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January, 75 AD That autumnal conversation with Helenus had been on Clio's mind for a few months, running in the background like that big hairy spider you knew lives in a corner of the house but still spooks you every time you actually see it. It had been surprisingly insightful in more than one subject. For all the airs she put on, it had struck Clio at the time how she really had nothing more to offer than her exotic looks and occasionally witty remarks - but, she justified to herself, none of her past and current owners had purchased her for what was between her ears and they had similarly had no expectations of her attaining the intellectual levels of a philosopher or mathematician. Still, she was nothing if not determined, and she no longer wanted to be seen as a pretty face and only that. Servitude was no excuse not to educate oneself, Clio reasoned, and so she had put a portion of her savings inside a small leather pouch and headed off to the Emporium Magnum, where she assumed she should be able to find reading material appropriate for both her literacy level and purse. It was, naturally, easier said (or thought) than done. As she stood in one of the many pathways inside the market, shoulders jostling when she and other patrons unwillingly walked past one another, Clio began to wonder if the whole thing was such a good idea as it had seemed. She reached the quieter quarter of booksellers and stood and watched from a corner, biting her lip in indecision. What would her domina say if she found out? Clio didn't need books, they added nothing to her value as body slave to Annia Comna. What if it gave domina the idea that it was some secret beau that had put the thought into Clio's head? And if she did buy something, it should be something harmless, nothing that could evoke thoughts of rebellion or escape (even if none existed in Clio's mind!). She shuffled her feet, her lost gaze flicking from one tent to the other without really taking in anything. A scroll might be the better option, yes... Small and easy to conceal, and not too expensive if it was taken from her... Or maybe saving her coin for Mersis' hair ornaments was the right thing to do, as she'd been doing all along. That orange pin had looked so lovely against her black hair that domina hadn't even been angry, but appreciative. Frustrated, Clio let out a loud groan, not giving any consideration as to whom might hear it . Was the path to education really so thorny?! @Chevi
13th of October, during the festival Fontinalia The Piscina Publica were public swimming grounds and luckily placed not very far from their home. And this was quite lucky on a day like today – it was, after all, Fontinalia and it was the day of celebration for Fons, the god of wells and springs. Septima Major was out with her sister, Minor, to celebrate the day. They’d spent the last few days on preparing a most beautiful garland out of flowers and grasses and leaves and now it was done and ready to be hung on a fountain near the Piscina Publica on this very day. Septima Major was excited – she loved festivals like these and could barely wait with going out. Maybe she spent a little too long getting ready. Septima Minor had been ready for a while, before Major finally decided she was done too. She wore a very pretty, bright green chiton with a yellow and red palla over it. Her hair had been done up on her head, with twirls and curls and a few yellow flowers and green leaves added to the style. It went very well with her pretty blue eyes. On her feet were simple slippers. They carried the garland together on their way to the fountain. She gave her sister a smile, after she’d waved to a few people she knew on the way – Septima knew many people and she liked to talk to people and make new friends, “Oh I hope someone else didn’t already decorate the fountain we decided on. It’s going to look so pretty, isn’t it?” Septima Major said with an excited tone, “I wonder if there’s going to be music too. And maybe someone set up a shop that sells food and drinks? We could stay a little while.” She suggested with a smile, “Oh, do you think anyone’ swimming in the pools today? That would be interesting.” @Chevi
February 75CE The Saeptia was humming today. Crowds of traders and general browsers thronged the central thoroughfares and filled out most of the individual stores. Some shops it was practically impossible to get into, such were the number of people inside. The security slaves for each unit must be exhausted, having to have eyes everywhere on the lookout for shoplifters and cut-purses. A few bands of Urban Cohorts lounged against columns, supposedly there to ensure a policing presence but instead making a more general nuisance of themselves by ogling women and turned the screws on food-sellers in order to get free meals. Sestia’s slaves had trouble pushing a path through the shoppers to allow their mistress smooth access from store to store. Behind her, two porter slaves carried her purchases so far: several bags of spiced and candied exotic fruits for her sons and several bolts of brightly coloured cloth which she intended to have turned into some dresses for the coming season. When the slave carrying the cloth was barged sideways a dropped one, she gave him several cuffs to the head to make sure he was more careful in future. She stopped in front of the shop of a jeweller. The craftsman had set up a series of boards outside on which he had exhibited a range of his products. Three strong and rough looking German slaves stood in front of this with arms crossed and ferocious expressions, designed to deter opportunist thieves. Sestia edged her way closer and, clearly a lady of quality, the slaves let her past to have a closer look. A shop assistant, eager to make a sale, quickly hurried up with a puppy-dog expression and informed her he was here to answer any queries she may have. Her eyes were immediately taken by a pair of beautiful earrings. Pendants in style. Two of the largest and purest pearls she had ever seen were hung off gentle hoops of thin gold, intertwined along which were tendrils of ivy made from delicately spun and crafted silver. The assistant said, in ingratiating and fawning manner, that the man in her life would surely appreciate her wearing something so beautiful for him. She bit back the urge to say that either (a) there was no man in her life (b) the last such man in her life now lay in an urn in a funerary monument and had no interest now, as in life, for what she wore or (c) that, man in her life or not, she would wear what she wanted for her own sake and not for another’s. She said she would think about it. The assistant gave a surly look, presumably grumbling internally that she was a time-wasting browser and headed off to bother another matron, accompanying two young women, all trilling with delight over a series of amber necklaces. As she headed back into the main thoroughfare she mused internally on how annoyed the comment had made her. There was, she decided, an element of low level resentment in there: that there was no one at present who cared what she wore. She had initially intended to go to her favourite dressmaker. The creations they concocted there were divine. Beautiful fabrics, exquisite embroidery and craftsmanship, the styles bold and eye catching to steal the breath of men and earn the envy of women. Their prices, of course, were correspondingly high but, in her opinion, it was worth it. But then the niggling comment came back. What was it for? Her sons did not care if she made an effort. So, instead, on a whim she decided to cross to the opposite side of the aisle and headed into one of several booksellers that made this area of the Saeptia their own. Even with the noise of the crowds outside, the booksellers seemed an oasis of calm. No doubt the large wooden cases of scrolls somehow had an effect on blocking out or lessening the noise. The shop was split in two halves – to the left lay Greek language texts, to the right Latin and in the centre was the bench were the proprietor and his slaves collected the money and answered queries. As she entered, a young woman was enquiring as to whether they stocked a particularly poet’s collected works. The owner sent a slave off to check the inventory. Sestia immediately headed for the Latin works. She was ashamed that she had no Greek. Not many fathers bothered to expand their daughter’s education to include this language but, even if they did, her father would have decided it was unnecessary. Her sons had been taught it and spoke it as fluently as Latin. If they wanted to annoy her they would intentionally speak Greek in front of her, knowing their mother didn’t understand, until she lost her temper at them and sent them running off with whoops of glee. Her lack of a full education was forever a chip on her shoulder. Now free from the presence of a man in her life telling her otherwise, she was determined to make up for lost time and engage in activities her father and late husband would have disapproved of – namely, bettering herself. As such, she was now reading whatever and whenever she could. Poetry she liked but it made her feel stupid – she could never craft words so elegantly. History she enjoyed. It was amazing what some people had achieved! What she really liked, though, where books on Nature. She did not pretend to understand them but she was fascinated by the descriptions of strange and fantastical places, of bizarre phenomena and exotic animals and plants. Her more favoured still were travellers’ tales of places beyond the Empire. Journeys into the wild barbarian lands of the north, or to the mythical lands across the great desert in Africa where all was trees, taller than the tallest buildings. Or to the lands on the far side of Parthia where not even Alexander had reached. She had read one book by a traveller who claimed there was an Empire even bigger than Rome with cities that made Rome look like a village; where dragons lived and people could set fire to the sky; where silk bled from trees and magical Emperors lived in celestial palaces with thousands of servants who all killed themselves when their lords died. When she had tentatively asked her sons’ tutor Teodoros if he knew anything about this place he had scoffed, as if she were but a silly, misled woman, and told her such stories were pure fiction – there was nothing but a vast sea beyond Parthia. She had felt like an idiot for letting herself believe everything she read. There was an order to the shelves. Each shelf had a small wooden label attached with a numeral on it. A larger plaque against a wall acted as a guide: I – Domestic Management, II – Estate Management, III – Cooking & Entertaining, IV – History (pre-Augustus), V – History (Augustus to Contemporary), VI – History (Foreign), and so on. She scanned down the list. XIX – Travel. There it was. She browsed the cabinets and shelves until she reached the one appropriately marked. The shelves were then stacked to bursting, in a mish-mash fashion, with scrolls piled up on one another. Small cloth tags were tied to the out edges of the wooden end-pieces which gave easier access to the name and author of the work without you having to unfurl the entire item. She started looking through them methodically. She grew annoyed at how many there were on “the wonders of the Empire.” If she wanted to know about that she could very easily go off on holiday and see it. What she wanted was something about somewhere she would clearly never go! Then she came across one on Britannia. Thinking back to her conversation only the other day with Lucius Cassius she stopped in her browsing. Maybe this would tell her more about the mysterious new province and he would be impressed if she “casually” dropped in a few facts? She tried to pull the scroll out but it was stuck. She pulled harder but it was still sticking. Frowning, she set her foot against the base of the cabinet to steady herself and gave a very firm tug. The scroll flew out but brought down with it a small torrent of others which hit the floor and unfurled, creating a great pile of mess. @Chevi
While Dacia had been a far and foreign frontier that inspired feelings of adventure and then home, Valeria had quickly welcomed back Rome, especially where it offered her the ability to further her career as a writer. Away, Landicus disappeared for a time and her own writing accumulated in notes and piles of poetry that many did not see or hear save perhaps Titus. Feeling a performative itch, Valeria had set up a reading of her poetry where she could spoil her inner theatre kid, full of different voices, dramatic speech, and wide gestures. Compared to the hypothetical numbers that she estimated for Landicus, the gathering for Valeria Flacca’s poetry was humble and predominately, if not all, women. She never felt competition between her two selves but in the light of putting more effort and thought towards her Valeria Flacca poems, she was still perceptive enough to feel that true art went underappreciated for anything sensational and provocative. For her reading, she had arranged a meeting which had been announced and set it at the park, situating out in the greenery and under a small and stony pavilion with supportive pillars. For the occasion, Valeria had chosen a colourful wig and equally eccentric makeup. After the crowd gathered, Valeria had dived in and after the recital had come to its conclusion, the gatherers dispersed, leaving a few lingerers whom Valeria shared a little small talk with. “Seems as if there are many poets here today. Do you write as well?” she said, turning to one a beautiful young girl, who seemed not much older than her eldest. @Chevi