"Gaius Cassius - no relation, probably." Aulus raised an eyebrow in Longinus' direction before returning to his list. "Gaius Herminius, Gaius Furius, Gaius Menenius, Gaius Geminus, Gaius Servilius, Gaius Veturius - careful with those lights, there, boy!"
Longinus' slave had set down the lamp he was holding and retrieved the scroll his master had tossed aside, obviously used to clearing up after his master.
The sooner they could work out precisely who was involved in this little side hustle, the sooner they could put a stop to it and get back to their own actual business. Longinus did not look at all happy about having his two closest friends going rifling through his records. That was perfectly understandable; it did not look well on him at all that this had been allowed to happen, no matter that it had been caught quickly (Aulus thought it had, in fact, been caught exceptionally quickly; he was aware of frauds that had occurred over years before anyone caught wind of them). He was going to have to have a quiet word with his friend, if his natural buoyancy did not make a reappearance quickly, that people chanced this kind of thing all the time and he might want to put checks in place to make it harder for the next people who thought they could cream off the top.
"How long has he been proconsul there?" Aulus asked. If it had been longer than a couple of years or so, he could surely request a posting to somewhere more lively - probably not Raetia because his own replacement had only been there a matter of months, and probably not somewhere as active as Britannia, Dacia or Judea.
"There is a danger with becoming inactive, of course. I can understand why he keeps his men active with drills and manoeuvres. It's far different from sitting in judgement every time a case comes up that requires his personal attention, and yet that is important, too."
He helped himself to some olives before pushing the dish across the table to the ladies. "I did have one or two of them to deal with, but the sect is not a great deal of trouble in Raetia, or at least there are not very many who practice it, that I am aware of." To his knowledge, the Raetians who followed the strange teachings (one god! He had never understood the Jews' paucity in the area of the divine!) were Jews who had a dispensation to follow their one god, or slaves. And there were not such vast numbers of Jews in that province as there were elsewhere.
Aulus didn't even glance around, merely snapping his fingers to command the slaves' attention. "Lights," was the sole order he gave, uncharacteristically brief and sharp thanks to his annoyance at the childish squabble between his fellow officers and this mess. He didn't care who or how, but there were slaves standing around who should be making themselves useful.
"Do we need to pull these Gaii up century by century, or can we narrow it further?" he asked as the slaves jumped into action to light more lamps so they could read these records better.
"Start with the roster for Appius' own century. He's unlikely to have ended up flogging another centurion's subordinate, after all," he added, more mildly. And where did Mantius come into this?
"Be prepared to send someone trustworthy to apprehend Tabnit, before he can get away - though discreetly, there's no need to give any sign to these three that the game's up."
"Myself? Oh, no," Aulus said, realising where he had misspoken. "My cousin was, I'm so used to hearing him speak about it, and I was there rather later, during the skirmishes with the Brigantes about ten years ago. I initially went as one of Quintus Caesar's envoys before it devolved in outright fighting. Touchy people, the British, though I wasn't an envoy to the Brigantes,at least."
He himself had been serving in his first military role as tribune under Quintus Flavius Alexander.
"No, I don't think so - the year of his consulship was the year I took up my post as propraetor in Raetia, though I understand he was a good consul - and he does not have to deal with any troublesome uprisings in Carthage, at least."
Calpurnia's eyes had grown wide at the description of dolphins, real, actual dolphins swimming in the Mare Nostrum. Maybe she would be able to see some for herself when they went down to Grandfather's villa at Baiae - that was near the sea, after all, though maybe it was the wrong sort of sensor something?
"Do you think it's possible to ride a dolphin? Actaeon did, in the story," she managed, quietly, though the lady was so nice to speak to her earlier and not right over her head as a lot of adults did.
Titus was still fascinated by the elephants and Hannibal, but decided that it probably wasn't politic to talk about an enemy of Rome to someone from Carthage - Hannibal had been defeated, after all, and it might not be nice to remind her of that.
"Papa says there were elephants with the legions when they conquered Britannia," he said. "The boats must be awfully big to carry an elephant!"
"Just one," Aulus put in at this point. "It didn't really take part in the battles, though, it was there more to rattle the British tribesmen than anything. And it fit perfectly well on the deck of a galley, though that meant we couldn't load that galley with soldiers or the weight would have sunk it."
"Hmm," Aulus said again. "I think the thing to do would be to look at what areas are available for a project this size, and determine what the inhabitants of that area would most benefit from."
There was a decent area between the Equiline and the new amphitheatre, on the spur known as the Oppian, although it would probably require building up to a level before it could take a substantial structure such as a thermae. Naturally, he would also like to win the approbation of the group of people with the most influence in the consular election. (Well, the group of people apart from Quintus Augustus, that was; that Aulus needed his favour went without saying!)
"You have a point - I should probably make more use of the smaller ones myself, if not for the opportunities for networking that the larger ones provide, simply because everyone goes there." Everyone of consequence that was; a slave and a senator required very different things when it came to making or renewing acquaintances.
"I think I shall take a look tomorrow at what areas are available, so that I can lay a solid proposal before Quintus Augustus," he said. "Or at least, begin to look around."
He shared the last of the wine in the jug between their two cups. "Felix, you are invaluable, as always."
"It wasn't all that far north," Titus said, unwilling to let the lady think he'd meant something he hadn't. "Pater's been all the way north to Britannia, though he didn't take any of us."
"That was a while ago," Aulus said, reaching for some bread and dipping into the saucer of olive oil. "Some of the barbarians can be quite civilised. Some of the others, though..." He let his words trail off; there were stories, but they would be much more suitable to tell the the lady's sons than the lady herself.
Calpurnia seemed unwilling to be drawn, merely going pink and looking as if she would like to hide her face in her mother's stola if she were younger, though her eyes widened at the description of elephants being ridden like horses.
"I think she would like dolphins somewhere in the decoration of the women's baths - and I certainly mean to include a separate women's area," Aulus said. It was one of the things he had decided on from the moment the idea had occurred to him. Whatever other details would be hashed out with the architect (when he found someone suitable), a separate women's only area was non-negotiable.
Why should they have to cut their time short simply because they could only bathe in the morning while the men were conducting their business elsewhere, after all?
"Have you ridden an elephant, then? It must be like looking down from the roof of a house," Titus said, fascinated, and wishing that he had got some stories of northern barbarians, to have anything to hold up to the stories this lady's sons might be able to tell. He had at least seen an elephant; they had them in Rome for some of the games sometimes, though he didn't think they had any on today's programme, which was a shame. He couldn't help the swell of pride at the thought that his father might help rule the greatest city in the entire world, if he became consul. It would only be for a year, but it would be enormously prestigious - though probably very hard to live up to. But Grandfather had been a consul too, once, and Father didn't seem to have a problem living up to that, so maybe it was only Titus himself?
"You should bring your boys to visit - Titus would like some friends of his age, I'm sure," Horatia said. Titus did not look convinced, but did not demur - anyway, they might be nice enough, and there were links between the families, although it would be a good long time before he was expected to shoulder the burden of becoming paterfamilias to gens Calpurnia.
"Vindelicorum is a moderate sized town, about the same size as Pompeii, and as civilised. Raetia is, on the whole, as civilised a place as any. It does share a border with Germania Magna but most of that border is the River Danuvius. The more northern border is guarded by forts and there are two legions stationed along that border to deal with any incursions that may occur. My wife and children were as safe there as they are here. As for my plans now... Well, I don't suppose it is any secret that I am looking for my consulship."
There was a pause as the establishment's slaves bustled around them, delivering food to the table.
"He's going to build a big thermae - the biggest ever," Calpurnia declared, finding her courage suddenly. It deserted her almost as quickly, and she subsided, flushing red.
Titus took the opportunity of covering for his sister. "What do you think of Rome, my lady?" he enquired, making Aulus have to hide a smile in his wine-cup. Titus was still conscious of being very newly returned to the Eternal City, and was perenially interested in others' opinions of the place - especially those who, like him, had spent time elsewhere. "And do they still have elephants in Carthage?"
Two questions on wildly different topics... Aulus couldn't help wondering which the lady would choose to answer, while thinking which Titus would prefer to have answered. Perhaps entertaining the lady and her sons would be a very good idea, to sate his son's curiosity; a polite boring adult conversation was unlikely to answer everything.
Aulus fished for the tabula he'd brought out with him and set under his seat. He needed to make a couple of notes so as not to forget the ideas raised. An interesting library might be manageable, even if Octavius' Great Library had the biggest collection. Somewhere easy for those conducting research, say - Aulus himself was no author or historian, but that did not mean that he could not give such people what they needed.
"A palaestra, of course - although what the precise requirements will be depends greatly on the area where this thermae will be built. A thermae near the Praetorian barracks will have very different clientèle than one near here, after all," he said, thoughtfully, tapping the silver stylus against the tabula's wooden frame. "That is not to say thermae near the Praetorian barracks would not benefit from a good library."
What Aulus preferred in his thermae could easily be different from what Felix liked, as well, of course. Even if Felix accompanied Aulus to the baths, that did not mean Aulus' baths were where his slave went when he had free time.
"Do you have a favourite thermae you like to go to?" he asked, interested.
Aulus' five-year-old son could behave better than these two were right now. Any more needling and Aulus would bet an aureus to a bent quadrans that they would end up trying to thrash the living daylights out of one another.
"Gaius something... there are about five thousand men in a legion and probably half of them have the praenomen Gaius, though if this one's in Appius' cohort, that narrows it down to a few hundred or so. Let's see the records before we drag any of them in; it's always good to know how a scam's run before you have to question the perpetrators of it. And is it just the three of them or have any others been involved?"
Appius would be lucky to be broken down to legionary, and the others... Well, their punishment would be up Longinus, of course, but stealing from the treasury would not go down well at all with the proconsul.
"You two are supposed to be friends and responsible Roman leaders. Have some dignitas, both of you and stop acting like children," Aulus said, the needling getting too much. "Longinus, nobody has cast any aspersions on your leadership of your legion, and Titus, it is a bit much to find that someone's been able to pull this sort of thing under your very nose, presumably for a while."