Following our chat with Trimalchio, my uncle and I watch a most unusual event during our exercise.
Trimalchio had begun his game. It was strange to see a gleeful, bald man playing among long-haired boys. This ‘pater familiae,’ for that’s what he appeared to be, the head of this energetic household, kept tossing a prasina (green) ball back and forth with the boys. This soleatus (sandalled) man, despite his athletic-looking footwear, hardly moved from his spot in the center of the commotion. If a ball was dropped, he did not chase after it. Nor did he send one of the boys after it. A slave with a bag full of balls simply threw another one into the mix. Nearby, I noted one eunuch who appeared to be keeping track of the balls, dropped, not in play, and another holding an argenteam matellam (silver chamber-pot).
Across the room stood the trio of men from outside the gym, gazing at the lautitias (luxuries) of this man. Another man ran up to them and said something, though I could only make out a few words – eavesdropping was an unfortunate habit of mine – I heard “cenae” (dinner) and “ponitis” (ponere – to give), so I could only assume they were invited to dinner as well. I thought they would make interesting company, especially the third one; he always trailed behind and never seemed to talk.
Anyway, the three friends were just as amused as I was. This amusement quickly turned to bewilderment, then disgust, when Trimalchio called over the eunuch with the chamber pot. And, well, Trimalchio exonerata (having been eased) never had to stop his game. A basin was brought to him, and he wiped his hands on a slave boy’s head. Talk about ‘filthy rich.’
Tired of that sight, I walked off to see if anyone would challenge me in a wrestling match.
This whole spectacle starts with an innocent trip to the baths with my uncle, Traianus, and a party invitation engineered by the Fates. I am certain these events cost me no small length of Lachesis’ string.
I decided to enjoy my time back in Rome with my dear uncle, Traianus. We were not so far apart in age as most belonging to the same relationship, so we enjoyed each others’ company. He took me to the baths one day so I might make use of the gymnasium – I prefer to keep my body strong even while off-duty – and to visit some friend of his. On our way inside, I noticed, by chance, a group of friends mid-argument entering behind us.
In the middle of the gym, my uncle introduced me to an old man by the name of Trimalchio. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and he shocked me with the knowledge that he had heard my name. My uncle gave Trimalchio a joking shove, prompting disapproving grunts from his attendants, and asked since when Trimalchio took notice of military affiars.The old man replied that he ‘spared his attention from time to time to observe the progress of the country, in non-economical matters,’ and had heard my name in conversation discussing the recent campaign in Gaul. Trimalchio insisted that I attend his dinner with my uncle, and I happily complied.
Surely ignorance is the bane of all men, disguised as a path to good times.
Trimalchio began some game with a horde of young boys, and my uncle and I found a space to perform our stretches. The old man seemed pleasant enough, and well informed too. At the time, I looked forward to the evening, and carried on with my morning exercise.
SALVETE! My inspiration is found. I have quite the tale to tell to you. The party my uncle invited me to last night was more than I could have dreamed of. Oh, mehercule! What a wretched yet wonderful night. I must write about everything I witnessed – or is it ‘endured’ – before my anima banishes it forever from my waking thoughts. The training of a Roman officer is no preparation for the extravagance of Trimalchio.
Yet I must place these accounts on paper. Even this morning’s retributions from last evening’s indulgences may not prevent me from putting pen to paper. Oh, curse that ever-flowing wine! Make yourselves comfortable, amicis, and listen well…
SALVETE! My name is Agrippa Fulgurtus Modicitus. I am Optio to Centurion Valedictus in the Roman military, under the current Caesar, Emperor Nero. Concluding a cold, hard campaign in Gaul, I am exceedingly happy to be back here, in Rome. I have decided to take up writing in my free time. I do hope my ‘little book,’ as the poets would say, will entertain you all.
I believe that’s enough about me for now. I can recall glorious stories of combat some other time, but I feel the need to start my writings with a different muse. I am attending a party tonight with my uncle; hopefully I shall find some inspiration there.
USQUE AD TEMPUS!– MODICITUS