I had dined at Claudius Flavius Agrippa's estate. It was about two thousand paces from my home and I went on foot. It was a very ample banquet and I had left just before dusk as I wished to get home before it got too dark.
I had walked down the road for a short while when a man came from behind some brush along the road. He asked for all of my valuables. I could not help but laugh. This did not go over well with him and he jumped at me. I casually stepped aside, and I see a couple of arrows whisk by me. This bandit was not alone.
The first bandit had gained his footing and rushed towards me once again. I ducked behind the brush from which he emerged. I could not see his compatriots, so I had to be careful. I removed my cloak to protect myself from any small weapon the first bandit may have been carrying. I saw his knife glint in the fading light.
As he rushed at me, I grabbed his arm and launched him in the air with a little hitch in my hip. He hit the ground hard, but only enough to make him angrier. Once again, he charged at me, and I held my cloak to one side. I jumped out of the way in time and draped my cloak over him. I did not let go of cloak as it closed around my assailant. With my grasp of the cloak, I dropped to the ground and put my foot into the small of his back; thus, launching him above the cover of the brush.
In the failing light, his accomplices mistook him for me and launched a salvo of arrows. However, one of the archers gave himself away in this attack. The two arrows shot from this bandit's accomplices struck him. He started bleeding profusely, so I let him keep my cloak. He was still alive, but he would not be for long.
I did not know the position of one of the archers, so I carefully made my way to the archer's position that I had spotted. I saw that he had another arrow ready for flight. I jumped over the bush he was using for cover and knocked his bow. The arrow flew across the road. The second archer yelled in surprise as the arrow just missed him.
I grabbed the first archer from behind and used my greatest weapon on the second. I glared at him with the first archer held tightly in my grasp. Without breaking my stare, I snapped the neck of the first archer with my bare hands. My weapon was successful, and the second archer dropped his weapon and ran off.
I gathered up the two dead men and piled them on the brush beside the road. I checked for any identifying items, and gathered their valuables in a bit of cloth. I headed back towards home leaving the corpses for the scavengers.
After a bit of walking, I overhear some men talking. I cannot quite make it out, but it sounded like an exciting story about a 7-foot man killing Antonius with his bare hands. As I approach, I can see one of the men is enraged by the tale being told. He shouts, "He killed my brother, so he must die!"
I was in a bit of a spot because they were between my home and me. I was not looking for any more trouble, but the brother had spotted me. He came rushing towards me with knife in his hand. As he got closer, he began to shout wildly. Fear was not going to override his anger. However, for my benefit his anger impaired his judgment. When he was close enough, I side stepped him and grabbed his arm. Using his own hand with his own knife, I plunged the blade between his ribs. He fell in a heap. He attempted to get up, but his strength had left him.
Nevertheless, there were three remaining men standing besides a small cart filled with goods. The second archer was standing with his eyes wide with fear.
"That's him! That's him!" he nervously shouted.
"He's not seven feet tall," the second man said with a confused look on his face.
The third man I assumed was the ringleader. He ordered the two men to spread out and attack me on each side, but the two men hesitated. The ringleaders eyes flared and he shouted, "Move it!"
With a start, the two men tried to flank me. I leaned against a close by tree to watch my back. Slowly the three men closed in upon me. The two men on my left and right drew their knives.
I assumed that the ringleader was a deserter from the army who was now making his living as a bandit. He was going to be difficult to take down as he was wearing Roman armor and I just had my knife.
The two conspirators were not wearing any protection against sharp implements, but their cloaks did make them difficult to see. This was all more the true with the greatly fading light.
Closer and closer, the three men became. Eventually, the two men on my flanks lunged towards me. In an effort to dodge their attacks, I spun and kicked the ringleader in the face. Once again, the weapon of fear worked well on the second archer. With my action, he hesitated. This gave me enough time to grab the other bandit by the arm and twist it. The pain pushed him towards the ground and he dropped his knife.
By this time, the ringleader had shaken off his surprise and managed to draw a short sword. He made a clumsy attempt to stab me. It was quite apparent that despite his armor, he was not a well-trained soldier.
With his comrade still somewhat under my control, I pushed him in the way of this awkward stab. Unfortunately for this poor bandit, this thrust went directly into his throat and severed part of his neck. With a little shout, I popped his head right off.
The second archer fainted dead away upon the sight of his decapitated friend. With the head freed of encumbrance of a body, I swung it by the hair and smacked the ringleader with it. With an awful thwack, the head crashed into the helmet of the ringleader.
While the damage was clearly minimal, the scene left him a bit stunned as well. With this momentary hesitation, I thrust my knife in his eye. It is the most vulnerable spot on a man in armor. I quickly removed my knife and a scream of pain came out of his mouth as he clutched his eye.
If the wound is deep enough, it will eventually be fatal. However, it can take a bit of time. With a fury of pain and the loss of vision, the ringleader began swinging his short sword wildly. With one of his swings, he cut a large chunk out of the second archer's leg. Blood began to pour out of this wound but the lead bandit continued to swing his sword with shouts of anger. The new wound would be certainly fatal, but it did not rouse the second archer.
The head bandit was yelling and swearing. He waved his sword about wildly, but I was not going to get anywhere close to him. It was only a matter of time before the loss of blood would do its work. After a short time, the ringleader fell to the ground with a thud. He writhed with pain and gradually sank into unconsciousness.
It was dark now, but I could not leave these men in the middle of the road. However, I did not wish to take any chances that these men were still able to lash out at me. Thus, I made my thanks to my patron Neptune. My ritual took a few minutes as I burnt some blood of my fallen foes in thanks. I also included the decapitated head in my ritual of thanks.
I made certain that the four men were dead as I piled the bandits in a heap beside the road. Like their other fallen comrades, I obtained their valuables and put them all in their own wagon. From the looks of the booty these men had collected in their wagon, they were quite successful highwaymen.
Once I arrived home, I once again made sacrifices to Neptune. My tunic was soaked with the blood of these men. I took the opportunity to visit the bath before turning in for the night.
"That is quite a story," the magistrate said with a little disbelief.
"Your belief is of little concern to me," replied Marius Batiatus Pervalidus with a wave of his hand. "By Neptune, it is the truth, and the men's wounds will confirm my story."
"You killed six men by yourself?"
"No. I killed three men. The men themselves are responsible for the deaths of the other three. I am merely responsible for the head bandit, one of the archers, and the archer's brother."
"You decapitated one man!"
"No, the bandit leader did that with a wild swing. His swing cut the neck of the man and I just finished removing it from its body."
"You used his head as a weapon."
"I only did so to protect myself from the head bandit."
"Someone could make quite a drama out of the events last night."
"Aye, it would make quite a tragic tale of this former Roman soldier turned bandit.
"Do you know who this head bandit is -- er -- was?" asked the magistrate.
"I do not."
"I will tell you. He was Julius Ladro Denunciato. He is in fact a deserter and there is a great reward for his capture. The Republic frowns greatly upon soldiers that leave the ranks."
"It is my pleasure to serve the Republic. That is its own reward."
"That is admirable and well stated. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus... Batiatus? Batiatus? Where have I heard that name?"
"Perhaps you have heard of Lentulus Batiatus. He ran a gladiatorial school in Capua long ago."
"Gladiator?" enquired the magistrate. "You are a gladiator? That explains a few things."
"I have paid for my freedom," Pervalidus replied curtly.
"Were ... you were a gladiator."
"In my younger days, I used to regularly attend the gladiatorial exhibitions. I remember a mountain of a man who went by the name of Validus Maximus. Strong and large that described him quite well. He fought with the trident and net. He was absolutely unbelievable!"
"I am pleased that you enjoyed the contests."
"He used the trident like no one I had ever seen. It was part staff and part spear. Those with gladii were no match for him. He could knock those short swords away from the other gladiator with one swipe."
"It is important to know how to use your weapon."
"You could tell that he was so much better than everyone else. He would just toy with the other gladiators for the sake of the crowd."
"The gladiatorial games were for the crowds and the gods. It is not wise to upset the immortals."
"One time he took on three gladiators. I think the patron of those particular games wanted to see Validus lose."
"It is a danger of the profession."
"Anyway, Validus fought a very defensive fight at first. He made one of his opponents swing wildly and hit one of the other gladiators -- like -- in your tale ... of ... last night..."
"It is a useful tactic."
"Hey! Validus -- Pervalidus..."
"Yes, I was a gladiator that fought as Validus, and later Validus Maximus."
"Now I believe that the guy thought you were seven feet tall. I thought you were too -- in my youth."
"Stature can be deceiving."
"Wow! Validus Maximus. Our legion could use a man like you."
"While that may be true, I have paid my service to the Roman Republic."
"Have you heard the former proconsul Gaius Julius Caesar has crossed the Rubicon? He marching his troops toward Brundisium to meet with Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. It means civil war. You could provide a great service to the Republic."
"I am quite happy serving the Republic in the manner that I did in ridding it of this group of bandits. I owe it no other allegiance."
"I am indebted to Pompey the Great. I must side with him."
"That is no concern of mine."
"Let me finish," replied the magistrate. "If Pompey is defeated I could lose everything. I could lose my estate, my position, perhaps even my life."
"That is quite a sad tale."
"That is just the half of it. I am in line to become Proconsul myself one day. If the Republic falls, all that I have worked for will be gone. I am running for Praetor!"
"My tears are falling like rain..."
"However, if you side with us -- the Republic -- and help us, I can make it worth your while."
"I doubt that even you have that much to offer me."
"Then do it for the Republic and your fellow Romans."
"While I must admit, you are telling quite a sad tale. With the loss of your estate and the loss of the Roman Republic, it would certainly make for a great tragic play. However, I have a much greater tale of loss than you could ever know."
"Caesar is a great general. We could use all the able-bodied men we could get. Pompey is also a great general, but his troops are green. There will be quite a battle. It would be quite a tragedy if the Republic falls."
"I will make a bargain with you. If I tell you my tale of loss, and if it is not more tragic than your own, I will join you."
"Very well, tell me your tale, and then I will fill in the rest of my tale of misery. I am confident in my tale of woe."
I was young. I had not become of age yet. I had probably experienced 12 summers when King Mithridates invaded Bithynia where my family called home. My father, hoping that our homeland would be free, died in battle against the invading King. That left my mother to take care of my older brother, my younger sister and I.
I had a maternal uncle living in Cyzicus. Thus, to seek refuge, my mother and I headed for that Bithynian city. This was an unfortunate move for us as before we arrived, Mithridates laid siege to the city. This trapped my family between the army of Mithridates and the advancing army of the Roman Consul Lucius Licinius Lucullus Ponticus.
Instead of engaging in battle, Lucullus prevented the delivery of supplies by land. While it did eventually lead to Mithridates breaking his siege, it was not going to allow us to make our way into the city.
My family and I followed our mother to an encampment by the river Granicus. We spent a few days there fishing and determining our next move. Fate was once again frowning upon us as Mithridates in his attempt to escape Lucullus, found his way to this very river.
The two generals staged a great battle along the river, and my family had nowhere to go. I saw my mother and sister die beneath the hooves of a Roman equestrian soldier. I saw my brother speared by one of King Mithridates soldiers. I just sat at watched the carnage of the two great armies fighting.
There were men fighting valiantly on both sides. The carnage was incomprehensible to such a young person. The insides of a man were no longer a stranger to me. The blood flowed into the river like its own small stream. I sat and could not turn away. Soldier after soldier fell throughout the battle.
Lucullus was victorious on that day, but King Mithridates escaped by boat along the river. Lucullus fresh from victory gathered up the spoils of war, which included me. I was marched away from the land that I called home.
We marched for weeks towards Rome. Everything I had ever known was lost. There was no way that I could ever find my way back to my home. I spoke not a word of Latin, but that mattered little to the Romans.
We were marched right past the city of Rome and taken to the large slave-trading center in Naples. The Romans would sell the former soldiers and citizens of Bithynia alike at the next auction. We were suddenly simply a commodity.
It was like a bad dream in which I could not awaken. Everything was as if I was fresh from the womb. The sights, sounds, and smells were strange to me.
The slave trading masters stripped us all down and sent us into the baths. Afterward, they closely inspected the newly acquired merchandise. I had not come of age, and I drew quite a bit of excited looks. I was young, strong, and in excellent health. I had to endure many inspections by several individuals.
I scarcely remember the interview with the officials of the slave auction. They were excited. I heard a translator mention something about a high price. I have vague recollections of remarks of my looks and my youthful appearance. He slapped some name on me, and held me out towards the end of the selling day.
A murmur fell over the crowd as I walked out onto the platform and inspected by the potential buyers. I stared down at my chalked feet and shuffled in my naked nervousness. Several patrons examined me quite closely for a few minutes and the bidding began.
The bidding process took a long time as I had garnered much interest. I had still not recovered from the general daze that I was in since the death of my family and the march away from my home. A Campanian man whose name I have long forgotten purchased me for the quite high price of 125,000 sesterces. I was to be his personal house servant. I heard of others going for as low as 2 sesterces, so I briefly wondered what was special about me.
When we arrived at my new master's house in Campania, his wife looked at me with an odd look of disgust and desire. Perhaps she liked how I looked and perhaps she was disgusted at the high price her husband had paid. I am not certain.
My master and his wife fought often over me. One hundred twenty-five thousand sesterces was a lot of money to pay for an ordinary houseboy. I think my naiveté prevented me from seeing the real purpose. It became quite clear a few weeks after arriving.
The mistress of the house took a group of servants to tend to an elderly relative. He had spoken to the remaining servants and explained that he did not wish to be disturbed. No one was to come to him while he was in the peristylium or any adjoining rooms in the rear of the house. He also asked me to serve him his meal in the exhedra rather than have his meal in the traditional triclinium.
I did not find this request unusual, but some of the other servants snickered at the order. I obtained the food from one of the other servants in the cucina and took it into my master in the nearby exhedra. The master had a strange smile on his face and he regularly chuckled as he ate his meal.
When he was finished, he gave me a carafe of very cheap wine. He ordered me to drink it, but it burned the back of my throat. I could only take a few sips, but my master insisted I continue to drink.
He briefly left the room to check on the other servants. While he was out, I dumped a good portion of the awful, cheap wine in one of the urns that decorated the open peristylium.
Upon his return, he checked my progress on the wine and gave a wry smile. He asked me to recline in one of his couches. I was still confused upon the events that were taking place. "Why is my master asking me to recline on the furniture? This is certainly new," I thought to myself.
I did as he requested, and sat on the long couch. He began stroking my hair and mumbling something in Latin. While I had picked up a few words by this point, I did not have any idea what he was saying. He looked into my eyes and smiled a very disturbing smile. He arose and removed his tunic. Something was exiting him.
He told me to drink more of the wine. I took another bitter sip, and spilled a generous portion down my tunic. With the smile still upon his face and his excitement growing, he ordered me to lie face down across the dining table.
I tried to understand what was happening, but I could not put the pieces together. Thus, I refused to cooperate. He grabbed me firmly by the arm to force his will. I was strong and I easily slipped out of his grasp. I let out a small chuckle.
His anger grew greatly as he yelled something. I can only assume it was a curse of some kind. He came at me again, but with the flask of cheap wine still in my hand, I smashed him over the head with it.
He fell over like a goatskin filled with sand. Blood poured from his ear. A great deal of blood spilled onto the floor beneath his head. I knew he was dead or at least soon would be.
I ran through the peristylium as fast as I could and slipped out of the posticum. With his strict order to be alone, I was sure no one had seen what I had done. I ran through the streets of Campania and made my way to the hills outside of town.
I had not reached manhood, and I had killed my first man. I was alone, and I would never find my way to my home. I just murdered the only person who would have made sure I had what I needed to survive. I was on my own.
"You killed your master?" inquired the magistrate. "That crime is punishable by death. I could take you in and have you crucified or thrown off the Capitoline hill."
"Neither you nor I know if the man died. I did not wait to find out if he survived."
"The disobedience of a slave is enough to have you executed. Perhaps they would burn you at the stake..."
"I have received a full pardon from Marcus Licinius Crassus, but that is part of my story I have yet to tell."
"I have heard enough. It is sad, that is true. However, because your master had a soft head and a hard wine carafe does not make it terribly sad story."
"It is your bias that does not equate the loss of my family and home to your potential loss of family, home, and honor."
"Watch your tongue freedman! You have a lavish homestead. You raise horses. You even have a large number of slaves of your own. You have put this great tragedy behind you and the Fates have been kind."
"For many years the Fates were unkind to me. It was not until Neptune smiled upon me that brought me to this place."
"So, that is why you raise horses..."
"It is to give thanks to Neptune -- creator of horses."
"Your horses could be used for the upcoming conflict as well."
"The horses were promised to Crassus..."
"Crassus died four years ago at the battle of Carrhae!"
"Thus, they will only be given to his successor which will be determined by this conflict."
"I could just take them," threatened the magistrate.
"One more body on this pile of four would not be noticed..."
"Is that a threat?"
"I am just pointing out facts; like you are a young man, you are running for public office, you have your whole life in front of you, you are no match for me in battle, that kind of thing."
"You point is well taken freedman," replied the magistrate with a quiver in his voice. "I will grant equal hardships between the stories. Are you going to continue to a greater sadness?"
"If you like; however, I have lived one life more than you. Thus, most certainly I have known greater tragedy than you."
"Are you declaring victory already?"
"I do have the upper hand if you wish to concede."
"Continue with your story Pervalidus."
I was on my own in the hills of Campainia. A few days after my escape, a huge commotion kept me on the run. Roman soldiers were running here and there. "Certainly, I could not be the cause of this," I thought to myself.
Nevertheless, I made extra care to hide. Eventually, my hunger overcame my desire to hide. One night, I came upon a small camp of about one hundred men. They had Roman army weapons, but this was not a Roman army camp. I was on the march with the Roman army for weeks, and I knew their habits.
I was certain they would not miss a little food. Needless to say, I was careless and immediately caught. The men on guard took me to their Thracian leader. I explained that I had just escaped, and I wished to return to my home in Bithynia.
"Bithynia?" exclaimed their leader. "My home was just across the Bosporus from Bithynia! I too hope to see those shores again!"
I immediately offered the man my services. The crowd of men laughed. "You have not yet achieved manhood," interrupted the leader. "What service could you provide this group of escaped slaves?"
"You are escaped slaves too?" I asked forgetting the other part of his question.
"We have freed ourselves from the bonds of slavery, and freed some Roman soldiers of their weaponry. We plan to raise a small army, and will fight our way out of Rome to our homes!" shouted the leader rousing a big cheer. When the cheers died down, he continued, "You, my young friend, have not seen enough summers to do battle..."
"I have already killed my first man!" I responded.
"With what weapon houseboy -- your good looks?" the leader asked to the roars of laughter.
"I smashed his head with a wine carafe," I said timidly.
The crowd erupted with even more laughter. "Fair enough young warrior, we accept your wine carafe! They call me Spartacus! We will teach you to use the sword, for when you enter manhood, you can join us. These are my Galatian cohorts Crixus and Oenomaus. Mind them well!"
Spartacus took me under his wing and taught me how to fight. He became my second father. I learned how to fight under these men. We camped under the shadow of the great mountain Vesuvius. We gathered what we could from the surrounding countryside. Rural slaves came from all around to join us, and we all prepared for the inevitable upcoming battle.
The first test in battle came against 3000 raw Roman recruits. Using the great mountain to our advantage, we surprised the inexperienced troops and easily defeated them. I was in the group to draw the Roman soldiers up the mountainside, but the experienced fighters, using vines and ropes descended the mountain and got behind the Romans. Even with our lesser numbers, our group surrounded and routed the Romans quickly. Our reputation began growing throughout Rome.
However, in the shadow Mount Vesuvius was not the ideal place to winter. Thus, we packed up and moved farther south. We trained and gathered more numbers as we traveled. Our numbers grew steadily as we traveled.
On our southward march, we met two other legions of about three thousand men each. While our numbers were growing, the Roman soldiers still outnumbered us in these encounters. However, the leadership of Spartacus is what allowed us to prevail against the stronger force. These encounters also allowed us to more weapons and armor.
More slaves joined us as we marched towards the coast. Once we reached the coast, we continued along the shore until we reached the town of Thurii. We spent the winter living off the land. We trained and prepared for our next move in the spring. Despite Spartacus's objections, the Galatians continued to gather a large amount of spoils from the Roman countryside.
From our encounters and some pillaging, we were well equipped. We had a fully functioning encampment and spent a comfortable winter in Thurii. Our smiths turned out weapons, and we had grains and meat from the land.
We were well rested and trained for the upcoming challenges in the spring. Our numbers had grown immensely. There must have been 90,000 men, women, and children in our camp.
I had trained hard. I could beat every youngster in the camp in combat. I even held my own against many of the adults. Thus, Spartacus allowed me to join the fighting men. I was officially apart of the "Gladiatorial Army." While my beard still did not grow, I came of age during that winter.
With this army, Spartacus was confident we could march north and leave Rome. We would certainly have to face opposition, but we were well trained and willing to fight.
Crixus and many of his fellow Galatians were anxious for more plunder. They gathered many riches from the towns on our march. Spartacus had a difficult time keeping him in line. At one point, Crixus and his group split off from the rest of us, and the Romans got the upper hand on his group. We arrived and defeated the legions from Rome, but before we could arrive, Crixus died in battle.
We fought a few other Roman legions on our northward march. At the foot of the Alps, we defeated the governor of Cisalpine Gaul at Mutina. We could then march out of Rome to our homes. I longed to go home. There was news of Mithridates still fighting against Lucullus. Thus, I decided to follow where Spartacus led. Many left our numbers to return to their homes.
In our battles, we had gathered many riches, and many wanted more. Others enjoyed their revenge on Rome, and wanted to continue. Others, like me, would follow Spartacus to wherever he led. We were family.
Spartacus decided that we would continue our fight against Rome. Thus, we headed south again. At this time, there were probably 120,000 slaves in our camp and an army of about 70,000 men.
We were a well-seasoned army now. We met our first consular legion and soundly defeated them. A rumor spread that the Consul Marcus Licinius Crassus was displeased with the cowardice of his men, and he executed every tenth man. Our army was strong and men trembled at the thought of facing us.
We did lose some men in our battles, be we managed to survive another season of war. We had crossed the Roman Republic twice, and we were still at large. This time, we wintered at Rhegium. Once again, we trained and planned. Spartacus came up with the plan of making the island of Sicily our own. We would sail to the island and continue the slave revolt there. We would thus free the island from Roman rule and live free ourselves.
We used some of our plunder to book passage to Sicily. However, the sailors betrayed us, and they set sail without our army. Thus, we had to continue our fight on Roman soil.
Our army was strong. However, the Senate would certainly bring the full force of Rome upon us now. We had freed many slaves, and had pillaged many towns. Spartacus must have known our chances were poor even though the numbers were strong.
With the collapse of the Sicily plan, we marched northward in the spring to begin another fighting season. However, when we reached the river Silarus, Spartacus ordered a large group of us to leave the army and head north. I was in that group. He told us that we were to meet a small army of Pompey's and engage them. This was to give him more time against the army of Crassus.
I learned later, that this was a lie. He wanted us to escape the slaughter at the hands of Crassus. We did avoid the slaughter and did engage Gnaeus Pompius Magnus. However, we were no match for him and he routed this minor force easily.
Pompey's men captured me, and I was marched once again into the Roman Capitol. Along the Apian way, on our march into Rome, I saw many of my cohorts crucified along the road. Mile after mile members of Spartacus's army were hanging there. I did not see Spartacus, so I assumed he must have died in the battle against Crassus.
Upon our arrival in Rome, they paraded us in front of the Roman people as a part of Pompey's Triumph. I was part of his spoils of war. Pompey awarded me to Crassus in gratitude for his part in the "Servile War." Despite Pompey facing only a small group of 5,000 slaves, he was given credit for ending the war.
Even at my young age, Crassus knew that I was a formidable soldier. To play the part I spoke of all the men I had killed. In fact, at that time I had killed 103 men including my first master. I informed Crassus that I had killed twice that number.
He could tell that I could be quite a liability; therefore, Crassus sold me to a slave auctioneer. It was then that Crassus pardoned of my past crimes.
I found myself once again naked on the slave-auctioning block. I had fully reached manhood by this time, and I had a few scars from battle. I was a fierce warrior who had seen only fifteen summers. I made sure everyone knew I could kill each and every one of the bidders.
Thus, I was not about to fetch the price of 125,000 sesterces I had the first time. In fact, the gladiatorial school of Lentulus Batiatus's purchased me for four sesterces. I was going to where Spartacus had just escaped. I was going to replace my second father in gladiatorial combat.
Not only did I lose my first family, I also lost my second one. Further, in many people's eyes, I was still a child.
"You were just a child," replied the magistrate. "You did not know what it was like to have things."
"I was not yet your age, and I had lost two families."
"Bah! They were not Romans! They may count as half families in front of the Senate."
"My story is clearly more tragic than what may happen to you if Pompey loses. The fates can be cruel or kind."
"Curse the fates! I will not concede that a slave's losses could equal a high-born Roman's losses."
"My story is not yet complete. There are the years in gladiatorial service..."
"Freedman, you were a slave. In gladiatorial service, the Roman citizens lavished you with great wealth and fame. You achieved wealth and fame that I could never match in any service for Rome. Thousands of Romans cheered your name. I was one such Roman."
"In the arena I killed many men. Some I knew."
"Gladiatorial combat was a show! Rarely was anyone killed. You traveled from town to town with the same group. It was all staged!"
"The fight you mentioned earlier when I fought three men, that was not staged. The patron of the festival wanted me dead."
"I am guessing his wife wanted to bed you! That is the tragedy of your life! Many women lusting after you, yet you could have none of it without risking crucifixion."
"I doubt that you did not bed your share of wealthy women. You were one of the most popular gladiators in all of Rome. The crowd cheered 'Validus Maximus -- Validus Maximus!' at many contests. I shouted that myself! Roman's knew you throughout the republic. You retired wealthy and -- more importantly -- healthy. You are wealthy enough to purchase slaves yourself! They likely have tragic stories similar to yours, but you care not one whit for their stories. If you lost that wealth now, that would come close to what I will lose."
"No doubt you would suggest we both back the same chariot. We both put all we have on Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus -- the pretender to the victory against my second father Spartacus."
"Tempt the fates with a general who in many instances was simply at the right place at the right time. A general who defeated only outnumbered and weaker forces, and has let his hubris lead where an army must follow."
"No! I will not place my wealth in his hands for I have no confidence in his ability to lead his legions against well-trained legions. This conflict will play itself out, and I will retain my livelihood by staying clear."
"I ought to kill you ... What ho -- a rider approaches. He is one of my messengers. What news?"
"Sir," replied the messenger taking one knee in front of the two men. "There is news from Brundisium. The forces of Caesar and Pompey have clashed. Caesar was victorious, yet Pompey lives. The great general managed to escape. There is more conflict ahead."
"Tell my men I shall join them!"
"Yes sir," replied the messenger. He arose, mounted his horse, and rode off.
"You have not heard the last from me freedman!" shouted the magistrate as he rushed to his horse.
"May the fates be kind to you," replied Pervalidus who walked back to his house at a leisurely pace.
"Is all well with the magistrate?" asked Pervalidus's wife, Bella Pervalidia, as he approached the house.
"There was no difficulty with the course of events last night," replied the freed gladiator. "However, he tried to recruit me to join him in the fight against Gaius Julius Caesar."
"You are not joining him are you?"
"I have done my duty for the Republic, I owe them nothing further. Nonetheless, the magistrate made me recount much of my life story. It got me thinking about the slaves I own."
"What about them?"
"The magistrate reminded me, that I was once a slave, but now I am a slave owner. I detested my slavery..."
"Your household could not run without help," started Bella. "You treat your staff quite fairly. They do have to work for their meals and place to sleep, but you are not harsh like some have recommended. Free life does not guarantee ease, in fact, ease can only occur on the backs of others."
"You are wise. How did you get so?"
"Your words are kind."
"Do you ever wish to return to your home?"
"Like you, my home is no more. War has torn my home apart, and I am grateful that you purchased me and took me away from all that."
"You were well worth the 75,000 sesterces I paid for you!"
"I was a bargain! The bidding was slow on that day."
"Your words are true again!"
"If you wish, we can query the slaves on their situations."
"You have put my mind at ease, and I thank you. There is no need for any further conversation in this regard. Now, on a different subject, with the defeat of the highwaymen, we have some goods that we should be redistribute. We should feast in honor of Neptune tomorrow."
"It will be arranged."
"There will be much talk of Caesar and his victory at Brundisium. We have been fortunate not to be involved in this civil war. It is good to being a freeman rather than a citizen at times."
"What does this victory mean to us?"
"I think it is inevitable that Caesar will defeat Pompey, but what his plans for the Republic are anyone's guess. He may have himself voted dictator for life. If that should happen, we may have to offer some allegiance. We shall wait and see."
After his day of travel, Marius Batiatus Pervalidus decided to go from the inn to the local thermae. A relaxing time in the public bath was exactly what he needed. His muscles would relax, and they would be prepared for the next day's travel.
"Greetings and salutations citizen," the proprietor said. "You have come alone? Do you wish to hire someone to watch your things? That service is available here."
"Certainly, what is the fee?"
"You can arrange that with the attendant," the proprietor stated as he waved his hand towards a snoozing slave. "You are new here..."
"I'm on my way to Rome. I am just passing through."
"Very well, the attendant..." he began. He walked over to the individual, who was assigned to attend to a visitor's things, and poked him. He scolded him quietly, and returned to speak to Pervalidus. "As I was saying, this attendant will give you the layout of the bath. If you have any questions you can ask him or if I'm available..."
"Is he trustworthy?"
"Don't mind his sleeping ways," he said when he suddenly looked at the young man. "He knows he will not get paid if he does not do his job!"
"I'll be alert," injected the attendant.
"Very well, here is your fee my good proprietor. I will begin in the tepidarium and then I wish to visit a masseur. Can that be arranged now?"
"Yes, a masseur will be available at your convenience," replied the proprietor. "The apodyterium is that way. This slave will follow and watch your things after you change there. The far door of that room leads to the tepidarium, but the warmth would tell you that. Bene Lave!"
After a good soak in the warm bath, the former gladiator enjoyed a good oiling and scraping from the masseur. In his usual manner, he returned to the tepidarium for another soak. This bath was warmer than the baths near his home, but it was still relaxing. He did not linger in the caldarium, as it was too hot for his liking. He was grateful when he reached the much cooler frigidarium. However, he did go between the rooms his customary four times.
"The caldarium is a bit too hot today," a gentleman said interrupting Pervaliduss personal thoughts.
"It is definitely hotter than my liking," Pervalidus replied.
"My name is Cassius Laurentius Silvanus."
"Greetings, I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus."
"Are you a traveler?"
"Aye! I am heading to Rome. I have a gift of six horses for Dictator Caesar. I had hoped to make it to Rome before the Ides of March, but there have been delays. I hope to get there before he heads to Parthia, gods willing!"
"Caesar is not likely to head to Parthia until next month. You should make it without difficulty."
"Traveling in this day and age can sometimes be troublesome."
"I heard you there. I hope order will be restored with what Caesar is doing. However, I fear that he is more interested in wars and personal glory than with Rome."
"It is difficult to predict."
"The armies are mostly mobilized outside of Rome leaving us vulnerable. With Caesar going off to Parthia, he is continuing in that tradition."
"And what of the Republic...?"
"The Senate is much more concerned about retaining the status quo than making life beneficial to the Roman citizens."
"Horses huh?" started Laurentius changing the subject.
"Neptune has been good to me."
"You must be a successful member of the Equestrian Order to be able to afford to give away six horses."
"The Caesars have been good to me. I obtained much wealth when Gaius Julius Caesar became Pontifex Maximus. It is just my way of repaying his patronage."
"Personally, I think the Senate can still cause trouble for Dictator Caesar. If he lets his guard down, I would not put anything past the senators. They can cause trouble at any level. If they do cause trouble, what happens then? Do we go back to the way it was? Who would rule if Caesar dies? His grand nephew Gauis Octavinus Thurinus or whatever he calls himself."
"He is a blood relation."
"But he has no experience. He has fought in one battle with his great uncle Julius, but has not held any office. If there is trouble in Rome, do we hand ruling to him? On the other hand, would it be better than our current corrupt senate?"
"Do you have anyone else in mind?"
"Marcus Antonius is too ambitious. Marcus Aemilius Lepidus is weak. Perhaps the three of them will form a triumvirate. That would balance things a bit."
"Let us hope is does not come to that."
"Yes, there is trouble enough. We do not need more civil unrest."
"That is true. It is still difficult to travel along the roads to Rome.
"Truer words have never been spoken"
"I grow weary of this talk of politics."
"I am sorry. Sometimes I can get worked up with the state of the Republic. I have heard of troubles on the road. Yesterday, a man ended his days ride here. He spoke of a fight in an inn. Perhaps you know of the fight."
"A gladiator, now freeman, had just left the baths of that town and headed to the local inn. Once in the inn he was confronted by a man with thirty men."
"Thirty? It certainly could not have been more than a dozen."
"Are you telling the tale or am I?"
"Forgive me. Please continue."
"The man was a strong supporter of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. He was upset that more people did not come to the great general's aid. Naturally, when Pompey the great was defeated, he lost everything. He was now on the run. The former gladiator refused to join, and now this former magistrate wanted revenge. Does this story sound familiar?"
"Some of the details have a ring of familiarity, but please, tell the story."
As I was saying, the former magistrate and soldier with his thirty men surprised the unaware freeman as he returned to the inn from the bath. Upon seeing the enormous man, several men ran away with fear by the sheer size of the man. As I hear it, the man was at least seven feet tall.
The former magistrate began telling his story of woe. He explained his loss of wealth and station when Ptolemy XIII murdered him in Egypt. He exclaimed that if the freed gladiator had come to his aid, the outcome would be very different.
The freeman explained that he had enough of fighting. When he had killed the six men on the road at there first meeting, it was in self-defense. As a gladiator and now as a freeman, he had killed many men, and he grew weary of fighting. He wished to spill no more blood.
With the story of single handedly killing six men, even more of the former magistrate's men deserted him. It was clear to many of them that the fight was a fool's errand.
Nevertheless, the man was facing twelve or more men, and he was unarmed. Some of the men balked at killing an unarmed man; thus, the former magistrate threw him a short sword. "Prepare to die freedman!" the magistrate yelled.
Calmly the freeman replied, "You know my weapon was the trident and not the sword."
The freeman tossed the weapon away. Being a traveler, he had a beautiful walking staff. It had the head of a horse intricately carved at the top. The other end had a bronze tip worn down a bit from much walking. The former gladiator was going to use the staff to defend himself against the Roman swords. The twelve men attempted to surround him, but he backed himself towards a corner of the inn's great room.
"This is your last warning magistrate," the freeman said softly. "You can go peacefully on your way, or you can feed the ravens."
"You are no match for..." started the angry magistrate.
Before he could finish his sentence, with the horse head end of the staff, the gladiator hooked the arm of one of the men who had his hand on the hilt of his sword. With a quick pull, the soldier was off balance. A startled accomplice lurched backward in an attempt to avoid the falling man. He caught the brass tipped end of walking staff in the side of the face.
The two stumbling men had crossed directly in front of the freemen providing him with a brief guard against any further attack. With a quick twirl of the staff, he took hooked the ankle of the stumbling man and gave a yank. This made the former soldier crash to the floor.
By pulling on the ankle, his staff was high in the air, and he brought it crashing down on the head of the second man. He fell with a groan onto the first man.
As each of the men within reach attempted to draw their swords, they received a sharp blow from the staff. The freemen hit knee, hand, and elbow of the closest men, which prevented them from readying their swords. Some men farther away from the freemen were able to draw their swords. With their drawn swords, they were attempting to work their way to make their blows.
One of the men with his sword above his head made a rush at the traveler. Again using the horse head as a hook, the former gladiator hooked the wrist of the charging soldier and pulled the man forward. This distracted the charging soldier enough to cause him to trip over the two bodies between him and the gladiator. Being steered to a degree by the gladiator, he went face first into the wall. His helmet pushed down onto the bridge of his nose and blood began to flow from his nose.
Still hooked to the wrist of the now bloody soldier, the gladiator lifted his staff twisting the arm of the soldier with the now bloodied nose, causing him to drop his sword. Simultaneously, he caught the former magistrate in the mouth with the end of the staff.
The first soldier was trying to push the unconscious second soldier off him to get off the floor. However, before he was able to do so, another pull on the staff from the gladiator and the bloodied nose soldier was on the pile with the other two men. With a backhanded swing of his staff, the gladiator hit the bloodied nose again and rendered the soldier unconscious.
In a brief exchange, the freeman created a very good defensive situation. He had two walls of the inn to protect his back, and there were three men lying on the floor providing some protection from the front.
"Men! Men!" shouted the magistrate from his bloodied mouth. "We need a coordinated attack! Stop acting individually!"
The magistrate and his men backed away from the freeman. They got out of range of his staff, and got together to form a plan. At this point, all the men drew their swords.
"None of your men are seriously hurt," the former gladiator said calmly. "It is not too late to go in peace."
"Quiet slave!" shouted the magistrate.
He quietly gave orders to his men as they prepared to fight the gladiator who did not want to give up his defensive position. The soldiers grabbed their tower shields. With their swords at the ready, they began getting into a defensive line. They lined up shoulder to shoulder with the shields on their left and their swords on the right and at the ready for thrusting.
The men on the floor began to regain consciousness. The first man was still attempting to push the men off him with little success. However, the two men on him were beginning to stir.
The line of men with the magistrate behind began to close in on the traveler armed only with his staff. This was a very small version of a legion encounter. It had been a successful strategy for several centuries, and the freed gladiator would have to find a way to defeat it.
As the "Legion Line" approached, the former gladiator did not wait for them to engage. He jumped upon the pile of three men, and using the horse head once again, hooked the top of one man's shield. The men did not break their ranks; however, the gladiator leaned back from his place and began pulling that soldier's shield down.
That soldier struggled against the pulling weight of the gladiator. Eventually, the gladiator's weight became too much for him to hold, and he went crashing into the pile of men. This also caused the gladiator to lose his balance as he tumbled backward off the fallen soldiers. He tumbled backward, unhooked his staff, and rolled to his feet in one smooth motion. In contrast, the soldier simple fell onto the pile of men.
The fallen man left a gap in the defensive line, which the gladiator used to hook one of the soldiers sword wielding arms. Putting all of his weight forward onto the staff, the hooked soldier could not keep his sword in its thrusting position. With another tug, the soldier stabbed one his fallen comrades in the leg and the blood began to flow from that wound. Immediately upon stabbing a fallen comrade, the soldier dropped his sword.
Another soldier seeing the abandoned sword broke ranks and reached for the weapon. With this, the former gladiator smacked him on the back of the head with his staff, which only managed to knock the helmet off the soldier.
The freed gladiator still had an excellent defensive position, as the line could not maintain discipline, and the magistrate called for a retreat. The pile of three soldiers was now four with a helmet and sword added in front. Furthermore, the pool of blood made the area in front of the pile of men slippery.
The stabbed soldier was writhing in pain and shifting his weight back and forth. Thus, he was making it difficult for the men under him from freeing themselves. However, the magistrate managed to re-form his lines and they began advancing. However, this time, they formed more of a wedge to be able to get closer to the gladiator in the corner. He also quietly gave orders to his men.
Once again, the freeman jumped upon the pile of men, and hooked the center soldier's shield. Expecting the same tactic, the flanking soldiers reinforced the grip of the center soldier. However, instead of pulling the shield, the gladiator pushed the staff into the face of the center soldier and smashed him in nose.
The shock and surprise of this action caused the entire line to lose balance. Most of the soldiers struggled to keep their feet. As they struggle to maintain balance, the gladiator picked out the soldier whose helmet he managed to remove. With the bronzed tip of his staff, he brought down a hard blow to the man's head. With a terrible crack, the man fell into a heap in front of the pile of men. Blood was spilling out his ear, and the blow rendered him unconscious.
Once again, the magistrate called to regroup his men. His tactic was not effective. The freed gladiator was taking advantage of his defensive position. He now had a pile of five men between himself and the seven remaining soldiers. He had the corners of the inn and a slippery floor also to his advantage.
"Magistrate," inquired the gladiator.
"What is it?" required the irritated magistrate.
"A couple of these men should see a healer immediately or they will certainly die."
"That is no concern of yours!"
"I suppose not, but you still have an opportunity to save the rest of your men."
"Your boasting will not aid you in battle, slave!"
"Boasting is for rich men, I speak from experience."
"He has downed five of our men," whispered a soldier.
"Quiet!" the magistrate reprimanded before continuing his conversation with the gladiator, "We are simply testing for your weakness."
"How is that going?" he asked with a wry smile.
"Your impertinence will cost you dearly!"
"Your stubbornness has already cost you a great deal. You can still call this off and save these men."
"The gods have struck down men with greater skill than you because of their hubris."
"The gods know the true heart of men. They know that I have been trying not to kill your men. However, my patience is wearing thin."
"Your patience? I am seeking justice and you speak of impatience!"
"Justice is also for the wealthy, you seek vengeance."
"What benefit are these word games of yours slave?"
"I am simply attempting to save these men's lives."
"Now!" shouted the magistrate.
Upon the signal, two men rushed along the left side of the gladiator. With their swords at the ready, they were able to avoid the strike of the staff. With their surprise attack, they managed to get behind the pile of men on the floor. The remaining soldiers cleared a path for him to exit the inn.
Clearly, the magistrate wanted to flush him from his defensive position. The innkeeper gave the gladiator a pleading glance, and thus the gladiator left the inn, and the magistrate and six of his soldiers followed. The seventh man checked on the men and retrieved his sword. He requested the innkeeper send for a healer.
The crowd followed the last soldier out to view how the fight would progress. The thirty men were now down to eight. The gladiator was confidently waving his staff around. The soldiers were sizing him up to determine an attack strategy.
In the open, the gladiator no longer had two walls protecting his flanks. The soldiers would be able to attack from any side. The magistrate was orchestrating his men to surround the freed slave. Once the soldiers surrounded the gladiator, they could attack from any angle and several at a time. This was going to be a tougher challenge for the experienced fighter.
"We now can have a fair fight!" shouted the magistrate.
"Eight against one, real fair," mumbled the former gladiator.
"What?" asked the magistrate.
"It was not important," stated the gladiator with a little more volume.
"It is now for your lesson slave!"
"It is not too late for you to go your own way!"
"Such bravado! It is time for you to pay."
The magistrate called the name of two men on opposite sides of circle surrounding the former gladiator. The two men, with their swords drawn and their shields at the ready, approached the gladiator in the middle. The two men used their shields to block any blows by the staff of the freeman. They closed in and attempted to thrust their short swords into their target. The gladiator easily parried the blows.
The magistrate recalled the two men to take their position in the circle, and called two more names. These two men used the same tactic. Blocked with their shields and attempted to get a blow against the gladiator. When they were also unsuccessful, they magistrate recalled them and two more men made their attack.
After a few minutes, the pace picked up as the attackers knew their job. They would rush in and try to strike. This forced the gladiator to block against their attack. Eventually, the magistrate sent three in from different sides of the circle surrounding the gladiator. Back and forth the soldiers would go. The men around the circle would prevent the gladiator from making a break. They were methodically testing the skill of the former gladiator and hoping he would make a mistake along the way.
All the while, the magistrate stood outside of the circle barking orders. He directed traffic to make sure the gladiator would remain in the circle. He also called names to give each man enough time to rest between attacks. He chuckled to himself that his plot would certainly work, as the gladiator could not keep up the defense forever. At some point, he would tire and make a mistake. At that point, they would have him.
The gladiator took each attack seriously, but attempted to conserve energy. He quickly learned the plan of the magistrate. He needed to find a solution to his situation, so he would use each attack to learn the weaknesses and strength of each attacker. When the time was right, he would make his move.
The group had been fighting for a while, and the hot sun was beginning to take its toll on everyone. However, it was mostly wearing out the gladiator, as he did not get occasional breaks. He knew he would need to make his move soon. However, what was that move going to be?
"How are you doing?" asked the magistrate with a big smile on his face.
"I'll be warmed up shortly," replied the gladiator.
"I'll help speed up the process," the magistrate added as he sent in four men this time.
That was the moment that the gladiator made his move. He rushed the weakest soldier. The soldier in an effort to protect himself planted his shield on the ground and cowered behind it. The gladiator planted his staff on the ground and vaulted into the shield with his feet.
The force of the blow caused the soldier to fall backwards with his shield on top of him. The gladiator used his momentum to run on top of the shield with the helpless soldier beneath and rush towards the magistrate.
This move caught the magistrate by surprise, and barely had his sword drawn by the time the gladiator was in range. The gladiator did a roll to make an attack of the magistrate's legs. The magistrate bent down to parry the blow, and the gladiator with a quick poke with his staff removed the magistrate's helmet. In addition, with the momentum of his roll, the gladiator put the magistrate between him and the remaining seven soldiers.
He also managed to kick the helmet out of reach of the magistrate during his maneuver. With that, the magistrate tossed his shield aside too. He waved his arms indicating that his soldiers were to stay back.
"Alright slave it is just me and you now," challenged the magistrate.
"It is not to late..."
"Save it slave! I can handle you," the magistrate stated as he passed his short sword from his right hand to his left and back again.
The gladiator shook his head and waved for the magistrate to make his attack. The magistrate rushed at the gladiator with a feeble yell. He hacked at the gladiator with his Roman short sword, and the gladiator easily stepped out of the way of the blow. The magistrate was off balance and the gladiator pushed him down with a push of his foot. He shook his head as the magistrate scrambled to his feet.
"All right slave," started the magistrate. "You die now!"
The gladiator hooked the elbow of the magistrate as he lifted it above his head and began his swing. Using the head of his staff, he gave it a twist. This caused the magistrate to nick the back of his scalp as he attempted to hit the gladiator with a downward swing.
This distracted the magistrate enough for the gladiator to use his staff to push the sword into the chest of the charging magistrate. The sword penetrated the armor of the charging combatant and he fell in a heap.
The shocked soldiers looked at each other trying to decide what to do. One of the men started to charge, but was grabbed by another. The shoulder shook his head and said that the battle was over.
The freed gladiator checked the magistrate, and he was indeed dead. Three men inside the inn were also dead. One died of the stab wound inflicted by one of the soldiers, and the other two could not breathe under the stack of men.
"The conflict ended as quickly as it had begun," continued the storyteller Cassius Laurentius Silvanus. "With four men dead, the gladiator would have to answer to the authorities. However, he is unlikely to have to answer for those deaths. He faced thirty men, killed four, and walked away. If he continues on to Rome, he will likely pass through this town within the next couple of days."
"While meeting a seven foot tall man who could defeat 30 men would be quite a wonder," replied Pervalidus. "I would like to finish my journey. If you meet him, please pass my greeting to him."
"I shall my friend. I am sure I will be able to recognize that gladiator when I spot him. How could anyone not?"
"Indeed. I shall be retiring to my room now. Thank you for your story."
"Until we meet again," replied Cassius.
Pervalidus finished his time at the bath and paid the fees due. He retired to the inn after a good meal. It was the Ides of March, and he would be in Rome late the next day. The gift for Caesar would be helpful for his fight in Parthia. Once he reclined in his room, Pervalidus felt sleep wash quickly over him. It had been a long trip so far.
"Dead?" enquired former gladiator, Pervalidus. "What happened?"
"Caesar was assassinated by the Senate in the Hall of Pompey," a town official answered.
"Why did not his friend Marcus Junius Brutus stop the plot?"
"He was in on it."
"You to Brutus?" Pervalidus said under his breath.
"There were probably sixty involved. Caesar suffered a great many stab wounds. The Senate did not wish to give up their power."
"Certainly they did not think this through. A group of sixty cannot fend off Consul Marc Antony and his men."
"The sixty are to meet with Marc Antony tomorrow. They will probably make a deal with Marc Antony and go unpunished. You know how these things go."
"The gods will see to justice."
"True words friend. Rumor has it that Caesar left every resident of Rome a large sum of money. They will be hard pressed to keep the outrage from overflowing at the funeral pyre on the 20th."
"What other words from his testament?"
"He probably gave some land to the city for a park. I have not heard any real specifics other than the money."
"Thank you friend."
"Were you a friend of Caesars?"
"I obtained much wealth when he was Pontifex Maximus, I just wished to congratulate him for his victory with a gift."
"You should pay your respects at the funeral."
"Perhaps I will."
The former gladiator silently paid his respects to Gaius Julius Caesar as the crowd erupted with fury. The angry citizens chased the conspirators out of town. However, Pervalidus did not join them. The civil war was not over. More bloodshed was ahead of Rome. He thanked the gods for everything he had and left town with his horses.
He did not know Marc Antony. The speech he gave at the funeral was a shrewd move. Antony appeared to be playing both sides. He appeased the Senators with one move, and turned the crowd against them in the next. "He may be the next dictator," thought Pervalidus. "I wonder what Gaius Octavius will do..."
As Pervalidus returned home, he heard many rumors of the events in Rome. Some people supported what the Senate had done, and some wanted Rome to be at peace. There was much anxiety about the future. Everyone seemed to agree, the fighting was not over.
A few days before he reached his estate, three bandits attempted to rob him. He attempted to scare them away, but they were too desperate. Thus, they insisted on fighting him.
"Three more dead men," prayed the former gladiator to his patron god Neptune. "When will the killing stop? I thought that by paying for my freedom, my fighting days would be over. Does the fighting never end?"
He finally reached his estate and embraced his wife.
"Why the sad face?" she asked.
"The civil war continues," Pervalidus replied.
"We will be fine. With fighting, comes the need for horses."
"I'm not worried that."
"Then what is it?"
"I received an omen on the road."
"All my life I have fought. I have fought for and against Romans. I have killed scores of men. I have never gone very long without killing a man. On this short trip to Rome I killed seven men."
"Our former magistrate caught up to me at an inn. He would not let me go unless we fought. I killed him and three of his men."
"Thank the gods you were not hurt."
"It was difficult not to kill more of his men."
"How many were there?"
"I do not remember -- seven or eight -- I did not count them."
"I did hear a rumor about a giant taking on one hundred..."
"Okay, it was twelve men. I had a good defensive position."
"Neptune has granted you great skills to take on so many."
"I have thanked him at every turn. I am very grateful. Needless to say, Mars keeps testing those skills."
"Oh yes -- the omen -- please continue."
"After learning the news of Caesar, I stayed quiet in Rome. A mob formed at the funeral and still I resisted the fight. However, on my way home three bandits attacked me. Nothing I said or did frightened them. They would not leave me. Thus, I left them dead beside the road. As I gave thanks to Neptune, a wolf came and scavenged on one of the corpses. It was Mars. He wants me to join Gaius Octavius in the upcoming battles."
"There is going to be war?"
"A civil war has been ongoing for quite some time. I have stayed out. I have not taken sides, but my fighting will never cease unless I do this."
"What of your family?"
"My dearest, I am getting up in age. I cannot continue in fighting three, four, five, or more at a time. I must take a stand now and fight for peace. I am sure that is what we will get in a united Rome. Marc Antony is not to be trusted. He is ambitious and will say and do anything. Only Octavius can bring peace to Rome."
"As you wish. I cannot argue with the gods."
"Octavius is recruiting a force in Apollonia. I will join him there. We will march on Rome."
"Marius Batiatus Pervalidus?" queried Gaius Octavius. "You seem familiar to me."
"I get that a lot," replied Pervalidus.
"I remember a giant of a man who was a gladiator from Lentulus Batiatus's gladiator school. At a festival once, the venue called for him to fight a child of 11 or 12. I was only a few years shy of that age myself at the time. He tried his best to make it look like a match, but the kid was too green."
"I remember that all too well."
"You were Validus Maximus? I thought you were taller..."
"I get that a lot also."
"It must be the eyes of youth. Everything from my young days seems smaller now."
"You were put up against a child in that match!"
"That episode caused me much trouble."
"The kid could barely hold a sword. He swung it at you, and it went flying. You allowed him to retrieve it. After futilely attempting to make the match look good, you swept him up in your net. You threw your trident into the ground, which pinned the child in your net. Then you walked off."
"The patron obviously wished this child dead," added the former gladiator. "I did not oblige him. He should have just fed him to some exotic beast."
"I will bet that episode cost you."
"His next festival featured me against three men..."
"Three? You are here to tell the story, so you are clearly a competent fighter. It is a useful skill in such dangerous times. I heard that a group of two dozen bandits was attacking travelers near here."
"Well, that is what I heard. In any event, fortunately for future travelers they ran into this enormous man.... Anyway, this man managed to single handedly kill six of them including their leader. I understand it was quite a fight. All the man had as a weapon was some sort of walking stick with a horse head carved into it. In any event, after killing some of the men, the rest of them ran off. Knowing this man is still out there should scare any bandits from wantonly attacking travelers in these parts."
"Let us hope so."
"Let us get back to the matter at hand. With you and about 3,000 veteran soldiers from Gaius Julius Caesar's army, we will march on Rome. I will claim what is mine, and I will punish those responsible for my adopted father's assassination. The group of us will make great names for ourselves."
"No sir. Leaders are remembered in the histories. We fighters rarely find our names in the annals of time."
"You have proven yourself on many occasions. Your sword will be useful."
"Neigh sir! I shall use a spear. It is closer to my weapon of choice."
"No matter -- all shall remember your name. Marius Batiatus Pervalidus will be of much renown."
"I will not argue the matter with you. I am getting up in age, and I was renowned for my time. Vadilus Maximus seems like a lifetime ago. I tried to stop fighting, but the gods wish me to continue. I give you my spear and shield in service."
"I most humbly accept your invitation."
"The only thing is... Well, I have never killed more than twenty-eight men in one day...
"Twenty-eight is a good number. I'll ask the men to pick up some of the slack."
"It has been two life-times ago since I fought under Spartacus in Legion fighting. I may only be good for 23 or 24..."
"All joking aside, let us hope that it does not come to that. I ask only for Marc Antony to give me what Caesar placed in his will."
"He has great ambition."
"He is playing the politician quite well. He has appeased the senate, and incited the people."
"Marc Antony is playing both sides quite well."
"Our march on Rome will show the people that we mean business. We will not reward murderers with governorships. Crimes should be punished."
"What if Marc Antony puts up a fight?"
"I know what are in Julius's papers. He left me a great legacy. Antony cannot deny my rights without losing a lot of political capital."
"It will be war. A man does not willingly give up the power that he wields."
"We can defeat him. We have a well-disciplined army who were loyal to Julius Caesar. They do not like how his murderers got away with their actions. They will fight hard to avenge his death. Antony's army has little motivation. That alone will tip the balance in our favor."
"It is quite the feat that they are willing to follow you at such a young age."
"While it is true that I am in my 18th year, I wave the banner of a cause."
"I agree that the fight is just. That is why I am joining you. I owe much to Caesar and the gods wish me to fight. I believe you will be an excellent leader in battle and in matters of state. I just wish there was a better way."
"I have not found such a way."
"That is why we march on Rome."
"It is indeed. You should rest now equestrian. We need your spear to be sharp and ready when we begin our march. Antony will not allow a fight in Rome, but I am sure a fight will occur. We all need to be ready."
"We shall be victorious!"
"I'll only expect 19 or 20 fallen at your hands."
"I will hold back for the sake of the others!"
"In the morrow then."
"I’m getting old, Octavian," complained Marius Batiatus Pervalidus.
"You have been saying that for the last 13 years or so Validus," replied Gaius Octavius.
"It has been true these last several years. I am approaching my 50th year. Do you not think that is old?"
"You are still the most feared soldier in my army. They will write about you as they did Achilles"
"Are you suggesting I die in battle?"
"If you think it will boost your reputation; however, I would appreciate another performance like the one you put in at Naulochus against Sextus Pompey."
"I do not know if I have another day like that in me."
"I suppose 73 is a lot to ask for."
"73? You must have been using Marcus Aemilius Lepidus's count. I think he got tired of counting after 50. The true count is 78."
"A nice round 100 would solve any controversy."
"You are quite a funny man, consul"
"In any event, the upcoming sea battle at Actium should decide things."
"You said 'things would be decided' when the senate established the Triumvirate of Marc Antony, Lepidus, and yourself. In addition, when that Triumverate expired five years later, you repeated that things would be decided if it was renewed. They renewed it, and it has also run its five year course, and things are still not decided..."
"Is it my fault that Marc Antony is under the spell of that Egyptian Cleopatra? He has been totally unreasonable for quite some time. What options do we have?"
"You know quite well..."
"Have you forgotten the accolades you accumulated at Philippi?"
"While it is true that I killed many men to prevent Brutus's men from entering your tent before you could escape, the rumor has it that you escaped because of an omen. I am completely left out of the story."
"I will straighten out the story in due course."
"Only 53 men died at my hands that day, and we nearly lost the day. We would have -- if Brutus would have pressed the issue."
"It was Julius who said, 'Today the enemy would have won, if they had had a commander who was a winner.' It is fitting in this context as well."
"We did redeem ourselves several weeks later, and 64 Romans had to die at my hands to punish Brutus."
"Do you always count?"
"In order to give proper thanks to Neptune, it is important to know what was sacrificed."
"That is fair enough. Speaking of Neptune, Actium will be a naval encounter. You should be on the ship with Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa. Protect him as if he were me."
"Consul, I am nearly twice your age. There is no need treating me as a child. I will do my duty and kill anything that boards our ship. However, Agrippa's plan seems reasonable. Neptune willing, we should have the day."
The former gladiator stood on the deck of the Liburnian bireme with Admiral Agrippa. The orders were to stay away from the much larger quinquereme's of Marc Antony. Maneuverability was going to be their biggest asset in this fight. Further, if they were within range of the shore, the troops protecting Marc Antony's base, could bombard the sailing vessels with arrows and other weapons. Thus, they would attempt to keep Antony's forces between them and the shore.
After much maneuvering, Antony ordered his ships to engage Octavian's fleet and the battle was joined. The lighter and fully manned Liburnian vessels of Octavius and Agrippa began inflicting heavy losses upon the opposing fleet.
One of the ship commanders panicked and pulled most of the Egyptian fleet away. Agrippa guessed that Queen Cleopatra was on board one of the vessels. Thus, fearing for the life of the queen, the vessels disengaged from the battle. Once that arm of the fleet left, the remaining ships were soon routed.
The former gladiator did not even need to wield his spear. Not a single soldier boarded the commanding Bireme, and with the battle well in hand, his services were not needed. He was going to join the men in capturing the remaining soldiers, but Octavian ordered him to remain next to Agrippa.
A great victory party was held on the beach of Actium. With the destruction of the vessels, the victorious army constructed a great wall of defeat out of the bronze ramming heads of the destroyed fleet. The battle would continue, but there was much to rejoice about in this victory.
Antony's men were continually deserting him. His love left in mid-battle and he went after her. Thus, he left the battle in disarray. The navy of Octavian with its smaller more agile vessels defeated the much larger ships of Antony. The army would continue with its fight against Egypt, but for now they were rejoicing.
The civil war was over, and Marc Antony had been defeated. He and his lover Cleopatra had committed suicide. Any challenger to Julius Caesar's adopted son, now calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus, was eliminated. Politics in Rome was now different. The power in Rome was now concentrated in one man, Caesar Augustus. Thus, Marius Batiatus Pervalidus could return home.
As was his habit when traveling, he would visit the local public bath. These were the gathering places for Roman citizens. It was a place to exchange news and hear stories. As the former gladiator was relaxing, he overheard some men telling stories.
"I guess we now have a tyrant for life in Augustus," started one citizen.
"He is lucky to be in this position," replied another. " Marcus Junius Brutus had him to rights, if it was not for his dream. He escaped his tent before they could get to him."
"That is not what I heard," interrupted a third.
"Tell us," responded the men.
"Gaius Octavius, had a giant guarding his tent. The man was as wide as he was tall. He was an enormous man."
"Was he naked and painted blue like the Gauls?" asked one of the citizens.
"No this man was no barbarian. He was a freedman and a member of the Equestrian Order, although it is said he was formerly a gladiator. His name was Marius Batiatus Pervalidus."
"Batiatus? He was a freed gladiator all right," one man added.
"Pervalidus? I wonder if it was Validus Maximus... He was an enormous man that I saw fight at the games as a child."
"This could all be true," continued the storyteller. "He was armed with only a spear, but a master with the spear he was. When the alarm rang, Octavian's camp erupted in confusion. Brutus's forces completely surprised them. Octavian had to gather his things and go, but it would take some time. He asked Pervalidus to protect his retreat.
"Pervalidus being strong and true stood his ground. Whenever a soldier from the opposing side would get near the tent, Pervalidus would quickly defeat him. Soldier after soldier came and they all had the same fate. The Brutus's soldiers were stacking up pretty high as the mighty Pervalidus dispatched them one by one.
"Soon, they would come in small groups as more forces arrived at the camp. One, two, a dozen made no difference to Pervalidus. Every group ended the same way -- dead. His job was to protect the Consul, and that he did.
"He had been fighting for hours giving Octavian plenty of time to make his escape. He was beginning to tire and the men kept coming. Soon, he found himself surrounded by 30 soldiers. It looked like he had taken too long to make his own escape. However, before anyone could flinch, he killed three more and was gone.
"Brutus found the tent empty, but did not press the issue any further knowing that 153 of his men died at the hands of one man."
"It was just 53," injected the former gladiator.
"What?" asked the storyteller.
"Only 53 of Brutus's soldiers were killed by Pervalidus," returned Pervalidus.
"53 -- 153? Both are preposterous," interjected another citizen.
"The omen seems much more likely," included another.
"How do you know the number old timer?" inquired the storyteller.
"Let us just say that I am intimately familiar with the story and its subject."
"You were at Philippi?" asked one man.
"I did not know they let geezers into battle..." added another.
"They will let anyone willing to fight in the army," responded Pervalidus.
"The story is true!" a young man in the back of the room exclaimed. "My brother died at the hands of that freedman."
"So which is it citizen, 53 or 153?" asked the storyteller.
"The only number that matters to me is one," replied the man.
"I concede the point," responded Pervalidus. "I must prepare to continue my journey. Thank you all."
"Not so fast citizen," interrupted the young man. "What is your name?"
"My name is unimportant. I am here for a relaxing time -- not trouble."
"I say your name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus!"
The group erupted with noise. "No he can't be," said one man.
"He would have to be bigger," stated another.
"He is way too old," added a third.
"Think about it kid," started the storyteller. "Caesar offered him a position in his newly created Praetorian Guards. Would he do that to an old man like this? I do not think he would."
"Listen to them citizen," added Pervalidus. "No one wants any trouble here."
"I know you're Pervalidus! My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!"
"I am unarmed and naked Tiberius," replied Pervalidus. "Perhaps some other time..."
"You cannot stay in here forever -- Gaius," Tiberius said with hate. "We will meet outside whenever you are ready."
"Are you really Pervalidus?" asked one of the group.
"Were you really Validus Maxiums?" asked another.
"Is this true?" asked the storyteller.
"I suspect there is no reason to keep it hidden," responded a dejected Pervalidus. "It is true, I am the former gladiator known as Validus Maximus. My free name is Marius Batiatus Pervalidus. I did kill 53 men to give Caesar a chance to escape. One of them could have been a Montanus. Caesar offered me a position with the Praetorius, but I refused. I wish to live in peace with my wife and kids. I had hoped to be done fighting. I guess it is not to be the case."
"I thought he was taller," whispered one man.
"What are you going to do?" asked the storyteller.
"I will try to avoid the fight, but I will probably have to fight him."
"This I have to see!" exclaimed one man.
The room erupted in excitement and movement. The bath was quickly empty except for the former gladiator. Everyone at the bath rushed to gather his things and find a good spot to view the fight. Some even went to gather loved ones. The whole town was soon abuzz about the upcoming fight.
Pervalidus sat in the bath for a little while longer. Eventually, he gave a heavy sigh and went to gather his things. He slowly got dressed and reluctantly left the bath. A huge crowd had gathered and the young Tiberius was waiting. A huge roar erupted as the former gladiator entered the street.
The young Tiberius was wearing a helmet and was brandishing a sword. "Do you have a weapon old man?" he shouted to Pervalidus.
"My staff will serve me fine," responded Pervalidus. "We do not have to do this Tiberius."
"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he slowly walked toward Pervalidus.
"I am sure your brother killed many friends of mine..." Pervalidus replied holding his ground.
"My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die!" he said as he continued to approach.
"Is there nothing that will prevent this?"
"It is what these people have gathered to see," he said looking around at the crowd.
The crowd cheered at the acknowledgement. The former gladiator stood there calmly with a frown on his face. Nothing he said was going to prevent the fight. He readied his staff and prepared for the fight.
Suddenly the young Tiberius gave a shout and charged Pervalidus. The young man rushed the waiting opponent and swung his sword as he neared. Pervalidus easily blocked the blow with his staff, and with a quick thrust from it, Tiberius was sprawled on the ground. The crowed roared at the first action.
Tiberius was stunned. His face was red. Perhaps it was because of embarrassment or perhaps it was because of fury. Once again he stated, "My name is Tiberius Eprius Montanus, you killed my brother, prepare to die."
"You are young and inexperienced young Montanus. It is not too late to stop this."
Tiberius got up and charged again. Pervalidus easily parried the blow, and once again, the young fighter was sprawled on the ground. Another cheer from the crowd erupted.
"Your death will not bring back your brother, and neither will mine," Pervalidus explained calmly. "You have your whole life ahead of you."
"I do not need your lecture freedman," responded Tiberius. "I will kill you."
"I do not..." started Pervalidus when another person emerged from the crowd wielding a sword. The two men rushed the former gladiator at the same time. When the two men were close to him, he hooked the sword of Tiberius with the horse head on his staff, and steered it into the new man's chest. The sword found its mark and the falling man wretched the sword from the young Montanus's hand. With the sword still in his chest, the new combatant fell to the ground. With a hop and a sweep of the staff, it found its target at the back of Tiberius's head. The young man fell on top of his compatriot and breathed his last breath.
The crowd was silent. What had happened? It was over too quickly. The two young men were motionless in the street. The former gladiator shook his head and walked to the inn.
"Welcome home dear!" greeted Bella Pervalidia.
"It is good to be home again," replied the former gladiator.
"Rome's civil war is over, and you and Octavian won!"
"He has taken to calling himself Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus."
"That is quite a name!"
"History will probably shorten it to something like Caesar Augustus, or some such trifling."
"We cannot control how the people of the future will view our culture. Thus, it is silly to worry about such things."
"You are right, wife. It was a long journey, and I am glad to be home."
"How was your journey?"
"I heard about the young men..."
"It was a shame. For some, they will take dishonor with revenge. Having a cohort attack me from behind was inexcusable."
"You handled the situation as best you could, I am sure."
"I would have liked to not kill the young man. His family has lost another to my hands. How many more will there be?"
"Wars and death bring suffering to many families. Each must handle it in their own way. Some seek vengeance, while others forgive. It is the way of people."
"Once again, you soothe me with your wise words woman!"
"Were there any other incidents on the road that I have not heard of -- yet."
"From your hesitation, I know. There is no use hiding the truth from me."
"When I allied myself with Octavian -- Caesar Augustus -- I was hoping that the gods would finally let the fighting end. I thought that I would live in peace. It is not to be as I am convinced that Mars likes to see me fight."
"It is one of your great skills."
"I am getting up in years, and I can tell my skills are diminishing. I will make a mistake some day, and where would that leave you dear Bella?"
"Worrying about the future will just make that inevitable day come sooner."
"I thank the gods for smiling upon me so! Neptune and Mars, I am at your service until I die."
"Quit stalling Pervalidus, out with the story!"
"As you wish," sighed the aging fighter to his wife. He leaned back and began to tell his story.
With the war over, there are pockets of displaced soldiers here and there. Some of them fought for Caesar and some against, but they do not know what to do with themselves. Some have returned to their homes, yet some still gather and cause trouble for travelers. I came across one of these small groups.
I was delayed by some innocent incident, and I had not arrived in a town. While it would have been a joy to stay at an inn, it appeared that I would not make it to a lodging place until quite late. Even though it was still early evening, I decided that I would travel no further on that day. I made camp beside the road and began fixing myself a small meal.
Up the road came this band of armored soldiers. I greeted them and offered to share my food with them. However, the leader was quite belligerent and he informed me that I must move along.
I smiled and told him that I had traveled a long way, and I had a long way yet to go. I explained that I was just resting, and that I would continue on my way after my meal.
The leader's eyes grew cold as I talked. He was not interested in my troubles and he explained to me that my words meant nothing to him. He stated quite clearly that if I did not pack up and leave immediately, there would be trouble.
Not wanting to cause problems, I complied with his words. Well -- I reluctantly complied -- and -- I may have grumbled a few words. I cannot recall what these words were.
The group's leader heard me grumble and asked me what I had said. I told him that I could not remember, but that it was not important. Then he said, "Do you know who I am?"
Naturally, I replied, "No."
"I am Marius Batiatus Pervalidus! I killed 173 men single handedly at the battle of Philippi."
In an effort to stifle my laughter, I let out some sort of sound that was my inept attempt to indicate surprise. After a long uncomfortable pause, I did something that I should not have. I said, "I thought you were taller."
He shot a look my way in an effort to intimidate me. I must have been more tired and irritable than I thought as I continued with, "Also, I heard it was only 53 men."
I barely was able to contain my chuckles. "This is a serious manner -- old man. I could kill you quickly without breaking a sweat," continued the leader of the group.
"Listen Citizen Pervalidus -- if that is your real name," I said with as much composure as I could muster. "You asked me to leave. I am going. You have no authority to make such demands, but I do not wish to make trouble. So, go on your way, and I will continue on my own."
"It is too late for that whoever you are! You will die now." he squeaked. I must have touched some nerve in him.
He drew his sword and waved his comrades away. As usual, I had my staff with me. The man charged and I placed the hook end of my staff on the edge of his blade just above the hand guard and stepped aside. With another quick step to the side and a jerk of the staff, I wretched the sword from his hand and it fell to the ground.
As he reached for it, I gave him a sharp smack on his back. He stood up sharply, and momentarily abandoned making an attempt to retrieve the weapon. His comrades were about to rush me, but he waved them off.
"I think I shall stay the night here after all," I taunted.
He asked for a weapon from another member of the group, and charged again. I used the same maneuver and disarmed him again.
"Just in case you were wondering," I stated confidently. "It was not a fluke that I easily disarmed you. However, this confrontation has made me weary. I may try something different next time."
He whispered some sort of instructions to his cohorts, and they encircled me. I managed to stay close to the swords as they made their way around. I thought they would certainly attempt to retrieve them.
Two men with swords drawn came from opposite ends and rushed at me. I quickly determined who the stronger fighter was, and concentrated on him and put my back to the unsure weaker fighter. I took one step towards the strong fighter, and put my staff on the bridge of his nose. I directed the force of this blow into the groin of the other fighter. The strong fighter lurched backward and the weak one bent forward.
I had clear access to the strong fighter's sword, so I hooked it, and took it away from him. It fell near the others as blood began to flow profusely from his nose. The doubled over fighter was still in his position when I pushed him backwards. In an effort to catch himself from falling, he waved his arms wildly, and forgot he was wielding a sword. I relieved him of the weapon easily enough.
I had enough fighting, and a deep seriousness fell upon me. I stood in my warrior stance and shouted. "I have had enough. I will take these swords, and you will leave me now. Or, I will be forced to dispatch all of you, for I am the real Marius Batiatus Pervalidus, Roman Slave - Gladiator - Freeman - Hero. Leave in peace, or become food for scavengers. It is your choice."
In the old days, that would have frightened half of them. However, when a man of my age uses such words, they have less impact. All eight of the men rushed me at once. Luckily, I had disarmed half of them and a few were somewhat hampered by afflictions.
I chose two men on opposite sides that both had swords. I used my old technique of steering one man's sword into the belly of another and giving a whack on the back of his head. The two men fell upon each other as I gave a poke with the bronzed tip to other attackers.
This gave me a chance to locate the armed men, and keep others from grabbing the abandoned swords. There were just two men with swords left. They were very tentative in their actions which gave me a big advantage.
I rushed one of the remaining armed men, swung wildly with the staff at his head, and gave a mighty roar. It was just a feint, and he reflectively tried to protect himself with his sword. I redirected the blow to hit his hand.
With all of the bones in his hand now broken, he could no longer hold onto the sword. The bloodied-nose man believing that I was vulnerable grabbed a sword from the ground and rushed me.
Little did he know that I had hooked the armor of the newly disarmed comrade with my staff. When he attempted his blow, I fell back. His comrade also tried to avoid the blow, but could not because I had him in my control. The sword lodged in the man's neck. While unhooking from the man's armor, I caught the man again in the nose. This prevented him from jumping on me as I fell back. With a quick roll, I swept at his legs and over he fell. With the brass end of my staff, I impaled him.
The man I hit in the groin was still useless in the fight. He barely moved the entire time. However, the other three had managed to re-arm themselves. However, they were clearly afraid now.
In fact, one started to run. With a few strides, I hooked him in the arm, and directed him to run into a tree. It is then that I noticed he had a knife. I stood there puzzled for a few seconds. "Why didn't they use their knives?" I asked myself.
I shrugged at the thought, and I grabbed the man's knife. With a quick flip, I hit the other combatant in the neck. By the look in his eyes, he was quite surprised by this turn of events.
The man I directed into the tree was lying on his back, and I grabbed his sword. I looked at the leader of the group. His friend was lying there unconscious at my feet. I looked him in the eye, as I drove the sword into the man's chest.
Now, the only men left in the fight were the leader, who said he was me, and the doubled over soldier. I rushed the soldier who could not stand, and hit him with an uppercut with my staff. He did a flip and landed on his face. Again, I looked the leader in the eye as I gave his comrade's head a twist. The leader began to weep.
"You are responsible for the deaths of these men," I said calmly. "You could have let a tired old man rest beside the road, but you did not. You could have shared in my food, but you did not. There were many paths you could have chosen, but you chose death for your comrades."
The man dropped his sword and put his head in his hands. He began crying uncontrollably now.
"You are lucky," I started.
"Lucky?" he sobbed with his head still in his hands.
"Yes, you will not have to suffer your guilt for long!" I replied as I took one of the swords and lopped off the man's head.
The man who claimed to me was the 1000th man I killed in my lifetime, so I gave an extra special sacrifice to Mars when I gave thanks to the gods and Neptune. It was dark when I had finished everything, and I was quite tired. I was worried about scavengers during the night, and I slept uneasily.
I was up early, and made it to the next town by midmorning. I rested peacefully, and had no other troubles on the road. Thank the gods!
"1000 is a staggering number," replied the former gladiator's wife when the story ended.
"The last one brought me to a conclusion," responded Pervalidus.
"What was that?" Bella inquired.
"Notoriety as a killer brings more opportunity to kill."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, every man I have killed has a father. Perhaps he has a brother or maybe children. In any event, his death can have effect on many others. These others may want revenge. Thus, they may come after me as several have."
"You cannot change the past."
"Thank you Bella. I can -- however -- change what people hear about the past. I asked Octavian to rebuke the story about his dream to give me credit for saving his life. I realize now that this is a mistake. If history records that a dream saved his life rather than me killing those 53 men, the relatives of those men will not come after me."
"That is sensible."
"The entire time I was fighting for Rome, I was looking for notoriety. I should have been doing it for something more noble. I feel ashamed about that."
"You said you were fighting to appease the gods who promised peace. That is a noble cause."
"Indeed I did. However, when I was actually in battle..."
"No 'howevers'! What went through your mind while in the heat of battle is irrelevant. Those thoughts kept you alive and fighting. The dreams of glory stopped you from giving up. However, your true motive was 'peace.'"
"Why did I name you Bella when I should have named you Astuta..."
"Your words honor me husband. Let us prepare to dine now."
The former gladiator contacted the Emperor Caesar Augustus to tell him not to fight the story of the dream at the Battle of Philippi. He was suddenly comfortable with his anonymity. He would be happy to fade into history.
His family would remember, although he would not tell the stories of his exploits very often. They all knew the truth about the Battle of Philippi. They knew how much of a hero their ancestor was. They knew how much he sacrificed and how much he did in his life.
Marius Batiatus Pervalidus quickly stopped being a former gladiator. He stopped being a former soldier. He stopped being the former hero of Philippi. He was just father, husband, neighbor...
His family thrived in the peace. His horses were renowned in the chariot races. Patrons from all over the Empire sought out "Pervalidian Horses." They were said to be strong, powerful, and fast. "The finest horses in the world" became the family slogan. Pervalidus claimed that Neptune smiled upon him for his years of service.
In fact, as he traveled, he never ran into any more trouble. The gods were happy with the 1000, and his battles were over. The roadways became safe and highwaymen never accosted him again. The days of explaining to the local magistrates how he killed the half dozen men were through. The extra days during travel to speak with authorities about troubles in town became a thing of the past.
Pervalidus had entered his final stage of his life. He started out as an ordinary child living in Bithynia. That was the first stage of his life. That stage lasted a mere twelve years.
With his family's death and Lucullus capturing him and selling him into slavery, he entered the short second stage of his life. This ended when he killed man number one, his master.
He lived with Spartacus and was part of the slave rebellion. However, this portion of his life did not last very long either. The fourth period in his life began when Crassus and his legions killed Spartacus and sold the future Validus Maximus into slavery again. He was purchased by the Batitus's gladiatorial school, and this was longest section of his life.
This long portion of his life brought him much fame and wealth. Citizens from all over the Roman Republic shouted his name. They all admired his skills with the trident and net. They were amazed at how he could handle any situation in the arena. However, he always thanked his personal patron Neptune for his survival.
He acquired a great fortune and purchased his freedom to begin the next phase in his life. This phase did not last as long as he had wished. The conflicts as a freed slave continued and he would kill bandits and highwaymen occasionally. He got out of the arena with a desire to stop killing. However, this was not to be as he continued killing. Thus, he decided to enter another part of his life.
He joined the forces of the future Emperor of Rome Caesar Augustus, and became a soldier. Most citizens and members of the Equestrian Order would retire from fighting in the army at the age Pervalidus started. However, he quickly became a war hero with his skill using the spear. He killed the most men during this phase of his life. However, he was clearly a war hero.
After that period of his life, he was able to enter the final stage. He was able to retire to private life. The killing stopped. He could finally relax and enjoy what he fought for all those years. There was peace in the realm and the Roman slave, Gladiator, Freeman, and Hero would fade into the past. He was just an ordinary citizen. The life made him very satisfied to enjoy the little things. Thus, all around him were happy.