Face ClaimMarina Sirtis
"Oh, you have a brother at the palace? Do you see him often? What's his job?" Antheia studied Volusa's face, taking note of the features, the distance between them. Perhaps she'd recognise Helenus if she saw him around just from the similarity. How pleasant it must be to come across a face so like your own that a smile feels like a kind of reassurance nobody else could give. It was a long time since Antheia had felt that. Not that she remembered the feeling, though she must have felt it sometime.
So Volusa still saw her parents regularly, and had grown up here. "That's nice, that you can see them still," Antheia commented out loud with a smile. A nice life, then, or so she supposed. One never liked to assume these things with any slave, though. "I suppose this place really does feel like home to you." No wonder she was so unfazed by all the hustle, bustle and splendour. Antheia knew it would be a long time before she herself grew used to it.
She smiled slightly at the younger woman's observations on her accent, though she was not offended. Antheia was well aware that her Latin pronunciation was less that perfect, despite having lived most of her life in Rome. Her old master had encouraged her to speak Greek as much as possible in her work as a tutor to improve his young daughter's speaking skills, and she had spent most of her free time talking to Aristo in their native tongue.
"Yes, I was born in Athens and came to Rome-" well, taken to Rome was more accurate - "when the city was sacked. I was about ten. I've lived here ever since. Rome feels like home for me, too." At least, her old domina's house had felt like home. But that was in the past. No use dwelling on it. This was home now.
"Of course I have," said Antheia, raising an eyebrow. "I've met plenty with whom I didn't see eye to eye, and plenty who simply have different experiences on life. You should be able to tell that from what I've told you about myself." As she stopped speaking, she lowered her eyes again. She hadn't meant to sound so forceful. She simply wanted to impress on Cynane that she wasn't some sheltered little soul who spent all day staring at the clouds and thinking about cosmology just because she wasn't some kind of tough warrior. Antheia surprised even herself with this reaction. It wasn't often her pride flared up - she didn't think she even had pride - but her whole character, her life, rested on the stone foundations of the strength she'd built up over the years.
Antheia breathed in, smiled lightly and met Cynane's gaze steadily, watching every line of the other woman's face to see how she'd respond to a more frank approach.
"I'm just... gathering my impressions of you, that's all, as you are doing for me."
Antheia wasn't usually one to be affected by others' judgement, but something about Cynane made Antheia strangely desperate for her approval. The Briton's words hit her hard. Well, she had been staring, and for once, she hadn't done a very good job of hiding her thoughts.
After a moment of faltering, Antheia smiled apologetically, shook her head and said, "Yes. You're right. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to seem... untrustworthy in any way, I promise I have no malicious intentions of any sort. I'm sorry, I suppose I'm just... well, curious." She went slightly pink. "The way you see your world is so very different to mine, you see, and I've always found people... well, interesting." In reality it was a lot more complicated than that, but essentially she was telling the truth.
She raised her eyes timidly, unsure how Cynane would react.
As they walked side by side to a long table, Antheia risked a long, interrogative look at her companion. One the one hand, Cynane seemed to acknowledge that the life she knew as a child was irretrievably lost, stolen from her by the Romans. Yet there was no acceptance, just a certain intensity in her eyes, as if she were still fighting a battle with those invaders inside her mind, holding up against the barrage of degradation with sheer willpower and hope. A glimpse of this and suddenly Antheia found herself awash with a sense of... was that guilt? She'd stepped out and held up her hands in surrender a long time ago. But she was only ten years old when it had happened. Perhaps she didn't have the strength to be angry. And some part of her admired Cynane because she did.
Antheia had always considered her placid acceptance a strength, which made her feelings about the Briton's mindset even more troubling. Eventually, however, she came to her senses. She would give up everything not to have to fight that battle. She had given up everything. But she suspected letting go of anger was a lot easier when you weren't being regularly forced to endanger your own life or to be raped by violent, wealthy strangers. The same suggestion was there in Cynane's own words. "Without the hope, I'm not sure I'd have been alive now."
Antheia faltered, trying to find the words to show Cynane she understood. But one glance at those kohl-rimmed eyes shining like scarabs across the table made her bow her head as she took the first warm, vaguely aromatic mouthful of soup.
"Oh, that's good to hear," said Antheia, feeling genuinely relaxed for the first time in a while. She just hoped the mistress' definition of 'nonsense' was the same as everyone else's. If having her judgements questioned counted, teaching her anything about philosophy would be a Sisyphean task. But Volusa seemed like a sensible girl, and she doubted she would have praised Claudia so highly if the latter was indeed prone to bouts of unreasonableness.
A pause. She'd now exhausted all possible lines of detached inquiry, so Antheia decided to initiate a more personal conversation.
"So you're verna, then, I suppose?" she asked casually.
@Sharpie sooo sorry for the delay, life has been a whirlwind!!!
Antheia smiled sadly. She had decided long ago that wishing for such things was only destructive. She was a woman who had accepted her lot in life.
"Of course there's always a chance," she began levelly, "and I'd be crazy not to want my freedom. I wish, but... I don't hope." She swallowed. "And anyway, I wouldn't go back to Greece. I wouldn't know where to start."
They had entered the refectory now, elbow-to-elbow in the queue of other slaves watching portions of vegetable stew being drawn from dolia embedded in the counter and slopped into bowls in front of them and pushed into their hands. Antheia was surprised at the smell the mixture gave off - perhaps it was actually lightly seasoned! - and thought to herself how pleasing it was to feel the gentle heat of the food reaching her fingers through the bowl. The slice of bread that someone placed across the receptacle's rim was fairly hefty too.
As she reached the end of the counter, food in hand, and turned to wait for Cynane just behind her, Antheia plucked up the courage to ask, "Would... would you go back to Britannia, if ever...?"
Antheia couldn't help but take a sweeping look around the garden, just to make sure they were alone. Asking the question she was about to ask could get a slave into difficulty, so she'd heard.
"Is the Domina..." she swallowed. "Well, is she kind to you?"
Ordinarily, Antheia would not have dared ask such a thing, but something about Volusa's confidential tone invited it. For some reason, the girl seemed trustworthy.
@SharpieApologies for the delay!!
Well, this place didn't sound too bad at all, actually. Volusa had shown her that the other slaves were friendly, that she was allowed time to herself, that Claudia was not a harsh mistress, and that the sleeping quarters were superior to anything she was used to. And on top of that, Cynane guaranteed the food was good, "if you like Roman food," which Antheia did; she wasn't sure from her tone quite how Cynane felt, though. She might remember the food from Britannia, or Germania, or wherever she was born. Antheia did too, but she'd long got used to eating Roman. And the prospect of getting to sample the kind of foods Claudia consumed was positively delightful. "So it doesn't go to waste." Yes, Antheia approved of that. She'd seen many sickening examples of Roman decadence in her time performing at dinner parties, and so the fact the elite at least set the example of using up leftovers was a favourable reflection of the imperial family's attitude.
"I hope it is not too personal, but... have you always been a slave?"
Well, it was a personal question, but among slaves that never seemed to matter. To tell one's story unflinchingly and proudly was almost a mark of honour for many. And so Antheia did.
"No. I was born in Greece as a free citizen. When I was about 10 and they sacked Athens, I was enslaved by the Roman forces and shipped over to Italy for sale. I didn't speak any Latin, since I was brought up in Greece."
Antheia smiled grimly and dismissively. She didn't need to mention her family, the violence, her fear, the voyage - that was all implied. Cynane herself would understand, as would any slave born free in a foreign land. And it was all so very long ago.
"And you? You... don't seem to have grown up here," said Antheia, her eyes flicking up to her companion's braided hair and unusual clothing.
Soon the corridors came to an end, and Volusa stepped aside to give her a good view of the garden they had just entered. It was not small exactly - about the size of the average villa's hortus - but it was cozy compared to the larger gardens she'd glimpsed on her way in, and much more private, enclosed on four sides by a peristyle deep enough to provide decent shade on all sides, no matter the time of day. And it was decorated in colours a good deal more expensive than those you'd to see in a common garden.
Antheia twisted round to give Volusa a happy smile.
"Oh, this is nice. I hope I shall be allowed to spend lots of time here," she said, taking a few paces forward into the garden to look around, playing at the edge of the box-hedges with her fingers. "Do you come here often?"
Topics I Participated In
There used to be a time when Felix would have never, in a million years, dreamed about one day visiting the imperial palace. It was simply not something a household slave ever thought about, and even after becoming Aulus' body slave and confidante, he still did not set his sights that high. And yet, now his dominus was consul, and Felix suddenly had access to the most elevated place in Rome. Well, as much as a slave had access to anything... But he was physically present in the palace, and while Aulus was discussing important matters behind closed doors, he was given a little bit of time to himself.
The Palatine was a stunning place. Felix was used to the Calpurnius household, but the imperial palace was above and beyond anything he had seen in his life. This was not his first visit, but it was the first one when he did not have to stand at attention behind Aulus the entire time, and honestly, he was not sure what to do with his time off. He stood by the door for long minutes, thinking his dominus might ask for something or send him on an errand, but other than some slaves moving in and out of the room with cups and plates, nothing happened. The other body slaves meandered off to the coolness of the porticus nearby, or the corner of the gardens. Eventually Felix grew thirsty and moved away from the door, heading down the hallway he'd seen the household slaves go, hoping to find one of them to give him a drink. Any maybe food. But as he took turns and walked down corridors, Felix had an increasing sense of being... a little lost. Or maybe more than a little?
The Romans were used to seeing Greeks wearing masks. Antheia's, however, wasn't twisted into the tragic visage of some stock character; in fact, it was the picture of perfect neutrality. Beneath, she could be a vicious Medea, a grieving Persephone, a powerless Helen, or any other figure from myth. But one doesn't often try to look behind the mask, peer through the eyeholes into the actor's soul. The façade presented to them is all the audience sees. So it was with Antheia. Her soul was strictly off limits.
There was only one person on this earth (at least, one person she knew the fate of, one person she knew she could go to) who wasn't deceived by this cunning guise. Antheia had left behind the gilt columns and clean air of the Domus Augustorum, at least for a few hours, and had descended to the Subura. Here, slaves were dirty and scowling, citizens forewent the ceremony of a toga in the street, and life seemed real. Here, among all the unrepressed humanity, was her old friend Aristo.
As she hopped across the stones connecting the pavement on either side of the street, the anticipation filled Antheia's mind with glorious recollections. When she went through the door, there he'd be, shrivelled like a tree root in his old rocking chair, his hands dry and papery as the scrolls spilling out across his knees, scratching the few tufts of white beard he had left as he mumbled to himself in the beautiful language of Plato and Socrates, punctuated by the odd curse. She'd dash to help tidy up the scrolls, his hands swatting at her in protest to stop fussing as she pulled the blanket back up over his bony legs. After he settled down, he would read to her in Greek, the language of her mind, the language her mother sung to her in, his voice rasping over every 'chi' and 'kappa', lapsing into a wheezing fit every time he'd aspirate a vowel. She'd cry, then, and he'd smile a bit, but he'd keep on reading, because crying would be OK. And then before she left she'd bend over and squeeze his skeletal frame to her, and the fragile breath and papery skin would make her cry again, and he'd just shake his head and say something wise.
As her eyes adjusted to the dim interior of the little house their master had given him when he was freed, Antheia felt the squirming in her stomach change suddenly. The physical feelings of excitement and panic were strikingly, horribly similar, and one melted into the other like scalding wax dripping into the wine cup of its inattentive owner.
The first thing she saw was the rocking chair, fallen forward on the floor. The entirety of the woven backrest had come undone, and one of the front legs was missing. Underneath it lay a scroll, completely unrolled. It was a beautifully written thing, bearing the name of Aristotle in huge letters. And it was torn clean apart through the middle. Not a single piece of wooden furniture seemed to have survived the raid untouched. Sherds of glass and pottery were strewn over the floor along with their former contents, huge pools of watery wine, their edges creeping outwards as she watched, grapes trampled and burst by sandal-studs. The tiny strongbox which she knew Aristo kept under the bed was gone, too, and so, she quickly realised, was Aristo. The stubborn old fool would never leave the house, particularly not in a raid. She had a feeling he'd rather try and whack any thieving scamps to death with the end of a scroll than let them take his peculia, hard earned cash accumulated by hours of honourable service.
As Antheia backed out into the street, she failed to notice the raised doorstep. A misplaced foot sent her tumbling over backwards. Thankfully, though, somebody caught her.
Turning her eyes upwards, she saw a bronzed, bearded face and a pair of eyes wide with surprise.
@Chevi enter Tranquillus!
All the other slaves had been milling about in chaos before, but now they seemed to be gravitating towards one corridor. For the first time, the invisible defensive barrier of non-recognition seemed to fall away from their eyes and they laid down their arms, marking the dinnertime armistice in the battle to keep the Imperial household running smoothly.
Not wanting to be left behind, Antheia swung her legs off her wooden crib and hurried to follow the flock.
While her mind was focused on working out what was going on, Antheia's already muddled recollections of the unfamiliar passages of the slave's quarters slipped away: rounding a corner, she clean forgot that this was where she had nearly been decapitated by a pole-arm when Volusa had brought her here earlier that day. The other slaves hung left by force of habit, and Antheia, seeing the gap in the crowd as an opportunity to get ahead in the queue, decided to hang right. If Fate was watching from above, she must have been splitting her sides at the cruel inevitably of her handiwork. Smack!
The pole-arm collided with her shoulder, knocking Antheia sideways into a ratty-looking slave who gave her an evil glare.
Muttering hasty apologies, Antheia spun to accost - or at least look at (she wasn't really one to reprimand) - whoever was responsible for the rapidly swelling bruise on her arm.
The first thing she noticed about the woman was that she was tall, taller than a lot of men she knew. She didn't look Mediterranean, with blonde hair drawn up messily in braids on her head. Her expression was neutral, but her eyes were weapons in themselves, sharpened by being lined with kohl.
Antheia realised she was gawping.
March 76 CE, the slaves' quarters in the Domus Augustorum
Antheia lingered in the passageway as she'd been told. Though she was pretending to inspect the striped pattern on the walls, her attention was focused on her surroundings like a sunbeam bouncing off the inside of a shield. Her previous mistress had been a rich patrician, but even now she could tell that this household was a great deal larger than that one - all variety of people came scuttling about around her, heaving heavy arms behind them, carrying trays, having urgent conversations in low voices and numerous different languages. Not one of them seemed to spare her more than a cursory glance. Antheia tried to catch a passer's eye sometimes, smiling, but everyone seemed so very wrapped up in their own heads. She hoped life wouldn't always be this frantic - she had at least had time to build up a rapport with the other slave members of her previous familia - but she suspected life would still be a lot calmer for her than for these frantic attendants, fetching and carrying all day. All Antheia had to do was attempt to teach the young Claudia Caesaris. She hoped that her new domina wouldn't try to make that task any more difficult than it had to be.
The sullen porter had told her to wait here for someone called Volusa, then had dashed off again with a scowl on his face. And so Antheia leant against the wall, readjusted her chiton on her shoulders, retraced the pattern of the mural with her eyes, and waited.
Born 41 AD | Slave | Tutor of Claudia Caesaris | Greek | Unknown Orientation | Wanted | Face claim: Marina Sirtis
Now awaiting approval by @Gothic. Is this name change OK?
Antheia is the type of person who has her head both set firmly on her shoulders and high in the clouds. On practical matters, as well as matters of the heart, she is a reliable source of judgement-free advice, a quality which allows her to establish close bonds with those she serves, if they're willing to confide in her. She views the world with a certain detachment, however, preferring to spend time in her own head, dealing in ideals and abstract concepts. At heart, she is a poet, a philosopher - a thinker. Though her disposition is always friendly, one gets the sense that one never really knows Antheia, or what goes on in her head. She has no close friends, no family in Rome, her former mistress is dead and, despite no shortage of male attention, she has never shown any interest in men. Though she speaks well about philosophy, she never claims to follow any particular school of thought or expresses her own view, instead preferring to play devil's advocate in all discussions.
Antheia is of average height, with an olive complexion and dark brown eyes. Her hair is dark, a very dark brown, and naturally thick and curly.
Antheia has never spoken to anybody about her true family back in Greece. The only connection she has to speak of is Aristo, the old Greek tutor of her former mistress, who is now absolutely ancient. She goes to visit him once in a while but never discusses these meetings with anyone.
Antheia was only ten years old when Athens was sacked. Not much is known about her life back in Greece - she doesn't like to speak about it - but she was taken into slavery and sold in Rome to a renowned philosopher and poet. She served as a personal maid and eventual friend and confidante to the man's daughter, a girl of a similar age to herself. It was during her time here that she was privileged to share in the tutelage of her mistress' own Greek teacher, Aristo. The older Greek took her under his wing somewhat, and she would sit with the wizened old man for hours in the garden, talking in their native tongue about life, the world, literature and philosophy.
After the unfortunate death of her young mistress giving birth to her first child, Antheia's services were no longer required. When, therefore, she was brought by the mistress' father to entertain at a dinner party with members of the imperial family (as a female philosopher, she was met with a mixture of wonder and amusement) and attracted the attention of one of its members, she was taken on to the imperial staff as tutor to Claudia, daughter of Caesar in early 76 CE.
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