She seemed happy to talk to him and he knew he should provide the same enthusiasm as she did. But it was hard to, when you were more or less forced to go to parties like these and most of the time, they bored you. Sometimes he’d meet someone nice to talk to, some Senator or even someone with a vast knowledge on some specific subject, but not all the time. And he doubted he’d meet anyone this time, but he could talk to the lady who had approached him, of course. It was better than being alone and bored, he supposed.
He wondered if she was enjoying the party and to his great surprise, she was not! She said she wasn’t much of a party-goer and gave him a look before she assumed it was the same for him. Caeso gave her a slightly surprised look, he had not expected that question.
But why lie?
“Actually I do.” He confessed to her, “No offense to you, of course. But you see all these people… all they want is to gossip and who knows what later. That doesn’t interest me. Yet on the other hand, it would be weird to not come to a party that celebrates my team. So here I am.” Caeso explained to her, being very honest, but why not. He assumed she had not expected such an honest answer and looked at her to keep it all going, “Why are you here then?”
Caeso was indeed thoughtful, probably too thoughtful to be a charioteer, to be honest. But that was his lot in life now, as he was not born into a wealthy family. His father was not a high and mighty Senator, no, he hadn’t even known his father and he was never freed. He learned a great deal from his first master though, but here… he used everything he learned on the chariot races, because what else was there to use all that knowledge on? He had to use his mind. He couldn’t stop using it.
Caecina listened with interest, after he shared that the thought horses were less complicated and then told the whole tale about how he came to the chariot races – how he became a charioteer. Then he realized he had talked too much, probably boring her, and apologized, because he was still just a slave and had to remember that. But she said it was alright to get carried away, that it was interesting and she would know if he did horseback races too.
“Not so much… I do what my master wants me to do. And he wants me to focus on the chariot races, so I do that. A horseback race sounds like it might be fun though. Although I suppose winning such a race would really depend on the skill of your horse and not just the way you steer it. There wouldn’t be as much strategy in it, it would more be a matter of luck.” He added thoughtfully and looked at her, “It sounds like you are family with such races though?”
Caecina appeared so excited, he thought to himself while they walked through the area of the stables near the great circus. When he said her horse had been named right, she told him about how Aurelia had been the first time she rode the horse, which earned the horse its name. She called the horse fast as the wind. Caeso smiled, thinking he might really like to see this horse sometime and find out if at least half of Caecina's stories were true. He then made a move for more conversation, asking further into her interest in horses. She exclaimed how she loved them and thought them easier than humans.
Caeso nodded, "They often seem so. Humans can be so complicated. Horses are more... sympathetic." He replied to her and she went on with how she learned how to ride, but rarely did it in the city. Then of course she was curious as to when he learned how to ride.
"I was 13, when my current master acquired me and I came to work here. I knew little about horses before. But as we already discussed, I find them easier to understand than humans. I thought they were interesting beasts to work with and I enjoyed getting to know them. You might say I got along with them, as I still do. I learned how to ride when I was 14, I think. And then I learned how to use the chariot. I enjoyed that too - working with the horses as a team to gain the victory we all desire. The rest is history, I guess. As it is made every day." He said thoughtfully and looked at her as he realized he had talked a lot, "Apologies, I get carried away sometimes, young domina."
Caeso just liked the horses and felt he understood them - and they never complained, yet showed their gratitude with good work, if treated right. And if treated wrongly, you'd easily see it too and maybe even feel it. So well-trained and well-treated horses were those who functioned best. It was the same with people. Treat them right and they would be good. The young woman who had come here also seemed to know what to do, as she fed Hercules an apple and then continued speaking about her own horses. She called her one horse lazy and the other hot-tempered.
"Aurelia sounds interesting. And it sounds like she is named right too." He said, if she was golden as the sun, hot-tempered and would outrun anything. That did remind him of the golden sun, warm and hot and filled with energy. He had then agreed to show her around and wondered about her name.
"It is good to meet you too, Caecina." He replied, gesturing that they could begin walking. Around them the area of the stables was filled with life, slaves taking care of horses and manure and hard work and charioteers helping out and taking care of fans who came to see them, like Caecina had approached Caeso and his horse.
"So you really enjoy horses, Caecina? For how long have you been riding?" He wondered, others might ask such a question with hidden agendas or meanings, but Caeso was honest as he asked. He really was asking her about horses. Nothing else.
Caeso was fine with people congratulating him for the race and he did enjoy racing – and he did especially enjoy winning and knowing that he and his horses had done well. Knowing that he’d calculated it right and done the right things at the exact right moments. That’s what he enjoyed. Figuring out how to do it in order to win. So really it wasn’t that big of a win, because really it all came down to science and not luck. But nobody else seemed to understand that. And now he was here and people had seen him and he wondered when he’d get the chance to leave. Despite his good privileges and all that, he was still just a slave.
He had not noticed the dark-haired woman in the wine chiton and a palla, when he entered. And now he stood in a corner, on his own as he preferred it sipping his wine and wondering how long he would stay. So far, he was not entertained. He felt someone looking at him though and looked up, allowing his bright blue eyes to look at the woman, who now approached him and congratulated him too.
“Thank you, domina.” He replied with a small smile, “I’m glad to hear you thought us excellent.” He added, knowing he was here to please the guests, so he would be polite to her. He should probably converse, they would want that… “Are you enjoying the party so far, domina?”
June, 75 AD
It had been a fine day at the Circus Maximus. Caeso had been racing with his favorite horses, all a lovely brownish red color and his good chariot had not been broken today either. When he finished the last round of his part of the races, he was smiling, because he knew he’d performed well and he had won. Well the team had won. But Caeso had won too. After the race, he went to the stables to help with the horses and cleaning up and he was approached by a messenger, telling him he was invited to a party in the nearby Aventine the same evening. It had been cleared with his master, it was fine that he went, of course it was. Caeso would not be a fugitivus, ever.
So for the evening, he dressed up in his finest green tunica – light green for the general fabric, but it had been hemmed with a darker green in a finer fabric, so that it was almost shining. He hadn’t done much to his hair since the afternoon, it took a while to do the twists pulling his long hair towards the back of his head and he kept it like that. He didn’t mind standing out. It was well-known anyway, that he liked it like this. His mother had taught him to do it, ages ago, and she had been taught by her mother, who was born in Germania. It looked impressive, he liked it.
At night, he showed up at the right domus and was allowed in, of course he was. There was already a lot going on. Slaves, probably whores, were dancing in the atrium and they probably would not just continue to do dance next to each other. People were there, watching the naked dancers and others were laying on couches, eating delicacies and again others were just conversing. He recognized some of the other charioteers and when some of the guests at the party noticed him, they raised their cups to him, celebrating his win.
He gave them a nod and picked up his own cup of wine. Honestly it seemed a little bit dull to him, this party. He hoped it wasn’t going to be an orgy, because then he was leaving again. Caeso went to quietly lean against a pillar in a corner of the peristyle, just watching people, not caring to approach any of them. Why was he here anyway?
She really laid it on thick on Caeso. He enjoyed the compliments, of course, but what was she up to? Now she said he was quite the charioteer, how she loved watching him and he must be a masterful driver. It was impossible though to not smile proudly at such words, “If you think so. I just do my best… or what I think is best for them. I Listen to them and reward them, then they pay me back with their friendship and loyalty.” He explained to her and had allowed her to feed Hercules an apple. She promised she would be careful for she knew horses and she did indeed not get bit.
She really did know horses, at least a bit. He suggested he could see her horse and judge him, then, but she said he was not in the city – but she could bring him. Caeso nodded, “If you can, then I will see him.” He promised her and then she wanted to see more horses. Great, so he was now reduced from charioteer to tour guide. At least she knew a bit about horses so she wasn’t entirely stupid. And he would have to be good to her, because wealthy Romans and all that. He nodded, “I can show you around a bit. What is your name, by the way? I don’t think you told me.” Not that he would remember it unless she really impressed him, but he decided to give her a chance. Just in case.
She laughed and suggested maybe it was her and not the horse, who was not ready for the races. She spoke of a more expert handler and Caeso thought she was right. He couldn't really recall any women participating in the races, although they did have women working behind the scenes. Maybe she would be a patron for his team and earn them more coin to even better horses and chariots. He would just have to be nice to her. Meanwhile she liked the name Hercules for the horse and he nodded, "It is quite appropriate. Together with the others I usually put him with, you'd think the gods had granted them special powers." He explained and had fed Hercules an apple. Then the girl wanted to do it too. She'd also congratulated him on his win today and he smiled at that. She'd get her wish granted.
"Just be careful he won't bite you." Caeso said and picked a bright red apple from the bunch and handed it to her. She seemed so excited. She would be a good patron. What would the others do to make her want such a thing? They would compliment her and get close to her. Make her feel special. Ah, he had an idea!
"If you'd like, I could take a look at your horse and see if he's as divine as Hercules."
Caeso liked all of the horses that tended to run in front of his chariot - and after such a rough time at the racing course, they deserved some tender loving care. All creatures deserved and needed that sometimes. Towards people, he would often be annoyed and reserved. With the horses, it was different. They were always likable. The young woman who stood by one of the horses seemed to know what she was doing, as she scratched its nose and called the animal magnificent and said she had one quite like him, but that hers would not be up for races.
"Don't be too sure about that, any horse enjoys stretching its legs properly. And if they are treated right, they will be your best friends." He said with a smile, approaching the horse too and fishing an apple from the bag, "His name is Hercules." Caeso told her proudly and stood next to her and held the apple to the horse. Hercules instantly became more curious about the apple than about the young lady and chewed it with great satisfaction. Caeso smiled at the sight and the young woman talked to him again.
"Yes, the one and only." He replied, "I suppose you saw the race." Because any noble lady that came back here came to see the horses and the charioteers. He had been told to be good to them and welcome them, even if he would prefer just being left alone with his beasts. So he spoke, because they were both here anyway.
What a day it had been! He felt… empowered, almost, as if he could do anything and nothing could touch him, not even the gods. His four, brown horses had done exceptionally well today, as he knew they would, for they were well-fed and well-trained and ready to stretch their legs and turn and twist whenever he wanted them to. It had felt as if he was flying through the Circus Maximus, as if his horses had wings, like those the Greeks had in their pantheon. Or maybe Caeso had wings? It certainly felt like it, now that he (and his team) had once more won today’s race and the crowd had cheered and thrown roses at him.
Now it was all over and together with the others, he had returned to the stables to water the horses and allow them some rest. The other charioteers of his team got swept away by some of their fans though, or, they weren’t quite as present. Well the horses had done well too, they also needed attention. Caeso glared at his team-members, sometimes they could show a little more care to the horses and not just think about themselves and their own pleasure.
Another slave came with a bucket of water and a bag of apples and Caeso took over and carried both things to the stalls with the horses. As he approached however, he saw a young lady stand there, not quite poor either, judging by her clothes. She was admiring one of the horses and he gave her a small smile, “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” He said, Caeso sometimes felt better connected with the horses than with some of the other people he surrounded himself with. He sat down the bucket and the bag with the apples.