Face ClaimSam Hazeldine
"Utterly fascinating," Aulus said, peering over her shoulder. "I'm sure the house won't fall to pieces if it turns out we only have fifteen jars of olive oil rather than twenty." He kissed her on the head even as his hand found its way to her thigh. "Do the slaves really need speaking to, columbina mea?"
How was it that she still had as much power over him after more than ten years of marriage as she had had that afternoon in the garden of a rented house in Athens? Aulus couldn't say, but vowed (again) to offer a sacrifice to Venus in thanks for their meeting, and one to Juno in thanks for their marriage. And the two healthy children Horatia had borne.
"I supposed the list of friends and party invitations must fill the entire rest of that scroll?" he enquired, straight-faced.
"I suppose I have," Aulus said, wryly. "I'm sorry. It was unintentional - I would never brush you off like those dozy old senators, or consciously ignore you." He was very consciously doing the exact opposite of ignoring her right now, of course. "I, make a married mother of two blush? Surely that's impossible."
He was smiling, though, the gentle teasing coming easily to him.
She turned her face to the ceiling, her expression mixed contentment and sadness. He laced his fingers through hers.
"I'll tell you what. Now that the world has been put right, why don't you and I tell the slaves that we're not to be disturbed on any account whatsoever and, well..."
They weren't due to dine for at least three hours, by his calculation. Plenty of time to engage in more pleasurable activities, just between the two of them.
"Well, she can stare at him but that's it." And doubtless his parents did have some ideas of their own - Tiberius was still the paterfamilias, after all, and might well like to cement ties with one or other of the senatorial families of Rome through the marriage of a daughter and son of those families. He'd definitely have to talk with his father and make his own opinions clear.
"Did I not? I'm sorry." He let out a breath of his own. "I think he is, though he may not agree with me. I didn't feel ready for it myself when it was my own time - though it will be a few years yet before he is ready to embark on the cursus honorum. It'll give him a chance to polish is oratory skills - and I will be able to talk with him more about what I do. He might well some decided opinions on things I should do as Consul, of course."
It was about time he started having more serious discussions about various matters and policies with his son. It had surely only been a few months ago that Titus had been so serious about showing his wooden sword to his father!
He found himself drinking in his wife's face, with the soft auburn hair done up in an artless fashion that must have taken half the morning to perfect. And those blue eyes - Calpurnia looked like her mother, and there was something of Horatia in Titus' own expressions sometimes, too.
"I don't see why she wouldn't be. She's patrician, born of patrician parents, my loyalty to the Augustus is without question - and they have to look somewhere for prospective wives, why not Calpurnia? They can hardly marry some foreign princess or something, it just wouldn't be - Roman."
The scions of the Imperial family had married good senatorial girls before. They weren't Egyptian, to marry their own sisters (only look what sort of a mess that had led to, in the end!)
"I'm not going to force her to marry someone she'll hate, or despise. Of course I don't want her to be unhappy - Juno willing, we'll find her someone who will treat her the way she wants to be treated, who will value her as I value you. Although I rather think our own method has given them ideas. Really, I should have held off and asked my father to ask your father, and do it all properly."
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "She is growing up, but she is not yet a woman, unless you know something I don't - and when don't you? But talk with her - the sooner she begins to think about it and get used to the idea, the better. And if there's someone who's caught her eye, that would be good to know. Someone suitable - I don't want to hear that she's fallen for the kitchen skivvy or next door's house slave or anything of that sort."
"There are a couple of nice young men within the Imperial family - Titus Flavius Caesar Alexander and Tiberius Claudius Sabucius. I'm not sure how old they are but they must both be closer in age to Calpurnia than you and I are to each other. Neither Lucius Cassius nor Titus Sulpicius have a son the right sort of age, though each of them has a daughter who could be considered for a wife for Titus. I doubt he will want to marry before he's held his first senatorial post, though."
And if the discussion highlighted the difference in expectations placed on the men and the women in their society, Aulus was not thinking of that. "I'm open to other suggestions for a husband for Calpurnia, of course."
Aulus sat back, crossing one leg over the other. "Whereas you have as much ambition as I have, to raise a good family and leave a legacy to Rome - in your own way, anyway. And I don't see why the Augustus and his wife would like to come for dinner in a private citizen's home, especially one he has described as a friend. If he would rather not, that's different - he can say no but I'd like to ask him."
She was right about Titus, too, of course. "I'll tell Titus, he should know - it's about time we thought about giving him his toga virīlis, after all."
Surely Horatia wasn't old enough to be mother to a son on the cusp of manhood!
"I suppose I ought to start thinking about a husband for Calpurnia, too," he added. "Though I promise I don't intend to marry her off too soon, nor do I want to marry her to someone old enough to be her grandfather."
Not his only daughter! He wanted Calpurnia to be happy in her marriage, as her mother was, but that needn't stop them thinking of suitable candidates.
"We did. I wish things had happened differently, but we are here, and the past is the past." He managed to stroke her cheek with his knuckle before she sat back, removing her face from his reach.
"I don't know," he said. "Unless you feel you can host a private dinner for him, and the Augusta? I'm a man of simple ideas, mel mī, unless you wish to wage a military campaign of some description." He laughed, but oh, she would be a fierce opponent when roused, if she had the opportunity to be - there were many reasons women couldn't have military or political careers, after all. The savagery of some barbarian women was breathtaking, he wouldn't wish to come up against a Horatia so roused in defense of her children and family.
mel mī - my honey, my sweet
"Although, it's Cassius Longinus who's been the most cantankerous recently, and for good reason," Aulus said, and tilted his head to the side. "A decade? As much as that! It doesn't seem it, I'm sure I'm only thirty-four really. And... only one of the better ones, my sweet?"
He could sit there forever, just looking at Horatia. He still had to pinch himself sometimes that he was married to a woman who was right for him in every respect.
"I hope I've set your mind at ease, anyway," he told her, though she had smiled her old smile and looked suddenly ten years younger than she had. It had obviously been weighing heavily on her - understandably so, all things considered.
"I agree that Titus Sulpicius Rufus can be cantankerous, but he's hardly old," he informed her with a straight face. "A dinner is hardly an onerous thing, either, especially if they have some good entertainment. If we do have to host some unutterably dull Senators and their equally asinine wives, I promise I'll make it up to you!"
He'd invite his friends, of course - they could always be relied on to lighten things up, though they would probably prefer a private dinner rather than something large and with the dull Senators that Horatia was envisioning.
"Not all Senators are ancient and cantankerous - I'm not, am I?" He leaned his elbow on her desk and his chin on his hand, looking up into her face with a miscievous glint in his eye.
"I am sure," Aulus told her. "He has offered his support for the next year, in my bid for consul, and I have no reason to doubt his word. He has always been an honourable man, it's why he's had my support since that night - before it, even." Horatia would know exactly which 'that night' he meant; his fleeing under the cover of darkness was a night neither of them was likely to forget.
"It would be good to be cautious, of course, but that is different from being fearful." He moved around her chair, so that he could see her face without her straining to look up at him, and giving them both an upside-down view of each other, then shrugged and pulled over a chair, sitting to put them on more of a level. "If anything was to happen, I would have sent you and Calpurnia to the Vestals, along with Felix and Callista, and I would put Titus under the Augustus' protection directly. It would have split the family up, but hopefully only temporarily. My will is Felix' manumission, too, but the Vestals could declare him free, which would put him outside the Praetorian's threats. Or the sort of threats he was employing, at least. Callista is yours, but I would concur with anything you decide as regards her, and if it needs anything to be set in place legally, I will do that for you."
Because of course Horatia couldn't set up anything legal herself, of course. The legal system didn't allow for that, regardless of the fact that women were known to be a force to be reckoned with.
Topics I Participated In
(Takes place in the evening of Ave Imperator! and Into the lion's den)
Aulus returned to his home feeling far more light-hearted than when he had left it that morning. He had almost not needed to head to the Castra Praetoria, not with Caesar's reassurance ringing in his ears, but some part of him had needed to meet the man who had unnerved his wife and threatened his children and slaves. After that meeting, he had no compunction whatsoever about leaving him to Caesar to deal with. He was still none the wiser as to why he had turned on Aulus' family, but the threat had gone and it felt as if a sweet breeze had blown through the house.
One of the house slaves offered him a cup of wine and, when questioned, the information that the mistress was in her own private study. Aulus dismissed the boy and turned to find Horatia.
He paused quietly at the door of her room, not wishing to disturb her if she was in the middle of something that could not easily be set aside. He smiled, the fond expression coming easily to his face as he watched her before knocking, the private pattern used just between the two of them.
(Title: The situation as it was before the war)
6th of October, 75 AD
Given the tragedy brought on by the earthquake only a few months earlier, Titus didn't quite feel right celebrating his birthday with huge festivities or partying from dusk to dawn - besides, this was no milestone year, just the passage of time signalling that he had officially grown older. The previous day - the actual day of - had been spent with family, featuring a relaxed and pleasurable evening with far too much food including Betua's mouthwateringly good placenta cake, and only a tiny hiccough when Valeriana loudly and vehemently expressed how unfair it was that she received no gifts, skilfully ignoring the fact that it wasn't her birthday for that to happen.
Tonight's celebration was simple as well, though less child-friendly. Going out for drinks with friends was also very agreeable, even more so when they had a decent-sized chamber and an own dedicated servant all to themselves. Drinking alone was no fun, though, even when it was Falernian and Caecuban, and Titus busied himself with deciphering the multitude of humorous scrawls on the walls and snacking on bread and olives before the others arrived - his stomach would thank him later.
@Echo @Sara @Sharpie
Feel free to ignore posting order!
November 59 AD; Greece
The slave hadn't been very forthcoming when Aulus said that he was here to meet with his master, but had admitted him, at least. There seemed to be little reason to have admitted him because he was led past any areas of the house where either Marcus Horatius Justinus or his son Publius might reasonably be found, and taken to the garden. It was not the first time that Aulus had been admitted to the garden - he was a close enough friend of Publius' that he had been allowed access to a relatively private part of the house before.
He was not alone; there was someone sitting on one of the marble benches and Aulus stopped, unwilling to intrude further. And yet, as he began to make his apologies, he came to a stop, captivated by what he saw. He had met Publius' sister before, but she had not really caught his eye, among everyone else, with her hair done up in what must be the very latest style in Rome, and weighed down with jewellery, the very height of elegance. This simply-dressed woman was far more elegant in her simple clothing and with her hair artlessly done up.
"I beg your pardon, I had come to see Publius," he managed. "I am sorry to have disturbed you." He would offer to go, but remained frozen in place, utterly captivated.
(Just outside the Thermae Mercuari)
The Thermae Mercuari were not Aulus' usual baths, but they were close enough to his home in the Piscina Publica that he had not gone too far out of his way to visit them. A change of scenery was what he had needed and what he had got, and the massage he had received from one of the bath-house slaves had made him consider returning there in the future; the slave had managed to relieve a knot that only Felix had ever dealt with before, on rare occasions.
He had not expected to run into a vaguely familiar-looking redheaded woman who was obviously aiming for the women's section of the baths. He had certainly not intended to run into her literally and knock the things she was carrying out of her hands.
He stooped to collect up what he could.
Letter dated roughly a week after the earthquake.
Titus Sulpicius Rufus to his dearest friend Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus,
Hope all is well with your domus and familia after the recent event. No casualties on our end of thing except for parts of the roof, a couple of trees and a bust I never liked.
To take our minds off all that's happened and because it's the right season for it, my brother and sister-in-law are travelling down to Neapolis for a while and inviting friends and family to join them for their beach parties. There will be entertainment not unlike that party you hosted a few months back, as well as more family-friendly activities. As you may remember my brother Quintus was consul in 72, and given your current aspirations (which I fully support), I took the liberty of assuming you might be interested in fostering that connection.
It goes without saying that this invitation extends to your lady wife and your lovely children. Mine are also coming, so they will not be left to their own devices.
We will be heading down on the 13th (I expect the Via Appia will be fully up and running again by then), and our good friend Longinus is coming with. He has been rather morose as of late, so I will be counting on you to help raise his spirits.
Farewell, my dear friend.
May 75AD, the morning after Next steps
Aulus had time between his breakfast and his first clients to speak with his wife's body slave. Her admission yesterday had been concerning, yet she had been in no condition for him to press for details. He hoped that the distance of a few hours from the event would have fortified her somewhat, so that she would be able to recount what had happened without the immediate rush of emotions that she had naturally had
He decided to have this conversation in the garden because summoning her to the tablinum would probably make her far more nervous than need be - she would already be nervous at receiving the summons from the master of the house.
He made sure he had a wax tablet to hand in case he needed to make any notes before sending a slave to fetch her.
"Callista. I hope you have recovered from your ordeal yesterday," he said when she appeared.
Aulus had dismissed Felix and Callista and spent a little while considering the situation, turning options over in his head, before coming to a decision. Gods knew whether it would be the right one or not, but it was one for better or worse. He opened the tablet up again, memorised the list of names that it held, and calmly erased the list with the blunt end of the stylus before standing.
He had been married for over a decade. He and Horatia had faced trials and troubles of all kinds, separately and together, and weathered them. Yet he could only recall once when Horatia had had that look on her face - the night he had taken Felix and slipped out into the madness ruling the streets of Rome, to try to get out of the city, leaving her with a young child who'd barely taken his first steps, and another growing inside her. They had not known that last then, but the knowledge or lack of it would have made no difference to what Aulus had needed to do.
His wife would be in the garden - it was her safe space in the house when she needed peace, calmness and to be alone.
He found her, sitting on the marble bench in the exedra overlooking the garden, sitting very still, her hands folded in her lap, and with a look on her face that tore at his heart.
Nones of May 75AD
Longinus sat drumming his fingers against the rim of his wine cup, occasionally glancing at the door. What he enjoyed most, of course, about the Poppina Via Lata was the two-building scheme. The night would start here, in the building reserved for Rome's upper echelons before descending into the depravity with the plebs and the slaves next door. He took a sip and resumed his drumming, waiting for both Titus and Aulus, nerves eating into the pit of his stomach. Judging by the surprised reaction in their letters neither of them were none the wiser as to the true (at least initial) motivation behind the wedding which was a relief.
He'd carefully considered what he'd say and it largely centred on; not being sixteen anymore so knowing what he wanted; that he likes and admires Sestia; he's not getting much younger and needs a son, and well...it is him. Longinus was certainly never a man that could be considered entirely conventional. He did hope to brush the whole 'permission from her father' under the rug as much as possible, but his friends were astute men and would likely ask. He just hoped he'd come up with something convincing on the spot to explain it, because so far his mind was coming up decidedly empty.
His attention was caught by a shadow blocking his path and he glanced up from his thoughts to the face of his friend. A wide, beaming smile crossed his face as he embraced the man.
TAG: @Sharpie @Liv
Given it was by far not the usual way these sorts of things were done; there was no formal betrothal ceremony, no exchange of contracts, not even an inkling that such a thing was happening - really - Longinus felt it imperative that word got out on his own terms. But not to everybody. After a fairly frantic exchange with his mother, the man set down to put ink to papyri and drafted a series of letters. The first were for his cousins (the only other remaining Cassii-Longini) Lepidus and Cassia. Then came one to his old friend, and former mentee Silanus all the way in Greece - lightly alluding to the fact that he might well be visiting in person (there had to be some benefit to sailing all the way to Carthage, and a roundabout stop on the way back to see Lucius was a silver lining).
The final few were for his friends. Amongst those he composed two to his two closest friends. They were very similar (he was not a man to dally with correspondence any longer than necessary, and thus copied out most of the first letter into the second), albeit there were amusing differences in tone - far more jocular with Titus, and far more reserved with Aulus.
They were delivered to May the 4th, two days after the engagement by his Secretary who muttered and swore as he trekked over the city in the May sun.
To Titus Sulpicius Rufus from his friend, Lucius Cassius Longinus. Greetings!
I thought I'd drop you a note to a) enquire about how Attis is getting on, b) to inform you I'm getting married and c) ask if you are free for a drink next week?
I suspect your eagle eye will have picked out the second point as the most interesting (although I do wish to hear about Attis and whether he still has all his fingers), and I'm pleased to say that Sestia Vaticana and I are to marry on the 1st of June given it's auspicious date. I believe you know the lady in question - she only had positive things to say about you - which I have corrected, don't worry.
It'll be a small affair in the city, but obviously I would be delighted if Valeria and yourself save the date and make yourselves available.
I've also sent a very similar note to our good friend Aulus, and in said note have asked if he is free on the nones for a drink or two. As always, I expect you have no plans of any consequence, or no plans you cannot cancel to ensure you can come for a drink with a soon-to-be married man. We could slum it in the Poppina Via Lata?
To Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus from his friend, Lucius Cassius Longinus. Greetings!
I'm writing for a dual purpose today, to a) ask if you are free for a drink next week? b) to inform you I'm getting married.
I suspect your eagle eye will have picked out the second point as the most interesting, and I'm pleased to say that Sestia Vaticana and I are to marry on the 1st of June given it's auspicious date. She mentioned yourself and Horatia met her at the Games not so long ago - I trust you approve?
It'll be a small affair in the city, but obviously I would be delighted if Horatia and yourself save the date and make yourselves available.
I've also sent a very similar note to our good friend Titus, and in said note have asked if he is free on the nones for a drink or two. We could slum it in the Poppina Via Lata?
75CE, the afternoon after Ave Imperator!
Aulus was not looking forward to this visit. Well, not entirely, anyway; there was part of him that was. The same part of him that thrived on the adrenaline of a battle, and the thrills and spills of the races. Usually, however, it was not his own life, or those of his family, that was at stake. (Well, with the exception of the battles - and even then, it would be a rash and foolhardy commander who allowed himself to get caught in the thick of the melee.)
His walk from the Palatine to the Castra Praetoria on the other side of the Quirinal was not a short one, but he took the journey at an easy unhurried pace, the sort of pace that allowed every Legion from Judea to Britannia to cover twenty-five miles in a day and still have breath to pitch camp at the end of their journey.
"I wish to see Tribune Cornasidius Sabinus," he informed the guard, as if he was expected, although he knew perfectly well that he was not.