Chapter IV - Occurrens cum Graccho

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.


'The Meeting' - After an interval of a few months, Terentius fulfilled his promise, made on the day that Markos arrived at the Villa Auri, and came to speak to Markos once again.
"So .... young Markos, how are you finding things here at the villa ?", Terentius began tentatively.
"I cannot complain, Domine." Markos replied carefully.
"I find my work is not difficult, and I am well looked after."
"But I think that you do not find your work challenging enough, or interesting," Terentius interjected, "and I think that you may be lonely, as the other slaves are - quite rightly - wary of you.... and anyway, we do not want you getting too friendly with the other slaves.
Your place is with us."
While Markos knew that what  Terentius said was true, he found the freedman's last statement very puzzling and to some extent worrying..
Who did he mean by 'us', and why was it desirable for him to avoid friendships with the other slaves ?
"Come with me, Markos.", Terentius then said to the puzzled looking boy.
"There is someone who wants to meet you."
Entranc to Gracchus' Study
Obediently Markos followed Terentius at a respectful distance, as the young freedman strode through the main Atrium, and then through a doorway leading to a wide, elaborately decorated corridor.
At the end of the corridor were a pair of imposing bronze doors, with gilded panels and decorations in the form of double 'G' monograms, surrounded by wreaths of laurel leaves.
The walls were sheathed in expensive dark marble, and the floor was cool and beautifully decorated with fabulously detailed, marble mosaics.
On either side of the door, standing in front of the elegantly carved white Pentelic marble door frames were tall, muscular young slave-boys.
As Terentius approached the doors, the slave-boys carefully swung them open.
Just before he went through the doors, Terentius turned to Markos.
"You are meeting your master - so show respect !" he whispered.
The room, despite its huge double doors was not particularly large, and was obviously equipped as a study or an office.
Senator Gnaeus Octavius Gracchus of the Iulii
Markos stepped into the room, hesitantly - and there, sitting relaxed and at ease was the lord of the Villa Auream, and much else besides.
This was Senator Gnaeus Octavius Gracchus of the Iulii.
"So, at last we meet, young Markos - or is it Marcus ?", Gracchus, said gently, with a smile playing round his lips.
"And in case you haven't realised, I am your master.
I am Gnaeus Octavius Gracchus."
"Yes.... Dominus." Markos replied.
Markos was terrified, but was intent on not showing it.
Here was a man who had the power of life or death over him - could fee him, on a whim, or keep him in servitude for the rest of his life.
"Terentius has told me much about you ...... but there is still much that remains a mystery."
Gracchus said enigmatically, as he settled himself in his chair.
"As you may have guessed, Terentius was in Brundisium the night the ship bringing the consignment of slaves - including yourself arrived in the harbour.
Intrigued by your appearance and manner, he immediately made contact with the captain of the ship, feigning that he was interested in a troupe of dancing boys.
He took the captain to a waterfront tavern and plied him with wine .... and discovered that a boy answering your description had been accompanied by his parents on the boat they had attacked, and that both parents had been killed in the attack.
Terentius also discovered that the ship had come from Piraeus and, therefore, presumably from Athens."
"Yes, Dominus." Markos said, careful to agree with everything Gracchus was saying.
Gracchus then turned to Terentius.
"Terentius, you may leave us now.
I will speak to you later."
Terentius thanked Gracchus, and walked towards the doors, which mysteriously opened as he left.
The doors then closed with a soft thud, and Markos was alone with Gracchus.
It was late morning, and the room was warm, almost stuffy.
In shafts of sunlight minute particles wafted from the numerous dusty scrolls strewn on Gracchus' huge marble table.
Markos felt distinctly uneasy as Gracchus gazed at him, seemingly knowingly.
Could this man fathom some base secret held deep in Markos' soul, the boy wondered.
Markos thought it best not to stare back, but instead lowered his gaze, looking meekly at the finely figured marble floor.
Gracchus, however, continued to look at Markos keenly, as if expecting a response.
"So, anyway, to continue your story, Markos ..... Arion and Terentius had already agreed a price before the auction - which was really just a sham, as you probably knew, and you were then brought to Baiae, and the 'Villa Auream'.
As soon as you arrived Terentius explained the situation to me.
Marcus' Bulla
And he handed me this !"
And Gracchus held up Markos 'bulla', which dangled from its leather cord, and glittered in the sunlight that pierced the shadows of Gracchus' study.
"So where did it come from ?" Gracchus asked, quite aggressively, throwing the bulla down onto the marble table, among the scrolls..
"It's mine, Dominus.
I've always had it - for as long as I can remember.", Markos replied, beginning to panic.
"And what is a little Greek boy doing with a 'bulla' - my I ask ?", Gracchus asked sarcastically.
"But it's mine....!", Markos replied, unable to explain the matter any further.
Grachus looked long and hard at Markos.
He then put the 'bulla' into an elaborately veneered ivory and gold box.
"Well.... young man... I will keep it for you - and who knows, one day we may find a use for it.", Gracchus concluded, smiling weakly at Markos, who was very nearly on the verge of tears.
Gracchus then settled himself in his chair once again, and perused a scroll on his marble topped table, as he considered where next to take his strange interview with this strange boy.
"And now I have to decide what to do with you." Gracchus said, as if starting a new chapter.
Once again Gracchus settled himself in his chair.
"Terentius tells me that you speak Latin as well as Greek.", Gracchus commented, as so far their conversation had been entirely in Greek.
"Yes Dominus.", Markos replied, trying to recover his self composure.
"And you read and write in both Greek and Latin ?", Gracchus continued, speaking in Latin just to test Markos.
"Yes Dominus.", Markos replied in Latin.
"And how did you acquire this remarkable erudition ?", Gracchus asked, not only seeking information, but also testing Markos' vocabulary.
"My father, Gaius Agrippa Aelius, ensured that I was given a good education...", and Markos paused and hung his head, "but I did not always attend well to it."
Gracchus shook his head at the mention of Gaius Agrippa Aelius.
He was well aware of a Gaius Agrippa Aelius, but not aware of any son - so at this point Markos' claims seemed spurious to say the least - but there was the matter of Markos' obvious abilities - which remained, to Gracchus, a mystery.
"Then tell me, Markos, would you like to continue your education ?"
"If it is your wish, Dominus." Markos replied deferentially.
Gracchus slammed the palm of his right hand down on the large marble table, disturbing some of the scrolls.
"Look, boy ! I want to know what you want, not what you think I want !"
This was a new, less pleasant side to the urbane, polite Gracchus that Markos had imagined his master to be.
Gracchus was obviously annoyed, even angry, and Markos was fearful.
"I'm sorry,... Dominus.", Markos stuttered.
"Yes, Dominus, I would very much like to continue studying.", Markos continued, desperately trying to make amends.
"That's better....", Gracchus continued, quickly recovering his calm pleasant demeanour.
Gracchus paused for a moment, obviously giving some thought to his next move.
"Send me Quintus !", Gracchus called to one of the slave boys standing near the door, in the shadows..
Quintus must have been standing just outside the door, because he appeared almost immediately, carrying a tabula and stylus.
"Markos, this is Quintus, one of my secretaries.(scibus)", Gracchus said in an offhand way to Markos.
Markos nodded towards Quintus, who was a middle aged slave who looked somewhat careworn, and Quintus nodded back in response.
Quintus gave the distinct impression that he'd seen it all before - and probably had.
Quintus ! Take this down ! ....", Gracchus began.
Gracchus then thought for a moment - looked at Markos - and then started to address Quintus.
"I will engage two tutors for Markos. One to continue his education in Greek, and the other to continue his education in Latin. Markos will therefore study grammar, rhetoric, lectio, partitio, Law and  philosophy, and I will obtain monthly reports from his tutors regarding his progress. I will also engage for Markos an athletics coach. His duties will be to coach Markos in using a javelin, to fight in armour, and to ride a horse, and also to box, to wrestle, and to swim."
Lectio is basically literary criticism. Partitio is the analysis of poetry. Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers to inform, most likely to persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Roman tradition
"Have you got that, Quintus ?", Gracchus asked.
"Yes, Dominus.", Quintus replied wearily.
"Now make a copy for Terentius, and bring me the original, and the copy, for me to sign and seal, and then give the copy to Terentius, and tell him to get to work on it !", Gracchus continued.
"Of course, Dominus !", and with that Quintus, took up his wax tablets scuttled off.
"He's a good slave, Quintus.
He writes better Latin than I do." Gracchus said carelessly - smiling.
A wax tablet (cerae) - (in case you have forgotten) is a tablet made of wood and covered with a layer of wax, often linked loosely to a cover tablet, as a "double-leaved" diptych. It was used as a reusable and portable writing surface in Roman times. Cicero's letters make passing reference to the use of cerae. Writing on the wax surface was performed with a pointed instrument, a stylus. Wax tablets were used for a variety of purposes, from taking down students' or secretaries' notes to recording business accounts. Early forms of shorthand were also used.
 As Quintus made his way out of Gracchus study, Markos was puzzled by the orders that Gracchus had just dictated.
"May I ask a question, Dominus ?"
"Of course my boy, and I will answer it, if I can."
Markos screwed up his courage.
"Why are you doing all this for me ?"
There was a long pause, and Markos felt that he had made a terrible mistake in asking such a question - but Gracchus was still smiling.
"It's very simple, Markos.
Because it pleases me......"
There was then an awkward silence, as Markos waited for the rest of the answer.
But that was it.
Gracchus was being, possibly, deliberately inscrutable.
"Send in Terentius !", Gracchus then ordered one of the slave-boys.
Moments later Terentius arrived.
"I have decided to continue Markos' education, and his physical training.
You are to make all the necessary arrangements immediately.
I leave the choosing of  tutors to you.
His athletic coach shall be a young centurion, and I will arrange prolonged leave for him through the tribune Marcellus, who is one of my clients.
Quintus is even now transcribing my instructions from his wax 'scrawl' onto a decent roll of papyrus which I shall sign and seal.
Roman Centurion
A centurion (Latin: centurio; Greek: κεντυρίων) was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC. Most centurions commanded groups of centuries of around 100 men but senior centurions commanded cohorts, or took senior staff roles in their legion. Centurions were also found in the Roman navy. Centurions wore a distinctive helmet crest mounted sideways. Being held personally responsible for the training and discipline of the legionaries under their command, centurions had a well-deserved reputation for firmness - which undoubtedly would be good for Markos.
The word papyrus refers to a thick paper-like material made from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus. Papyrus can also refer to a document written on sheets of papyrus joined together side by side and rolled up into a scroll, an early form of a book.
When you have the document in your possession, add an addendum, to be written by Markos in Latin, in which he states that he will study and train diligently, and get him to sign it - in Greek and Latin, and then you must witness it with your own signature as a freedman."
"Yes, Dominus !", Terentius replied looking somewhat surprised.
"As soon as Markos' tutors and his athletic coach are in place, Markos shall assist Glykon in the morning for only two hours, then have his midday meal, and then start studying with his tutors - Greek one day, Latin the next.
Later in the afternoon, when it is cooler, he shall work with his trainer until just before sunset and then bathe and have a massage.
In the evening he shall work on his studies, and be provided with a desk, papyrus scrolls, ink, pens, and sufficient oil and lamps to do so.
Is that clear ?"
"Of course, Dominus." Terentius replied.
"Now you may take the boy back to the entrance hall, and we shall speak more of this later."
"Thank you, Dominus.", Terentius said, as he turned to Markos.
"What do you say, boy ?"
"Thank you, Dominus", Markos echoed, mechanically and obediently, as Terentius hustled the overawed boy out of Gracchus' study.
What Markos didn't see, as he left, was the broad grin of Gracchus' face.
"So Markos, what do you think about that ?", Terentius asked, as they made their way back to the main atrium.
"I  don't know what to think.", Markos said.
"The Dominus frightens me, and I do not understand him, but.... I think he is being very good to me...but I don't understand why.", Marcus tried to explain.
"I see.", Terentius said, as they approached the main entrance, where Glykon was waiting.
"Well, Markos, so far you've caused me a lot of trouble...." Terentius continued.
"But how, Domine ?... I didn't mean to...",Markos replied, alarmed.
"Well maybe not trouble, but inconvenience......
Now I have to got to Rome, to buy two new slaves.... a Greek tutor, and a Latin tutor, because it's not possible to buy good slaves here or in Neapolis or Capua.
Then I have to see the Legatus Marcellus, to arrange for a long term loan of one of his centurions.
Then we have to get some new furnishings for your cubiculum from Neapolis - a table, chair, chests and lamps.
And then I need to get Quintus to let me have some papyrus, pens and ink for you - and that will be the most difficult part of all !", Terentius explained, as he had his little joke about Quintus.
"I'm sorry Domine. I didn't mean to be any trouble for anybody." Markos replied.
Gracchus' 'Little House' in Rome
The Domus Gracchii
"But where will you stay in Rome ?", Markos asked, naively.
Terentius was touched by the boy's concern.
"Don't worry, the Dominus has a comfortable little house in Rome where I can stay.", Terentius replied, smiling.
Then, before they came into earshot of Glykon, Terentius stopped and turned to speak to Markos more seriously.
"Listen carefully to my instructions, Markos.", Terentius said quickly and quietly.
Markos nodded.
"Say nothing about your meeting with the Dominus, other than inconsequential comments about the Dominus welcoming you as a slave in the villa, and how he warned you about the foolishness of trying to run away - and such like.
Make no mention of  the bulla, or of lessons or training.
Is that understood ?", Terentius said.
"Yes, Domine." Markos replied.
"Now go about your duties, and I will speak to you again in a few days when I return to the villa.", Terentius said, and strode off, leaving Markos to his work with Glykon.

and the story continues -
as young Marcus begins his studies, and his physical training, under the watchful eye of Terentius, and finds a friend in the young centurion, Servius .......'
(Work and No Play)

Please note that this chapter contains sexually explicit and violent images and text. If you strongly object to any of these images please contact the blog author at and the offending material can be removed. Equally please do not view this chapter if such material may offend.

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