passive observation of the past was possible.

Needless to say, the ability to see and record what actually happened had totally changed the study of history. There was still the problem of interpreting why it happened but at least the facts were right, which pleased those crusty old farts that saw themselves as the gatekeepers of the true knowledge.

What was known only to a handful of classical scholars was that there was an obscure tale of the Trojan War and somebody called Achilles, apparently told by, of all things, a blind poet of no significance. This was followed by what could be called a sequel, and this was a miserable tale of a drunkard who spent ten years fornicating around Greece before he returned home. When he did return, he thought his wife was taking lovers, so, after getting suitably drunk and unsuitably angry, in a quite messy and deplorable scene he bludgeoned the unfortunate wooers to death. This was followed by a sequence of squalid revenge bludgeonings. The original splatter tale!

She, Pallas Athene, had realized that information had neither inertial mass nor entropy, and accordingly, under certain conditions it was possible to be more active. The key was, a human's brain was always active, even when it was not doing anything significant, hence information could be transmitted there, redirecting electrical activity that was happening anyway without violating the laws of physics. If an historical person happened to be inside a certain configuration of stones or partially surrounded by another material of sufficiently high impedance, she could generate a direct communication with the subject's brain, particularly if the person was asleep or deeply relaxed. She could give seers prophecies, which were harmless because nobody believed them until they came true. She had ruined Kassandra's life, but later efforts were more fruitful. The Delphic Oracle was in an ideal site, and one particularly fruitful effort had been to give the oracle Galba's age, which greatly enhanced the mystique of the prophecy relating to Nero. She had drafted a short paper outlining how to do it, and she had intended to send this out for peer review shortly. She would be famous!

However, the highlight occurred in the temple in which the blind poet spent a lot of time. She, Pallas Athene, gave him visions that would improve the stories, and at the same time she inserted her name, as a Goddess.

Once Homer realized he could get visions in the temple, he came often. For a blind man, vision was a gift from the Gods. She had shown him what Ithaca, Troy, and the Plains of Illios actually looked like, she could show him the battles, and more to the point, she greatly improved the second story. A squalid drunken hypocrite who killed to escape the consequences of his fornicating was not the stuff of legends; make him truly a man of wrath. With the aid of special graphics she could show him monsters and places he could never imagine to better account for why the hero was away so long, and she could show the bloody ending that a true man of wrath would impose.

There had been a problem: the Gods had only one name. Why had she called herself Pallas Athene? Yes, it was her name but that was insufficient so she had to concoct this story about her having devoured Pallas, which made her a twin Goddess, but of what? The ferocity made warfare obvious, but the second? When the image of an irate Dr Chu came to mind, she had said science, then added wisdom as an explanation. The blind poet was impressed and made her part of the tale. Then, to make certain of her immortality, she had recorded the colour of her eyes. Who had ever heard of a grey-eyed Greek of that period? Athene had thought that this was truly safe because the change was noticeable only to those in the temporal satellite at the time and who had heard of the original versions; she was currently the only classical scholar on board.

The effect was startling. With such inspiration Homer completely changed his stories, and where before they had been eminently forgettable, and only recorded much later by sheer accident and then largely ignored except by half a dozen scholars, suddenly history had two pieces of truly great literature. The problem was, those within the temporal satellite retained their old memories but could view the changed scenario, and because of the greatness of the stories her prank had been uncovered. The sudden change in the name of the capital of Greece was also a bit of a give-away. Nevertheless, it was worth the consequences. She could live with her name recorded in two of the most famous pieces of literature ever written, and having a major city named after her was an added bonus.

The lights dimmed, so much so that she could barely see. Pathetic! They thought they were punishing her! Now, she thought as she lay down on the bunk, with fame achieved and the dim light she would get a good night's sleep.

In that she was wrong. She heard footsteps, then the door opened. An android stood there and beckoned. "Collect your belongings and come with me. It will be easier if you comply."

Yes, it would be, she thought. If the android grasped her, it could quite easily break her arm. "I promise not to run," she said, as she collected her reading material and her electronic notebook. "After all, there's nowhere to run to on a satellite." A thought occurred to her and she added, "I also promise not to try to steal the shuttle."

"You couldn't, anyway, because there is no shuttle outside," the android replied as she entered the barely lit passageway. Behind her, another android dragged a screaming shape and flung it into the cell and shut the door.

"You mean it's gone without me?"

"It no longer exists," came the unemotional response. "Everything will be explained in the conference room."

With no reason not to, Athene strode towards the conference room. She might be in trouble, but she was not going to let them see any sign of concern. However, when she opened the door she found that easier said than done. In what little light there was she could see three ashen-faced people: Dr Chu, the physicist responsible for the temporal viewer, Professor Ralph Grenfell, the specialist in alien history, and Rodney Black, the satellite commander who seemed to be so dazed he was barely functional. She could also smell fear. Dr Chu nodded to her and pointed to a chair.

Athene stared at them in disbelief. Obviously something was wrong, but what? Most likely the news of her prank had been relayed to Earth, and these people were going to be fired. "Look," she started, "I know that what I did is going to have repercussions, but I promise I shall make a statement taking full responsibility, and. ."

"What you did was wrong," Dr Chu interrupted. "You might think it was harmless enough, but you never considered what might follow."

"I know. ." Athene started.

"I doubt it," Dr Chu interrupted again. "We have a problem, and we need you."

"What problem?" Athene asked cautiously.

"It appears that the wretch who now occupies your cell read your notes and decided to commit a crime with the perfect alibi, namely he was not born when it was committed. The crime was carried out on another planet, presumably to prevent our knowing about it, and that planet had to have space travel capability to get the reward to him. He chose Ranh."

The closest planet to Earth with a civilization. "And I'm going to be responsible for. ."

"Not in the sense you are thinking," Dr Chu gave a wan smile. "Let me explain. It appears that he changed something very profoundly on their system, and we suspect. ."

"Can't you use the viewer to find out?" Athene interrupted.

"Please!" Dr Chu said. "We suspect the beneficiary there was rewarded with power at another's expense, but that left him with the problem that the same could be done to him. His solution seems to have been to exterminate the human race to prevent the temporal viewer ever being constructed."

"But this afternoon all was. ."

"The problem with interfering with the past," Chu shrugged, "is that you can make changes that took hundreds of years for the participants in what is, for you a matter of seconds. Anyway, whether you believe that or not, believe this. As a consequence of his activities, we are now in a state of paradox. ."

Paradox! When the cause necessary to create the effect was prevented from occurring by the effect. The common example was killing your parents before you were born; the parents did not die unless you killed them, but if they died, you did not exist, hence you could not kill them, therefore they did not die, except if they did not die then you were born and hence you killed them.

"At that point, the amplitude of our time-line collapsed to zero, which means there is zero probability that what was there when we left survived. We can use the viewer to see Earth in the present, which is how we know that all civilization on Earth is effectively terminated, however we seem to have been shifted off any actual time-line, and effectively we are no longer connected causally with the rest of the Universe. We can guess when the critical event happened, because that is the time when we can no longer view Earth, other than at present, and we have to assume that was when we were shifted off that timeline. Unfortunately, the critical decision presumably occurred on Ranh, and we cannot penetrate sufficiently close to the act to guess what happened."

"That's probably because the decision was a mental one," Grenfell offered. "Once someone had decided to do something, that created the paradox, even though it may have taken some time to actually carry out the act, and we cannot watch every person's thinking process on another planet."

"Whatever happened," Dr Chu continued, "The practical result is that we can no longer communicate with anything other than through the temporal viewer, for example, or receive solar power, which is why we are trying to save every Joule of energy we can."

"So we have the choice of sitting around, running out of food, and dying," Athene mused, "or sacrificing ourselves to allow humanity to survive. Not that it's much of a sacrifice if we're going to die anyway."

"What have you got in mind?" Dr Chu asked. He might be puzzled, she noted, but Commander Black was terrified.

"Try to get a message to Lansfeld," Athene replied. "If you recall, he was going to give up physics to be a space pilot, but he failed admission to the academy when, during his test where he elected to study the magnetosphere of Uranus, he failed to realize that somebody else was using one of the pieces of equipment on the deep space array. If he corrected that, he may never have been a physicist, he would never have discovered temporal theory, and. ."

"To be honest, I thought of that too, but it won't work," Dr Chu said quietly. "A curious fact about multiverses is that when a cause has several possible outcomes, they all occur until eventually something happens, such as somebody making an observation, that collapses the probabilities to precisely one. Accordingly, you see one timeline because only one sequence of events actually happened that lead to your now. However, if somebody in history could have done something different that will resolve the paradox, the corresponding state vector now has a finite probability, proportional to the probability that it will resolve the paradox. There is one very faint alternative timeline, and while it eventually involves Lansfeld, there is no possibility that any such option commences with him."

"So, why are you telling me?"

"Because you speak Latin and ancient Greek. Because of the limitations of relativity, this one last chance commences on Rhodes in the first century."

"How could that help?" It was unbelievable that anything on Rhodes in the first century could affect the outcome of an event in the twenty-fifth century.

"By getting alien help. This new time-line goes through an alien civilization that we know was exterminated," Professor Grenfell explained.

"You mean. ?"

"I mean that a newly generated timeline shows that if this Roman accepts an opportunity to be abducted in a space vehicle, and if he can get to this planet Ulse, and if once there he does certain things, he may return and with one other he could solve this problem for us," Dr Chu said.

"And why do we think this Roman could solve a problem that an advanced civilization couldn't?" Athene asked. "It just isn't possible."

"No, just highly improbable," Chu shrugged.

"In fact," Professor Grenfell added with a wry smile, "following the paradox, a future timeline for that civilization has formed with a similar intensity as this Roman's alternative timeline, which is consistent with this Roman's arrival altering the future of this alien civilization."

"But in reality, this Roman didn't do any of this, did he?" Athene asked.

"No, he didn't, seemingly because sufficient cause could not be put in place until the paradox occurred. So you, Pallas Athene, have to play Goddess again."

"Why do you think I can make the difference?"

"First, that a new timeline appears means that it commenced with something that only happened because the paradox happened, which means someone has to put that cause in place. We hope you can do that."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"Several things have to happen," Professor Grenfell explained. "To get to this alien civilization, the Roman has to board a space ship. As it happens, an alien zoo-specimen collector was nearby. I have enticed that ship to land at a place where our Roman could be abducted. ."

"How did you manage that?" Athene asked.

"I played on his greed," Grenfell smiled. "There is to be a major battle near where we hope to get our Roman abducted. I have persuaded this collector to visit the site and record the battle. He could make far more from the rights to that recording than he could ever make selling specimens, so the alien will land and put up recording equipment."

"That's cunning," Athene said.

"So that gets us an alien space ship on the site. You must persuade the Roman to be abducted."

"Even if he gets abducted," Athene replied dubiously, "what good does that do?"

"According to Ulsian law, the abduction of a person whose work could alter the path of his civilization is a major crime, in which case both the perpetrator and the victim have to be taken to Ulse. So, the key to getting him there is to turn him into somebody who otherwise could have altered the future of Earth."

"And that something is?"

"Science is our best bet," Dr Chu said, "because our subject almost made a discovery. You have to persuade him to do so."

"That sounds simple," she said sarcastically.

"Yes, and there's more. This Roman was highly original as a military strategist, and that must not change."

"The science gets him noticed by the aliens," Grenfell explained, "but once he gets there he has to do something to change the aliens' future. That will not be science."

"It won't be military either," Black muttered. "They'll have got past swords."

"Yes, they got past swords," Grenfell shook his head in despair, "but it could be like the so-called butterfly effect. Maybe he inspired someone to do something different. These aliens had a record of continuous losses until they were wiped out. Maybe. ."

"We don't know what he did, or, with the other way of looking at it, is yet to do, because the alternative timeline's too weak to visualize," Dr Chu interrupted, "but we get more than one go at this. If I'm correct and the science is critical, because probabilities of different steps are multiplied together, fixing that will strengthen the overall signal, then we can see what we have to do next. As an aside, we know this works because diverting that space ship has already improved the signal strength of this alternative timeline. We know we can improve our chances."

"What do we think happened to this Roman?" Athene asked.

"During the invasion of Britain he and some close family members were killed by Celts," Dr Chu explained, "and until then, as much as possible must remain unchanged so we don't simply replace one paradox with another. Some of Vespasian's men caught up with the Celts and killed all of them, so we're in luck: since everybody in this incident dies, our altering what happened by taking the Roman and any others off-world won't create another paradox. Since we get more than one go, we try for one big change at a time, so two guesses don't cancel out each other."

"So what do I do specifically?"

"This new time-line commences at a temple to. . like to guess?"

"How would I know?" she frowned.

"To you!"

"What?"

"The Roman falls asleep between two large stone objects and underneath a statue in a disused temple to Pallas Athene," Chu smiled, "which I thought might appeal to you. Do what you can just before he wakes, then if the overall probability of resolving the paradox improves, the intensity of the line increases and we get more detail. Then you can have another go, a little earlier. You get about six attempts. After that, well. ."

"What do I know about this Roman?"

"Fortunately, quite a bit, because he featured strongly in a thesis about why Roman science did not advance. Four students spent quite a lot of time viewing him, and we have their recordings. I'll download the notes into your notebook, if you wish."

"So you want me to give him a quick physics lesson?"

"No! I am afraid he must make the discovery himself. You must inspire him."

"I don't want to be unduly negative," Athene said, "but I just don't believe you can turn a Roman soldier into a leading physicist. ."

"We know it's not easy," Chu nodded, "but it's our only chance to undo this disaster. According to the thesis, he was toying with the heliocentric theory, and had a debate with his teacher. He lost that debate when his teacher provided physical proof that the Earth could not travel around the sun and he gave up; his attitude could be summarized as Aristotle was obviously right, and in any case, who cares? So you must inspire him to greater things and also give him information that will get him through a couple of crises."

"There's another reason he must prove his heliocentric theory," Grenfell added. "We're asking a Roman to board an alien space ship and comprehend what's going on. When told, he must accept there are other planets going around other stars."

"We're asking him to do what Galileo did from roughly the same starting point," Chu added. "He nearly did it, so it's possible, if he can undo Aristotle's errors."

"But he didn't do it," Athene pointed out.

"The hardest part of making a discovery," Dr Chu smiled, "is convincing yourself that you can, that it's possible."

"Are you sure I'm the right person to. ."

"Oddly enough, yes," Chu smiled. "If you could inspire what would have become a wine-sodden nothing to change his life and write two of the greatest pieces of literature of classical times, you can do this."

"I don't know enough about physics," she warned, although secretly she was very pleased with herself to receive such an accolade.

"You don't have to," Chu nodded supportively. "What you have to do is prod him in the right direction. I'll tell you what you should tell him, but leave you to work out how to say it. Will you do it?"

"I'll try," she replied. "I mean, it's not as if I've much choice, is it?"

"It's when you've got no choice you tend to make the right one," Chu smiled. "If we can help in any way, ask, but don't waste time. There will be no further supplies of food or spare parts, and we do not know how long this will take."

"Do we know how long we can exist in this state of paradox?"

"Until the paradox is resolved or until we run out of food," Dr Chu said. "The instant our interventions cannot resolve the issue in our favour, or, for that matter, we give up trying, we cease to exist, as does the human civilization."

"We are devoting much of our nuclear energy to life support and growing vegetables," Grenfell added. "However, there is a problem. The viewer is very energy hungry, and when we use the viewer, we have to turn off certain life-support functions. If we over-use it, we shall degrade our own environment to an extent that we shall not survive."

"One of the other odd things about where we are," Dr Chu added, "is that since we are not connected directly to the rest of the Universe and cannot get energy in, it is also rather difficult to get rid of spare heat. If we cannot work out a way to get rid of it, and I am working on that, we shall eventually cook. The good news is that the viewer gets rid of energy, but the bad news is it does not get rid of heat."

"Suppose he doesn't accept me as a goddess?"

"I have an idea to help that along," Grenfell offered. "We get him to recognize you."

"How? I mean I can try in the dream, but if he rejects that. ."

"We have to dress you up to look the part, and we have to do this twice. What I want you to do is to persuade the builders of this little temple to erect a statue that looks like you. That way, our Roman will recognize you in his dreams."

"Is there an available sculptor?" Athene frowned.

"There was always a statue, and all we want to do is alter what it looks like. As it happens, we know that we can get a chance at him before he does your face."

"So you're going to dress me up as a goddess? Have we got what we need to make it look real?" Athene was somewhat doubtful that this could be done, after all, the temporal satellite was not exactly filled with theatrical material.

"The sculptor will dress you for the statue, and after that it is only your face that counts. But there is one more thing. This has to be an unusual statue. What I suggest is that you persuade the sculptor to show you thinking. Power and bombast simply won't do."

"To add to it," Chu smiled, "I'll make you something that glistens and looks like a laurel wreath crown. We can still put on some theatrics."

"Can we do this in stages?" Athene asked. "Firm up one step, then. ."

"We get one chance up until the alien civilization is resolved. At that point, their commitment to help, assuming we can get it, could lead to their arranging further communication, so the top priority is to get him there. However, in the later efforts you should also give one or two clues about the subsequent timeline, just in case, and also to stop him branching out into some further non-productive line."

"You don't want him becoming a prophet," she nodded.

"No, and there's another catch. While he must make these discoveries, he has to keep them secret until he gets abducted. The requirement that he could have changed the way Rome developed but for the abduction depends on his not having already done it."

"Further complications!" Athene nodded. "As if this weren't hard enough already."

"I know," Dr Chu smiled, "but I've got faith in you."

That might be misplaced, Pallas Athene thought as she stared at the notes in front of her. All she had to do was save two civilizations. This time she might have to earn that "Goddess" title she had given herself, and since there was no guarantee she would be born


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on the new timeline that would be created, she might end up being truly mythological.

* * *

Athene stared dolefully at the controls. This would be her last attempt, and she had to time it very well. Up until her previous attempt she had been so confident. Each previous attempt had worked surprisingly well, she had gathered so much information, she had discovered how her Roman would respond to what stimulus, and she had been so sure the last effort would really be the last. But it had not worked. Everything had gone off at a tangent at the end, and she was unsure why. Ralph Grenfell thought he knew: the Ulsians had to feel suitably guilty to let the Roman return. But how to achieve that?

The good news was that Dr Chu appeared to be on top of the heat problem. If this did not work they could spend years in this wretched capsule. She had to make it work! The problem was, there were three theories on what was required: hers, Ralph's and Dr Chu's, but there was only one option. They had discussed this for some time, and eventually Ralph had taken her aside and said that she had the casting vote.

"The reason," he had shrugged, "is that this depends as much on performance as anything. You could have the right approach but if you are not convincing, it still won't work."

She had thanked him for his support, but she felt anything but enthused. It all depended on her. Great!

She reached out and began turning the dials. She must find the very narrow window of time. Fortunately she had been very accurate previously, which was why she had managed to generate three extra chances. But this was definitely the last. The image on the screen began to take shape. She took a deep breath, and adjusted the homemade wreath. She had to look like a goddess! This had to work!

Chapter 2

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Old Libo nodded at his young charge and smiled. "One on one! And no pissing around!"

Before the boy could answer, the top of Libo's shield flew towards his head, while the leaden tipped point of the practice sword thrust towards his chest. Totally by reflex, Gaius parried with his shield, but the weight of the thrust was too great, and he fell backwards onto the grass. The side of the wooden sword smashed across his legs.

'Bastard' Gaius thought, as he scrambled to his feet, and another blow fell across his back. "Miserable cheating. .' He readjusted his grip on his shield while Libo stood away from him, taunting. He grasped his practice sword, turned towards Libo, and angrily charged, shield to the fore. He was half way across the space between them when something flashed across his mind. 'Don't fight in anger!' He jammed his left boot ahead, pivoted to his left on it, and brought his shield across to cover the blow. Libo had launched at the angry young man, but Gaius' pivot left him striking air. Gaius' shield pushed into Libo's side and as he moved away, Gaius thrust his sword into his unguarded right flank.

Libo cursed, but recovered and thrust back. Gaius saw the blow, and pushing it towards his right, he moved forward, thrusting upward towards his opponent's slightly exposed right. Libo pulled his sword downward, parried, and stepped back. Gaius thrust forward, but it was a feint; as the shield blocked the thrust, and also partly blocked Libo's view, he leaped to his right. Libo had seen his feet, he swivelled, and they faced each other again.

Gaius stepped forward, pushing his shield to the outside of Libo's sword and thrust fiercely, but Libo had moved to his left and his sword struck nothing. Gaius pulled his shield downwards as hard as he could, anticipating the kick he sensed was coming. Libo swore, and momentarily seemed off balance. Gaius thrust with everything he had, but Libo still managed to parry. Gaius saw the eyes flicker, he realized his exposure, so he leaped back, bringing his shield across to parry the blow, at the same time bringing his boot around to catch the knee he had previously struck with the shield edge. Libo swore again, then swore again as Gaius smashed the edge of his shield into Libo's side.

Libo advanced, pushing forward with the shield, to take advantage of his superior weight and strength. Gaius again leaped to the right, and struck with his sword towards the knee, but this time Libo parried.

They danced around for several minutes, Gaius now opting to use his superior fitness and mobility. Libo, however, ignored this, and taunted him for being afraid to get on with it.

"Old windbag!" Gaius retorted.

Libo gave a flicker of a smile, charged forward, then dived to his left to get a clear sight of Gaius' right, but Gaius anticipated and drove his shield into Libo's body, at the same time thrusting his sword down at Libo's knee. Libo parried, but was not quite quick enough, and again he swore. When he thrust forward again, Gaius simply retreated, then, noting the slight limp, waited until the weight was coming onto that knee then he leaped forward, sword arm raised. He knew the shield would raise, and the thrust come around; he leaped to his left, advanced a pace, and as Libo struck, he swung his shield across to block it and brought his sword around inside his shield to thrust viciously up into the base of Libo's now exposed ribs.

Libo swore, nodded at Gaius, and threw his wooden sword over to the heap of equipment. "Good strike!" he grunted. "Even under the leather, I'll have a bruise to show for that! You've learned all I can teach, young Gaius. Come and have some wine."

"Thank you so much. Perhaps you can tell me whom I should go to next."

"You're wrong!" Libo said flatly, and slapped him on the shoulder. "I'm stopping because you've had enough."

"But. ."

"Gaius," Libo said softly. "Listen to me, and just for once, stop arguing. I've taught you all I can about technique. The rest you've got to do yourself. First, you did well then and I was trying. But that was practice. Can you do it when it counts?"

There was a silence, and as Libo's eyes bored into him, Gaius replied, "I believe so. I suppose I can't be sure until. ."

"You can," Libo smiled. "You've been trained by the best. In battle, the enemy is within as much as opposite you. You kill or wound before they kill or wound you. Don't stop and think!"

"Do you tell everyone that?" Gaius asked curiously.

Libo laughed. "No, I don't, and anyway, I don't teach all that many. I've taught you because even though your father's not exactly popular, he's been good to me and my family."

"He likes you."

"I know," Libo replied. "The second reason is you're a thinker. No, don't apologize! Most of the time it's good, but don't overdo it in combat. In every combat there are a number of tiny openings. You make some; the opponent's carelessness makes some. Being a left-hander will give you more than most would get, and being unusually tall will give you some more, so take advantage of them."

"I try."

"Yes, I know. In practice. Why did you keep bashing away at my knee. I can hardly walk on it."

"I'm sorry, I. ."

"Don't be! That was combat. Now, why?"

"The first blow just happened. After that I thought I could slow you down and. ."

"Good!" Libo said, and poured more wine into Gaius' cup. "Drink up! If you want to get soldiers on your side, you've got to drink with them! Now, Gaius, the first blow didn't just happen. That was one of those moments when I was slightly off balance and you made me pay. That's what I mean by taking advantage of a moment. Then you decided I had a weakness and you went to exploit it. That's good. Now, explain your end-game."

"Well," Gaius said slowly, "I started off trying to keep you off my left side, and when I succeeded I kept closing in on the right with my shield until I could get you on the weaker knee, then I feinted to distract you and went left so. ."

"Well constructed," Libo nodded. "That's your strength, so build on it. Now, another weakness! You called me an old windbag."

"Well, yes, I suppose. ."

"I barely heard it!" Libo snorted. "Remember the value of taunts in battle. If you make your opponent mad, you make him careless. Try to fight on your terms, not his."

"I'll try to practice," Gaius smiled and took a good swallow of wine.

"Another thing, you're not very strong yet. That's a matter of age, and exercise. Try to strengthen yourself, but if you get into a fight, try to keep at a distance and keep moving. Don't let yourself get boxed in. Use your reach, and your movement."

"I am spending some time doing the strengthening exercises you gave me," Gaius said, "but I'm not planning on getting into any more fights than I can help."

"Good," Libo smiled, then the smile went. "Now, I've taught you to kill, because either you kill them or they kill you. Kill if need be without a moment's hesitation, but never kill for the sake of killing. Do you understand?"

"I've already promised," Gaius said simply.

"That I believe you is why I taught you," Libo smiled. "This will be the last time we meet, I think, and I must give you some more advice."

"The last time? But. ."

"Your family leaves tomorrow for Capreae?"

"The Princeps  has required that we attend. ." The boy paused.

"I know," Libo nodded. "Your stub of the Claudian gens  has not been one of the favourite ones. Senatorial rank, and on the wrong side of every major issue."

"I know," Gaius smiled wryly. "Leaving aside such matters as our position on the Gracchus issue, and opposing the dictatorial powers of Sulla, we opposed Crassus' campaign against the Parthians. ."

"Correctly! That was a disaster."

"True, but we opposed it before it was a disaster. Then one of us fought with Gnaeus Pompeius at Pharsalus. ."

"A lot of Romans thought a lot of Pompeius."

"But not the other Claudians when they united with the Julians!"

"Trying to make up by supporting Antony was not exactly the brightest move either," Libo grinned.

"Nor was maintaining a low profile later," the boy agreed, "although keeping our mouths shut about a return of the Republic when Tiberius offered to decline the position of Princeps  was probably a step in the right direction."

"It was not," Libo snorted. "Unlike Augustus, Tiberius the soldier didn't bullshit! I think he'd have supported a return to the Republic."

"Not now," Gaius shrugged.

"Probably not," Libo agreed, "but that's outside our concern. Now, listen to me. When you see Tiberius, stand up straight, look him in the eye, tell the truth, and don't be ashamed. Be respectful, don't be a smart-arse, and don't be intimidated." Libo paused, and Gaius remained silent. "Good! Don't let your mouth run away with you. If Tiberius wants to hear your opinion, he'll ask. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut, and whatever happens, don't show fear. The Tiberius I knew was never happier than with soldiers. Even if you're not one, look like you could be one. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"If the worst comes to the worst, and only then, tell Tiberius I'm calling in a debt."

"What do you mean?" He coughed as, in his surprise, wine went the wrong way.

"I once saved Tiberius' life," Libo said. "He promised me he would grant me whatever I wanted. I never got around to asking, so in an emergency, and only then, try that. Understand?"

"Thank you."

"Now, suppose you get to a legion. Because your family's of senatorial class, you'll start as Tribunus Laticlavius ." He turned to the boy and growled, "Think you deserve it?"

"That's unfair," the boy nodded.

"That's not what I asked," Libo growled again. "The question is, do you deserve it?"

Gaius looked Libo in the eye. "I have to. I've got to learn enough to do the job better than anyone else."

"Good answer," Libo nodded. "Now, when you get to a legion, check the reputation of the Legatus . Learn what you can from what he does if he's good, and maybe what he doesn't if he's not so good. Understand?"

"Yes."

"How'll you know whether he's good or bad?" Libo challenged.

"Find out how many battle's he's won, see if morale's good, see. ."

"Don't stare, but watch the Centurions when he's finished giving orders. They'll obey, but usually you can tell what they think of them. Which gets to the next point. The soldiers'll want you to lead, and that doesn't mean you charge off waving a sword."

"I'll try not to charge foolishly. ."

"Yes, but let's forget about what you won't do and think about what you will do. What's the most important thing to do?"

"Make sure everyone's fed and equipped properly," Gaius replied quickly.

"That's a good start," Libo agreed. "If the men know you're in control of everything before the start of an engagement, they'll believe you'll stay in control. What else?"

"Do proper scouting," Gaius replied. "Organise any battle on my terms, at least as far as I can."

"You've got the right idea, except you're in danger of that weakness of thinking too much. If in doubt, it's better to plod in the standard Roman way than try for a sequence of brilliancies with all sorts of odd results."

"But?"

Libo smiled. "Don't forget the human touch. Strictly speaking, you only have to be right one more time than your opponent but the men want to think you're right all the time. Look confident, even if you haven't a clue what to do next. If you want a clue, you ask those with experience, but how and what you ask is important. If you want to know how long it would take to march to a hill and make camp, ask a Centurion. They know and they'll respect you for wanting to get the details right. But if you want to know something more subjective, ask your immediate juniors, and put it like a test. You know, what would you do if. ? Make it look as if you're asking what they would do, to see if you could trust them. Never give the impression you haven't a clue.

"Now, before an engagement, go around and cheer up the men. How do you do that? By showing them you care. Remember, it's nowhere nearly as important what you say as that you've taken the time to say it. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"Then there's nothing more to say," Libo said, "except to wish you good luck."

"Thank you," Gaius said, then he added, "You realize, of course, that Tiberius may end my military career before it begins?"

"Be yourself," Libo offered. "The old Tiberius would respect that, and if the old Tiberius is dead, then may the Gods help Rome."

The two sat against a rock, drinking wine, then finally they each knew it was time to part. Without speaking, they rose, embraced, then Gaius turned, gathered his equipment and strode away. He did not glance back. He could not believe that he would never see his old instructor again, but he knew that Libo was convinced, and that made him feel very very sad.

Chapter 3

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But for the orders from Tiberius they would have waited. The sea was leaden grey, the wind howled, and their tiny boat was tossed about on the enormous waves seemingly like a leaf. The journey from Neapolis was not very far, but the wind was howling and the sea angry. Apart from Gaius and his younger sister Lucilla, the family had been hopelessly sick. Gaius had stood manfully at the bow, staring forward, as much as anything so that the wind would blow the smell away from him. He watched the sea, and found that he could predict what the boat would do. It seemed to help, and the soaking spray and the numbing cold seemed to take his mind from his stomach. Even so, he was so glad when the cliffs of Capreae began to offer some shelter. As the harbour approached, the wind still howled, the rain still belted his face, but the waves were much smaller and the boat began to gain some stability.

They arrived at about two in the afternoon, to be greeted by a small detachment of soldiers, who helped unload their belongings. The family then followed the soldiers as they marched towards the northeast along a path that soon began to climb. They climbed for a little under two kilometres, then suddenly it came into view: a glistening but massive building, with several terraces and a simply huge number of levels. Gaius just stopped and stared in disbelief.

"Impressive, isn't it?" a soldier patted him on the back.

"It's immense," Gaius replied, then he added, as he turned to the soldier, "It must have been fun carrying all the stuff up there to fill that place."

"Yeah," the soldier nodded. He had obviously been one of those who had so laboured. "You realize," he added with a grin, "it's on the edge of a cliff."

"There must be quite a view," Gaius said.

"Indeed there is, and there is also quite a fall."

"Better not fall then."

"You may not have a choice," the soldier continued grinning. "If Tiberius doesn't like you, he just tosses you off the ledge." He gave Gaius a firm pat and marched onwards.

'Just what I needed,' Gaius thought to himself. 'A reminder that not everybody who comes here goes back!'

Not that there was any choice. He must march onwards, and remembering Libo's advice, show no fear. The party entered the complex, were given rooms, then were offered lunch. Since he was the only family member who had not been sick, he gobbled that down and asked where he could find the Princeps ' library.

"You won't be allowed in there," was the reply from one of the servants.

"Not if I don't ask," Gaius replied, and when he was given directions, he set off and soon found it.

He entered the doorway and gasped. The library was almost a villa in its own right. There were scrolls across all the walls, and there were rows of shelves all full of scrolls. He had never imagined so many scrolls could exist. A reader's heaven, but there was still the problem of getting permission to enter. He looked around then saw an elderly man with a horribly blotched face sitting in a corner, reading. With nobody else in sight, he walked quietly towards the man and explained as politely as he could who he was, why he was there, and asked how he could obtain permission to spend the afternoon reading.

"Want to make a good impression?" came the gruff response.

"I doubt I could," Gaius replied. "No, I wish to look up a couple of things." He then explained that his Grammaticus  had told him that the Greeks had measured the size of the world, and he wished to see their argument. He had been told that the Princeps  was interested in astronomy, so he hoped the items were available. Secondly, he wished to see the Princeps ' account of his German expedition.

"You're going to crawl!" the old man spat.

"The Princeps  won't even know," Gaius retorted.

"Then why are you so interested?" The old man put down the scroll, and for the first time looked into the boy's eyes.

"According to old Libo, there was a difficult decision. ."

"And this Libo's an authority?" the old man scowled.

"Well, he was there," Gaius spoke back firmly. Nobody was going to run down Libo. "He was a Centurion, and he saved the Princeps ' life, so. ."

"Describe him!"

"A bit above average height, strong build, a scar running down here," Gaius said, and run his finger down the side of his face.

"And how do you know him?" Gaius did not notice it, but the old man had a slight tear in his eye.

"He's taught me about military things," Gaius replied. "He's given me training in weapons, and he taught me about how the legions work."

"I see. He must have thought something of you?"

"I believe so, yes. Anyway, how do I get permission to. ?"

"Tell me about this difficult decision you wish to look up?" The old man stared, then seemed to soften, as he added, "I might be able to tell you where to find what you're looking for."

"As I understand it, the legion had advanced too far into the German forest, Tiberius had left its rear flank unguarded, and he suspected a trap," Gaius said earnestly. "He could do three things when he reached a river. He could go upstream, downstream, or go back. I want to know why he chose as he did."

"Why?"

"To know how commanders think."

"You think you might command one day?" the old man challenged.

"I doubt it," Gaius said sadly, then added in a determined tone, "but if I get any chance at all, I'm going to get it right."

"For the Princeps ' journals, look in the second alcove on the right," the old man pointed. "For your first enquiry, you'll find someone around the first corner to the left. Ask him, and if he can stop stuttering, he'll tell you."

"Thank you." Gaius bowed his head respectfully, then as the old man gave a smile of almost disbelief, he walked in the direction of the pointed finger. The first corner to the left was obvious, but when he turned it there was nobody in sight. He walked on a little, passed the first row of shelves and kept walking, and was wondering what to do next when he heard a sound behind him. He turned to face the man, and his first impression was that somehow this man was strangely awkward, although had he been pressed he would have had considerable difficulty in explaining why he thought that. He was not standing straight, and while his eyes were darting furtively, as if he was not supposed to be there, there was also something strangely imperious about him.

"G..Greetings." The stutterer!

"Greetings," Gaius replied very respectfully. "Excuse me, but I was told you could help me."

"H how?"

Gaius explained what he was looking for. The man nodded, reached up and half pulled out one scroll, then he tugged Gaius' arm and led him to the other. As he came out of the library bay he seemed to stoop slightly and he began to shuffle. Again, when he reached the alcove, he straightened a little, then climbed to reach one of the highest scrolls, which he pulled out. "Th..there's a t..table there." he pointed.

"Thank you," Gaius said, and placed his first lot of scrolls on the designated table. He then recovered the German campaign scroll, and sat down to read.

It took longer to find the discussion on the size of the Earth within the scroll than to follow the argument. Once pointed out, it was obvious. There was a place far up the Nile where, on the summer solstice, the sun at noon was directly overhead. They knew that because the sun would shine on the bottom of a well. At the same time but a large distance to the north, they measured the length of the shadow from a vertical stick. Now, provided that the plumb bob at each point pointed to the centre of the sphere, the sun, a stick and the centre lay on a straight line at the first point, but the sun made an angle with the centre-stick line at the second point. The size of the angle was known from the size of the shadow, and from this, the size of the angle between the two stick-centre lines was known. That told what angle the arc of the circle represented, and they knew the length. Multiply it out to a whole circle, and the Earth had a circumference of thirty-seven thousand kilometres. Gaius was fascinated. Simple geometry!

But that was enough of that. He had to read the other scroll. He found the section quickly enough, and read the arguments. What was strange, he thought, was that each argument was reasonably persuasive and, what was more annoying, it was not clear why the given decision was made. Nor was it clear why Tiberius went so far into the forest. If it was to catch the Germans and teach them a lesson, why did he not go straight back the way he had come? The counter argument was, the Germans would catch them, but surely that was the object! Unless Tiberius was too weak to deal with them, but if that were the case, why go so far? As he sat back to puzzle on this, he suddenly realized that the issue was not quite as clear as he expected it to be.

"G g got what you w want?"

"I found the item, thank you," Gaius replied, "but I'm not too sure how much it helps."

"Th th that's what often h happens." The smile of almost condescension suddenly disappeared as the man must have seen someone approaching. "P p please, don't tell where I am!" With that he turned into an alcove.

An imperious young man strode into the room, his glance sweeping over the boy without a sign of acknowledgement.

"Where are you?" he sneered slowly. Silence. Again he said in a teasing tone, "Claudius!"

"Yes sir!" Gaius offered.

"Who are you?" The expression was that of someone who had just discovered a roach.

"Claudius, sir."

"Oh, you would be, wouldn't you. And what snivelling idiot let you in here?"

Gaius looked out the corner of his eye to see the old man nod imperceptibly. "He did," Gaius offered.

The young man gave a cruel sneer then turned his head to follow the finger. He saw the old man, together with a challenging look his face. "Oh!" he said, and gave a visible start, almost of fear. "I suppose that's all right then." He paused, then added harshly, "I don't suppose you've seen that stuttering fool Claudius?"

"I've seen no stuttering fool," Gaius replied calmly.

The man stared at him almost in disbelief, but before he could say anything further, a voice could be heard outside the library, "Gaius! Get your arse out here or I'll. ."

It was never clear what the threat entailed, because the imperious young man spun on his heel and rushed towards the doorway. There was an immediate sound of running and a sequence of cries of pain, diminishing in intensity as the footsteps clearly took the additional person away from the library as quickly as humanly possible.

"Th thank you."

Gaius looked up and smiled. "I merely told the truth," he shrugged.

"I d d do stutter."

"Yes, but if you knew where these scrolls were, you can't be a fool," Gaius shrugged. "I guess you're Claudius?"

"I g guess you're G gaius Claudius?"

"Fairly obvious, isn't it?"

"If y you like, I'll get you some more scrolls? Y you might find them interesting."

"I'd like that," Gaius replied, "but that noise before was my Grammaticus . I think he'll be back, and he'll be angry."

"G g gaius'll put the fear of the G gods into him," Gaius' new friend grinned. "He won't dare!"

Claudius was correct. Gaius was able to spend the remains of the afternoon in the library, reading about things he had never considered to exist, and to which his Grammaticus  had certainly never alluded.

When he did return to his quarters, his Grammaticus  was furious, and after bawling Gaius out for not being available, he lashed out with a whip several times. Gaius had to bear this; his father had ordered him to obey. Eventually, as blood began to run down Gaius' legs, the Grammaticus  stopped and stormed out of the room. Just as Gaius was beginning to rub something on his legs a young man entered, carrying a scroll for Gaius to read. Gaius thanked him, and sat down to read.

First there was a note. "If you want to know the size of the Earth, why not know the size of everything else! — C". Gaius smiled, and looked at the scroll. It was a description of work by the Greek Aristarchus. Almost three hundred years ago he had worked out by geometry that the Moon was about half the size of the Earth. Two people watched an eclipse of the Moon from different parts of Greece, and they carefully measured the angles just as the eclipse started. They then had two angles and the distance between themselves, so the distance, hence the size of the Moon could be measured.

Aristarchus then argued that the Moon travelled around the Earth once a month, and both travelled around the sun, taking a year to make the journey. The sun was considerably further away than the Moon. To measure the relative distances, he waited until half-moon, at which time the angle Sun-Moon-Earth must be a right angle. By measuring the angle between the moon and the sun, he could get the ratio. The angle was 87 degrees, so from Pythagoras' theorem, the sun was twenty times further away from the Earth than the moon.

Gaius was at first stunned, then he snorted. The angle 87 degrees was so close to a right angle that the Greek must have got it all wrong, then suddenly he stopped to think. If it were 89 degrees, say, it would be much further away. Even if he were correct, that meant it had to be so much larger than the moon. It looked to be the same size as the moon in a solar eclipse, or so they said, but if it was twenty times further away, it had to be twenty times larger!

There seemed to be something wrong with all that. They were obviously the same distance away since they both went around the Earth in roughly the same time, but. . No! The argument was the Earth was spinning, and the Moon went around the Earth in a month. That was just so confusing! Except, deep down, it had a certain logic to it. Then again, if the reason why there was a half phase was because the


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sunlight struck the Moon side on, which is what Aristarchus said, then the Moon would be a sphere too, just like the Earth. With a start, he wondered whether it was in any way like the Earth.

And if the Moon was as big as the Earth, then the sun had to be immense! And if. . But this was a waste of time. Too many ifs and buts, and anyway, who cared? Rome was built on stones and the sword.

Chapter 4

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Gaius was almost late for the family meeting with the Princeps . He had dressed formally in his toga and was about to proceed towards the meeting when he received a formally written note, under an impressive looking seal: "Dress in tunic, not toga. Ti. Clavd. Drv." So he had to dress again. His family was staring around, clearly agitated and clearly looking for him, when he entered. He was so conscious of the welts on his legs, and the expression on his father's face showed that they were rather obvious.

But this was of little concern to Gaius. He looked up at the rostrum to see three people staring at him with three quite different expressions. On the right sat the stutterer, who gave him a nod and a wink of encouragement, and who seemed to be remarkably pleased with himself. On the left was Gaius Caesar, who had the sour look of someone forced to be somewhere where only bad could come to him, and who was anything but pleased at the prospect of what was to come. But on the largest and central chair, underneath the great eagle, was the old man from the library. Only Tiberius would sit in that chair! Now he knew why Gaius Caesar had been afraid; he had called Tiberius a snivelling idiot, in his hearing. But this man looked nothing like the image on the coins. He looked old and weary! Then suddenly the true importance of his position struck him. He had had the rather dubious pleasure of discussing Tiberius' German campaign with Tiberius himself. He almost froze but the words of Libo came back to him. Act like a soldier, show no fear. Gaius quickly made a formal bow, and stepped towards his family.

"So," Tiberius said in a droll voice, "this annoying stub of the Claudian gens  has finally assembled." His eyes scanned across them, and muttered, "What a miserable looking lot!"

Gaius remembered the advice Libo had given him. No, he was not going to look miserable. He stood, his head held high.

"And you, I suppose," Tiberius stared at the Grammaticus , "are the one who got Little Boots all riled up?" The Grammaticus  was studying the floor, Gaius noted. "And I presume you're also responsible for that boy's legs?" Silence. "Well?" Tiberius snarled in a quiet voice.

"I, I, er. ."

"Presumably through some noble activity such as using the practice swords?" Tiberius added in a tone as if he could not care less.

"Er, yes, Princeps ," the Grammaticus  finally muttered.

"I thought as much," Tiberius remarked. "You!" he said, now pointing towards Gaius, "You read about the campaign?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"So, pretend you're the commander. You get to the river, what do you do?"

"Set up camp and fortify," Gaius replied quickly.

"Then?"

"I would cut down forest around the camp, and within the fortifications, build rafts," Gaius said simply.

"You would float downstream?" Tiberius asked, in some surprise. "You would do that rather than come over the Alps?"

"Yes, although of course there may be factors I have not considered."

"And why not the Alps?"

"The paths narrow," Gaius said. "That was known at the time. Too much risk of ambush. With rafts, the river would carry us at a speed the Germans could never match."

"You realize I took the Alps?" Tiberius asked.

"Yes Princeps ."

"So you think I was wrong?"

"No, Princeps ."

"No? How come?"

"We know your method worked," Gaius remarked, "whereas we have no idea what would come from a river-borne escape. If it works, it can't be wrong."

"But you still say, the river?"

"When the decision has to be made, I wouldn't know whether the alpine route would work either," Gaius said. Murmurs arose from some of those present in the background. A boy questioning Tiberius? Gaius' father was appalled.

"There was a lot of discussion at the time," Tiberius noted dryly, his gaze passing over those in the background and immediately silencing them. "The issue was by no means clear-cut." He nodded, and turned his gaze back to the boy. "So, at least we've established you're no sycophant. Are you a liar?"

"No, Princeps !" Gaius replied quietly but firmly.

"Someone is," Tiberius snorted. "You claim you've had sword training by this man Libo?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"Then show me. Centurion!" Tiberius pointed to one of the Praetorian guards, who stepped forward, carrying two of the lead-weighted wooden practice swords and two shields. He handed a sword and shield to the boy, then stepped back. After Gaius had secured the shield, Tiberius nodded. Suddenly the Centurion swung his arm back, to smash the sword down on Gaius' head. In an instant, Gaius stepped forward, raised the shield, and thrust, throwing everything his shoulders and hips could give. The Centurion's blow sent his shield falling backwards as the point of his sword struck the leather armour, and the centurion swore. Gaius flinched, waiting for retribution.

"Well?" Tiberius asked.

"That would kill," the Centurion nodded.

"Then, young Claudius, no need to flinch," Tiberius snorted. "A Praetorian gains no credibility by refusing to die in practice. Indeed," he added coldly, "we might do it for real, to show him that he can't. Well, don't just stand there! Get on with it!"

Gaius stepped back and readjusted his shield. The Centurion advanced, swung out wide, and struck. In a flash, Gaius thrust his shield to block the blow, and thrust again with everything he had, the point catching the Centurion under the rib cage, doubling him up. The Centurion stepped back, then suddenly Gaius realized what was happening. The Centurion was going through a practice sequence similar to what Libo had shown. He knew what was coming next. Then he saw the Centurion's eyes; a slight show of cunning. As he advanced, Gaius started what he was expected to do, namely thrust straight forward with the shield, but then just as impact should have occurred, he pulled back, and as the Centurion pushed on nothing and slightly lost balance in going forward too far, Gaius slammed the shield across and thrust again, the point going slightly upwards and into the ribs.

"Stop!" Tiberius called. He looked at the boy. "Why did you do that?"

"I saw his eyes," Gaius replied calmly. "I knew. ."

"I see," Tiberius interrupted. He turned his eyes towards the Grammaticus . "You must be a good swordsman," he mused. "Give him your sword and shield, boy." Gaius handed the items over to his now bemused and fearful teacher. "Now," Tiberius said in a droll tone, "at last we can have some fun. Boy, your domain is that mosaic you're standing on, bounded by the brown border. You understand that?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"You will fight your Grammaticus ," Tiberius said with a shrug. "If you leave your domain, you lose, and may make no further defence." He turned towards the Grammaticus  and said, "You may use any amount of the floor you like. The boy may not follow you off his domain, and if you win, you can do what you like with him. Rape him there on the floor. Split his little arse, what do you say, Little Boots?" He turned with a sneer towards the younger man to his side, who looked a little bemused. "Oh, come, come, Little Boots, it's what you'd do, so don't sit there and snivel!" He turned back towards Gaius, and said calmly, "You don't get a shield, either. So you stand there looking stupid, and he'll smash you to pulp. Run, and Little Boots here'll hold you down, and when your Grammaticus  is finished, he'll have his hour or so. Understand?"

Gaius stood there. He glanced towards his family, who were terrified. He remembered what Libo had said, and he was not to be cowed. "Yes, Princeps ."

"And just what exactly do you think you're doing?" Tiberius sneered as the Grammaticus  had begun to advance. "Eager to start, eh? I like that!"

"Please, Princeps , don't. He's only a boy. Let me. ." Gaius' father pleaded.

"Quiet!" Tiberius roared. "Now, young Gaius, you told me you had been taught by one of my old legionnaires?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"Why did he bother with the likes of you?"

"My father gave him some land and helped him," Gaius replied. "He felt he owed, and he said a debt should always be repaid."

"Did he now," Tiberius snorted. "And I suppose he thinks I owe him?"

"He did say so," Gaius admitted.

"And he gave you some instructions?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"But you're not going to claim the debt? You're going to stand alone?" Tiberius scowled.

"The debt is to him, not to me," Gaius said simply.

"I see," Tiberius said simply. "Then we shall start. You know the rules boy? Good! Centurion! Give the boy a gladius." Tiberius turned to the boy and explained, "Your life's on the line, and the lives of your family are on the line. Lose, and they can become briefly familiar with the cliffs and what's below. You have no shield, so you can't defend forever. But you have steel, and you'll have to use it. The question is, can you kill when it counts?"

Gaius looked startled, then took the gladius. It had virtually the same weight as his practice sword, but it was a little better balanced. He looked towards the now fearful Grammaticus , and took a position two thirds as far as he could get from him and remain in his territory.

"Afraid, boy?" Tiberius snorted.

"I wish to have room to attack," Gaius replied simply.

"Well?" Tiberius snorted at the Grammaticus , who was now standing petrified. "You were rather keen a few minutes ago, and you did, after all, thrash the boy at practice. You've got a shield. Get on with it."

The Grammaticus  stared balefully at the gladius, and remained transfixed.

"I see," Tiberius shrugged, after a few minutes in which nothing happened. "Young Gaius, you seem to have your Grammaticus  petrified with fear. So, give the gladius back to the Centurion."

Gaius nodded, and handed the gladius back, and was surprised to see the Centurion give him a wink and a grin.

Tiberius turned his attention back to the Grammaticus , and said in a tone of one who was becoming quite tired of this situation, "I gather you disturbed Little Boots yesterday. Little Boots, afterwards, thrash him, but let him live. Understand?"

"Yes Princeps ."

"Now, what to do with this family. You," Tiberius said, looking at Gaius' father, who was standing unbowed, "You helped one of my old legionnaires, so you've at least done something right. I understand you want to restore the Republic?"

"I believe the principles of the Republic are what Rome needs," Gaius' father said simply, "without, of course, the civil wars. I think. ."

"I agree with you," Tiberius interrupted, "and, when his ego didn't get in the way, so did Augustus. Does that surprise you?"

"It does."

"Let me ask you this, then," Tiberius continued, "Why hasn't the senate restored the Republic? I've done my level best to help them. I've left Rome, and I won't be back. I've left everything in the senate's hands, and what does the senate do? The odd one like you asks why we can't have a Republic, and the other sycophantic arseholes send their secret little reports here, and begging letters, asking what I want. They won't do anything without clearing it with me first. Is that not a true assessment of the situation?"

"I suppose so," came a subdued reply. There was little doubt in Rome that the remaining senators were only interested in maintaining their own personal fortunes.

"So you see," Tiberius continued wearily, "the return of the Republic is almost impossible because the people needed to make it work can't get off their arses and do anything. The Principate is necessary, simply because everybody wishes to have an authority to lean on." He stared at Gaius' father, who said nothing, although the expression on his face showed that he conceded the truth of what Tiberius was saying. "Look, go back to your estate, and stop trying to subvert what I'm doing. If you've got a reasonable scheme to bring back the Republic and enough support to make it work, let me know and I'll put it in place. Understand?"

Gaius' father nodded. Gaius knew there would be no such schemes. Nobody would allow his name to be put on a list to go to Tiberius. Tiberius might or might not permit a return to the Republic, but if he did not, banishment for the names on the list could be one of the more pleasant likely outcomes.

"The Republic was a great concept," Tiberius continued, almost to himself, "provided everyone wanted it to work. But to work, decisions have to be made, and they have to be made for the good of Rome, and not for personal gratification, or to pay off the debts arising from the bribes incurred to get there in the first place. Whatever else, Roman must never again kill Roman. You do at least agree with that?"

"Yes, Princeps ," Gaius' father replied. This he did believe, as did all other Romans.

"You're not such a bad family," Tiberius shrugged. "Just not very useful. You were probably all scared stiff about coming here," he growled, "except you, boy." He turned to Gaius. "You weren't, were you?"

"No, Princeps ."

"Your old soldier, Libo, he told you things about me didn't he?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"Which you won't repeat here?" Tiberius smiled.

"No, Princeps ."

"Some of the things weren't very flattering?"

"Er, no, Princeps ."

There was a murmur of disapproval from those at the back of the room, but Tiberius just laughed. "Tell me one phrase, young Gaius. That's an order."

"He said," Gaius said evenly, "that he was sure some of the old Tiberius, the Tiberius the Legions knew, must remain."

"He did, did he," Tiberius mused. "Find this Libo," he ordered one of the men at the back of the room, "and. ." he added more quietly, "give him a pension from me. Oh, and let it be known, anyone lays a hand on this old soldier, that person becomes a toy for Little Boots here!" He turned to Gaius Caesar and laughed. "See, Little Boots, I've got your interests, dubious though they may be, at heart!"

Gaius Caesar gave a startled but forced smile.

"Now, you," Tiberius turned towards Gaius. "I gather you've got on reasonably well with my stuttering nephew?"

"I hope so, Princeps ."

"You'd be the only one that does hope so," Tiberius remarked dryly, "but he tells me you're reasonably clever. I think you require further education, and not from that Grammaticus ." He paused, then a flicker of a smile crossed his face as he continued, "You will go to Rhodes, and you will learn what you can from a Greek I used to know called Timothy. Something like. ." A smile crossed his face as he added, "He aroused my interest in astronomy, so maybe he can do something for you. So, young Claudius, learn something about science.

"Then, when you turn nineteen I shall give you a legionary position. You will complete your military service, but remember, my stuttering nephew here wants you to end up something more than just a soldier. So, your orders are to do something else as well, something. ." he paused, then laughed as he added, "something you've learned from your encounter with that wretched Greek! Ha!

"One more thing," Tiberius continued, "this stub of the Claudian gens  needs renewal, and we start with you. You're left handed, so from now you are Gaius Claudius Scaevola, but. . You are to earn yourself a new agnomen . Do you accept these orders?"

"Yes, Princeps ."

"Good. Now, is there anyone in your family you would like me to do a favour for?"

Gaius stared. A favour from Tiberius could mean anything, including liberation from the troubles of the world. But to decline would be fatal. Eventually he said, "My little sister, Lucilla, needs. ."

"Kindly protection," Tiberius nodded. "I grant it. And who shall we make responsible," he mused. "Yes! Little Boots! A task for Little Boots! Swear that you will act as her protector," Tiberius ordered, then he turned and stared at the young man and added in a cold vicious tone, "and swear as if you mean it!"

"Wh what?" Gaius Caesar stuttered.

"Not another stutterer," Tiberius shook his head. "Little Boots, I would take your declining of my order to be treason, a direct attack against the principate." He paused, and smiled cruelly as he saw the look of horror cross Gaius Caesar's face. "Give me any reason to believe you're lying to me and don't mean what you swear and it will be so much worse for you. Swear!"

"I swear I shall protect this. ."

"Claudia Lucilla!"

"Claudia Lucilla, may the Gods help me."

"There," Tiberius said. "Probably half the population ignore me, but they're dead scared of Little Boots here. He certainly scares me." He turned and sneered at Gaius Caesar, who remained silent. "You know what's so amusing?" he added to Gaius' father. "If that wretched senate can't get off its collective arses in the next few years and get the Republic going, they will pay. They'll either have the Republic up and running, or they'll get Little Boots! And if they think I'm bad, they'll learn what bad is, eh, Little Boots? All the vices of Sulla, and none of the virtues!" He turned towards the now highly worried Gaius Caesar, who was wondering what could possibly happen next.

"Oh, get away with you all," Tiberius suddenly waved his arm. "I've got better things to do with my time." With a weary gesture he rose, stared contemptuously at the assembly who were bowing profusely, then he turned and strolled off in the direction of his private section of the villa.

Gaius stared at the departing Tiberius. Somehow, they had all survived. The family gathered around him, Lucilla gazing at him in awe for standing up to Tiberius, his father looked totally stunned at his standing up to Tiberius, and his mother almost tearful as she knew he was now destined to leave the family for Rhodes.

As the family made their way towards the exit, Gaius heard the sounds of praise being given to someone behind him. He turned to see Gaius Caesar striding towards him. Sycophants were bowing, telling him he had the grace of a God, and it pleased him, almost, but Gaius also noted a touch of contempt in his eyes, particularly when the sycophants had their heads bowed sufficiently that they could not see his expression.

"So, you're pleased with yourself?"

"I could never be displeased to receive orders from the Princeps ," Gaius replied carefully.

"I meant about you having me run around after you."

"I would hope, Caesar," Gaius continued, "that you would be more pleased, since Tiberius named you as his successor."

"What?" A surprised exclamation, then with a stunned smile, he added, "I suppose he did, didn't he?"

"Perhaps an unusual way of putting it, Caesar, but I distinctly heard him announce you as his successor." Gaius knew he had to be careful not to overdo this, but he also had to be positive but respectful. "Our family will, of course, be independent witnesses."

"S so will I."

"Yes, if you can ever get it all out!" Gaius Caesar snorted to the stuttering Claudius. "Still," he mused to himself, as he started to walk away, "that was an invitation to the purple. Very interesting." He paused, then with a sudden realization that witnesses could be useful, he turned and added, "And I suppose then you'll be wanting favours from me?"

"I would always wish to serve the Princeps ," Gaius replied, lowering his eyes slightly.

"Yes, but would I want you? Your family's not exactly influential, is it?"

"No," Gaius replied, "but I keep my word. You can trust me to do what I promise."

"Implying I couldn't trust others?"

Gaius remained silent.

"Maintaining a diplomatic silence, eh?" Gaius Caesar nodded. "Don't worry! I completely agree with you. You know why the odd Senator wants the Republic?" Then before Gaius could think of an answer, he continued, "So they can be the first Consuls and loot the Treasury. Tiberius's right on that. Those Senators couldn't give a pig's shit for Rome! No! Don't protest. I'll let you into a secret. Tiberius was more or less convinced you lot were probably the only real exception. You lot really think of the nobility of the Republic don't you?"

"It was. ." Gaius began.

"Once upon a time, maybe, but by the time of my namesake, the taxes were looted to pay for election bribes. Or don't you agree?"

"That's true," Gaius nodded.

"We can't have that again," Caesar continued. "Now, just suppose you're right and I get to be Princeps , do you realize what would happen? No? Those scared shitless senatorial scum'll be plotting all the time, won't they?"

"Our family won't!" Gaius replied.

"You think you're old enough to run the family?"

"I think I can persuade them," Gaius said, then added, "Anyway, Tiberius has just made me a family of one!"

"And I'm running after your sister," Caesar replied.

"Only if somebody molests her," Gaius pointed out, "and my guess is, knowing that you'd be after them, they'd be really stupid to try."

"So you think they're all scared of me?"

"They'll be scared of forcing you to take action on them," Gaius replied. "Most people admire you," he added, and hoped this was the right thing to say.

It was. Caesar visibly preened himself a little, before saying, "You think so? Really? So the question now is, are you going to be useful? The problem is, how do I know you're not just another sycophantic little puff-cake."

"When I get the chance I'll. ."

"Oh no you don't! None of this, 'when I get the chance'. Look, young Claudius. Believe it or not, I'd like to have people like you. You serve me well and I'll reward you, because I know you're not one of those senatorial shits, like the ossified Cincinnati. But you've got to prove yourself."

"What do you wish?" Gaius asked. Today was getting more and more complicated by the instant.

"You follow Tiberius' instructions, of course. But on your way, sooner or later you'll come across someone showing opposition towards Roman authority, and especially towards me. Show me you support me, show me you've got spine and that you're not just a little worm, show me you're clever enough to do something useful and you're not just another clod and yes, I promise I'll support you when I'm Princeps . I'll give you your path in the army, and you will serve me. . yes, religiously. Do you promise?"

"I swear to serve you religiously when you are Princeps ," Gaius replied, although he had no clear idea what could be done 'religiously'."

"Then, my first military appointment is made," Gaius Caesar smiled. "Yes, I like that. ." He turned and continued walking.

Gaius watched Gaius Caesar stroll away, this time ignoring everyone.

"Th that was v very clever, th the way you handled that."

"Thank you," Gaius smiled, then added, "You had something to do with all that?"

"N n not much," Claudius replied, "b but Tiberius does small things for me, f for father, really."

"You still did things for me, so thank you."

"C c come and have some fruit," Claudius waved towards a table. "I need an opinion."

"I would have thought there were plenty of opinions around here," Gaius smiled.

"Who'll tell you what you want to hear," Claudius spat. Not even a stutter, Gaius noted. Claudius paused, then said with a grin, "I w want to have y your opinion!"

"Why mine?"

"I n need to know who y you really are."

"I see," Gaius said thoughtfully, then suddenly he pulled himself together. Libo's advice was just as sound now. Claudius might seem a fool, but he was a member of the Imperial Family, and he had the ear of Tiberius. In all probability he was rather more powerful than he looked, and in any case it could never hurt to have an ally in this family. He pulled himself slowly into a more soldier-like stance, and asked, "How can I help?"

"H how good was T Tiberius?"

How to wreck your career in one second, Gaius thought to himself, but he had to answer, and he sensed from Claudius' previous statement that the truth would be more valuable to him than sycophancy. "In my opinion, Tiberius was very competent," Gaius replied carefully. "His real strength was that he maintained good supply and morale. The men liked him, and he looked after them."

"B b but?"

"His campaigns were mainly defensive, which limits what can be said."

"And J J Julius?"

"He had great natural ability, and he moved with great speed," Gaius said. Where was all this going? "He had some marvellous victories, but for many of them, he had to."

"M meaning?"

"In Gaul, he was often out of supply," Gaius said. "He had to win to eat. Yes, he had a brilliant win at Pharsalus, but Pompey should have cleaned him out at Dyrrhachium."

Claudius thought for a moment, then said with a slight smile, "And G Germanicus?"

"Little Boots' father," Gaius said slowly, and when Claudius nodded in agreement, he said, "The troops liked him even more than Tiberius. They almost revered him, which meant that he had to have been an impressive leader, and he won a triumph, and that takes some doing, but. ."

"B b but?"

"His campaign in the East was less than successful," Gaius shook his head.

"And your p pick of Roman generals?"

"Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus," Gaius said simply, pleased to comment on someone not in the Imperial Family. "He defeated a truly great opponent, taking advantage of a careless habit. He knew Hannibal would start with elephants, and he turned the elephants to Hannibal's disadvantage. You know what with?" Gaius smiled.

"T tell me."

"Sound and sunlight," Gaius smiled. "The use of sunlight was truly brilliant."

"There c could be other n natural things to use, y you know."

"Oh, there are. There're hills, rivers. ."

"I m mean, like the sun. L like fire. Th the Greeks thought about using giant m m mirrors to burn sails on ships, and th throwing b burning s sulphur, and. ." He paused, then added, "Th there must b be more."

"I suppose."

"Y you would d do very well by Tiberius if you thought of something," he added. "It'd p p please him to think his G G Greek was useful."

"That's easier said than done," Gaius remarked.

"I d doubt everything's been th th thought about," Claudius shrugged. "I m m mean, nobody's thought v very much about. . w well. y you know."

Gaius was not sure that he did, but he agreed.

"Y you m must write to m me," Claudius said. "Tell me w what you're d doing. I would like to know wh what it's like out of Rome."

"I'll write," Gaius nodded.

"P p promise!"

Gaius looked at him, and suddenly realized this required a genuine commitment. To slight someone in the Imperial Family could be very bad for one's career. Claudius might not seem important, but the slight would be felt more strongly if he thought he was being ignored because of his awkward appearance or stutter. "I promise," Gaius nodded.

"One more thing!"

"Yes?"

"S send reports to Little B boots. Flatter his ego, b b but don't overdo it. G gaius is v very intelligent, and he respects honesty in th the flattery."

"I'll do that too. Is it important?"

"Y you recognized him as the next P princeps ," Claudius pointed out. "Wh who else is th there?"

"You mean, remind him who I am, just in case?" Gaius said.

"L look like y you'll serve him, even b before you h have to," Claudius grinned.

Gaius suddenly found a new respect for Claudius. He was clearly a long-term planner, and he understood very clearly the intrigues of the Imperial Family, and so he should, having learned from the great Augustus, possibly the greatest manipulator of all time. And while nobody seemed to take much notice of Claudius, he appeared to be able to arrange some things quite well. And Gaius certainly knew better than to irritate even the least significant of that family. He chatted for a while with Claudius, becoming quite surprised at how much Claudius appeared to know, then he finally took his leave, to see his family before taking another boat that would take him to Rhodes.

It was only then that he realized that indeed he would never see old Libo again.

Chapter 5

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It was late in the afternoon in Rhodes when Gaius visited the local military commander, an older Tribune. That he was still a Tribune at that age, Gaius realized, meant that Rhodes was regarded as a place for someone with little ability and no ambition to graze.

"And you want?" The expression of annoyance at having his peace disturbed was plain to see.

"I need help to find someone called Timothy," Gaius started to explain.

"I'm not into 'Lost and Found'."

"I was told to make sure I came to you for help," Gaius explained.

"Oh, you were, were you? And who. ?"

"I have a letter here from the Princeps , explaining it all."

The Tribune reached for the letter with an expression that was a mix of annoyance and fear. Rhodes was somewhere to be left alone, except that Tiberius was somewhat familiar with Rhodes. He read the letter, then shrugged and told Gaius to find somewhere to stay the night and then report the following morning, when a soldier would be assigned. Gaius thanked him politely, and left. The Tribune stared at the document on his table, unable to concentrate. What fate would befall him? From what he knew of Rome, life for anyone in a position was best advised to avoid coming to the attention of Tiberius. Now Rome had come to Rhodes, and he was in danger of being seen. This was a situation that could very easily end his rather pleasant existence.

When Gaius appeared the following morning, an older soldier was given the job of looking after him. The soldier apparently knew where Timothy lived, so when Gaius secured the property he had brought with him by lodging it safely with the military camp, they set off. It was a pleasant walk around the coastline, Gaius thought, as he looked towards the sea and the small fishing boats busily going about their day's work. He could see why someone would find pleasure living there.

Timothy, it appeared, lived alone in a large stone cottage on the side of a hill overlooking an attractive little bay. Gaius approached the cottage as a man emerged. He was of average build, he walked with a slight stoop, his hair was greying and quite dishevelled, his clothes looked old and tattered, but Gaius was drawn towards the pair of the most penetrating eyes he had ever seen.

"Excuse me, sir, but you are Timothy?"

"I am," came the slightly bored reply.

Timothy was about to continue walking, so Gaius was forced to explain, "I was sent to you by Tiberius."

"You were, were you."

"Tiberius gave me orders."

"I gather he's rather good at that," Timothy shrugged, and continued to walk.

"I am ordered to learn from you," Gaius said, feeling irritated that he had to almost run after this Greek. "So I ask, will you teach me?"

"No."

"I see," Gaius remarked evenly.

"And what do you see?" Timothy stopped and turned towards Gaius, and this time gave him a more penetrating stare.

"The Princeps  indicated that you might be difficult," Gaius replied.

"And what are you going to do about it?" Timothy said in a slightly amused tone.

"Obey the Princeps . What else?" Gaius said flatly.

"That will be interesting to watch," Timothy remarked with a droll smile, then he turned on his heel and walked on.

"You want me to deal with that Greek scum!" the soldier asked.

"No!" Gaius stared helplessly at the retreating figure. This had all the makings of a disaster before he even began. "Unless you want to feel Tiberius' wrath, you'll treat the Greek with respect. No, what I want is for you to get me a tent. I'll erect it around here somewhere."

* * *

"And just what exactly do you think you're doing?" Timothy demanded, as Gaius was busily hammering in tent stays. "You're spoiling my view."

"Settling in," Gaius replied. He had to show confidence, even if he did not have it. "You said you would find my attempts at persuading you to teach me interesting, so I thought I'd make your days as interesting as possible. If I keep right in front of you, you can watch me as much as you like."

The Greek stared at him, thought about saying something, then thought better of it. He strode away. Two hours later he stormed back. "Are you going to be there all day?"

"All week, all year, as long as it takes to obey the Princeps ," Gaius said with a fake earnestness. "What choice do I have?"

"And what have you learned so far?" Timothy scowled.

"The sun is warm, the sky is clear, and the stream over there has good water."

"And you think that's what Tiberius wants you to learn?" came the mystified response.

"Maybe he wants me to learn patience," Gaius replied evenly. "We shall see."

Timothy stared, then turned away.

As expected, as evening came Timothy did not offer to share a meal, so Gaius made a small campfire and cooked some fish he had obtained from the port. He offered the soldier the right to leave, but the soldier had been ordered to stay so, to pass the time, he and Gaius began playing dice.

There was a full moon that evening, so when the soldier tired of dice, Gaius lay back on the grass and stared upwards. It was so peaceful, such a pleasant place, he thought. .

A muffled scream came from the direction of the cottage. Gaius rolled over to look, and he saw a young servant running from the cottage in the direction of the port. He leaped to his feet and ran over to intercept her. When she saw him, she froze, almost petrified. Gaius raised both hands, palms outwards and said in as soft a voice as he could manage, "Please, don't be frightened."

She stared at him. At least she did not scream.

"What's the matter?" he asked.

"Robbers!" she gasped.

"How many?"

"Four of them. They've got the master, and. ."

"Shshsh!" Gaius put his index finger on her lips.

"What's the matter?" The soldier asked, and when Gaius explained, he said, without enthusiasm, "I'd better go over there."

"No! There're four of them. Run down to the barracks and get help."

"It's my job to protect you," the soldier protested.

"It's your job to obey orders," Gaius replied harshly. "Do so. Now!"

The soldier was uncertain of what to do, or of to whom he was responsible, but he could not stay without flagrantly disobeying someone who might be an immediate superior, and no matter what the consequence, in the Roman army disobedience would be punished with extreme severity. He turned and ran as fast as he could in the direction of the barracks.

Gaius walked back towards his tent. Self-doubt returned; perhaps getting rid of the only help was not the brightest move, but what was done was done. Now, with the soldier gone, there was no need to hurry. If the thieves escaped, they escaped. Otherwise, the best he could do would be to delay the robbers until help came. He sat the young lady down, then he slung on his armour. He tied his greaves in place, then put on the helmet and grasped a shield with his right hand. He turned towards the servant.

"Show me where they are," Gaius said slowly, hoping to instil confidence that he did not have into the young lady. "You must be very quiet, and when we find them, you should leave at once. Do you understand?"

The young girl nodded, unable to say anything through fear.

Gaius led the way towards the cottage. A dim light could be seen from the back doorway, and he headed towards it, the girl helping by leading him around a pile of wood. He reached the doorway and peered in. Ahead was another doorway with sounds coming from it. Gaius crept forwards and carefully put his head around the left doorpost. A few large candles placed unevenly on large objects provided the dim light, although none seemed to be secured, and Gaius' first fear was that at any moment one might slide away and start a fire. Some light and heat was also provided from the fireplace in the right wall. At the far side of the room Timothy was lashed to a post, his mouth gagged by a rather disgusting-looking piece of cloth. Four men were rummaging through the room, laughing and taunting Timothy, and throwing belongings around the room. Gaius pulled back from the doorway and turned towards the girl, and whispered to her that he wanted her to find the soldiers who were coming and lead them to this room. She nodded.

Gaius could hear what was going on, as the robbers kept up a non-stop commentary about what they had found, what they were doing, so he felt he could safely sit behind the wall and wait. He did, for quite some time until he heard one of the robbers laugh, and say, "Oh, look at this! A valuable scroll!"

"Valuable? What for?"

"It'll burn well! I'm getting cold."

"That'll last long!"

"Ah but there's a pile of them here!"

He had to do something! He was about to leap out and challenge them when the words of Libo came back to him. "If you can, deceive!" Gaius carefully placed his shield against the wall so that he could grasp it in an instant, he adjusted his helmet so that it looked as if it was about to fall off, then, putting both hands on the gladius, he stepped into view. "You mustn't do that!" He held the gladius in front of him, and allowed the tip to shake, as if he was petrified.

"And what's this?" one of the robbers said, and burst out laughing.

"Untie that man!" Gaius did his best to squeak.

"Oh yes! Why should we do that?" one of the robbers laughed.

"You'd better piss off back to your mother's nipple," another laughed, "before your toy helmet falls off."

"You must untie that man!" Gaius continued.

"Oh, we must, must we?"

"T Tiberius has or ordered m me to learn from him," Gaius said, hoping his memory of stuttering was at least adequate.

"Oh, Tiberius! Well! You're in with the big stuff."

"And I can't d d do that if I d don't rescue him," Gaius continued his plaintive squeak.

"Well, then you'll be shit out of luck, bubba!"

"Yeah! You can tell your Tiberius we couldn't give a stuff about his orders."

"I'm sure Tiberius is really concerned about you," another laughed.

"Actually," Gaius said, trying to sound as if he had suffered a reverse, "I h have t t to report to G G Gaius Caesar."

"That effeminate little load of shit," another spat. "He needs a spear up the arse!"

"Make a difference to what usually goes up!" another roared with laughter

"This little shit's starting to piss me off," one of the men swore, and picked up a large club. Gaius saw the man come, and to his own surprise, he did not feel panic. The man was brutish, clumsy. Gaius watched carefully, and as the man got within two paces his right hand flew out to grasp his shield. As the club came down towards his head, he pushed the shield across so that the blow glanced off, then advancing a pace he drove hard. The man gave a funny gurgling sound, and as Gaius withdrew the bloody gladius, the robber fell to the ground, blood frothing from his lips.

At that moment there was the sound of running feet and half a dozen legionnaires entered. One nodded to Gaius, kicked the body to one side and then they stormed into the room. The robbers were so stunned they were captured without any attempt at retaliatory action and Timothy was freed.

"Good strike," one of the soldiers nodded towards Gaius, as he turned over the body.

"And what do we do with these?" the leading soldier asked, more to himself.

"They attempted to stop me carrying out Tiberius' specific orders," Gaius said evenly, "they abused Tiberius, they wanted to steal his property and said they wanted to spear Gaius Caesar. That's treason."

"You know what the punishment for treason is?" the soldier frowned.

"Since they're not Roman citizens, crucifixion," Gaius replied coldly. He turned towards the now terrified robbers and added, "Even when young, a Claudian makes a bad choice of enemy."

"I'll have to put this to the Governor," the soldier said.

"Of course," Gaius replied, "but I have also been ordered to report any anti-Roman action I come across to Gaius Caesar, together with my recommended action."

"I'll see your report gets sent to Rome," the soldier nodded. He turned towards the robbers, gave the first one a kick, then indicated they should march.

As the robbers were taken away, Timothy stared at Gaius and said, "And now what?"

"I think we should do something about these candles. We don't want your scrolls to burn."

"Very thoughtful of you," Timothy said sourly, as he watched Gaius collect the candles and place them on a stone shelf, "and, of course, efficient. Very Roman!"

"You have a problem with efficiency?" Gaius challenged. He was starting to shake as he came down from his adrenalin high.

"Perhaps I have a problem with the slavery you Romans impose on others," Timothy replied, "at which point I suppose with your usual Roman efficiency you'll take me out have me flogged."

"Why?" Gaius shook his head in disbelief. "I have been ordered to learn, and I can't see what I'd learn from that."

"You wish to learn something? All right, go away and think about slavery. Think about what right you have to use another as a possession, to flog if you wish, to. ."

"Romans do not just go around flogging slaves," Gaius replied tersely, "It's not only wrong, but it's self-defeating. ."

"I know, the value drops," Timothy said sourly, then he looked at Gaius in the eye and said, "You want a lesson? Go away and think about what you'd do if you were a slave."

"If that is the first lesson," Gaius frowned, "so be it. Oh, by the way, don't bother about thanking me for saving your life."

"Who says I wanted you to?"

"Nobody! Just keep feeling sorry for yourself. Don't think about your servant girl, or whatever she is. Even if your nose is out of joint, maybe she still values her life, so don't thank me for looking after her too. But," Gaius began to raise his voice, "while I don't expect gratitude from you, you'd better show her some kindness, or else." He spat the last words, then he turned and stormed out of the room and made for his tent.

His first task was clear. When his hands stopped shaking, he must write his report to Gaius Caesar. He would say these robbers had attacked Tiberius' property and had made treasonable utterances against both Tiberius and Gaius Caesar. They had shown a clear intention to steal and burn Tiberius' property; they had attempted to kill him, and looked as if they would murder Timothy. He had killed one robber, and in view of Caesar's last request, he was reporting this incident. He recommended crucifixion, although he recognized Caesar's greater experience, and wished Caesar to confirm the punishment, show clemency, or refer the matter to Tiberius for final judgment. In conclusion, he would remain Caesar's humble servant.

Yes, that should do. The robbers would, of course, be crucified, but that did not worry him in the slightest.

Next, his problem with Timothy. What could he do? The situation was ridiculous. Tiberius knew Timothy, so he would have known that this situation would arise. Perhaps this was another of Tiberius' droll jokes. Perhaps Tiberius knew there was no solution, and this was merely a convoluted way of showing that his family was totally useless to Rome. That would mean that not only he but also his family would suffer when he failed.

He must not fail, but what could he do? Timothy was obviously hurting that the power of Greece had passed. He believed that Rome enslaved other nations, but Rome allowed the citizens to continue their lives as if nothing had happened, apart from the requirement that they paid taxes. Anyone from the Roman territories could join the Roman army, and eventually become Roman citizens, with all the consequent benefits, and if they did not, they could carry on with their lives free from marauding warlords, free from rape and pillage from adjacent armies, they could grow crops secure in the knowledge that the crops were protected by Roman law, and that thieves would be properly punished if caught. All they gave up was their identity, their pride. Yes, it was true some were made slaves. Slaves, on the whole, were well treated. It did no good to beat a slave, and it certainly did not impress anyone, usually including the slave. Suppose he was a slave, what would he do? That situation, he snorted, was inconceivable. But then, he had been ordered to learn, and he had to acknowledge that dismissing a problem as irrelevant was not part of the process of learning.

So, suppose he was? Yes, he would hate it. Even if the master were benevolent he would hate bowing. And if the master came home in a bad mood and lashed out at him, he would. . What would he do? Fight back, and be crucified? That would be easy for him to say now, he of senatorial class who would never suffer the indignity, but if he was a Greek? Escape? Where to? Rome controlled if not the world, at least the useful world. He would have to swallow his Claudian pride and endure. Not that a Claudian could ever become a slave. The proposition was. . No! That might be true, but it was not the answer. If he could not find a correct answer from Timothy's viewpoint, he was learning nothing.

So, what did he tell Timothy? That he could do nothing about slavery? That was rather pathetic. That when he got to be a governor, he would abolish slavery? That would be a clear lie. That he would be very interested to hear what Timothy could suggest what he could do, practically, to solve the problem. That might be a little better, if for no other reason than it would force Timothy into dialogue. Very reluctantly, he had to acknowledge that this was a situation for which there was no correct answer.

* * *

"So?" Timothy asked when Gaius appeared early the following morning. Gaius noted that he seemed rather agitated, as if he were not really in control of the situation.

"I will grant you that slavery is inherently wrong," Gaius said slowly, "but I cannot see how I can do much about it. If I were enslaved, I would hope I could plan some way out of it, but I can see that this does require courage that I might not have. If you ever have any ideas about how to end slavery, I'll listen, but frankly, I can't see it happening."

"A typically clever Roman answer," Timothy scowled. "Why you wish to learn from me when you've already mastered duplicity beats me."

"Timothy," Gaius said coldly, "it's not my fault Tiberius sent me on what is increasingly becoming a ridiculous task. If the Princeps  thinks I can learn something from you, I'm going to obey the Princeps . All I'm asking is that either you teach me, or if you don't wish to earn some money, then just let me follow you around."

"Earn money?" asked a now perplexed Timothy.

"I never assumed you'd do this for nothing, but I was leaving it to you to name your price."

"Why do you feel you have to pay?"

"To get you to do something, not that I feel I owe you much so far," Gaius responded in a caustic tone.

"What do you know about me?" Timothy asked, a touch of concern now on his face.

"Nothing," Gaius replied, "except the Princeps  seems to think you're worth learning from."

"Oh."

"And what, exactly, does 'Oh' mean?" Gaius paused, noted Timothy's discomfort, and pointed a finger at him. "Believe me, I shall find out."

"Tiberius owned me," Timothy replied in a flat tone.

"Oh," Gaius replied, then he gave a little laugh and added, "I see what 'Oh' means now."

"I'm not that sure you do," Timothy replied.

"Look, I can see that you don't feel all that wonderful about being a slave, particularly since it seems your master left you to your own devices for years and now I turn up, but I assure you, there's absolutely nothing I can do about this. I must follow Tiberius' instructions. And, as an aside, it makes no difference to the fact that I'll pay for your services. Of course you should hand the money over to your master when he turns up, but for what it's worth, I doubt he'll ever leave Capreae again."

"You don't know," Timothy said in a tone of near despair.

"I don't know what?"

"Tiberius gifted me to you." Timothy said in a dull tone.

"What?" Gaius said in a surprised tone. He stared at Timothy's increasingly fearful face, then suddenly he laughed, "You know, I could have you flogged for insolence."

"Yes, master."

"And as one of us noted," Gaius added, "I'd learn a lot from that." He stared at Timothy, then finally seemed to come to a decision. "Timothy, I could set you free, but if I did that, you'd be free to leave and I couldn't carry out the Princeps'  orders, which would leave me in deep trouble of my own making."

"So you're going to go back on your fine words and. ."

"I'm going to order you to stay here," Gaius said, "and nothing more. You can behave as if you're partly free, which means, of course, buying your own food."

"With?"

"There's always the money I'll pay for the lessons," Gaius shrugged. "When we're finished, I'll set you free, and give you enough money you can afford to live."

"So you wish to really learn? Learn what?"

"If I have to spell out to you what to teach me, I would already know it, which is pointless and self-defeating."

"Logical," Timothy said. "I suppose logic is something we can work on." He paused, then said, "You Romans have such a low view of us Greeks. Why learn from a Greek, and don't say the Princeps  ordered you to. What is the most interesting Greek achievement that you know? Quickly!"

"Geometry," Gaius replied quickly, as he struggled to think.

"Really? And what do you know about that?"

"I've had to study Euclid."

"And no doubt you enjoyed every moment," Timothy added in a tart tone. "Forget architecture, forget surveying, and forget counting the area or volume of your loot, what's the most interesting thing you know that's come out of geometry?"

"I know the Earth is a ball of circumference about 37, 000 kilometers. Also, Aristarchus measured the distance of the Sun as twenty times the distance of the Moon, and he believed the planets go around the sun, and the stars are even further away than the sun."

"You believe that?" Timothy asked curiously.

"I believe the distance is highly likely to be in error," Gaius replied.

"You do, do you?" The tone was a mixture of disappointment and challenge.

"I think the sun could be further away," Gaius shrugged, "not that what I think matters. I also note that you Greeks discredited Aristarchus on ground of impiety."

"Which is probably why you think he's right," Timothy laughed. "If the Greeks disown him, it doesn't matter so much that he was a Greek."

"That may well be true, but you said it."

"Suppose I give you a logic problem," Timothy said. "If you tell me truthfully how you solve it, and if you solemnly promise not to go to a library or into town, I shall teach you."

"And if I do not solve it?"

"You set me free," Timothy replied. "Have you got what it takes to accept the challenge?"

"I accept," Gaius said. He could always order Timothy to teach him, but he had the feeling that if he did that, he would learn very little of use.

"Then here is the problem," Timothy said. "There was a Greek prince who was devoted to logic, so much so that when he took captives he would take them, one at a time, to a courtyard to which there were two gates, each gate having a guard. He would tell the prisoner that he would be permitted to ask one question to either guard. One door led to freedom, one to death, one guard always told the truth, one guard always lied, and he had one day to decide, for if he was still there that evening, he would be killed. Suppose you are the prisoner, how do you get what in your case are further lessons? You have until dinner."

"But. ." It occurred to him he had fallen into a trap. This was clearly a well-known but difficult problem, and he had not heard of it.

"You accepted the challenge," Timothy interrupted. "I look forward to seeing your reply." With that, he turned and walked away.

Gaius realized he was in a bind. In principle, he could do what he liked with this Greek, but that would solve nothing, particularly when the reports of whatever he did got back to Tiberius. But there was more to it; it would be dishonourable to take advantage of whatever position he thought he had.

Suddenly, he burst out laughing. The Greek was probably playing with him. He, Gaius, was to think the Greek was a slave. The minute he tried to take advantage of that, that would be the minute he was sent packing back to Tiberius. Yes, Tiberius had chosen well. This Greek was clever. Unfortunately, too clever. He had set a problem that, by the look of things, was not going to be solved. The one thing he was not going to do, however, was let Timothy watch what he did. He may or may not solve it, but all Timothy would get out of this was the final answer, or lack thereof.

He walked back to his tent, where he took some bread and cheese and a skin filled with water, then he decided to walk, and since Timothy would be watching, he would walk in the opposite direction to the town.

The sun was pleasant as he walked along a track that broadly followed the coast, but along the hills. What would he do if he failed to solve the problem? That was a problem in itself. He could beg, he could. . No! He had to stop thinking like that. He must devote his mind solely to this problem and deal with failure if he failed. He walked on, but nothing came to him. The problem seemed insoluble.

He reached the top of a hill and gazed out. The sea was so calm. Out there were two fishing boats, happily. . No! He was being distracted. The sun was so warm too. All this walk was doing was making him hot. He needed shade, and perhaps fewer new things to look at. That was it. He must sit down somewhere.

It was then that he saw, down in the small valley, amongst some trees, a small temple. Nobody seemed to be about, so he decided he would use the shade. He walked down and found a shady spot. As he looked around he noticed that the temple was old, the marble cracked, weeds were coming out from between the stones, it was almost as if this temple had long been abandoned. Near the altar was a statue of a woman who seemed to be thinking. Divine assistance with thinking was just what he needed, although, as he noted wryly to himself, from the decaying nature of this temple, thinking was not exactly a highly valued commodity amongst the locals. Not that it mattered. The sun now seemed to be past mid-day. He had a few sips of water, then he began eating his bread and cheese. He finished these, sipped some more water, then, rather reluctantly, decided he must concentrate on the problem.

He lay back, and felt the warm sun on his face. The problem kept circulating through his head, but, he realized, that was the problem. It circulated unchanged. He was getting nowhere. He was missing something. The answer! No, he corrected himself, the way to get to the answer.

The sun was too warm. A better position was at the temple altar. If nothing else, the statue was at the cooler part of the temple, an ideal place for thinking, and since the temple looked as if it had never been used for years, this could hardly be termed sacrilege. On impulse, he looked at the writing carved into the stone: it had been dedicated to Athene, goddess of war and wisdom. A strange mix, he thought. Still, he needed wisdom right then. On impulse, he muttered a prayer.

Nothing happened, not that he expected much. This was his problem, and he had to solve it. And that was easier said than done.

He sat with his back to the altar. The light seemed a little darker; a cloud had passed across the sun. Wretched problem! Was there even an answer? Yes, he thought, as inspiration seemed to come, he could address that. Either there was or there was not, for there were no other choices. Therefore there must be an answer, for otherwise nobody could win but Timothy must lose. Timothy did not strike him as an inevitable loser.

He had to summarize what he knew. He had one question, and he had to use it, and the answer had to tell which door was the correct one, so the question had to involve the door. He was only allowed to ask a guard, so he had to do that. 'My problem,' he summarized to himself, 'is that I cannot guarantee to get the truth. It is impossible to work out which guard will lie, given this information.'

It was then that another wave of inspiration passed over him. He remembered advice from old Libo, "Stop worrying about what you can't do, and concentrate on what you can." Yes! He could not guarantee to get a true answer, but perhaps he could guarantee to get a lie. He leaped to his feet, and gave a cry of triumph.

* * *

"So?" Timothy asked at last. Gaius had sat before him, impassively, for some time, and had been quietly carving pieces of roast meat and stuffing them in his mouth, in between chewing on vegetables. "Do you have a solution?"

"Oh yes, the problem," Gaius said with a shrug. "I almost forgot about that."

"To which I assume you have no answer, short of taking a fifty-fifty guess?"

"Oh," Gaius remarked carelessly, "I have a much better answer than that."

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p>"And did you work this out, or did you cheat and get the answer?"

"I worked it out," Gaius said, "although I did get inspiration."

"And what was that?" Timothy asked impassively.

"From an old temple in a valley about five kilometers in that direction."

"You went there," Timothy remarked. "That temple has been abandoned for about a hundred years."

"I believe it," Gaius replied, as he took a sip of wine. "You know, Timothy, this wine is rather good."

"It's been in a cask for some time," Timothy smiled. "We Greeks have a taste for the better things in life."

"So I see," Gaius said, as he picked up a piece of fruit.

"I remind you," Timothy said caustically, "that claiming to have a solution is not the same as having one. I am about to retire for the night, so if you wish to claim success, you had better get on with it."

"The answer I have depends critically on the guards knowing and obeying the rules."

"Assume that. So?"

"I cannot work out who is telling the truth," Gaius explained, "so with one question to one guard I cannot get the truth, and in fact I'm not sure that two questions would help. One question to both guards gets both answers, so that's no help. However, I can guarantee to get a lie, by getting both guards to answer in sequence. I ask a guard which door the other guard would tell me was the safe door. That way I get one truth and one lie, hence a lie, hence I choose the other door to that given in the answer."

Timothy nodded, and said with a smile, "In that case I had better prepare some lessons for you."

* * *

The next day, Gaius had a pang of conscience. He did not believe in Gods, but on the other hand he had prayed to Athene, the problem had been solved, and he had just got up and ran. So while he did not believe in Gods, there was no point in incurring their wrath through such negligence. He arrived back at the temple shortly after noon. He walked to the altar, said a 'Thank you', then feeling that this was a little abrupt, he lay down in a shady alcove beside the altar and stared towards the hill. The sun was warm on his skin, the air still, there was a pleasant fresh smell, it was so peaceful. He lay there, and watched the shadows move slowly and grow slowly longer. He ate some bread and cheese, then he sat back to reflect. Life was certainly worth living on a day like this. He felt his eyelids becoming heavier.

"It is good to see you are now untroubled." Gaius turned slowly to see one of the most beautiful women he had ever imagined. Blonde hair, a beautiful skin that almost seemed to glow, but above all the eyes struck Gaius. They seemed infinitely deep, and, so un-Greek-like, were grey. Then, with something of a jolt, he recognized the face: it was the face of the statue. How could that be? He glanced down to see the most incredible cloth he could imagine. It glowed slightly, it flowed in a breeze that was not there, and it seemed almost out of focus, for there were no sharp edges. The wreath-crown in her hair seemed simple, but it glowed a magnificent light, like nothing he had ever seen before, or had even imagined possible before. But there was something else: her expression. It was almost as if she had taken a deep breath before she had spoken.

"Wh who are you?" Gaius asked in a dazed voice.

"Oh, Gaius Claudius Scaevola," came an almost ethereal reply. "Did you not come to thank me?"

"I came. ." Gaius found himself saying, and then he stopped. How did she know his new cognomen ? He had told nobody on Rhodes. Was this really Athene?

"You stumble because, even now, when I am right in front of you, you do not believe in me. Is that not true?"

"Well, I. I. ."

"As your Tiberius would say, surely not another stutterer," the woman smiled. "Come, say what you wish. No harm will come to you."

"There's something wrong here," Gaius said, after a pause. "I don't know what, but. ."

"You are quite correct," the woman nodded. "Something is to become very wrong, which is why I am here." She waved her hand. "Do you still deny me?"

Gaius was stunned to see that the temple was now suddenly glistening white and totally free of weeds or blemishes. It was only years later he was to remember that he could no longer see any background; the grass, the hills, the trees, were all indistinct, and even the sunlight seemed more diffuse, even though the temple seemed so brilliant.

"I do not deny you, for you are before me," Gaius replied, "but I do not know who, or for that matter what, is before me."

"Odysseus denied the Gods," the woman said, "and look what happened to him?"

"The tale of what was supposed to have happened is well known," Gaius nodded, "but none of what he visited can be found anywhere. I have always considered it a tale." He paused, then added, "You have yet to tell me who you really are."

There was a slight pause, almost as if the woman was trying to decide something, then she said, "My name is truly Pallas Athene, but you would be correct to think that things are not entirely as they seem. In your distant future, a most terrible catastrophe will occur. I want you to help put things right."

"Suppose I were to decline?"

"How would you earn your agnomen ?" She smiled at his stunned expression, for who knew of this problem? "But I agree," she continued, before he could respond, and again, a strange expression crossed her face. "I give you this incentive: your life, and fame beyond your imagination."

"My life? You mean, if I decline you will take it?"

"I will save it if you accept. You have three possible futures. In a few years you will find yourself on a high hill, besieged by enemies. Without my help, you and your loved ones will die, miserably and in extreme pain. Accept my quest and I shall provide a way out, but if you take it unprepared you and your loved ones will spend the remainder of your lives caged. Your third future is to accept my guidance, prepare well, then if you succeed, your tale will be recounted for centuries. The question now is, do you have the courage and determination to accept this mission?"

Gaius stared thoughtfully, then said with a clear touch of sarcasm, "I accept, after all, how could I possibly deny a Goddess?"

"Oh, you will deny me," Athene smiled, "and even though you do not believe you will find it convenient to assert that you are following me. You will refuse to follow another God, yet only by listening to His message and by walking a path of grace and justice to the weak can you succeed. Success or failure lies in your hands as of now. You must listen carefully to your future, for this will not be repeated. Whenever you despair, remember that which was foretold and has come to pass, and you will know what to do."

For some reason Gaius could never explain, he felt entranced. He did not believe, yet he could not leave. The woman seemed so sure of herself, yet something told him she was also so unsure. All he could manage was, "What is it that you want?"

Again, she almost hesitated, as if taking a deep breath before she began. "Your Princeps  has sent you here to study my two paths, one of war, one of science. You must devote your most complete efforts to these studies, because anything less than the most extreme effort will lead to your painful death in your near future. Neither must be subordinate to the other, for only by succeeding in both of my arts can you succeed in either. You must learn well the principles of my arts of war, for you will fight in ways and places where loss is inevitable to all but those who understand. But my second path is much more difficult. You must learn about the heavens, and about that which is around you, for you must take the knowledge of the Greeks far further. Your great Aristotle was wrong in matters of motion, you must find where and you must record all your findings. Aristarchus was correct, and only by proving this can you live long enough to earn your agnomen . You will wish to give this up many times, but you must not."

Gaius sat and stared. Talk about a hopeless quest. More to the point, how could knowing that save him? "You could tell me where it's wrong," he suggested.

"Yes, I could, but that would do you no good, for it is the acquiring of the skills to discover what is true that is needed, and you can only acquire those skills by doing." That was said almost irritably, but then she almost seemed to plead. "Your life will depend on your ability to reason, not to be heroic. Now, a detail you must follow! Record all your discoveries, including what you learn for yourself from your period with Timothy, and keep your records close to you, even on campaign, but give them to no person. It is only by showing these to no person do you save your very freedom when all seems lost."

This was ridiculous! Record everything, then show it to nobody to save your life? Wait! She said 'No person'! What did that mean?

"I can see you do not believe this," she remarked. "I shall give you two predictions, and when these come to pass, you will realize that I could not tell you this unless I knew. Soon, Timothy, will introduce you to contraries, and to lodestones. You must find something new with each of these and record them in this journal that you will keep closer to you that anything else in your life. You must record all your findings, and take them as far as you can."

She paused, and Gaius felt that she was trying to work out the effect this was having. He was not going to give her any indication, but his mind was racing. This did not make sense. How could keeping a journal of findings about lodestones have any useful part in his future?

"Slavery is a blight on your civilization. ." Gaius stared at her. Something was really wrong for the Gods had never criticized mankind's basic urges before, which was in part why he did not believe in Gods. "In a few years you will see a toy that turns a wheel. You must devise a machine based on it that will overcome slavery for it is only by mastering my arts and devising such a machine that you can avert your own enslavement." Now Gaius was really startled. How could anyone predict slavery for a Roman of senatorial class and expect to be taken seriously? "You will make a most revolutionary invention, something which changes the entire way a civilization lives, but you change no-one's life but your own." What? How can that be possible?

"You must search for and discover great truths, to take far further the glory that my Greeks started. ." Oh yes? "but with them you change nothing. ." That is remarkably comforting, Gaius thought.". . for you are doing this for your own path. When all seems lost, it is only through such wisdom that you can change your own.

"You wish to know your immediate future." Naturally! "Tiberius will soon die. ." He is rather old.". . and with his death your military appointment goes. But do not despair. You must be true to your principles, stand for what you believe. ." Just what I need. A platitude!". . and when you have served Rome and returned a chalice to its rightful owners. ." A chalice? What could that have to do with anything?". . while risking your future, then Gaius Caesar will give you your military appointment." So, she predicts that Little Boots will become Princeps . Not a lot of choice, though!

"You will win your battles. ." Losses are never predicted! "Your legion will be recognized as the most faithful. ." That's stretching it a bit!". . you will walk amongst the Gods. ." True, to the extent that Augustus set a poor example by becoming declared a God!". . and they will treat you with the same humanity as you treat your vanquished." What?? "You will earn a triumph. ." That's pushing it more than a bit!". . then you will return to Rome to find the splendour gone, your great army no more, the fora in ruins, the Princeps ' palace abandoned, the great marbles broken." What? Gaius' complacency suddenly disappeared. This was impertinent. It was also impossible. How could one receive a triumph if Rome had fallen?

"There must be only two women in your life," Athene smiled in a benevolent fashion. Two? Better than one! Athene then seemed to taunt him. "For you, the first will be the most beautiful woman in the world." She would be, Gaius thought, but the thought still pleased him. "You will ignore her." What? What sort of a prediction was this? "The second will be the most ugly woman in the world." By the Gods, what was this? "You will scoff and taunt her, yet she holds the key to success."

As a stunned Gaius stared at her, she raised two hands and said, "You will face critical choices, when all seems lost. Then you must have faith in my art of logic, and you must have faith in your own ability when you have good reason. You must show compassion to those you conquer, and by showing it you will earn it from others when you need it.

"We must now part. You will learn triumph, and you will learn despair. There are two great moments that you cannot fail to recognize. In the first, there will come a time when you will die if you go north, if you go south, if you east or if you go west. You will recognize it when it comes, and you will know what to do. Much, much later, when you are praised from all sides, will come your greatest battle. You must deny your very family for duty, but then to win you must follow your head and not your orders. You will know that time without doubt. I shall give you one final piece of advice, so that you will believe in me all the sooner. Your Greek will talk about contraries. I tell you that for these, one is real and the other is the absence of or in the opposite direction. Think about what that means, and record your thoughts in your journal.

"Do not speak of this prophecy, but tell all to the ugliest of all, whom you must recruit to help save every human being from a most terrible annihilation. Fulfil this destiny and only then can disaster be averted. Go, prepare well, and, well," she seemed to pause, then she added, "Good luck."

Athene's expression seemed to fade, and as she did so, the temple gradually returned to its dilapidated state. Gaius lay back. The sun was still so warm, his eyelids felt so heavy. .

When Gaius awoke, the shadows were lengthening. He looked around, but there was no sign of the woman. He went to the back of the altar, but it was all solid stone, with grass growing between the cracks. It looked as if it had not been cleaned for decades.

He shook his head. It had felt so real, but he must have dreamed it all. Goddesses did not wish you luck!

Chapter 6

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Timothy was tense for the first lesson. Having been far away from his master, he had become independent and he had been left alone for who would dare bully the property of Tiberius? With such imperial immunity he had become haughty, and, he realized, he had made few friends. Now, whether by accident or by Tiberius' intent, the transfer of ownership had arrived after he had confronted this young upper class Roman to whom he was now beholden. Worse, Tiberius' motives were unclear. While Tiberius had given him away, that did not mean that Tiberius had finished with him. Tiberius had unlimited power, and his use of it was becoming erratic.

Gaius was feeling equally awkward. He may be in control, but in control of what? This could be nothing more than yet another one of Tiberius' jokes, which were becoming increasingly less funny. Now Gaius was responsible for reaching whatever outcome Tiberius had decided, if he had decided. More likely, for whatever outcome he thought should have arisen one day when he had a gut ache.

Then there was. . his dream? He did not believe in Gods, but. . Could a dream be that detailed? Surely not! But then again, surely Athene had not visited him? No, being visited by a Goddess was simply not believable. But then again, just in case, it hardly hurt to follow good advice. So here he was, ordered by a Goddess in a dream, and also by a cranky old man who thought he ought to be a God, to learn. He should pay attention!

Timothy began with questions as to what Gaius had already learned. That he knew how to speak Greek and had read several Greek plays was no surprise, nor was the fact that he had had extensive lessons in rhetoric. That Gaius had had lessons in geometry was useful, for while he, Timothy, was not especially interested in mathematics, he would send this young Roman to see Geminus, the greatest living mathematician and astronomer. Geminus would extend him there, and save him, Timothy, from total failure.

"So you want to be a soldier? Then let's give you military problem, a real problem, but I won't tell you whose. Your mission is to take a certain city out in the African desert as quickly as possible. What do you do?"

"Where is this city? I mean, specifically with respect to where I am?"

"You make enquiries," Timothy continued, "and you obtain a most wonderful map. The city is marked due west, at a distance of 240 kilometers. There is a road and you can easily make thirty kilometers per day."

"Provisions?"

"You may carry water and food for twelve days. The city has both food and water."

"Then I take food and water for twelve days and unless I hear that there's a superior force around, I set off."

"For six days, all goes well," Timothy said, "but on the seventh day there is a sand storm, and you cannot see where you are going."

"I camp for the day," Gaius replied. What was the problem?

"The following day the storm is over, and the road is clear."

"I set off towards the city."

"While progress has been according to plan, that evening you notice that the road is becoming sandy and fifteen kilometers a day is probably all you will manage."

"The next morning I continue," a puzzled Gaius replied. "We are nearly there."

"You and your legion die in the desert. There is no city where you think it is."

"What?" Gaius exploded. "That's not fair!"

"Life is not fair," Timothy replied. "I'm a slave and. ."

"You will be freed. You know that!" Gaius scowled.

"That's not the point!" Timothy was indignant, but he was also frightened. This could be one of those times where doing the right thing got him flogged. "Your privileged birth has given you the right to command, but you also have the responsibility to do it properly. Your ineptitude has just killed a few thousand men who were unlucky enough to be dependent on you. What should you have done?"

"Got a better map?" Gaius asked.

"No! That was as good as it would get."

"Then it's a stupid problem," Gaius said grumpily. "What could I do?"\

"Stop thinking 'I'!" Timothy said harshly. "The Earth doesn't rotate around you! You might care to consider getting help from other people who know far more than you do. First, send out scouts, who carry more supplies and move faster. Then go down to the market place. Find someone who's been there."

"I suppose you're right," Gaius conceded, after a moment. "All I can say is. ." He stopped in mid-sentence.

"Well?"

"This is a bit on the weak side, but I would have sent out the scouts. That is standard legionary procedure."

"And you know why it is standard procedure?"

"To save people like me who would otherwise forget," Gaius said sheepishly.

"Exactly. Now I have your attention, at least until your natural arrogance takes over again. ."

"I concede! You're right, if that makes you feel any better."

"It doesn't."

"Then what will?"

"You actually learning something. Anyone can say I'm right. The question is, has it done any good?"

"Tiberius would say you'd have to keep going to find out," Gaius said in a non-conciliatory tone.

"I know," Timothy shrugged, and added without thinking, "One of the prices you pay for being a slave is you have to keep going."

"Then how about getting on with it, and stop feeling sorry for your piece of bad luck, which, I might add, so far has been nowhere nearly as bad as you seem to make out!"

"We'll see," Timothy said. He had to pull himself together, for the boy was right in one way. His life had not been anywhere nearly as bad as it might have been, or might yet be. "So, the goal is to get you to think! What we Greeks prize is logic. ."

One or two Greeks might, Gaius thought to himself. What most Greeks prized was gold, and the knowledge of how to extract it from unsuspecting visitors.

". . It enables you to see through what would otherwise delude you, to find the truth. That is what makes a great general, a great philosopher, a great storyteller, a great anything. Who would you say was the greatest general that ever lived?"

"The best at winning battles was Alexander, although nothing lasted."

"That's true," Timothy agreed, "but Alexander may have been equally effective there had he lived. But that's not my point. What I want you to think about was why was Alexander so great? Was he stronger? Did he. ."

"He was smarter," Gaius interrupted, "and he had a professional army of battle-hardened veterans."

"And who made him so smart?"

"You're going to say, his teacher."

"A successful prediction! His teacher was Aristotle, the greatest scientist and philosopher of all time," Timothy said. "So Alexander was neither a scientist nor a philosopher, but he was a thinker. Now, I shall send you to a teacher of mathematics and astronomy, and we shall cover logic and physics, and also some military campaigns of which I have records. I am going to try to make you think about things of which you have no previous experience, to see if you can be original. Originality was what made Alexander great so be here tomorrow, ready to think."

Chapter 7

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"Today," Timothy said in a challenging tone, "I give you two opposite views: I give you physics, and I give you anti-physics."

He stared at Gaius, who sat impassively. "Firstly, anti-physics. For this we turn to Socrates, who put it quite bluntly. Physics are useless, because they do not help the soul." He continued to stare, until finally he said, "Comment please?"

Gaius thought for a minute, then said slowly, to gain more time, "Since you have not taught me what is in physics, I cannot say whether the statement is true or not."

"Is that all you can contribute?"

"I think the statement is also irrelevant," Gaius said. "Food does nothing for the soul, but it could not be described as useless."

"A typically Roman view," Timothy noted. "If it's there, use it."

"Better than the Greek view of, if it's there, contemplate it," Gaius retorted. There was a challenge on Gaius' face, but there was also the hint of a smile.

Timothy stared at him, then finally a smile crossed his face. "Perhaps. Well, let's start at the beginning with Thales, a military engineer who learned to predict eclipses, to measure things better than others had, and, in order for his army to win a battle, to divert a river into the enemy. He believed that everything could be explained without reference to the Gods, by forming general principles based on what we know, and hypotheses for what we do not. He used geometry, which you seem to be so taken with, and proved a theorem in which if a triangle is drawn within a circle that includes the diameter, then the angle opposite the diameter is a right angle." Timothy paused. Where was all this going? Was he wasting his time? It might be a waste, but he had to keep going, because that is what slaves did. "He also began to ask the right questions, such as where did life begin? His opinion was water, which was thus fundamental to life. Comment?"

"Comment?" Gaius said with a frown. This was unexpected.

"Your job is not to sit comfortably in the sun," Timothy said. "Your job is to think."

"Diverting a river was clever," Gaius replied. The fact was, he noted to himself, Timothy was correct. He had been very comfortable, the sun streaming on his face. His mind had almost begun to wander. Could he be so transparent?

"Now, how did I know you would focus on that!"

"Knowing how to select the right questions to ask would be a big advance," Gaius offered. What did this wretched Greek want?

"Now, there's an advance," Timothy nodded. "I half suspect you were thinking more of your own situation than that of Thales, but still, that's an advance."

"I also think," Gaius said in a more assertive tone, "that Thales did not take his own advice."

"Oh?" At this point Timothy was puzzled.

"The right question is one that is potentially answerable," Gaius said in a challenging tone. "There are far too many unknowns to contemplate answering where life began."

"Interesting response," Timothy growled. "It shows quite clearly the cultural divide between Greeks and Romans. Greeks inquire about everything, Romans only inquire when they know the answer anyway."

"Greeks idle their time away speculating about everything and getting nowhere," Gaius retorted, "while Romans get on and do something."

"You think Thales idled away his time?"

Gaius looked at Timothy, and noticed the mix of fear and challenge. He had to do his best to remove that fear, so he smiled and replied as cautiously and as timidly as he could, "Perhaps you could give me an example of where he did not?"

"Then consider this," Timothy offered. "According to Aristotle, early one year, Thales predicted a really good harvest so he reserved all the olive presses at a discount, and when demand peaked he rented them out at a much higher price, thus showing you could make money through. ."

"Taking advantage of the plodders!" Gaius interrupted. "Yes, a fine example, and yes, Romans also speculate."

"Then we have your exercise for tomorrow," Timothy smiled. "Read up more about Thales, and also contemplate whether there is something in between speculating about everything and getting nowhere or restricting yourself to what you know, and whether being in between is desirable."

* * *

"Your thoughts on the asking of questions, please?"

"One view," Gaius started, "is that if it is impossible to get a useful answer, the question is valueless."

"One view? Is that your view?"

"However," Gaius continued, ignoring the interruption, "if one has no idea whether an answer can eventually be obtained, or what it will be, one should not simply dismiss the question." Timothy stared at Gaius as he continued, "In that case, use or uselessness depends on the unknown chance of getting an answer. It is desirable to ask the next answerable question, but that begs the question of how to recognize it. So, I suppose that leaves two options: ask away, and hope the questions are not futile, or to try to make small, miniscule steps. You seem to have a choice of a miniscule chance of making a huge advance, or a huge chance of making a miniscule advance." He paused and shrugged as he added, "The Roman way at least has the advantage of being successful."

"So far," Timothy mumbled.

"So far," Gaius agreed. "However, it seems to me that adopting the second policy of keeping one's eyes open in case the first answers itself has a lot going for it."

"For a Roman, it would," Timothy nodded, then he pulled himself together. Irritating his master was not in a slave's best interests. "So, back to physics. Did you learn anything else from Thales?"

"I made sparks," Gaius shrugged. "Whether that is useful is another matter."

"Explain!"

"Thales found that if you rubbed some materials like amber with fur, the amber would attract hair, and if you rubbed hard enough, you could make little sparks. So I got some amber and tried my hand at it. It works, but the sparks are very small, and I regard it more as a curiosity."

Timothy was now a little puzzled. The boy would have had to read quite a bit to find that, and having done so, to actually go into town and find some amber and fur would have taken effort. The boy seemed to find things interesting. Whether that was good or bad remained to be seen. In the meantime, he had to keep going. "Let's move on to Anaximander, also of Miletus. Anaximander believed that the original substance of the universe was formless and from this, everything was created. The uneven creation led to forces, and these forces have formed the present and will form the future. Every force has a contrary, thus hot counters cold, wet counters dry, and so on. Every motion in the Universe is a result of such forces, and most things are acted upon by forces and therefore change. Your comments?"

"Forces drive change, but maybe we shouldn't invent forces simply because something changes. What I mean is, if there's a net force there will be a change, but it doesn't follow that there is a force behind every change."

"That's a good point of logic," Timothy smiled. "Suppose I say, all cows eat grass. That is a one-way statement, hence if I see a cow I know it eats grass, but if someo


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ne tells me there is something eating grass, it doesn't have to be a cow. Now, back to the concept of forces and contraries. Anything else?"

"If the forces tend to bring everything together, then surely soon everything will be thoroughly mixed?"

"Good! But you see, there is inherent unevenness. The sun only shines in the day, therefore the heat of the sun is uneven, so while the forces attempt to bring everything together, there are also causes of separation. Anaximander decided that while the contrary forces were universal and were trying to bring the Universe into harmony, there are also changes and situations that increase the separation. Give another example in which the separation of contraries is maintained, and explain why?"

"I can't. ." Gaius shrugged. "I don't know. ."

"You can't! How useful!" Timothy scowled. He had to try to irritate his young charge, because he had to know whether he had potential, or whether this was simply an exercise he had to go through. On the other hand, he must not irritate too much. "Take your time! Think!" Timothy gave a quiet smile, and sat back and began munching a piece of bread and cheese. As tests went, this could be even more useful.

At first nothing came to Gaius, however it seemed that the answer was presumably related to this Greek physics. He should review all he knew, which would not take long. He was almost going to give up, when a thought struck him. "I may have something," he announced.

"May? As Aristotle would have noted, you either have or have not. Which is it?"

"How about this?" Gaius asked. He suddenly felt confident. "As I recall from Aristarchus, the sun is a long way away, and it shines heat. The Earth is a ball, so where the heat strikes square-on, such as to the south of us, it gets very hot, while at the north, it stays dark throughout the winter and it gets very cold. These so-called contraries are being generated continually."

"And the forces of cold and the heat generate storms in the middle," Timothy nodded. Now was the time to be mildly encouraging. Possibly this was a lucky guess, and it was a pity he had to fix on that heretic, but on the other hand here was something quite unusual: a Roman sufficiently interested in Greek science to actually read it. There was also a practical reason: there was no point in pushing this young man into violence. "But there's more. Rain may wash away the side of a hill but nothing builds it up. Everything is gradually changing, and can never go back to the beginning. Even life is changing."

"It is?"

"It is. Think! Give me an example."

"I didn't even know it was," Gaius grumbled. "How can I be expected to. ."

"An enemy army appears on your left flank and you didn't even know it was there," Timothy said harshly. "What do you do? Bleat?"

"That's not. ." Gaius suddenly paused, then grinned. "Yes, I can think of a change. Sheep. Wild sheep do not have wool, but rather they have hair!"

"Strictly speaking," Timothy said, "that's not quite true, but it's an example. Find out what you can about sheep. Don't tell me, just work it out for yourself. Sooner or later you will have to use that knowledge, but I'm not going to tell you when. Now, the most important contribution from Anaximander was contraries. Go, read up what you can about contraries. I want you to think generally, but also concentrate on locomotion." Gaius nodded, and as he left the room, Timothy mumbled to himself, "That should give him something to do for a while."

* * *

Gaius also had occasional sessions with the Greek Geminus, who was also somewhat intrigued by a Roman who wished to be a soldier and who seemed interested in Aristarchus. At first, Geminus announced that he would only teach if Gaius successfully showed aptitude and interest, and immediately began discussing what a hypothesis, a postulate, and a theorem were, then what a line was, a surface, and so on. Then he gave Gaius some observational data on planetary motion and asked him to formulate an explanation in terms of Aristarchus' hypothesis. Gaius began to find his days were filling.

It took more than a week looking at pages and pages of data before he was ready to make calculations, then he used a surprising amount of papyrus to record the calculations he made on wax tablets, and with string and markings on a large floor, but eventually he was able to return to Geminus and inform him that he had something: the paths of the planets were consistent with the Aristarchus model, and the reason they turned around and went backwards was because the Earth was travelling inside their orbits, and passed them. He showed Geminus how he had worked out how the data showed how long each planet took to go around the sun, and from their observed paths, he made an estimate of their distances relative to the Earth-Sun distance.

"The distance estimates are a bit rough," Gaius admitted. "I took observations from the retrograde motion, predicted the background of the planet from that point on the Earth's orbit, and selected data from where it actually was later. I know how long each planet takes to return to the same position, but I am not sure that the observed angles are very good, because that wasn't why they were measured. The distances are very large, so maybe they're wrong."

"Very good," Geminus nodded, after he checked what Gaius had done. "If you believe Aristarchus, your geometry seems to be correct, even if the data are wrong. Anything else?"

"Yes," Gaius nodded, "at least I think so. If we look at how far Mars is, and how much it dims, then consider how bright Jupiter and Saturn are, they must be huge if they shine by reflected light. And one last thing: if the stars are suns, as many suspect, then they must be very far away, and not only that, because they have different brightness, they can't all be the same distance. Putting them all on one sphere would be wrong."

If nothing else, this pleased Geminus, for he had advocated this same point. What surprised him was that Gaius had heard of it. As it happened, Gaius had not heard of Geminus' propositions, but his statement had had an effect: he would learn more mathematics. While he felt that, to some extent, this was something he simply had to put up with, nevertheless a time would come when this would save his life.

* * *

Timothy had no clear expectation. He had set Gaius off on this intellectual expedition partly to test the young man, but also to get more time to himself. For a week he was quite pleased. Gaius had not come running back, bleating that he could not do anything, and he had enjoyed his spare time. After two weeks he was beginning to think Gaius had given up, and with time this feeling grew. At first Timothy had pleasant dreams of freedom, for he was sure young Scaevola would be too ashamed not to keep his word. Then there were moments approaching despair, for he suddenly began to realize that he had no idea how he could earn a living commensurate with the lifestyle he had adopted. So far he could buy what he wanted because the bills had gone to Tiberius, and Tiberius had seemingly not bothered to question them. Then his dreams and concerns were burst when, after four weeks, Gaius appeared.

"This was harder than I thought," Gaius began. "It appears that these contraries are always cited, but I don't agree with them."

"You don't?" Timothy snorted. "May I enquire why not? Surely you agree there are the contraries of lightness and heaviness, of hot and cold, and. ."

"Cold could be the absence of heat," Gaius interrupted, "just as, according to the great  Aristotle, darkness is the absence of light." It was only as he said that, he paused. This was more or less what Athene had told him in that dream, or whatever it was. Perhaps all he was doing was recalling what she had said without knowing it, but that did not make sense either. How could he dream about something about which he knew nothing, yet would turn out to be true?

"So what else have you thought about contraries?" Timothy asked, in part to gain time. The concept that cold could be the absence of heat had stunned him, but the pest was correct in that Aristotle had pointed out that darkness was the absence of light. But if cold was the absence of heat, then. ?

"If I go back to Anaximander's forces that you were discussing last time. ."

"Yes?"

"It appears ridiculous to assert that heat is being generated at the equator, and its contrary cold is generated at the pole."

"It may appear to be ridiculous," Timothy pointed out, "but it happens. If you go south you get hot, while if you go north you get cold."

"What I am saying," he replied, putting some of his newly acquired mathematics to good use, "is that cold is the absence of heat. The equator is hot because the sunlight strikes it square on, while at the poles geometry says it essentially slides past. The poles are colder because they get far less heat on a given amount of surface."

"I see," a bemused Timothy said.

"There are contraries," Gaius said with more conviction, "but Aristotle was wrong to think they are different things. There is just one, and the contrary is its opposite, or lack thereof."

"And what lead you to that conclusion?" Timothy asked.

"Divine inspiration," Gaius shrugged, but the more he thought of this, the more concerned he became. In the dream, or whatever, Athene had stated that this opinion of contraries was important for his future, but it was also important in that it would be an early means of validating the predictions. This analysis of contraries had come to pass, and Gaius was only just beginning to realize that Timothy had never heard any interpretation like that. That meant he had to start his journal with this, which presumably would take him towards his destiny, but how?

"It would be," Timothy shook his head. This was a new problem. Perhaps this boy really did have talent. "Have you any further examples?"

"You asked me to think about locomotion. If I drop something, it has a force driving it towards the centre of the Earth," Gaius said. "Now if it falls further, it falls faster. It's weight presumably stays the same, so force is proportional to acceleration."

"Are you sure?" Timothy asked with a smile. "You have a cart going along the road at a good walking pace. Let the horse go, and what happens?"

"The cart stops," Gaius nodded.

"So the horse is exerting a force," Timothy smiled. "If the horse exerts more force, the cart will go faster, or the same with your stream. Clearly force is proportional to speed, and it is change of force that is proportional to acceleration."

"I see," Gaius frowned. In fact he did not. Something seemed to be wrong, but he could not work out what it was.

"There're plenty of clues, if you stop and think," Timothy smiled. "Which is the heavier, a rock or a feather?"

"Obviously the rock," Gaius replied, in the tone of someone who could see where this was going, and should have an answer for it, but did not.

"So the rock has more force," Timothy smiled, "and, if you don't believe me, drop a rock and a feather on your toe! The more force, the more speed results. Everything has a force; therefore it accelerates you to the centre of the Earth, no matter where you are, which, I might add, is the critical fact the great Aristotle used to show why the Earth must be a sphere. No other shape arises from a universal acceleration towards a point. Now, think about the bow. The arrow from the stronger bow will receive more force and that arrow will go further. Go try out some bows, and see if I'm right."

As Gaius left, Timothy stared pensively at the retreating back. The young man seemed strangely interested in quite a variety of things and he was undoubtedly intelligent. A problem remained, however: what was he doing? Creating a more educated tyrant? The fact remained that Aristotle had helped create a monster, and if Aristotle could not restrain his charge, how could he? But was this young Roman a monster? And if not, was he doing the opposite: teaching and encouraging a Roman in physics, a skill he might find totally unsuited for later life, for who, after all, had heard of a Roman interested in Greek science. Romans found it too abstract, and in truth, too useless.

Meanwhile, Gaius was anything but happy. Something was wrong with Timothy's argument! In the normal course of events, he would not care, but there were those predictions! Athene, or whoever that had been, had stated that his life depended on understanding, and he was in trouble over something so simple!

* * *

Gaius remained in correspondence with Claudius, who kept him informed of the happenings in Rome, and Gaius became increasingly despondent as he heard of the machinations, and the growing number of executions. As time passed, it became apparent that nobody was safe; being a direct descendent of Augustus offered no protection, nor, it appeared from the fate of Sejanus, did being the right hand man of Tiberius. Then there was the method; the senate had bowed to Sejanus so many times that Tiberius must have ordered his fate. Tiberius seemed to be playing brutal games with those he disliked, and, as Gaius was only too painfully aware, Tiberius appeared to be playing a game with him. He must keep a low profile, which, with the continual delivery of messages with the Imperial seal, was easier said than done.

* * *

Then came a message with a different seal: the personal seal of Tiberius, Princeps . His hands were shaking slightly as he opened it, and the relief was obvious when he read the cryptic message: "So far, so good. Congratulate Timothy for getting something into your head."

"So," Gaius shrugged to Timothy, "the Princeps  thinks you are doing a good job."

"That old goat knows squat!" Timothy growled. "What sort of a job I'm doing'll be resolved later rather than sooner. In the meantime, think about why Pythagoras did what he did. He felt his discoveries brought him closer to an understanding of God. Comment."

'The question then was,' Gaius thought to himself, 'If Timothy is not reporting to Tiberius, who is?' Still, he had to answer the rapid change of subject, so he gave a challenging smile and said, "Assume he actually said that, then for him it would be true."

Timothy stared at him, then laughed a little. "Ha! Signs of a philosopher trying to get out! Good! Now Pythagoras also found the rules of harmony, the relations between the lengths of pipes and scales, and he made two further propositions that are quite fundamental. These are that the Universe is essentially constructed from numbers, and governed by symmetry."

"As put," Gaius muttered, "that is sheer nonsense."

"In what way?"

"I have a rock," Gaius said, "and if I threw it at you, it would hurt, so it is more than numbers. And the rock can be any shape."

"True," Timothy nodded, "but what holds the rock together may be governed by numbers. Now, Pythagoras further argued that if something followed from something else, you should be able to prove it by logical argument. I presume through Geminus you have seen some of the proofs Euclid wrote?"

"I can recall them," Gaius said, without any sign of enthusiasm.

"What Euclid did was to show how you could produce conclusions that you could prove to be correct. The ancient Egyptians built huge buildings, and they clearly knew many of the rules of geometry, but they did not prove what they knew. Comment?"

"I don't know anything about that," Gaius admitted.

"And that's a comment?"

"It's an admission that I have no idea what the Egyptians knew or whether they could prove it. For all I know, Euclid could have merely translated a lot of Egyptian scrolls."

"Interesting response," Timothy said. "Continuing the anti-Greek theme, but at least there's some thought there. Anyway, according to Pythagoras, everything has a cause and the effects will be related to the cause by mathematics. Thus if you throw a spear with twice the force it will go twice as far. As Aristotle noted, the motion of the spear is a constrained motion, not a natural motion, so no matter how hard you throw, sooner or later it will stop, and it will fall to the ground because falling towards the centre is a natural motion, and it will not stop until it cannot go further."

"What do you mean, constrained motion?"

"Basically, there're two sorts of motion, natural and constrained. Natural is eternal, like the Sun going around the Earth. ."

"Or, as the great Aristarchus would have it, the Earth going around the Sun!" Gaius interposed.

Timothy laughed a little. "I shall ignore that particular attempt to rile me up. To continue, constrained motion contains within it its own contrary, so eventually it slows down and stops. Now, a real exercise. Deduce something about constrained motion. Don't argue about labels; that eternal motion is termed natural is simply a convenient definition. Also, don't go to the library. Your job is to think."

Chapter 8

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Since once again he needed inspiration, he walked out to his temple but neither thoughts nor goddesses came. He ate some bread and cheese and lay back in the sun. A bird flew overhead, going towards the sea, and since he needed inspiration he walked down to the little cove. In the sandiest spot, a small fishing boat was having its catch unloaded by a small family, while out on the water there were a number of seabirds fishing. They looked so graceful as they swung effortlessly around in the sky, circling, looking for food. It even seemed so effortless when, like a bolt from Jupiter, they would dive into the water, later to emerge, gulping down food.

The speed they entered the water, he thought, must put them in danger of hitting the bottom but they did not. They were too clever for that, which was more than he could say for himself. Another day gone, and no further ahead. With a shake of his head, he turned away, began to eat the last of his bread and cheese, then he threw a piece away.

A stupid question! Think of something new. Maybe there was nothing new. Motion that slows down and stops is constrained, motion that doesn't is natural. He had never seen anything speed up and disappear, other than coins at the tavern, and there were no other options. The one sentence said everything. What else could be said?

Squark! 

Gaius turned around to see a gull staring at him. The gull must have got the piece of bread he had thrown away. Perhaps he was saying, "Thank you!"

Squark! 

Perhaps he was demanding more. Gaius was about to shoo it away, but then suddenly something struck him. Why the bird did not strike the bottom! The bird would go a lot slower in water. Perhaps that was the answer to his question. The water slowed the bird down! A strangely simple observation, yet when you thought about it, perhaps the secret to constrained motion!

"Thank you," he nodded towards the bird, and threw some more bread, which was gobbled greedily.

Gaius walked down to the beach and picked up a long stick. There was a pool between two large rocks. He walked to the side of the pool and lowered the stick until it reached the bottom, which was waist-deep. He nodded to himself, placed the stick against the rock, then he walked back to the beach. He needed a small piece of driftwood and some pebbles that were as near as he could find to being the same weight. He then heard giggles, and looked up to see two young women staring at him.

He walked back to the pool and carefully placed the piece of wood on the water, and balanced a stone on top. More giggles. Somehow, he felt self-conscious, which made no sense, because these girls were nothing but trouble. He stood up, held the stick in one hand near his piece of driftwood, while he held another pebble at arm's length, the same distance from the water as the water was deep. Then he overturned his little boat and dropped the pebble at the same time. More giggles.

As he expected, the stone splashed well before the pebble reached the floor of the pool. Just to be sure, he did it again, and the same thing happened, then he did it again, but with the stones reversed. Still the same result, and he had his answer. Something to add to his tiny journal, Timothy would not get rid of him that easily, and more to the point, he would not be drawn to Tiberius' attention as a failure.

* * *

"So, you have thought of something?"

"Of course I have," Gaius replied. "I would not have returned had I not."

"I'm beginning to believe that," Timothy muttered to himself.

"Your constrained motion does not carry its own contrary," Gaius said firmly.

"It doesn't?" a surprised Timothy asked, then he added in a more irritated tone, "You can't avoid the obvious just by declaration, you know."

"I didn't say there were no contraries," Gaius wagged a finger of chastisement. "I said the constrained motion does not contain them. Your Aristotle may have been careless here in not using his own procedures."

"What procedures?"

"Logic! Either the contrary comes from within or from without, and all Aristotle did was assume  the first. But suppose it comes from without? Air gives a small contrary, water a bigger contrary, honey an even bigger one, while rock provides a contrary so big it stops everything in its tracks."

Timothy stared at him. This was something that had never occurred to him, nor, as far as he was aware, to anyone else. But he could not say that to Gaius. The young Roman's head would swell to an intolerable size. He resorted to that great teaching aid: if in trouble, bluff! Eventually he nodded. "Well done. That is quite logical."

"There's more," Gaius added.

"There is?" Timothy frowned in surprise. This was unwelcome, because he, the teacher, was being taken into increasingly unfamiliar territory.

"Yes. Remember when you said that force equalled velocity?"

"So?"

"It doesn't! You should be able to see that."

"Then perhaps you should enlighten me," Timothy replied, in the tone of a teacher who knew, even though he didn't and was trying to get his pupil to save him from having to admit it.

"The horse and cart example," Gaius chided. "The horse doesn't provide a force to provide the velocity, but rather to overcome the contrary force from the ground."

"That is possible," Timothy agreed, "but it doesn't prove it."

"Ha! But do you remember your own example?"

"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about," Timothy admitted.

"You said it was change of force that gave acceleration."

"So?" Timothy asked in a puzzled tone.

"The rock falls faster as it drops from a tower, but it doesn't get any heavier, does it?"

"That's quite true," a stunned Timothy replied. Whatever he had expected, this was not it.

"So with constant force you get constant acceleration, not constant velocity."

"Very good," Timothy nodded. "That is good logic." He paused, then added, "You realize, of course, that the end goal has nothing to do with physics?"

"It hasn't?" Gaius asked in a deeply mocking tone.

"No, it is to get you to think logically," Timothy said. "There's no need to study physics for the sake of physics. After all, we know all the physics that are there to know."

"Maybe, maybe not. You realize the corollary of what I said?"

"And what's that?"

Gaius smiled in triumph, "Since eternal motion is motion without a contrary, it follows eternal motion must take place in a void."

Timothy simply stared at him, then added, "If the medium supplies the contrary force, that is logical."

"Not only that," Gaius said in a superior tone, "it is correct."

"You're rather sure of yourself," Timothy nodded. "So, go learn something else. We shall work our way through some of Alexander's battles, and tomorrow we shall start with the battle of the Granicus. Find out something about it."

Chapter 9

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"So," Timothy smiled as Gaius hurriedly concealed a piece of papyrus, "you are ready to analyze the battle. Start with the background. Why fight there?"

"Alexander had to," Gaius replied. "There was no point in invading and then declining battle. The Persians, though, had a choice. Memnon, a Greek you may note, recommended the Persians ignore Alexander's army and deprive him of supply by taking all food into fortified towns and use the superior Persian fleet to starve him."

"And if you had commanded the Persians? What would you have done?"

"A bit of both," Gaius shrugged. "There's no harm in starving them and harassing them before a major battle. Even Greeks  can be out of sorts if they think the world's against them, that things aren't going right, that. ."

"We get the picture," Timothy nodded. "So, suppose you are overruled and you have to fight. Analyze the Persian deployment."

"I have trouble here," Gaius replied, "because the accounts don't make sense. I suspect the Persian numbers were exaggerated and there are hints the numbers of men on the two sides were fairly close."

"Then, for the purposes of this exercise, assume they're about equal."

"Taking up position on a high bank beside a swollen river is good," Gaius noted. "Ignoring the high hill on the left flank is not so good."

"But the Macedonians initially attacked through the centre."

"And Alexander was nowhere to be seen. He used to lead attacks, so the key to his tactics would lie with where he was."

"But this was the first time the Persians had come up against Alexander," Timothy protested.

"But Alexander had fought before," Gaius said. "It's like the first example you gave me. The commander should find out all he could about Alexander before the fight."

"Yes, he should," Timothy said. He was quite surprised that Gaius had recalled and learnt from the first military lesson. "So, comment on Alexander's deployment."

"Given that Alexander will control the crucial attack through the right," Gaius replied, "it makes good sense to leave the next most able commander, Parmenio, on the left."

"So you're lined up. Do you attack through the centre? Do you send your phalanxes into the swollen river?"

"I'd follow the alternative strategy," Gaius shrugged. "I'd camp, and cross at first light, before the Persians got up. As I understand it, the Persians were light on infantry, so they'd camp away from the river, where it'd take time to assemble them. That," he added, "was Parmenio's advice, but Alexander chose to ignore it."

"And why was that?"

"Most likely because the advice came from Parmenio. Alexander was something of an egotist."

"Fancy that!" Timothy muttered. "And what about you? You prefer to fault the greatest of Greek soldiers rather than believe he saw the Persians retiring for the night!"

"There's no evidence the Persians weren't ready for battle, apart from comments from Greek commentators."

"And we can't possibly believe them," Timothy said sourly.

"Not when we see what was supposed to have happened next."

"So, the battle starts. The Macedonians attempt to cross the river. Comment."

"The Persians have the high ground," Gaius offered. "We don't know what happened, but crossing a river can't have been rapid, and a phalanx probably does not work that well in a river so the Persian archers, slingers and javelin throwers should have made an impact. For all we know, they may have. From what I can make out, this Greek attack really made little penetration."

"And the key part?"

"Alexander took cavalry upstream, crossed, and came in from behind the hill on the Persian left flank, catching the Persians in the rear. The accounts say that the Persians mainly defended the river crossing with cavalry, and they had to divert cavalry to meet this threat, but taking away that cavalry from the river supposedly relieved pressure on the Macedonians crossing the river."

"Supposedly?" Timothy almost sneered. "What makes you think that? You've not exactly got a lot of military experience yet!"

"Neither have you," Gaius retorted, "but I know cavalry don't fight at their best in the middle of a river. I don't know what really happened, but I would expect the Greek mercenaries to be at the front, trying to stop Alexander's phalanxes."

"Any further comment?" Timothy was a little stung by his lack of experience being pointed out.

"The Persians made a feint on their right flank that fooled nobody, and then did next to nothing, although this may be nothing more than faulty reporting. But if they weren't going to attack, they should have kept cavalry as a reserve."

"Elaborate!"

Gaius paused. It suddenly occurred to him that his attitude so far had annoyed Timothy. Yes, Timothy's sneering attitude had goaded him, but maybe he had gone overboard. Still, he had to say something, so he continued. "The strategic decision is, give


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n your position and strength, do you attack, defend, withdraw, or, as Memnon advised, evade and harass. The Persians could have attacked through the right flank with cavalry to get at the Macedonian rear; effectively the mirror of what Alexander was trying to do. But they didn't. ."

"You may not realize this," Timothy said, "but as far as we can tell, this was the very first time anybody used cavalry as a primary attacking weapon. Anyway, go on."

"Another strategy might have been to defend, let Alexander blunt himself, then counter-attack, but if they were going to do this, they should have kept their mobile forces and lighter more mobile infantry in reserve."

"Explain!"

"The Persians had mounted archers who could strike from a distance. They could ride around Alexander's cavalry and effectively take them out of the battle. If Alexander turns his back on them, they have free shots at the back of the Greek cavalry, while if Alexander chases them, the Greeks fight without cavalry elsewhere. As it was, with no scouts on the top of the hill, they failed to detect Alexander's move. Worse, once he came around the back of the hill, Alexander had the Persians at a disadvantage in that they were fighting on two sides. If the Persians could deploy reserves, Alexander might have had the same problem."

"Anything else the Persians could have done?"

"They should have had a small squad of their best mounted archers to seek out Alexander himself. Instead, he killed their leaders, then the Persians started to flee, and once that started, as you said, the battle was lost."

"Any other comments about the battle?"

"The Persian cavalry had skilled bowmen but these should have fought from a distance and not let themselves get into a slugging match."

"So, as far as we can tell," Timothy said dryly, "you can recite history. One day, when you command, reflect on how easy it is to comment like this, and how hard it is to do things properly at the time."

"I guess," Gaius said. He then began to feel a little guilty about his previous attitude so, after a few moments, he said, "Look, on thinking about it a little more, maybe you were correct and I was wrong."

"Oh?" Timothy's expression was one of pure surprise. "About what?"

"About Alexander's urge to fight, and the comment about the cavalry and the river," Gaius replied. "My initial thought was that nobody in their right mind would counter an approaching phalanx trying to cross the river with cavalry lined up along the bank, so I assumed that was wrong."

"But?"

"Another possible explanation is that on approaching the Granicus, Alexander would have already discussed how he would fight the battle and where everyone would line up, and Parmenio may have offered his opinion then. That, in my opinion, was the best strategy at that point, but if Alexander saw the Persian cavalry deployed like that, he would know his opponent had made a very bad mistake, so he should fight immediately, while the mistake was still in play."

"The Persian cavalry contained a lot of archers," Timothy pointed out.

"Yes, and they had archers in their infantry," Gaius added. "The point is, the great advantage of cavalry is that they are mobile. Lining them up on a river bank and having infantry behind them completely negates that advantage."

"So, Alexander wasn't as bad as you thought?"

"I never thought Alexander was bad," Gaius replied. "But even you won't disagree that he was bloodthirsty. The Greek mercenaries surrendered, and he set about slaughtering almost twenty thousand of them."

"Yes," Timothy agreed. "There were many aspects of Alexander's life that were not exactly admirable."

* * *

"Yesterday," Timothy said, "we discussed Alexander's first major battle of his invasion of Asia." He paused, and seemed somewhat apprehensive.

"We did," Gaius finally said, to break the silence. "I had not forgotten."

"I didn't think you had," Timothy muttered, "but I want to raise the morality of the invasion."

"I see," Gaius said irritably. "Back to another moan on the issue of slavery."

"No," Timothy said. "That's not it at all, at least not in the sense you're thinking."

"Then what sense?" Gaius snorted, then he noticed what appeared to be a more fearful look on Timothy's face. "All right, I can see I'm not going to like this, but I promise, you can say what you like, provided it's not a moan about your perceived personal hardships."

"Then," Timothy said, as he took a deep breath. "Why do you think Alexander wanted to invade other people's lands?"

"Revenge for Persian attacks, and glory," Gaius said, then added caustically, "He seemed to be another one of those who thought he was divine, and before you remind me, I know. It's a bad habit, he wasn't, neither are the others, but I can't do anything about it."

"So to claim glory, he killed, and killed, and killed," Timothy said. "Do you think killing is glorious?"

"In war, it's necessary, although, as I noted yesterday, there was no need to kill all the mercenaries after they had surrendered and sued for peace," Gaius said flatly. "You can't fight a war without killing, and there's no way to stop war, at least no way I can see, except. ."

"Except?"

"Strictly speaking, if Rome conquered everybody, there'd be no more war," Gaius smirked.

"And Rome has never had internal wars? Civil wars?"

"You're right," Gaius replied. "It has, but that doesn't make them desirable."

"And you're right. There'll be many more wars, but that doesn't make them desirable either. You are correct that in war, killing is necessary, but is it desirable? Is it glorious?"

"Given the fact that war has started, it is highly desirable to kill them before they kill you," Gaius shrugged. "Further, as a General, it's your duty to finish off the enemy with the fewest casualties on your own side. The men trust you to do that."

"That's once you are in battle, but is it desirable to try to find peace first?"

"Most definitely, however the soldier doesn't start wars, and finishing them that way is usually outside the boundaries permitted by his orders."

"So, is it glorious?"

"Some seem to think so," Gaius replied, a little evasively.

"Your enemy are probably farmers, forced by their lords to fight. They have little skill, and their only enthusiasm for the fight is that they think their wife and daughter might get raped if they lose. Is killing them glorious?"

"Probably not," Gaius said, "but if they take the field, what's the option?"

"Be a better general, out-manoeuvre them, and force them to surrender rather than merely wade through them, slaughtering all and sundry?" Timothy suggested.

"I don't disagree," Gaius said, after a pause, "but a General's first duty is to his own men. I can't risk their lives."

"Of course not," Timothy said, "however being a better General tends to save your own men's lives as well as your enemy's."

"I agree with the suggestion that the General should be as competent as possible."

"Well, that's good to hear," Timothy said, a little sourly. "Now, consider this. Your actions will lead to a number of deaths, including your own soldiers, those of the others, and you will then occupy their territory. Justify that."

"I'm afraid that's the way things are," Gaius shrugged.

"I know," Timothy said, "but is that justification?"

"An obvious justification is if you are attacked. Your citizens could have their property destroyed, their women raped, and their citizens. ." Gaius paused, as he could see where this was going.

"Enslaved," Timothy added dryly. "Any other circumstances you can justify?"

"If the Princeps  orders the army to march," Gaius said slowly, "and if an officer refuses, then he will be executed, somebody else will take his place, so there's not much point in refusing."

"Quite correct," Timothy agreed. "There's no point in refusing orders, getting yourself and your family exiled or killed, and the order still being carried out. Now, what is the justification for Rome invading another country?"

"In many cases," Gaius said simply, "Roman occupation leads to a far better life for all the citizens."

"From the Roman point of view?" Timothy asked.

"From the point of view of being able to trade, and to live under law," Gaius replied.

"Suppose Rome invades because they can get more loot? They steal, at least in the sense that they exploit a resource and thus take the opportunities from the locals, making Romans rich and the locals poor."

"Obviously that happens, however, I don't see that I can do much about that either. All I can say is that provided taxes are paid, Rome encourages people to own their own land and resources, and that's in the provinces as well. Romans are encouraged to work for their own benefit."

"Or for the landowner?"

"Or for the landowner," Gaius agreed. "And yes, as a Claudian, we have large areas of land, in various provinces, and we have slaves and workers, but the free workers may leave if they wish. They stay because. ."

"Suppose a strong force arrived on Rome's doorstep. You would fight to retain your ranches?"

"Of course!"

"And when you lost, you'd be as angry as some of the torments of Hades?"

"Yes, but I can't change things. I don't see where this is going."

"Where this is going is this. I want you to think. Is it justifiable to invade because your Princeps  has his nose out of joint? Is it justifiable to invade simply to acquire resources that you feel you need? Is it justifiable to invade because there happens to be land next door and your army hasn't done anything lately? Is it justifiable to invade and kill tens of thousands simply to look good politically back home? Too many of you Romans are arrogant, you walk over other races with your superior armies, you laugh as you kill and steal from the inferior people. ."

"And you think I'm like that," Gaius interrupted. Yes, he had to admit that he had been a little arrogant towards Timothy at times, but usually in jest.

"No, I don't," Timothy said quickly. "If I did, I wouldn't be saying all this."

"Then I'm not quite sure I understand," a rather puzzled Gaius said slowly.

"You won't change the way the world works," Timothy said softly, "and there's no point in refusing to participate. However, there're ways of going about things. Put yourself in their shoes from time to time and ask what would you feel if you were them? Then, once the battle's over, there's no need to gloat, no need to needlessly kill, and no harm in making the conquered's lives a little easier. And if you minimize the hurt, you also minimize the hatred, and it might be just a little easier to reach those noble goals you keep saying Rome stands for. Think about this over night."

Chapter 10

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"Now, today I want you to tell me, what use do you see geometry as having?" Timothy asked.

"Building, surveying, and. . I mentioned Aristarchus before," Gaius added, with a touch of satisfaction in is voice. He was getting good value out of that scroll Claudius had left for him to read. "His reasoning required geometry."

"It did," Timothy nodded. He paused, then added, "You seem to have been taken by Aristarchus' reasoning?"

"It never occurred to me before reading about Aristarchus that the moon was so huge, or that the sun was so far away, and therefore so immense. But even more, it would never have occurred to me that you could get a reasonable measure."

"It's a pity you've picked on the only Greek whose conclusions were basically wrong," Timothy shrugged, "but it gives me an idea. I shall teach you what I can about physics, and at the end of this course we shall have a debate. You shall present Aristarchus' ideas, I shall counter them."

"And you expect to demonstrate your superiority by beating me in this debate?" Gaius laughed.

"No, I don't," and to Gaius' surprise, Timothy laughed back. "You can't expect to win, because Aristarchus was basically wrong. No, I want you to argue logically, and when the logic is insurmountable against your position, you have to recognize that. Why?"

Gaius stared at him, then he remembered something old Libo had said. "In the army," Gaius said, "probably the biggest disaster is a pig-headed commander, one who won't accept that what he thought out isn't going to work."

"Exactly," Timothy nodded. "You will have to make the best you can of what you have, but there comes a time when you must recognize that you have to change your mind. It's just as wrong to back down too quickly, otherwise you would always be retreating. Instead, you must recognize when the logic is totally against you, then you have to change position. In any case, even a losing position has grounds to use logic. So, read what you can about these issues. In a few months we shall have this debate. Meanwhile, for next week think of a military use for geometry."

* * *

"Well?" Timothy challenged.

This challenge had proved to be easy, because Geminus had already taken him through the mathematics of levers as demonstrated by Archimedes, where the product of the force and the distance over which it applied could be equated to the energy used, or available. From the use of this, it was a simple matter to design siege engines, catapults, and a number of other devices.

"See, geometry is useful after all," Timothy smiled, after Gaius had finished explaining.

"So was Archimedes," Gaius continued. "He also found this rule that if you put a weight of material into a full pail of water, and weigh how much water overflows, you can tell what the material was made of. Like a given weight of iron will displace more water than the same weight of gold. You can tell whether some Greek has filled your gold with lead," he added helpfully.

"It would have to be a Greek wouldn't it," Timothy said in the tired tone of someone who had been waiting some time for this particular comment.

"It was a Greek who caused the problem Archimedes had to solve," Gaius pointed out.

"Was it now? Then in terms of physics, exactly what does this principle of Archimedes say?"

"That when you immerse an object in water, the force towards the centre is reduced by the weight of the water displaced by the object."

"That's quite correct," Timothy nodded. He was somewhat surprised that Gaius had bothered to actually learn what Archimedes had done.

"Archimedes also devised a means of burning boats with many mirrors. If the sunlight from each mirror lands on a single spot, then the heat from each mirror is concentrated, and the heat may be enough to start a fire, at least that's what geometry says."

"You've got the idea," Timothy nodded. "Now, what is matter? What is heat? What is light? Think about what connections you can make."

"It seems to me," Gaius said slowly, "that light causes heat, or maybe heat travels in light. When the light is stopped by something, it gets warm, if the light is strong enough. If enough light can be directed at the same place, as Archimedes showed, wood gets hot enough to burn. When the wood burns, it gives off heat and light, but. ."

"But?" Timothy said in a puzzled tone. Again he had not quite expected this.

"There's more heat than light, so maybe the two aren't quite the same, but can be turned into each other. A piece of steel embedded in a fire gets very hot, and glows red. I guess that's the excess heat trying to get out."

"And matter?"

"All I can say is that matter absorbs heat and gets hot. I suppose the heat is flowing around inside the matter."

"That's one view," Timothy said slowly. "There is another. The philosopher Democritus had a different view. He claimed that if you divided matter into smaller pieces, eventually you got to a stage where you could divide them no longer. He called these fundamental pieces atoms, and said all matter is made of atoms, which are indestructible and only differ in terms of shape and size. These atoms were moving around, and as matter gets hotter, the atoms move faster. Comment?"

"I suppose fire would be wood giving off atoms?" Gaius suggested after some delay.

"And you think that is what fire is?"

"I doubt it," Gaius replied, "because so much extra heat is given off by fire. The wood is cold, but you can get huge flames! That heat has to come from somewhere."

"Suppose it was from all the sunlight falling on the tree during its life?" Timothy suggested softly. More interestingly, why was this young man so sure it had to come from somewhere? He was anticipating, perhaps, some of what was coming next.

"Yes, but that heat was not turned into atoms running around quickly. If the heat of the fire really did come from the sunlight originally, it had to be stored some other way."

"That's very good," Timothy nodded. "We shall return to Democritus at a later date. For the present, we turn to Empedocles. He deduced there were four elements, earth, water, air and fire, and these are acted on by love and strife. ."

"You're not trying to tell me bits of wood fall in love with each other?" Gaius scowled.

"Of course not," Timothy replied tartly. "Sometimes in physics we meet a concept for which there is no simple explanation. Now we have to try to find words. What Empedocles meant was that there are forces that either bring things together or push them apart. It is the same with the elements. Earth means solidity, not literally soil; water is the flowing property of water. Thus oil has the property of water, although, as we shall see, these elements can be acted on in parts. Now Empedocles believed that while the elements can be combined or changed, their sum remains constant, which, and you will like this, seemed to contradict Aristotle. What you said before seemed to be that the sum of the light and the heat, and maybe some way of storing it, was constant.

"Empedocles also said that you saw colours because different types of light entered your eye. He thought light was very important, and that the velocity of light was one of the most fundamental things of all. He thought that sound was a pulsation in matter, and showed that air is such matter, by showing that if a cup is inverted over water, the water that goes in is equal in volume to the air permitted to escape.

"He also showed something you can see for yourself later. If you put a lodestone under a parchment, and put on iron dust, which I have got here from the sword sharpeners, you will see lines. Empedocles argued that one end was attracted to the other and a flow of something was going around to the other end. It is repulsed, however, by itself. You can see this for yourself with this small collection of lodestones. Hold them close together, then rotate one. Now, take these lodestones, and take the iron dust, and see for yourself. See if you can come up with a conclusion."

Lodestones! Yes, Athene had mentioned them, and he was supposed to find something significant about them. But how? He recalled that Athene had said he must note what he found, not that as yet he had found anything. He moved the lodestones, felt an attraction, so he let the two join together, at which point he noted the lines of iron filings were a larger version of what one lodestone would give. He turned one lodestone around and noticed that they now repulsed each other, but the force was not strong so he could leave them in place, at which point he saw the lines of filings behave as if the lines were pushing against each other.

So, something was going out one end and going in the other. If that were the cause of the repulsion, then the repulsion should be stronger between one pair of ends than the other pair. Yes, he could find that. The only problem was, when he tried it, both pairs of repelling ends behaved more or less that same. Something to note: a wrong idea!

Why did the iron filings line up? Other dust did not, but the filings lined up similar to how tiny pieces of lodestone did. Perhaps the iron was taking up that property? He got a small nail, and began rubbing one of the lodestones along it, and after some time, it too would align iron filings, albeit weakly. Yes, the reason why the lodestones pointed north! They were lining up like the iron filings. The middle of the Earth must be either a massive lodestone, or maybe a massive lump of iron. Not that he could ever prove that.

It was then that he thought some more, moved the lodestones again, and found that the lines never crossed. Something to note that worked! What about numbers of lines? They seemed to be the same for a given lodestone, but ones that seemed to be stronger seemed to give more lines. He thought about this a little more, then he started to count the lines emanating from a lodestone, and he wrote down the numbers. He then fixed one of the stronger lodestones into a piece of wood, then he tied another onto a piece of string and lowered it down towards the other so that the ends attracted. By moving the support, he could make the force of attraction swing the stringed lodestone like a pendulum and measure how high he could get it to lift for a given distance between lodestones. As he suspected the angle he could make it move was much higher the shorter the distance. He made some measurements then changed lodestones, and repeated the experiment, intending to correlate his distances with the number of lines he had counted. There would be a constant weight towards the centre of the Earth for each lodestone, so what he was measuring was the force between them countering that weight. Later he would do some calculations. But then what? Show what he worked out to no person?

It was then he had another idea. He remembered his amber that attracted hair and very light pieces of dust. He got his pieces out again and rubbed vigorously, and yes, the fur seemed attracted to the amber in lines. He got two charged up and suspended them, and yes, they repelled each other, but when he tried to turn them around, the repulsion stayed, except that with his fiddling, the repulsion lowered, no matter what he did. The rubbed amber was like the lodestone in some ways, but not in others. What did that mean? He did some more experiments, writing down what he did, but at the end he seemed more confused.

* * *

Gaius expected Timothy to ask him about lodestones, but to his surprise, he did not. Obviously, Timothy had forgotten. Actually, Timothy had not. He had seen Gaius with his lodestone suspended from a string, while moving a piece of wood towards it, then making measurements. He had later seen Gaius doing some rather awkward calculations, and he had no intention of being drawn into those. As far as Timothy was concerned, there was to be no further discussion of lodestones. Still, if Gaius was so intent on mathematics, he could easily divert his attention.

"Today we recall Pythagoras argued that everything is underpinned by numbers. Plato applied this to Empedocles' elements, and noted that there are five regular shapes with faces, or six if you consider a sphere to have one face. There is the tetrahedron, the cube, the octahedron, the dodecahedron and the icosahedron. Now, Plato thought about this. Do you notice a connection with the number five?"

"It follows four and precedes six?"

"That's not exactly what I mean. Some Greeks," and he emphasized the word some, "have noticed that there are five elements, seven metals, and five planets."

Yes, Gaius thought to himself, if there were a record for the most tendentious nonsense in the world, this would be it.

"It all follows from the fundamental importance of symmetry. The primitive matter is represented by a circle, the most symmetric of shapes. Such matter is worked on by two properties: hotness and its contrary coldness, and dryness and its contrary, wetness, such that opposites have nothing in common. Thus on opposite sides are fire and water, air and earth, while the properties can be shared by adjacent elements, thus fire and air can share hotness, air and water wetness, and so on."

"According to this," Gaius frowned, "you can't heat water. That must be wrong."

"Not at all," Timothy said in a firm tone. "Fire can heat earth, and hot earth makes water hot. You have to place your water in a pot, or it puts out fire. That's a fine example of the symmetry at work."

"Perhaps, but you can explain anything like that," Gaius shrugged disparagingly.

"Because it's a fundamental truth!" Timothy snorted. "Of course substances may be mixtures of the ideal elements. Suppose I put a pot of seawater on a fire. If the real fire contains some earth, the bottom of the pot becomes black. The seawater is a mixture of water and earth, so when water is driven off you get wet air and leave behind dry earth. The underlying material has had its properties changed, which changes the elements."

"Changes the elements? You mean, things aren't made of unchanging elements."

"Not according to Aristotle," Timothy smiled. "The elements are states, and the change of elements changes the state of being. When burning wood, wood does not combine with fire or anything else. Instead, fire is an agent of change and is coming into being while the wood is passing away. Water has the property of wetness, but so does oil; fire cannot come into being from water, though, but it can from oil, so oil is not a fundamental element of change, but is changed itself by the element fire, which liberates air and perhaps a little earth from the oil."

"Why does oil have air rather than water? Because of fire?" Here was a theory that explained everything and nothing both at the same time!

"Oil has air and water," Timothy stated. "It has wetness, but yes, the fire shows it has air. Also, elements tend to separate and go to their natural place, determined by the contraries up and down. Fire, being like the heavens, goes up strongly, while earth, being the heaviest, and most earth-like, falls fastest. Water falls slowly, air rises slowly. Oil sits on the top of water, so obviously it has more of the nature of air."

"Which presumably means," Gaius countered, "that the air should rise to the heavens and disappear. Eventually we won't be able to breathe!"

Timothy stared at him, and then laughed. "According to the great Aristotle, you have a correct premise, but you've failed to draw the correct conclusion. Look at the logic! Air rises yet we still breathe. Therefore?"

"I don't know!" Gaius said irritably.

"The obvious conclusion is that we shall not run out of air because the heavens are filled with air already! As the great Aristotle noted, nature abhors a void. There can be no permanent void, otherwise air would rush in and fill it!"

"Oh!" Gaius said. "I hadn't thought of that."

"Whether or not there's a void is unimportant. What matters is whether you consider every possibility, then by sheer logic, arrive at the correct conclusion. That's what I'm trying to teach you. I can help you expand your thinking, to give you exercises in logic, but you have to do your part. If you are just going to sit there, then you might as well do what you will with me now, because this will just be a complete waste of time!"

"Two responses," Gaius said firmly, as he stood to take a position of authority. "Whatever the outcome of this, you need not fear. Any failings on my part are not your problem, that I promise."

"Thank you," Timothy said, in a voice of slight surprise.

"Secondly," Gaius continued, "it is not my intention to fail. But that doesn't mean I intend to agree with your theories about. ."

"Gaius!" Timothy interrupted, "that's good. I don't want your agreement! I want you to think! Rome will stand, even if no Roman has the first clue about the elements!" He paused, then added, "If you wish me not to say such things about Rome. ."

"You may say what you wish about Rome, short of inciting a revolt," Gaius said. "Many Romans have been highly critical, so say what you wish! On the other hand, be prepared for some fairly caustic Greek comments!"

"I've noted some already," Timothy said. "Now, as I was saying, if you are to be successful, you have to be able to filter out that which is important from that which is not, and physics is as good as anything to practise on. So, to make things more difficult, soon we shall discuss further the elements, but tomorrow we discuss the Battle of Issus."

Chapter 11

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"Battles can be won before they're fought," Timothy started, "through supply, morale, belief in the cause, reason to fight, but assume for this discussion there was only one major difference: Alexander's army was professional, Darius' was far bigger.

"Before the battle, Darius had lost the western seaboard to Alexander, at least down to the Gulf of Iskanderun. Darius had sent a small force forward to hold Tarsus, but Alexander had already taken it. Alexander then fell ill with fever,


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and Darius, who was now camped on the plain of Sochi, thought that Alexander's apparent immobility signified that he was afraid of his large army. Comment."

Gaius paused. The answer was obvious, so why ask? Eventually he said, "Darius jumped to the conclusion he wanted to, but he still should have sent out spies."

"Suppose he learns that Alexander is ill? To win, you must take the initiative. Your men mustn't see you as indecisive. Even if you're defensive, building fortifications helps them to feel that the commander has a plan and knows what he's doing. However, Darius remained at Sochi for some time, seemingly doing nothing. Comment?"

"There's no need for Darius to build fortifications, but he should have used all the available time and been busy carrying out exercises, drilling his troops."

"You would be quite happy for Darius to remain at Sochi?"

"If you significantly outnumber the enemy, why not force the battle on flat terrain? And with soldiers of poorer quality, why not use the time to drill them and make them better?"

"So with numerical superiority, you sit back and let this Greek wander around your country, sacking it?"

"What I said does not preclude sending small squads into the more hilly coastland as scouts, to raid supplies, and be a general irritant to your opponent," Gaius offered.

"Great strategy! Be a prick!" Timothy admonished, and before Gaius could respond, he continued, "Anyway, Darius heard that Alexander had advanced south, leaving part of his forces at Issus. Darius crossed the mountains and killed the small contingent of wounded he found at Issus, then on hearing that Alexander and Parmenio were commanding separate armies, he marched south. Alexander heard that Darius, with an army five times bigger, is marching towards him. Instead of recalling Parmenio and heading south to take shelter behind fortifications, Alexander marched rapidly to meet Darius. Comment?"

"Blood-thirsty Greek!" Gaius shrugged.

"And that's your assessment?"

"Alexander's outnumbered five to one! Common sense says, get fortified."

"Which is the difference between a great commander and an ordinary one. The ordinary commander follows common sense. The great commander recognizes the opponent's mistakes, and Alexander saw a heaven-sent opportunity to defeat Darius. And, young Gaius, to win a war, you have to remove the enemy's army from the field, not merely irritate him. Now, why was Alexander's strategic position so good?"

"Presumably with the hills and sea Darius didn't have enough room to deploy his larger army," Gaius offered.

"They met on opposite sides of the Pinarus River," Timothy continued. "There was not much flat land; the sea was on Darius' right and hills were on his left. Apart from near the beach, the river had a bank about a metre high. The river bottom was stony, but the river, apart from the odd hole, was about knee deep. Darius sent 20,000 infantry and 30,000 cavalry to act as a screen while he built up his line. He deployed his cavalry to his right, his Greek infantry in the centre, his Asiatic infantry behind and on either side of them, then himself, and even more further behind, more infantry. On the right, his cavalry was extremely deep, owing to the narrowness of the beach, and on his left, because of the hills, he defended with weaker troops, supported by archers. His attack plan was to deploy his cavalry on his right, to take advantage of the flatter terrain. Alexander took about a quarter of his cavalry with him to his right. Both infantries formed lines that readily covered all the flat land. Comment on the Persian deployment."

"Alexander will probably attack Darius' left flank with cavalry."

"Which I presume you knew?" Timothy remarked caustically.

"Yes, but Darius could have worked that out," Gaius shrugged. "That was what he did at the Granicus, and this situation was very similar."

"He doesn't have to repeat himself," Timothy chided.

"No, but Alexander was probably the last commander to lead from the front. The critical point would be where Alexander was. See him go to the right, he will attack from the right. He should have had scouts to see where Alexander was."

"So, Darius planned to attack with cavalry on Alexander's left, and he sent all his cavalry there. Grossly outnumbered, the Greeks still did not lose. Why?"

"You're going to tell me the Greeks fought better," Gaius smiled.

"Far from it," Timothy admonished him, then added with a smile, "Of course, they probably did. No, the problem was geometry. Parmenio could defend a line with depth, so Darius' cavalry, outnumbering the opposition over twelve to one now, could not use the numerical advantage. Comment!"

"They couldn't use it straight away," Gaius replied. "Given time, they must have prevailed. So the trick, using this strategy, is not to lose the battle before you win it." He paused, then added, "In my view, Darius' tactics were somewhat ill-conceived here."

"Go on?" Timothy encouraged.

"The cavalry may be Darius' strongest asset, but they don't have enough room. I think at least half of them should be taken to the left, where at least they can get at the enemy."

"Perhaps!" Timothy smiled. "Anyway, Alexander attacked Darius' left flank and after loosing a few volleys of arrows, Darius' archers panicked, running back through their own infantry, who in turn panicked and ran up into the hills. Comment?"

"Darius should have placed his archers behind the infantry to protect them, and also sent some of his best heavy infantry over to the left, to give Alexander a surprise if he attacks on the basis of attacking where the worst troops are often placed."

"So, the left has panicked, and turned and run. Now, how does Darius win?" Timothy asked.

"Alexander pursues the Persians into the hills, and now there is a hole, which Darius sees."

"And he sends Greek infantry into this hole. Why does he lose?"

"He didn't commit enough troops, and nowhere near enough cavalry. Alexander's phalanxes more or less held, then Alexander brought up extra cavalry and attacked the left flank of Darius' troops and this attack quickly became a losing position. Having failed to punch a clean hole in the Greek line, his centre had to retreat or be caught in a pincer, and at this key moment, instead of finding a counter to Alexander, Darius fled and the battle was lost. Even worse, on the right his cavalry had made progress and now they had to retreat or be surrounded. Once they started to retreat, Parmenio cut them to pieces. What could have been a possible victory rapidly turned into a terrible defeat."

"So what was Darius' biggest mistake?"

"His strategy was to win by attrition, which was fine, but he had to ensure he didn't lose first. He should have kept his best infantry and all his cavalry that couldn't get at the enemy in reserve, to deal with what eventuated. If he had fired more cavalry into that hole in the Greek deployment, they might have got around the back and changed everything."

"So, what was the decisive point?"

"The moment Darius decided to run," Gaius said quietly. "You can't have lost a battle of attrition when you still heavily outnumber the opposition, and most of your losses were your worst troops."

"Do you see anything else noteworthy?"

"Darius should have attacked immediately, perhaps using the 50,000 troops he sent forward as a screen while some of his army was getting organized," Gaius replied. "Even this small part of his army would provide problems for Alexander. If they could have engaged Alexander's men and fought for an hour, Darius could deploy his main army wherever he could see the weakest point. If the strategy's to fight by attrition, he should send in a fifth of his army, and eventually roll them back and bring forward another fifth, and so on. Keep this up long enough and Alexander's men will be so tired he must lose."

"Following Roman tactics," Timothy nodded.

"They work!" Gaius pointed out. "Rome wins more than it loses."

"Anything else?"

"I can't think of much else," Gaius admitted.

"The most important issue of all is the question of a battle plan. A good commander has to do more than just give orders and start something. Once troops are engaged in battle, there's not much more you can do with them, so you have to plan for as many possible outcomes as you can, and ensure that every unit knows what to do next. That, as an aside, is the basic advantage of your launching the attack, because then you control the initial situation.

"Because the situation was very similar to that at the Granicus, if he anticipated Alexander attacking on his left, he could have asked those troops to retreat, and have troops and supporting cavalry ready to drive into the hole that develops. Such openings are quite transient, but if you are ready and drive home the advantage immediately, you can be sure the opponent has no plan for that contingency. The side that is executing a plan should defeat the side that is trying to work out what to do next.

"Had Darius' cavalry got around and attacked the Macedonians from the rear, and if there were infantry to at least engage the flanking Greek infantry, victory usually follows, particularly against the phalanx. The weakness of the phalanx was that it was almost defenceless from the rear, because of the time it took to turn those long spears and reorganize. Now, back to my initial question on strategy. Why was it Alexander's optimum strategy to advance and force battle?"

"To take the initiative from Darius. To do what Darius did not expect?"

"Partly correct," Timothy said, "but there's much more. The most important point to remember is that strategy must consider operational matters. Darius must have sea on his right flank, and Alexander would have hills on his. While the sea inhibits an attack on the right, why can't Darius outflank Alexander by a fast attack down the left?"

Gaius thought for some time, then shrugged and said, "I don't know."

"It's an operational matter regarding cavalry. The cavalryman held a shield in his left hand and used the back of the horse's neck to help guide any lance or spear until the last instant. With the point of the lance on the left of the horse, don't you want the target there?"

"I suppose so," Gaius replied, a shade sheepishly.

"And this addresses the question of why Alexander was so keen on advancing on Darius. He was always going to be outnumbered five to one, but here Darius had cancelled out his numerical advantage. Alexander could deploy his cavalry on land, while Darius' cavalry had to enter the sea to outflank on the right. Alexander could see that strategically Darius had brought his massive army to the place least suitable to deploy it properly. He had to fight eventually, so why not when things were most favourable?"

"I guess so," Gaius admitted, "although. ."

"Although what?"

"Darius could have deployed cavalry on his left. Much of his cavalry were effectively mounted archers, who could shoot arrows in either direction. With superior numbers, he could afford to deploy a few thousand mounted archers to the left, and still do everything else he intended."

"So why didn't he?"

"Perhaps he was too uninspired," was all Gaius could come up with.

To his surprise, Timothy agreed. "Darius' appears to have had the attitude that his job was to turn up with superior forces, and he had done that. However, just because you've come out on the wrong side of the strategic moves there's no reason to lie down and die. When there, you must still employ the best tactics."

Chapter 12

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The day seemed so pleasant. The sun was just the right temperature, there was a slight cooling breeze, and he had to discuss elements. Gaius pulled himself together. Romans did their duty. "I have thought about elements and I have a problem," he began. "The question is, is the theory able to explain everything after the fact, but predict nothing before? For example, you say everything depends on numbers, but there are infinite numbers."

"I proposed that everything is based on numbers, on geometry, and symmetry. If you knew all the geometry, and if you correctly handle the symmetry issues, you know all about physics, all about matter, all about everything that matters. The entire universe, your entire being, is just a series of numbers and shapes, moulded by symmetry."

"Some time ago," Gaius responded, "you said there were five shapes. Four elements and no connection. So, your fifth shape? It is not that I necessarily believe your theory, I might add, but I do have to know what it is to refute it."

"Good! The four elements were really argued by Empedocles, the relation with the shapes was due to Plato. The fire is obviously the tetrahedron, its sharp points giving the burning sensation, the cube, with its solidity and rigidity is obviously the earth, water, being wet and slippery is the icosahedron, while air the octahedron. The fifth element is the most sublime of all, ether, so it must have the most complex geometry of the dodecahedron. Comment?"

"It's a good escape clause for an argument that's going wrong," Gaius grinned.

To his surprise, Timothy also seemed to smile. "Let us continue! As I said, there are seven metals and five planets. But we can allocate gold and silver to the sun and the moon, so there are five other metals, quicksilver for Mercury, copper for Venus, iron for Mars, tin for Jupiter, lead for the slow moving Saturn. Comment?"

"The only red metal does not go to the red planet," Gaius offered.

"The iron could be rusty!" Timothy countered.

"It could," Gaius admitted, then he added with a grin, "I also have five fingers on this hand."

"And what's the connection there?"

"None, apart from noting that if one unrelated coincidence is possible, so are two, or three." He paused, and waited for the expected outburst.

To his surprise, Timothy smiled. "That is a very good point," he said, "and it addresses logic. To be honest I think that business with the planets is just sheer nonsense."

"Which gets me back to my original point," Gaius emphasized. "Your theory seems useless, and only explains what you already know. My challenge to you is to predict something you don't know!"

"If I don't know it, how?" Timothy waved his hands. "How many Romans have had anything useful to say at all about physics? The reason is because the great Aristotle has explained nearly all of physics. There is nothing left for Romans to discover."

"Or at least, so you Greeks think," Gaius muttered.

"Wrong!" Timothy almost roared. "It is you Romans who think that, which is why you do not seek."

Gaius was stunned. There was an element of truth in that. Much as he hated to admit it, if Romans ever thought about physics, they referred to Aristotle. He eventually nodded, and muttered, "I suppose that could be true."

"And that is a Greek triumph that Rome can never take away!"

Gaius stared at Timothy. There was no immediate answer to that, yet something stirred in Gaius' mind. This wretched Greek could not possibly be right. He was, after all, a Greek! Surely the Greeks had not discovered everything?

* * *

Timothy smiled inwardly as he saw the expressions cross Gaius' face. He had expected Gaius to explode further, and rant about the uselessness of Greek science. But he had not. Instead, Gaius was almost accepting the challenge. If he read this young man correctly, eventually when he had to give up, he would concede defeat graciously, and give Timothy his freedom. And the way this was going, he would give up fairly soon.

That might even present a problem, since Gaius was intent on following Tiberius' orders, but there was a way out. Tiberius had written asking whether he, Timothy, needed any assistance. What he needed was a substitute teacher when Gaius finally cracked. He would reply that Gaius needed someone else to better teach Gaius about military strategy. That would give him his freedom, and Gaius what he really wanted to learn about all along. So, in the meantime, these physics were providing a value he had never appreciated: a way to freedom.

* * *

"Well? Have you refuted our geometry yet?" Timothy challenged.

"I accept geometry," Gaius replied, "because you can prove the conclusions. However, you can't prove your elements and I can refute one of your arguments." He paused, then added a quieter, "Maybe."

"Continue!" Timothy smiled at the late addition.

"You put fire into earth and get metal? But just not any earth. If you want to get mercury, you must put fire into the red cinnabar. If you want to get tin, you must put fire into cassiterite. I'll believe it your theory when you can turn earth I give you into gold."

"You can't do that," Timothy said, "because. ."

"Because the theory's wrong! I give you the earth and as much air or water as you like. So, go make gold."

"Just because I don't know how do something doesn't make the underlying theory wrong!"

"It doesn't make it right either," Gaius replied. "It merely makes it useless."

"And therein is another typical Roman approach," Timothy said.

"The view is also Greek. The great Protagoras," Gaius smiled as he overly emphasized the word "great", "said that the quest for absolute truth merely leads to contradictions. Religions, philosophies, they're merely useful conventions and what all knowledge is good for lies in its ability to bring success to human effort."

"So where did you learn about Sophism?" a perplexed Timothy asked. This was a turn he had not expected.

"From your library," Gaius admitted. "I had to have some ammunition."

"Excellent!" Timothy enthused. He had to be encouraging, if for no other reason to return to physics and away from philosophy, which might lead to endless debate before he could get his freedom. "Anything else?"

"Yes," Gaius suddenly remembered. "You said that nature abhors a void, hence the universe is full of air?"

"I did!" Timothy smiled.

"Then if, as I argued previously, the medium supplies the contrary to motion, and if, as seems likely, the Moon has eternal motion, then the Moon cannot be in air. Accordingly it must move in a void, and, as the great Aristarchus showed," and again he emphasized the word 'great', "no, proved by geometry, the Sun is far further away than the Moon, therefore most of the Universe is void."

"I was wondering whether you would bring this up. The logic is impeccable, and given the premise, the answer follow. The only question is, is the premise correct."

"I assure you," Gaius smiled, "stones fall toward the centre more slowly in water than in air. The water must be supplying a greater contrary."

"Not necessarily! Remember Archimedes! The stone is lighter in water, therefore the force towards the centre is less, and it will accelerate more slowly."

"I hadn't thought of that," a rueful Gaius admitted, after a moment's thought.

"So, you admit you're wrong?"

"I suppose," Gaius muttered.

"Then you shouldn't!" Timothy stared at him. This was not the way Gaius must give up. Even worse, he must not see the obvious problem after having had his concession accepted, because when he retracted the concession, he might also retract the offer of freedom. "You must have more confidence. What sort of a commander gives in the first time the enemy does something he hasn't expected?"

"A bad one."

"Exactly. You are now partly diverted by an irrelevancy. Yes, the stone is lighter in water but is that the issue? It may be a factor, but not the prime factor? A general might blame a shortage of cavalry for failure, but the main reason for failure might be that the general was just plain incompetent, and his incompetence might have included the fact he did not realize early enough that he was deficient in cavalry. Go away and think on this."

* * *

"I have it!" Gaius exclaimed the following day. "Besides providing the less accelerating force through the stone being lighter, the water also provides the greater contrary, which makes the stone accelerate even more slowly."

"And how did you deduce that?"

"I didn't! Unlike you Greeks who like to sit around and contemplate, I devised a means of measuring this. I built a little bow that fires a little copper arrow. If I fire the arrow horizontally in the air it goes very much further than if the bow is immersed in water. The water must provide a greater contrary!"

"Of course," Timothy remarked with a smile, "a Greek could have worked that out without going to all that trouble."

"But he wouldn't have known absolutely that he was correct!" Gaius smiled. "Like most Greeks, he would only have argued that he was correct."

"Hmmph!" Timothy stared at him, then laughed a little and added, "We Greeks argue to show that we are correct. In fact, we even help our Roman friends when we suspect they will need it."

"This sounds rich!" Gaius jibed.

"I must give you some help for your coming discussion," Timothy said. One of the advantages of being right was that you could afford to look generous, and give what were sometimes known as Greek gifts. "Remember the great Aristotle showed why the Earth was a sphere? We can prove that the Earth is a sphere, and you always fall towards the centre. If you travel far enough. ."

"You get back to where you started, although I am unaware anyone has tried."

"The Earth is simply too big," Timothy nodded. The young man was assertive, confident. Good! Now to be 'helpful'. "If you look at the Moon it has an image, right?"

"Yes."

"Carthaginians travelled south along the coast of Africa, where the desert changes to very hot jungle, to desert again, and then it starts to get cooler. What do you deduce?"

"The sun is over the middle part of the sphere," Gaius said, "and so the travellers went past the middle, and then to the corresponding part. . well. . down, or south."

"And the moon?"

"I presume it was about the same size, the same colour, the same image. What else?"

"The image is upside down," Timothy explained. "Of course the moon is the same. The traveller is the other way up."

Gaius stared at him, then said, "Of course!"

"Of course we don't know much more than that," Timothy added. "The noble Romans ploughed the Carthaginians into the soil, and destroyed any records they might have had."

"They were barbarians," Gaius shrugged. "They didn't leave records."

"On the contrary, the reason there are no records is because the noble Romans burned their great library to the ground. And why do you think they were barbarians?"

"They sacrificed little children to their Gods, just to get rain. And even then, it didn't rain!"

"So the noble Romans put an end to baby killing by killing everyone! They didn't do it out of greed? Your leading families didn't get hugely rich?"

"Yes, they did," Gaius admitted.

"And it wasn't as if they shared it out? Your senators got all the farmers to join the army and defeat the Carthaginians, and what did they do? They stole the peasants' land, so now they have a great landless class in Rome who have to be fed and entertained with barbaric games, all paid for by the taxes you impose."

"I agree the games are barbaric, however, they get rid of vicious criminals and make a bit of money doing it. Anyway, I'm not sure what that has to do with Aristarchus."

"You have to select your facts," Timothy nodded. "Some are irrelevant. Now, besides going south, you can go north, which is what the Greek Pytheas did. He sailed out of the sea you know, past the Pillars of Hercules, out to the great ocean and then sailed north, past Gaul, past Britain, and eventually reached the island of Thule, where in winter it is always dark."

"And cold," Gaius offered.

"And cold. Now, on the coasts of the great ocean, the water rises up and down in what are called tides, and Pytheas noted that these tides are related to where the moon is. The water is pulled up by the moon, which is providing a small contrary to the force of the Earth. Of course the Moon's force is much weaker than Earth's. Why?"

"Because the moon is smaller and further away?"

"Exactly. The tides are higher when the sun and moon pull together. The sun is huge, but it is much further away, so its effect is much smaller."

"He must have been observant to see this," Gaius muttered. "I've never noticed much."

"In our sea, tides are very small. But in the great ocean, with more water, they're much bigger, with the water level changing more than the height of a man in places. Now, that's enough for today." And with any luck, Timothy thought, he will waste a lot of time thinking about that.

* * *

Once again, it was pleasant to sit in the sun. By now Gaius was quite at home on Rhodes, and there was little about Rome that he missed, other than his family. His only concern was that these lessons, while quite pleasant, were not leading anywhere. Athene had implied they were important, but if they were, he could not see how. Wretched dream! It was so obviously a dream, but he could not put it out of his mind. Athene was so beautiful. . But that was the trouble. She looked different from any Greek girl he had ever seen, she had blonde hair and grey eyes, and that was more like what he had heard of those wretched Germans. And therein lay his problem. She looked like nothing he had seen before, particularly her clothes, but at the same time she did not look like a Goddess. She looked like a woman. Surely Gods would look different in some ways?

"Since you are basically anti-Greek, there are two other Greek theories," Timothy brought him back to reality, "which I presume you will also refute?"

"That depends on what they say. I should know what it is before I say it's wrong."

"Good!" Timothy seemed genuinely pleased. "And feel free to refute them, because both have been refuted by the great Aristotle. The one that actually came second was due to the Stoics. They said nature is continuous, and infused with a spirit called pneuma. If you take a cylinder and piston, such as we use for water pumps, with nothing but air in it, seal an end, and press the piston down as hard as you can, then let go, the piston bounces back. The air is springy. Now, if you fill the cylinder with water, you simply cannot compress it. The element water therefore cannot be compressed, but it will transmit pressure, for you can use a pump to force water uphill. Do you understand that?"

"I understand what you can do with a pump," Gaius said, "but I do not understand this pneuma. It could be just the air."

"Aristotle didn't agree with that either," Timothy continued, "and if you are right and air provides the contrary to motion, it is providing the contrary to this piston."

"Your Greek, Democritus, might have the answer here," Gaius offered. "If he is correct about heat being atoms moving about, and air pressure being the atoms striking the wall, then if you reduce the volume and keep the heat the same, then atoms will strike the wall of the pump more frequently, which presumably means more force on it."

"You might be right," Timothy replied, "Whatever causes it, you can make pumps to lift water, or blow air, and in Egypt Hero has built a device by which the sun's heat makes air blow to move water that opens the door of a temple. Now, I'm trying to spark creative thought, so go away and think of something useful that comes to you from this pneuma. You can use Democritus' theory if you like."

* * *

Once again Gaius walked, and eventually arrived at the temple. He had been there several times, but never again had he received the vision of the young woman. Still, this was as good a place as any to think. He ate his bread and cheese, took some water, and sat with his back to a stone column.

At first, nothing came. Then later, it seemed that only nonsense had come. Accordingly, he was apprehensive when he met Timothy again.

"Well?"

"Suppose you have a fire, and to make it go faster, you have bellows. The fire heats some air, and when you take it to Hero's device, it lifts the bellows up and down. So, and you'll be pleased to hear this," Gaius added sarcastically, "you don't need a slave to keep the fire going. Of course, if you never lit the fire in the first place, you also wouldn't need the slave."

"Ah, but you've improved the life of one slave," Timothy said.

"Not necessarily," Gaius shrugged. "The fire is going faster, so you need two more slaves to keep up the wood supply. Unless," he added with a grin, "we could get Hero's device to chop wood, but that's hardly likely, is it?"

"One of these days, if you wish, I can take you to Egypt to see this device open doors, but in answer to your question, no, this won't. I have heard there are some Egyptians who have found that if you heat water and get steam, the steam can be made to push against something. Go away again and think what could happen if you can give steam enough pneuma. Imagine you could do something more than blow your own bellows!"

* * *

"Well?" Timothy


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smiled when they met again.

"If we believe Democritus, then in water all the atoms are much closer together than in steam, so if we boil water in an enclosed space, we get much more pressure, and if you did that, you could make it push a lever and lift something."

"Anything else?"

"You'll think this stupid, but if you put your fire and steam on a chariot, you could do away with the horse!"

"Why would I think that stupid? What's wrong with what you're saying?"

"The chariot would burn, and the weight of everything would be so great it probably wouldn't move anyway."

"They're good thoughts," Timothy said. "Now, let us return to Democritus and his theory that everything is made up of atoms that are continually moving around in a void. The hotter the stuff, the faster the atoms must be going. What do you say to that?"

"It would confirm the theory that coldness is the absence of hotness, however I haven't ever seen an atom and I can't see a void, almost by definition, but that doesn't mean they don't exist."

"The issue is difficult" Timothy agreed. "Democritus believed atoms were eternal, and never came to be nor passed away, but are combined to form things, and these combinations can come to be and pass away. Aristotle did not believe in atoms, but he did believe there was a substratum from which all things came to be and perhaps return to, and in some ways Aristotle's substratum is difficult to separate from Democritus' atoms. Also Aristotle was clear that it is very easy to refute arguments that prove the existence of the void, but he is equally clear that people who try to prove the void does not exist merely demonstrate their erroneous logic."

"Presumably there are arguments for such a void?"

"One argument is motion itself. If something moves, and there is no void, it must move to where something else is, in which case there would be two things in the same place, which is impossible, therefore there is a void. Comment."

"There is a town square," Gaius replied, after some time. "It is full of people. But I can get through because people will move aside."

"An excellent point. In fact that is similar to one made by the great Aristotle himself!" Timothy beamed. "Another reason for the void lies in fresh white ashes."

"They are full of void?"

"That is the argument," Timothy said. "If I take such ashes and add water, the volume of the ashes stays the same, but the weight is that of ashes plus water. The water has gone into the ashes, presumably into the void. Comment."

"Perhaps air has come out," Gaius offered. "It weighs almost nothing, and we know it requires space and if it can open doors, it should be able to keep bits of ash apart. Also. ."

"Also?" Timothy was again puzzled. He was now beginning to recognize the look on Gaius' face as he headed into new territory.

"If we think ice, water and steam are made from the same atoms, then I guess in ice the atoms are hanging onto each other firmly; in water they are hanging on, but they can swap links, and in steam, they are moving too fast and don't really grasp each other at all."

"Very good!" Timothy nodded. "So, is there or is there not a void?"

"Yes, there is," Gaius said slowly. "If steam has the same number of atoms as water, and it occupies a lot more space, there must be void between the atoms. Also, if there is not, according to what I did with water there cannot be eternal motion. I refer to the void not as a thing, but rather as the absence of a thing."

"That is a good argument," Timothy nodded. "Now, atoms? An argument against atoms is that basically, everything that is in motion eventually falls. Heavier things fall faster, but sooner or later, everything falls, no matter how light."

"Until they hit the ground," Gaius offered, "then they stop and. ."

"And?" Timothy smiled.

"According to you, Aristotle said that everything, no matter how light, fell to the centre?"

"Correct." Timothy was puzzled. Why was that objectionable?

"In which case," Gaius said very slowly, "air will fall too. But you said it rises?"

"You can see it rises," Timothy smiled. "Tip a jar over into water, tilt it, and watch the air come out."

"With a force lifting them equal to the weight of the water displaced," Gaius said triumphantly. When Timothy looked puzzled, he smiled, and added, "According to the great Archimedes, anyway."

"That is quite logical," Timothy agreed. He stared at Gaius in surprise. Once again he had not expected a fresh conclusion.

"So the Moon could move in a void!" Gaius insisted. "The layer of air may merely be at the top of the heap on Earth."

"From which you would consider this evidence supporting Aristarchus?"

"Well, yes."

"Persistent, if nothing else," Timothy nodded, "but since it is logic I am trying to get into your head, persistence has its merits. Anyway, let us consider two consequences of atoms. The first was due to Epicurus. He reasoned that if atoms were continually moving in the void, and if the properties of everything depended on how the atoms were joined together, and on the sun's light, and a number of other things, much of which we do not know, there is no need for Gods. Accordingly, there are no Gods. Comment?"

"Many of us Romans find the Gods to be more of a convenience than a necessity," Gaius replied, then suddenly felt apprehensive. He had effectively denied Athene. He paused, and continued, ". . but that's not an answer, is it?"

"No. It isn't."

"There's no answer, then!" Gaius said in an irritated way.

"Apparently, not from you."

"And what's that supposed to mean? How's that argument supposed to help know whether there's a God?" Gaius said, waving an arm in desperation.

"And I don't suppose you would stop to think that that might be an answer?" Timothy said, evenly. "Suppose the argument does not follow? Suppose the logic is not there?"

"That's what I said! But it doesn't help decide whether there's a God."

"That's not the issue. What I am trying to do is to get you to use logic, to find fault in arguments, so that wherever you go, if a problem is given to you, your mind can cut through the irrelevancies and see things for what they are, or, as our example with the map, to see what is not there."

"Then my answer," Gaius said, "is that atoms and Gods are not connected logically, therefore the first part of the argument is silly. As I said, even if the first part happened to be true, and Gods are not required, it does not follow that they are not there. Equally, this argument does not mean that they are."

* * *

"Now, there is a really strange aberration in physics, namely Lucretius. The aberration is that he is Roman and who had something constructive to say. Comment?"

"I have no idea what he said," Gaius replied, "but the fact he's Roman doesn't make him wrong," Gaius looked almost challenging, then a thought struck him, "or right, for that matter."

"A nice addition," Timothy said caustically. "Lucretius said that atoms form some groupings that are immutable. One such grouping is in living things, for example, sparrows have a sparrow grouping, which means all sparrow eggs give sparrows with the same brown markings in the same place, and this immutable grouping is a fixed joining of a lot of atoms. Comment?"

"I presume the comment about a lot of atoms comes from the fact that if a grouping makes sparrows, and another makes gulls, and another makes fish, there must be a huge variation of groupings, so it makes sense that there are a lot of atoms in the grouping," Gaius said, "and if sparrows are the same as they used to be, I suppose it means the groupings are immutable."

"Anything else?"

Gaius thought for a moment, then added, "Two things. The first is that this doesn't prove atoms, but it looks to me to be more likely than those five elements you were talking about, because if the differences came through mixing different amounts, why wouldn't the mix change? The second is, that if you could change the groupings, you could breed sparrows into something else."

"That's logical," Timothy smiled.

"Can you change an animal into something else?" Gaius asked curiously.

"That is your exercise for tomorrow," Timothy smiled.

Chapter 13

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"So, today we think about changing animals," Timothy smiled. "Your thoughts?"

"Animals have been changed. The dogs we have were at one time supposed to have come from wolves," Gaius said, "and I believe some other animals and plants have changed too. Farmers can manage flocks by breeding the best with the best, but. ."

"But?"

"The usual explanation I've heard is that the animals have a mixture of features, and by careful breeding you keep the features you want. That's not really changing, although I suppose if you say there are groups of atoms, if the odd one moved a bit, maybe that would do what you wish."

"So, does this support or not support Lucretius."

"I would say support," Gaius said. "As far as I know, you can't decide the changes. You might get bigger horses by continually breeding the biggest you have and not letting the small ones breed, but you just can't take a horse and make it into something as big as an elephant."

"Then let's think about sheep," Timothy said. "Remember your example about wool and hair?"

A rather subdued Gaius nodded. "I was wrong. The wild ones are covered in hair. The animal has changed quite significantly. So if not atoms, then. ."

"Not quite true," Timothy interrupted. "There is short wool underneath the hair in wild ones. The first sheep were domesticated for meat, and people made felt from the hairs. Eventually with breeding, the wool became longer and the hair shorter. The hair's still there, it's just very short, so the animal hasn't changed, but the amounts of what it has have changed. Aristotle states there are four categories of change. This is just a change of quantity. Now, there have been more changes. Wild sheep, or sheep that go wild, have brown or black wool. Comment?"

"I thought wool from flocks is always yellowish to white," Gaius said, "unless it comes from black sheep."

"That's because the white has been bred in," Timothy explained. "Even from a white flock, you still get the odd black sheep, but the farmer does not allow these to breed. Why do you think we want white wool?"

"To dye it?" Gaius guessed.

"And how do you dye wool?"

"I don't know," Gaius shrugged.

"So today you learn," Timothy grinned. "Out the back I have some pots of water coming to the boil. You shall dye wool."

"What on Earth will that teach me?" Gaius said with a tinge of annoyance.

"That is for you to consider," Timothy said. "Come!"

So Gaius had to follow. He spent the next hour washing wool, boiling roots of madder, soaking some wool in what he was told was a solution of alum, and some more wool in what he gathered was made from rust and vinegar, then in turn thrusting these into the hot madder solution, then washing the wool and hanging it out to dry. He had two wools: a bright orange-red and a doubtful brown.

"So, you need the mordant to fix the dye," Timothy explained, "and which mordant you use to some extent determines the colour. You can only dye white or yellow wool. The black wool always looks black. Now, you may use my library, or anything else you like. In two days we shall resume, and you shall tell me the most significant thing you can think of about dyeing, from your point of view. Then I shall tell you something I think will be of relevance to your aspirations, and you will then tell me which of the two is or was the most important. Go and think!"

* * *

"Well?" Timothy asked. "Enlighten me with your point of view!"

"If you believe Lucretius," Gaius began, "animals don't change, or if they do, they do so only very rarely, and a significant change is probably a matter of luck. My conclusion depends on this being true. Before I start we must agree. ."

"This exercise is in logic and the application of knowledge," Timothy interrupted. "You may assume Lucretius to be correct, if that helps."

"Then I have something," Gaius said, "although you won't like it."

"I can see you have something that is a triumph for Rome, or a Greek disaster, but we shall humour you, and perhaps demolish your argument. Go on!"

"The Greek civilization, all this logic, all your fine buildings, all of it requires wealth."

"Conceded."

"Accordingly," Gaius continued in an almost challenging tone, "how to get such wealth is important, under your criterion."

"It would be important if you could come up with an alternative to Roman conquest, although I should add wool dyeing is fairly well known."

"Indeed," Gaius nodded. "What is interesting, however, is how the Greeks got into this. We have agreed that you cannot dye brown wool, and we know that Greek prosperity really began with trade, mainly due to the Greeks being able to build ships to carry cargo. But you still needed cargo that nobody else had, and perhaps one of the biggest cargoes was dyed wool. The Greek cloth was sold in many places."

"That's true," Timothy said. "Is that your conclusion?"

"Oh no! But think for a moment, where did they get their light coloured wool?"

"The light coloured wool must have just come," Timothy said. "Your Lucretius is obviously wrong on that point. We know animals change. We discussed that, and. ."

"Yes, but they do not change often," Gaius interrupted. "Let's suppose sheep only developed light coloured wool once."

"So?"

"It is often said that there is much fine golden wool in the Colchis."

"That is almost certainly true. So what?"

"Then if wool only became light coloured once, and everything else was done by breeding, it is now clear by logic what happened."

"What?" a rather puzzled Timothy now asked.

"The people of the Colchis did not come to Greece," Gaius grinned, "but the Greeks were recorded as going to the Colchis. There is the story of Jason. He visited the Colchis and allegedly brought back a golden fleece. But what happened to this fleece? Nothing! It has totally disappeared without a trace, and why? Because there never was a fleece made of gold. What Jason brought back," Gaius continued to a now perplexed Timothy, "were the sheep with a light golden coloured wool, suitable for dyeing. Then, surprise surprise! Some time after Jason's visit the Greeks began trading in dyed wool. Jason simply stole the farmers' sheep, and you Greeks, unable to admit that your whole prosperity depended on theft, the likes of which you punish most severely if it's done to you, concocted this story about the Gods sending Jason, about monsters, demons, hydrae, you name it. The fact is, this Greek prosperity was based on rather mundane sheep stealing."

"That's nonsense!" Timothy snorted under his breath. "Everyone knows. ."

"Is there a logical error?" Gaius demanded.

"There're white sheep all over the place!" Timothy said. "There's no need to go that far to steal sheep, and. ."

"There isn't now," Gaius interrupted, "but was there then? You Greeks are so strong on proof? Prove it!"

"That can't be done and you know it."

"I also know that Lucretius was at least close to being right," Gaius responded. "There will be changes to animals, because the domesticated ones are different from the wild ones, but they do not happen very often. Jason went to a place known for golden wool, he came back allegedly with a golden fleece, a thing of immense value which disappeared without mention, and at the same time golden wool began to be used by the Greeks for dyeing. He came back with golden fleeces, not a golden fleece, and the fleeces were on live sheep. From this basically dishonest start, Greek prosperity emerged, based on theft." He paused, then added with a wide grin, "Apart from opportunity, little has changed!"

"I see," said a stunned Timothy. "Of course, I believe that theory to be quite wrong, but let's suppose you're right. What do you learn from this? Apart from distrusting Greeks?"

"That a lot of wealth and prosperity can follow from not very obvious starting points," Gaius offered. "If you can really do something clever with what you seem to call physics, you may be able to change the way civilization behaves."

"So you think that?"

"It is a logical conclusion," Gaius said, as he remembered again the task that Athene had given him, then he gave a wistful smile as he added, recognizing the difficulty of the task, "but obviously it doesn't happen very often. On the other hand, I suppose it hardly hurts to keep the eyes open. And so, for that matter, should you, because it would take a great increase in possible wealth to do away with the slavery you find so obnoxious."

"I see you have a fine opinion of Roman justice," Timothy said in a sour tone.

"I have a practical appreciation for why things get done," Gaius responded. "Now, I believe you have another reason why dyeing should interest me?"

"That was not quite the way I remember putting it. I think I said, relevant to your interests."

"Whatever," Gaius shrugged.

"Before I do that," Timothy said, " I must give you another military exercise. You are a commander in the east, and since you don't seem to like Greeks, consider yourself facing a Greek army much smaller than yours. That should be easy for you, don't you think?"

"Not with a Greek setting the rules," Gaius shrugged.

"It was a real battle," Timothy explained. "The rules are set. You have infantry, archers, slingers, and cavalry, all outnumbering whatever the Greeks have."

"Terrain?"

"No significant features in any direction."

"Do I know the name of the Greek general?"

"Alexander."

"In that case, historically, I lost," Gaius mused.

"But a Roman like you can no doubt do better!" Timothy taunted.

"Then assume for the moment I face Alexander. I try to find a higher point and take possession for myself. It has to be high enough that I can see what is going on. Can I do this?"

"You are on a small rise. Alexander's men are marching towards you."

"I know I have numerical superiority, so I divide my forces into three divisions, together with reserves for each. I send out scouts on horseback to learn what I can."

"Alexander had defeated a medium-sized force of yours yesterday. Your scouts return and tell you the Greeks are marching confidently, however those on the Greek left flank have blood-stains over their clothing, they are limping, and are struggling to keep up. There is a small detached group of infantry at the rear, presumably as reserves. You must now deploy."

Gaius nodded, and sat back to think. After about five minutes, he looked up and said in an even tone, "I send one sixth of my force to my left, to give the impression I will attack there, but they are ordered to maintain a defensive position and hold their line. I order my main force to advance on the centre, but to stop about five hundred meters from Alexander, and give these men instructions to hold lines until they receive a horn signal. I deploy all my archers to the centre, behind the infantry, and if Alexander advances, I shall let fly with as many arrows as I have. With numerical superiority, I intend to wear him down through the centre. I send my best infantry troops and their reserves to the right, to attack around the back of his apparently weakened left flank. I deploy the reserves of the centre towards the right, but I keep it far enough back that I can send it wherever needed. I keep the cavalry close to me, to deploy as I see fit later."

"When your men stop at the centre, so does Alexander."

"The centre advances until the archers are within good arrow range."

"I see," Timothy said slowly.

"Well, what happens next?" Gaius asked.

"The Persians did not deploy that way, so I don't know. I think you may have given Alexander a problem, but he was much better than me so I cannot be sure."

"What did happen?" Gaius asked in a curious tone.

"The Persians sent only a moderate force to attack the wounded on Alexander's left flank," Timothy said, "and they deployed cavalry. The left flank were Alexander's best men, and they were not at all wounded, the blood being splotches of red dye, which is the point of all this. If Alexander had not known how to dye, and how to make colours look reasonably correct, this would not have worked."

"That was clever," Gaius admitted.

"Alexander's men smashed the deficient force sent against his left flank, then quickly advanced to strike and turn the Persian's right flank. Alexander also managed to terrify enough of the cavalry animals that that attack was dispersed. So the Persians found themselves with a phalanx tearing into the centre of their army and something approaching a stampede on their right. The commanders decided that they were in risk, so they fled, and after a lot of Persian blood was spilt, Alexander's men held the field."

"Yes, Alexander was very clever," Gaius responded.

"So what did you learn from this exercise?" Timothy asked.

"I have noted that the barbaric Roman chose to speculate on ways to advance commerce and perhaps even make slavery less necessary, while the highly civilised Greek used this as an example of extending tyranny and bloodshed."

"I thought you might notice that," Timothy was forced to concede. "It was Aristotle's major mistake."

"What was?"

"He was the greatest teacher ever, and he taught Alexander virtually everything except the value of life. Alexander was the greatest general ever, and he caused greater misery to more innocent people than anyone else. Perhaps because of one oversight by Aristotle."

"I doubt it," Gaius said, then added, "Greek teachers shouldn't overestimate their own importance!"

"You certainly don't," Timothy noted, then mentally bit his tongue. That was not the response that a slave should give.

"What I meant," Gaius said in a more conciliatory tone, realizing that perhaps he had overstepped, "was that Alexander was Alexander. You can teach the wolf anything you like but you still end up with a clever wolf."

There was a pause. Timothy was afraid of what would happen next if he made an irritating comment. He sat there, hoping the situation would defuse. However Gaius was clearly challenging him to say something, so he replied cautiously, "The question is, what do I end up with you?"

"Hopefully, a clever Claudian. Make of that what you will."

Chapter 14

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Months passed, during which time Timothy took a considerable sum of money from Gaius, which he claimed to be for a teaching aid. Gaius shrugged his shoulders and paid. The lessons continued.

"Since you seem so keen on astronomy," Timothy smiled at Gaius' look of discomfort, "we shall continue on with that, if for no other reason than to make sure you have no grounds to complain when you lose the debate at the end. According to Anaxagoras the Earth is at the centre of a spherical universe. The Moon and planets are stony bodies that shine by the reflected light from the Sun. Comment?"

"The concept explains eclipses, but that is explained as well in terms of geometry if the moon goes around the Earth and both go around the Sun."

"Correct."

"However, your concept can't be right. The planets don't simply go around the earth, but they move differently to the stars."

"On different spheres," Timothy noted.

"Which don't go at a uniform speed," Gaius countered, "but sometimes slow down and seem to go into reverse with respect to the stars."

"Because the planets are on epicycles that move on the spheres."

"And not the slightest sign of spheres or of anything driving these epicycles. It's easier to think of them all going around the sun with the inner ones going faster, in which case the backwards motion is easily explained." Gaius waited for Timothy to ask him to prove it, in which case he could show the workings he had had to do for Geminus, but Timothy did not do so.

"Easier does not mean more correct," Timothy warned. "We'll deal with that heresy later."

"You Greeks have a way," Gaius nodded. "I understand that Anaxagoras was accused of denying the Gods, and condemned to death for saying these things about the stars."

"But saved by Pericles."

"Then exiled," Gaius laughed. "You are taking a risk."

"You'd have to let me go to exile me," Timothy countered.

"I supposed that leaves condemning to death!"

"I suppose," came the sour response. "Anyway, according to Anaxagoras the moon was as large as the Peloponnese, and the sun, perforce, much much larger."

"Much, much larger," Gaius agreed in a soothing sarcastic tone.

"It was Democritus and Parmenides who worked out that the Earth was circular," Timothy persisted. "As you have noted, ships hulls go out of sight first, the masts last."

"And the lunar eclipse will be the Earth's shadow," Gaius offered, "from which Aristarchus deduced the Moon was half as big as the Earth."

"Correct," Timothy nodded. "We've already discussed the heresy of Aristarchus, but we must discuss what we think happens. Each of the planets is set on a heavenly sphere. ."

"Which rotates around the Earth every day, meaning the distant objects must really travel extraordinarily fast."

"Not necessarily," Timothy wagged his finger. "There is another option. Heraclides of Pontus, who was a pupil of the great Aristotle, argued that the Earth rotates on its axis like a spinning ball, which makes everything else looks as if it is going around the Earth. Unfortunately, he then spoiled it by arguing that Venus goes around the sun."

"Of course," Gaius challenged, "if you believe the great Aristarchus," and he laced on the sarcasm here, "and the planets go around the sun, Venus has to too. And if Venus is closer to the sun than we are, that explains why it is the morning star or the evening star, in regular periods."

"Yes, heresies are often quite good at explaining things," Timothy said. "Unfortunately Heraclides was not a very good pupil because Aristotle had already proven that the Earth cannot rotate."

"If you say so," Gaius remarked nonchalantly. However, he watched a slight twitch around Timothy's eyes. Yes, Timothy thought that this was an important point. He must have a response to it when they had their debate. He smiled inwardly, as he saw Timothy was tempted to reply, but also tempted to keep his argument for later. He had to say something, so he decided to be facetious. "And I suppose the Milky Way is some sort of smudge on one of your crystalline spheres?"

"Democritus had a simple answer to that," Timothy said. "He suggested that the Milky Way was a collection of very distant stars. Would you care to comment?"

"It seems to me," Gaius said, after a while, "that since the great  Aristotle said the stars were on a heavenly disc, it would be sensible if they were all the same distance."

"It might be sensible, but it doesn't have to be," Timothy pointed out. "Aristotle was fairly firmly convinced that the stars are at different distances."

"Which requires an enormous number of spheres," Gaius countered, "that all have to move in a constant pattern."

"I shall concede that that is difficult, but it's not impossible," Timothy said.

"Yet the question arises," Gaius said softly, "that all these different stars have to be on different spheres that have to travel at very high speeds that also depend on the latitude with respect to the Earth. Thus the Pole Star hardly moves, and is on a really small path, while a star over the equator has a huge distance to travel, and all the stars have to maintain the same pattern."

"I agree that that is odd," Timothy said, "and that is also a strong point in favour of Aristarchus."

"There are just too many coincidences," Gaius shrugged. "The heliocentric theory is so much simpler."

"I am glad you think so. So you see that now we have two models, hence we should be able to decide which applies based on logic."

"We should?" a puzzled Gaius asked.

"We can," Timothy said emphatically. "Something for you to contemplate. The key lies in the physics you have already learned. If Aristarchus was correct, something else should happen which, fortunately for me, it does not. Think about why something goes around in circles and see if you can work out the underlying physics."

Chapter 15

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When Gaius walked into the room, he was surprised to see the room being almost entirely taken up by a huge table that was entirely covered by a model map. The wes


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t side was blue and flat, and presumably the sea. In the centre of the coast, towards the west, was what appeared to represent a large port city. There was a peninsula which rose up a few inches from the sea, and which overlooked a bay. On the bay a number of tiny model ships appeared to float, and a close examination of the peninsula showed tiny stone walls; the peninsula had clearly been heavily fortified. A walled city could be seen on the other side of the bay, complete with tiny buildings, a small stone temple, and outside the wall what appeared to be tiny farms. There were forested hills scattered about with roads through them, there was a river, there were two large green valleys with villages in them inland, then further inland, the forest cover lightened to give lightly treed grass-land, or at least that was how he interpreted the model. Then below the board was a box containing model soldiers, model horses, in either red or blue, and a cup with dice.

"So, how do you like what some of your money's gone on?" Timothy asked.

"The workmanship's quite extraordinary," Gaius gasped. "What's it for?"

"It's a country upon which you may play war games," Timothy smiled. "We shall assume you are a Roman Legate, with one legion, and you Romans have just conquered this area. You and your troops reside safely in this fort," he continued, then looked at Gaius and asked, "You prefer red or blue?"

"I'll be red," Gaius shrugged. "Does it matter?"

"No," Timothy said, and picked all the red symbols from the box and placed them in the fort. "These," he said, showing Gaius ten large model soldiers, "are ten cohorts of infantry, each with six centuries. I know there are usually nine, but the first is double-sized, and you can be strictly accurate and use two models to fix the first. Any cohort can be split into centuries, and we have little soldiers to represent them, although," he added, "we know Romans can't count, and there are seldom a hundred men in a century."

"We can count. It's just that we can't afford the full complement. Fortunately eighty Romans are easily capable of dealing with more than a hundred Greeks!"

"I had a feeling that was coming," Timothy said, clearly pleased with himself. "You just won me a small bet."

"Pleased to oblige."

"Now," Timothy continued, "these two horses represent two cavalry units, we have five models representing five hundred auxiliaries, and here we have a few scouts and spies. You will deploy these according to certain rules. There is a corresponding board in the other room for your opponent and each board will show its own resources, and what is known about the others. I shall act as an intermediary, conveying the moves in one room to the other. This board here represents not what is going on, but what you are told is going on, and the two are seldom the same. Now, if one of your spies is captured, I'll throw dice to decide whether he talks, although you may never know what the outcome is. Your spy might then return and tell you lies. Now, if you look carefully at each of your spies, they each have a special mark. That gives their character, whether they are brave, whether they will try to fool captors, whether they are less trustworthy, and some special features known only to me to help decide the outcome following a dice throw.

"You know everything about me, I know nothing about you," Gaius nodded.

"It's fair," Timothy shrugged. "Everybody would see the legion arrive, and the word spreads. Also, legions are fairly standard, so your opponent has that advantage. You, however, have advantages he doesn't. You have a lot of money, and well-trained battle-hardened troops, and in a simple set-piece battle, the odds will favour you. There are rules on this sheet of papyrus of the possible outcomes, and the variation available to be resolved by the throw of a dice. Your opponent needs certain advantages to beat you."

"You keep saying, 'my opponent'," Gaius frowned. "That is someone else?"

"Yes. Your comment about my lack of military experience struck home. He once commanded three legions."

"I see that I am expected to lose," Gaius said softly.

"That's one way of looking at it," Timothy shrugged. "His answer would be, if you were going to lose legions through inexperience, stupidity, or whatever, it is better to lose imaginary ones on this board. Also, this is more serious than a game. Tiberius sent him. His recommendation could get you into a legion, while if he lets Tiberius know you're just plain useless, you will command nothing."

"Then I'd better not be just plain useless," Gaius muttered.

"Don't forget, in this game your winning is not the object. ."

"It isn't?" a puzzled Gaius interposed. "I would have thought. ."

"You will play a much better opponent than you would normally expect to meet, who will give you problems you wouldn't normally get. Also, things will go wrong through no fault of yours, and because the object is to educate you, much more frequently than usual, however, you mustn't start second-guessing. You must behave as if this were real, because the object is to see how you handle yourself. Now, the game is played like this. You announce your moves. Each piece can only move so far in a day, depending on where you go. The advantages of terrain are written here. For example, you can move about ten times further in a day by travelling on a road than through a forest, but of course you are more likely to be seen on a road. Your opponent's resources come from an unspecified place across the eastern desert, and either side can recruit local farmers. You have to maintain food supplies, you can only carry so much water, and so on."

"A question," Gaius interrupted. "This opponent, is he from the local people, or. ."

"Assume the locals dislike him about as much as they dislike you."

"I see," Gaius nodded.

"So, your action for day 1?"

"I try to find out what I can about the villages," Gaius replied. "I try to find out what I can from the townspeople what this opponent is like, and where he comes from. ."

"As yet you don't know you have an opponent," Timothy cautioned. "You have captured this fortified town and minor repairs have already been completed. You have arranged for food supplies to be drawn from this local region, and you have agreed the price. Assume the citizens of the city and its immediate environs have accepted your occupation, although they are probably not very happy about it."

"Then I ask about the more distant region. I try to find out what I can about the villages, and if it is likely that they have something to sell, I commission some of the locals to go and buy it for me."

"Why commission locals?" Timothy asked in a flat voice.

"Because the villagers are more likely to trust locals," Gaius said. "If I march in with a legion, they may think I'm trying to just take everything. They would be intimidated."

"Anything else?" Timothy nodded with approval.

"I try to find out who knows what about the hinterland," Gaius said. "If nobody knows anything, I commission some of the villagers to explore for me."

"Why villagers?"

"They're less likely to be trapped by my opponent, who I don't know about," Gaius replied. "Officially, I hope I can encourage the villagers by helping them to expand their farmland, and get them on my side. I'm going to need all the information I can get, and I want as much cooperation as I can get."

"I see," Timothy said. "I'll go see your opponent."

Two weeks were played, and nothing much happened, then a villager reported to Gaius that his village was under attack by a "huge" force.

"Damn!" Gaius replied.

"Oh?"

"There's something I should have done," he replied.

"That's what your opponent said," Timothy smiled. "What in particular?"

"I should have set up signalling outposts. Anyway, now I know I have an opponent, I send two cohorts to the village, together with enough cavalry that I can guarantee to receive messages. I also start setting up signal towers on these hills," he added, as he pointed to nearby high hills.

Eventually Gaius got his force to the village, to find villagers finally emerge from the forest, reporting that the enemy force had left in "that direction". He now realized his next mistake. While he was in this valley, the adjacent village was being pillaged. Then came back the message that they should start again.

This time, on his first move Gaius set up the observation posts on high hills, and sent a reasonably large force to each village. When they arrived, he paid good prices for supplies, and after constructing sound fortifications to protect the villagers and their harvest he hired labour to build a road through a pass over the hills dividing them, and built signalling posts at particularly high points. Then, while the road was under construction, he sent out scouting parties to explore the hinterland.

"Better!" came back the comment.

Nothing much happened for some time, then came the account for the costs. The citizens would have to pay additional taxes. Timothy reported murmurs of resentment amongst the citizens.

"Unfair!" Gaius muttered.

"That's what the conquered tend to say about Roman taxes," Timothy said.

"What's unfair," Gaius retorted, "is that I should know about these taxes before they do."

Timothy left the room, and shortly returned with a note saying, 'Point conceded — you have three days before word leaks.'

"I research the history of the region, with a record of pillaging and so on in mind. I want to know the size of the harvest this year compared with previous years."

"The harvests are the same as usual," Timothy reported, "but this time most of it isn't stolen."

"How much do they keep, after taxes?"

It turned out that the peasants all had more than they would normally keep, even after paying the taxes, and nobody had been killed.

"I tell them that," Gaius said. "They should see the point. And, of course," he added, "they should also see the legion."

"They'll see that," Timothy nodded. "Next problem. A message comes from the empire over there demanding you send ten thousand sacks of wheat and four hundred cattle."

"I send out scouts to see what is going on," Gaius said, "and I send back the message that Rome does not bow to intimidation."

This time the old General appeared and shook his head sadly. "You've just started a war," he said.

"I don't recall declaring war on anyone."

"You've sent a response back that leaves the other king with no choice."

"But surely you don't expect me merely to give him all that food? Rome's reputation would be in tatters if. ."

"I don't expect you to leave everyone with the opinion that Rome's a gutless wonder," the General shrugged, "but you don't want to give out the feeling it's just another stronger tyrant either. And more to the point, Rome doesn't need young inexperienced Legates starting off pointless wars which lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, and, even more to the point, the loss of tens of millions of sesterces in taxes from the lands on which your battles will be fought."

"What should I do, then?" Gaius asked with a tone of frustration in his voice.

"The first rule of warfare," the old General said, "is to see what you can accomplish without fighting. War should be the last resort, because it's the most irreversible."

"But surely I'm not going to just cave in? What would that achieve?"

"Nothing," the old General agreed. "However you can engage your brain. What strikes you as odd about this demand?"

"I don't know," Gaius admitted. "I suppose there's no evidence to back up the implied 'or else'. The fact he didn't state the back-up shows weakness."

"What I'd find unusual is that he's demanding food." The General gave Gaius a challenging stare.

"Why?" Gaius muttered.

"Hah!" the old General laughed. "The first sign of ability. That 'why' was totally ambiguous, either the sign of insight if it referred to the demand, or bordering on a challenge to me if it referred to my statement. Answer your own question!"

"There's an implication that his empire's short of food," Gaius said, realizing quickly what the 'why' should refer to.

"So, what do you do?"

"I suppose, ask the messenger to come back tomorrow to hear my reply, then try and find out if there's been a drought, or something."

"You find out there's a real food shortage."

"I offer to trade."

"Suppose they haven't got enough to trade with?"

"I don't know," Gaius said slowly. "I suppose. ."

"Go on!"

"If they've got enough troops to fight me, they've got enough troops to fight as auxiliaries for me. They get the food, I get the troops, and they've got fewer mouths to feed anyway."

"That's better," the General said. "Better still, try to make the king an ally. Perhaps there're signs of hope. Now, let's assume all this fails, and the king decides on war anyway. A traveller who has passed through this region here," he said, pointing to a flat area in the rear of the map, "has seen a large force being assembled, and they are heading this way."

"Large?"

"About twelve thousand men. Twice what you have. Now, let me go back to my board. The next round is about to begin."

It appeared as though Gaius was merely watching the General leave, but his brain was working furiously. He had to do well here. "This is the nearest village," Gaius eventually said, pointing. "I bring my entire legion here. I also send out scouting parties to learn what I can, then march the legion out in this direction, which covers most possibilities and gets me closer."

"We assumed you would probably do that," Timothy nodded, "so to save time, after twelve days your first scout returns to say the enemy force has entered this valley and is marching towards you."

"I employ the marching camp technique and set myself to cover thirty kilometers per day," Gaius said. "I intend to cross these hills before I meet him and with any luck, I meet him approaching this pass."

"You get to here, and your scouts report the enemy is approaching along this road."

"I march and camp here," Gaius said while pointing to the board. "I send out cavalry to find and capture any enemy scouts in this region."

"You achieve both goals," Timothy reported. "Your scouts inform you that the enemy will march along this road tomorrow. You must now set your battle plan."

"There is a river behind them," Gaius replied. "I send out scouts to confirm they are coming. If they are, with that many men, it should take several hours for the column to march past. We lay concealed until about two thirds have passed, then we march downhill and engage here. I set up ballistae here, and here, front and rear of my attacking position, and along this ridge I set up catapults. I direct my cavalry at their baggage train, assuming it is near the rear, with one cohort for infantry support."

"I see," Timothy said. He left the room, and returned with the old Roman General.

"Not bad," the old man said. "Main problem is lack of specifics. You start out by sending out scouts. Fine, but what sort? Try to remember the exploratores  fight as well. You indicated you had some idea at the end when you instructed your scouts to capture enemy scouts, but you lost the significance while marching. It is absolutely imperative that if you march hard to gain surprise, you must capture any enemy scouts you come into, and to do that your bands of exploratores  must be strong enough to guarantee success. You may or may not have thought you were doing that, but unless you give explicit orders you must assume the worst will happen.

"Now, on the last day, and perhaps the most important of all, you forget to capture enemy scouts, and worse, you check on the enemy's path, but you make no attempt to look out for unexpected forces from some different direction. One of the things you probably don't realize is that a whole legion moving is rather noisy, and the enemy don't have to get all that close to know something's on the way. Now, your final attack. There's some good material there, but again the detail is lacking. Worse, about two thirds of the enemy is not under attack. ."

"I'm outnumbered," Gaius interrupted. "What I am trying to do is to capture his supplies, and knock off as much of his force as possible with minimal losses. If I attack in the centre, in principle I can be encircled, if I attack at the front, the enemy can use his rear how he likes. I have to do something."

The old General stared at Gaius, then nodded. "Your idea is promising, but operationally you are letting yourself down. Your deployment against the rear is fair enough, and you are correct that if you are grossly outnumbered the reality is you can't prevent a determined enemy getting some troops around your flanks. However, while you  know you are outnumbered, your enemy doesn't. Don't credit him with divine inspiration. You must deploy so as to give him the greatest problem possible, so that in the heat of the battle, as opposed to this board game, he can't work out what's going on.

"Now, let's look at what you've done. Your main force is merely going to march downhill and get in its own way. You have concentrated far too much force at that point. Yes, you do better by concentrating force, but there's no point in winning one place thirty times over, then finding you've given up all the advantages. Now, tell me, what were you trying to achieve?"

"I'll demoralize them," Gaius replied, "I'll capture their supplies, and I wipe out their rear."

"You will achieve that," the old man nodded, "but you leave the front untroubled. The enemy commander has time to work out a plan, and has reasonable freedom to get started. Any comment?"

"Would I have been better off to split the legion, and attack in several concentrated points?" Gaius asked.

"Possibly," the old man asked. "You don't want to get your cohorts too far apart, but equally you don't want any of your forces being spectators. Your advantage is of surprise. You must achieve as much as you can with that. Me, I would commit less to the rear, and at least try to launch a diversionary attack on the command, if for no other reason than to give the enemy commander something to distract his concentration. You'd be surprised how often a weak commander can't get his mind off his own personal and current problems. Also, if the enemy is strung out, you'd be surprised how many of the men are more concerned about what is happening 'over there'. They start to imagine things, they start to fear things are much worse somewhere else, and they're about to be encircled and killed. That's when troops with poor discipline start fleeing. So, remember, if you can do it without risking your own battle-plan, don't be afraid to send some men off to generate as much chaos as possible. Now, for some further points. ."

* * *

"You hear an enemy army is approaching from the east," Timothy said, opening the exercise for the following day. "You send out scouts and establish the army is intent on conquest and at present marching speed will enter your eastern arable land in seven days. You can reach the limits of your eastern productive land in five days. Your move."

"How big is this army?"

"Your scouts say they have about nine thousand men."

"Have I any other potential enemies?"

"For the purposes of this exercise, assume not."

"Then I march my legion towards the enemy. I maintain as many exploratores  as I can afford, because I regard it as imperative that I keep track of such a force. On day five, assuming I have reached the outskirts of my territory and the enemy is still marching. . How do I know he is an enemy?" Gaius suddenly asked.

"For the purposes of this exercise, assume you are at war."

"Then where are we?" Gaius asked, as he looked at the board.

"You should know where you are," Timothy smiled. "You've been marching."

"I have been heading in the general direction required to head off my opponent," Gaius replied, then added sourly, "My scouts have apparently told me where that is, but you haven't."

"Then he is here," Timothy said, and placed a marker on the board.

Gaius stared at the board, then said, "On the following day I march slowly to here, and form a defensive line."

Timothy nodded, then left. When he returned he moved the enemy markers to oppose Gaius.

"Why are you there?" Timothy asked.

"There's a swamp on my left," Gaius said. "I shall fortify to here, leaving a narrow gap between myself and the swamp. There's also a small riverbed behind me, which I can use to move troops and reserves without being too visible."

"I see," Timothy replied. "The next morning your opponent lines up for battle. Give your order of battle."

"I order the first cohort to the centre," Gaius said, "the second and third to the left. They are ordered to make a lot of noise and look as if they're the main attack, but they're only to hold position. The fourth also goes to the left and be seen to do so, but on the commencement of battle it is to slide back to this riverbed and march to the right, unless directly countermanded. The fifth, sixth and seventh go to the right, the eighth is visibly seen as a reserve behind the centre, the ninth is a hidden reserve on the right. I deploy the archers in the riverbed, with orders to support the right. I position myself here, then when ready, assuming the enemy doesn't attack first, I order the fifth, sixth and seventh to attack, supported by archers, and assuming nothing goes wrong, once battle has commenced I order the cavalry to attempt to flank on the right. The centre and the left are ordered to hold."

"I see," Timothy nodded, and left the room. When he returned, he said, "The enemy makes a mass attack on your centre as you initiate your attack on the right. Your attack proceeds well enough, and very soon you have broken through their first line. The enemy orders reserves to plug this gap."

"Assuming my cavalry is engaging, I signal the eighth and ninth to advance as quickly as possible and to pass through the fifth and sixth, to give them a bit of a rest. If I think the centre will hold, I let the order for the fourth stand. When the fourth reaches, it joins the fifth and sixth, and tries to punch its hole."

"And now?" Timothy asked when he returned.

"Now nothing," Gaius frowned. "I have to rely on my soldiers."

"On the contrary," the old General smiled as he entered, "you should have left some sort of order as to what everyone is supposed to do assuming you punch your hole."

"I thought it was obvious! If I'm through the flank, I turn them, and by then they shall probably be fleeing. If not, we clean them out."

"Yes, and your centurions will probably assume that, but nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to let them know you've thought it through right to the end."

"I suppose not," Gaius conceded.

"Why did you attack through the right?"

"Because I'd left a small gap on my left, and I thought the enemy might find that side attractive. In any case, I noticed that your line was narrow, and given the fact that you have far more men, that sounds as if an attack through the centre was unlikely to be profitable."

"That's sound," the General nodded. "The idea of using the riverbed to move troops out of view of the enemy was also sound. However, what were you going to do if the enemy massed an attack on the left?"

"Defend as well as I can," Gaius admitted. "I send my two obvious reserve cohorts there, and keep on attacking the right."

"Perhaps," the General said, "but assuming this plan I would do one of two other things. I would either let the left, and to a lesser extent, the centre, fall back after the initial attack begins. That presents an oblique line to the enemy, and if your attack is going well on the right, the enemy soldiers are often unsure of advancing too far, knowing if their left folds, they will be cut off and slaughtered. The other option is to wheel the left flank back, to put a bend in your line, and thus concentrate your defence thus being better able to support your attack. The enemy now has a decision to make, and unless they have good discipline, good signalling and a good commander, things now start to go wrong. Suppose the enemy follow, which is what they're likely to do? They all go charging off after the retreating soldiers, thinking they're on the verge of winning, but what they then forget is that they run the risk of leaving a thin line on the point of the wedge. A concentrated attack here cuts right through them, particularly with undisciplined or unseasoned troops because as soon as they see you are making an attack that could cut them off, as likely as not they'll turn and run, and you've effectively won from a tactic that started off as nothing more than a defensive move to shorten your lines. As an aside, that is what Parmenio did at Issus. That was particularly effective because the Persian cavalry were approaching at an angle to the infantry, making it much harder to punch a hole, and when they ceased to attack, a wedge drove right through them, and with the sea on the other side, there was nowhere to go. What resulted was a bloody slaughter, simply from the initial order to have a bend in the line. Now, a few further points. ."

Chapter 16

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The next operation was a surprise. His legion had advanced upon an enemy far more numerous than he, but who had retreated to a fortified position at the top of a formidable hill. It was just as Gaius was about to plan his campaign that he suddenly recognized the battle. This was exactly the layout of the battle where Julius defeated the Gauls at Alesia. The answer was easy. Julius had won the battle, so he knew how to do so too. He immediately ordered his legions to surround the hill with the massive earthworks, and to build the palisades. He also sent out scouts, and found no enemy on the outside.

As the days went by, at least in the game, the earthworks were making commendable progress. Then suddenly, bad news! A large enemy force was sighted from the south. This was not supposed to happen for weeks. Then the next day, worse! The external force attacked his eastern troops, while a concentrated mass of the enemy poured down from the hill to attack the northeast line.

Following the throw of the dice it was declared that they must punch a hole at the northeast line. Those who had broken through then wheeled south to attack the Roman force from the rear, more came down from the hill to attack these Roman forces front-on and while all this was going on, Gaius realized that too many of his forces were on the wrong side of the hill. Half his force was declared to be wiped out, supplies were gone, and he was out of communication with the remaining half.

"Well?" the older General smiled at the somewhat abashed Gaius.

"That would have been a disaster," Gaius admitted sheepishly.

"And why did that potential disaster happen?"

"The enemy reinforcements weren't supposed to exist," Gaius said. "According to my scouts. ."

"You relied on one piece of information without verifying it," the older General agreed, "and you made no effort to check it, not that that would have made a lot of difference. But that's not the issue. What is the lesson?"

"I don't now," Gaius admitted. "I was. ." He stopped. What could he say?

"Fighting Caesar's most famous battle," the General challenged.

"I recognized it," Gaius admitted, then added sadly, "Caesar won it, and I didn't."

"That's not the lesson," the General said. "The lesson is essentially one of defence. The Gauls had correctly found one of the best defensive spots available, and so far, they are winning. It's generally wrong to launch a primary attack up-hill. The problem for the Gauls was, Caesar did not attack."

"Neither did I," Gaius admitted, "but I still lost."

"Because you assumed the Gauls would adopt a passive defence," the General said. "He who maintains a passive defence eventually loses. The key to adopting a defensive strategy is to spot a critical moment and know when to turn it into an offensive one. Once the Romans began digging trenches, they generated a new problem. Can you see it?"

"I had to dig trenches all the way around the hill," Gaius replied, "which meant thinning out my forces. Perhaps I should have kept them closer together."

"Then I would have merely marched away down the other side."

"That's what I thought," Gaius admitted. "So I spread out the troops, and. ."

"And I lead a concentrated attack from above at a perceived weaker point in the line, coupled with an external attack that Caesar did not have to defend against until his works were complete. Once through, what happened next was inevitable."

"So what should I have done?" Gaius frowned. "The way you put it, it was a no-win game."

"Life can be like that," the General shrugged. "Sometimes you are destined to lose."

"That's not very positive," Gaius shook his head. "You've got to do something."


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"Yes, you do," the General said. "The object is to be more competent than your enemy, and if you're not, then at least be sufficiently competent to live and fight another day."

"I should have run?" Gaius frowned.

"No, but you should have had a line of retreat," the General advised. "You're seriously outnumbered, there are enemy reinforcements coming, so you can't be assured of winning. In fact, in any attack, a General should have a line of retreat thought out. You can never guarantee to win, so when it's not your day, your first priority is to salvage what you can.

"Your next mistake was strategic," the General went on. "What was your objective?"

"To defeat the Gauls," Gaius frowned.

"A commendable objective," the General smiled, while a slightly amused and condescending look crossed his face. "It is, however, the overall objective of the war and is not a strategic objective, or at least not a clear current objective."

"But if I beat the Gauls I win the war," Gaius protested.

"Then prioritize," the General said. "There are two forces of Gauls. The ones on the hill are doing nothing, and they are in an optimal defensive position. If they stay there, you can come and get them some time later. The real problem is if they come down and attack in conjunction with the new force. I would argue that if they had done that with everything they had against Caesar, even with the palisades complete, Caesar would have lost. Too many of those on the hill sat on their arses and watched, and even then it was a close thing. Now, what you must do as soon as you hear that the new enemy force has arrived before you get your defensive fortifications in place is to bring all your forces to what you see as your best spot, which, as an aside, could be somewhere else. Try to deceive them, try to split them, and attack one part at a time. Which brings me to the next point. While your men are digging trenches, you should get a clear idea of advantages and disadvantages of the local terrain, and form a reserve plan of what to do if someone else turns up. Remember, after you heard about the additional enemy forces you had a day to implement any manoeuvres.

"Yes, I know, in that day you might waste half an hour while inspiration came, and you had two minutes on the board game, but that's not the point. You won't learn enough playing in real time. What you should take from this is that once the situation changed so dramatically you must adapt. Forget about surrounding those on the hill. Your best move is to protect your rear, and attack the relief force.

"But your real major fault was that you were not fighting your battle. You were lazily showing me you remember what Caesar did. I would argue Caesar was somewhat lucky in that campaign, and you cannot rely on such luck. It may be that Caesar had a plan to deal with a Gaul counter-attack before construction finished, but since, apart from continual skirmishes, one did not eventuate we do not know. However, we do know you had no such plan, and once the unexpected began, you found yourself helpless. Think about this, and we shall resume again tomorrow."

* * *

Once again, Gaius was staring at the board. A message had arrived informing him that the enemy had been sighted. Two separate forces were heading towards his two villages, and in five days would enter his zone of agriculture. At present they were leaving the wooded area at the head of the valley, one part was marching down the side of the river towards the northern village, while the other appeared to be marching south, presumably to attack the second village from the east. There seemed to be little alternative. He split his legion into roughly two equal groups, and sent one group to each village, with instructions to secure the villages, then to march out towards the enemy and then engage him as far from the villages as possible. He would lead the group defending the nearest village.

Timothy took his actions to the other room, and when he returned he said with a smile, "Go back to the beginning. You have received a message that the enemy is now in a single force, and is marching down the southern side of the river towards village number one."

Gaius shrugged, and said, "I send out more exploratores  to verify this is so, but. ."

"Assume it is so," Timothy intervened.

"Then I march my legion to the first village, then I head out to intercept the enemy. I aim to meet him about here," he said, and pointed to the map. "I shall line up and prevent entry to our territory, but the exact deployment will be left until I see exactly where and how he deploys."

Timothy left, and returned with a General who was shaking his head sadly. "As I suspected," he smiled. "You have some idea of tactics, but little idea of strategy."

"I don't understand," Gaius said, a trifle angrily.

"Strategy is more than just going out there, meeting the enemy, and fighting. Let's look at the first scenario. The enemy has split his forces to give you two problems. You simply accepted the two problems."

"What else could I do?" Gaius frowned. "I could hardly give up one of the villages."

"No," the General smiled. "You should leave some forces with each. Take advantage that you are fighting on your home ground, and recruit help."

"The citizens pay their taxes for the legion to defend them. They. ."

"They don't wish to be raped and pillaged," the General countered. "They will help build fortifications. Your men may have to do most of the fighting, but you can count on a number of them standing behind protected fortifications and letting loose some arrows."

"I suppose, but supposing the enemy is merely pillaging the farm land. I can't. ."

"I said leave some of your forces to defend the villages. The rest should march out, as a single unit, to form a line and separate the two enemy forces. Cut off their communications between the two of them."

"To stop them coordinating an attack from opposite directions," Gaius nodded. "They can still get inspired and try to encircle me, though, but. ."

"But?"

"I don't want to look like I'm fighting yesterday's battle, but I guess if that happens I just have to fight my way out through the weakest point."

"Encircling is all very well when things are going your way, or if the enemy is set on defence, but against an enemy intending to attack, all you do is thin your line. ."

"Because his line has to be longer to get around you," Gaius nodded. Timothy would be talking about geometry in any minute.

"However," the older General smiled, "suppose they don't encircle you? Now what?"

"I suppose I attack one of the enemy forces," Gaius offered, then quickly added, "That was the thought, not the order of battle!"

The older General smiled. "Then what do you do? Assume you have four cohorts, including the first?"

"If the two forces are equal, I go for the one where I have the most favourable terrain," Gaius said, "while if they're unequal, I go for the weakest. I put the first to guard the rear, in case the other force gets inspired, and in the absence of any further information about terrain or their deployment, I attack the centre with two cohorts, and I try to turn the right flank with the last cohort."

"That's fairly standard stuff," the General frowned.

"I can't see any reason to be different. ." Gaius began to protest.

"Good!" the General interrupted. "Your problem is that sometimes you are just too imaginative. Tried and tested is just what you need, most of the time. You're right to go for the weakest opponent first, but do it quickly, before the other works out what you're up to. Defeat that, then march towards the other. If the enemy splits, divide him with a single force, then concentrate your attack on what you think will be his weakest force."

"Suppose," Gaius said, "they decide to attack? They've already encircled me."

"The other way of looking at it is that you've already punched a hole through their lines, and they have two forces who can't communicate with each other, and who can't coordinate such an attack. In any case, when you first looked at this problem, you split your forces and went out to meet them, without adequate communication, so presumably you think you can defeat them, and half of your forces can at least hold out against all of theirs."

"What do you mean, half of my forces can hold out?"

"They can always regroup into one unit while you're marching," the older General said, "and not only that, they could have sent disinformation to get you to split, intending to knock you out half at a time."

"But. ." Gaius was about to protest.

"No buts," the older General wagged his finger at him. "Not everything you hear will be true. As for your complaint, if they attack on both sides, form a square and let them pound away. They will find it most expensive to attack a properly set defensive square. And anyway, you are crediting the opponent with his best option. Most of the time they don't take them, and again, if they do, they were always going to be good enough to give you a problem, which is all the more reason for you to take your optimum strategy. If your opponent is brilliant, marching out between them gives you your best chance if you must march, while if he is substandard it gives you the chance to wipe the field with him, at minimum cost."

"I see," Gaius nodded.

"Do you?" the General smiled. "You wish to alter your second marching orders?"

"I can't see why. ." Gaius started, then paused. He must be wrong, but where. "Perhaps. ."

"Never give an order starting with perhaps!"

"I was thinking to myself," Gaius replied tartly, then suddenly felt silly. "I'm sorry," he said. "I march my legion to the south of the river, and to the south of the enemy so that I can meet them where they have no room to retreat, and they cannot manoeuvre in depth."

"Better," the General nodded. "You're getting the idea. Think in terms of warring on a square. The east is his zone, where he came from. In this case the north is fairly inaccessible, and as you rightly noted, the river acts as a barrier. Your base is from the west, so who controls the south?"

"I do, because I've marched out in that direction."

"No, you are trying to. You've probably got the idea to some extent, but spell it out. Your marching objective is to march towards the south west of him, or even the south, or even better still, the south south east if you can do that without his knowing. Then the enemy has no easy line of retreat, and if you can get into position before he finds out what you are doing, you have half won before you even start fighting."

"How can that matter? There're no natural advantages."

"Think about it from the point of view of a foot soldier who really wishes he was back with his family. He's marching forward, thinking of loot, then a major force appears from his left rear. Why? What he thinks is you are trying to cut him off from his family, so he goes into the fight with half his mind thinking of ways to get out of there.

"If you can deploy before the enemy commander can set his forces properly, you have a further advantage. By simply sitting there you give him a problem. He has to give up on his primary objective, and decide whether to enter battle with no hope of retreat, or try to find a way past you. He can't attack the village, even though there are hardly any forces between him and it, because he opens his rear to an undefended attack. If your primary objective was to protect the village, you have achieved that before any fighting commences."

"I suppose," Gaius said, in a flat tone, "although he could stand and fight with most of his forces, and attack the village with a small part of his force. I can't stop him."

"If he splits some of his force, as you say, they are either infantry of cavalry. What do you do if they're infantry?"

"Chase them with cavalry," Gaius nodded.

"If they're only a small squad, they'll be cut to pieces," the General said. "If they're a major infantry force, either you clean out that which stands against you, or you were always so outnumbered you were never going to succeed. What do you do if they send cavalry?"

"I. . suppose I have to send cavalry as well," Gaius frowned.

"No, you don't," the General said. "Let the defensive walls about the village buy you time. Unsupported cavalry can't do much about them. Send your cavalry into the rear of his infantry, and support the attack with infantry. If you attack quickly, his best troops are going to be the last to join battle, because they're up the front. There may well be a full flight before they get to engage. If he launches some sort of attack against you at this point, better still, because he will have committed himself before he is ready. Use some infantry to defend the first attack, while striking hard elsewhere, and against most barbarians, they'll offer their backs. And even if they fight like fiends, so what? They always would have. You may argue this set-up is artificial, and you'd be correct. It is, but that's not the point. What I am trying to get you to recognize is that you can achieve considerable advantage merely by directing where you march. Looking at it the other way, suppose you were the enemy, which way would you march, and why?"

"Me, I would direct my force in a line half-way between the villages, then when I was in between, attack whichever one I thought was easiest."

"See," the General smiled. "You do that because if they have to defend two villages, they have to split their forces, so you pick them off singly. You achieve that because your line of approach is not directed at either. The straight line between two points may well be the shortest line, but it is not often the best line of attack. The more ambiguity in the enemy's mind, the better. Think about this, and we'll try again tomorrow."

* * *

"For the purposes of this exercise," the General smiled, "you are here with five cohorts of infantry, and a well-organized enemy is seen here coming towards you. His infantry outnumber yours three to one, and he also has archers and six hundred cavalry troops, neither of which you have. Your move."

Gaius stared at the board. This was almost the reverse of the situation at Alesia, except that on the right of the approaching enemy there were woods on the valley floor and halfway up the rise. "I march my men to the top of this hill here and fortify," Gaius replied.

"The enemy arrive and open up with archers."

"We adopt the testudo formation," Gaius replied.

"Their cavalry charges, and while you lose some men, they fail to penetrate, they appear to get badly mauled, so they retreat, seemingly to lick their wounds."

"What is their infantry doing?"

"They have formed lines," the General smiled, "and are now marching up towards you. You fight for about two hours, but despite their numbers, with your superior drill you hold out. Eventually, the back starts to falter, and before long, they start to retreat."

"I send three cohorts after them," Gaius frowned. What was the problem? "The other two follow with a view to flanking the enemy if they. ."

"The enemy start running."

"We chase."

"The enemy cavalry comes out of the woods and cuts your men to pieces," the General stared at Gaius, challenging him to contradict. "Meanwhile the enemy infantry turn and fight with renewed vigour. This was a trap and you should be massacred."

Gaius stared back. This was unfair! He was rigging the situation.

"What did you do wrong?" the General asked.

"Obviously I didn't know where the cavalry was, or I wouldn't. ."

"You didn't ask where they were," the General said. "You were outnumbered, and many of their forces were missing."

"You didn't tell me where they were," Gaius protested. "You said I had to take the initiative and. ."

"You didn't ask," the General repeated. "The lesson here is, before you start charging off impulsively, always check that you can account for everything you know about. You were in an ideal defensive position, and that was good. Don't give it up unless you are sure why you're giving it up. Yes, I know much of the advice you're getting is contradictory, but the real trick is, how do you read the situation? Always ask yourself, what are you giving up? In this case, it was the defence against cavalry, because they don't charge up hills very well, so where is the cavalry? If you can't account for it, hold your advantage. Remember, you're still outnumbered, and pursuing a fleeing enemy is a job best left to cavalry which, as you may note, you don't have."

Chapter 17

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The war games continued. At first Gaius became discouraged. No matter how well he thought he was doing, there seemed to be an interminable number of points he had forgotten, and, after a while, he felt that he was also losing unfairly, because the General was making up situations that worked because he knew what Gaius had done, and then found the optimum response, after the fact. Eventually he muttered something like that to the General, who laughed.

"Of course I'm doing what no opponent would do," the General said. "This isn't about winning a board game. It's about improving your ability."

Perhaps it was working, for eventually he felt his mistakes were becoming fewer, and, more importantly, less important. Then the General confirmed this, and congratulated him on becoming much better. At the same time, lessons continued. He had to read and understand all the major works of Aristotle, and read some of the major Greek plays. And throughout all this, the local legionnaires ensured his weapons skills were maintained, and his physical fitness kept high.

"Tribunes and Legates don't personally fight," the old man advised, "or at least they don't unless something is going very very wrong. But you seem to have a bit of flair with some of these weapons, so it doesn't hurt to get a lot of practice. It helps command."

"How?" Gaius asked in a disbelieving tone.

"You want the men to follow," the old man said. "The centurion and his cane'll see they do what they're told, but if the men respect you, they'll go a lot further than where the threat of getting their arses whipped will drive them. Same with marching. You may be on a horse but even so, if they know you're doing what you have to do, and they know you're fit, they'll do their best not to let on they're tiring. Remember Julius. His troops did the impossible for him because they recognized he was doing the impossible himself. So, get fit, and learn to shoot the bow better."

"I'm trying," Gaius replied.

"Now," the older man stood up so he could look down on Gaius, "time for a revision. Let's see how much you've learned. We shall start with Pharsalus. You be Pompey, and you must defeat Caesar."

"And I'm not allowed to do that at Dyrrachium?"

"No," the older man smiled. "Mind you, when Caesar's men started fleeing, that was the time to put the issue to rest. That was the time for Pompey to give chase and clean up, particularly since he held the superior cavalry. Why do you think he didn't?"

"Presumably he was afraid of a Caesar counter-attack," Gaius said, remembering one of his failed exercises, "although that doesn't seem likely."

"Couldn't happen," the old man said. "Caesar's men attacked a fortified position, they fought well, then they began to flee. You can't organize an ambush with fleeing soldiers, so an ambush had to be prepared. That meant Caesar planned to flee. That wasn't Caesar."

"Caesar hasn't used his cavalry," Gaius pointed out.

"True, but cavalry was Pompey's strength, and Caesar's weakness. Yes, Caesar may turn and fight, but Pompey has more men, far more cavalry, and having defended fortified positions, they'll be fresher. If Caesar has hidden cavalry, Pompey's cavalry will deal with them and have plenty of cavalry to spare, bearing in mind Caesar's men won't be in line. No, Pompey messed up.

"However, as Pompey, you marched to Pharsalus, and have another chance. Your infantry outnumber Caesar's two to one, your cavalry nearly seven to one, but Caesar's infantry are of much higher quality. You arrive to find Caesar's men camped on the plain, and you secure your men on the prominent rise. Caesar marches towards you, you form your lines on the hill slopes, but then Caesar sees your advantage of terrain, and retreats. He camps three to four mile away, with the Enipeus River on his left. A day passes, and Caesar does not attack. Your move."

"The consensus of opinion is that Pompey should have stayed put," Gaius replied.

"It is your opinion I seek!"

"I think Pompey has to attack," Gaius said. "The defensive strategy failed at Dyrrachium through not following it up. I have pursued Caesar, so I have to fight."

"Very thoughtful, but you're still stuck on the hill," the old man remarked caustically.

"What I do next depends on the geography," Gaius said. "Using your analogy of the strategic square, the river forms a northern barrier, Caesar controls the west, my hills control the east, so if there's room, I set up observers on the hill and march to the south of Caesar."

"Why?"

"My strength is in cavalry and in numbers. If I do what Pompey did and march straight out, I have to launch a frontal attack, which plays into Caesar's hands if he has the best troops, or try to flank him on the left. I know Caesar kept six reserve cohorts hidden at an oblique angle to defend against a flanking attack but. ."

"Fight your battle!" the older man spat.

"I know Caesar is my enemy," Gaius retorted, "and I know he will keep reserves for a secondary move. With the river, there's only one side that can come from. That's not. ."

"That's good!" the older man nodded. "Knowing what your enemy is likely to do is fine. Dealing with what he did is not."

"Anyway," Gaius said, "I believe Caesar's big advantage is the river on his left flank. Most other commentators think this was Pompey's advantage, but it severely hinders Pompey's ability to rapidly deploy cavalry, and his cavalry is at a disadvantage with the men having to fight on their right. I aim to face Caesar with the river largely at his back."

"Why?"

"I can deploy cavalry either side," Gaius replied, "but more importantly I can form a line longer than Caesar is happy with, and retain a third of my infantry behind the line. I can approach, and decide at which points I shall try to punch a hole, and send my reserves at those points. I use my numerical superiority to cover for lack of experience, and choose where to attack, depending on Caesar's deployment."

"Then outline your deployment."

"As I said, a long line, retaining a third of my infantry, which is about two legions, in reserve. I take the first two cohorts from these and with the archers I form an oblique line behind the left flank, together with a thousand cavalry. This is to defend against the known cavalry Caesar has, on the assumption he will try to outflank me there."

"And what makes you think Caesar's cavalry will attack here?"

"Caesar originally chose to protect his left flank with a river," Gaius replied, as if this were obvious, "so it's a clue. Of course I don't know, but I think it is reasonable to defend against the obvious. I also ensure there are reserves available to deal an attack on the right."

"If Caesar thinks you'll defend only at the obvious point, the surprise attack will prevail."

"Yes, but I intend to attack," Gaius protested. "Exactly where depends on Caesar's deployment, but I am not intending to defend. If he follows me, his line will be too thin, so I can use my reserves at a concentrated point. If he doesn't, I can attack both his flanks."

"Fair enough, but remember this. If your marching has got a quality opponent into an inferior position, he has to make a guess at your deployment and do something unexpected. In an inferior position, with inferior numbers, he either does something unexpected, or he loses."

"Won't work," Gaius shrugged. "My observation point on the hill will see this and signal to me. ."

"See how useful it was leaving observers on a hill? You're improving! Now, back to your deployment."

"There's not much more," a sheepish Gaius admitted. "The remaining parts of each legion I order to stand behind each flank, to be sent where it is needed."

"So battle is about to start. What do you do?"

"When I see how Caesar deploys, I select the point of attack."

"Suppose he leads a concentrated attack on the centre?"

"I hold through the centre, if necessary deploying some reserves. I then try to encircle on both flanks, using the horns of the bull formation. I watch what happens, and send at least half my infantry reserves to the side that looks more like penetrating."

"Why not send all your reserves? They're going to have a holiday?"

"No, but I need spare men in case Caesar is really trying something else. It's also useful to have men capable of turning back any part of the line that's thinking of quitting."

"Your cavalry's your strong point," the older man mused, "but you haven't used it."

"I wait until the battle is well underway, then deploy two thirds of it around the right flank. The aim is to use the numerical superiority of my infantry to at least engage all of Caesar's infantry, and try to make Caesar deploy his reserves before I use my cavalry. If my infantry's going well, or at least holding it's own, this could provide the critical thrust to break up the enemy."

"I see," the older man said, after a moment's thought.

"Well?" Gaius asked.

"Who knows what will happen in battle?" the older man said. "In the end, experience, morale, fate, all sorts of things influence the outcome. I rather suspect you're influenced by what happened, but that deployment gives you a fair chance. You know what actually happened?"

"Pompey marched directly to Caesar, and launched a cavalry attack from his left flank. They fought their way and exposed the right flank of a legion, then ran into Caesar's hidden six cohorts. They halted at the wave of javelins, and when Caesar personally led the charge, the cavalry fled, trampling down the archers and slingers Pompey had sent in support. The centres held for both sides, but Caesar's six cohorts and cavalry got in behind Pompey's lines, his men panicked, and eventually the battle turned into a rout."

"If you can remember nothing else from this exercise," the old man nodded, "remember that timing and surprise are critical. You wouldn't believe surprise is important in a set battle on an open plain, but Caesar's six cohorts and cavalry were critical. Not because of their power, but because Pompey's cavalry wasn't expecting them. By themselves, they couldn't swing the battle, but the surprise led to Pompey's cavalry fleeing. Pompey could have done better by supporting his cavalry with his best heavy infantry. Now when Caesar counter-attacks, these can stand and fight, and the cavalry can regroup and rejoin the battle. But by letting this small force out when all of Pompey's other forces were engaged, they could strike Pompey's rear. A smaller force, striking as a concentrated unit at precisely the right time can achieve miracles sometimes."

Chapter 18

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"Now, young Gaius, your second battle. You are Antony. Relationships with Octavian have hit an all-time low because you're in bed with Cleopatra. ."

"Lucky me!" Gaius laughed.

"That's a matter of opinion," the General laughed back. "Octavia wasn't all that bad, and if you had stayed with her, you wouldn't be in this pickle. However, you are, and you hear that Octavian is building ships at a furious rate. Octavian commands the western legions, you command the eastern ones. Octavian's ships will be many of the small fast Liburnian ships, which mainly fight by ramming their opponents, thus sinking them. You will have fewer ships, but will have the massive quinqueremes that have plated hulls, hence can't be sunk by ramming, but they are slower and can never ram a Liburnian ship other than by accident.

"It is the winter solstice, and you can now plan your strategy over the coming year, but you must take your land force to the southern side of the Gulf of Ambracia, and Octavian must place his legions on the northern side. We assume you will build towers with catapults on the Actium peninsula and hence have at least partial control over who gets in and out of the gulf. Unless you do something different, you must fight by the second of September. On that day, Octavian and Agrippa will be at sea, having blockaded you.

"Now, take three days to consider your options."

* * *

"So," the old General smiled, "what use have you made of your time? Tell me what you would do, and why?"

"I assume that for this exercise, trying to make peace is not an option?" Gaius asked.

"In s


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hort, no."

"Then I think what happens depends on how well I have used the year. Antony effectively sat on his backside, and ran out of supply. My first task is to get supply, so throughout the year I would have sent reasonable strength forces into Greece to forage," Gaius said, "and I would also ensure that my spies had a good idea as to what the land forces are doing to the north of me. Part of the problem that developed at Actium was that too many of Antony's ships could not put to sea because the men were too weak, from lack of supplies. What happens next depends on how well this goes."

"If their forces go after your foragers?"

"Then we march around the gulf, and we fight a land battle while we still have the supplies we arrived with. I have Caesar's legions, and they were the best. In a roughly equal land contest, Octavian is most likely to lose, especially if he is at sea and his men have no idea what is happening, and I am not interested in sending roughly equal."

"Then suppose you get whatever supplies you need. Fight the naval battle."

Gaius had to struggle to keep himself from smiling. This was a test of command in an asymmetric struggle, and he was ready for it. "I must start by agreeing with Cleopatra how we shall fight," Gaius said. "I agree my fight is with Octavian, and I tell my troops, and anyone else who will listen, including their troops, that once Octavian himself is defeated, there will be no more of Roman killing Roman."

"You are still on land and Octavian is at sea," the general smiled, but he had nodded in appreciation of Gaius' sentiments.

"I know you are going to accuse me of hindsight," Gaius said, "but Cleopatra has to go to the north of me, or stay on land. I drill her troops well before the fight, and make sure the commanders know what the plan is, and what to do under the various options that might develop. They have to believe me, so they stay with the fight."

"That's sound," the General nodded. "What you must realize is that particularly with ships, once the battle starts it is very difficult to issue more than the very basic commands. So, why are they not going to flee?"

"Basically, I hope to have a surprise for Octavian."

"And that is?"

"The fundamental problem at Actium was that neither ship could do much to the other, so they all stood off and fired arrows and spears a each other, without doing an awful lot of damage. Antony should have known that, because he knew the characteristics of the ships."

"That's not a surprise," the General pointed out.

"I'm getting to it. What I do is plate some of the upper decks, and have good fires going. If I can find some naphtha, I fill flasks with it, and if not, I'll have a good store of burnable wood impregnated with sulphur. Well before the battle, I shall have tried to modify ballistae or catapults to propel this stuff, but if not, we have to throw it. The quinqueremes were much higher, so we can propel that down onto the enemy ships. And before you bite my head off, in the time leading up to the battle, I would have developed what is needed to carry this off, and had my men drilled so it would work. The drills would, of course be out of sight of Octavian," Gaius added.

"So, on September 2, what exactly are you going to do?"

"I ensure the ships are ready, the crews are well-fed thanks to my raids into Greece, the catapults are working, and the fires lit. I then sail out to meet Octavian. I then try to work out where Octavian is likely to be, and attack towards the south of him, leaving the centre open. We start off fighting with spears and arrows."

"Why?"

"If Octavian wants to get in behind me, so much the better," Gaius said simply. "He can't flee from there."

"So?"

"Once the fighting gets underway, and our quinqueremes are properly surrounded, I order the fire attack," Gaius said. "I hope to burn their ships. Once a fire is going, fleeing is pointless. I offer them the surrender or incineration. Surrender requires the striking of any sail, the laying down of weapons, and rowing towards my land forces."

"I see," the General nodded.

"So?"

"Again, who knows? However, I will say this for you. If you ever launch a surprise in battle and it does realistic damage, you usually prevail. In battle, the enemy simply has no time to coordinate a response. Even if some captain thinks out a response to your tactic, it will only save him. With no communication, each ship has to come up with its own solution, and that is simply asking too much. If you offer them the option of surrender, most will probably accept. Why?"

"Because to die with no possibility of escape, purpose, or victory is not courage," Gaius remarked. "It is just plain stupid."

"What about Thermopylae?"

"There was purpose," Gaius noted, "namely to buy time, but in my view on the last day the survivors should have fled to fight another day."

"Ah, but think, no legend!"

"I want to be a winner, not a legend," Gaius countered.

"I can understand that," the General smiled. "Gaius, this is your last lesson from me, but don't stop learning. I'll recommend you to Tiberius, and when you get your command, remember you're still learning. The one thing you cannot be taught is how to sense what's going on. My one piece of advice is, when you see the enemy make a move, ask yourself, why? Try pretending you are him. If you can answer why he is doing whatever he is doing, you might guess what's coming next in time to do something about it. Don't despise the enemy, but don't grant him superhuman skill. Most of the time he's about average. Finally, look after your men. If you do, they'll look after you, and to start with, you'll need looking after. Good luck to you."

When Gaius left the room, one phrase kept ringing in his ears: when you get your command. He had satisfied the old man. He would get the hand up he needed.

Chapter 19

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"It is now time to have our debate. You have elected to follow the theory of Aristarchus. Do you wish to concede?" Timothy's face was strangely tense.

"Before I've started?" Gaius asked in disbelief.

"Just checking," Timothy shrugged. "You wish to bet?"

"No." Timothy's expression was familiar, but where had he seen it?

"And why not? Are you afraid?" Timothy taunted.

"Afraid of what?" a perplexed Gaius asked. "You think you could put up more money than I could cover?"

Now Timothy's expressions became apprehensive. He had planned his approach over and over again, and he had convinced himself that the best way to secure his freedom was to play on the natural Claudian arrogance. But, despite all the mental rehearsals, this had not gone the way it was supposed to go. Suddenly he was on the defensive, and not in the position he had hoped for. "I might want my freedom," he said at last.

"Oh!" Gaius laughed. "So that's it!" He now understood the tense expression: it meant 'this has got to work'. But where had he seen it, and why was it bothering him?

"And you object?" a now deflated Timothy almost rasped out.

"Of course not!" Gaius replied. "I'm not betting because, quite simply, there's no way of verifying what the truth is, however I've promised you your freedom, so why bet for what you've got? All you can do is lose?"

"I haven't actually got my freedom," Timothy said softly. "I know you said, but. ."

"But some Romans don't honour their word?" Gaius asked in a challenging tone, then, on seeing Timothy's fearful expression, he added, "Don't say any more. A lot of Romans don't honour their word, but I'm not one of them. Here, win or lose, is the piece of paper freeing you, and here is payment for services to date. " He paused, and handed over a sheet of vellum and a small bag of coins.

"Thank you," Timothy felt even more deflated when he saw the small bag of coins. Typical Roman, stingy to the end. Then he looked inside the bag, and gasped. Where he expected sesterces and had hoped for denarii, there were aureii. He looked at Gaius, firstly with a new respect, then with an expression of greedy curiosity, then, pulling himself together, he said, "Then we'd better finish off the lessons with our debate. You must state your interpretation of the theory of Aristarchus. You may vary it if you wish."

"Then as I understand it," Gaius started slowly but clearly, and while he appeared to be looking into empty space, his eyes were fixed on Timothy as he watched for reflexes, to let him know where Timothy thought his strength was. "The Earth is a very large sphere and along with the planets, which are of comparable size, it travels around the sun. Jupiter and Saturn, being so bright and so distant will be much bigger. The Moon travels around the Earth, and it is a sphere of about a third the size of the Earth. That would give it a diameter of about 4,500 kilometers, and from geometry it is somewhere between a hundred and thirty thousand to half a million kilometres away. From Aristarchus' calculation the sun is approximately twenty times bigger and twenty times further away. I believe these distances are only approximate and. ."

"The actual distances are irrelevant," Timothy interrupted. "The problem is one of logic, so assume what you wish."

"Then the sun, being so much more massive, is at the centre. Since the remaining planets, which reflect sunlight, are seen as points they must be much further away than the moon. Now, Mercury and Venus occur both in the morning and evening, but never get far from the sun. That suggests they're closer to the sun than the Earth, and since Mercury always stays closer to the sun, presumably the order out is Mercury, Venus, Earth. To be far enough away, Aristarchus' calculation may be too small. The angle is difficult to measure and. ."

"As I said, for the purposes of debate, if you need the sun to be further away, assume it," Timothy nodded.

"First, the Moon goes around the Earth, so some of the time gets in between the Earth and the Sun, and we get an eclipse. The Moon takes a month to go around the Earth, so every month it has the same phase. This explains the phases. ."

"I concede the Moon goes around the Earth," Timothy interrupted. "My position is, so does everything else. Your arguments on the phases of the Moon will be my arguments."

"Then the planets go around the sun, and simple geometry shows why those closer to the sun can appear either in the morning sky or the evening sky, but not the midnight sky."

"That," Timothy interrupted again, "is probably the strongest point in favour of Aristarchus. However, it has been explained."

"In a very awkward way," Gaius suggested.

"Perhaps," Timothy shrugged.

"Then look at this," Gaius continued. "The outer planets wander across the heavens in a general eastward direction, except very occasionally they seem to stop, then go westwards for a while, then stop and resume going eastwards. This is exactly what Aristarchus predicts, because the reversal occurs when the Earth's motion catches up with the others."

"Nevertheless, that has also been explained," Timothy continued.

"In an even more awkward way," Gaius suggested, "and there's another point. According to Aristarchus the reversal occurs when the planet is at its brightest, and is in the midnight sky. It does, and that requires the epicycles to only occur where the planet has wandered onto a Sun — Earth — planet line. Why do the epicycles only occur there, and where it is almost random against the background?"

"I don't know," Timothy admitted, "but that doesn't make the epicycle model wrong."

"Perhaps, but it certainly doesn't make it right," Gaius emphasized. "Also, there are no planetary eclipses, where the planet falls in the Earth's shadow. Again, the spheres model effectively has to say there are a large number of spheres, but only one is really close. The question is, why is that one special?"

"The same goes for Aristarchus," Timothy protested, too quickly.

"Not at all!" Gaius quickly countered. "Aristarchus says Earth is a planet, and it goes around the sun just like the others, which means that the planets must be a long way away from each other. The Moon falls around the Earth so it has to be much closer. If another planet was, say, two times as far away, the Moon could switch planets, however the planets have no effect on the Moon, nor on our tides. If the other planets are far enough away, the Earth seems to be too small and cannot shade the sun, just as Venus and Mercury are too small to shade the Earth. We know they are too small because we can see them, and see the angle they subtend is far smaller than that of the sun. But for the disc model, there is only one type of disc, the planets have to be on discs a very long way away, and that means there have to be a number of these coincidences with no cause, despite the fact the planets all wander at different speeds."

"You're assuming the planets are very large," Timothy warned. "Just because Aristarchus says so doesn't make it so. They could be small and close."

"In which case they should be eclipsed!" Gaius countered.

"I see," Timothy mused. "They are really good points. In fact, Gaius, you've excelled so far, and if it wasn't for the fact that the Aristarchus model is physically wrong, your arguments on planetary motion would be reasonably convincing."

"You keep saying it's wrong. How?"

"We'll come to that," Timothy assured him. "First, everything goes around the Earth once a day. I assume you will concede that?"

"Everything else more or less stays put," Gaius interposed. "Day/night is explained by the sun being at the centre, and the Earth rotating."

"So let me get this right," Timothy said, a little pedantically, Gaius thought, until he realized that Timothy was overdoing the importance of this. It meant that this would not be his main line of approach. "You are saying that while everything seems to be going around the Earth, it is not, and it is the Earth that is rolling."

"I believe that explains everything quite well," Gaius shrugged. "As Aristotle said, when anything moves, it moves with respect to something else."

"Which is why the Earth has to be immovable," Timothy protested.

"The sun would work just as well," Gaius smiled. "Look at it this way. According to you, all the stars rotate around the Earth at a terrifying velocity?"

"Around an immovable Earth," Timothy confirmed.

"So, supposing something removed the Earth?" Gaius smiled. "What happens? Does everything else just stop? And if so, how does whatever is driving the rotating spheres know when to stop?"

"What?" Timothy gasped. "You can't just remove the Earth."

"You can in the abstract," Gaius said, "and in any case, the problem is merely one of size. The quality is conceptually different from the quantity, as Aristotle noted."

"That may be," Timothy said, as he struggled to recover, "but the fact remains, the Earth is quite different in quality from the rest of the universe."

"You don't know that," Gaius smiled.

"Oh, yes I do!" Timothy responded. "The Earth undergoes continual change, but the other bodies have remained constant for as long as we have been observing them."

"They could be too far away," Gaius replied. "If a body as big as the Earth is reduced to the size of a pin head, you wouldn't see such changes."

"Suppose you see a large storm," Timothy replied. "You can measure the wind speed, and estimate the size of the clouds from the time it take them to pass. If there were clouds that big on the Moon, then we would be able to see them. We would also see them on the edges, but the edges of the Moon are very sharp."

Gaius thought about this for a moment. While this was a point he had never considered, for some reason it should support his position, but he could not for the life of him think how. To gain time he decided to get the conversation back to where it should be, so he said, "We are being distracted. My point is, and I repeat it, that the Moon seems to go slightly slower is because it really does go around, the Earth." He paused, then said in a challenging way, "It explains everything, and there is nothing contradicting it. Therefore, as the great  Aristotle would say, it must be true."

"Then let's have some contrary evidence! If the surface of the Earth is moving, there should be a contrary wind," Timothy said firmly, "and if the Earth goes around the sun, there should be a steady wind for that too, different between night and day as the surface is either going in the same direction, or the opposite direction, to its path around the sun."

"Not if the contraries come from the medium the motion is in," Gaius intervened in a triumphant tone.

"Oh?" Timothy was puzzled.

"The motion around the sun is eternal," Gaius smiled, "therefore there is no contrary. If the motion receives its contraries from the medium, and the motion is eternal, then there is no medium. The motion is in a void."

"The spinning Earth is in air," Timothy frowned.

"I have here a bucket of water and I'll put it on this potter's wheel and spin it," Gaius offered. He had been ready for this argument, and had brought the potter's wheel and put it in the corner of the room. "Watch! The water quickly catches up with the bucket."

"So?"

"Aristotle made the excellent point that everything, no matter how light, falls to the centre. So does air, but because of Archimedes' principle, it's on top. Outside that, there is void, and the bodies and air move with eternal motion. There's no contrary wind because there is nothing on the outside and the air has caught up with the Earth, just as the water does in that bowl. Furthermore," he added, and wagged a finger at Timothy, "we can prove there's nothing out there."

"We can?" Timothy gave an even more perplexed look.

"Yes! Watch stars come up from the horizon. They really shimmer, and that must be because of the air. Now, as the ancients noted, stars go behind the Moon quite sharply. The reason there're no clouds on the Moon is simply because there's no air there. The Moon is not in air, so its motion is eternal!"

Timothy gave Gaius a look that seemed as if it was true respect, then he nodded and said, "That was good logic. I concede that if there is a void, the argument of the winds is not valid, and there's no way to prove there is air around the Moon." He paused, then added, "How about this?

"Let's suppose for a moment the Earth travels around the sun. It must therefore move with two motions. Think of going around a table in a circle. You go left to right and front to back"

"So?"

"Think of people scattered around a field, and you walk a circle. Sometimes, someone will seem to be to the left of someone else, then as you keep walking they may appear to pass in front and end up on the right. That does not happen with the stars. No matter what, they are always in the same position relative to each other."

"If you're far enough away, and the stars are far enough apart, you wouldn't notice," Gaius said. He had seen this argument, and was prepared. "If Democritus is correct, and the stars are other suns, to get that dim they have to be very far away." He paused, then continued, "Added to which, something like that does happen to the paths of the planets."

"First, the planets," Timothy nodded. "They are on separate spheres, which travel around the Earth at different speeds and at times meet epicycles, so yes, your argument about the planets is correct, but in different forms it is the same for both explanations."

"Except for one point," Gaius frowned.

"Which is?"

"If the planets are on different spheres, one inside the other, how come you can see through them to the outer spheres? Why is nothing shaded?"

"The spheres are made of material you can see through," Timothy shrugged.

"There's nothing like that on Earth," Gaius shrugged, "which is clear enough and strong enough."

"Firstly, there's glass, and secondly there's no reason why the material of the heavens can't be different from on Earth."

"Firstly, as you put it," Gaius smiled, "there's good reason to believe the material of the heavens are the same as those of Earth. Bits of meteors have been found, and they comprise stone and iron. In your model, these fall to the centre, and would break anything like glass, or would never reach the Earth."

"They could fall through holes in the lowest sphere," Timothy pointed out.

"That's little better than resorting to magic," Gaius countered, "and there's no reason to resort to that when there's the perfectly simple explanation of everything falling to the centre, in this case the sun."

"But the Moon falls around the Earth?"

"While both of them are falling around the Sun," Gaius replied. "Smaller falls around bigger. And there's more. Let's suppose the Sun moves around the Earth on your spheres, and the Moon does also. There is now the issue of eclipses."

"I thought we'd dealt with them," Timothy frowned. "We agreed that eclipses happen when the Moon, being closer, crosses the Earth — Sun line, with a solar eclipse when the Moon is on the sun side and. ."

"We agree the cause of eclipses," Gaius interposed. "It's just that this can't happen with your spheres."

"And why not?" Timothy said in a puzzled tone. "This is usually thought to be the stronger point of the argument about the spheres."

"Because if the Moon falls around the Earth, and does so to also pull on the tides, it must move with two motions."

"So?" Timothy opened is hands as if he could not understand.

"Once the bodies get back into the same positions, the same thing should happen, but it doesn't. Eclipses are rather rare," Gaius pointed out. "No frequent repeating cycle means your moon has to move with three motions, one of which has to be like a pendulum. There's no physical cause for that, but on the other hand, if the Moon goes around the Earth on a plane different from that on which the Earth goes around the Sun, then eclipses occur when the three bodies are fortuitously in line."

"Interesting," Timothy shrugged, then said, "Let's deal with this spinning Earth. For the Earth to spin, it needs a continual applied force and. ."

"That assumes there is a contrary to overcome," Gaius replied. "If it is spinning in a void, nothing will slow it down. It would be like a top, going on forever."

"Then if it were spinning," Timothy continued, "there would be a natural tendency for light things like leaves not to be able to keep up. ."

"If the air keeps up by friction, so do they," Gaius countered.

"Hmmm. In that case, what about this," Timothy said. "Suppose I throw a stone straight up in the air. Force from the hand causes energy to come to be and the stone rises in the air. The energy slowly passes away until the stone reaches a point where it has no energy, then it begins to fall towards the centre. More energy comes to be, the stone speeds up, then it hits the ground and the energy passes away again. Do you agree so far?"

Gaius thought for a moment, then remembering Timothy' tactics, he said, "Perhaps, perhaps not, but for the moment let's assume that is so."

Timothy gave him a smile, then continued, "Think of the geometry. If the Earth is spinning, then the stone is travelling horizontally at a speed of, say, v , such that v  times twenty-four hours equals 2r , where r  is the radius of the Earth. Now, let me throw the stone high in the air, say to a height h . At that point, it has to travel 2(r +h ) in twenty-four hours. Since no force has been added other than in the up and down direction, it cannot speed up in terms of rotation, so it should slip back on its path. But no matter how high you throw such a stone, it always falls back to where you threw it up."

"That depends on no lateral forces coming to be or passing away."

"What's the objection to that?" Timothy asked.

"Nothing. I'm just thinking," Gaius admitted. "I also note that, except at the equator, your line of length r  and your line h  have an angle between them. I also note your h  is very small compared with r. "

"Agreed, but so what? The distance you can measure on the ground is of a similar distance compared with the circumference of the planet."

"Perhaps," Gaius said. He paused, then added confidently, "You define the perpendicular as the point from where you drop something so that it lands in the desired spot. Obviously if you stand on that spot and throw something in such a way as it just reaches that point and effectively stops, it will fall back to your spot, and the motion will have been perpendicular by definition."

"Let me get this straight," Timothy frowned. "Are you saying Aristotle's argument is wrong or not?"

"The argument may be correct," Gaius wagged his finger, "but as Lucretius would say, and indeed said on different matters, the argument is not valid because you can't carry out the test properly. Not only that, but obviously Aristotle missed a chance to shine here."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Suppose you dropped the stone off a very high tower, and you could accurately locate the point vertically underneath it. With your assumption that no lateral forces came to be or passed away, which means they're conserved, then the motion at the top of the tower is faster than the bottom, so the stone will fall east, slightly. But there's more. The stone falls to the centre, but the bottom of the tower doesn't move towards the equator, so by simple geometry, the stone will also fall slightly south."

"Nobody's seen anything like that," Timothy protested.

"Because nobody's tried. According to you, logic is sufficient, and that is logical."

"It seems you have learned something from all this," Timothy nodded.

"So you have more objections?" Gaius challenged.

"Then let's get to the real heart of the problem," Timothy nodded. "You recall we discussed circular motion?"

"I do."

"As Aristotle noted, circular motion is really two motions. There is the steady falling towards the centre, and the steady moving sideways. Do you agree?"

"I've already agreed," Gaius said, "when we were discussing eclipses."

"So describe the motion of something going around the centre with no string."

"The stone, say, is falling towards the centre. It also moves aside. When it has moved aside, it has also fallen sufficiently that it is the same distance from the centre. Because it is falling towards the centre, the direction of falling has changed, but so has the direction of moving aside. Accordingly it stays at the same distance."

"Well put," Timothy nodded with approval. "Now you must see why the Earth cannot go around the sun?"

"No I do not!" Gaius responded irritably. "The Earth can fall around the Sun just as easily as the Moon fall around the Earth. The Sun is, after all, bigger than the Earth, so why shouldn't the smaller object fall around the bigger?"

"The objection is not to one object falling around the Sun," Timothy said. "Rather, the objection is to many objects falling around the Sun."

"Why not? If I take a bucket of sand, there're many objects, and they all fall when I empty the bucket."

"Exactly! And what happens when you empty a bucket of sand and stones?"

"They all fall."

"Yes, they do" Timothy said. "Now, how about a bucket of stones, and some lighter sand?"

"They still all fall," Gaius said. He was now somewhat apprehensive. This seemed to be Timothy's big point, and for the life of him, he could not see what it was.

"Of course they all fall," Timothy nodded, "as Aristotle said they would. But think about it. As Aristotle noted, objects with superior weight fall with superior speed."

"Well?" a puzzled Gaius said.

"Now you should see it," Timothy said triumphantly. "They do not all fall at the same rate. The heavy stones fall first, the lightest sand reaches the ground last."

"I'm not sure I follow." However, for the first time, he looked concerned.

"Heavier things fall fastest because by the definition of heavier, they sustain more force," Timothy emphasized. "If circular motion requires constant falling, the heaviest things with more force will receive more acceleration and hence fall the fastest, the light things the slowest, and the Earth would simply fall to pieces, or at the very least, the air would all fall slower and get left behind. Light things like air and leaves can't fall as fast, so from the night side they should stream off away from the sun, like the tail of a comet. This simply doesn't happen."

"No, it doesn't," a stunned Gaius replied.

"Except possibly for comets," Timothy added helpfully. "If you wish to say they go around the sun, I might have to agree."

"But they're not really relevant, are they," Gaius muttered.

"Oh, but they are," Timothy pointed out. "They are evidence that the streaming effect actually occurs. Clearly comets are made of heavy and light stuff. In fact the tails of comets a


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re reasonably clear evidence that the physics outlined by the great Aristotle are correct."

Gaius remained silent, somewhat stunned by this turn of events.

"Now, think about being on a chariot," Timothy continued. "When the chariot turns a corner, you tend to be thrown to one side because there's nothing joining you to the floor of the chariot. If Aristarchus is right, and everything is that big, the Earth is travelling far faster than any chariot, but have you ever noticed being flung to one side? Or even being slightly nudged?

"And there's more," Timothy added. "Your arguments negate mine, but to properly argue for the Earth to go around the sun, you have to formulate a proposition where you say, only if the Earth goes around the sun will I see this, and then you must show it. You have not suggested anything like that."

"Give me a moment," Gaius frowned. This was impossible! He was so sure he was correct, but. . There seemed to be no answer!

"So?" Timothy eventually challenged again. "You can't win by sitting there and hoping I'll eventually die."

"I know," Gaius muttered. He was no further ahead, and he suspected he would be no further ahead tomorrow, but that did not mean he was wrong. But where? He looked up at Timothy and nodded as he said, "I'm sure you're wrong, but I can't win on this field today. Since I've lost, I'll add in twenty aureii. With that, and the fuss you made earlier, I expect you'll go."

"Expect?"

"If you wish to stay with me, you may," Gaius said. "You'll still be free, and I'll pay you more, but if you wish to leave, I fully respect that, but I think you're wrong! I don't care what you say, all that talk about the sun being stuck on a sphere, moving tens or maybe hundreds of millions of kilometers a day! Not only that, but it is so hot it should melt the disk. That's just plain wrong, but. ." Aristarchus had to be correct. After all, Athene had asked him to prove it, and what was the point of that if it were wrong?

"But?"

"I've got to admit the Earth doesn't fall to bits, and I've got to admit circular motion requires falling. Something's wrong somewhere, and one of these days I'm going to find out. It'd be nice to see your face on that day!"

"I see," Timothy stared at him. "So when do I have to decide whether to stay?"

"You don't," Gaius shrugged. "Your only decision is if, and if so, when you leave."

"And I can leave any time?"

"You're a free man," Gaius shrugged. "You can do what you wish. I want you to stay as a friend or not at all."

It was then that he remembered the expression Timothy had on his face when he first entered the room: Athene! Her expression had been, 'This has got to work.' But why? Whatever else that had been, it was not a dream. Dreams were always forgotten after a couple of days, but this had been so vivid, effectively imprinted on his mind so he would not forget. Why? Who was she? If his interpretation of her expression was correct, then whatever he did had to be important for her future as well as, or even instead of his, but how could he possibly affect someone whom he had never met, and had no conceivable mechanism for ever meeting?

Why did it matter whether planets go around the star? How could that affect his future? Or hers? Then again, perhaps it didn't. What Athene had said was that the method by which he came to understand was important, which meant. . What did it mean? Assuming it meant something, he had a few years to achieve three things. As Timothy had often remarked about slaves, he must keep going.

Chapter 20

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Gaius was surprised that Timothy wished to remain with him, particularly when he told him about the note he had received from Tiberius, which ordered him to Alexandria where he would be contacted over his military appointment. Timothy could have stayed where he was, except perhaps the villa belonged to Tiberius. When he politely asked Timothy why, the explanation surprised him.

"Simple curiosity."

"Oh? About what?"

"About your so-called retreat," Timothy said, not entirely truthfully. Timothy also saw Gaius as a further source of gold coins. "You really think you're right!"

"I'm quite convinced that that sequence of spheres is just plain wrong," Gaius said quietly. "Almost everything's a special case. That's ridiculous."

"But the only alternative is Aristarchus," Timothy said, "and as we've established, he's plain wrong on clear physical grounds."

"I'm still convinced there's something wrong there, but I can't see what," Gaius admitted.

"Which gets me to why I'm staying," Timothy nodded. "I can't see why a Roman would care."

"Because I don't like to be wrong."

"Then perhaps I'm staying in case I can put this obstinacy to better purpose."

"Like freeing slaves?" Gaius smiled.

"Hah!" Timothy laughed. "You couldn't do that."

"I freed you," Gaius pointed out.

"And I'm grateful," Timothy replied quickly. "I meant you couldn't remove the need for slavery."

"Not even by building machines to do the work of slaves?" Gaius remarked querulously.

"You couldn't do that. Ever!"

"Not even based on that machine that opens doors you kept on about?"

"It opens a door well balanced with a counterweight," Timothy admitted. "It's a stunt."

"The principle's there though. It's just that a Greek can't see beyond the stunt stage."

"And a Roman's incapable of doing anything practical with it, because to do so would need imagination, and an imaginative Roman, apart from imagining military strategies, is a contradiction in terms."

"So you say."

"And even if by some miracle a Roman did it, your Tiberius would forbid it. Romans need slaves, not just for the work, but also because it gives them the power of life and death over someone else."

"I have never. ." Gaius began to protest.

"I know, but you're not typical. If you were, I'd have left long ago, while I could."

"There's no really good answer to that," Gaius frowned, then suddenly his eyes lighted up. "Yes, there is. I have it."

"Have what?"

"The answer to your objection about Tiberius."

"Yeah! That'll be the day!"

"Suppose such a useful engine could be made. I know exactly how to get the Princeps'  permission to use it."

"You seriously think you could persuade that old goat to think about bettering the lives of slaves?" Timothy asked, his voice filled with disbelief. "How?"

"Use it for tearing down fortifications, or moving legions around. There's nothing like a good conquest to get Rome's attention."

"I suppose that's typical Roman," Timothy muttered.

"Better still," Gaius grinned, "that would mean Rome would get more slaves from the newly conquered territories!"

"A typical Roman response to getting rid of the evils of slavery," Timothy muttered.

"Sometimes it's more practical to throw away such Greek ideas as geometry! As the General said, the most practical way between here and there is often not in a straight line."

"You're probably right," Timothy shrugged. He paused, then looked curiously at Gaius. "Yes, you probably are." He paused again.

"So, what exactly are you scheming?"

"Nothing," Timothy shook his head, then added, "Nothing of any use, anyway."

"You don't look like you were thinking about nothing," Gaius chided. "That was a big frown for nothing."

"The frown was for the consequences of what I might've started," Timothy shrugged. "I was thinking about your problem."

"My problem? What makes you think I've got a problem?" Gaius queried.

"Tiberius let me know about your having to earn your agnomen ," Timothy shrugged.

"Oh, yes, that," Gaius muttered.

"If you made an engine that led to military expansion. ."

"Gaius Claudius Scaevola Enginerius!!" Gaius laughed.

"Gaius Claudius Scaevola Germanicus?" Timothy countered. "Someone who brought the means for revenge over the Teutoburg forest disaster would earn a name to stand alongside Scipio Africanus."

"I think you're getting a bit carried away there," Gaius laughed. "No machine's going to conquer the Germans."

"Just what do you think leads to unexpected military success?"

"Great leaders, good troops. ."

"That helps," Timothy shrugged, "but think. The Hyksos wiped out Egypt because they had steel swords against bronze, Alexander defeated all because his longer spears gave his men a huge advantage, Hannibal won because nobody knew what to do about elephants, and Rome has won because the Roman shield and gladius gives a big advantage. But such advantages wear out. The Egyptians eventually recovered when they had steel as well, the phalanx is history, Scipio turned the elephants against Hannibal, and now Roman expansion has stopped because everyone is starting to learn how to deal with the legion. One day, someone else will invent a new weapon, and Rome will be defeated."

Gaius stared at Timothy. The prediction. Rome in ruins! Could a new weapon do that much so quickly?

"Of course, if you had the new weapon, you could restart Roman expansion," Timothy pointed out, then he paused and added, "Not, of course, that that's likely to happen."

"I tend to agree," Gaius shrugged, "but why are you so sure?"

"I don't think you could do something useful, like make an engine."

"You couldn't," Gaius pointed out.

"No, but I'm a Greek," Timothy replied. "What I'm saying is that you, a Roman, aren't any better."

"I don't know anything about making engines," Gaius shrugged.

"Then I'll come with you to Alexandria," Timothy challenged. "There's the Great Library, and that's where some people have been playing around with making steam driven wheels. Everything that man knows is there. Have a look around. You still won't be able to make a useful engine, though."

"Because it's impossible?"

"For a Roman!" Timothy countered.

Gaius stared at him, then, after mumbling something about preparing to travel, he turned away. Timothy stared at the departing back, and smiled the smile of success.

* * *

A message came from Rome. Tiberius was old, soon he would die. This could be the last opportunity for a return to the Republic. He should return and take a stake in the political scene.

Gaius stared at the message. The man was an old associate of his father, which meant he would be a Republican agitator. Gaius had always felt his family was unlucky, but now he realized that was not the case. His family, being prominent in Rome, and being very wealthy, was always being made offers such as these. Invariably they had taken the wrong option, but why were they always wrong? Because they had allied themselves to people like this, people who may have good idealistic goals but who never had the drive to implement them. This man was no Caesar, so this man would lose.

He took a pen and wrote, "I believe Tiberius' successor has been decided and will be Gaius Caesar. I shall serve Caesar as best I can, and serve Rome by serving in a legion. You should forget everything about the republic and pledge your loyalty to Gaius Caesar for the benefit of Rome." He rolled the papyrus up, sealed it, and sent it back.

As Gaius suspected would happen, one of the spies for Gaius Caesar read the reply and reported.

* * *

Timothy surprised Gaius on the journey by showing a reasonable knowledge of navigation and he taught Gaius how to tell direction from the stars. He saw Mars, and was told how it would get quite bright over the next few months. All of this, Gaius thought wryly, is exactly what would be expected if Aristarchus were correct; the planets dimmed when they were on the other side of the sun because they were further away, and they were at their brightest when they were overhead at midnight, because then they were closest. Aristarchus' theory made sense except. .

Then to Egypt. A land so old! Rome had been influential for hundreds of years, Egypt for thousands. If the buildings around the forum were large, those at Karnak were immense. Yet the power of Egypt was gone, probably forever. So, eventually, would go Rome's power, a thought that brought that prophecy back to his head. No, that was ridiculous. Rome could not fall into decay in his lifetime. Unless someone developed a new weapon!

The prophecy was stupid. No! The prophecy was useless. If Rome was to fall because of a new weapon, the required information was what this new weapon was, so that Rome could prepare. . and void the prophecy. If a prophecy was to be useful, it had to be true, but if anything could be altered the prophecy would become not true. Therefore any prophecy had to be so obscure as to be useless, except for someone to say, "Well, I warned you, but. ." Unless the prophecy caused someone to carry out the one action that the prophecy required to become true! There was a thought, but not a very useful one, because how did anyone know what would be required? Why not simply explain what had to be done and why?

Which in some ways came to the nub of his problem. That prophecy had no apparent purpose, either for him or anybody else. Yet the image of the woman had been so vivid, so specific, and to make matters more complicated, there was nobody on Rhodes who looked remotely like her. Her skin had been pale, and she had had almost golden hair. There was nobody on the island with golden hair, nobody with that pale skin, but more importantly, nobody with lips or a nose like that. In fact, if asked what race she came from, he would have had to reply, 'None that he had ever met.' Her clothes seemed to be made of material that simply did not exist. The only explanation was, 'Clothes of the Gods'. And as far as everyone was concerned, that temple had been abandoned for hundreds of years.

Could it really have been a message from the Gods? If so, there had to be Gods. But why that message to him? If the Gods wanted him to do something, it would have been easier to tell him what it was they wanted! Why the riddles? And what could he do about them? Simply wait? He would see great truths. What sort of a prediction was that? Perhaps that had already happened. He was convinced Aristarchus was correct, and overturning the great  Aristotle would be a great. . But he was not overturning anything. As things stood, the Earth did not fall to pieces, so Aristarchus was wrong. He would make an invention that would change. . Nothing except his own future? And not in his lifetime?

Once again, he considered the possibility that someone had played a trick on him, and once again he rejected it. The moss on the temple, the girl and her clothes, were too convincing to be possible. So what was it? Did it matter? He had been given no instructions, other than to 'go on', and what else could he do?

It was so confusing. And while he was seeing wonders in Egypt, there were no great truths and no inventions, although shortly they would visit Alexandria. More irritating, he had yet to meet the most beautiful woman in the world. Or, for that matter, the ugliest!! The last could definitely be put off!

* * *

One thing that could not have been put off after reaching Alexandria was the visit to Governor Aulus Avillius Flaccus, particularly if Tiberius was to send his appointment through the governor. When Gaius turned up, he was annoyed that he had to wait, and wait, and wait. Eventually he was shown into the room.

"So. ." Flaccus said eventually, "you are honouring us with your presence?" The sarcasm was obvious, but there was also the sneering sign of the bully in the tone.

"My family has estates towards the Nile," Gaius replied politely.

"Egypt belongs to the government of Rome," Flaccus challenged.

"Apart from those specially granted by the divine Augustus," Gaius replied.

"They could be confiscated," Flaccus mused, "although perhaps I could put in a good word. ." He left his sentence hanging, and Gaius recognized it for what it was: extortion.

"Tiberius confirmed the grant," Gaius said quickly. Strictly speaking, this was not true, but then again, he knew about it and had not rescinded it. Tiberius had found it convenient to have a nervous Claudian organizing corn shipments.

"I see," Flaccus muttered. That might or might not be true, but if he challenged the assertion he had better be right because Tiberius was getting less and less tolerant of having his orders questioned. He then stared at Gaius and added, "You should be in the army."

"I await Tiberius' orders," Gaius replied. Clearly, no orders had come through Flaccus.

"Perhaps I could put in a recommendation?"

Another attempt at extortion! As if Flaccus could change Tiberius' mind!

"If you let Tiberius know I've arrived," Gaius replied, a little stiffly, "I would appreciate that."

"I'll certainly do that," Flaccus grunted. "Well, unless you have anything else to offer, I'm busy."

"Of course, Governor," Gaius said. He saluted, turned and left.

Yes, he could afford to grease Flaccus, but he was not going to do so. Flaccus should be doing his job, not getting rich from his job.

* * *

Gaius sat down under a palm and looked across the open space. There were so many people. This was a city that rivalled Rome for status, if not for influence. Yet Alexandria was such a strangely new city compared with others in this land. He had visited the ancient temples, he had seen the remains of such a powerful nation, and he had even seen the more modern temples, including the one with the door opened by sunlight.

Gaius smiled. Timothy was almost obsessed with this pneuma thing. At first sight, the use of the sunlight to heat air to open a temple door was impressive, but on second sight less so. The door was so finely balanced with the big counterweight that opening it was easy. An interesting trick, but that was all.

Yesterday was a slightly different matter. Somehow Timothy had heard of someone using steam. They had visited this man's workshop, and to Gaius' surprise, there was a small device that turned a tiny wheel. A small sphere was filled with water and when heated by a fire, a jet of steam came out and turned a small paddlewheel. Another useless device! There was a small hole on top, and a small bob was seated in this, seemingly to keep the steam pressure down. If too much steam was generated to get out the other little hole, or the hole blocked, the device could blow up. Apparently that had happened once, and the operator had been badly scalded. The bob was a safety valve, and made sure the steam pressure stayed low enough to be safe, but it also meant that all the steam could do was to turn this tiny wheel, and then only as long as the load was light. If there was any more than the tiniest load, the wheel stalled and steam went around it anyway.

That figured! Steam wasn't going to work hard. Just like a slave, give it half a chance, it would find the easy way out! The device was a useless toy. Except that Athene had mentioned that he had to build something based on something like that. What was it? Something revolutionary that would change everything. That wretched toy would change nothing!

He leaned back and watched as two grossly overladen donkeys were being led across his field of view. The load of one was hopelessly out of balance, and it began to slide. Two young boys leaped into action and tried to hold the load. Two young women were watching and laughing as the load swayed, steadied, then began to slip elsewhere. Melons came out of their bags, and fell to the ground and began rolling away. Then the man who was presumably the owner of the melons appeared and began swearing at the boy leading the donkey, at the young women, and even at the two boys who had tried to help. Soon a small crowd began to gather, and the straying melons began to disappear.

Suppose, like the melons, Gaius mused, the steam was held in so it could not escape around the side of that paddle wheel, but had to turn it to get out, would it? At first the answer was no. Being sensible steam, it would take the easy way out. Why lift a weight when you can lift a small bob! So, put a brick on the bob? It would either turn the wheel, lift the bob, or blow up, whichever was easiest.

If it could blow up, it had quite significant power. You could do something with that power. Put a brick on the bob, and build the walls of the kettle thicker, now the steam had to turn the wheel! Except it wouldn't. It would always go around the side of the paddle.

How could a paddle be enclosed? As far as he could see, it couldn't. You could, in principle, build a housing to encase the paddle, but there would still be gaps between the paddle and the wall. Amongst other things, to do any good, the paddle had to be of a reasonable size, and you could not make anything that large and get it to fit together tightly enough. And even if you could, if the power came from the steam, as everyone said, to get more power you would need more steam. That was a dinky little kettle, but it could not easily be made bigger. To be practical, it would have to be made in parts, and how could you join the parts together?

The short answer was, you couldn't. Superficially, the problem was to keep more steam in and get it to do more work. Fixing the valve was easy, but it was then the problems began. There was no way to make a big enough steam generator, and there was no way to make the steam turn the wheel, rather than fly off into the air.

This steam device looked like a great idea, but a useful steam engine was clearly impossible. Except for that wretched prophecy! Athene, or whoever or whatever that was, seemed convinced it would work. But how?

Chapter 21

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Gaius never ceased to be surprised by the fertility of the Black Lands. The sheer lushness of the crops was beyond belief, and almost equally beyond belief was the abrupt end of the lushness that occurred in some places. When the water stopped, the desert began, the harshest place he had ever seen, and the boundary between lushness and desert could be as little as a pace or so wide. This ranch was different. There was a broader boundary, and grapes were being harvested.

This was the property of his family, and Gaius had come to arrange family business, ensuring the shipment of more corn and wine. Egypt, prior to the Roman invasion, had been owned by the Pharaohs, and all workers worked for them. Greece had operated similarly, with workers working for their city state and spending their time dodging the continual wars, and it was in part much for this reason that Roman conquest had been so easy, as just prior to the wars, general corruption led to a breakdown of the economies. During Cleopatra's flirtation with Julius, considerable tracts of land were acquired by certain Roman families, and in particular, by his stub of the Claudian gens . Eventually Augustus claimed all of Egypt as his personal property, but there was one person whom even Augustus could not dominate: Livia. As such, some Claudian property was not appropriated, and his family managed to keep up a good trade with Rome.

The deals were done, all well within his father's guidelines. The Egyptians were also happy, for besides running the ranch, they were permitted a certain level of private enterprise, and since Gaius was expected to join a legion in Judea, a place where their trading activities had lost a number of caravans, they were very content. A Roman tribune could easily arrange for an escort, and even a hint of legionary protection would dissuade most thieves. Killing to steal Roman property was a reasonably quick path to the cross.

The workers were bringing in the grapes in their large wicker baskets, and the juice was quickly pressed out of them. It was so pleasant sitting in the shade; far better than working in the sun! An attractive young woman had brought him a tumbler of beer, and he sat back to sip. It was a strange drink, Egyptian beer, but it grew on you. He watched as another batch of grapes were unloaded and the arms of the press turned. He could see the juice trickling into the container below.

"It's good to watch work," Gaius grinned, then he turned to Timothy and added, "Unless you have others slaving away, you've got to do it yourself!"

"And we wouldn't want that, would we?" Timothy countered dryly.

"Heavens, no!" Gaius laughed. "Far better to advance by the sweat of someone else's brow."

"Yes, I can see you're really committed to the idea of reducing other people's labour."

"Let me make an observation to you," Gaius smiled. "A press like that gets the same juice as ten treaders, and you don't even have dirty feet in the wine."

"So two people turning the lever produce as much as ten slaves," Timothy pointed out. "Now if that procedure could be replicated. ."

"How many wine presses do you see?" Gaius interrupted.

"Eight. Why?"

"So instead of ten treaders, you have sixteen men using presses. The number of slaves has increased. The difference is, they make more juice, more quickly. So, the number of slaves actually increases. It's just that productivity also greatly increases, and the slave-owner gets richer. So guess what happens."

"What?"

"He can afford to buy more slaves!" Gaius said triumphantly. "So the device built to reduce the need for labour actually increases the demand for slaves."

"There is one small point wrong with your analysis," Timothy offered.

"Which is?"

"You don't need sixteen men on the presses. If you had watched a bit more carefully, there are six. A pair tighten one press, then move on to the next, and eventually come back to tighten it further."

"Shouldn't let it get loose," Gaius shrugged. "That's not efficient."

"It doesn't get loose!" The voice from the beer maid.

"It doesn't?" Gaius turned towards her, then added with a touch of contempt in his voice, "Then why are they tightening it from time to time?"

"When the juice comes out, the grapes need less space," she said, then shrunk back. She might be correct, but she was required to maintain silence. Then she looked up to see her overseer bearing down towards her. She shrunk back even further.

Gaius noticed her action, looked towards the overseer, then smiled at her and said, "Go and get me some more beer. I'll have a word with. ."

"You! Back to your quarters. I'll. ."

"Please?" Gaius said to the overseer. The word might have been polite, but the tone was that of a Claudian used to command.

"I'll see that she gets suitably. ."

"Rewarded?" Gaius interrupted in the same superior tone.

"What?" The overseer was completely puzzled.

"I presume she was to be rewarded for good service," Gaius said coldly, and the menace of his tone could not be missed. "That was your intention, I presume?" he added, his voice now harsh and threatening.

"Well, yes, of course, illustrious. ."

"Good! Make sure it is done. I shall check."

"Er, yes sir." The overseer backed away, then turned and made sure he was somewhere else.

"If you're going to be a slave," Timothy nodded wryly, "being young and pretty almost certainly gets you out of some trouble, if not into other trouble."

"If you're going to make an important observation," Gaius countered, "it helps to make it in front of someone who will appreciate it."

"You're going to claim you're taken with her brains?" Timothy asked curiously.

"I'm claiming nothing!" Gaius replied. "She gave me an idea, and I shall see she is rewarded, not punished. Timothy! Don't you see?"

"To be honest," the reply came back, "I'm not even sure what you're talking about."

"Wine presses!"

"I was afraid that was it," Timothy muttered. "So, what's this idea?"

"They press down, and apart from the juice coming out, the top plate exerts the same force."

"So?"

"It's a way of holding two plates together!"

"Aren't they held together by the frame on the sides?"

"They act as guides," Gaius continued, his voice now a little excited. "The plates, though, are held together by the force exerted by tightening the screw."

"Yes, so?"

"If you could make screws like that out of metal, you could join plates of metal together."

"Which would do?"

"It might be what's needed to make bigger things out of steel," Gaius shrugged. Then he laughed a little and added, "Get's more slaves down the coal mines that way."

Timothy gave a rueful smile. Fortunately the beer was good, the fruit delicious, and in this warmth it was hard not to be in a good mood.

As the wine pressing came to an end for the day, Gaius strolled over towards one of them. He wound one down, kept it clamped, and yes, it did stay where it was. And there was little doubt it could exert very high pressure and maintain it.

He remembered his thoughts on making steam do something useful. He was a long way off that, yet this looked like a solution to w


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hat he thought was by far the biggest problem. Was it really possible to make such a machine from iron? Maybe not even iron, but bronze? There were stories of metal men made by the Gods. Now that had never happened, but. . If he made something that only the Gods could make. ?

The prophecy came back to him. He would walk among the Gods. Is that what it meant? That he was destined to succeed?

No, he did not believe in prophecy, but still, if a prophecy was as good a one as this, why not?

* * *

A few days later, reality struck. The screw on the wine presses was very large, and carved out of wood. Two carvings had to be precisely complementary. The rod had ridges neatly carved which on each turn travelled exactly the same distance. It was geometry again. Like pulleys, the ratio by which the distance travelled was reduced was the same ratio that multiplied the force. So, to contain a huge force, you needed a fine pitch, where a revolution moved a very small distance. Making such a screw was not too difficult. The problem was what it went through, for here there were grooves that were exactly the correct width and which travelled exactly the same distance as each other and of the rod for each revolution. That required exact carving, and exact measurement. Difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with metal.

It was a few days later still that he saw an alternative. In the Great Library there were two pieces of metal held together. The bottom one had a hole the diameter such that a rod could pass neatly through it. The rod had wire soldered onto it like a helix, with a pitch slightly larger than the thickness of the bottom piece of metal. The screw tightened and held the two pieces of metal together.

What was needed was a thicker bottom piece, or even a third small bottom piece, with wire soldered on the inside of the hole. He would find a craftsman and get something made.

* * *

It took two weeks before he held his objects in his hands. In one hand he held the rod with the wire soldered as a helix on the outside, in the other a thick piece of metal with a hole and the wire soldered on the inside, and also a thin piece of metal with a hole the exact diameter of the rod without the wire. The rod also had a flat "head" while the second piece of metal had small lugs on the outside, so he could turn it. He found two pieces of metal with gaps, he inserted his primitive bolt and wound on the nut. It worked! It did not look much, but it did hold the two other pieces of metal together quite firmly. He ordered more. He also found a sheet of metal and used his bolt to fix the thin sheet to it. That also worked, but the pitch of the thread had to be sufficiently coarse that the screw could hold the thickness of the metal. Not so useful!

Timothy watched this activity with increasing interest.

"You must think this is a waste of time," Gaius said to him one morning, "or a waste of money."

"My first thought," Timothy admitted, "was that you've got plenty of money, so why not wa. spend it."

"And your second thought?" Gaius smiled at the embarrassment Timothy was showing over his obvious correction.

"They're going to be far too expensive to be any good."

"So you think I should give up?"

"No," Timothy shrugged, "but my third thought was that maybe if you ever get any of these made exactly right, you could try using them to make moulds and cast more out of bronze."

"Bronze is weaker than iron," Gaius frowned.

"But stronger than solder," Timothy countered.

"You could be right," Gaius said, after a moment's thought. It could be the answer! If he had a master that worked, he could use that to make moulds into which metal could be cast. Because the casts all came from the same starting object, all would be equivalent, well, more or less. He could make quite a lot of these objects. That depended, though on the castings being able to be used. Were they faithful enough to the original? There was only one way to find out. If they were, that would be one problem down!

At least he had something to do. If you had something that worked roughly, you could refine it. If you had nothing, there was nowhere to go.

Chapter 22

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Three pieces of news arrived over the spring and early summer. The first letter was from his father: Tiberius was dead. In an almost predictable effort at one last joke in bad taste Tiberius had named Gaius Caesar and Tiberius Gemellus as joint Princeps . Now there were to be 'Two First Equals amongst Equals'. How that would work was anybody's guess. There followed family news, instructions regarding trade opportunities, but it passed right over him, as if it were not there. Only the news of Tiberius' death mattered. Where did that leave his military appointment?

As Gaius picked up the second letter, something caught his eye: it looked as if the seal had been opened and resealed. Someone had read this letter. He carefully opened it, and found it to be from one of those stuck-up fools from one of Rome's oldest houses, who would usually ignore him. Why he was writing was soon made obvious: Little Boots was described as a malicious short-sighted incompetent fool, and now was the time to restore the republic. He should return to Rome at once and persuade his father to vote in the senate to. . Gaius threw the letter down in despair. This stupid fool could never organize bread deliveries from one of Rome's bakeries, let alone organize a government. All he was doing was to make Gaius a target for Little Boots. Well, then, Gaius thought, there was only one possible response.

He took a piece of papyrus, and wrote carefully.

Gaius Julius Caesar. 

Greetings! 

I salute the Senate of the People of Rome for their wise decision to recognize your ability and to make you Princeps, I offer my most sincere congratulations and I assure you of my unreserved loyalty. I enclose a message that was sent to me, which I find most distasteful. I am writing to my father to request that he fully support, without any reservation, that which Caesar wishes. 

G. Claudius Scaevola. 

When unpleasant effects were inevitable, it was infinitely preferable that these unpleasantries land on somebody else's head!

The third letter came later from Claudius, the stutterer, which was full of somewhat bewildering information about the state of Rome. Little Boots was now incredibly popular. He had begun with the crafty move of adopting Tiberius Gemellus and nominating him Princeps Inventatis , thus ensuring Gemellus was inferior in rank, and beholden to Little Boots. Little Boots had Tiberius's will declared null and void on grounds of insanity, he honoured his dead relatives, he publicly destroyed Tiberius' personal papers, which undoubtedly contained the means by which Tiberius controlled many of the Roman elite, and which also undoubtedly contained evidence of their complicity in Tiberius' killings, and he recalled exiles and reimbursed those wronged by Tiberius' taxes. As it happened, he, Claudius, knew that Caesar had kept copies of the papers he had publicly destroyed. He then accepted the powers of the Principate as conferred by the Senate, and he entered Rome amid scenes of wild rejoicing, the popularity being assisted by a lavish distribution of money from the treasury.

Then came the news Gaius dreaded: as Athene had predicted, Gaius Caesar had annulled all Tiberius' late appointments, including his military appointment. For several minutes, Gaius stared at nothing; unless Athene's further prediction came to be, his career was over before it began.

He continued reading. Little Boots had then announced a return to the Augustan ideals, which included the promise of much better cooperation with the Senate and the lowering of taxes and of tithes, all of which was extremely popular with both the masses and the upper classes. But there was more good news. Little Boots had made him, Claudius, co-consul. While Gaius Caesar was in good spirits, he, Claudius, had mentioned his, Gaius', name. Gaius Caesar had nodded, and said he had not forgotten, but before you get a military position you must remain in Alexandria and prove you are worth supporting. According to Little Boots, Tiberius was correct in one respect: Rome needed leaders who could do something else besides blindly wield a sword.

So, with an imperial command, albeit an indirect one, there was little alternative but to remain. The problem was, when Little Boots told Claudius that, he would have known about that other letter. He had to hope that his letter would convince Caesar he was not involved in such plots, otherwise his future was bleak.

* * *

Because of his rank, he was sometimes invited to certain social events. Flaccus, the most powerful man in Egypt, had tried probing him, but Gaius remained obtusely indifferent to the hints. Finally, Flaccus tried the more direct approach, in front of several other members of society.

"You should be in the army!"

"I seem to recall that Caesar makes those appointments," Gaius replied dryly.

"Perhaps he needs reminding that you're still interested," came the broad hint.

"I thank you for your interest. I am sure Caesar will let me know of your concern."

Later, he admitted this was not the most politic of responses, but it had a strange effect for as many other Romans in the room knew, Flaccus had no contact with Caesar at all. Under Tiberius' instructions, Flaccus had prosecuted Agrippina, Little Boots' mother. With little choice, Little Boots accepted this while Tiberius was alive, but that did not mean he had forgotten or forgiven. Caesar's ignoring Flaccus might be the best Flaccus could hope for.

Finally a letter came, with Caesar's seal. At least this would give that wretched Flaccus something to think about! Gaius held it up and stared at it, his hands trembling. This was his career! However, when he opened it, he found it was not. Caesar thanked him for his letter, but he suspected Gaius realized that Caesar was well aware of these pathetic efforts. He should recall what he had once swore to Caesar, and fulfil his pledge. He should remain in Alexandria, and contemplate other ways to serve Rome in line with Tiberius' orders. Other ways! Gaius stared at the letter, and realized he had no option but to accept Caesar's orders. He would acknowledge the letter immediately, then. .

To take his mind off his problems, he devoted so much of his energies to his machine that Timothy believed it was becoming an obsession. As time progressed Gaius' mood became darker, he ate less, he slept less, and his failure to make progress seemed to make his mood even darker. All he knew was that he would continue until he succeeded. The Gods, or so it was believed, had imparted power to metal objects to do things that men could not. That must be his task and if the prophecy was correct, he must succeed.

Of course, he sometimes reflected when in a more than usually depressed mood, the prophecy also predicted military victories, and so far there was little sign that he would even make it to the army.

Succeeding with the invention was also easier said than done. Nobody else could do it, there was nothing like this anywhere. He should give up, and enjoy life. Why did he think it could be done?

Nobody else had succeeded because nobody else had tried hard enough.

All of which was irrelevant. He would not stop until he had succeeded. He did not believe in Gods, but that was more than a dream. Athene may or may not have been a goddess, but she was like nothing he had experienced. Her message had to mean something, and he felt strangely convinced by her assertion that he would die miserably if he did not succeed.

What would success look like? What was the most basic thing it could do? Presumably move up and down, or turn a wheel, which were essentially the same thing, as a hinged lever attached to the circumference of a wheel would convert one to the other. So the little toy that turned a paddlewheel was an engine. The problem was, it was not powerful enough to do anything.

How to make it more powerful? Use more steam! To do that, he needed a bigger fire, and a bigger tank of water. That meant that everything would be bigger.

What were the problems? The little machine was soldered together, but that might not be strong enough for a larger machine. So he needed a better way of joining large pieces of metal together. Now, in principle, he knew there were at least three answers. The first was the bolt. Nobody else had seemed to appreciate what a bolt could do, probably because nobody knew how to make them strong enough. The second way was fire-welding: pieces to be joined were heated in a forge until the edges became almost liquid, sometimes with a thin piece of another metal in between, then the two pieces could be fused/hammered together. Provided the temperature was correct, and an appropriate flux was used to stop the metal from forming corrosion products, the metal would join. Even iron could be welded, if you could find someone skilled enough to do it. The third was the rivet. If you left holes, and if you fire-welded, the joints could be strengthened with rivets, hammered down over copper washers to make a seal. So he had made progress. All he had to do was to keep at it. Persistence! That was the way to success!

Then suppose he had steam going into something and he could turn a wheel. If such a machine were to be useful, there would be huge forces on the joints. Surfaces that should move had to slip, not graunch. Perhaps metal that had to slide over another piece, such as where a rod joined a wheel, should have a lining of soft metal, like solder. Maybe a bit stronger than solder, perhaps more like a soft bronze, but with something to make them slippery. It was then he recalled that there was something made from fat and lime that was put around the axles of heavy cartwheels. Yes, there was a solution to that problem.

So, once the wheel turned, this task was completed. So, back to the beginning! A boiler, and pipes to take steam to the machine, whatever that was, and maybe a pipe to bring the hot water back? Suppose you did that, how would you get it back in? Perhaps that was not so important; water was easily available, except. . If you had to stop the machine when you ran out of water, that would negate much of its value, and if there was a way to put water in while the machine was running, you might as well return the. . the what? The water would come out of the machine as steam. So, condense the steam, after it had done whatever work it was going to do! Then it could stay in the machine, without exerting backpressure.

And get the water back by forcing the water to a tank above the steam generator, close the access, let in steam from the boiler, and all the water would fall in when the pressure equalized.

In principle, this looked like it could be done! The first thing to do was to draw a diagram of what it might look like, drawing boxes for the parts he was not so sure of, and see what he could get made.

Even pipes were not that easy. Pipes were made of lead, but that would be too soft. What he needed was someone to make pipes for him, out of. . Out of what? Copper? Bronze? It had to be something from which he could make long pieces of pipe. How long could pipe sections be made? He should find out, because that might determine how the layout of this device would be. There could be no point in drawing something that could not be made, simply because available pipes were too short.

Then there was the question of how much pressure the system could take, safely, and how to control it. There was only one answer to that. He must get a boiler made, and gradually add weights to the valve and see what happened. And, remembering the problems of other scalded workers, watch from behind protection at a safe distance. Perhaps first get a bigger version of the little machine made. See how big they could make it?

He would hire some workers.

* * *

Timothy began serving the meal. He had taken upon himself the task of overseeing food preparation because, as he pointed out, Gaius seemed to be too busy to take a proper interest in food. Gaius smiled at this: he felt the real reason was that Timothy wanted to eat as well as he could while Gaius was paying, but he accepted the situation because Timothy did seem to have a knack of finding sources of really interesting food, and also he had to admit that Timothy seemed to be able to acquire this food more cheaply than Gaius would ever have managed. Timothy certainly had this ability to find bargains. Timothy placed the plate in front of Gaius and asked, "So, have you finally decided to admit that Aristarchus was wrong?"

Gaius looked up, grinned, and replied, "No!"

"Hoping I'll die of old age before you'll admit it?"

"I'm certainly not hoping you'll die in the reasonably near future," Gaius said. "I'm still thinking."

"So where have you got to?"

"This business of things coming to be and passing away. I think Aristotle, the Greek, was wrong, and I'm going to take the Roman view."

"There is one?" Timothy gave a look of forced puzzlement.

"According to Lucretius, no thing is ever produced by divine agency out of nothing," Gaius offered.

"That view, of course, came from Democritus, a Greek," Timothy pointed out.

"So, in a sense, I win a bet," Gaius said, and turned over a wax tablet on which was written, 'Timothy will point out that Democritus was a Greek.'

"Glad to make your day," Timothy added sourly.

"And you didn't offer to show anything coming from nothing, nor have you ever seen anything totally destroyed either."

"How about wood burning?" Timothy asked.

"As Aristotle correctly said," Gaius smiled, "the fire is an agent of change. I think Democritus was correct. Everything is made of atoms, and as Lucretius noted, what you see is how they are arranged. Air is presumably atoms with a lot of space in between them, so the atoms of wood are split apart by the fire and end up as air."

"So?"

"Suppose you say the same thing for energy? When you throw the stone in the air, suppose the energy doesn't pass away, but goes somewhere."

"Well?"

"If you think of lifting something, and the energy being stored somehow, then it must take so much more energy to lift the Sun from the Earth-centre than the Earth from the Sun-centre. That gives at least two problems."

"Two?" Timothy asked in surprise.

"Yes, two. The first is why doesn't Aristotle's system revert to the Aristarchus system, which seemingly needs less energy, and secondly, why does the amount of energy depend on how you look at the problem? That can't be right."

"So," Timothy pointed out, "logic says your analysis must be wrong."

"Not at all," Gaius countered. "The alternative is a premise might be wrong. The problem only arises because in Aristotle's system, the Earth is in a very special place for no good reason."

"Aristarchus has the Sun in the centre," Timothy pointed out.

"For the good reason that it's the biggest," Gaius pointed out. "Small falls around large, because with the same energy, light moves faster than heavy. The stars are so far away they're irrelevant to this discussion, and for all I know, they may have their own planets. The main point is, there's no reason for the Earth to be at the centre of anything, except it just seems so because we're on it. And there's more. The sun is so much more massive, and so far away, to give us our heat, it must be extremely hot."

"So?"

"Why doesn't it melt whatever its sphere is made of, or, if the spheres have holes, as you put it, why doesn't it melt and flow through those holes, or, if the spheres have no holes, why doesn't it just smear itself out along the sphere?"

"I don't know," Timothy shrugged. "It just doesn't."

"It just doesn't because everything's falling to the centre of it," Gaius pointed out, "and as Aristotle noted, it then has to be a sphere, which as far as we can tell, it is. No, Timothy, I do not concede. Everything I think of points to your being wrong. The only trouble is, I still can't see what's wrong with your one point."

"You're taking this very seriously," Timothy said. "Maybe I shouldn't have. ."

"Not at all," Gaius slapped him on the shoulder. "This is much better than dealing with some of these Roman snobs around here, and I can't wait to see your face when I solve it! Now, how about a cup of wine?"

Chapter 23

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His next move was to hire the staff of a metal workshop. He was fortunate to find one such foundry in temporary financial trouble. A quick bailout acquired willing and skilled workers, and, he found that by arranging for more of the local legion's work to be done there, he quickly recovered his investment. However, somehow nothing progressed the way it should. They built what they thought he wanted, but usually it was not. It was then he realized that to make progress he had to be around to explain what he wanted.

He soon found that foundries were messy dirty places, and soon he began to dress more like the workers, at least on the site. He also needed somewhere else to assemble what he made, because while that was being done the foundry could be doing useful work, earning money, and keeping the workers employed.

Progress seemed to take forever. It took over two months to make a small steam turbine with greater size, and another six months to make one that did not fly to pieces when extra weights were put on the safety valve. If nothing else, he learned a little about safety precautions, and the value of a safety wall. During this period Gaius also managed to have some bronze bearings made, and he assembled a wheel attached to a stationary axle through his new bearings, the wheel being turned through gears from a windmill, and made to lift a heavy weight. He tried various mixtures of olive oil, lime and fat until eventually he came up with a mixture that seemed to allow the bearings to last. Mixing oil, fat and lime made him really filthy, and to his general annoyance, it took a long time to clean up.

Timothy watched these events with a mixture of admiration and dismay. The admiration was for the persistence, the dismay was because nothing seemed to be being built. But as Gaius told him in a tired voice one evening, if there were no solutions to certain problems, there was no point in continuing.

By now the local social elite had ceased sending Gaius invitations to events, and he was gradually becoming an outcast. His explanation was that he did not have the time, but the real reason was he did not enjoy their company. Timothy suggested that he should make peace with Flaccus, and eventually Gaius gave in. He held an evening and he put on entertainment by some Egyptians he had come across. As he expected, this was something of a novelty to some of the Romans. As he remarked bitterly, they would live in a country for years, and they might as well have stayed at home.

"They couldn't conquer everybody if they did that," Timothy remarked.

"That lot didn't conquer anything," Gaius scowled. "Getting out of bed before noon is their challenge for the day!"

"And Flaccus?"

"I was polite, he was curious."

"Curious?" Timothy asked.

"As I expected he has seen the letters with the Imperial seals," Gaius said, then added with a superior grin, "and I don't think any have been addressed to him."

"That would annoy him," Timothy agreed.

"Maybe not," Gaius shrugged. "Caesar is supposed to renew or replace appointments, and from what I gather he is doing that in a number of places, but he seems to have forgotten about Flaccus, which gives Flaccus more time to collect bribes."

"That's encouraging," Timothy muttered.

* * *

After seven months in which little news came from Rome, a further letter came from Claudius. This news was depressing. After six months of relatively benign and even enlightened rule, Little Boots had fallen ill. At first there was polite consternation for the Princeps , but as Little Boots became progressively more ill, members of the elite families began discussing what would happen after Little Boots died. This could bring a return to the republic, although Claudius noted with obvious disgust, most of the senators seemed to be more interested in advancing their own cause. In principle, civil war could erupt.

Then, praise the Gods, Little Boots survived. However the man that survived was not filled with joy and good will at having done so. While he was ill, two men had made public pledges. Afranius Potitus had sworn to offer his life if Caesar lived, while Atianus Secundus had offered to fight as a gladiator. Caesar was repelled by such ostentatious displays, so he calmly informed them that their offers were accepted. Potitus was wreathed as if as a sacrifice and was then pitched off the Tarpeian rock. Atianus was forced to fight, and when he won, he had to grovel for his life. Then Caesar became aware of the senatorial discussions. He was livid: there was no need for such discussions, so they must be plotting.

"But Caesar," someone protested, "there has to be someone in charge?"

"And why not Tiberius Gemellus?" Little Boots had spat back.

Now, Little Boots decided that this senator was plotting. The senator had no way of proving that he wasn't, which was hardly surprising because in truth Little Boots was as near enough to being correct as made little difference. The senator had not actually done anything, but that was largely because of sloth and fear. Had he wanted to kill Little Boots, the time to do so was when he was so ill he was not expected to survive.

So, Little Boots decided to absolutely humiliate the senator. In front of his face, some of the guard had their way with his wife, and Little Boots himself deflowered his daughters. Then he told the senator that only a massive amount of gold would save him from a fate worse than death. When he asked how much, the senator was told to guess. The senator paid an immense amount, and then was told that service in Tunisia might be a good idea. The senator went immediately.

Which brought the problem to a head. Nobody had any faith in Tiberius Gemellus, who had concentrated his efforts on some ineffective efforts at administration. At the same time Little Boots had concentrated on securing the services of the Praetorian Prefect Quintus Sutorius Macro to provide the muscle he required to further his own ambitions.

It was during this period that Little Boots invited Tiberius Gemellus for a meal worthy of his being joint Princeps . The boy was in poor health, and when he came to dine with Caesar, he took some cough mixture. Caesar was furious, and accused him of taking a poison antidote. Did he not trust Caesar? Caesar obviously did not think so, so he ordered Macro to kill him. Macro did so promptly.

Little Boots' arrogance had increased. His own father-in-law had offered advice on some point, to which Little Boots suggested they go for a journey to sea together. His father-in-law declined because he was a bad sailor and hated the sea, so Little Boots decided that he must have feared he would be killed. If he feared he would be killed, why, he must have a guilty conscience so he would be killed. He ordered him to commit suicide.

Little Boots now began to suspect that everybody was plotting. The problem was, his actions looked like making this true. One day Macro suggested that he. . Little Boots was furious. How dare he, a mere guardsman, tell the Princeps  what he should and should not do. Macro was ordered to immediately go and kill his own wife Ennia, then commit suicide. He, Claudius, suspected that this was in part because once Macro began thinking, he may well think that if he could kill one Princeps  he could kill two. He must have been given a fairly terrible alternative, because that evening both died.

The message was clear: do not give advice to Caesar. That meant, of course, that the combined wisdom of Rome was now unavailable.

Then on top of that, Caesar's sister, Drusilla, who had provided an effective restraining force on Little Boots, had died. Little Boots now became totally distraught, and was now beyond restraint.

* * *

Gaius' social position took an even greater turn for the worse. It had all started when Timothy had been discussing something with a Greek slave. The slave's master appeared and seeing the slave talking, he brought out a whip and lashed out. The slave yelled, and was lashed again. Timothy tried to reason with the man, and was rewarded with a lash across his side. It was at this moment that Gaius came around a corner.

"Put that down, you little pail of shit!" Gaius roared imperiously.

Without thinking, the master turned, saw Gaius dressed in the rather tatty and non-descript


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clothing he wore when going to visit the foundry, swore something about teaching manners, then he lashed out at Gaius.

Gaius felt the searing pain across his side, then as he saw the whip come back for a repeat, he leaped back. He noticed an older man with a walking staff, so he grabbed it. "I'm just borrowing it," he muttered, then grabbing the staff he advanced on the man with the whip. As the whip came over, he dodged and managed to get the whip to wrap around the staff. Grasping the staff with both hands close to the tangled whip, he pulled with everything he had. The now furious owner lurched forward, and as he did Gaius stepped forward and kicked with everything he had at the man's groin. His kick first glanced the leg, then struck, and the rather large man gave out a dreadful scream, and lay writhing on the ground.

"You don't know who I am," the man rasped. "I'll have you flogged to death for that."

"You probably don't know who I am," Gaius replied coldly, as he drove the staff into the man's midriff, then after smashing it across the man's back he added haughtily, "You may call me Claudius. From your knees!"

There was a sudden stare of fear.

"I see you're starting to understand," Gaius muttered. "You want to flog me, you'll have to do it yourself," he spat, then brought the staff down around his victim's backside. There was a yell of pain, and Gaius struck again and again. He smashed the staff into both arms as the man cowered in terror.

"Please! I'm s sorry!"

"You'd better be!" Gaius leaned over and spat right in the man's eye. "You stay down, and whatever that was all about to start with, the man I saw you strike was also a personal friend of Tiberius. Think very carefully before you do whatever he told you not to."

With that he turned and handed back the staff, then added a couple of denarii. The older man looked at the coins, nodded thanks, and shuffled away.

Eventually the other side of this story spread amongst the Romans present in Alexandria. Beating a known bully did Gaius' reputation no harm, but having been seen dressed as little better than a foundry worker did. Even worse, word got around that Gaius personally used tools, and was behaving almost like a craftsman. This was definitely not the person to be seen with in polite society. One of Flaccus' aides suggested that the bully should appeal to the Princeps , and have Gaius put in his place.

As Timothy noted, the ideals of the early republic, where Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus could be taken from his farm work, made absolute dictator of the Roman forces so that he could lead the armies to defeat the enemies of Rome and save a Roman army, then give up all power to return to work on his small farm and be admired by all for it, were gone.

Gaius then refused to have any dealings with the family of that man he had beaten. Some of the other Romans began to more actively ostracise him, so he retaliated. His family was the biggest single shipper of goods to Rome, and they owned the majority of the ships coming to Egypt. By refusing to deal with such people, and by refusing access to the family ships, he made enemies, but he made a point. Oddly, he did not suffer, because there were many Egyptians and Libyans only too pleased to fill the gap.

A letter came with the Imperial seal, which Gaius again opened in anticipation, only to find that the man he had beaten had had sent a complaint to Caesar. Caesar's response was terse: 'When you see this whining piece of shit again, please thrash him more thoroughly this time'. As Gaius remarked later, he did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Another letter also came from Claudius. Little Boots was planning some quite enormous public works, which led to far more bitter disputes with the Senate, in part because the Senate were unimaginative, while Caesar's imagination sometimes seemed to be getting the better of him. In the end, the state of the Treasury tended to persuade Little Boots not to continue.

Caesar's imagination could at times be quite amusing. One day, while walking through the streets, Caesar found his toga stained by something he had encountered. A further cursory inspection suggested that the streets were not being cleaned properly.

Little Boots became furious. The Aedile  in charge of clean streets was one Titus Flavius Vespasianus, and said Vespasianus was ordered to present himself in his best and cleanest attire at a public square. It was unclear what Vespasianus expected, but it was unlikely he expected what transpired. He was made to stand at attention in the centre of the square, while several guardsmen threw whatever filth had been prepared all over him. At the end, the victim was stinking, dripping and covered with brown. It was rather hilarious, provided you were not the victim.

On the other hand, it was remarkably efficient. Never had Claudius noted such clean streets as after this event. There was clearly method in Caesar's actions.

Chapter 24

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The silence from Rome regarding his career became annoying. He had received yet a further message from Claudius to the effect that, apart from dishing out lavish spending on free corn and games to make himself more beloved by the people, Little Boots was making grand plans and few decisions. His opinion seemed to be, if Rome could run itself at the end of Tiberius' principate, there seemed to be little reason why it should not continue to do so. He had better things to think about.

Worse than that, the treasury was becoming empty, and some of the Senators began making moves that could be interpreted as better placing themselves for the period following Caesar. Little Boots' response was unattractive, to say the least: he began openly praising the policies of Tiberius. Not only that, but the copies of Tiberius' papers reappeared. Caesar had accused senators of being "satellites of Sejanus", and had returned to Tiberius' policy of encouraging informers. The trials, executions and confiscations of Tiberius' time had returned.

When Little Boots reintroduced the prosopopoeia  of Tiberius, the Senate objected, and began to request Caesar to explain himself. The explanation was illuminating, although only to the extent of showing to where Rome had descended. He entered the Senate and, with his usual exceptional command of oratory and logic, he verbally lashed them.

"If Tiberius was in fault, you should not have decreed him honours in his lifetime, or, having done so rightly, you should not, after his death, have annulled them." Gaius gave a superior smile as he watched the Senators squirm, before he continued, "You, it was, Senators, who swelled the pride of Sejanus by your flatteries, and then you destroyed the monster you yourselves had created. You wronged your prince, you murdered his minister." He stared at the now frightened Senators and continued, "I can look for no good in your hands." He stared at the senators, challenging them to say something to his face, and when they cowered in fear, he began naming some of the older and illustrious houses of Rome, and publicly stripped them of their honours. Amongst others, the Torquati had lost the right to wear their golden collars, and the last descendant of Pompeius was forbidden to use the name "Magnus".

Little Boots seemed obsessed by religion, although in a somewhat perverse way. He built an extension of his palace towards the forum, using the temple of Castor and Pollux as a vestibule, and within it he placed a golden statue of himself, which would be dressed according to how he was dressed each day. He then enticed the richest citizens to be priests of his cult, while he accepted the generous donations. He conversed with the statue of Jupiter, apparently once ordering Jupiter to lift him up, or he would lift the statue. He flayed the actor Apelles for hesitating when asked who was the greater, Caesar or Jupiter? On the other hand, he seemed to have concluded that there were no Gods. So, somebody else thought differently? He had heard of one priest who related stories about people who had nearly died, and had seen the bright light of some afterlife. He had promptly put the priest to death by slow bleeding, and he stood over him the whole time, asking whether he saw any sign of the afterlife as he was dying. There was no sign, so there were no Gods.

Little Boots could not see, Claudius continued, that firstly, if there was an afterlife, you might have to be dead to find out, and secondly, even if the priest had seen something, because Little Boots was the reason why he was seeing it, he might not say so. This obsession of Little Boots about disproving Gods was becoming a serious problem. The Princeps  had to concentrate on more immediate problems, such as seeing that the Roman Empire worked.

Gaius stared at this, and thought about the second letter he had received. To some extent, perhaps, he had had a part to play in the matter of the collars. And, he thought, taking away the name "Magnus" was not such a penalty. Pompeius had over-reached himself in taking that title, particularly if he could not do better at Pharsalus, but whatever right he had, his descendents had lived rather uninteresting lives of little note.

Then, following a visit by Herod Agrippa on some mission from Caesar, Gaius received a summons to visit the Prefect.

"You're in regular touch with the new Princeps ?" he asked in what Gaius took as a strangely wheedling tone for a Prefect.

"Unfortunately, not very often," Gaius replied.

"I know you send and receive messages to Rome and. ."

"I'm also in contact with Claudius, who tells me some of what's going on in the imperial family," Gaius replied cautiously.

"Ah!" Flaccus nodded. It made a lot of sense to use such a contact. "So, what does Gaius Caesar want?"

"The pax Romana ," Gaius shrugged.

"Of course he does," Flaccus snorted. "That's why there're legions everywhere. To make sure peace is enforced. Surely he has some interest, though, something that history will remember him for?"

"I'm not sure. ."

"Listen boy, you're in my territory so stop pissing me off!"

"The only thing I've heard," Gaius replied cautiously, "is religion."

"Religion?" Flaccus scowled. "He's not going to be a priest?"

"No," Gaius said in a careful tone. He had to say something, but that something could well be reported to Rome. "From what I understand, and you realize that I haven't heard this directly and. ."

"I'm not going to quote you!" Flaccus snarled. "I want to know how the land lies."

"Well, as I understand it," Gaius continued, "Gaius Caesar does not believe in Gods."

"He's hardly alone in that," Flaccus snorted.

"Exactly," Gaius continued, "but I think he wants everybody else to share his views."

"That makes sense," Flaccus nodded. "If even half the wealth that goes into temples and priests went to the imperial coffers, Caesar would have all the money he needs to embark on whatever scheme he has in mind."

"That would seem to be so," Gaius agreed. He was stunned. Although this had not occurred to him, put like that it was obvious. Caesar was short of money, and throughout the Roman Empire, huge fortunes were being sunk into temples, priests, and their various estates. Now if there were no God, this money was simply a waste of productive capacity. Much better to capture it and put it to better use, although whether games and other spectacles to make the population love Caesar was a better use was questionable. Not that he should do any questioning.

"So Caesar wants gold from the temples, does he?" Flaccus mused. He suddenly stopped, noticed Gaius, and snorted, "That's enough. You can go now."

As Gaius left, a further thought occurred to him. Flaccus had immediately understood a devious means of extracting money. Trust a scumbag to instantly recognize scum! The question was, where did that leave him?

Chapter 25

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Gaius had commissioned the making of a bigger copy of the steam turbine. Timothy had found a master craftsman who could make the object, or so he said, and when Gaius had turned up the craftsman had asked for a thousand sesterces. Much to the craftsman's surprise, Gaius had agreed without haggling.

"Mind you," Gaius added, "since I'm sure you didn't expect to get that price, I'll add in an extra. Do a good job and I'll commission something else. Botch it up, and I'll have a thousand sesterces worth of your hide. You understand?"

"You'll get it," the craftsman said. He understood the threat, but equally a thousand sesterces was far more than he had hoped for and he was a good craftsman.

Gaius left Timothy to sort out details, to haggle over sizes, and to refuse any opportunity for subsequent excuses. There was so much to do, so many things that could go wrong with this machine. He was so deep in thought that he gave little attention to where he was going, and he shortly found himself walking back to his villa on a path that took him through the Jewish quarter. Because of their bewildering rules about when they could do what and their persistent claims that the rest of the population were unclean heathens, the Jews were unpopular, nevertheless passing through their area was one of the safer routes home. Their religion forbade theft, and it forbade killing strangers. However, the Jews were not passive victims; their laws were equally strong about others preying on them, and since any non-Jew passing through this area was readily identifiable, thieves tended to give this region a miss. Gaius was only too fully aware that his presence was noted, but since he had passed many times and had done no harm, his presence was tolerated.

Accordingly he was surprised as he approached a small temple to hear a loud ruckus. When he turned the corner he saw a mob dragging some effigy towards the temple. The Jews were yelling and screaming in some strange tongue.

"Desecrator!" someone yelled, and Gaius turned to see the accuser pointing at him. The man threw a piece of fruit at him. His aim was poor. Rather than hitting Gaius, he struck an elderly Jewish man standing behind him who was wearing a strange hat.

Gaius turned to help the older man, who had fallen backwards. To his surprise, the crowd stood quite still, as if the striking of the older man was unforgivable. As he helped the man to his feet, and returned his hat to him, Gaius was struck by the silence around him. The elderly man turned on the thrower and hurled verbal abuse; the man stood still, ashamed. Gaius slowly began to realize that everybody was ignoring him.

"Look," Gaius said as he finally managed to get the older man to look in his direction, "I have no idea what is going on, but. ."

"Quite simply," the older man said, "that mob is desecrating our temple."

"Then get some soldiers!"

"Why?" the man asked impassively.

"Because they are there to keep the peace and uphold the law."

"You know who organizes these mobs?" the older man asked impassively.

"Who?"

"Flaccus!"

"I don't believe you!"

"You are young," the older man nodded, "and you don't know." He turned and addressed the Jews again in this strange tongue. "Nobody will harm you," the older man said, "but I would still stay away. Romans are not welcome."

"But why are you so sure that. ."

"Romans conquer, Romans despoil," the older man said simply.

"That's simply not true," Gaius said. The noise increased, and Gaius turned to see that the mob had now broken the doors of the temple, and were beginning to force their way in. "I'll get help," he assured the older man, then he turned and ran towards the nearest military outpost.

* * *

"And who the hell do you think you are?" the Centurion asked, in the tone of someone who would beat the hell out of this upstart if he did not have a good reason for being there.

"Claudius," Gaius replied haughtily then he added, "I am in Alexandria under the orders of the Princeps  Tiberius, confirmed by Gaius Caesar."

"I see," the Centurion backed down. He stared balefully at the young man. This situation had the potential to ruin him. This young man wanted something done and whatever happened next could easily get back to Little Boots, who, according to rumours, did not wish to be bothered. Everybody had to do the right thing as defined by Little Boots, and what was right could vary almost randomly. These little senatorial shits never suffered, though. It was the likes of him whose career would be ruined.

"There are mobs rampaging through the Jewish quarter," Gaius said.

"I know," the Centurion said in a flat tone. There was an embarrassed pause, then the Centurion said, "Flaccus does not require military intervention."

"What?" Gaius gasped. The old Jew had been right?

"The Prefect believes that the Greeks wish to show their loyalty to Caesar. The Prefect's view is that the Jewish religion is simply wrong," the Centurion continued with a shrug, "so he is placing other images in the temples. If the Jews won't worship these images, then they'll see that. ."

"That's ridiculous," Gaius objected. "Even if they're wrong, that's hardly likely to convince them."

"Perhaps," the Centurion said, "but I have my orders. My men stay in barracks."

"I see," Gaius nodded. Then, to the Centurion's surprise, this young man thanked him, then he left without requesting anything.

From Gaius' perspective, this was terrible, and what was worse, what he had said to Flaccus might be the cause. As realized by the great Augustus, the Roman Empire worked because everybody within its borders benefited. If Gaius Caesar did not intend to uphold this policy, then the very fabric of the Empire could fall apart, in which case, Rome itself could very well fall. The prophecy!

* * *

The situation degenerated. The Jews threw the images from their temples, and nominally to recover costs for more images, mobs began looting Jewish warehouses and ransacking Jewish houses. Four hundred Jewish houses were burnt to the ground.

"And I'll bet the looters are keeping the loot," Timothy taunted.

"I know," Gaius sighed.

"And nobody's doing anything about it," Timothy said. "Your empire's too big and too corrupt."

"Governors deal with the size, and the Princeps  trusts them to uphold the law."

"Yes, but what happens when a governor is the source of the problem?" Timothy interrupted.

"Then someone has to inform the Princeps ," Gaius said, then added in a bleak tone, "and it looks as if that someone's going to have to be me."

"Hold it! This could be dangerous. Do you know what you're doing?"

"I have a very good idea," Gaius said. "My problem is, if I don't get in first and this turns ugly, Flaccus may blame me. Anyway, what's the downside? Flaccus won't recommend me to Caesar?" Gaius stopped, thought, then added in a droll tone, "In that case, I might as well keep up the family tradition."

"Which is?" Timothy asked in surprise.

"My branch of the Claudian gens  has this habit of taking up so-called just causes," Gaius said sadly, then he added, "We usually end up in deep shit!"

* * *

Gaius strode purposefully into the Jewish area. Yes, he might be on the wrong side of a dangerous issue, but there was a principle at stake. Added to that, there was the issue of what Little Boots would conclude. Little Boots claimed to have principles, and if so, perhaps his only way out of this mess was to show he did, too. And if Little Boots was a random tyrant, then he was always in trouble. As he approached the temple, he saw his older man with the strange hat, who Gaius now recognized to be a priest, conversing with an equally older man.

"You're brave coming back here," the priest said. The other man simply looked at Gaius without expression, yet his eyes bore into him.

"You're right. The Governor is behind this."

"And you came here to tell me that?" the priest asked curiously.

"Of course not. I came here to tell you that I deplore this looting of Jewish property."

"So do we," came the dry reply.

"Yes," Gaius continued, "but maybe I can do something to help."

"And what would that be?"

"My family owns a number of warehouses," Gaius said. "As from noon, those near the waterfront will be identified by our Claudian emblem. Any Jew who wishes to store belongings in them will be welcome to do so, and I invite you to find Jews to act as record keepers, to ensure that everything is properly accounted for."

The older Jew gave him a most penetrating stare, then asked, "Why are you doing this?"

"I'm certain theft is not the Princeps ' policy. I shall try to get Flaccus overruled."

"Good luck to you," the priest smiled a challenge of disbelief.

"I can't guarantee to succeed," Gaius nodded, "but I doubt Flaccus will loot a Claudian warehouse, because that would be a direct challenge to the Princeps' gens . Accordingly, my offer remains."

The priest stared at Gaius for a moment, then he shrugged. "If you're lying," he said, "this is merely a ruse to get the valuables into one place."

Gaius shook his head sadly. "I hadn't thought of that," he admitted. "Look, I guess it's a matter of trust. If anyone wishes to trust me, the offer remains open."

The priest gave Gaius a very penetrating stare, then seemed to come to a decision. "I'll pass the offer on," he said with a nod. He then turned and began to walk away, but the other Jew did not.

"You're frequently at the Great Library," the other Jew said.

"I am," Gaius said, then, on deciding that there was interest rather than a challenge, he added, "If I need an answer to a question, that is the best place I know to get started."

"It is, indeed." The old man paused, as if trying to decide something.

"You don't think a Roman should go there, or for that matter, be here?" Gaius gave a slightly challenging smile.

"On the contrary, all men are brothers, and as Diogenes put it, I am a citizen of the world, and so are you."

"Hah! A philosopher!" Gaius smiled.

"I have been called that," the man smiled. "My name is Philo, and I too seek answers, although maybe of a different nature."

"Gaius Claudius Scaevola, but if you intend to be friendly, just Gaius. Of course, I can imagine that you might not wish to be seen as too friendly with a Roman."

"Why would I not wish to be seen with a fellow human, and also, one who has helped those who are weaker?"

"I would have thought that with these riots, Romans might not be popular with the Jews, and your friends might shun you."

"They cannot hurt me," Philo smiled. "Virtue is sufficient for happiness, and if they think ill of me, it is simply through their ignorance of what is good."

"Yes, but some hold Romans to blame for these riots, and to be fair, I believe Flaccus is the cause."

"But you are not. Besides this offer of help, I gather you recently saved a slave from a beating, and beat the owner?"

"And the Romans here seem to shun me for that," Gaius shrugged, then added quickly, "Not that I am worried in the slightest about that."

"Then at least you share some of my philosophy," Philo smiled. "Perhaps you would like to talk about philosophy some time?"

"Next time you see me at the library," Gaius smiled.

* * *

A small procession of Jews turned up to one of Gaius' warehouses. The carefully wrapped parcels and boxes were handed to one of four Jews who identified the owners by placing strange writing on the items, which were then stored. Proceedings had been going on for less than an hour when the sounds of a mob were heard.

When the first of the mob came around the corner, Gaius gave the signal. About thirty volunteers from the local legion, encouraged to volunteer by a couple of denarii each, stepped forward, locked shields, and drew their gladii. Gaius stepped forwards.

"This property," he said flatly, "belongs to the Claudians, and these soldiers will protect it. Attack the soldiers and you mutiny against Rome." He paused, then continued, "Last time something like this happened, Gaius Caesar upheld my recommendation to crucify all participants." He stared impassively at the crowd. "Go home," he ordered, "or sooner or later you will be crucified."

The mob stared at Gaius. A young man with no position! Except that he came from an important family. Kill him, and you had better be right. If he were right, the power of Rome would be felt, and they knew it. Through Tiberius, the Claudians ran Rome. With Gaius Caesar, who knew, but he was, more or less, the same family. Nobody knew what Gaius Caesar stood for, but if Flaccus was obeying Caesar's orders, what was this young man doing? And if Flaccus was not obeying Caesar's orders, mass crucifixions could well be ordered.

"Ask yourself," Gaius said evenly, as if reading their minds, "if Caesar wanted to persecute Jews, he would not ask you to do it. He would send in his legions."

A murmur grew within the crowd. That point was correct. Even though everyone knew Flaccus was behind these anti-Jewish riots, if Caesar had ordered them, the legions would be doing more than nothing, and these soldiers would not be where they were. Gradually the crowd lost their enthusiasm, and after a few moments of indecision, some began to peel away from the rear. Before long the crowd had dissipated.

* * *

"If you don't mind my saying so," Timothy said later, "what you did will piss off Flaccus, and secondly, when Gaius Caesar hears you've been invoking his name. ."

"You're correct on that last one," Gaius nodded. "I must send a further message to the Princeps ."

"Is that wise?" Timothy asked. "Are you sure Caesar will be worried about a Prefect who wants his subjects to worship Caesar? From what I've heard of his arrogance. ."

"We'll leave that bit out," Gaius nodded. "I'll tell him that Flaccus is hiding behind Caesar's name to pillage valuables and extort Roman subjects for his personal gain."

"Yes, that might do some good," Timothy nodded.

"Imagine what Caesar will think when I point out that Flaccus is not returning all the money to the Roman coffers."

"Flaccus will deny that," Timothy warned.

"Perhaps, but I'll include a list of what the Jews allege they've lost. It'll probably be inflated, and I doubt Flaccus will have sent much to Rome."

"So you're appealing to Caesar's greed? So much for Roman virtue!"

"In my view," Gaius replied, "Gaius Caesar will act for four reasons. The first one is because there're riots, and it's right to do so. The thought of Flaccus stealing money won't help, he has no love for the man who prosecuted his mother, and finally. ."

"Finally?"

"Flaccus' hiding behind Caesar's name will really piss him off in a big way, and when Little Boots is annoyed, he's a bit like a spoilt child squashing roaches."

"That's an encouraging assessment," Timothy said doubtfully.

"There's no doubt that Little Boots is no Augustus," Gaius shrugged, "but I don't think he's a fool either."

* * *

Gaius was unsure what response to expect from Flaccus. Hiring soldiers to protect his warehouses from rioters would hardly warrant criticism, but hiring soldiers to prevent Flaccus' orders being carried out should. Gaius was gambling that Flaccus would have to prosecute Gaius in Rome, and there Flaccus might have problems explaining why he was permitting riots to occur in the first place. In the event, Flaccus ignored him, and directed his actions at the Jews. Thirty-eight members of the Jewish Senate were publicly scourged, then Flaccus ordered a number of Jewesses from well-known families to eat pork in public after which the Jews were to remain in their ghetto. They did, and apart from the occasional Jew-baiting and looting, the Jewish sector of Alexandria became strangely quiet.

Gaius met Philo more than once, but since Philo seemed to be more interested in religion than anything else, Gaius found the conversations to be little better than an entertainment until at one point, Philo mentioned that God had no resemblance to people, and the concept of a God that looked like a person was simply the highest form of hubris. He had only finished saying this, when he realized that perhaps this was the wrong thing to say to a Roman.

"It's all right," Gaius smiled. "I have always considered that the Gods that looked like people were simply figments of people's imagination." It was then that he gave an inwards start. He had just denied Athene! The prophecy!

"You suddenly fear divine retribution?" Philo asked, having noticed the start.

"No," Gaius said slowly. "I just. ."

"Tell me. Maybe I can help."

"Some time ago, I foresaw that I would deny a Goddess," Gaius replied, not entirely truthfully. "It seems to have happened."

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"I don't think you're quite telling me the truth," Philo remarked, "but do not worry. Perhaps God has given you an insight of your future."

"Perhaps," Gaius said. "Tell me then," he said, determined to change the subject, "what do you think a God is if not looking like us?"

"There is only one God," Philo replied, "but He is not a person, or even anything like a person. God is the universe itself, and its very soul." He smiled at the baffled look on Gaius' face, and added, "Your purpose in life should be the pursuit of virtue." As Philo began to explain the hierarchy of virtues, Gaius' mind wandered. Philo might think that God was the Universe, but Athene was definitely a woman. The question was, if she were not a Goddess, what was she?

* * *

The small engine was made, and Gaius fired it up. He placed it on a high stone table, and fitted a string to the axle of the wheel turned by the steam. He knew he had to be careful, and he made sure he had a brick wall between himself and the machine once the fire got going.

To his delight, the wheel turned, and it could lift a small object, although with a heavier object the steam just bypassed the paddles. Gaius increased the amount of fire and placed an additional weight on the relief valve. The machine would now pick up a heavier load before failing, although the gain was not especially impressive. However, he found that with lower gearing, the weight lifted was significantly greater. The device only worked properly when the paddle was going rapidly.

The next problem was to fix a pipe to the boiler, so it would turn the wheel a small distance from the boiler. To his surprise, the craftsman did not find that difficult. He did something like soldering, except that he used something like bronze, and higher temperatures. He also joined two pipes together, using a method he called sweating. One pipe was heated furiously, then it was forced over the top of the other, and when they were cold, the joint seemed quite tight.

Suddenly Gaius felt encouraged. Yes, there were several problems to solve, but a start had been made. This was possible!

It was shortly after this that he met Philo for the last time. Philo said he was planning a visit to Rome, to plead with Caesar, and he asked for any advice he could get. Gaius gave him Claudius' name, and said he would write a letter of introduction. When he arrived, he should request to see Claudius' secretary, and if Claudius agreed to Gaius' letter, Claudius would arrange the meeting. Philo seemed quite grateful for the introduction.

Chapter 26

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At last! A message from the Princeps . While Gaius hoped for a military appointment and feared retribution for his involvement with the Jewish issue, instead, the letter contained orders that were neither specific nor clear as to all the desired outcomes and could end his career if he miss-guessed. Still, he had lit the fuse, and there was no alternative but to follow through. He stared at Centurion Bassus from the Praetorian Guard, and asked, "You know what this contains?"

"Yes, sir."

Sir? He addresses me as a superior?

"The message says, execute these orders immediately. Is there any reason not to do so now?"

"No sir."

"Then we shall commence when you have adequate troops ready."

The Centurion nodded with approval. These senatorial upstarts had two problems. The first was an inability to get off their arses. The second was to rush into something without adequate thought. Maybe the thinking here had been a little short, but the gladii of a dozen well-trained soldiers would make up for most difficulties.

* * *

Gaius pushed aside the two servants, pushed open the door to the triclinium  and stormed in. Flaccus was stuffing chicken into his mouth with one hand and fondling a woman's breasts with the other. He dropped the chicken.

"What the. ." he yelled, then gathering his wits, he yelled, "Guards!" He stared evilly at Gaius and then added, "You piss-head! You'll pay for this."

Gaius ignored him and produced his message, which he held up and began reading: "By the order of the Senate of the People of Rome, and of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, Princeps , you, Gaius Claudius Scaevola will detain Aulus Avillius Flaccus, previously Governor of Egypt, escort the said Flaccus to the ship provided so that the said Flaccus may be returned to Rome, then account and return all confiscated property. These orders are to be carried out immediately. G."

"What?" Flaccus' face began in arrogance, turned to disbelief, then fear swept across it.

"I am ordered to execute the orders immediately," Gaius shrugged. "I suggest, Governor, that you should leave with dignity, but if necessary, you will be dragged. Please don't call for help. That would be inciting mutiny, which would cause unnecessary suffering for your servants."

"So, you little shit! I'll. ."

"I presume you are not implying a lack of wisdom and integrity on the part of the Princeps ?" Gaius shrugged.

Flaccus did not reply. Instead he suggested, "Couldn't you give me a day? I'll give you gold."

"There was a large golden Jewish chalice in the Temple," Gaius said slowly and softly. "About this big."

"It's yours!"

"Which implies you've got it," Gaius said coldly. "Case proved. On your feet!"

"Why you. ." Flaccus turned to grab something, presumably a weapon.

Gaius leaped across the space and thrust his gladius so that its point stopped just before Flaccus' neck. Flaccus stared at it, his right hand now holding a dagger. Then suddenly all resistance faded. He dropped the dagger. In the doorway the Centurion could hardly stifle a grin of surprise.

The woman stared at Gaius fearfully, while she held a sheet over her clearly naked body.

"Up!" Gaius said to Flaccus. "Place the dagger on the table."

Flaccus did, dragging the sheet with him. The woman tried to hide her nakedness, fearful that it would lead to rape.

"Put on a cloak and march towards the door," Gaius ordered Flaccus. He turned towards the woman. "Don't worry. Just stay put. When we're gone, eat what you like, then leave, but don't steal anything. You will be checked when you leave." He turned back to Flaccus, and said quietly, "Give me your word you will obey, and we can march to the harbour with the dignity a Roman of your status deserves."

"I shall not try to escape," Flaccus promised.

"Then let us get going," Gaius said, as he sheathed his gladius. "I shall be right behind you, in accord with your station."

In the event, Flaccus gave no trouble. He was unarmed, Gaius was younger and fitter, and there was the Praetorian escort. Superficially, it looked as if he was leaving, and had an escort for his personal protection. He and the escort boarded the boat, which would sail when Gaius' account of the confiscated property was prepared.

The next morning, Gaius ordered staff to go through Flaccus' possessions, and all properties owned by Flaccus. Records of who had contacted mob leaders were obtained, and through the Centurion, soldiers from the local legions were dispatched to search their properties. In the ordinary course of events there may have been little enthusiasm for following these orders, but with direct orders from the Princeps , and with a Praetorian Centurion overseeing proceedings, the orders were followed promptly.

A huge collection of Jewish property was assembled.

Gaius then visited the Temple and addressed the priests. He told them of the recovered goods, and asked their assistance to ensure that belongings were returned to their rightful owners. The priests promised that all would be reminded of the consequences of false claims, and that they would record what went where. Thousands of Jews reported to the warehouses to receive their property. Some never found their treasures, but many others thanked Gaius profusely.

It was at the end, when Gaius was supervising the cleaning up of his largest warehouse, that the older priest approached him.

"You have my thanks," he said. "Most in your position would have kept some of the gold for himself."

"I'm not a thief," Gaius smiled.

"You're better than that," the priest nodded. "You could have turned your back and ignored our plight. You are a man of honour. Can we thank you?"

"If any of your people wanted to purchase Roman made wine," Gaius added, "my family has vineyards nearby."

The priest nodded, and said, "I shall mention that. In the meantime, I have something else for you." He handed Gaius a sheet with strange writing on it.

"What's this?" Gaius asked curiously.

"It says, you are an honourable man," the priest said. "If you are ever in Jewish territory and you need help, show this to a Jew who can read."

"Thank you very much," Gaius nodded appreciatively. "I value that."

It was later that day that Gaius received a second message, this time from the Centurion.

"I was ordered to give you this if certain outcomes were reached," Bassus smiled.

Gaius opened the message bearing the seal of the Princeps  and his heart soared.

"Gaius Claudius Scaevola, for acting for Rome and declining personal benefit, by the orders of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, Princeps , and of the Senate of the People of Rome, you are to proceed to Damascus and report to Lucius Vitellius, Governor of Syria, to be placed in Legio XII, Fulminata , as Tribunus Laticlavius ."

"You are pleased, sir?" the Centurion asked.

"It's everything I wanted!" Gaius almost yelled with pride. Then he looked at the Centurion and asked, "You know what this is?"

"Yes, sir." the Centurion nodded. "I have orders too, to arrange an escort for your journey."

"Then we'd better get ourselves organized, hadn't we?"

"Yes sir," the Centurion replied. He was ready to march now, the troops that he would order to march would be ready as soon as supplies were arranged, or else, but the Tribune could set out exactly when he wanted to. It was good that he wanted to set out quickly.

Gaius was puzzled, for this was the outcome predicted by Athene, including the matter of the chalice, which up until now he had forgotten. How did she know this would happen? Was she really a Goddess? Perhaps he should use logic. Assume she knew this would happen, either she could predict the future, or. . Or what? If she could predict the future, then the future had to be set, but if the future was set, why did she need him? Why the prophecy, for if the future was set, it would happen, prophecy or no prophecy? Yet he was convinced Athene needed him; she had seemed desperate. But if the future was not set, how could she predict it? Perhaps she was not a goddess and it was the 'or what?' that was critical. But what was she, and what was the 'or what?'

Chapter 27

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Damascus, embedded deeply within such ancient and battle-scarred lands, claimed to be a centre of stable civilization. It was certainly a centre of power, because it was also the headquarters of legions from the most powerful empire in the world. Damascus also claimed to be the oldest city in the world. It may well have been, and it could certainly lay a claim to being the most conquered city in the world. Very few powers had not conquered it, yet it continued on, immune to conquerors, of which Rome was the latest. Rome was going to make a difference, or so Rome thought, and with commendable energy, massive rebuilding was going on. But it made no difference to the essence of Damascus.

A different, and perhaps better description, Gaius thought, was that Damascus was a flea-ridden centre of thuggery, theft, vice, and all that was bad when enough people were brought together in the vicinity of wealth. A thin veneer of civilization covered the richer upper-class areas, in that safety was ensured by the power of the legions, but the upper-class inhabitants, on the whole, appeared to be merely the more successful of the criminals.

Damascus was also a centre for trade, and to some extent this trade was an attraction for the thieves. To the north were the fertile lands, which stretched from Phoenicia across to the headwaters of the Euphrates, and thence down to the ancient lands of Babylon. The west contained the great cedar forests most of the way to the Mediterranean coast, while the land to the east and south-east was harsh desert, apart from the occasional oasis. Damascus was on the eastern side of quite high mountains and their shade meant the rainfall was slight, but the Barada River supplied plentiful water.

Damascus was also a centre for craftsmen. The forests provided plentiful charcoal for smelting ores, and as a consequence of the continual fighting, the production of swords had provided guaranteed incomes from time immemorial. The ores near Damascus seemed to be superior to other sources of iron, hence some of the finest swords in the world came from Damascus. Since the steelworkers were extremely skilled, Gaius realized that some of them might be able to make other items of interest to him. Shortly, he would make their acquaintance.

People had been fighting over these ancient lands for thousands of years. Where water was available, this land permitted truly luscious greenery, while in the north, away from the rivers, rains provided winter greenery. Further to the south, however, the mountains cut out the rain, and a truly harsh desert developed. In between the desert and the northern river regions, a light green was the best that could be managed following the occasional winter rain. Once the effects of the rain had dried out, however, the land varied from having a cover of brown straw to ground with a little dried up thorny vegetation, barely food for a goat. Much of the other ground was barren, rocky, some of it volcanic with ancient cinder cones, in short, in the absence of water, it was valueless. Perhaps that was why they had been fighting; possession of the water gave one power over vast tracts of terrain. That power enabled the wielders to draw the very life-blood from those who actually produced something. Riches came from ownership of land, from taking from others, with the peasants as resource of frequent resort.

It was only many years later that Gaius realized that Rome operated on a similar principle, for Rome imported huge amounts and exported significantly less. In Rome's eyes, Rome sold law and order, and civilization. In this region, Rome might just have to earn its tributes.

From what he had heard, the region remained unstable, particularly in the south. The Jewish tetrarch, Herod Antipas had finally arranged a peace treaty of sorts with the Parthians, but thanks to his earlier divorce, the Nabateans were making threatening noises towards the Jews, while the Jews themselves were divided. In particular, a group of religious fanatics called the Zealots were seemingly always making noises that could be interpreted as the seeds of revolt. All of which spelt trouble! Still, Gaius thought to himself, fighting was a good means of launching a military career, as long as one was successful. An ominous chill ran down his back as he recalled that fighting in this part of the world was also a good way of terminating a military career, as Marcus Licinius Crassus had discovered.

"So," Vitellius stared at him, when he reported. "A friend of the Princeps , eh?"

"I think that may be an exaggeration, sir," Gaius said quietly.

"He informed me that you were the first to recognize him as Princeps ," Vitellius said, his face completely devoid of expression. From his point of view, a friend of the Princeps  could be anything. An experienced sycophant was the last thing a Legion needed. His problem was that the Claudians were the most dangerous family in Rome. This was one of those many situations where even a Governor did not want to come out on the wrong side.

"I may have had that honour, but I was merely repeating Tiberius' comments."

"Which, Caesar informed me, really meant anything but how you interpreted them."

"Then I'm pleased to have been so lucky."

"Well, young Claudius, you can't be too lucky in this part of the world." He paused, then when Gaius did not respond, he asked, "I understand you've had some teaching in tactics, strategy, and so on?"

"Yes, Governor."

"So you think you're a gift from the Gods to the legions?"

"I doubt that," Gaius muttered.

"So do I," Vitellius sighed. He paused, then added, almost as an afterthought, "Tell me, have you met your Legate?"

"Actually, no," Gaius admitted.

"And why not? Isn't that the first thing you should have done?"

"I tried to," Gaius replied, now somewhat embarrassed.

"I tried to. ." Vitellius taunted. "You want to conquer the world, no doubt, and you can't find your own commander in your own camp?"

Gaius stiffened under the rebuke. His career might be over before it started, but he would defend his ability. "I reported to his tent several times," he said firmly, staring Vitellius in the eye, "but I was refused admission by the guards. The guards had orders from a superior of mine, so they had to stand. I tried to meet him when he made his rounds this morning, but somehow I missed him, and I tried to intercept him last night when he went into the city, but. well, he. ."

"He evaded you. Do you know why you missed his morning inspection?"

"I presume he had altered his route and I was in the wrong place."

"There was no right place," Vitellius spat. "From what I gather, he was drunk in his cot. So, what do you think about that?"

"It is not my place to comment on a superior," Gaius said stiffly.

"It's your place to follow the direct order of the highest superior." Vitellius said, his expressionless eyes seemingly boring into Gaius' very soul.

"Then," Gaius said, again very formally, "it appears you may have a problem also."

"You think so, do you," Vitellius nodded. "That man, if he could be so called, is a descendent of the great Scipio Africanus. He's nothing but a blot on that great house." He paused, thought for a moment, then began to smile as he made a dramatic change of subject. "Now, what do you think about religion?" His eyes again stared into the young Tribune.

"Well. I. ."

"Typical Roman response!" Vitellius grinned widely. "You don't believe, but you don't want to say so in case you're wrong!"

"There is a bit to that," Gaius admitted, now wondering where this was taking him.

"More'n a bit," Vitellius snorted. "It's a fair enough attitude, but not one that's widely held in this part of the world."

"I don't quite see what you're saying, sir?"

"Don't worry, young Claudius," Vitellius continued to grin at Gaius' discomfort. "I'm not sending you on temple duties." He paused, then leaned forward and said, "Now listen. If you take nothing else on board from me, remember this. You're in a hotbed of religious fervour. Religion's the only thing that matters here. You could raze their crops, kill their animals, rape their women, burn down their houses, and they'd stare sullenly at you, but scoff at their temple or their priests, and you will start a revolt. And, young Claudius, I really don't need a revolt. Do you understand?"

"Yes, and no."

"Well, which is it?" Vitellius growled.

"I understand the need to avoid a revolt," Gaius replied evenly, "but I don't understand why a religious slight is worse than getting your house burned down."

"Nobody understands their religious fervour!" Vitellius laughed. "And, I'll be honest with you, nobody really knows how to avoid insulting the Jews. They take offence at the strangest things." He paused, then asked, with a face totally devoid of expression, "Tell me, what do you know about Cristus ?"

"Nothing, sir," Gaius admitted. "Who or what is or was Cristus ?" He was becoming a little worried. Everything he said seemed to count against him, but there was no point in lying.

"He was a religious teacher," Vitellius shrugged. "He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, proclaiming himself king of the Jews."

"A donkey?" Gaius asked in disbelief, then after a few moments had passed in which nothing happened, he realized he should be showing more interest in the military aspects of this problem, so he asked, "How many troops?"

"In the sense you mean, none," Vitellius smiled. "There were no arms anywhere, and from what I can figure out, he was preaching peace on Earth."

"I suppose that's not the worst he could do," Gaius said with a puzzled expression. Where was this going?

"It wasn't," Vitellius grinned even wider at the obvious discomfort on the young face before him. "He told the Jews they should pay Caesar's taxes."

"I don't quite see why that's a problem."

"The priests accused him of treason, for claiming to be the Jewish Messiah, the son of God who would save the Jews."

"That's a bit more seditious," Gaius nodded. "I assume he didn't make much headway." He paused again, then as he realized there was another question he should have asked, he continued, "What was the evidence?"

"You miss the point," Vitellius replied. "There's been something like a hundred claimants to be Messiah, and they usually end up dead because apparently if you want to fulfil the prophecy about the Messiah, you have to be killed."

"Unattractive prophecy," Gaius remarked. "If you have to be killed to fit the part, why so many takers?"

"Answer that and you're starting to come to grips with this part of the world."

"So, this Cristus . What happened to him?"

"He was accused of sedition, and taken before the Prefect Pilate. Tell me, what do you know of Prefects?"

"Not a lot," Gaius said. Now was not the time to report his experience with Flaccus.

"How long do you think a Prefect holds his position?"

"Usually, eighteen months to four years," Gaius replied. He was pleased to be able to show that he knew something. It was then that he remembered Flaccus, and he started wondering whether Vitellius was going to embarrass him.

"Guess how long Pilate held his?" Vitellius asked with a penetrating stare.

"Six months?" Gaius hazarded.

"Try ten years." Vitellius smiled at his newest charge's clear discomfort, so he added, "In this part of the world, such appointments are filled by people who tend to be forgotten by Rome. In this case, you can reasonably assume that Tiberius really didn't care."

"How could you say that?" Gaius said, then clearly wished he had not.

"Tiberius appointed Senator Lamia as Governor of Syria," he shrugged, "and then he ordered the Governor to stay in Rome. Accordingly for quite some time, Syria didn't even have a Governor."

"But surely someone was in charge?"

"Oh yes," Vitellius nodded. "If it cheers you up any, even if someone is grossly negligent in his duties, even to the extent of not turning up, someone steps into the breach and the Roman Empire still works. Doesn't that make you feel good?"

"I'm not sure I follow." Where was this going?

"You have already noted your Legate might as well be somewhere else," Vitellius said. "If you show any signs of life, you'll step up and take as much responsibility as you can."

"I'll do my. ."

"Yes, I thought you might be eager. Beginners always are! The question is, can you do what is required?" He paused, and his eyes bored into Gaius. Gaius stood his ground, and said nothing. Vitellius nodded, and continued, "For that we shall have to see. Anyway, back to this Pilate. Let's see what you make of this. When Pilate arrived in Judea, he landed in Caesarea. He went to Jerusalem, ordered two newly arrived cohorts to come to Jerusalem for the winter, then he went back to Caesarea. What do you make of this so far?"

"He should have at least met the Jewish king, um, isn't it Herod?"

"Yes, he should, and in fact he did. I forgot to mention that. He did that immediately, then he went to Caesarea," Vitellius nodded.

Gaius thought for a moment. It almost seemed that what Pilate did was not the issue, because Vitellius had not bothered to let him know the correct things he had done. It must be something else. He should not have left, but why not? His knowledge of the region was not good, but he knew there had not been a major uprising. It was then that he had an inspiration. It was what Vitellius had said.

"I think Pilate should have stayed in Jerusalem until his troops had arrived," he said at last.

"Why?" Vitellius asked tartly. But Gaius had seen his eyes flicker, and he knew he was on the right track.

"So that he could make clear to his troops not to carry out some sort of religious insult, and better still, consult with the priests and find out what comprised a religious insult."

"Ha! You've been listening! You pass the first test. You shall be rewarded, although whether you think what I'm going to give you is a reward is another matter. Guess what happened?"

"There was a religious insult."

"Hmmph!" Vitellius grunted, then after a short pause he shook his head slightly and continued, "I suppose you could hardly be expected to guess. This shows what it's like in this part of the world. The cohorts marched into Jerusalem, as usual bearing their standards, and they stopped somewhere near this wretched temple the Jews seem to get so excited about. Their religion forbids 'graven images' of other Gods, and these standards were considered images. There was nearly a riot, and it took six days before Pilate ordered them removed. Why do you think it took so long?"

"Three days to Caesarea, three days back," Gaius said confidently.

"Correct," Vitellius nodded. Although Gaius could not know this, for Vitellius' face gave no clue, he was rather pleased. This young man might be green, and who was not when they started their career, but he was alert, he could accept subtle clues, in short, he might be useful. His nightmare had been that in addition to a drunken Legate he would have to put up with an ostentatious Claudian bungler. "So, because of this perceived religious slight, we nearly had an open revolt. I hope you're taking this on board, because I really do not wish to have a revolt on my hands caused by your incompetence."

"No sir," Gaius agreed. There was little else he could say.

"On the other hand, I do not wish you to be petrified by inaction," Vitellius continued. "Here's one for you. King Herod, a Jewish king, you note, ordered the building of an aqueduct to bring water to Jerusalem, and he and the priests authorized the use of sacred money known as the Qorban  to build it. Pilate helped organize things, and eventually as progress continued, the Jews encircled his headquarters and almost revolted."

"I'm not sure I follow," Gaius said, after Vitellius had clearly stopped to invite a comment. "I can't see what Pilate did wrong."

"I can't either," Vitellius shrugged. "It seems that his advisor, the senior priest called Caiaphas, had had his nose put out of joint for something. Anyway, it was probably more out of joint a little later. Pilate had a cohort of soldiers dressed as Jews, and they suddenly started laying into the real Jews with clubs. They killed a number, broke a lot of bones, and generally put down the riot quite brutally. What do you think of that?"

Gaius thought for a moment, and then said, "Pilate knew this riot was coming fairly well in advance, otherwise the troops wouldn't have been able to have the disguises available in time, without everybody knowing how they got them."

Now Vitellius was surprised. He had raised the question more as one of morality and ethics, and he had always accepted the account at face value. It had never occurred to him that there might have been an undercurrent.

"Quite so," Vitellius nodded. "So, back to this Cristus . Caiaphas now brings this Galilean before Pilate and accuses this Cristus  of wanting to be King of the Jews. You can assume Caiaphas would have corrupted Pilate and there was an angry crowd outside."

"Surely something could be done about that. ."

"Added to which," Vitellius interrupted, "he has access to one cohort of auxiliaries close by, and can call on another, and maybe some cavalry, within a month. What should Pilate have done?"

"Presumably he could call on legionary help?"

"To try a Jew for crimes the local religious leaders had already found him guilty of?"

"To enforce Roman law," Gaius corrected.

"In which case evidence of his corruption would have been made public. In any case, Tiberius was hardly likely to be interested in one Jew with a religious bent."

"He might have been interested in getting his taxes paid," Gaius countered.

"There was never a question of their not being paid," Vitellius smiled at the fact that the young m


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an had finally answered back. "Fighting that would bring in a legion."

"So the local religious leaders have found this Cristus  guilty of. . what?"

"Sedition, or more likely, guilty of not directing his attention towards getting rid of the Roman occupation."

"Which is hardly a crime," Gaius muttered, "but I presume finding him not guilty was not an option for our Pilate."

"Of course it was an option," Vitellius snorted. "It might have started another riot, but he had put down riots before."

"But this might have been a bigger one?"

"Would you back down before such a threat?"

"I'd have told this Caiaphas that accusing an innocent person of sedition was sedition," Gaius replied coldly. "Someone was going to be crucified if he proceeded, and offer him the opportunity to back out."

"That'd get a riot going," Vitellius snorted.

"And I'd have to put it down," Gaius replied. "I may have played for time first, to ensure I had enough troops on hand. So what did Pilate do?"

"He apparently decided that since Caiaphas wanted this so badly, he would sacrifice this man for the greater good, at least the greater good of Pilate. There will be little doubt that he made sure Caiaphas acknowledged that this was an important debt. Anyway, to get back to our tale, eventually Pilate got around to finding this Cristus  guilty of claiming to be King of the Jews, hence of wishing to have his own unauthorized kingdom within the Roman empire. There were about a hundred thousand witnesses."

"And they all testified against him," Gaius muttered in disgust.

"So, you're Pilate. You find him guilty. What now?"

"I suppose crucifixion."

"Exactly. Now, ask yourself why the hundred thousand bore witness?"

"Because they're pathetic. ."

"Wrong! Because they knew this Cristus  had no intention whatsoever of leading a revolt against Rome."

"But. ?"

"This Cristus  died because he was gaining enough popularity that he was becoming a leader, he was filling the role of Messiah, and he refused to revolt against Rome."

"I see," Gaius nodded. In fact he did not see at all, but he felt he had to say something.

"I really doubt it," Vitellius shrugged. "I don't. You know what his followers are saying?"

"I doubt I could guess," Gaius shrugged.

"They say he died because he had to, so he could fulfil the prophecy."

"He could have left it until later," Gaius frowned. "It's not as if it wasn't going to happen."

"You can't apply that Roman style of thinking to these people," Vitellius said, as he wagged a finger at his young Tribune. "The key is that he had to die, so he could rise from the dead."

"What??" Gaius gasped.

"You heard," Vitellius said impassively.

"Well," Gaius said in disbelief. "That's really taking prophecy seriously." He paused, then added, "Did he?"

"And what do you think?"

"Nobody survives a good crucifixion," Gaius replied in a flat tone. Here, at last, was something he could state without fear of contradiction.

"Not even the son of God?" Vitellius immediately contradicted him.

"You're not saying. ?"

"His followers are," Vitellius said in a tired fashion. "They say he was seen walking around weeks later."

"And where is he now?" Gaius suddenly realized that this issue might well be resolved with clear evidence.

"He rose to heaven," Vitellius replied evenly, then added, "Oh, and his tomb, following the crucifixion, is empty."

"What tomb?" Gaius frowned. Crucifixion was for extreme criminals, and the bodies were left for the scavengers.

"Pilate seemed to know he was crucifying an innocent person. ."

"How do we know Pilate thought he was innocent?" Gaius interrupted.

"Because if you believed that there was a planned revolt, wouldn't you round up his accomplices?"

"Of course."

"Pilate didn't. Not only did he leave this man's disciples strictly alone, he even let them continue their preaching. He specifically permitted the body of this Cristus  to be given to his mother for burial."

"That's convenient," Gaius remarked.

"Extremely," Vitellius snorted. "The Gods alone know what was rattling around in Pilate's head."

"What do you mean?"

"This Cristus  apparently died on the cross after a matter of hours, and was cut down on the same afternoon and the body was given to his family."

"You mean. ?" This was unbelievable.

"What I mean, young Claudius, is that whatever Pilate thought he was doing, he was ambiguous. This Cristus  did not receive the mallet to the legs, yet he apparently died on the cross in a matter of hours, and in a time in which crucifixion could well be survivable. His body was then given away, and it apparently disappeared into a tomb. Accordingly, the Jewish prophecy was fulfilled, no matter what. So, we have another religious movement gathering steam like nothing you've ever seen."

"Perhaps Pilate was punishing the Jews?" Gaius offered. "By fulfilling one of their prophecies, they can no longer be waiting for it. They have to change religion, and to rub in further insult, the Messiah they have to worship is the one they detest the most."

"Well, that didn't work," a puzzled Vitellius replied. It had never occurred to him that Pilate might have even planned this. "They're still going strong, and another religion's sprouting up."

"Does another one matter?" Gaius asked.

"Maybe, maybe not," Vitellius shrugged, "but it might to you. I've made a decision. This is a direct order which over-rides anything your Legate might give you, in the event he can ever sober up enough to be bothered. You'll take two cohorts, yours and the third, and march down to Judea. Once there, your job is to impress on the locals that Rome and Roman rule still exists, ensure Roman law is imposed, and try not to start a revolt. Your job is to be diplomatic but firm. Can you do it?"

"Yes, Governor."

"You're rather sure of yourself?" Vitellius stared at him.

"There're only two answers," Gaius responded. "Yes, or no. I assume you didn't wish to hear the other option."

"Correct!" Vitellius nodded, as a slight smile crossed his face. "Any questions?"

"Supplies? What am I authorized to. ."

"There'll be another Tribune with you. He's had years of experience in the area. Delegate."

"Suppose something happens," Gaius said. "What are the limits to my options?"

"You have full operational freedom," Vitellius nodded, as if appreciating the good questions. "However, consider the responsibility that goes with that. Use your force, and you'd better be right, and you'd better win. On the other hand, run away from your responsibility, and you'll be back to Rome in no time. Understand?"

"Yes sir!"

"So, young Claudius, you've got to avoid starting revolts through pushing the population around, and avoid encouraging them by showing weakness. Enforce Rome's will, but try not to be a tyrant. And don't forget, you're wet around the ears, and these men are hardened, and they'll all know more than you do. You've got to take advice, get help, yet not lose authority."

"Yes, Governor."

The older man looked at him, then his expression softened a little, as he said, "Young Claudius, we all start somewhere. Everybody who makes it to Governor starts where you are now. Only remember, not everyone who starts where you are makes Governor. Rome will forgive certain mistakes, and if you get into trouble, there's nobody better than the Roman soldier for getting you out of it. All the same, try not to get into trouble, and try to at least look the part you've been given. Now, off with you, and good luck."

He watched the young Tribune leave the room, then he gave a deep sigh. Another young man was starting the road to high office, or disgrace. The young man seemed so confident, as if nothing could go wrong. Well, he would soon find out! Fortunately for him, there was one important fact in his favour. Behind him would be almost fourteen hundred of the hardest men in one of the prime legions of Rome. Almost irrespective of what he did, the Jews would almost invariably back away, or suffer.

Chapter 28

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His fellow Tribune, Lucius Vibius nodded impassively as Gaius outlined the route and the orders. Vibius was of equestrian in rank, which was why he was under Claudius' orders, but he had been a tribune for almost seven years, and he was obviously annoyed to have a novice Claudian as an immediate superior. If Vibius wished to progress, the next step would usually be election to a quaestorship, and it would not please him that as yet he had been overlooked. That he was overlooked had little to do with him; Tiberius had effectively given up administration in the last few years of his imperium, and Gaius Caesar had relied on the people immediately under him. His legate was always drunk, and Governor Vitellius seemed to be hoping the wretched Scipio would show some sort of life. All of which left Vibius exactly stationary, but he believed he was gradually earning the reputation from those who mattered that he lacked the ability to move upwards, and he made little effort to conceal is bitterness. Vibius would do his duty and would obey orders, but he was unlikely to go out of his way to save Gaius from himself. Respect would have to be earned. Vibius would know far more than he did about the region, so effectively the decisions should be Vibius', or the decisions could be worse than uninformed.

The best outcome would be for nothing to go wrong and the best way to achieve that outcome, Gaius thought wryly, would be to become well informed. So on every day, twenty scouts would go ahead to provide a situation report on each stopover before he arrived. Today's scouts had already set off. He had also persuaded Timothy to go two days ahead in case something could be learned only by a non-Roman. Accordingly, on the morning of departure he felt everything he could have done had been done.

When the moment came, he saw Vibius looking in his direction, as if waiting for something to go wrong. The soldiers were standing around, waiting for something to happen, making silly comments here and there. Not quite the auspicious start he had hoped for. He remembered Libo's advice: delegate. He looked towards Vibius, who was talking to the first centurion, and gave the order, "Tribune! Get the men to smarten up and commence the march!"

Vibius' face went a little red and he scowled. The Centurion gave a slight grin, and without waiting for Vibius, turned to the cohort. An order roared through the air, and suddenly the cohort snapped to attention. The men might snigger at a new Tribune while he was not watching, but the First Centurion of the first cohort was a completely different matter. You obeyed, or else. And in the Roman army, else was designed to be very unattractive.

"Our new Tribune has noticed slackness!" the Centurion roared. "Eyes forward you!" He stormed towards one of the few new recruits embedded in the first century and roared again, "What I am doing, or what the Tribune is doing, is none of your business." He paused again, then continued, "You are the first cohort! You are supposed to be the best this legion has. You will show that you are the best!"

He paused again, then roared, "First, leeeeffft. turn!"

The entire nine hundred men turned as one, followed by a near thunderclap as nine hundred hobnailed caligae  smashed into the stone simultaneously.

There was a quieter roar from the distance, and the third turned, with another crash of boots.

"By the right, by centuries. . quiiiick march!"

Thump! Thump! Thump! Nine hundred boots smashed into the stone as one. The first century, as one, marched forward, the remaining men marching on the spot until it was their century's turn to march. Together with the thumps of the boots, was the noise of the armour, each piece on each soldier moving simultaneously. Whatever else happened, Gaius realized, he was not going to manage a surprise attack. On the other hand, this thumping could be heard for miles. The shear act of the cohort marching might even be heard an hour before it arrived. Plenty of time to demoralize the opposition, who would have to stand and wait.

Gaius stared in admiration at the precision of the marching. The men would not permit him to criticize their discipline, or perhaps, more to the point, the Centurions would not. Then he realized he had to do more than stare in admiration. He sat upright, as impassively as he could as the centuries moved out, and when the last of the first and the first of the third began to move, he nudged his horse's flanks and began to ride slowly alongside them.

He was so proud as he rode along on what was quite a splendid horse, with a new uniform, the insignia proclaiming his rank and the thunderbolt emblem of the Fulminata . That he would take with him forever. And he had independent command. Everything he had ever wanted! Perhaps he would get the chance to deploy troops in battle! Anything could happen. It was just when he was feeling so proud of himself that he glanced down to the men marching slightly behind him. One was laughing, then, seeing Claudius' glance, he suddenly looked embarrassed. They were laughing at him, Gaius realized.

His pride was pricked. For an instant he was furious, then he realized that that response was the quickest way to end his military career. He had to earn the men's respect. He glanced back, impassively watching the embarrassment and almost signs of fear, then he gave a forced chuckle and winked at the man, before waving a finger and riding on. He had to find something useful to do and to stop looking like such a prat!

Easier said than done, he found as the days passed. The fact was, the legion, or at least this part of it, marched quite well without him. He had absolutely nothing to do, except ride up and down, and listen to reports which told him little more than where they were, which he knew already. Vibius had arranged the places where they would camp, and these were largely those traditionally used on such a march. There was no reason to change these, and after decades of occupation, the legions would know where the good sites were.

One thing he did do was to look after his own horse. If the road looked awkward for the horse's feet, he would dismount and march. He made sure his own horse was fed well, and by so doing made sure there was adequate food for all the horses. While camps were being set, he would supervise proceedings, more so that he could become familiar with the procedure than to offer anything, then he would brush down his horse, and ensure it was fed, watered, and secure.

This was his first step towards earning respect. He could easily order anyone to look after his horse, and it would be done. By personally looking after his own horse, he gave the message that he truly valued his horse, and of that, the men approved.

He would then wander through the camp to make himself known, and around mealtimes, he would check the quality of the food. At first this annoyed Vibius, but later he rather grudgingly realized that by making sure he could not take the shortcuts with food purchases, Gaius was ensuring the men got properly fed. Worse, the men had realized this, and Gaius was becoming more popular with them.

The march into Judea was at first uneventful. They were not welcome, but then that was to be expected. Although the lands had been conquered since Pompey's time, an underlying problem remained. Rome believed in religious tolerance; any religion could be worshipped, provided the worshippers gave everybody else the same rights. Here, the basic premise seemed to be, thou shalt believe what I believe, for I am right and everything else is wrong. The cohorts marched on to surly stares. They were not welcome, but nothing was done to force the unwelcome to stay.

Then, a little after the middle of one day, there in the distance were the roofs of Jerusalem. He called for Vibius and ordered him to have the men camp in the usual spot outside the city, not on religious ground, then he ordered the decurio  and six men from the first turma  of cavalry to accompany him as he rode into the city.

The first call, not unnaturally, was to the Tribune of the cohort stationed there, where he requested directions to the religious head. That would be the Temple, he was told, but he should not enter.

Gaius rode towards the entrance to the Temple, dismounted well in advance of reaching it, instructed the decurio  to look after his horse, then he marched towards the Temple gate. The sight he saw amazed him. Everywhere there was commerce. To the right were animals, awaiting the butchers further in. Blood and dust somehow did not seem deeply religious.

A young, clearly nervous young priest approached him. Gaius smiled inwardly as he recognized what the priest must be thinking: blasphemers must not defile the Temple, but the Roman army was not the easiest organization to halt. "Can I help you?"

"I wish to speak with Jonathon," Gaius explained. Jonathon was Caiaphas' replacement. "If you wish, I shall wait here, or anywhere else you feel suitable."

"There's a seat over by the tree," the young priest said, pointing to a tree in what could best be described as a forecourt away from the Temple.

"I shall wait," Gaius nodded. He walked to the seat, sat down, and watched activities. Processions of Jews came and went, and Gaius smiled as some almost seemed to wish to conceal what they were carrying from him.

He had to wait and wait. Presumably this Jonathon was trying to make a point. It was a point that might be remembered one day. Then he saw his young priest, with a stubby man with enormous robes embroidered with gold, and a grey voluminous beard. The young priest pointed. Gaius sat where he was, and took a little perverse satisfaction from the ill look on Jonathon's face as he finally decided he had to walk over.

"I am Jonathon," the older priest nodded, as he dismissed the younger man.

"I am Gaius Claudius Scaevola, Tribune of the first cohort of the Fulminata ." Gaius said softly. "I have come here to inform you that I have two cohorts that are marching through Judea. They are not here for any particular reason, other than as an exercise, and I intend to keep them away from any place that you nominate as unsuitable."

"The vicinity of this Temple is very unsuitable," Jonathon started.

"And the men are camped outside Jerusalem," Gaius countered.

"I see," came the tired response. "What do you want?"

"I want to avoid a confrontation with undesirable consequences."

"I shall see that the word is passed on, and if you give me the route you intend to take."

Gaius quietly outlined the route, and how long he would be in any place, subject to supplies being available for purchase.

"I shall ensure that people who might wish to sell you supplies know of your route," Jonathon said, then added, "but what do you  want?"

"I have told you," Gaius said quietly as he stood up. "There are no hidden agendas. I want you to let the Jewish people know that as long as we are left undisturbed, so shall they be." He then nodded, and turned to walk away, leaving an expression of almost disbelief on Jonathon's face. Yes, he thought to himself, Jonathon had expected to have to pay for peace and quiet, an observation that should be stored away for future reference.

* * *

To general consternation amongst the troops, they broke camp as soon as further supplies could be arranged. While the men wanted to drink Jerusalem dry, the last thing Gaius needed was some religious riot induced by drunken legionnaires, nor did he wish to see a drunken brawl between his men and the auxiliaries of the local cohorts. The heavy infantry thought of themselves as Romans, although only a few were, and they spoke Latin. Most of the auxiliaries were Greek, and it would be too much to expect that there would be no boasting, no challenges, and sooner or later, no punch-ups.

Gaius had spoken to his troops. There was no doubt they were better than the auxiliaries, (the men's eyes lit up) so there would be no need to prove it (understanding struck). There would be no drunken brawls. That was a direct order. There had been, he understood, some discussion amongst the troops as to whether he was a soft touch on discipline. Break this order and find out! Claudians had a reputation for being a little on the rigorous side when it was time for punishment, and he was not about to let the reputation of the gens  down. That had had some effect. The men knew about the fear Tiberius had spread around, and word of Little Boots was also spreading. While the Tribune was clearly on a far lower level, there was only one side who would suffer if he went a little overboard when punishing a soldier who had clearly disobeyed orders.

The men ceased making the occasional grumble an hour after Jerusalem had passed from view. They passed through dusty village after dusty village. Gaius read reports about the local conditions, but there was nothing that required attention. The Jews were unhappy, but they went on with their lives. From Gaius' point of view, unless someone did something that was clearly unacceptable, he would do nothing. As it happened, this was Vibius' general policy when he had been sent here previously. Gaius rather felt that Vibius was hoping he would make a fool of himself by being over-active, but he said nothing.

As the days passed, it was clear that Vibius seemed to know what he was doing. It then occurred to Gaius that as commander, he was getting the credit, not that there was much credit to take. Roman forces had marched up and down Judea without getting lost or starting a rebellion, which was exactly what everyone expected to happen. They had trudged through dusty town after dusty town, receiving the standard surly looks, and that was also exactly what everyone expected. While it was good that nothing had happened, it was not the stuff with which to build reputations on. From Vibius' point of view, he, Vibius, had kept Gaius out of trouble.

Then, with the mission almost over, Vibius made a suggestion that would provide Gaius with enough rope to hang himself: if the two cohorts separated, they would show the presence of Rome in twice the number of smaller towns. Gaius had agreed.

A week had passed and so far, Gaius smiled to himself, nothing had gone wrong, and the expedition was nearly over. Tomorrow they would reassemble to march back to Syria. In the meantime, here was one last town.

As throughout the area, it was dusty, with buildings made of mud-brick, and some better ones made of stone. The streets were narrow, scruffy children were playing their usual games and. . Gaius looked more closely. The usual scruffy children were not playing. In fact, there was not a scruffy child in sight. In the distance was a large building, presumably the temple, and outside it a lot of rather noisy people had gathered. Gaius signalled to the cavalry decurion.

"Get one of your more experienced men to ride down there and see what's going on," he ordered. "If there's no sign of trouble, he should just keep going, quietly. If there's trouble, he's to ride back this way. If it's not an emergency, he's not to look urgent. If I see him come back, I'll know the message, and I'll tell how immediate it is by how fast he comes back."

While the auxiliary was riding down the street, Gaius signalled for the Prime Centurion. He watched as the rider approached the crowd, then turn around and canter backwards. He turned towards the Centurion.

"Trouble," he said. "Five centuries should advance quietly and surround the temple area. Form lines, and do not permit organized groups to pass through, but if individuals wish to leave, let them. If anyone's armed, disarm them. Keep this street clear."

The centurion nodded, and turned towards the cohort. Whether he approved was beside the point. He had clear orders.

Gaius turned towards the cavalry commander.

"All your men, ready to charge down this street, if I so order, which I shall do with a command like this," and he waved his right arm, which held a gladius. "If I wave without the sword, I want a slow orderly canter together with the rest of the cohort marching to intimidate. Understand?"

"Of course," the soldier nodded. "What are you going to do?"

"Ride down there and see if I can work out what's going on," Gaius replied, in the tone of someone not wishing to hear anything further on this matter.

The cavalry commander clearly suspected Gaius was too green around the ears to know what he was letting himself in for, but then, if Gaius wished to get himself killed, he could rely on Vibius' support, or so he believed. In any case, he had the refuge of clear orders.

As Gaius' horse approached the crowd at a moderate canter, people began to notice the red of his cloak, and his purple flashing. A silence descended, and people began to make way for his horse. An invitation to the centre of the trouble, Gaius noted wryly, and a path that might quickly close if he needed a fast exit. Nevertheless, there was no going back. Remembering Libo's advice, he had to look as if he was in charge, even if he felt anything but in charge. He carefully brought his horse to a stop far enough away from anybody that there could be no accident.

"Good evening!" Gaius offered, in what he hoped was an authoritative tone, then as he directed his glance towards the temple doors, "What's happening?"

The essence was a confrontation between a group of hot-headed men, who appeared to be Christians, and the equally hot-headed keepers of the Temple. The original reason for the confrontation was obscure, so much so that probably neither side knew what it was. The Christians wanted something back, and they wished to exercise their rights as Jews to enter the temple, while the priests denied they took it, and anyway it was appropriate penance for non-compliance with some religious orders, and no, the Christians had to keep out of the Temple. That was the extremely oversimplified situation, and Gaius tried to sit as impassively as he could on his horse as the more complicated version eddied around him.

"You!" Gaius said, turning towards the head priest when a lull finally arrived. He realized he had to establish some sort of authority without antagonizing anyone. The easiest way to do this was to ask an obvious question that would give a non-troublesome answer. "Would you say that a good Jew recognizes Jewish religious orders?"

"Of course!" This was followed by a long tirade that Gaius cut short.

"And Jewish religious law does not recognize this Cristus  as the Jewish Messiah?"

That was obvious, and the essence of the tirade that followed was, definitely not. So far, so good. He had to buy more time to think.

"Then it seems to me," Gaius shrugged as he turned towards the Christians, "that you must either deny Cristus  as your Messiah, or accept Cristus  in which case you must admit you're Christians and not Jews."

There was a stunned silence, and Gaius saw a way through this morass.

"Do you deny your Messiah?" Gaius asked firmly.

"Never!" came the roar, followed by another roar from the Jews.

"Your master," Gaius continued, "said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Agreed?"

"What do you know about. ."

"Agreed?" Gaius interrupted imperiously. He felt he had the ascendancy, as they could not deny their master.

"Agreed," came the sullen response.

"Good. By the same token, render unto the Jews that which is theirs, which in this case is their temple. Caesar has imposed the Pax Romana . That means Caesar demands you will live in peace. Your master also instructed you to love your neighbour!"

There were jeers from the Jews.

"That may be a little difficult," Gaius laughed derisively, "but you will at least refrain from fighting them. You recall your master said that the meek would inherit the Earth? Prefer not to remember the inconvenient ones? Never mind. I suggest you leave here and go away and be meek. You're not Jews, so stay away from their temple."

"But we have nowhere to. ."

"You'll have to build something of your own," Gaius shrugged. "Please, go away, now! If you don't, my troops will remove you on the end of swords, and that does nobody any good. Agreed?"

There was a muttering, and the Christians began to turn away.

"Now, you," Gaius said, turning towards the priests. "They are not Jews, therefore they are not subject to Jewish law. They may live as they wish, subject only to Roman law. That which you have taken from them will be returned."

"But. ."

"Failure to do so will be taken as evidence of open revolt against Caesar. There is no punishment other than crucifixion."

There were stares of fear. Before self-confidence could return, Gaius shrugged and added, "I don't want that, but you don't either. You m


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ay wish to become martyrs, but think of this. If I have you all crucified, the Christians'd get your temple, and you really don't want that do you?"

After a pause, he added, "Of course you don't. Give them back their property, and they will leave you alone. Those are Caesar's orders." He then turned slightly so he could address both groups. "Rome does not expect you to like each other," he said coldly, "but Rome requires you to respect each other's property. While you consider yourselves separate you will each remain away from the other's property. Consider this to have the power of Caesar's words. Disobey and be crucified."

With that he wheeled his horse and cantered gently back towards his troops, and unseen by any, he let out a sigh of relief.

* * *

"You realize," a disgruntled Vitellius remarked later, "that if that had got out of hand, I would have had to back you up and order the crucifixions?"

"I felt that a strong dose of fear was required," Gaius explained, "or one of those revolts you are so keen to avoid would have sprung up. I was very sure that I would not have to order such executions."

"Then perhaps you read the situation very well," Vitellius shrugged, "and then again, perhaps it was plain dumb luck."

"Even if I were lucky," Gaius replied, "good luck should not be turned down."

"Nor squandered. Some people ride their luck, others make their luck. Try to be one of the latter." There was a pause, as Gaius decided that there was no reply. Vitellius stared at him, then changed topic, "So, what did you think of your fellow Tribune?"

"He seemed very efficient."

"As a person?"

"Vibius seemed to want to keep to himself," Gaius replied. He knew fine well that Vibius had wanted Gaius to fail, but he understood why. In any case it did him no good to attack Vibius. "He was efficient, and he suggested we split up once we arrived in Judaea, so as to get more work done more quickly. As long as we were not fighting major battles, the idea seemed to be a good one, so I agreed."

"Thus leaving you to your own devices. He was supposed to help you, including by supplying you with background knowledge."

"I had alternatives," Gaius replied, then suddenly deciding that this was not the time to involve Timothy he quickly added, "The centurions are a rich source of practical information."

"Yes, they are," Vitellius grunted. He paused, then added, "Vibius was reasonably impressed with what he heard of your performance outside the temple. ."

"Good," Gaius said, with a touch of self-satisfaction.

"By showing a little courage and enough ability not to let the situation get out of hand," Vitellius continued, ignoring the interruption, "he and the men have concluded, at least for the time being, that you're not just another rich pansy sent to blight their lives." He paused, and noted this time Gaius remained quiet. "Well, since you're so keen on interrupting, presumably you have something to say?" he added harshly.

"I apologize for interrupting," Gaius replied, then after a slight pause, and when he noticed Vitellius was looking for something further, Gaius added, "I can see why he would think that, but. ."

"Most successful Governors and Generals start the way you are starting," Vitellius interposed, "but so do a lot of young fools that have to be sorted out right away." He paused, grinned a little, and challenged, "Your but. ?"

"I've had a start he hasn't," Gaius replied, "but then again, as an equestrian, he's had a start others in the ranks don't get either. I see no point in throwing away my. ."

"Nor should you!" Vitellius interposed.

"So we have to accept the system," Gaius shrugged.

"Only to a point," Vitellius grunted. "You can make it work better. Try being a bit more friendly to Vibius. I know," Vitellius held up his hand to stop the interruption, "he's got a chip on his shoulder, but it's your responsibility, being the senior, to try to get around that."

"I'll try," Gaius replied.

"Even better, do it! That's an order."

Chapter 29

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Gaius knew that he had to be seen to be doing something, rather than be seen as someone sitting in a tent or riding about on a horse. Somehow the men had to know he was going to do his job. The trouble was, how to do this? The only obvious way was to maintain a high level of drills and exercises. The soldiers under his command would groan more than a little at the continual marching but that was a lot better than having them sitting on their backsides in barracks, which was what too many of the others were doing, thanks to that drunken Legatus . And if he was to order drills, it was important that he was seen to be participating, rather than sitting on his own backside.

He was wandering through the training ground for new recruits, looking for any opportunity to do something, when he saw a newly promoted Centurion struggling to control himself as a young trainee was flailing a practice sword, rather than carrying out the correct striking drill.

"Got a problem?" Gaius commented to the Centurion.

"Nothing that can't be corrected, sir."

"Of course," Gaius nodded. "Mind if I try?"

"Help yourself." The Centurion was not terribly impressed by the willing but incompetent upper class and he was more than half afraid this exercise would do nothing but make discipline more difficult, however if he wished to impose discipline, he could hardly ignore the commands of a senior officer.

"You!" Gaius coldly addressed the young soldier. "Face me!" He paused, then pointed at two recruits. "You two, stand beside him, one on each side, while he carries out whatever he thought he was doing." He turned towards the Centurion, and said, "Practice sword and shield, please."

He took the lead-tipped wooden sword and gave it a flourish. He turned back towards the young man, who now had the other two standing beside him, at sufficient distance they would not be struck by his sword. "You think that's appropriate?"

The recruit said nothing.

"You two," he ordered the others, "no matter what happens, you will stay facing forwards towards the enemy as if you were fighting. You! Prove it! Defend your line!"

"What?"

Just as the young man spoke, Gaius rushed forward, then paused as the young man swung. As the swing passed and the soldier on his left gave a startled jerk to one side. Gaius then leaped forward and crashed his shield into the young man, who was now slightly off balance, then with considerable force drove the wooden sword into the young man's diaphragm. As the young man collapsed backwards onto the ground and was struggling to breathe, Gaius pushed his boot into the man's stomach to keep him down, then he stepped across and lightly back-stabbed the man on his left, then, after again using the fallen man as a launching pad, back-stabbed the other.

"You," Gaius explained to the man on the ground, "are dead. The men on each side of you, who were relying on you to hold the line and had to face forward because that's where the enemy are, are also dead. Thanks to your antics, the enemy have started to punch a hole in the line, and unless your Centurion does something very quickly, half your century'll be dead in a matter of minutes. You have something to say?"

The young man said nothing, as he lay gasping in the dust. The Centurion was watching with a smile, partly of disbelief, partly of relief, and partly at the face of the young man lying on the ground, still under the boot of the Tribune.

"You men!" Gaius addressed the other trainees. "You will fight battles exactly as you carry out these drills, and you will drill as you carry out real battles. You may not care whether you live, but the man beside you may. Also, you may fight under me, and I most certainly do care whether I live, so you will learn discipline, and you will learn your drills so you do them in your sleep. When the drills are automatic, you win in battle. Centurion," he said more quietly, but loudly enough that most could hear. "These men look far too soft. The arms need strengthening, so I suggest rock drill after this."

"Yes sir!" the Centurion replied. The Centurion was clearly surprised. Under the current Legate, training was reasonably light, and nobody bothered to check. Here was the youngest Tribune already pushing some of the more rigorous aspects of training. This was unexpected but if that was what was wanted, it was the Centurion's job to provide it.

"Ensure they have plenty of water and leave it until later in the afternoon," Gaius continued. "It's to strengthen, not punish, although of course that comment should not prevent your exercising certain options if you are having trouble with them."

And so, later in the afternoon, only the new recruits associated with the first cohort were marching around the parade ground carrying packs stuffed with rocks high above their heads.

Vibius noted this training, and approached Gaius.

"You think that's necessary?" he asked curiously.

"I'll tell you what," Gaius replied. "Why don't we have a contest in six weeks? Your recruits against mine?"

Vibius accepted, then Vitellius heard about it, and ordered the contest across all cohorts. Although the first cohort had twice the number of soldiers, it had fewer new recruits, as it had the right to acquire more experienced soldiers from other cohorts or other legions.

"And so," Gaius informed the recruits, "you will have to train even harder to do even more work!"

After two weeks of quite exhausting drills, the recruits of the first still had to dig their trenches, and pile the rock and dirt above it as the Roman soldier did every day on march. When they were finished, they were lined up on the top of their mound, and given practice swords and shields. Then, up came an equal number of volunteer veterans that Gaius had arranged. They were similarly armed, and with broad grins they lined up before the recruits.

"You are to defend your line," Gaius said to the recruits, "while the others try to dislodge you. The veterans will advance, now."

The shields of the veterans closed up, and they began to march forward, then up the slope. The recruits tried to defend, but in no time were pushed back, and within ten seconds all but two at the end of the line were lying in their own trench, with the veterans showering them with dirt.

"Now you know what someone fighting against the legion is up against," Gaius smiled, as he looked down at the spluttering recruits. "You had height, and height should give you an advantage, so strengthen up! I'm sure the Centurion will find ways to accomplish that." He paused, then added, "I noticed a couple of you felt the cane for throwing dirt at each other. Consider yourself lucky. You!" he pointed at one recruit who had been something of a bully, "initiated it, and the Centurion can't have noticed. In fact I've noticed a couple of times you seem to like to get the others into trouble, when you think nobody'll notice. Unlucky for you! Three weeks of latrine duties, on top of whatever the Centurion decides is appropriate!" That, Gaius knew, would hurt. The Centurion, having had a shortcoming of his pointed out publicly, would lay into that recruit to ensure that whatever else, that recruit would not be laughing behind his back, and to ensure that the Tribune did not think he was being soft.

"Now, you sorry lot," he continued, as a couple of recruits struggled to their feet, "there's a contest coming, and since I'm betting on you lot, you'd better win. And you start by cooperating, acting like a team. There were two of you that offered some resistance, but where were they? Down the end of the line where it didn't matter. Get your strongest men into play in the centre of the line, and help each other. Let's see what happens in a week."

A week later, there was an improvement. The veterans eventually won, mainly by peeling back the left of the line, but as the exercises progressed it took an increasing amount of time.

"Now," Gaius offered, after yet another time when the recruits were pushed into their trench, "I don't want to hear blame. The men at the left end folded, eventually, but they're the lightest you have. The veterans started to concentrate there, and eventually they got through. The question is, what were the rest of you doing? I'll tell you what. You were holding, so you relaxed a bit. I don't want to see any of that. If you're holding while the enemy is pushing somewhere else, that's the time for you to push that much harder. If the enemy thinks he's making progress elsewhere, he usually doesn't like to look around and see the centre, say, folding. You think you've done your bit, then you're wrong. You've done your bit when your century grinds the opposition into the dirt, and not a second earlier. For the next exercise, I'll give you a couple of experienced Optios  to get you more organized."

For the next exercise Gaius slightly increased the number of veterans, and eventually they won again. But it was becoming harder, and Gaius was pleased to see that the recruits seemed determined to win. Eventually he decided enough was enough, and he returned to the original number of veterans. After something of a struggle, the veteran's right folded when one man slipped, and they were peeled back, to great cheering.

"A little better," Gaius said gruffly. "There's beer, wine and meat just for you and the veterans down to the left of the Mess. It's on me, and if anyone else tries to take it, you have my permission to take them away and throw them in the river."

Thus the recruits were rewarded, and anyone who tried to take that reward had to face some of the hardest veterans in the legion. The veterans got free drink, thanks to these recruits, and the recruits suddenly found they had unexpected drinking companions. The recruits were well on the way to being accepted.

* * *

Improving relations with Vibius seemed easier said than done. Gaius invited his Legate, the Tribunes and some other civilians of standing to an evening social get-together, where he introduced the guests to beer made by the Egyptian recipe.

The evening got off to a bad start with the Legate deciding the beer was far too weak, so he began drinking large volumes. Shortly later, he was seen head down, over a ditch, vomiting. After that, he was not seen again. The rich merchants, fortunately, did not see this episode, and were reasonably impressed with the drink, and many could see a number of sales prospects, but Vibius decided that Gaius was being cheap and did not wish to spend on wine for mere equestrians.

Then Gaius was approached by some merchants; they wished to buy the recipe. No need, Gaius offered, as long as they purchased some ingredients from his family interests, and they kept records and paid him a quadrans for every two denarii of sales. The merchants thought about this last point, then they agreed quickly.

"Keep good records," Gaius grinned at them. He knew fine well they had no intention of so doing. "If you don't, I'll let Little Boots know you're cheating him of his tax revenues."

The merchants stared at him, and suddenly realized who had the power in this deal. The man with a legion behind him.

"The other way of looking at it," Gaius continued, "is that I know Little Boots'll be only too pleased to see that good tax-payers have their activities protected."

This had a good effect. It could never hurt to have a man with a legion on their side.

"That wretched Claudius!" Vibius muttered to anyone who would listen. "He's just using the legion for his own ends!"

This, however, was not a particularly telling comment. The general reaction was, so what? Julius Caesar had even conquered Gaul for no better reason than to get enough loot to fulfil his own political ambition. The real question was, when pushed, would this new Tribune be of any use in the field.

* * *

The contest was simple. Recruits had to dig their trench to the full depth and build their ramparts, and when this was done to the satisfaction of a neutral Centurion they would take shield and practice sword and defend their rampart. The ramparts were six paces apart, with the trenches behind, and when the first troops were lined up the centurion would count to one hundred. If the opposition were not ready at that point, the recruits could advance and take what advantage they could. The objective was to throw the opponents back into their trench. If a recruit fell to the ground, or received a good sword thrust to the body, he was required to take no further part in the contest.

Many of the legionnaires elected to watch, and there were many early groans as cohorts were eliminated. Then the recruits from the first took part in their first contest. They eliminated their opposition easily: the opposition were still completing their trench and the first recruits ambled up and shovelled the dirt in faster than the others could get it out, effectively 'burying' their opponents. The recruits from the third also had an easy win, and it soon became clear that Vibius had made a big effort not to lose.

The final, when it arose, was a little one-sided. Although the first cohort was twice as big, it had only half the recruits that the third had, and there was a greater disadvantage in as much as the recruits to the third were mainly of farming stock, and were naturally stronger. When the recruits from the first lined up, they charged the third, but flung themselves at the third's left flank. They made an initial impact, but the recruits from the third slid around the rear of their own men to support them, and eventually by attrition they had to prevail. The problem for the recruits from the first was that as some took the "fatal" sword thrust, their numbers fell, and even if they took equal number of their opponents, the odds rapidly became worse.

At the finish, Gaius congratulated Vibius, and handed Vibius the trophy, which was a cask of wine for the winning recruits. At first Vibius was reluctant to accept, on the grounds that the victory was hollow because his men outnumbered the first.

"Not at all," Gaius shrugged. "Everyone knew the rules, and your recruits had really trained well. They deserve it, although of course if they feel that way, they could always invite the losers to help drink it."

Vibius accepted that suggestion, and also accepted Gaius' invitation to a dinner. This time, Gaius thought, he should put Timothy's gastronomic abilities to better use.

Chapter 30

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"A copy of orders from Governor Vitellius, sir."

Gaius looked at the Centurion, and took the note. "That's odd," he muttered. "These should have come through the Legatus ."

"That's where the Governor sent them first," the Centurion nodded, then he stared at Gaius. He paused and seemed to take a view. "The Governor wishes to know why you haven't set out already, before the trail gets too cold."

"This's the first I've seen of these orders," Gaius protested.

"I think the Governor realizes that sir," the Centurion, offered. He was obviously unsure of what to say next and was uncomfortable in having to face this Tribune.

"Inform the Governor that I have only received these orders as of now," Gaius said, more firmly, "and further, inform the Governor that the first cohort and some cavalry will set out as soon as supplies are secured. That should take about three hours."

"Yes, sir," the Centurion nodded, then seemed to come to a decision as he added, "I think the Governor knows why you haven't received these orders."

"I think you do too," Gaius grinned at the Centurion.

"I think I do too," the Centurion nodded, then saluted, and left.

The three hours were frantic, but Gaius was determined to get started. His Centurions accepted the problem, and, strangely, so did the men. There was, after all, the prospect of action, and additionally, they had a Tribune who wished to get started, and a Tribune who had begun to earn some respect. Such a Tribune had to be supported. So it was within the three hours that the sounds could be heard of the first cohort marching from the legion's camp. Each of the Centurions ordered a battery of horn signals, none of which had any meaning except to wake up the Legatus  and hopefully add to his headache.

The problem was at first glance straightforward. Three hundred raiders had sacked a village, somewhere in the zone between Parthian and Roman control. This village had previously been supportive of Rome, and unless something was done, Rome's reputation would suffer. The trouble was, the village was three to four days march to the northeast, and by the time they got there, the raiders would have left long before.

The march was through more or less unrelenting desert, brownish dust, brownish rocks, and little in the way of vegetation, except for the isolated spot where water could be found, either in rock cisterns or underground and drawn from wells. In these places, green flourished, and villages built of the desert stone stood in an uncompromising fashion. The cohort marched through these, drawing only additional water. As each camp was struck on each morning, Gaius' mood became less jubilant. Yes, he was leading an expedition, but it was increasingly looking as if the best that could happen was that it would be fruitless. Not only would the raiders have left, but they would probably be in Parthia, where he could not follow. His report would look silly.

As he led the cohort into the village, he received sullen stares. The villagers had already rounded up those animals that had survived and had restored some sort of order to their lives and now they were both angry and fearful; the raiders had gone long ago, but they could return. If this was the Roman response, they were effectively defenceless. These Romans would take what little food was left, march around, then return to barracks.

Gaius duly took details, and then took the village elders to one side and got them to describe the local geography. He smiled wryly as he noted that either his map was grossly wrong, or they were lying. It did not take much imagination to guess which. It was then that he remembered the first military problem Timothy had given him. He probed deeper, and made sure he was aware of every source of drinkable water. He then assured the locals that apart from refilling with water, the cohort would not require any food or supplies, although the horses would require more forage. He would pay for that now.

The situation was not promising. There were few clues as to where the raiders might have gone, or, for that matter, where they might have come from. Still, he had clear orders. Even though the prospect of catching the raiders was remote, he was ordered to at least give the impression that he had tried. It had to be clear that the raiders had fled from the might of Rome. It had to be clear that Rome had not merely turned up, took some details, shrugged, and gone home.

He ordered the cohort to march east, further into the desert. He refused his Centurions' wishes to split up, and search in several directions; the raiders would have long made their escape, and the last thing he needed was a century to get lost in the desert.

Vague clues of the raider's camp sites were found, but the trail seemed distinctly cold, until one evening, a camp site was found that had been used more than once, and the last time had been very recent. Where to next? To the northwest was a small oasis, while to the northeast there was the road through the hills that was the obvious route back to Parthia. Apart from that, there were some of what seemed like dried riverbeds, some rounded barren hills, and flat desert. According to the villagers there was virtually nothing at the oasis, and it was not even on his map, so the following morning the cohort marched towards the pass.

They had marched for three hours and the cohort was about to enter a small gully when a scout reported. "We've found the raiders, sir, and there's a camp of about three hundred men near the mouth of the pass."

"A camp?" Gaius asked dubiously. "There? That doesn't sound right. Are you sure?"

"Oh, it's there," the man said, "and it's obvious. We're expected to see it."

"So, what else's there?" Gaius mused, more to himself than to the scout.

"Another five thousand," the scout replied. "That's rough, of course, but I counted them last night by the fires."

"And they're in the pass, waiting to ambush us?" Gaius asked.

"No sir. If you climb this little hill and look over to the east, you'll see about half of them have headed south."

"Hmmm," Gaius mused. "Then they're either going back to raid the village we just left, or they're trying to encircle us."

"They're mainly infantry, sir. They're trying to encircle us."

"Infantry?" Gaius asked in shock. "You mean they're soldiers?"

"Yes sir."

Gaius looked at the scout, then mused, "If there's that many of them, I suppose they would be, wouldn't they." The scout stood there, unsure of what to do, then Gaius asked, "Are there any horsemen at this camp?"

"No horses sir. The camp is supposed to look an easy target."

"I see. Then describe what you know about the land ahead."

"You come out of this gully, march about an hour ahead and there's another, which would take a man about half an hour to get through, then after that it's flat land towards the pass. Good cavalry land, and no possibility of a surprise attack."

"Thank you," Gaius said. "I want you to go ahead, and when you get to the second gully, find a route which will keep us under cover for as long as possible towards the oasis to the north-west."

"Yes, sir."

The situation seemed reasonably clear. Three hundred men attack a village, a cohort pursues, finds the three hundred who then flee into the pass, the cohort marches towards the pass then pursues the raiders into the pass, whereupon five thousand soldiers close from the rear. The cohort would be driven through the pass into land the Parthians claimed, then the Romans would be killed on Parthian land, an invasion of land denied to Rome by treaty. Either that, or the cohort would be killed and somewhere else would be sacked. Possibly Palmyra! If another few cohorts came out and were destroyed, a legion would have been picked off in parts. For some reason, at least some Parthians wished to resume war, and this was a fair way to start one.

His options were to advance or retreat, but if he chose the latter, the Parthian cavalry and light infantry would always catch him. There was no real escape, and he appeared to be outnumbered approximately five to one. He was certain the Parthians would pursue him as there was no point in having five thousand soldiers marching around in the Roman desert doing nothing. Therefore what he had to do was to select the best place to fight.

He could march towards the camp, and if possible defeat the three hundred or so before help could arrive. However, they would see him coming, then they would retreat into the pass, where he could either follow or not follow. Once in the pass, if he caught the raiders he could despatch them, then climb the hills to gain the advantage of height. The problem with that plan was that if the enemy did not pursue, he would be stuck in this pass, without water or supply, and able to be attacked by additional forces from Parthia.

The next not very attractive option was to take advantage of the enemy's decision to split his forces and to set off after the infantry, to fight a bit under three to one against in open terrain at the most inconvenient spot, for the choice of spot lay with the opposition.

The alternative was to defend at the oasis. He would look silly if the enemy did not attack, but no worse than if he marched all around the desert and the Parthians declined combat. And if he did march across the desert and was surrounded by a force almost five times as large at an indefensible spot, they would all be killed. Of course he had the best soldiers in the world, and Alexander would have ignored the odds and set off and destroyed the opposition. The trouble was, he was not Alexander. The words of the old General came back to him: fight your battles, not someone else's. He would defend at the oasis.

He rode to the front of the cohort and gave his orders to the Chief Centurion. Gaius noted that the idea of marching away from the raiders was viewed with only moderate enthusiasm. That, he would have to live with. Gaius then waited as the remaining soldiers marched past, and issued similar orders to each Centurion.

* * *

As the cohort marched across the plain between gullies, Gaius tried to give the impression that he was in control. He rode, head up, appearing as unconcerned as he could. Ignoring the heat and flies was his first problem. It was hot, it was dusty, but he had to look as if he was in contro


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l. Inwardly he was anything but unconcerned. This would be his first battle and if he lost, it would be his last, because he would be dead. On the other hand, if the enemy ignored him his report would be seen to read, 'He came, he saw, he fled.' That was hardly the way to commence a military career.

Yes, he had a good plan. At least he thought he did. The question was, did he have enough operational knowledge to pull it off? Would his first move work? How much did the enemy know? Did they realize that not all his cavalry would be accounted for? Worse, would they accidentally blunder into the small detachment left behind in the first gully?

He had to pull himself together! The small force left behind had eyes and could make their escape. Then he remembered Libo's advice. He might doubt, but he must not show it. The men would know he was young and this was his first battle, but at least they had to believe he thought he knew what he was doing. Accordingly, he rode unconcernedly along the line of troops. As he looked out to the northeast, there was no sign of the enemy. Good! The harder they were to see, the harder it would be for them to see him, and the less sure they would be of what was to happen. Every half-hour was so valuable.

As the lead century marched into the second gully, Gaius met the scout. There was a left turning branch of the gully a few hundred meters ahead, Gaius gave the orders to the First Centurion, then he rode back to meet his auxiliaries.

His small group of cavalry had an important task. They would slowly ride ahead, and wait for up to an hour, then ride out, carrying a standard, followed by men and horses in very wide open file, dragging anything that would stir up a little dust. From a distance, it would appear that the cohort was continuing towards the pass and the most likely outcome would be that the men camped there would simply retreat into the pass, to draw the Romans in. At the same time, the main Parthian force would believe their trap was working, and they would stay put until the Romans entered the pass, so the Romans would not see what would close their escape route.

Chapter 31

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Phase 1 was successful, so far. He was at the oasis; the legionnaires were busy digging defensive fortifications. When Gaius informed the troops that the Parthians were chasing them, but thanks to this manoeuvre, the enemy would have to fight from the desert without easy access to water, the men's spirits were raised.

He felt so alone. He would have so dearly liked to be able to discuss the situation with someone, but he could not. Not that he wanted to discuss this matter with his Centurions. When he gave the orders as to where the fortifications were to be dug, one of the Centurions had stood there, puzzled, and when he had the chance, had asked where could the Romans conceivably form their line. When Gaius had announced they were not going to form a line, he had received the bewildered response that forming a line was what the Roman army did. Gaius had remembered his advice; he tried to smile, and said slowly that this battle would be fought differently; it had to be fought differently because they had insufficient troops to avoid being outflanked. The Centurion's face showed he thought that Gaius was making a very big mistake, and should at least form a square, but the discipline of the Roman army cut in. A Centurion with clear orders ensured his men followed those orders without qualification or variation.

Had he made a mistake? He felt not. The oasis was situated in a broad, dead-end short valley bounded by steep rocky cliffs. Climbing up or down would be exceedingly slow. There were two small hillocks that would form an oblique line to advancing Parthians, and his men were busily making earthworks on top of them. The cavalry, reserves, and some of the limited artillery were stationed behind these hillocks. If the enemy tried to force their way around the hillocks, infantry from the rear would hold up their progress, while the archers and the two catapults on the hillocks would have a field day. If they tried to attack the hillocks, they would be charging up-hill against set fortifications that by then would be real obstacles. If they tried to come around the back of one hillock, that would leave the troops on the other hillock almost in a position to turn them before they started. If they tried to take both hillocks, his reserve infantry and cavalry could punch through the centre, or around either side.

He felt that the site was good. He could only be flanked provided the enemy accepted the penetration of the hillocks, he had room to manoeuvre in depth, he had forced the enemy to accept camping on a relatively featureless plain, and he controlled the readily available water. With anything like half decent luck, that would be important.

The plan had only one weakness. If the enemy sent in enough troops to engage those on the hillocks and keep them engaged, and sent masses around each of the flanks he would be in trouble. All he could hope for was that the earthworks his men were digging would at least slow them so that the catapults and ballistae could do some serious damage. In any event he felt he was doing the best he could. He was always going to be outnumbered, and there was nothing he could do about that.

It was quite dark when the enemy finally arrived, and at first Gaius could hear them rather than see them. That they had pressed on to arrive at night was a bonus, and one that he had hoped for and allowed for. He ordered his cavalry to advance very quietly on foot, and get as close as they dared to the camp without being seen.

It was almost midnight when the first move was made. By now the moon was well up, and providing enough light that troops could move slowly and quietly, but not that bright that the enemy would see them other than by carefully searching. He had left a small squad of auxiliaries at the first gully out in the desert, with orders to conceal themselves, allow the Parthians to advance on the oasis, and then follow up from the rear. They had clear instructions of what to do on the first night of the Parthians setting up camp. As Gaius reflected later, had the Parthians not set up camp, but attacked directly as Alexander did on more than one occasion, these orders would have been wasted.

In the light of a three-quarter moon these men now advanced carefully on foot towards the baggage camp. The Parthians were keeping a poor watch, most of it directed at the Roman camp, and the auxiliaries reached the baggage camp unobserved. There appeared to be only three guards, and these were close together, and engaged in some sort of conversation. The auxiliaries quietly dispatched the three guards. Then the easily found water containers were punctured and the horses were untethered. The auxiliaries then advanced to the nearest fire, and lit torches. A signal was sent to the few left behind to quietly bring their own horses up.

What fires that could be lit were lit amongst the baggage, then the Parthian fodder was put to the torch and the horses released. As the fires started, the raiders mounted the spare horses brought up from the rear, grabbed torches, rode into the camp and lit whatever further fires they could, then turned and, using the torches, made sure the enemy horses were in full flight.

As the alarm was raised, the cavalry from the oasis attacked. With the Parthians running hither and thither, half asleep, unprepared, for it was common knowledge that Romans did not attack at night, they were easy prey for the cavalry. Many tents were put on fire and up to a hundred Parthians fell to the lances before any organized defence could begin. Then, as the Parthians began to gather arms and form small lines, the Roman cavalry rode around them, slashing with their swords and riding through to attack another group from the rear. Then, when the Parthians finally became organized, the cavalry noisily rode back to their camp. Less obviously, the first small detachment rode quietly and apparently unnoticed back towards the desert.

From Gaius' point of view, the raid was a huge success. The enemy had sustained significant casualties, much of their cavalry had been neutralized, and they were now forced to fight their way to water. Any attempt to send for help should be intercepted by the desert squad.

At dawn, Gaius surveyed the field. The Parthians were gradually assembling into formations. The Roman camp was buzzing. Food was prepared, the soldiers were checking equipment, and although everything seemed disorganized Gaius knew that very little time would pass between the Centurion's command and the forming of battle lines.

The order for battle was set. The archers were divided equally and placed at the centres of the two hillocks, the largest centuries, each with about ninety men, were placed two per hillock, three centuries defended behind the sides of the hillocks, while the cavalry was kept to the rear with the remaining men and auxiliaries, split into three 'centuries', as reserves. The ballistae he had were set up at positions where their huge arrows would tear into forces on the narrow flat ground between the hills should the enemy attempt to come through there. A catapult was mounted on the top of each hillock, where huge piles of suitable rocks were assembled. Signallers were in place. Gaius first rode around each century, ensuring that each Centurion now had a clear idea of how he intended to fight this battle, and what would be required of them then he rode to the top of the right hand hill to survey the scene.

Much of the morning passed while little happened. The Parthians drew up in formation over a mile away, but then did nothing. They stood there, as if challenging the Romans to advance. The sun became hotter and hotter, and the flies became more irritating. Some Parthian insults could be discerned over the distance. Gaius issued his first order. In turn, two thirds of his men could rest in shade specially erected.

A small group of Parthian cavalry rode towards the Romans, suggesting that the Romans surrender, and when there was no favourable response, they began hurling insults. Gaius had anticipated this. The soldiers at the top of the hillocks stood tall, and began pouring water over themselves from large jugs. They had the luxury of being able to cool off; they had the luxury of plenty of water.

Gaius sent the message for the Parthians to lay down their arms and surrender. The Parthians would become Roman prisoners, but at least they would drink. If they surrendered now, or any time before one Roman soldier was killed, he promised to spare their lives.

It was noon when the standoff ended. It was clear to the Parthians that the Romans were quite happy to sit tight, and it was equally clear that water was in short supply. Time did not favour the Parthians. When the Parthians began to assemble what was left of their cavalry, Gaius decided to ride back to the reserves. He realized that where he was placing himself was the weakest part of this deployment. If he wanted to see, he had to stay on top of a hill, but then he also had to hope the Parthians did not try to outflank the other hill. If he wanted to properly control the reserves, he had to be at the rear, with them. He had to hope that his men on the hills would inform him of the enemy's deployment.

The initial attack was a cavalry charge, directed at the gap between the two hillocks. As the earthworks slowed the horses down, the archers and the legionary slings clinically cut riders down. As more of the cavalry charged into the gap, the passage became congested, and at this point the ballistae  let fly. The huge bolts soared through the air, to crash into the concentration of horsemen. Then as those at the front began to realize that too few of them could emerge from the pass at any given time to force the issue, they turned and tried to retreat. As the leaders were trying to return, the rear was still charging forwards, and the bodies began to pile up in the centre as more and more giant arrows broke bone after bone.

Gradually the situation became clear, and what little was left of the cavalry began a general retreat. Gaius ordered the auxiliaries to go forward, recover what arrows they could, particularly those suitable for the ballistae,  and also save uninjured horses. As the more badly injured horses were put out of their misery, moans from the remaining Parthians filled the air, and the flies could be seen gathering on the more badly injured. There was nothing that could be done for these men; his own forces needed to be ready to fight, and any impediment to the Parthian's progress had to stay there.

An hour later the Parthian infantry began to advance. The major column was clearly advancing towards the left hillock, with a minor column intent on forcing the issue to the left of that hill. Gaius signalled for one of the centuries defending the right side of the right hillock to advance towards the left hill and join those on the top, then he sent half his cavalry around through the gap on the extreme right.

Before this day, Gaius had no real idea of what war involved. He had had boyhood visions of glory; the reality, he soon found, was that it was a bloody mess. As the left flank of the advancing Parthians reached level with the base of the hillock, all they could see were the Roman archers on the hill to their left, and the remains of the cavalry charge. Horses were still twitching, men were groaning in the heat, men who were in pain, who knew they would die, and had to suffer while they were doing it. The advancing flank halted, unsure of what to do. They could hardly charge over their comrades, but the hillock climb would be congested. As they stood, a hail of arrows descended. The small shields offered some protection, but most men protected their face, and thus left their stomachs exposed. Some shields carried up to three arrows, but many of the men collapsed, groaning, desperately trying to tear the arrow out.

The centre charged the hillock. They were running at the bottom, but by the time they had reached within thirty meters of the top, their charge had reduced to a walk. It was then the horn blew, and about a hundred and fifty pilii were launched. As the Parthians stared at this wall of javelins, and took what protection they could, the second volley was launched. Then, as the Parthians hid behind what cover their shields would give, the heavy crunching of Roman boots could be heard. The pilii tore into bodies, or pinned into shields where they bent, leaving a cumbersome and heavy object stuck at an awkward angle. A shield with such a pilum in it was almost useless, as it was impossible to wield quickly as the weight of the javelin had to be moved, and unless the shield was held high, the far end of the pilum would catch in the ground.

Then, as the second volley had landed, and those Parthians who were uninjured regained their feet, a wall of locked shields thrust into them. The Roman soldiers leaned forward on their shields, the weight of shield and man causing the Parthians to slip backwards, with some tripping and falling down the hill. As they slipped, the stabbing gladii tore into their stomachs, and as the wounded fell their skulls were trampled by the hob-nailed caligae as line after line of stabbing Romans walked over them. Then, as those in front began to fall back, they fell into their own men pushing forward. Although having overwhelming numerical superiority, the close fighting cancelled that advantage, and the sheer weight of men pouring downhill meant that the Parthians could not find the room they needed. Occasionally a wounded Parthian managed to fall with no pressure behind, which invariably lead to Roman soldiers falling forward, and becoming exposed, now to be cut down from the side. Parthian spears also entered between shields, killing or wounding Romans. The cries of pain of the wounded from both sides rose, and cries of pain began coming from the rear of the Parthian troops where the steady rain of ballistae  bolts were taking their toll. Still the Parthians from the rear tried to advance, still the wounded piled up on the side of the hillock. The sun beat hotter, the flies buzzed more densely, the groans became more desperate. The charge began to falter.

On the Parthian right flank, the Parthians had more room to swing, and with their lighter armour, they were more mobile. Although Gaius had committed more troops here, he could not cover the entire gap. Suddenly, Gaius realized his mistake. The century that he had sent to the top of the hill should have joined those at the bottom. He ordered the horn to signal the left flank of his line there to wheel back.

As the Roman line wheeled, the Parthians there felt that victory was at hand. They attacked with renewed vigour, and they began to make some inroads. Yet when a Roman fell back wounded, his place was immediately taken from a soldier standing behind, and the line remained unbroken.

Gaius felt so helpless as he watched the line fall back and up-hill. He felt he should do something, but there was nothing he could do, other than to commit the last of his ballistae  to firing into the midst of these Parthians. He still had reserves, but it was still far from clear where these should be deployed. The reserves were the last throw of the dice, and he wanted to send those to the point that would ensure victory, but the location of that point was yet to be determined.

The line began to retreat up the hill, and the Parthians advanced, only to find this was not a retreat. Gaius now ordered the next horn signal, and the Roman line, now two thirds of the way up the hill, stopped falling back. As the retreating line halted, and began steadier thrusting, the Parthians faltered, as if those at the front were unsure of what to do. They looked to their right, and the expected Parthian cavalry was nowhere to be seen, while from their left the sounds were those of Parthian agony, not the whoops of victory. They could not see what was happening elsewhere, but they could imagine. More than one of them began looking over their shoulders.

It was at that moment that Gaius realized victory was at hand. The enemy still grossly outnumbered his forces, they were better placed than they had ever been to force victory, but they had lost the initiative and they had lost their confidence. Now was the time to send a signal to the centuries on top of the right hill, which so far had been reduced to being spectators and to deploy his cavalry.

For a while the situation seemed static. The fresh centuries marched down the hill, while the cavalry that had flanked to the right were now stationary and level with the front of the right hillock. A signal was exchanged with the infantry, and the cavalry began its charge, to strike at the rear of the Parthians. The noise, and the unexpected activity from the rear caused a pause in the Parthian advance, then a wave of uncertainty passed over them. In a final attempt to gain the initiative, the leader of the Parthians ordered his right flank to advance, in one final attempt to get behind the hillock. Gaius now ordered his remaining centuries to march towards them, while he led his remaining mounted archers before them.

This final Parthian advance now found itself caught between two forces that, while admittedly small, could not be ignored. Gaius ordered the archers to fire, and he himself let loose arrows as fast as he could fire. Some of the Parthians peeled towards the cavalry, who pulled to their left, thus widening the Parthian front. It was then the Parthians found the last Roman century driving into them, thus splitting their line. It was then that Gaius remembered his analysis of the battle of Granicus. He picked out the Parthian leader, he aimed carefully at him and let loose two arrows, and was pleased to see his target fall towards the ground. He continued riding in and out, firing, until his supply of arrows was exhausted.

Now Gaius and the cavalrymen took their longer swords, and Gaius led a seemingly tentative charge towards the outer group of Parthians being divided by his century. He managed to get in two good blows onto two Parthians before it looked as if he would be overwhelmed. He wheeled his horse, and signalled for the cavalrymen to ride away. As they seemed to retreat, almost two hundred Parthians ran after them.

After he had ridden about a hundred and fifty meters, he ordered his horsemen to wheel. Now, the Parthians who had followed were strung out into a straggling line, and his horsemen charged at them.

As he told Timothy later, in some ways the charge was less effective than he hoped, as he spent almost as much effort trying to avoid falling off his horse as striking blows, but with the extended line of Parthians he could strike, regain balance, and strike again. In almost no time at all, these Parthians realized their position was hopeless and they began to run. Some ran back to their main force, but others simply ran. Some on the hill turned around, saw their fleeing comrades, and in the absence of clear orders, began to falter.

Gaius' small force now began to attack the Parthian flank. His tactics were 'hit and run' and his small force striking at different points increased the confusion in the enemy, as too many of them were spending too much time looking over their shoulders. These attacks were not free strikes, however. Four of his horsemen were pulled to the ground, and only two of these could make their escape. Gaius himself received a blow on his leg, which meant that later one greave, having done its job, had to be discarded, and he received a glancing blow to the other leg behind its greave, which meant that when he was on the next 'run' phase, he had to pause and tightly wrap his leg in a makeshift cloth bandage to stop the flow of blood.

As the final reserves of heavy infantry struck and this small force of cavalry seemed to move around their flank, the Parthians needed to know what to do next, and when they saw their leader down, the advance simply stopped. They tried to regroup into a square at the foot of the hillock, but the Roman infantry immediately closed on them, thus depriving them of the space they so badly needed. Then, to add to the confusion, large rocks flew into the centre of the Parthians from above.

The battle waged almost indeterminably for some time. The Roman infantry now came back down from the hill, and pressed forward into Parthians now fighting in two directions, while the sounds of the cavalry attack at the rear could be heard. The Parthians at the very front remained brave and determined, perhaps because there was little option, but the soldiers in the middle could now sense that things were not going their way, and they began to waver.

It might have seemed that the battle was wavering, and the Parthians might yet win, for they still heavily outnumbered the Romans, but then the last century from the right hillock engaged the rear of the Parthians in wedge formation. Some of the Parthians, seeing this small force arrive from where it had no right to be assumed the front had collapsed elsewhere, and they turned and ran. As the Roman wedge struck into those remaining, their first strikes were effectively into soldiers quite unprepared for an attack from an area that was supposed to be occupied by their own reserves. The Parthians were reduced to confused chaos, and panic.

Screams from the front, screams from the back, nobody was quite sure what to do. Then, at the rear, more began to turn and run, until the whole rear began to peel away in layers. In less than a minute after the peeling began, the Parthian forces on the flat ceased to be an effective fighting unit. As the flight got underway, the horns of the first cavalry detachment could be heard, and the flight became a rout.

On the hillock, the fighting had reached a stalemate. Fighting an uphill opponent was always difficult, and these Parthian soldiers met this problem by employing soldiers with long spears at the front, and slingers and archers from the rear. From the Roman perspective, the Parthians were too close for the heavy weapons, and too far away for optimum use of the gladii. On hearing the cavalry charge, the senior Centurion decided to take advantage of the uncertainty and ordered the front line to advance. As the Parthians on the hillock saw the faltering right flank, they too began to falter, at which point the wall of Roman shields began an unstoppable advance. Men turned and ran, men fell over bodies, then to be backstabbed by the wall of gladii. The only way to survive seemed to be to run in a direction away from whomever the Romans were chasing. Accordingly the fleeing Parthians began to scatter, and now there was no defence to the Roman cavalry. The message was clear: surrender or be lanced.

Gaius sheathed his now bloody sword and could hardly believe the scene. There were bodies everywhere, men running in all directions, bleeding men hobbling in every direction, some braver men were trying to form a square, only to be pushed back by a charging wall of Roman shields as they cursed and swore at their cowardly compatriots, while other groups of Parthians, seeing no hope of escape, were laying down their arms and were pleading for mercy.

The cleanup took an hour, and by then the unhurt Parthians were being herded into a closed area, disarmed, and were given water. The wounded were gathered together, those with relatively minor wounds were the first to be treated, those who were clearly going to die were quickly dispatched, and those in between were brought to tents where treatment would be given eventually, based on the likelihood of success.

The Roman wounded were treated immediately. Gaius himself was dragged down onto a bench and made to sit still while his leg was washed, cleaned with a herbal infusion, a cream added, flesh was sewn together, then proper bandages were tied. Gaius' first action after that was to personally hobble to each of the wounded soldiers, ensure they were getting appropriate treatment, and to encourage them, and to talk with them, listening to their stories of their courage, what they did to the enemy, and then, how they got their wounds. Gaius was well aware many of the stories of heroism would be somewhat exaggerated but his view was, if a man was wounded for Rome in combat, he had a right to exaggerate his own heroism, at least to some extent. The worse the wound, the bigger the permitted exaggeration.

All the wounded were grateful to hear that they had won. The victory was not without cost; for a number of dead Roman soldiers had been brought to a central point, for identification and eventual cremation after the paper work was completed. But the casualties were rather fewer than any had expected when this fight had started, and this too brought gratitude from the troops. The feelings about Gaius' avoidance of initial combat were gone. They had a commander who had lured the enemy to fight on his terms, to beat a much larger enemy with few losses. That was the sort of commander they wanted.

The Parthian camp was demolished, and anything of value collected. There was a huge amount of loot, and quite a considerable amount of silver, to be used as pay for the troops. A useful contribution to Little Boots' treasury, Gaius thought wryly. It would hardly endear him to the Princeps , but it would at least keep the Princeps  out of his hair.

Once this was done, the men had the opportunity to clean up. Almost every soldier had blood caked on them, often on the legs where they had trampled over the wounded enemy, and the blood, sweat and dust left everybody extraordinarily grimy. Today they would clean themselves their weapons and their armour, the following day they would clean their clothing.

Later, Gaius ordered extra rations and plenty of wine to be made available for his men. The Parthians watched from their enclosure as their victors celebrated. Gaius first made his way around the Centurions, the optiones  and other principales  to find the names of those who had fought particularly well. It was his intention to ensure that everyone worthy of a decoration should receive one at some later date, and it was important that his officers and NCOs knew that he required their nominations. Then he made his way around the groups of men. Some were noisy, and he listened to their bragging, their excitement, or however they expressed their relief to be alive and victorious. Others were much quieter, and they sat in groups, talking quietly, washing the horrors of the killing field from their mind, and Gaius made a point of thanking each of them for their efforts of the day, and making sure that there were no unresolved issues or problems. If a soldier had fought well, the slate of remaining fatigues could be wiped clean. He also made a point of speaking to every soldier who had been recommended by someone above him, to make sure that the soldiers knew their efforts were appreciated. Then he made his way around the watch guards. He made sure that the name of each was recorded, and he promised ample supplies of wine, or whatever else they fancied, would


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be theirs on return to a major city.

Chapter 32

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A crowd gathered as the cohort marched towards the town so recently sacked. When the Romans had headed into the desert, bets had been placed. There had been two schools of thought: the Romans would be massacred by the far superior Parthian force, or secondly, the Romans would march around, come back, take more supplies and go home. Instead, here was the cohort with over three times their own number as prisoners. The cohort came to the edge of the town, where Gaius addressed the crowd. Everybody who had had goods stolen should describe their loss in detail to the quartermaster and his staff. If their goods were present, they would be returned. Anyone suspected of making grandiose or false claims would be investigated, and if false claims could be established, those false claimants would join the Parthians.

Further, any woman who had been raped or violated, or anyone who could identify a murderer should now step forward. Those that did had their stories heard, and if corroboration could be found, those details were recorded. Then the citizens were formed into a line, and marched along in front of the lines of Parthians. A woman suddenly shrunk away from one, almost fearfully. A legionnaire grabbed the man by the hair and dragged him forward. As the man struggled, a second legionnaire kicked him viciously in the stomach, and the man fell to the ground, to be dragged, whimpering, to an assembly point. The scene was repeated, sometimes the accuser leaping and clawing the accused, sometimes the accuser merely pointing the accused out and screaming abuse. Soon a group of forty-four Parthians had been separated.

Gaius then addressed the remaining Parthians. "You men have raided or assisted the raiding of territory under the Pax Romana , and for that there is a price that you will pay. These other men," and he indicated the forty-four, "have been accused of more serious crimes carried out during the raid on this village. I shall now hear the charges, and the accused's defence. If any of you have relevant evidence you may step forward and give it. In this I give you my word. If you give relevant evidence which helps clarify the situation, your personal situation will improve."

He then heard the individual cases, and seventeen other Parthians did give evidence supporting the villagers. Gaius then announced that he found the forty-four guilty, and ordered them to be presented the following morning. He then gave further instructions to some of his men, then he addressed the small number of witnesses. By now he had established that this raid was essentially an individual event, and was not a deliberate violation of the treaty by the Parthian nation.

"You men," he looked down at them, "have committed crimes, but I keep my word. You have helped identify the particularly guilty, and as a reward, you may go. You have a one-day start, and if, after tomorrow you are found on Roman soil, you will be killed. Take bread, take water, and go."

* * *

The following morning, Gaius first addressed the main group of Parthians.

"As the price of your adventure, you will be taken and sold as slaves, the proceedings to be taken to the Roman treasury. As slaves, your very lives are at the disposal of your owner, although you will have limited rights. However, if your master wishes to flog you, be flogged. If you raise your hand against your master, try to escape, or do anything else that could be considered as a revolt, you will be punished according to Roman law. You will now stand in line and observe what that punishment entails."

He turned towards the forty-four, and addressed them. "You have been found guilty of crimes punishable as follows. By the order of the Senate for the People of Rome, endorsed by the divine Augustus, by the great Tiberius, and by the current Princeps  of Rome, Gaius Julius Caesar, you shall be stripped of your clothing, you shall be suitably scourged such that you know pain, then you shall be crucified. You may have hurt villagers, but they will know, without any shadow of doubt that yours is the greater pain." He turned to a Centurion, nodded, and said, "Commence!"

For over half an hour the canes and studded whips flashed, until the bloodied victims could barely stand. Then they were dragged and laid down, an arm extended, and as the nail was driven through each arm, the victim invariably gave out a terrible scream. Then the second wrist, then the legs were folded over, and a larger nail was driven through both. Water was splashed over the faces of anyone who had fainted through pain, and when it was clear that the victims were fully conscious, the crosses were hoist up.

A sequence of screams and moans ensued, as the men squirmed and tried to ease the pain, each movement accentuating it. Then one man slumped forward. A soldier tried to prop him up, and although the pain through the arms must have been excruciating, the man continued to slump. Gaius ordered the soldier to let the man be.

As the day proceeded, the victims became fainter, their cries more pitiful, and the flies became thicker. The villagers by now had left, their thirst for revenge assuaged. The remaining Parthians were kept standing rigidly. If they did not, another cross could be found, or failing that, there was always tomorrow.

Then, as the sun began to set, Gaius nodded and announced that Rome required pain, but was not entirely without mercy. He ordered the mallet. A huge mallet was produced, and a soldier walked along the line of crosses, smashing the legs of each victim. There were more screams, then the bodies slumped forward, no longer able to support themselves. Death by asphyxiation would soon follow.

"That," Gaius addressed the prisoners as the light began to fade, "is the consequence of any further rebellion on your part. When you are sold, if your owner beats you, bear it or die on the cross."

* * *

Gaius had sent a scout with a message explaining what had happened immediately following the victory, and to his surprise a message came back. Governor Vitellius had been replaced, and as a reward for a job well done, the new Governor was to permit his cohort to parade his victory, and his captives, through Damascus. Accordingly, as the cohort reached sight of the city walls, Gaius rode forwards and took his position at the head of the column. He would lead the first and third centuries into the city, followed by the prisoners escorted by further soldiers, followed by the long baggage train, and finally the second century would bring up the rear.

When he reached within a hundred meters of the wall, he halted, and, as part of the ceremony, the loudest horns blew the ceremonial announcement of triumphal arrival. A horn response came quickly, and slowly the massive Jupiter gate opened, and before him were the colonnades of the Via Recta. He adjusted his helmet, then gave the signal to advance. As his horse commenced a slow trot, the caligae  of the first cohort smashed into the stone. They had returned triumphal, and they would announce this to all.

As his horse carried him through the great arch, a great cheer rose up. He was surprised at first, then he noticed the remaining troops of the legion lining the way. They were cheering forcefully, for a triumphal march had two purposes: it celebrated the returning troops, and it intimidated any citizens who were not wholly devoted to the Roman cause. The general population also cheered loudly and wildly, and a few flowers came flying through the air towards Claudius. It was cheap to cheer, the noise put the Romans in a better mood, and the better a successful soldier felt towards a city, the better their lives tended to be. As he rode slowly along the street, Gaius felt proud. Here, on his second command, a little over 900 hundred men were escorting just under three thousand captives, and a considerable baggage train of silver and weapons. Behind him his soldiers marched steadfastly on, the iron discipline clear, but the look on each man's face left no doubt of the pride they felt. It was a moment he knew he would cherish as long as he lived, and he savoured every second of it.

Eventually he had to turn off the Via Recta and proceed towards the legionary headquarters. A sense of relief came over him. He had returned, successfully, and now he could bathe, and eat better food. Then he noted wryly that even his formal commander had turned out, but he was not in direct line. Before him was a new Governor, Publius Petronius, and Gaius had little doubt of the significance of the invitation to report to him rather than the Legate.

"So," Petronius eyed Gaius, when they had returned to the Governor's villa, and a cup of wine had been given to each, "you had a victory."

"The troops had a victory," Gaius replied.

"Yes, they did," Petronius nodded, "but you did too. Why didn't you pursue the enemy first up?"

"You disapprove, sir?"

"I didn't say that," Petronius snorted. "I wish to know why. Believe me, when I get around to disapproving, you will know it."

Gaius bowed his head slightly at the rebuke, and replied, "I was reasonably confident the Parthians would have the pass set as an ambush, and even if they didn't, was I going to pursue them across the desert into Parthia? Then was I going to fight my way back out? I doubt the Princeps  would be too amused by my starting another war."

"You wouldn't be the first Roman to start a war all on his own," Petronius smiled, "although I concede one cohort would be a remarkably small strike force to work with."

"Anyway," Gaius continued, "I was certain they'd follow, and I preferred to fight on my terms."

"A bit arrogant," Petronius said impassively.

"I don't think I was. ." Gaius started.

"You were," Petronius interrupted, "and that's good, if it's accompanied with thought. I gather when you started towards the oasis, the troops were a bit pissed off."

"Yes, sir," Gaius admitted.

"But not once the fighting started," Petronius smiled.

"I don't think they had time," Gaius replied.

"On the contrary," Petronius said, "once you had the enemy cavalry cut to pieces below you, and hardly a scratch on your troops, you had the men absolutely with you. Amongst other things, they like to win without getting hurt, and that only happens with a commander who knows what he's doing."

"Thank you, sir.'

"When you rode out on your first expedition, on your fine white horse, do you know what the men were thinking?" Petronius smiled.

"Another young stuck-up prat from a rich Roman family," Gaius admitted.

"What makes you think that?"

"The men told me," Gaius admitted ruefully.

"They did?" a surprised Petronius asked.

"Well, not exactly," Gaius admitted, "but I could see it on their faces."

"Well, they don't think that now," Petronius nodded. "You gained a lot of respect by handling the cohort the way you did, and you gained more by riding around while the battle was going on. Why did you do that? Curious to see death?"

"I wanted to see whether I had to deploy reserves," Gaius protested, "and I wanted to encourage the men. I didn't want them thinking I was lying around at the rear. ."

"Good," Petronius nodded. "Another valuable reason for being visible is that nobody wants to be part of the line that gives way in front of their commander, so they fight that much harder, which is something like your second point." He paused, then added, "I gather you also joined in?"

"I'm a reasonable archer," Gaius replied, "and we'd reached a point where, unless something went wrong, we would win. Then it almost looked as if something could go wrong, so I sent in the last of my forces. There weren't very many of them, so. ."

"It certainly made an impression on the troops," Petronius interrupted. "I gather most of your arrows struck home, and I also gather you got their leader."

"It seemed a good thing to do at the time, and. ."

"Well, your men noticed, and that helped make them redouble their efforts. Getting wounded gained a lot of respect too, because you don't get that sitting on your arse at the rear. Don't let this go to your head, but your men are starting to compare you with somewhat more famous men."

"It could be a lot worse," Gaius replied in a slightly embarrassed tone.

"It probably will," Petronius snorted, "but in the meantime you seem to have shown some ability, and you also seem to be touched with flair or luck. Can't have too much of either. Now, time for you to reward your troops. In addition to your recommended decorations, you may announce phalerae  for the entire cohort, and the cohort and auxiliaries may carry the honour of citizenship."

"Thank you, sir," Gaius said appreciatively.

"And you, young Claudius, will receive a corona aurea , to be worn additional to other coronae  as a battle decoration."

"Thank you again, sir."

"And of course, the award of citizenship is worn by you as well. Yes, of course you're already a citizen, as are many of your soldiers, but the award shows you've earned it for your troops, and that and a battle crown will guarantee no troops will ever again think of you as some young stuck-up senatorial prat."

"I've got to admit that was a burden I'm glad to be rid of," Gaius nodded.

"You know why Vitellius sent you out?" Petronius asked. He smiled at Gaius' look of discomfort, then nodded and added, "You've been drilling your troops very hard. The others have been sniggering at them."

"I don't think that was too much," Gaius protested.

"Neither do I," Petronius nodded. "Me, I might have had even more. But that's not the point. Now your men will show their phalerae  to the rest of the legion, and guess who will be feeling the best?" When Gaius said nothing, he continued, "I think a slight additional favour is due. Why don't you take your cohort up the Barada in the middle of summer. Drill them in forest and mountain skills."

"Forest skills?" Gaius queried. "I thought that desert fighting was more likely."

"It is, young Gaius," Petronius smiled, "but you probably haven't realized how stinking hot it gets around here in the middle of summer. It's much cooler up there, and there's a lake if you want to practice water assaults, or if you merely want to go swimming."

"I see," Gaius suddenly realized what was being offered. "On behalf of the men, thank you sir."

"That will give you even more respect, and make the men want to do even more for you next time," Petronius smiled. "That means I can afford to be more generous in using your services. Next time the Nabateans get out of hand, I'll send you down with maybe three cohorts. Do well then, and you could be on the way to a legion."

As Gaius left the Governor, he could have almost flown. A legion! Of course first there had to be a vacancy, but. .

Chapter 33

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Timothy had excelled. He had found three master craftsmen, and Gaius had in his hands three brass bolts with wing nuts. The nuts screwed easily onto their respective bolts, but only onto that bolt, and as Gaius noted wryly, two were left hand threads and one was a right hand one. They should all be the same.

Timothy quietly pointed out that these were difficult enough to make as it was.

"Not," Gaius replied quietly, "if we use one of these to make moulds to cast others."

"And what will you get to make the moulds?" Timothy asked caustically, "bearing in mind it has to be strong enough for you to get the master out without breaking the thread, and must stand the molten metal, and there can't be air bubbles in the thread marks?"

"Oh!"

"Oh?"

"I hadn't thought of that," Gaius admitted.

"I already asked one of the tradesman," Timothy admitted. "It's not easy to see the way around those problems."

"So what do we do?"

"The tradesmen will make them, for a price," Timothy said in a slightly shifty tone, "but they won't tell how they do it."

"Then haggle, and meet their final price," Gaius shrugged.

"This could be very expensive," Timothy pointed out. Gaius recognized an element of priming in Timothy's tone.

"I'm sure with a Greek haggling for me," Gaius smirked, "I'll get good value."

Timothy suddenly looked apprehensive, but then an idea seemed to occur to him. "I may not have much leverage," he said, "unless you don't need them."

"No choice," Gaius frowned, "unless you can think of one?"

"Depends on how many you want?" Timothy said cautiously.

"And what's that supposed to mean? What exactly do you know?" Gaius' eyes bore into Timothy. This conversation was, Gaius realized, quickly coming to its point, as seen by Timothy.

"Nothing, yet," Timothy quickly backed away.

"Then get to the point."

"If you want ten of these things, you'll just have to pay for them, but if you want thousands, and you want to know how to make them. ." He paused.

"Why is it," Gaius mused, "that I suspect a cunning Greek scheme?"

"What I was going to suggest," Timothy said quickly, "was that you could offer a prize for the method. That way, you'd get everyone thinking about it, and. ."

"I'd have the most expensive bits of metal ever," Gaius mused.

"Then buy what you need," Timothy shrugged.

"Twenty thousand sesterces," Gaius muttered. "Offer that."

"We'll get something," Timothy smiled to himself.

"I rather fancy you think you will," Gaius shook his head.

* * *

Gaius soon felt he was correct in his assessment of Timothy. He was some way away from the house where Timothy was living when he heard the sounds of raised voices. At first he hurried, thinking Timothy might need help, but as he got closer he realized that while he might need help, it was not the sort that Gaius would offer. That, however, did not stop Gaius from being curious.

He crept into the room, and immediately felt foolish. A herd of elephants could have strolled through without drawing attention to themselves. Timothy and one of the local craftsmen were crouched over a small bench. Timothy had one of Gaius' nuts forced into the end of a cleft stick, and he was using this as a lever to try to force the nut onto what seemed to be a highly bent rod made of lead. The other man was trying to clamp the other end of the lead rod onto the bench. As Gaius entered, the stick broke, and Timothy swore.

"What on earth are you doing?" Gaius asked in amazement.

Timothy looked up guiltily, the other man somewhat fearfully.

"It's my responsibility," Timothy conceded, "if I've spoiled this nut. I'll make it up to you, and. ."

"I still don't know what you're trying to do?"

"Well," Timothy started. "What I thought was, if we had a nut made of hard metal, and screwed it onto soft metal, it would cut a thread. That way, one nut would make several bolts all the same."

"A whole lot of leaden bolts," Gaius nodded ruefully, "that melt when you least need it, and bend, and. ."

"The bolts don't have to be made of lead," Timothy explained. "It's just that the cutting ridges have to be stronger than the rest."

"If this had worked," the tradesman said, "I'd get you one of these nuts made out of hard steel, that would cut brass, or maybe even iron."

"So you'd have a lot of bolts and no nuts," Gaius smiled.

"You could do the same with a bolt," Timothy pointed out. "Use it to bore out a thread in. ."

"Yes, of course," Gaius nodded. He stared at Timothy. This could work! Then, back to earth, "So, what's wrong?"

"All he's done," the other man shrugged, "was fill the nut up with lead. Then it's jammed so tight it won't go anywhere."

"I undo it and clean that out," Timothy shrugged.

"About ten times a turn," the other man muttered, "and that's not the worst of it."

"And what is the worst?" Gaius asked. He was not quite sure what to do. This looked to be a silly idea, but Timothy was trying to help him.

"Look at the way he's cleaning that out? He's burring the ridges! Do you know how long it took to cut those? I tell you, this is. ."

"You've been paid?" Gaius asked.

"Well, yes, but. ."

"Then I wouldn't worry about it."

"Still no need to be stupid," the man grouched.

"Meaning?"

"He can get a little way before the lead sticks," the man said, as if to a simple child, "so if you get the lead out then, you can keep going."

"He wants to cut grooves inside the nut to let the lead out," Timothy explained, "but that would ruin the nut."

"Cut your grooves," Gaius shrugged.

"It'll wreck the nuts," Timothy warned.

"Take the bolt that went with it," Gaius added, "and do the same with it. See if you can make more pairs. Then if it works," he added, looking at the tradesman, "can you cut similar parts in iron?"

"I can do it with the hardest steel," the man said proudly, then added quickly, "Of course it will cost. ."

"I know that," Gaius smiled. "Just don't get too greedy." He paused, then added, "or else." He smiled inwardly as he saw the look of fear. He then grinned as he added, "I suppose Timothy's told you what is going to be paid if this works?"

"Of course I have," Timothy added quickly. Too quickly, Gaius thought. As if he wanted to stop Gaius from going further. He had probably not told the real total. Yes, Timothy would be pocketing some and sharing the rest.

"Then the cost of making these iron tools should come from that," Gaius shrugged, "because you can't prove you can do it otherwise. Oh," he added, after a pause, "Timothy, make sure your man knows that this has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt. I would think at least three pairs of cutting tools should be made. What do you think?"

"If you wish," Timothy replied cautiously.

"And of course, he's going to have to do the bulk of the work. You can't make any of those."

"I'll add some more from my share," Timothy promised.

"I should hope so too," Gaius nodded, then he turned and left.

Chapter 34

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A year passed without incident on the military front, except that the remaining Tribunes, seeing Gaius' decorations, or alternatively, having watched in envy as his cohort had the two hottest months in the luxuriant regions of Lake Barada carrying out mountain drills, decided that they would also ensure more intensive drills within their cohorts. The legion began to resume its efficiency, even if its Legate did not. Timothy produced the steel tools, then found they were useless because the nut-derived master could not be held in place long enough to do any good, while the bolt-derived master could not be forced to turn. Making these had taken longer than expected, and using them proved more difficult than expected, although, Timothy admitted, it should not have been that surprising. Metal was strong, cutting metal would require a lot of force, so a means of holding everything in place and getting enough force was required. The holder had to have a much longer strong lever. Once they knew what to do, they would get there.

The news from Rome was increasingly depressing. The Princeps  was accused of becoming increasingly erratic, although, as Gaius noted, the accusation was not entirely fair. Until now, the Roman living in Rome had been spared taxation: Gaius Caesar had the outright impertinence to introduce taxes that would treat Rome on par with the remainder of the empire. That was extraordinarily unpopular, but, as Gaius noted, not entirely unreasonable. Some of the rich complained that these taxes removed their ability to live according to their station. Little Boots, having heard this complaint at the end of a particularly lavish feast he had put on to impress them, leaped to is feet and announced, "There is no need for you to live like this. A man should be frugal, except he be a Caesar!"

That was hardly the statement with which to win friends, which illustrated Little Boots' problem. He felt neither shame nor scruple about demonstrating the power he wielded, and he showed little restraint in wielding it. On the other hand, he was very intelligent, and he realized the effect this must be having. Accordingly, he lived between two extremes: one was a strange state of exultation at the unrestrained enjoyment this power brought, and the second was a total state of depression arising from the fear of what might follow.

And what might follow was more likely once the largesse ran out, as it would if he did not acquire more money. Accordingly, more effort was made to gather revenue, and in this Little Boots could not restrain himself from flouting his superiority. While giving a particularly long speech in the Senate he switched to holding an auction, naming all the bid prices himself. The nod of a sleeping Senator was taken as a bid, and one Senator woke up to find he had made thirteen quite outrageously expensive purchases. As Little Boots remarked, that would teach him to pay attention and not go to sleep in his presence. The money was paid because the Senator was too afraid to even suggest he had been asleep.

Little Boots was making more effort to find treachery. Gaius' father was being accused of non-patriotic behaviour, and Gaius rather suspected there could be truth to the accusations. His father would consider Caesar's erratic behaviour would make the Republic increasingly attractive. He would overlook the avarice of the average Senator, and that the Republic only worked when the Senators were working for the benefit of Rome, rather than for themselves. Caesar's efforts to make people admire him led to money going through his hands like water, so being wealthy and being under suspicion for plotting was a very undesirable combination. His father was obviously under some pressure, for he sent details of tunnels he was excavating into a hill behind the family home. If everything went wrong, much of the family wealth would be buried there, protected by traps, for Gaius when he returned home.

Lucilla, in the meantime, was to be married to a Flavian named Quintus. Quintus Flavius Secundus was a sound man, his father said, interested in neither politics nor the military. He had, however, built up quite a considerable fortune through selling pork and trading in corn. He was a man of refinement, and most importantly, the Flavians seemed to be on reasonable terms with Little Boots.

The letters from Claudius were becoming more frequent, and, in their own way, quite strange. Claudius, so he said, envied Gaius. Or more to the point, he envied Gaius' being away from Rome. Rome was filled with intrigue, but even more importantly, with fear. There was reasonable evidence that the upper German legions had been on the verge of revolt, while it seemed that the Germans were crossing the Rhine and raiding villages under Roman protection at will. The German legions were in relatively poor shape, and their commander, Gnaeus Lentulus Gaetulicus, was lax.

So Caesar went north and decided to impose discipline. The methods were stern but standard: furloughs were restricted, there were route marches all over the place, there was wood cutting, road making, ditches were dug, there were mock battles, and there were practices of river crossings. As it happened the only river was the Rhine, and these crossings were variously interpreted as invasions, or exercises, but whatever they were, they did not last long in German territory.

Caesar also suspected that the leaders were planning revolt, and part of his visit was to root this out. It was never clear what role Marcus Aemilius Lepidus had, but he had been Drusilla's husband, and he may have thought he had some claim to a vacant Principate. He and Gaetulicus probably were plotting, but their plots were rather amateur, for Caesar arrived and their legions did nothing. In any event, the two were brought back to Rome and secretly executed.

The next exercise was either an exercise in complete stupidity, or, as he, Claudius, suspected, a means of humiliating the northern legions. Caesar announced to the most ill disciplined legion that they would march to the coast to invade Britain. With fewer troops than the great Julius had failed with, and decrepit boats, the legion refused to board. Gaius then taunted them, questioning whether they were Roman soldiers, or whether they would rather stroll along the beach collecting seashells. Such was the enthusiasm for the venture that soldiers began doing just that! Gaius apparently then called the whole venture off, apparently to the general mirth of the Britons. Caesar had deliberately taken the troops he could trust the least, and despatched them on this expedition to test their loyalty. When


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, as expected, they refused to embark he had them collect seashells. He, Caesar, could withstand the ridicule, but the legions could not.

There was also the question of the German invasion. Before going on the disciplinary exercise, Gaius Caesar had announced that the Empire could be expanded by conquering the Germans, an objective of the divine Augustus that was only dropped after the lamentable efforts of his General, Varus. So, Gaius Caesar would take up the challenge, or at least that is what he said. As such, when he arrived, direct revolt would have been difficult, and by the time the discipline was underway, Gaetulicus had lost control. That could be thought of as well-thought-out strategy, however Caesar did not want Rome to start thinking about plots, even failed plots. So, having left Rome to "sort out the Germans", Caesar realized that he had to take something back to Rome. Unfortunately, as usual his vanity got the better of him, and he decided to return in triumph. He announced victory over the Germans, he added Germanicus to his names, and he paraded a number of Germans before Rome to prove his conquests. Close examination showed these to be Gauls, disguised as Germans.

Some laughed at Gaius Caesar, but not for long as vicious taxes were imposed on those who laughed the loudest. His approach to taxation became more innovative, and he even went around the whorehouses, taxing the whores' clients. People paid up, as the alternative was to be a subject for Gaius' inventive nature.

The problem that Caesar failed to recognize, Claudius added, was the damage to Rome's reputation. Varus had shown the Roman legion to be vulnerable, but Little Boots had shown they had lost the will to fight anyone other than their Princeps , and there was not too much will there either. By totally ignoring the senate, Little Boots was now behaving effectively as a king, ruling alone and dispensing with other possible claimants. This was having a very bad effect on the senior Romans.

In Claudius' opinion, there would be trouble. Gaius stared at this letter in disbelief.

* * *

There was trouble, although not the sort envisaged by Claudius. Herod Agrippa had somehow managed to rekindle the anti-Jewish sentiments in Egypt, and the trouble spread like wildfire. Greek and Jew were fighting at Antioch, and Petronius was mobilizing his forces to put down such trouble. However, two of his officers were not to take part in this show of force. One Legatus  had to be left behind, because he was too persistently drunk to act. Petronius himself would command. The second was Gaius Claudius, who, when getting ready to march towards Antioch, received a letter with the imperial seal.

Petronius watched with some concern as Gaius broke the seal. Gaius himself had heard enough of Little Boots' actions to be really concerned, but in the event breaking the seal led to one of the proudest moments of his life. The Legatus  of Legio  III, Cyrenaica , a legion temporarily stationed in Bostra, had become seriously ill. Gaius Claudius Scaevola was ordered by Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus to proceed to Bostra as temporary Legate. No mention here of the Senate of the People of Rome.

But it did not matter. While it might be temporary, he had a legion!

Petronius, surprised by Gaius' response, took the letter, looked at it, and nodded. "Congratulations," he said, as he gave Gaius an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "I won't say I'm pleased to see you go, because I rather fancy I could use every good man available at Antioch, but I'm really pleased for you. This is the sort of opportunity a Tribune needs."

"Thanks for letting me go," Gaius said.

"The signature doesn't give me much choice," Petronius laughed a brittle laugh, "but of course I wouldn't dream of standing in your way. Now, a piece of advice. Once you get there, remember you are now a Legatus . Act like one. You've always had a tendency to do things your way, which can be a bit irritating in a Tribune, but now it's necessary. Listen to others, but don't lean on them. Back yourself, and remember, as long as you don't do anything too stupid, I'll back you fully. You have nine cohorts of the finest army the world has seen, and if someone tries to push you around, feel free to use them."

"I assume there's a problem?"

"There is," Petronius nodded, "and it may require a bit of thought, and frankly I think you're as good a choice as anyone to deal with it. So, get going and may the Gods be with you."

"Sir? One more thing?"

"Yes?" a puzzled Petronius said.

"Just in case there could be any action, bearing in mind the attention the Legatus  has shown, the legion, and my cohort, may need a temporary Tribunus Laticlavius ."

"And?" Petronius now seemed almost amused that his subordinate was offering advice.

"With respect, Governor, I believe Lucius Vibius would do that job as well as anyone."

"You do, do you?" Petronius stared, then added, "I thought you two didn't get on that well?"

"I believe he's the best man for the job if you need someone in a hurry," Gaius said. "Bearing in mind my appointment is only temporary, it's unlikely the Princeps  is concerned about this detail, and. ."

"I see," Petronius interrupted. "All right, then. I agree, and why don't you convey the news to him?"

* * *

Vibius stared at Gaius, and finally asked, "Why does Petronius want to find a temporary replacement for you?"

"There could be action soon," Gaius shrugged, "and you know what our Legate is like."

"But why me?" Vibius asked, and then added, "and why send you to tell me?"

"Petronius' choice," Gaius shrugged, then added, "I did put in a good word for you, and the Governor agreed."

"Why? I'm already a Tribune, and I've got my own cohort."

"Read up all you can about strategy," Gaius advised. "If you get any action, and make a fist of it, fighting as Tribunus Laticlavius  is the route to your own legion."

"What I meant," Vibius said more deliberately, and almost suspiciously, "is why did you recommend me. You don't owe me."

"I'm just hoping I can do a favour," Gaius shrugged. "If all goes well, maybe one day you can do one for me. In the meantime, please look after my cohort, and I wish you all the best of luck."

"Then I hope you get to keep your temporary position," Vibius smiled. "There's a bit of self-interest there, I suppose but. ."

"I hope you get your legion," Gaius said, "and I mean that."

"Then may the Gods go with you, and if I can offer something one day, it's yours for the asking."

Chapter 35

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Bostra, part of the Nabatean kingdom, had been described as an inland desert provincial centre. It was in what Gaius considered to be near desert, a centre that existed because water was present, and also because it was on an inland trade route. There was green in places, albeit usually covered with a yellowish-brown film of dust. Away from the city, green gave way to the light grey-brown of the desert, broken by the occasional shrub. The dust from this near desert was everywhere. Yet the centre of Bostra itself was quite magnificent, and far from what would be expected of a small provincial city. The city was entered with a street lined by impressive colonnades that stopped as the visitor came closer to the city centre. The main street leading to the administrative centre was extremely narrow, and paved with the expected stone slabs. This street ran between two rows of buildings three floors high, thus making the street seem like a monstrous canyon, which was not without purpose. The narrowness of the street meant that the sun seldom beat on the lower reaches, and accordingly the air was cooler, and the cooler air also flowed into the open spaces of the city square.

The most important building as seen by officials, which Gaius assumed would be used by the King when he was resident in the town, was entered through a magnificent colonnade, yet the building itself was so huge that the colonnade seemed almost as a clip-on, something put there because it was thought to be necessary.

Bostra was at a fork in the roads, one branch leading to the ancient trading route to Jawf. Caravans on this route were being subjected to attack, allegedly by Saracens or Parthians. Nabatea was a client kingdom, a useful buffer on the eastern flank, and the legion was there to show that Rome cared. Unfortunately, not all the Nabateans were so keen on this Roman alliance, many feeling that they might be better off siding with the much closer Parthians. The legion was a show of strength, albeit temporary, to show that Rome was the real power in the region. As a demonstration, the legion was to punish those attacking the caravans. That begged the question, who? And why?

It was the why that the legion was there. Attacking caravans might mean simply robbery, and robbery hardly warranted a legion. It might also be the prelude to a general attack, perhaps to goad the Nabateans into a retaliatory attack, which could lead to war. A general attack by the Parthians would definitely require a legion even to hold the situation behind defensive fortifications until further legions could arrive. Which was an interesting problem for a temporary legate. If he was careless, or deliberately provocative, he could initiate a war and nobody would blame him! Worse than that, he did not actually have a full legion; a small part of the legion had been sent to help Caesar with the supply aspects of his invasion of Britain. So he had better not start a general war.

Gaius' first task was to present himself to the Nabatean king, who had come from Petra and was taking a keen interest in what this legion was doing. Gaius found the meeting quite unsatisfactory. He could understand one part of the king's concern. If the legion was ill disciplined, that would antagonize the population, and this king could find himself in difficulties. Accordingly, Gaius' first job was to assure the king that the legion would be seen as a benefit to the law-abiding. However, the king also wanted to use the legion to raise his own standing. He wished to punish variously the Parthians and the Saracens, he could not do it himself, but if he could use the legion. . He was both greedy and frightened, a dangerous mixture, Gaius thought. Gaius promised he would do something about these raids, although he was unsure as to what. A small cavalry escort could end up being inadequate for the task, but to send sufficient force to repel any attacker was outside the valid use of legionary force.

Gaius' first task was to inspect the legion. It was in good fighting order, with good experienced men. More experienced than he was, he reflected wryly. They should be inspecting him! In fact, they probably were.

Over the next few days Gaius tried to find out what he could about these attacks. At first sight the Saracens were the obvious choice, except that Saracen caravans had also been struck. In fact slightly more Saracen caravans than Nabatean ones had been robbed. He needed more information, and he had a way of getting it. He had sent Timothy, whose relationship with Gaius was unknown to the Nabateans, ahead. He must now meet with Timothy to obtain a report.

As Timothy had noted, his usefulness, and possibly his life, would end if he became suspected of collaborating with Romans. Gaius had to come in disguise. When Gaius mentioned his plan to a Tribune, the Tribune was horrified. After considerable argument, during which he tried quite unsuccessfully to talk Gaius out of this plan, he finally obtained Gaius' consent to at least take a couple of trustworthy auxiliaries as guards and guides.

Accordingly, as evening approached, Gaius met the two auxiliaries. One, an experienced speculatore,  immediately shook his head.

"What's wrong?" Gaius snapped.

"You look like a wealthy Roman, trying to be in disguise."

"So what's wrong?" This time Gaius was less assertive.

"To start with, a nice clean linen cloak, and sandals that are obviously Roman."

"Is it that obvious?" he asked, his tone showing that he recognized that he was in the wrong.

"Don't worry, sir. I sort of expected that. Here. Put this on." He handed Gaius an old, tatty woollen cloak.

"It's dirty, and it smells," Gaius shook his head.

"Exactly what no good clean-living Roman would be seen dead in," the man grinned. "Now, get rid of that concealed knife."

"I thought I might need a weapon and. ."

"You might indeed," the man agreed, "but use this. It's Persian military. And you might as well let everyone see it, so wear it like so." The man fiddled with Gaius' belt.

"Why do I want to look like a Persian soldier in a tatty disguise?" Gaius frowned.

"You don't. You're trying to look like some scum who's killed a Persian soldier and stolen his sword. It would help if you could try to look shifty, without losing your arrogance."

"Thanks," Gaius said sourly.

"I don't often get a chance to say things like that to a Legate's face," the man shrugged.

"But you often do it behind his back?" Gaius offered.

"Believe it!"

Gaius did. When Gaius' appearance finally met with approval, they made their way purposefully into and through the town until they reached the tavern. Gaius strode in, found a table in the corner, and sat down.

"Get us some wine," he asked the speculatore .

"You don't want to pay?" the man said in a slightly disappointed tone.

"I'll pay you later," Gaius retorted, "but if I'm in disguise it's better that I don't stand up at the bar speaking Latin with a Roman accent."

"You're learning!" the man nodded, and got to his feet.

It was as he was coming back with a jug of wine that Timothy entered. Gaius gestured to him, and pointed to the empty chair. Timothy's initial response was to look frightened. He turned, as if to make a rapid exit, then suddenly backed in again as a villainous looking individual entered. The speculatore  grasped Timothy's arm, and pointed towards the chair. This time, Timothy recognized Gaius and strode towards it. The heavy-set man snarled, shoved the speculatore  to one side, and grabbed Timothy's arm. With a knife in one hand, he reached for Timothy's bag of coins on his belt.

Gaius was already on his feet and halfway towards Timothy. The thief snarled, brought the knife towards Gaius, then, too late, saw the sword come from behind Gaius' back and thrust towards his stomach. As the man fell forward, Gaius stared at the remaining bar patrons. They studiously began looking at their wine, the table, anywhere but at his eyes. Gaius smiled slightly, and dragged the thief towards the corner. Then, remembering he was supposed to be a thief as well, he pulled aside the cloak and found the thief's bag of coins. He tore it off the belt as the thief lay groaning, took out a gold coin, threw it towards the barman, then pocketed the rest and took his seat.

Someone stepped forward, to check the thief's wounds. As he reached the back of Gaius' table, Gaius barred his way with the flat edge of the sword. As the man looked towards him, Gaius impassively nodded his head to say, "No," then pointed towards the bar. The man took the hint, and retreated. The thief groaned in pain; Gaius ignored him. A murderous thief would have no compassion for a victim. It was an attitude that was not that difficult for Gaius to adopt, as Claudians had little compassion for murderous thieves.

Gaius' other guard immediately walked towards the door, pointed a sword at the remaining patrons, and announced in Nabatean with a thick Parthian accent that nobody else would be hurt as long as they stayed put until five minutes after Gaius' party left.

"We don't want anyone running off to get the Romans," he snarled, and everybody nodded. They may or may not have agreed, but they understood. The urge for truth and justice, Gaius remarked later, was not strong in that bar.

Timothy's report was inconclusive. He had spoken to a Saracen survivor from the latest raid, and after treating his wounds, he had learned that the raiders were definitely not Saracen. They could be Parthian, he added.

"No," Gaius shook his head. "Reports from speculatores  indicate the Parthians are very happy to have the Nabateans as a buffer between them and the legions."

"Could be Parthian thieves," Timothy offered.

"Yes, they could be, but somehow I doubt it," Gaius replied. "The Parthians don't want to force the Nabateans into our camp any further than they already are, and anyway, to come that way there's an awful lot of desert to cross, and the Nabatean patrols, suspecting Parthians, have found no sign of tracks."

"Then who?"

"That's my problem," Gaius smiled. "Find out what you can, and if you find something significant, come and see me. Otherwise stay clear. Now, tell me what you know about the local scene."

This in turn was not very helpful. There were a number of Nabateans who were not in favour of Rome, but many more who weren't in favour of Parthians, Saracens, Jews, Syrians, in other words Rome was convenient for Nabatean independence. Gaius nodded. His task was to keep passions down, gain some favour for Rome if possible, and make sure no soldier did anything to create an incident.

He got up, tossed Timothy a gold coin, clearly payment for information, then sent him on his way. Gaius turned towards the remaining patrons, made it clear from his expression that following him would be a bad idea, spat at the dying thief, then strode towards the door.

Chapter 36

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The evening had not been a complete waste of time, Gaius mused later. The world was now less one thief, and he could reasonably eliminate the Saracens as the cause of his problem. He was also convinced the Parthians had nothing to do with these raids. So, who benefited?

Then a thought struck him. So far all pursuit had assumed that the raiders came from the East, or the South. The attacks were invariably south of Bostra, so the north could be eliminated as a source of raiders, but what about the west? Judaea was under Roman control, but it was not well pacified. There were definitely groups, such as the Essenes, and more particularly the Zealots, who were actively campaigning to end Roman domination.

Apparently a number of Jewish prophets had predicted that a Messiah would come and free the Jews, and a number of signs indicated that the time of the Messiah was now. One such sign was that the Jews had been conquered, and therefore felt they needed freeing. Messiahs in this part of the world were common and Gaius was particularly puzzled by why, after so many false claims, fresh Messiahs were not seriously questioned. Usually when a Messiah died, everyone agreed they had to have been mistaken and the mantle would fall elsewhere. Only fanatics would continue.

Generally speaking, when land was conquered, after an initial period of distrust, the masses usually preferred the positive values of Roman law to life under a despot, but in Judea it was different. The Jews were held together by a fanatical belief in their own religion, and the fact that a Messiah had been predicted to arrive and save them at about this particular time. "Save them" clearly meant free them from Roman rule; "save them from their sins" as had been the eminently reasonable preachings of one Messiah were simply inadequate.

Given that the Jews needed a Messiah, Gaius mused, Pilate's actions bordered either on the crassly incompetent or on the truly inspired, depending on what he wished to accomplish. Still, Pilate's objectives were both unrealized and irrelevant. What was done was done. The Jewish population was surly and uncooperative, verging on rebellion. From their point of view, what could they do?

By themselves, nothing, but suppose they could bring Rome into war with Parthia? Rome was not guaranteed to win, and the east might be lost. Equally, if the Nabateans lost trust in Rome, they might join the Parthians and the same would happen. If, at the same time, the Jews could organize a general revolt. . In its own perverse way, that made sense.

The next major caravan would set out in four days. He would send out teams of exploratores . Initially, they could be seen to set off to the East, then cut back at night, out of sight, and patrol the west. If he sent out cavalry units with them, and they saw the robbers, he might even be able to save the caravan. And if that failed, he could send out a couple of centuries to patrol the two obvious roads to the west. If they remained out of sight until the day the caravan set off, and were far enough to the west, careless robbers might rejoin the road.

It was worth trying.

* * *

It was better than worth trying. Late on the second night, while preparing a place to sleep, one of the exploratores  heard horses. Three of them crept along a ridge, and concealed themselves behind large rocks on a hillside overlooking the road below. The sound of the horses was now quite distinctive in the cold silent desert air. They watched twenty armed men pass below, riding in the general direction of where the caravan would be the following day. A rider was sent to find the cavalry unit, while the other two followed the twenty.

The following day, the twenty set themselves up to ambush the caravan, and a little further up the hill, the Roman cavalry unit set themselves up to ambush the ambushers.

Thus, when the caravan came along the road, the twenty jumped to their horses and with fearful yells rode towards the caravan. They were half way there, the caravan already beginning to panic, when the sound of a horn filled the air. The attackers turned to look behind them, to see three small cavalry units charging from the left, the right, and above. Each cavalry unit had about thirty men, so fighting it out was not much of an option. To charge the caravan would also be a poor option; caravans had guards, and although these would be no match for the attackers, they would easily hold them up long enough for the Roman cavalry to arrive.

In the end, they split up, but there was still nowhere to flee for the Romans could devote four men to every raider. Within a minute, half the would-be raiders were unhorsed, four were lying on the ground seriously wounded, one was leading a one-man charge to break free, and the rest, recognizing there was nowhere to go, surrendered.

* * *

Fifteen men, leg-roped, hands tied, were led before the Nabatean king.

"Jewish zealots, your majesty," Gaius reported. His words might have been polite and deferential, but nobody present could mistake who wielded the real power. "Their intention, it seems, was to use your kingdom as a pawn in their futile attempts to remove Rome from these lands." Gaius paused, then added, "It seems they had this hare-brained notion that Nabatea could be induced to take up arms against Rome."

"That could never happen!" the king exclaimed. Politically correct, without enthusiasm, Gaius noted.

"Of course it couldn't," Gaius replied, in a soothing tone. "The Roman senate is well aware of your friendship towards Rome, and it values that friendship very much. Which is why Caesar ordered the legion here to help you."

"And I truly value your help. Tell me," he added, "what are the plans for your legion?"

"I assume that now you know who's responsible, you can protect future caravans yourself?" Gaius asked.

"Of course." Obviously the king would be pleased to see the back of the legion.

"Then if you are satisfied that we have solved this problem," Gaius said, "the legion will return to Egypt." He paused, and added in as earnest a tone as he could manage, "We were only here because a loyal friend needed help. We most certainly would not wish to remain unless you needed us."

"Then I am most grateful," the king replied. "You will thank Caesar for me?"

"Of course," Gaius nodded.

"And what are you going to do with them?" he asked, pointing towards the prisoners.

"Nothing," Gaius replied simply.

"Nothing?" the king asked, almost in horror. "But they. ."

"They've done nothing to Rome," Gaius replied. "Their crimes were against your caravans, so you may have them to punish as you see fit. If I were you," he added, "I would make sure the punishment deterred others from attacking your caravans."

"I am sure that can be arranged," the king said with a cruel tone.

"However, before that I would be tempted to interrogate them," Gaius added. "They knew when the caravan was coming, they knew it would not have legionary protection, yet they knew the legion was in Bostra."

"A spy?" the king mused. The way his mind was working, Gaius thought, people who were not in his good books should stay out of his way for a while.

"That would be my guess," Gaius shrugged. "It's none of my business, but I would imagine you would wish to rid yourself of such a pest."

"I most certainly do! Thank you very much for your help. You're most welcome to come back any time you like."

Gaius smiled as he left. Whatever else, the king would not be sorry to see the legion leave. This king would rather have his way with his subjects, unfettered by Rome.

Chapter 37

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His orders were that once the risk of a conflict with Parthia was over, the legion should return to Egypt under the temporary command of the Tribunus laticlavius  while he would return to Damascus, presumably to resume his previous position.

Gaius found eating breakfast rather difficult. This was the final day of his command, and he had heard noises of the legion assembling on the on the parade ground for over an hour. The time had now come for him to make the final formal inspection and receive the salute. Although little had happened while at Bostra, the men appreciated competent resolution of a problem and he had earned some level of respect and popularity. More to the point, he had really enjoyed being in command. He had solved a problem, he had solved it very quickly, and nobody else had even imagined the actual answer. Unfortunately, while he had been extremely effective, the solution had been seriously lacking in glory. A whole legion deployed to stop twenty raiders was nothing to get excited about, not that he had deployed the legion. The problem was, that was one of those successes that simply did not count. Not that he should dwell on that. Rather reluctantly he had to admit his rightful place was still back as a Tribune.

He had just completed formal dressing when he glanced ruefully at the silver mirror. This would be his last day dressed as Legate, at least for a while. Still, there was nothing to be gained by delay and the men deserved more than to have to stand around while he was having his quiet regrets. He donned his helmet, and strode to the tent flap. As he emerged, a messenger stood there.

"A message from the Governor, sir."

Gaius frowned. Why could this not wait until he got back? Then, as he began to loosen the seal it occurred to him that he might not be going back. He opened the paper, read, smiled, then frowned, then shook his head in despair. He ordered the messenger to wait for replies.

When he reached the makeshift dais, he surprised the Tribunus Laticlavius  by demanding that he speak first.

"I apologize to those who thought they would be rid of me today," he began to a surprised, if disciplined and impassive audience, "but this little ceremony will have to be delayed. I have just received orders to retain command temporarily and proceed with all speed to Jerusalem. The legion marches at first light tomorrow. Tribunes, please, to my tent. Centurions, complete preparation."

A legion did not simply get up and march, although it seemed as if it could do that. Feeding five thousand men plus auxiliaries required organization. Feeding several hundred horses in near desert conditions required more organization. The legion, however, was expecting to march in two days time hence while this order would cause a certain degree of grumbling and swearing, it could be executed readily. Even more importantly, as one of the Tribunes noted, the legion had only been there for a few weeks, and that was not long enough to accumulate the level of "necessities" that made rapid movement impossible. While the coming day might be extremely busy, there was also a certain sense of anticipation throughout the legion. A rapid forced march meant that something was going wrong, something that needed a legion to fix it.

The problem was nominally a reli


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gious problem, which in this part of the world was the worst of problems. The citizens of Jannia, to show their zeal and desire to please Caesar, had raised an altar to him. The local Jews had regarded this as blasphemy. That this altar had been nowhere near their temple was irrelevant; a statue to a false God had been erected in the lands of the Jews, and that violated the Word of God. Accordingly a mob descended on the statue, tore it down, and smashed it to pieces. The local procurator, Herrenius Capito, had tried to punish those who tore down the statue, and for his troubles a riot had started.

When Gaius Caesar heard that this statue to him had been torn down, his response was simple. A large statue of him would be constructed and erected at the head of the Temple of Jerusalem. If the Jews tore that down, his legions would tear down the Temple, crucify the Sanhedrin, and erect a similar statue in the next biggest Temple. Opposition would be put to the sword; these wretched Jews would learn exactly who controlled Judea.

Petronius had tried to reason with the Jews; the Jews would not be reasoned with. The desecration of the Temple went past the point of no compromise. The Jews would all die rather than yield to such blasphemy. Petronius was clearly at his wits end; to kill an entire race was beyond him, but to defy the Princeps  meant his own certain death. To Gaius, this situation was stupidity of the worst kind.

Gaius stood before the Tribunes, and it occurred to him that they would see him as little better than one of them. If they did, they gave no sign. They entered the tent, stood to attention, saluted, then stood at ease. Gaius calmly outlined the immediate aspect of the problem. The legion was to march towards Jerusalem, but not enter unless required. The Prefect in Caesarea was nominally charged with sorting out this problem, but it was unlikely that either Caesar or Governor Petronius seriously believed that he would.

The Tribunes nodded. They knew that Judea was neither large nor important, hence the Prefect would not have the necessary force. They would also know that the unrest in Antioch and concern over Parthia limited the assistance Governor Petronius could provide. He had sent one legion, and since the Cyrenaica  was nearby, it could assist at Jerusalem.

He, Gaius, although formally the junior, was given overall command of both legions through Petronius' direct authority and was ordered to show imagination and attempt to settle this issue without excessive bloodshed. The reason, Petronius added, was because he felt that Gaius just might find a way out of this mess, while the other Legate certainly would not. Thus he, officially a Tribune, would command two Legions!

The first matter to be addressed was to move the legion to the vicinity of Jerusalem. He required a report on the logistics and sites for camping by noon, together with a list of any other matters that might provide difficulties. The greater problem of what to do when they arrived was his, however all suggestions on how to solve this problem other than by brute force would be welcomed, now or at any time.

Gaius dismissed the Tribunes, then began writing. He wrote a quick message back to Damascus, acknowledging the order and making some requests. He then began to write a further message to Claudius in Rome. He had written many of these, but this was the first one in which he requested Claudius to do something.

He outlined the problem, and stated that he had recommended to Petronius that he send a small delegation to Rome to plead with the Princeps . If Petronius did, he requested that Claudius meet them first, discuss the situation with Philo if he were available, advise them on protocol, and to try to make an appointment on what was likely to be a more propitious day, to make sure that they made a good impression. He sealed both the messages, and handed them to the messenger.

He sat back and drew a deep breath. This was the type of exercise that could make or break his career. The problem was, the results would be assessed by the highly erratic Gaius Caesar. He could mess up, and end up with a career boost, but equally he could be brilliant and then be sidelined. Such was life in the current Rome. What would the great Augustus have made of this?

He must forget the consequences. He drew himself up, smiled wryly as he put on his cloak of office, and strolled outside. He was still in command of a Legion, he had clear orders and a near impossible task before him. So he wanted a military career? Welcome to the army!

Chapter 38

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Gaius was aware of the hatred of his presence as he looked up at the Temple of Jerusalem. Taking a statue from the base of the Mount to inside the temple would be quite an engineering exercise. The temple was huge, yet it seemed trivial compared with the massive stonework structure on which it, together with what seemed little better than a commercial centre, was built. The commerce puzzled Gaius; perhaps it told more than met the eye about these people. One interpretation was that this Mount protected the religion and the commerce had taken advantage of the protection. That view was simply nonsense. A trading spot can be set up anywhere as quickly as the goods could be assembled. No! The trade was there to be controlled and tithed by the priests.

Now, when Cristus  had insisted that the temple was a place to pray he had challenged the priests and had been crucified to save the priests' tithes. The priests might take their religion very seriously, but they took their money very seriously too. They might be able to get Cristus  crucified for threatening their cash supply, but the Roman army was a different matter. That might be a better approach to his current problem!

Gaius walked towards an official who was haranguing the steely-eyed Jonathon and raised his hand. The official immediately ceased talking, and bowed before Gaius. The priest remained impassive, and stood without any sign of subservience

Gaius looked at Jonathon, nodded, and said, "I would greatly appreciate it if you would sit with me under that tree over there, and have a quiet, private conversation."

Jonathon stared with animosity. "If you think you can bully me into. ."

"That is not my intention," Gaius remarked softly. "I wish to see if there is any way at all of resolving this issue to both our satisfactions."

"That, I doubt," Jonathon said, but he did begin to walk towards the tree. When the official tried to follow, a Centurion took him by the arm and held him back. Immediately soldiers stepped forward and began moving the people so that nobody was closer than fifty meters from the tree.

"So?" Jonathon stared at Gaius.

"It occurred to me," Gaius replied, "that if I were in your shoes, I would probably be angry. ."

"I am angry," came the cold reply.

". . and I might say something which could be construed as seditious. Now, if you were to say such things in front of witnesses, I would be forced to act, whereas this way if you can restrain yourself from shouting, we can overlook them."

"Very thoughtful," came the scowling remark. "You think you can talk me around."

"I hope we can find some sort of compromise," Gaius said.

"I doubt it," came the reply.

"You know the price of failure to compromise?"

"You will try to kill us."

"I will succeed," Gaius said coldly. "Your temple will be a river of blood, and there will be crosses from here to Caesarea."

"Perhaps," Jonathon shrugged. He looked almost disinterested in taking advice, and Gaius could see a man that might even organize rebellion.

"If you recall Carthage and Corinth, you will know that Rome is very good at killing," Gaius said in an even colder tone, "and you know very well it does not permit sedition."

"What do you mean?" Jonathon replied, this time with a mixture of bluster and fear.

"I seem to recall that your Caiaphas demanded of Pilate that a preacher be crucified for such sedition as requiring that Caesar's taxes be paid," Gaius' eyes bored into Jonathon. "You saw an innocent man chastised and crucified, did you not?"

"He was a heretic!" came the defiant but very frightened response.

"Believe me, you fight Rome and you will find out what his last day or so felt like," Gaius continued. He paused for a moment, then continued, "You know that I will crucify you if you fight the Princeps ' will?"

"If you have to," Jonathon muttered, a little above a whisper.

"Nevertheless, that is the very last outcome I wish to see," Gaius added calmly.

"Then destroy that statue."

"I can't do that, and you know it," Gaius replied.

"Then you will have to kill us all," Jonathon replied coldly, his courage now beginning to return, "because that statue is blasphemy. Your Caesar wishes us to worship a statue of him in our temple? Never!" The priest began to get up.

"Sit down!"

"Why?" Jonathon asked. "Our temple will not be defiled."

"The other way would be to persuade the Princeps  to order its removal," Gaius replied.

"That's not very likely," Jonathon said, although he did show slightly more interest in Gaius' comments.

"It's not entirely impossible," Gaius shrugged. "When the Princeps  is made aware of the seriousness of the situation. ."

"He simply won't care! You Romans think you rule the world, and. ."

"I care," Gaius said. "Under this tree, where nobody can hear, I agree with you, and furthermore, the Senate has more than once guaranteed religious freedom. Roman citizens have been executed for damaging a copy of the Talmud."

"That's true," Jonathon conceded, "but if. ."

"It would be wrong of me to state that this order will be overturned," Gaius shrugged, "but I have hopes. In any case, can it hurt to try?"

"And the statue?"

"Governor Petronius has ordered that it be made as slowly as possible."

"Good for him," came the sceptical response.

"He has told the Princeps  that all construction will have to stop while the workers go home and bring in the harvest," Gaius continued.

"That does not correct the problem!"

"No, but it delays the problem and it gives me time to at least try to correct it."

"And why should I believe you will succeed?"

"I make no guarantee of success at all," Gaius said, "but does it cost to remain within the law until the statue is actually produced before the Temple?"

"I have sworn to stop the statue entering the Temple," Jonathon said.

"Currently, it is elsewhere, and will be elsewhere for as long as possible."

"Please yourself," Jonathon said, as he stood up. "What you do with that statue is your business. All I require is that it is not in my temple."

"In Jehovah's temple," Gaius corrected in a firm tone.

"Indeed," came the sour reply.

"In return for your promising not to carry out any seditious acts, and return as near as possible to normality, I promise to give you adequate warning of when the statue is finished. That way, everything can be defused until confrontation cannot be averted."

"How can I trust you not to sneak it in while our guard is down?" Jonathon asked.

"Read this," Gaius said, handing over the document he had been given in Alexandria.

"Do you know what this says?" Jonathon frowned as he looked at Gaius again, this time with a more penetrating stare.

"I cannot read the writing," Gaius admitted. "It could say almost anything, but the man who gave it to me wished to thank me, so I hope it says what I think it does."

"It virtually requires me to trust you," Jonathon continued to frown, as he handed the document back. "I find it hard to see how you could have earned this."

"Then trust me anyway," Gaius said. "I also wish you to do something else."

"And that is?" came the impassive response.

"You must write a statement to the Princeps , as diplomatically as you can, stating why you think the statue should be moved. Do not threaten, just simply state your religious beliefs."

"I can do that."

"You will show it to me first," Gaius commanded.

"To use as evidence against me?" Jonathon gave a hollow laugh.

"To remove from it any evidence of sedition," Gaius replied evenly. "You should be pleading, stating fact, and not making threats."

"As you wish. All I wish to do is see the end of that statue."

"If you really want that, you should make a significant donation to Caesar's coffers."

"That's extortion!"

"On the contrary, I know you have been bribing the local Roman officials. This time, you can make a donation to the greatest Roman official, as is your way, to get what you want. Not only that, it won't be a bribe, but it does seem to put Caesar in a good mood if it's obviously a significant donation."

"And you think a letter from me will change Caesar's mind?" Jonathon said with almost a despairing look.

"No, it won't," Gaius replied, "but it will help reinforce the rest." He paused, then added wryly, "I personally think the donation could be the greatest single influence."

"What is this rest?" Jonathon asked doubtfully. He was keen to avoid the issue of the donation, although Gaius knew quite well that the point had been made.

"Caesar has shown an interest in the metaphysical," Gaius shrugged. "The Alexandrian philosopher Philo is in Rome. Besides his acknowledged wisdom, he has a firm knowledge of Judaism and he has at least some respect from Caesar. I have met him more than once when I was in Alexandria, and I believe I can persuade him to plead on your behalf. I also have word from Governor Petronius that he will officially request that Caesar reverse this decision. Finally, I have a friend who happens to be a member of the Imperial house, who will at the very least arrange the most propitious time."

"Why should I believe this?"

"Because it costs nothing," Gaius replied. "If the statue isn't in the Temple, does it really matter? Or is there more to this?"

"If the statue stays away from the Temple, that will be the end of the matter."

"Then there should be no protest until the statue is to be put in place," Gaius shrugged, "to give us every chance to avert confrontation."

"There is truth in that," Jonathon stated.

"Then go back, and persuade your people to keep the peace," Gaius said. "If Caesar believes you are basically law-abiding, then you may well get your way. If he believes this is a symptom of an incipient revolt, the legions will be deployed, and many people will be killed, quite unnecessarily."

"The legitimate citizens of Jerusalem will give you no trouble," Jonathon said. This time, as he got up, Gaius made no effort to stop him.

* * *

Gaius made further dispatches to Damascus. Petronius replied that after spending forty days in Tiberias listening to Jewish complaints, he had sent a document and a personal plea to Caesar to reverse this decision.

Gaius also sent dispatches to Philo, reminding him of their previous meetings. He explained his understanding of Caesar's views on divinity and added that while he, Philo, may not agree with Caesar, he should humour him since saving tens of thousands of lives was more important than a day's philosophical purity. He also advised Philo to take advice from Claudius, who was knowledgeable about the workings of the Principate. He then wrote to Claudius and explained in detail what he had done, whom he was hoping would arrive and what the consequences of failure were. He sent the messages then he felt like praying. It was then, he thought wryly to himself, that here, in the hotbed of religious fervour, he had nobody to pray to.

A period of waiting followed. Definitely a problem for those who wished to conquer the world, Gaius thought. Bearing in mind the size of the world, messages from the far side could take a year to get to the capital, at which time the original problem would have passed. For all practical measures, other than the matter of the swearing of allegiance, whatever that really meant, a place far enough away had to be independent. On the other hand, if Rome did not conquer any more, then it had to do something more with what it had, or eventually 'the rest' would catch up militarily, and then Rome really could fall. Maintaining that lead had to involve more than running enormously expensive games for the masses.

Chapter 39

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Jerusalem was one of the more distant districts, and currently one of the more troublesome. At present the city was so tense that it was becoming unbearable. All the citizens knew the legion was there for one purpose, to spill blood if required, and despite what the hotheads said, everyone knew that it would be Jewish blood that was spilt. The stares of fear mixed with hatred and religious self-righteousness forced Gaius to keep the legion from the city. The last thing he needed was for insults after one too many cups of wine to be the match to ignite a holocaust.

All the same, it was never desirable that soldiers spend their time doing nothing uncomfortably. Besides the continual drills, Gaius ordered squads of soldiers to march to various Jewish centres, to show the Roman presence, so that each soldier maintained marching fitness. Invariably they did nothing but march around, get hot, and suffer the disgruntled stares of the local population. As a consequence, the soldiers were continually grumbling about the waste of time and effort. This did not worry Gaius: grumbling soldiers meant that the legion was still functional.

It was then that he received a message from Caesar. As he took it his hands were trembling. This message could seal everybody's fate. He broke the seal, opened the page, and stared in disbelief.

Since you are in such a hotbed of religious fervour, inform me of your views on the Gods. G. 

What was all this? He could make a guess, and it gave him a chilling feeling. Fortunately he had received warnings through his correspondence with Claudius. It was then that he remembered the prophecy. Was this the time to deny, or the time to assert? Perhaps both! He took a piece of papyrus and a pen, and after putting down the suitable heading he wrote,

For me, there is no power above Caesar. However, I have had one experience. Following the orders of the divine Tiberius, I was sent to Rhodes, where, at a temple dedicated to Athene, I had a vision in which Athene promised me I would lead a legion that would be the most loyal of all. Legio III awaits your orders. G. Claudius Scaevola. 

He then folded the paper, and arranged for it to be sent. He was quite apprehensive throughout the day; somehow he had come to the front of Little Boots' attention, and that was perhaps the most dangerous thing that could happen to him.

It was as much to avoid boredom as anything else that Gaius personally led the next squad out on an excursion. Most of these excursions were simple route marches through this depressingly parched land, but they did have the effect, Gaius noted as time wore on, of reminding the citizens that they were a conquered people. In many ways this was bad, but when they were considering insurrection it was, perhaps, helpful.

Usually nothing much happened, but this time Gaius ran into yet another potential religious flare-up. He led the two centuries to the outskirts of a small village, to see a mob in the central square. Backed against a tree a man was sheltering a young woman, while he was presumably preaching. A stone was thrown from of the mob and this just missed its target. The preacher continued, which obviously antagonized the mob, because another stone was thrown, this time striking the young woman on the arm. Gaius signalled the first century to advance, and he rode quickly ahead towards the mob.

The man seemed to be inviting the mob to throw more stones, saying something about when struck, you should turn the other cheek and let the sinner strike again. The predictable happened; another stone was thrown, striking the girl on the head, and drawing blood.

"I forgive you your sins!" the preacher said. Someone laughed and reached down for another stone.

"He might," Gaius roared, "but I am inclined not to."

The crowd turned to stare at him.

"One of your preachers once said," Gaius continued, "'He who is without sin, cast the first stone.' What more can I say, but add that in my opinion, casting the stone against a defenceless woman is a sin itself, and by so casting you negate any claim to perfection."

"How dare you quote that heretic!" someone yelled.

"Then look at it from my Roman perspective," Gaius said harshly. "I order you not to throw stones. To disobey that order is insurrection, and on this very spot I shall crucify anyone who so disobeys."

"You wouldn't dare!" someone said, although not with any special conviction.

"My next order is to disperse!" Gaius laughed a bitterly cold laugh. "Stick around and see if I dare. And do not worry that I might run out of nails. The legion is well-stocked."

The crowd stared almost belligerently, but then a few at the edges decided discretion was desirable. Before long, only a very few remained and seeing how alone they were, they turned and ran.

The preacher stared at Gaius. No thanks here, Gaius noted to himself. He asked their names, then ordered the preacher be taken to the other side of the square.

"Rebecca," Gaius nodded at the girl, "You stay!" He turned back to the preacher. "I won't hurt her, and my physician will tend to her wounds."

"Please don't worry," Gaius assured her, after the blood was cleaned from her head. "I just want to ask you some questions."

"About what?" came the cautious reply.

"From what I gather, you are what I believe is called a Christian?"

"My uncle and I follow the ways of The Master," came the simple reply.

"Why?"

"Because The Master was the truth and the light."

"Despite the obvious physical danger and, if you don't mind my saying so, the apparent lack of money?"

"Money isn't everything," Rebecca replied.

"It buys you food and clothes," Gaius smiled, "both of which you seem to need."

"The Lord provides."

"Not lavishly."

"Sufficiently."

"Perhaps," Gaius remarked. "Tell me, in your uncle's absence, why are you so convinced in your Messiah?"

"Because he is the truth."

"Yes, but forgive me," Gaius persisted, "there have been several hundred other would-be Messiahs making similar claims. Why do you believe that yours is different from the others?"

"He died to save us from our sins."

"The official version," Gaius pointed out, "is that he died for sedition."

"If you say so."

Gaius stared at her for a moment, then laughed. "It's not what I say, it's what's recorded."

"If it's seditious to tell the truth, to preach peace and forgiveness."

"Answer this truthfully," Gaius said with a quiet smile. "I am just trying to understand."

"You wish to follow the ways of The Master?" came the fascinated response.

"Not in the way you are thinking," Gaius smiled. "You Christians presumably hate us Romans."

"Why?"

"For executing Jesus."

"We could not hate you for that."

"Why not?" Gaius paused, then added, "That is what I don't understand."

"That was ordained," Rebecca replied simply. "The Master forgave his executioners, and if The Master could forgive, I could not do less." She smiled at Gaius' expression, then added, "Since he was the Son of God, he could have prevented that any time he wished."

"Then what was the point?"

"You asked, how was he different from other Messiahs? Well, that is one way."

"Others have died," Gaius remarked, "and others could have claimed they could have avoided it but chose not to. That is hardly proof of divinity."

"And the others did not rise from the dead," Rebecca said.

"You saw that?"

"My Uncle has spoken to James, the Messiah's brother. It happened."

"I see," Gaius said uncertainly. He most certainly did not see.

"No you don't," Rebecca challenged.

"You're so sure?" he asked quizzically. He could hardly deny it, but he was surprised at her certainty.

"I'm sure," she replied with the quiet simplicity of one who knows.

"Because I'm a Roman?"

"Thomas did not see at first," Rebecca said enigmatically, "yet he was there and saw with his own eyes. You have not seen with your own eyes, hence you see not."

"Perhaps I'm simply not suitable," Gaius smiled.

"Everybody is suitable for The Master's house."

"I'm a Roman," Gaius smiled.

"You're a person."

"I'm a soldier," Gaius added. "Your Master was a pacifist."

"The Master was a great teacher, but it is not what you do that matters. It is what your soul does."

"Meaning?"

"Being a soldier is not evil."

"Soldiers kill," Gaius pointed out.

"Today, you saved our lives," Rebecca said.

"So saving the life of a Christian is a compensating good?"

"No!" Rebecca almost shouted. "It is that you saved the life of someone weak," she added, then waved a reassuring hand towards her Uncle, who had started to get up on hearing the shout. She looked at Gaius, then added, "You should save your soul and follow the ways of the Master."

"I don't think so," Gaius said, and smiled as he stood up. "I want you to promise me something."

"I promise."

"You don't even know what it is?"

"The Lord has brought you to me."

"I'm not so sure about that," Gaius shrugged. He reached beneath his cloak and withdrew a small pouch of coins. "I want you to keep these, and buy yourself good food."

"As I said, the Lord has provided," Rebecca smiled.

"I think it was merely me," Gaius pointed out.

"But the Lord has touched your heart, and if you follow the ways of the Master, you will be rewarded."

"No," Gaius smiled. "I know there will be no reward. I simply want you to eat better."

"If you know there will be no reward, then like it or not, you are following the ways of the Master. May I leave now?"

"Of course," Gaius said, "and good luck to you."

"And may you walk in the path of light." She got up, and walked away.

Gaius stared at her as she walked away. Whatever else, she was a believer. She was following a very harsh path, yet she was far more content inwardly than he could ever be.

Chapter 40

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A few days later, Gaius was drawn towards yet another religious gathering. Another Christian preacher. Gaius listened for some time, then turned to leave. There, under a tree, were several quite undernourished children, with quite deplorably shabby clothes. He found himself reaching for his pouch, counting the children, and he gave them two denarii each, until he reached the last, who had to receive the equivalent in sesterces. They thanked him profusely, and immediately ran off.

"You have come to learn our ways?"

Gaius looked to his left, to see Rebecca. "I was curious," Gaius admitted.

"That was James," Rebecca said, indicating where the preacher had been. "If you wish, I can take you to him."

"I don't think that's necessary," Gaius replied.

"That's true," she smiled, "but sometimes we do things because we want to, not because they're necessary."

"I wouldn't wish to waste his time," Gaius countered.

"The Master never considered any soul a waste of time."

"Possibly not," Gaius replied, "but you really don't want the likes of me."

"Whyever not?"

"Because I think your religion will last," Gaius said, "and I think that because it alone provides hope for the poor. There will always be poor, so there will always be need for you, as long as you don't succumb to the rich."

"The Master was quite happy to receive the rich."

"Perhaps," Gaius replied, "but if you really believe he was the Messiah, you cannot risk it."

"I don't understand?" she said in a puzzled tone.

"Accept the rich, take their money for the salvation of their souls, build temples, and you know what?"

"What?"

"Go to the main temple in Jerusalem, and look at your fate."

"The Master had no time for those. ." she struggled for words, then said, "merchants."

"Christians don't like merchants?" Gaius frowned.

"You can be a priest," Rebecca said flatly, "or you can be a merchant, but you can't be both."

"A point," Gaius smiled.

"So you wish to meet James and have your questions answered."

"I'm afraid I'm not one of you," Gaius shrugged. "I was just curious."

"And what did you learn


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?"

"The verdict?" Gaius looked at her, then he laughed as he said, "My report will say you are harmless to Rome."

"Is that all you see in us?" she protested. "Harmless?"

"Yes, I see a little more," he replied, "but that is all I would put in an official report."

"Then come with me and. ."

"No," Gaius shook his head. "I am not one of you, and there is no point in pretending."

"You have begun to follow our ways."

"Hardly!" Gaius laughed.

"What you gave to the children. The Lord will reward you."

"I don't want your Lord's reward," Gaius replied. "I just felt sorry for those children."

"That you did that without wanting the Lord's reward is why you will get it," Rebecca said. "The Lord touched your heart with the children."

"I see," Gaius said slowly, then, recalling the prophecy, he continued, "You believe that if you pray hard to your Lord, you will be answered."

"That depends on what you want," Rebecca said simply.

"Pray to touch somebody's heart, to do good?"

"Of course," Rebecca said. "The Lord will listen."

"Then go to James, and persuade him to pray. Pray that your Lord will touch the Princeps ' heart."

"For what purpose?" Rebecca frowned.

"The Princeps  has ordered a statue of himself to be erected in the Temple in Jerusalem. The priests will die before they permit it. I have sent a delegation to the Princeps  to persuade him to change his mind and abandon this statue. You can pray that he does."

"And you think that is a suitable prayer?"

"It will save a lot of pointless death," Gaius explained. "No Christian benefits, no harm is done, and it benefits those who are harassing Christians."

"Then it is truly a good prayer," Rebecca replied. "We shall pray, and the Lord will listen."

"I hope so," Gaius muttered.

"And at some later time, you shall get the sign you seek," Rebecca said enigmatically, and turned to leave.

Gaius simply stared after her and with a smile he shook his head in puzzlement.

Chapter 41

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Eventually messages from Rome arrived. One had the Princeps ' seal. With a feeling of dread, Gaius opened it. The message was simple: if they do not want the statue, remove it.

Gaius felt a terrible weight removed from his shoulders. He almost ran from his tent and without arranging for any of the usual detachment of guards he mounted his horse and rode quickly towards Jerusalem.

When he gave the news to Jonathon, the outcome deflated him; the priest merely grunted, and turned away. That the deaths of thousands had been averted seemed barely worth another thought!

Accordingly it was an annoyed Gaius who returned to his camp. There was a large message from Rome, this one bearing Claudius' seal. Gaius opened it. According to Claudius, Little Boots was behaving even more erratically than usual. The Temple issue had been resolved, but possibly more through sheer luck than anything else. Philo and his party had arrived, but so had a deputation from Alexandria who were there to argue against the Jews. Then came his letter about Gods. Whatever he put in it, Claudius noted, it seemed to satisfy Little Boots, for he became almost reasonable. Accordingly he, Claudius, quickly arranged for the parties to see Little Boots. The meeting had the usual bizarre aspects.

Philo had begun his well-prepared speech when Gaius Caesar cut him short, and asked whether this was a prelude to a request about the Jewish Temple. When told yes, Little Boots shrugged, turned to one of the Jewish leaders and muttered something about, 'How could he have guessed if he were not divine?' The Jews shuddered, the Alexandrians made some vile comments about Jews, and Caesar sat there smirking. Suddenly, he leaned forward, pointed at the Jews, and with a slight grin said, 'What are you? God-haters? Men who deny my divinity?'

One of the Alexandrians, Isadorus, immediately leaped into the fray. 'Lord Caesar, still more and more justly will you hate them when you learn that of all man-kind, these Jews refused to sacrifice for your safety!'

A Jew leaped forward. 'Lord Caesar, we have sacrificed for you, and we fed not on the flesh of our victims, but made holocaust of them, not once but thrice. Firstly, when you became Princeps , secondly when you were restored from disease, and thirdly for your success against the Germans. .'

Little Boots nodded sternly, then suddenly said, 'Ye sacrificed for me, but not to me!'

The Jews fell back in terror as the implications struck them. They could deny their one God, or they could deny Caesar. The Alexandrians goaded them, while Caesar simply smiled sadly at them. Suddenly, he leaped to his feet, rushed across the palace room, and muttered something about a drape not looking right. He adjusted it, asked what the parties who had followed him thought about it, and as the sycophants began making comments about Caesar's undoubted eye for beauty, he charged up the stairs to adjust another drape. Then, back down, and another drape. Then back to the first, and returned it to where it had originally been, and asked them what they thought about that. Nobody dared reply.

Then Caesar turned on the Jews. 'Why do you not eat pork?' The Alexandrians laughed at this, but suddenly fell silent when Caesar turned towards them, a furious expression on his face. The Jewish leader explained that each people had its special customs. Some even refrain from eating lamb.

'Quite right,' Little Boots snorted. 'Their meat is terrible.' He then lurched into a speech about public policy, but then, when he must have decided that nobody was really interested, he stopped and dashed off to adjust another drape on a balcony. The parties followed. Then he turned to nobody in particular, shrugged, and said sadly, 'Men who think me no god are more unfortunate than criminal.'

'Lord Caesar, the statue?' Isadorus asked.

Little Boots waved him away, saying, 'If they prefer to worship someone other than me, it's their loss.' The scribes quickly transferred this permission to remove the statue to parchment, and Little Boots signed without even querying it.

Then, for the rest of the day, Little Boots behaved almost like Augustus, being fair, wise, and hard working. If the Jewish religion could make that happen, Claudius noted, it might be worth considering! If it were the Jewish religion, Gaius thought.

In the meantime, he, Gaius Claudius, simply did not know how fortunate he was to be so far from Rome. Certainly Little Boots had some good days, but he had some bad ones too. Nothing was sacred. Little Boots was forcing Senators' wives to fornicate with him, and while some may have been willing, at least one was not; she had committed suicide later. Of course, Claudius added, the great Augustus, for all his talk about virtue, entered other people's wives as frequently as these Jews claimed they were entering their Temple.

While Caesar demanded more power, he was becoming increasingly insecure and lived in continual fear of plots. One of the most active at flushing out plotters was Titus Flavius Vespasianus. Not a man to get on the wrong side of, Claudius noted.

Little Boots, continuing his program to prove that there were no Gods, had even deified his horse. As an antireligious statement, this was a total failure. Roman citizens began worshipping the horse! Gaius Caesar laughed his head off at this, but he failed to realize that many felt it better to be laughed at than to be on the wrong side of Caesar.

Meanwhile, Caesar continued to pursue his grand ideas. He had ordered the design of one of the grandest aqueducts, to bring water fifty-six miles to the city of Rome, ten miles of which to be suspended on arches a hundred feet high. He had completed the temple of Augustus, he had repaired the theatre of Pompeius, and he had commenced work on a special harbour on Sicily for corn ships to find refuge in storms. But some of his ideas went too far, like the canal he had had designed through Corinth. How could anyone ever build anything like that! He was working too hard, and in attempting to emulate Augustus he did all administration himself. Unfortunately, he was no Augustus.

But most seriously of all, Gaius Caesar was spending too much of the treasury on ridiculous spectacles for the people, or to get the people to like him. For if Gaius Caesar had an overriding weakness, it was that he wished people to like him, and he behaved in a fashion that almost guaranteed they did not. Actually, that was not quite true. It was likely that the masses did like him, and a number of equestrians, like the Flavians, were doing very well. For it was the senatorial class that Caesar disliked so much. These, he thought, were the plotters, they were the lazy, and in Caesar's eyes, they were blocking progress. For what Caesar admired were people who were trying to achieve something.

When he came to power, Gaius Caesar had become very popular for putting an end to Tiberius' system of spies and informers. Now the spies and informers were back. Spiteful Romans were informing on their neighbours, people like Vespasian were rounding up those neighbours, and some of the interrogations were not very pretty.

There was bad news for him, too, and it was imperative that he control himself. His father and mother were dead. It was unclear exactly what had happened. All that was known was that his father had constructed tunnels into the hill behind the family estate, and seemingly there had been a cave-in while his parents and some staff and relations were inside the caves. The official version was that they must have been carrying out some religious ceremony and the roof caved in. There were, however, rumours that Caesar himself had had them killed. It was known that Caesar had uncovered a plot against him, and that plot involved a plan to assassinate him and then restore the republic. Unfortunately his father had been seen prior to this in the company of known republicans, and according to Caesar's spies, he had been acting somewhat furtively.

Whatever the reason for what had happened, some of the remaining staff had later spent days digging, but the cave-in was very substantial. Finally, given that whoever was in the tunnels had to be dead he, Claudius, had used his relationship with Tiberius to order that the tunnels be refilled and an oak be planted over the entrance, with an imperial order prohibiting anyone disturbing the site. He apologized that it was all he could do; the family would rest in peace. If there was any good news it was that Lucilla was alive and well; she was with Quintus at the time.

Oh, and do not return to Rome! The following day the Princeps  was questioning your loyalty, and wondering whether the removal of his statue from the Jerusalem Temple was part of the plot. I immediately suggested to Caesar that if you were plotting, a riot in the east would distract Caesar, and make it easier to carry out the plot. Caesar responded with the comment that a war there would make it impossible for a soldier to leave the area. So I have assured Caesar of your loyalty. Caesar muttered something about, "We shall see." So whatever happens, whatever you do, do not try to come back to Rome. The more you look as if you have no interest in Rome, the better.

I am sorry, but I did what I thought best.

Your stuttering Claudius.

Gaius stared sourly at this piece of news. His father was dead. Murdered! For no better reason that that he was acting furtively, according to a spy. By the Gods, he would so like to get his hands on that spy. He became more and more angry, as he pictured his mother lying against a wall, a sword being thrust into her by some arsehole of a self-styled soldier, someone too scared to join a legion, but really brave against unarmed women. Well, he would return to Rome and he would enjoy the surprise on that arsehole's face when confronted by someone who knew how to use a gladius! That piece of excreta would very quickly learn. .

It was then that Gaius almost felt his mother imploring him. No! Please, do not do that! He took two deep breaths, and stared at the entrance to his tent. He could easily find a boat to Rome, but that would be a boat to his death. If he returned, he would achieve precisely nothing, because Gaius Caesar would be one of the first to know, and he would not wish to have his murderers brought to the public gaze. For there was no doubt on one point: his father had been murdered on Caesar's orders. There was little doubt on another point: if he really wanted revenge, it had to be on Little Boots, and there was no practical way to achieve that, at least not right now.

He reached his decision. He would weep for his family, but he could do nothing more, at least not yet. He must write back and inform Claudius that he would remain in the east, and he must thank Claudius for his efforts.

A few days later, Gaius received fresh orders from Caesar. Gaius opened them with trepidation, but this quickly turned to puzzlement as he read, "I have removed the Legatus of the Fulminata for incompetence, sloth and dereliction of duty. The temporary Legatus, Lucius Vibius, has done a good job for some time and accordingly I have made his position permanent. Since you were his senior, and have also been successful, I shall not insult you by asking you to serve under a previous junior. Accordingly, you are to order the Cyrenaica to march back to Egypt. For the time being, you are relieved of command. Remain in Judea and await further orders. "

On a separate piece of parchment was a further message. "Gaius Caesar is still sour about his statue, and I think he is acutely interested in what you will do next. I suggest you keep a low profile, and this will blow over. Whatever else you do, do not even think of returning to Rome, and do not petition Caesar. Claudius."

At first Gaius felt furious. Now he was removed from command! He stormed from his tent and ordered the Tribune of the fourth cohort, who had the misfortune to be accidentally passing by, to get the remaining Tribunes and form a plan for a prompt march to Egypt. The Tribunes would report with the details at the evening meal. Before this unfortunate Tribune could respond, he jumped on his horse and rode.

He had done his level best, he had avoided bloodshed, he might even have saved a colony because, what with religious fanatics as opposition, the Parthians, and the Roman treasury empty, immediate victory was not a foregone conclusion, particularly if Little Boots commanded with the authority he showed for the invasion of Britain.

But those problems were averted because he, Gaius Claudius, had found a peaceful solution to a problem that should never have occurred, a problem solely of Gaius Caesar's making, and a problem made solely through an over-inflated ego. For which he, Gaius Claudius now had to pay with is career!

After a few minutes, he finally noticed where he was. Nowhere! At least, nowhere in particular. He was riding along a stony gully, the sides of which offered little cover. He reined in his horse. He was being stupid. He turned the horse around and began to canter slowly back, this time keeping a clear watch on the hilltops.

There was absolutely no point in being angry, or at least in being seen to be being angry. . That, suddenly, gave him an idea. He had charged off in a hurry, away from the direction of Jerusalem. He should go somewhere. Then, return to camp and send the legion to Egypt with whatever good grace he could muster.

But back to the present. Go where? Then he remembered. A few miles to his right was a small village. He would go and deal with the situation there. So there was nothing to deal with there? Nobody else would know that!

As he rode into the village a strange feeling came over him, for there was something to deal with. The problem was, he did not have the force to deal with it.

A caravan was surrounded, and a small number of Roman auxiliaries, none of whom would be truly Roman, were laying into the local Jews.

"Stop!" Gaius roared.

Strangely, everybody did. Both sides recognized him as the Legate who liked to ride into squabbles alone, but with part of a legion outside town. They would have to think very long and hard before disobeying the most powerful man in the local forces of the Roman Army.

A few quick questions established that the caravan was supposedly going to Egypt, the Jews were demanding payment for services, which seemed to entail saving them from being robbed.

"In short, extortion!" Gaius nodded, then before anybody could reply, he scowled and added, "Extortion requires power, so let me show you who has power around here. The Princeps  is in a foul mood over Judea, and, as it happens, I am also in a really vile mood. If you don't believe me, try me out.

"Suppose I report to the Princeps  that a band of Jews was fighting Roman soldiers, he will probably order the demolition of the temple and the enslavement of all the Jews, a plight which seems to occur periodically throughout your history. By all means seek your God's help, but it might also occur to you that your God might be a little irritated at always having to rescue you from these disasters of your own making, and he might leave you to stew for a while.

"So, how do you avoid my getting your whole nation enslaved and your temple destroyed? You pay penance, that's how! You pay cash and you learn a little humility. Nearby, there is a man called James, the brother of the Cristus  that your leaders had crucified. Find him, give him plenty of money, and tell him that it is ordered that that money must be used to feed the poor. I will check, and if I think the gift is adequate, this incident is forgotten. If it isn't, at the very least I'll come back and crucify the lot of you.

"Now, you!" Gaius turned to the auxiliaries. "Fighting without authority! You will empty your pockets of all the money you have just been given. Do it now, and if I find anyone hiding any, I will hand them to my Centurions to be thoroughly chastised. Good, I see you have seen my point," he added as the money poured onto a heap. "You!" he indicated the senior auxiliary, "check your men for compliance. Don't even dream of trying to cheat on me.

"Finally, you," Gaius turned to the caravaneers. "One of you will pick up that money and take it to James, with the same instructions. Keep any for yourself, and I will have you crucified. If you want protection, add some more, then turn up in a couple of days time and accompany my legion on the march to Alexandria."

As he was to note later, his mood must have been sufficiently obvious to terrify everybody, because the compliance was immediate. There was no argument, because the choice seemed to be between giving money to the poor, and being crucified.

* * *

The caravan duly turned up the following morning. The ordinary troops in the legion were curious, and soon found out that their Legate had turned up just in time to personally avoid bloodshed. They also remembered that he had flown out of his tent and ridden hell for leather in that direction. No messenger had come from the village, indeed when Gaius fled from his tent, the problem had not arisen.

Only one answer was possible. The Gods had blessed their Legatus  with foresight. A strange rumour began to circulate within the Legion.

Gaius felt strangely short of foresight. He had completed a reply to Rome, and handed this to the messenger. His reply was simple: he acknowledged the order to return the legion to Egypt and stated that the march would begin as soon as the Tribunes had the necessary supplies, he stated that he felt Lucius Vibius was a good soldier and Caesar had made a wise choice, and he continued by stating that he would remain in Judea and await Caesar's further orders.



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